Fall from India Place Page 7

Mum cracked a smile. “Funny,” she said dryly. “No… well…”

“Come on, Mum, spit it out.”

She blew out air between her lips. “I’m worried about telling you because I don’t want you to feel like we’re shoving you aside.”

“See this?” I pointed to my face. “This is what ‘confused’ looks like.”

Mum gave a small huff of laughter. “I’m trying to tell you we’ve turned your room into a nursery.”

I shrugged. “Well, that makes sense. You have the kids staying over here more than I ever do.”

Mum seemed to deflate. “You’re not upset?”

“No, Mum.” I laughed. “I’m a grown woman with a very nice flat just up the road. It even has a bedroom in it. Two, actually.”

She rolled her eyes. “Make fun all you want, but I’m still your mother and you’re still my baby and I didn’t want you to feel like we were ousting you from the house. We’ve got a single bed in the nursery so you can stay whenever you need to, and of course at Christmastime.”

Shaking my head at the unnecessary worry in her eyes, I walked over to her, arms outstretched, and pulled her into a tight hug. “I can’t believe you were worrying over telling me this.”

She melted into me. “It’s what mums do.”

After a while I pulled back. “I take it you didn’t get rid of my stuff, though?”

“No. We boxed it up. I thought maybe you could go through it just now and decide what you want to keep and what you want to throw out.”

I really should have been getting back home to start work, but Mum and Dad never asked much of me and I knew it would help them out if I got organized as quickly as possible. “Okay. Oh, Sunday lunch might be out for me tomorrow. Got a pile of marking.”

“Oh, well, just leave the boxes for now, sweetheart.”

“Nah.” I waved her off, heading toward the stairs. “I was probably going to have to miss it anyway.”

Although I knew I would be walking into a different room from the one I’d left behind, it surprisingly winded me a little to see the cream walls painted a warm buttercream yellow, to see that my double bed had been removed and replaced with a beautiful whitewashed cot and a single bed. The posters I’d left up on the walls were all down, the books I’d left were packed away, and the photographs of my friends were boxed up too.

I stared at the boxes stacked on the floor at the far end of the room. My childhood was inside them, my developing personality, my teen years. I smiled as I walked toward them.

An hour or so later I’d pushed aside boxes of clothes that could go to charity, Dad had returned home and come upstairs to say hello and leave me with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and I was just ripping open a box I assumed was filled with books because it was heavy.

I found some books inside, but I also found diaries. My heart thudded a little at the sight of them, and I lifted them out to put them aside, with no intention of reading them. Ever. I was just lowering them to the “to keep” pile when a photograph floated out of the leaves of a black journal from my later teen years.

My heart no longer thudded.

It pounded.

Eight years ago

My English teacher had held me back after class to talk about entering my short story in a local competition. The thought freaked me out. My writing… on display like that to people who would judge whether it was good enough or not? I said no, thanks.

So why was I kicking myself as I hurried out of the school entrance toward the gate? I glanced around, noting that nearly everyone was gone. I’d missed the bus. It looked like I was walking home.

I hung my head, heaving a sigh.

Why had I said no to Mrs. Ellis? If she thought the story was good enough for the competition I should have just gone for it. Ugh. Sometimes I hated being this shy. Sometimes I even wondered why I couldn’t change that somehow. It didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.

Frustrated at myself, I moved through the gates, catching sight of three older boys kicking a football against the school wall and talking. I recognized one of them.


I didn’t know what his surname was because he was in fifth year and I was a third-year. I only knew of him because he was so popular his name had made its way down the years. And also because he was hard to miss. Really tall. Really good-looking. I’d heard he was foreign, but there were so many rumors flying around about where he was from, I didn’t know for sure.

Looking away quickly so I didn’t get spotted ogling him, I turned left and started heading for home. I’d taken only about four steps when my feet faltered on the fifth and sixth.

Up ahead, smoking, yelling, laughing, and swearing at one another were Jenks and his crew. They were in my year. We’d had first-year classes together, but things had changed, since we’d gotten to choose which classes we wanted to take as our high school careers progressed. My friends and I were smart and didn’t care to pretend that we weren’t. Jenks and his friends had picked on us since first year. To begin with it had just been in class, calling us “teacher’s pet,” “geeks,” and “swots.” Lately, because they couldn’t get to us in class, they’d taken to verbally abusing us as we got on the bus, or when they saw us in the corridors. The verbal abuse had gotten slowly cruder and nastier.

I glanced up the road to make sure there weren’t any cars coming, then dashed across the street to avoid the boys.

Unfortunately, Jenks wasn’t in the mood to avoid me.

I was looking at my feet, head down, when I heard him yell my name.

As if it knew something I didn’t, my heart started hammering hard against my ribs.

Looking up, I was filled with dread as a grinning Jenks casually swaggered across the street toward me, his two friends following him with nasty smirks on their faces.

“Whit’s up, geek?” Jenks stopped in my path and I moved around him.

He grabbed my arm, pulling me to a stop.

I did my best not to show fear as he stepped into my personal space, his eyes moving down my body in a way that made me feel nauseous. “I said whit’s up, geek?”

“Nothing.” I shook my head and tried to move away, but the three of them blocked me. “Look, I’m late for home.” I wished my voice were stronger. I wished I could set them down or beat them or just somehow get them to stop thinking they could intimidate me.

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