Opening Chapters of novel 'Interventions'

Interventions - First 3 Chapters

Interventions

Chapter 1


In Warrington in North West England the quiet in the high school staff room was interrupted by the door being flung open by a young female staff member, who marched quickly over to the water dispenser, grabbed a plastic cup and in her haste three of them came out. She let two of them fall to the floor and half filled the one in her hand with the cold water. After gulping down that water she crushed the cup and threw it in the general direction of the bin. As she put both hands to her long hair and pulled on it she let out a little scream of exasperation.

‘How can a sixteen year old be such a bitch?!’ She wondered aloud as she let go of her hair, she had the complete attention of the other six teachers in the room, apart from one who remained hidden behind his copy of The Times.

‘No prizes for guessing that you’re talking about Pandora,’ another female staff member said.

‘I really can’t wait for this year to end, will be so glad when I never have to deal with her again, we should have kicked her out years ago,’ the angry teacher said.

An older, male teacher spoke from behind The Times; ‘Is she really that bad?’

‘Trust me you’ve no idea, I don’t care how experienced you are, you won’t have seen anything much worse than her. Her lack of respect is impossible to describe. It’s alright for you only teaching A-level, teaching kids who actually want to be here.’

‘Is this young lady not staying on for A-levels?’

‘No chance, she hates school as much as we hate her, beside she’s not clever enough for A-levels.’

‘She seems to have infuriated and manipulated the mood of virtually an entire team of reasonably intelligent adult teachers, without being kicked out of school, I’d say that shows a great deal of intelligence on her part.’

‘Reasonably intelligent?’ That supposed to be one of your subtle insults?’

‘I would’ve said intelligent, maybe even highly intelligent, but then you used the word hate about a pupil.’

‘If you’d been her form tutor and English teacher for the last two years I bet you’d be using worse words than that.’

‘Anyone ever spoken to her?’

‘What kind of question is that?’ The angry female teacher put her hands in her hair again. ‘She’s been spoken to so many times that I’ve lost count, she must know our code of conduct and respect rules better than anybody she’s had them recited to her so much,’ she added.

‘That’s talking at her, I asked if anyone had talked to her?’

‘Oh I see, we should have used some of your psychological nonsense, and found out that she is really a sweet girl who is just a little confused.’

‘I’m guessing if no one has ever talked to her, no one has ever listened to her either. If no one had listened to you for sixteen years, wouldn’t you be a bitch?’ Dr Mason didn’t wait for an answer, instead he got up and left the staff room.


Dr Mason waited by the main pupil exit for the school.

‘Pandora can we have a chat please before you head home?’ He asked as he stood in front of her, in the doorway.

‘Would love to chat, but I’ve got a bus to catch,’ Pandora said with fake disappointment.

‘You walk home.’

‘How do you know that?’ Pandora looked a little taken aback.

‘I’m an observer by nature.’

‘Sounds creepy to me.’

‘At my age I’m sure you’ll find virtually anything I do creepy.’

‘Anyway I’m not going home, I’m getting the bus into town,’ Pandora said and then took a step to the side and went to go for the doorway again.

‘Come on, I’m giving you the chance to piss off one more teacher before you go home,’ Dr Mason said as he stepped to block her path again.

‘Teachers aren’t allowed to swear, it’s against the fucking rules,’ Pandora replied with a smug smile.

‘Just like you I’ve never been one for rules.’

‘What do you want to talk about anyway?’

‘I don’t really want to talk, what I really want to do is listen.’

‘You want to listen to me? What could I have to say that a Doctor would need to listen to?’

‘I really want to know how one girl can cause so much stress amongst so many of my colleagues and why she has so little respect for them.’

‘I will respect them when they respect me.’

‘Love that philosophy, in fact that’s one of the mantras I teach by.’

‘So you’re saying you respect me?’

‘I definitely respect your ability to control the mood of adults around you, adults who are supposed to be experts at dealing with young people. Unfortunately for me I’ve only been at this school for a few months and this is the first time I’ve had the good fortune to talk to you, from this brief conversation I can honestly say I respect the way you make good eye contact when you talk, the way you stand up for yourself in an assertive manner and the way you have listened to everything I’ve said. Will that do for now?’

‘You’re freaky weird for a teacher,’ Pandora said with a little shake of her head. ‘Okay, you got me, where are we going for this chat?’

‘This class room will do,’ he pointed to an empty classroom just a few yards away from where they were, then opened the class room door, walked through and held the door open for Pandora. ‘Take a seat,’ he said and Pandora sat down in the nearest chair and gently threw her school bag onto the desk in front of her.

