I was speaking to some lovely people on Twitter today about my book so I thought I would published my first chapter for anyone to have a read and share their thoughts. Hopefully there shouldn’t be any spelling mistakes but sometimes when you read through something so many times, you do tend to miss stuff out so I am sorry about that.
Any thoughts please let me know as I am keen on improving as a write and improving my story.
Chapter 1: The New Kid
Rochfort is your typical American high school. There are jocks, jerks, Queens – from both sexes and a small selection of people that I like to call my friends. It’s finally my senior year and I can’t wait to leave these same walls, same windows and hopefully same excuses from my boyfriend, behind.
“Look I’m sorry ok? I totally forgot you wanted a ride this morning! I’ll make it up to you?” My boyfriend Greg usually lays his lame excuses on me by first period but it’s a record today, the bell hasn’t even rang yet. I stare back at those puppy dog eyes he flashes me. They sadly aren’t having their desired affect today.
We reached my locker and I punched in my communication. “Don’t worry about it, ok? Just promise you will give me a ride home?” I leaned in slowly and planted a soft kiss on his lips. I winced at the smell of cigarettes. Greg smiled, catching the look of disgust on my face.
‘Are you ever going to try and give up smoking? You know your parents will kill you if they ever found out!?’ I hated Greg smoking. The smell hung round him constantly and I always had to wash my clothes daily whenever we spent the day together. His Parents must be able to smell it too or maybe they think I’m the one who smokes? I turned my attentions back to my locker, trying to find my history book.
‘Babe, it’s called a habit for a reason? Now I will see you at lunch. Don’t be late!’
Before I could give him a dirty look, he saluted, turned effortlessly and slipped down the hall.
I continued to rummage in my locker. Clearly my history book was not where I left it last.
I slammed my locker shut in anger, denting the front slightly.
The library was cold and dark and resided in the original part of our school. After so many additional buildings and extensions, it was getting harder to know what features were original and what were post 1950’s. I headed up to the clerk’s desk and hoped they had a spare book I could use.
The old lady that sat behind the chunk of marble and oak was a legend in our school. She somehow had this weird knack for knowing what book you wanted before you even asked for it.
‘You want the War world 2 history book for your class don’t you dear?’
My stunned silence seemed to answer her.
‘I have just given the last one out. That boy at the desk over there has it if you want to share?’
She pointed behind me to where Jimmy Ryan was sat reading.
Jimmy was an odd kind of guy. He had only been at our school for a few weeks but so far nobody could get much out of him. He kept to himself but sometimes at our school, that doesn’t bode well for people.
I slowly wandered over and stood beside him.
He saw me coming.
‘Let me guess, you need this book.’ He said without looking up. He’s posture seemed protective over the cardboard and paper.
His head snapped up and I saw his face properly for the first time. His eyes were big and wide with hints of green khaki and brown in them. His face had a few freckles here and there but I couldn’t get over how tanned he was. Like someone fresh off the plane from Europe.
I must have been staring as he cleared his throat. I looked away quickly and moved to the seat opposite him.
‘Yeah sorry, I just wanted to look at a couple of pages before class.’
He looked at me intently before sliding the book cross the desk to me.
I learned over the pages awkwardly hoping the voices in my head would fill the silence.
‘So you’re Grace, right?’ I looked back up to him, surprised he wanted to talk.
‘Er, yeah. And you’re Jimmy.’
‘Yeah, well Jim. Jimmy was ok when I was like 10 but I feel I need to go up a grade now.’ He smiled slightly, a kind of loop sided one that showed a few teeth.
‘Good idea. Nothing like shorting your name once you hit puberty.’ I instantly regretted the words as they left my mouth. He must be able to tell that I was feeling Awkward. I lowered my eyes back to the book resting them on a soldier’s face.
‘So you like this World War 2 stuff?’ I looked up at him, shocked he wanted round 2. He waited for me to form a reply.
‘Yeah. My Grandad was in the war and I kind of find the whole thing pretty interesting. What about you?’
‘You go out with Greg right? The blonde kid with the Land Rover?’ I was taken aback by the sudden change in questioning.
‘Oh nothing.’ He raised his arms and folded them behind his head. He looked pretty relaxed as he learned back on his chair.
‘So, where are you from?’ I asking, suddenly having the urge to get some answers out of him.