‘Just how old are you?’ Pandora asked as he sat down on the opposite side of the desk to her.

‘Rumours flying all over school are they?’ He said after a little laugh.

‘Some say you are a young looking seventy, because you talk as if you’ve been around for ever and are really old fashioned.’

‘Seventy?! I can crush that rumour straight away, I’m only fifty-three.’

‘And you’re a real Doctor?’

‘Most definitely.’

‘What’s your PhD in?’

‘Behavioural psychology.’

‘That actually sounds vaguely interesting,’ she conceded.

‘So I’m classed as an expert in human behaviour, I could’ve worked for the police, or the government, even MI5. You know why I’ve spent virtually all of my professional life in high schools?’

‘Not sure, is it the teenage girls, or the teenage boys? It’s really hard to tell with you.’

‘That the sort of thing you say that pisses the teachers off so much?’

‘Yeah they struggle with it so much more if you say it calmly, makes them take it more personally.’

‘Why do you want to piss them off so much?’

‘You’re the expert, you tell me.’

He smiled and nodded a little. ‘My guess is that you’re an incredibly complex young lady, probably with plenty of issues at home, but you don’t want to share this with anybody, so you create a character far removed from the one you truly feel like being. You think by being this bitchy that two things will happen, one is that people will think you’re so confident that they will never guess you’re in so much pain. The other is that people will never want to get close enough to you to find out the truth. You’ll be popular whilst you’re at high school, but only on a superficial level, because fellow pupils will suck up to you because they don’t want to be the ones feeling the wrath of your bitchiness. None of your groupies will ever know the real you, because somewhere along the line something has made you feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness and you have a great fear of putting people out.’

About half way through his answer Pandora broke off eye contact, and started messing with the collection of rubber wristbands on her left hand.

‘They hand out those PhDs like fucking confetti at a wedding.’

‘Am I wrong?’ He tried to get eye contact once again, but Pandora wouldn’t let it happen.

‘What else has your expertise and creepy observing come up with?’

‘I’ve observed your exam and coursework grades for all your GCSE work so far, Cs in absolutely everything.’

‘What can I say, I’m just an average student,’ Pandora briefly made eye contact, then went back to starring at her wrist bands.

‘I don’t need a PhD or any observational skills to know that one thing you are not is average. I’ve been involved in high school education for around thirty years, and do you know how many pupils I’ve seen in all that time that have got Cs in everything?’

‘No idea but I’m dying to find out, could you email me the answer, my email address is Pandora69@tellsomeonewhogivesashit.co.uk,’ again Pandora made brief eye contact as she replied.

‘None, you’re the first one I’ve ever seen. Not even the odd B or D, you know what that tells me? It tells me you have complete control over your results and in fact you’re more than capable of being a straight A student, but you don’t want to be, because you don’t want to be noticed and you just want teachers to want rid of you because you are such a bitch. It also tells me that you do just enough to make sure that you pass everything, because you know that Cs are considered proper passes and in the future people will be asking how many GCSEs you have at C above, if you were the reckless bitch you make yourself out to be you’d be getting nothing better than a D. So that tells me that you do have the tiniest bit of give a crap left.’

‘Go on this is fascinating, I finding out so many things about myself,’ Pandora didn’t try to hide her sarcasm.

‘Okay then let’s look at what you wear.’

‘Oh this will be good, remember you’re not supposed to call me a slut.’

‘You’re not a slut, just like you’re not a bitch, you just like to give the impression you are both. That’s why you wear the shortest skirt you can possibly get away with, no matter how cold it gets. Conversely no matter how hot it gets, you always wear tights.’

‘You really are getting creepy now, been checking out my arse and legs have you?’

‘There you go, on the attack, your best form of defence isn’t it? We’re in the middle of a heat wave and not only are you still wearing your tights, you never take that jumper off. At a time when all the other girls are getting their legs out and showing off their short sleeved white blouses, you are covering up. What are you hiding?’

‘I’m not hiding anything, I just like to be different and don’t want to look like all of those sluts, you are looking way too much into this,’ Pandora was now looking around the room as she spoke, eye-contact was no longer happening at all.

‘The thing about those school jumpers is that the sleeves always manage to ride up a little, really annoying when you’re trying to hide something, so that’s why you cover your wrists so much.’

‘These are all charity wristbands,’ Pandora said as she held up her left hand. ‘I thought I’d at least get some credit for that.’

‘I do like seeing a young person who is charitable. Doesn’t explain the ever present sweat band on the other wrist though.’

‘It’s called style, they probably didn’t have it when you were young and I really can’t be bothered trying to explain it to you.’

‘You want to know why I chose to work in schools?’