‘Hang on; I thought I was asking you the questions?’ He gave me a rather cheeky smile but I wasn’t one for these games.
I thought about answering when suddenly there was a huge crash behind me.
I turned just in time to see the library bookcases falling down like dominos. I looked behind me and saw a huge one just waiting to fall on top of us. Before I knew what was happening, I was yanked out of my chair and pulled to the ground just as the bookcase fell, flattening the chairs and desks where we were sat.
Trying to catch my breath, I noticed Jimmy holding onto me. He was shaking slightly and seemed reluctant to let go of me.
That’s when I noticed the blood.
I looked at my arms and legs but they seemed to be ok. I started to check Jimmy when I saw his face and the blood streaming from a gash on his head.
‘Jimmy?’ I tried to stand up but he still had a hold of me.
‘Jim, you need to let go.’ He seemed to come back to life, nodding and dropping his arms.
I went to hold on to his face for a better look but he pushed me away.
‘What are you doing?’ He shouted.
‘You’re bleeding! I just wanted to have a look’
‘No, I’m fine.’ He stood up quickly and made for the exit.
‘Young man, you need to see the Nurse!’ The old lady shouted after him but it was too late. He was already gone.
The rest of the afternoon seemed to drive by at warp speed. After being checked over by the nurse and given a very sugary cup of coffee, I just want into Zombie mode and was staring at my locker for the longest time. It wasn’t until Greg appeared in front of me that I awoke from this weird coma like day-dream.
‘GRACE! Grace! You OK? What happened?’
Greg stood in front of me, checking my body for any cuts and bruises. He was frantically running his hand all over me.
‘YOU’RE BLEEDING! Have you been to see the nurse? Where are you cut?’
‘Why is there blood on your shirt?’
I looked down and noticed Jimmy’s crimson blood all over my top. I looked up at Greg. Seeing this crazed expression prompted me to give him an answer.
‘Jimmy cut his head.’
Greg stepped back looking bemused. ‘Jimmy? Jimmy, Jimmy…Jimmy Ryan? The new kid?’
‘WHY IS HIS BLOOD ON YOU?’
Greg began pacing back and forth in front of me. It was like watching a lion waiting to be feed.
‘Greg, please stop shouting. I’m getting a headache.’
‘Sorry.’ He stopped.
‘Look, some kids were jerking around in the library and according to the principal, one of them was pushed into a bookcase and they all started falling on top of one and another. Jimmy and I were sat at the desks in the middle of the room and thanks to Jim’s quick thinking; he saved us from being crushed.’ I took a deep breath. Greg was almost visible shaking.
‘The Blood was from Jim’s head, he must have banged it when he tried to get us out of the way.’ I sat down on the floor. The realisation of the afternoon was slowly starting to take hold.
‘So you’re ok?’ Greg looked white. I hadn’t seen him so worked up like this before.
‘Yes I’m fine.’
He sat next to me pulling me close to him.
‘Why the hell weren’t the bookcases screwed down?’ Greg’s voice started to rise again.
Yes, why weren’t they secured to the floor? That was the first thing I asked when the principal came down to see the mess and I couldn’t believe what he told me.
‘They weren’t screwed to the floor as the Library is being painted tonight, or something like that.’
Greg looked at me with boggled eyes.
‘You believe in fate?’
‘I do now. And I wouldn’t be talking to you if it wasn’t for Jimmy Ryan.’
As well as avoiding questions he didn’t want to answer, Jimmy Ryan seemed very good at avoiding me too.
Since the accident almost a week ago, the only glimpse of Jimmy I got was in my history class where he sat as far from me as possible and when he nearly knocked me out in Gym class. I tried to grab hold of him when we collided outside the changing rooms but he was way too fast for me. It wasn’t until Greg grabbed hold of him that I thought I would never get to speak to Jimmy Ryan again.
It was a dull, dark Tuesday and the cafeteria was as uneventful as ever. I was just queuing for another nutritious meal when, out of the corner of my eye, Greg suddenly appeared with Jimmy in one of his famous headlocks. I actually started to feel sorry for Jim but remembered he had recently treated me like a member of the Adams family.
Greg seemed rather happy with himself and bounced along with Jimmy in toe. ‘Jim and I are drinking buddies tonight, you up for it?’
I looked down at Jimmy and his attempts to get out of Greg’s impossible hold.
‘Earth to Grace? It’s not a life or death question?’
I shook myself awake; ‘Er, yeah, why not? Dad is out so you can come to mine if you want?’
My Dad being out wasn’t something to celebrate. He was never really home. As well as running his own business, he would spend a lot of time at the local bars or passed out on the sofa at his garage.
Jimmy finally managed to push Greg off. He looked rather sheepishly at me like I was a woof ready to devour.
‘SO?’ I was getting a little tired of this weird atmosphere and this was a great way to break the ice. I think the boys could tell I was fed up too as they exchanged a nervous look and nodded in unison.
‘Cool. Greg, maybe pick up Jimmy? He doesn’t know where I live.’
‘Sounds awesome! See you at 8?’
Greg came over to me and roughly kissed me on the cheek. I don’t know why but I felt suddenly embarrassed in front of Jimmy.
‘See you tonight beautiful!’
Greg left, leaving a very uncomfortable silence.
I kept waiting for Jimmy to say something but I think he was waiting for me to do the same. I suddenly found his eyes but he just simply nodded and ducked out the same exit as Greg. I found myself watching his back and the empty space where he had been. I didn’t know why he hasn’t been talking to be but at least I could ask him tonight and see what excuse he could come up with.
I turned to collect my tray when I felt someone behind me.
‘BOO!’ I could hear Ray’s throaty laugh before I saw her. She always had this habit of trying to scare me at every opportunity. As someone who doesn’t scare very easy, she had only managed it a few times.
‘So what the hell just happened?’ Ray leaned in, waiting for the gossip. I knew if I didn’t answer, more questions would come.
‘Who the hell is that?’ She raised her eyebrows and gave me a look. I didn’t need her to explain who she meant.
‘Jimmy Ryan, you know? The new Kid?’
‘Nah, don’t know him. What class do I have with him?’
I rolled my eyes at Ray. She must sleep her way through school.
‘OH!!’ She laughed ‘No I don’t do history. Too busy smoking with Brad in his car.’ The most evil smile spread across her red painted lips.
We finished filling our trays with desert and juice before taking our seats at the end of the hall.
‘So Jimmy Ryan? He, you know?’ She nudged me in the side ‘available?’
I stopped mid bite. ‘You are unbelievable.’
‘No just nosy. Anyway he likes you. Poor guy was so nervous.’ Ray started playing with her long side plait.
I shook my head. ‘No, he is…. just odd.’
I could see Ray was working through the last few weeks in her in head and suddenly a light bulb went off between her eyes.
‘Hang on! Is he the guy that saved you?’
Since the accident in the Library, everyone had been talking about me being ‘saved’ by Jimmy Ryan. It was starting to grate on me but this story would be round for months to come.
I looked at Ray’s face. She looked like a child that wanted approval from some difficult parents.
‘Oh My’ Ray suddenly had this glint in her eye. I knew this couldn’t be good.
I don’t often get the chance to walk home but for some reason, today felt like a good opportunity to enjoy this rare sunny weather.
I have lived in (town to be confirmed) since I was born and with a population of around 20,000, it thankfully doesn’t have that small town mentality.
But for me, I just wanted to get lost. I always had that need to travel and to drink-in culture and adventure but I wasn’t sure I would get it in this city. I always had dreams of traveling through Europe, Australia and anyway that didn’t have a 7 eleven or a drive-through take-out joint on every corner.
I crossed the freeway and entered our street, Willow drive. It was a nice street with trees lined up on both sides and the local Kids would often play happily outside the front of their houses. Our home was always a strong contrast to the other houses in the street. My mum had been gone now for other 3 years and the shabby exterior showed that there was no feminine touch to its look. With rickety fences, a broken swing seat and leaves littered everywhere; this home was definitely not loved. My Mum had had a drinking problem when she lived with us but it didn’t help that occasionally my father would lose his temper and take it out on her too. He sometimes raised his hand to me but when I disappeared for a few days to let him cool off, he always had apologies and tears ready for when I eventually came home. This is the main reason why I can’t wait to get out. My hands are tied until I turn 18 but as soon as I do, I’ll be gone.
My Father’s truck wasn’t in the drive so I knew we would have the place to ourselves.
I stomped up the steps to our house and rummaged around for my keys. Locating them in my pocket, I shoved them in the lock and pushed the door open. A fume of beer and whisky hit my senses and I covered my nose from the smell. Empty cans and bottles littered the carpet and sofa and cigarette cartons were strewed all over the place.
I dropped my bag and started to collect up the rubbish and empties. I tried to put them in the trash but all our bins were filled with the same kind of merchandise so I dropped them in a spare box on the floor.
After tidying up the place and spraying some air fresher, I thought it was best to access the food situation.
I opened the fridge to find it was completely bare apart from a block of very smelly old cheese.
Take away tonight then.
After I had de-Fathered the place, I picked up my bag and made my way to my room. I don’t know why but my Dad had avoid the door at the end of the hall like it was plagued or had an invisible barrier. Once I turned into a hormone raging teenager, things completely changed in the house and maybe it was the thought of tan-pax and make-up that really drove it home that I wasn’t a little girl anymore.
It was a nice room. I didn’t have a lot of processions but I did have a few pictures of places I wanted to visit pinned to the wall.
I had a picture of my mother on my side table but it sometime spent time in the draw if I was out and Dad was in.
There was a large closet at the end of my bed where all my clothes lived and I had my laptop as a means of escape.
I had a quick shower and only just had time to brush my hair before there was a knock at the door. Double checking my reflection, I ran down the hall to answer it.
Greg and Jimmy both greeted me with beer and 3 boxes of Little Italy’s pizza from round the corner.
‘You read my mind!’ I explained, snatching the pizza out of Greg’s hands.
He walked in, planting a kiss on my check.
‘Grace, you never have food in.’ Greg huffed ‘I’ve been here enough times to know that!’
He walked into the kitchen to get his beers in the fridge.
I turned to see Jimmy hovering at the door.
‘You coming in?’ I asked unsure of his response.
He did look like he was considering saying no, then he shrugged his shoulders and came in.
I followed Greg onto the Kitchen to retrieve some plates. He already had a beer open and was looking at my Dad’s empties from earlier today.
‘Where is he?’
‘I don’t know. He left his normal path of destruction for me to come home too.’
Greg cleared his throat loudly.
‘You don’t have to live like this?’
Jimmy walked in at that moment; ‘Who doesn’t have to live like what?’
He stood in the doorway, his face dropping as he sensed the sudden change in mood.
Greg shifted back to his happier version.
‘Pizza time!’ He grabbed the plate I was loading up for him and dashed into the lounge.
Jimmy walked up to me to collection his pizza.
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.’
‘Jimmy, its ok. Just a long standing argument between me and Greg’
I placed the last slice on his plate and handed it to him. He hovered for a couple of seconds as if he wanted to say more but he shook his head and left the kitchen.
Pizza night round my house usually went the same way. Greg would normally drink too much, get too loud and have to stagger home and I would retire to my room tired and annoyed. So having Jimmy there was a godsend really.
By 11pm, Greg was fast asleep with his last beer can clutched in his hand and pizza grease stains on his shirt.
Jimmy had barely said a word all night but with Greg passed out; he seemed to relax in my company.
‘Grace?’ I looked up at him.
‘I’m Sorry about the library and about avoiding you’. Jimmy looked pretty sincere, something I’m not used to when I get an apology.
‘It’s ok. I was just worried about you.’
‘No, no. I just….’ Jimmy looked like he was trying to find the right words ‘look, let’s start over?’ He held out his hand for me to shake. I was unsure at first but took his hand. He’s grip was strong but not crushing and his skin felt too soft for a guys.
‘Sounds good to me’
I broke the shake and stood up. Collecting the plates and Greg’s beers cans, I walked into the kitchen and could sense Jimmy was doing the same. I added Greg’s empties to my father’s and felt Jimmy behind me. I turned to find him standing very close to me.
‘Thanks for having me over Grace.’ He was staring so fiercely at me that I actually lost the ability to speak. He moved closer; ‘It’s nice to spend some time with you…’
I suddenly heard the front door slam shut.
‘Oh my god!’
I rushed out into the Lounge to see my father stood over Greg. He had a bottle of vodka in his hand.
‘WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?’
He was pointing at Greg who had awoken abruptly.
‘Nothing sir, we were just going.’
I have never seen Greg move so fast.
‘Come on Jim! Let’s go!’
Greg didn’t even wait for him. He was up and opening the front door at the speed of light.
Jimmy looked at me nervously. He’s eyes were trying to communicate with me but I couldn’t read his expression.
He nodded to my father on his way out and closed the door behind him.
My Dad looked like he was in an argumentative mood so I thought it was best to keep mute.
I started to wash the dishes but I could hear his footsteps on the kitchen tiles behind me.
‘What the hell has been going on?’ I turned around to see him learning over me.
‘Dad, I heard you! The boys just came round to hang out and watch TV.’
‘But you’ve been drinking!’
He leered at me. He was so close I could see the flecks of grey in his beard.
‘Greg was drinking. Me and Jimmy just drank some -‘
‘YOU’RE getting like your MOTHER!’
He spat the words, showering my face slightly and pushing me against the sink. He put his precious Vodka on the side and learned on the counter.
I looked at him, disgusted at what he said. My Mother and I could not be more different.
‘Dad I’m not an alcoholic!’
That did it. His face twisted in anger.
‘Nothing Dad. Sorry’
I tried to push past him but he grabbed my arm.
I didn’t see his other hand coming.
He shoved me against the side and slapped me hard across the face. The force of it threw me against the sink and the plates I had washed up fell, smashing all over the floor.
‘Now look what you have done!’
He pushed me to the floor.
‘CLEAR IT UP!’
He picked up his Vodka bottle and staggered from the room, swearing under his breath.
I wasn’t sure what was up or down at first. My vision had gone a little blurry and I could feel a warm liquid on my hands. I looked down and could see what I was cut from one of the plates.
I held into the sink and slowly stood up, the pain from the hit slowly started to come on. I touched my face gently to feel that is was already tender and was getting puffier by the minute. I learned on the counter and watched blood and tears drip into the sink, wishing for the first time that I wasn’t alive.
Ok, Dad has hit me more than a couple of times. It used to be a rare occurrence that would happen when the Super Bowl was or on Mum and Dad’s anniversary. But now it was a regular thing. I am pretty good at hiding it and with make up tricks or sick days off from school; I don’t think anyone knew what was happening.
I was a clever girl. I know this wasn’t right but if I told the cops, I would be in foster care until I became 18 and I really didn’t fancy that much. At least with this situation I can just wait it out.
I cried the first time he did it. He did too and I thought it was just a one-off.
I couldn’t be more wrong.
The next day, I was in for a nasty surprise. The cuts on my hands were pretty small so I plastered myself up but my face was a different story. The redness had thankfully died down but now a purple bruise had appeared and there was no way Make up could disguise the colour.
I thought about skipping school but I really didn’t want to be in the house so going was the only option.
After having a shower and getting dressed, I threw some spare clothes and my laptop into my bag with the plan of staying at Ray’s. Maybe Dad just needed a few days on this own to cool off but I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere near him at the moment.
I just closed my front door and started down the porch steps when I saw Jimmy stood at the bottom of them.
He had a smile on his face but it suddenly fell when he saw my face.
I took a deep breath and tried to think up something as I walked towards him.
‘Jimmy, hi! I didn’t know we were meeting?’
‘What happened to your face?’ He looked at me worryingly.
I shrugged and ran down the steps.
‘Grace, what happened?’ Jimmy followed, trying to get in front of me.
‘It’s nothing. I fell over in the Kitchen’
Jimmy grabbed my arm.
‘Did your Dad hit you?’
I stopped and pulled my arm free. I tried to laugh it off.
‘Course not.’ I looked down and started to carried on walking.
‘Grace look at me! Did he hit you?’
‘SHUT UP!’ I stopped and threw my bag on the floor. I could feel myself getting angry and teary at the same time. Jimmy stepped back and kept his distance.
‘What you doing here anyway?’
Jimmy stared at me. He waited for me to calm down before he questioned me further.
‘Greg doesn’t know, does he?’
For some reason, Jimmy’s questioning was breaking me down. I stood trying to think of an excuse but I was just so tired of pretending,
‘No he doesn’t. I don’t want him to know, I don’t want anyone to know’ I stressed the last words to him. Our eyes met and he knew I was serious.
Jimmy nodded. ‘OK’
After a few moments I picked up my bag and we walked the rest of the way to school in silence.