‘Apart from the teenage boys and girls?’

‘I’m sure someone as intelligent as you will already have worked out your usual attacks are wasted on me.’

‘Go on then tell me why, I’m all ears,’ Pandora slumped down a little in her chair, with her arms folded.

‘Because it’s easier to make strong children, than repair broken adults.’

Pandora closed her eyes and took a deep breath in and out. ‘I may not technically be an adult yet, but I am definitely already broken.’

‘Everybody is broken to some degree, the thing is whether we are broken beyond repair,’ Dr Mason replied, Pandora took a long, slow breath out as she flicked at her charity wristbands with her right hand and stared blankly downwards.

‘Whatever you would have done to repair me doesn’t matter, I am way beyond that stage now.’

‘Trust me, you are not beyond repair, nowhere near, the only thing stopping you getting fixed is your unwillingness to ask for help. Most people will see you as a bad girl, I know that you’re a girl who has had bad things happen to her, but if you don’t ask for help sooner or later you will just be a bad girl.’

‘Don’t do your mind reading bull shit on me,’ Pandora snapped a little then sniffed and rubbed her nose.

‘I’m guessing this is the first time any member of staff has seen you even close to upset.’

‘I’m not up….’

‘Before you carry on lying to yourself,’ Dr Mason interrupted. ‘Let me tell you that body language is my speciality.’

‘I’m this close to walking out right now,’ Pandora shouted and held her thumb on index finger of her right hand less than an inch apart, as tears began to form in her eyes.

‘Yet you’re still here, a member of staff is thoroughly pissing you off and you’re still sat there taking it. I’ll tell you why you’re still there, because finally someone is listening to you, someone is showing they care and they want to help. You’ve been crying out for help in your own way for years, but no one has heard you. It’s okay to be pissed off, I’m sure if I’d been through whatever you’ve been through I would be pissed off too.’

‘Stop trying to get inside my head, trust me that’s a place you don’t want to be.’

‘I know it’s a dark place, that’s why you scratch your own wrists, and cut them.’

‘That’s none of your fucking business!’ Pandora shouted.

‘I’m making it my business, that’s what this is all about. Some people might say you just do it for attention,’ as he spoke Pandora turned her head away from him, she could no longer hold the tears back. ‘Is that what someone has said? That you only do it for attention? I think on some level they are right, that’s why you harm yourself on one of the most noticeable parts of your body. During the moments you do it, I think there might be some part of you that really wants someone to know what you are doing to yourself. But then when there is a lift in the gloom, when there’s a little light to end the total darkness you cover yourself up and go back to playing the part you know so well. I hope I’m wrong about the real reason you harm yourself, but I suspect I’m not.’

Pandora turned to face him and wiped both her eyes, first with one hand, then the other. ‘Go on then, tell me why I do it, you obviously love showing off,’ she spoke quietly as she looked down at the table.

‘I think you are dealing with some severe mental and emotional pain, and that sometimes the only way you feel you can cope with it is if you inflict enough physical pain on yourself that it will override your other feelings, at least for a few sweet moments.’

Pandora put both her hands to her face, at first covering her eyes, then moving her hands a little so that they covered her mouth and nose, but both tear filled eyes were visible. For a few moments she just looked at Dr Mason, making eye contact, neither one of them in a rush to speak.

‘Are all kids this easy to read for you?’ Pandora asked him after lowering her hands to the table.

‘Most of them are, most of the time, that’s what being an expert means. Doesn’t mean I know you, or what you’re going through or how you’re feeling.’

‘I bet you have some theories though,’ Pandora said with the merest hint of a smile.

‘Oh I always have theories, that’s what makes me so annoying,’ he replied causing Pandora’s smile to stay and grow ever so slightly.

‘I think it’s safe to say you have my full attention, so the stage is all yours.’

‘Again I really hope I’m wrong, but my theory is you have a sickeningly horrible home life. I know you’re an only child and I think your parents offer you no support at all, never give you anyone to talk to and do nothing to help your self-esteem, only to destroy it. Even worse I suspect there’s some physical abuse, hence the ever present long sleeves and tights, to cover up any signs.’

‘You’re wrong this time,’ Pandora said quietly whilst looking down and wiping one eye.

‘Then take off your jumper.’

‘I’m sure you’re aware how wrong that sounds,’ Pandora became louder.

‘Don’t do that, don’t switch to defence mode, don’t be the role you act out every day. Whatever is happening at home, you don’t deserve it and you can be free from it.’

Pandora started shaking her head as the tears began to flow again. ‘You can’t tell them, you don’t understand, you can’t tell anybody,’ she spoke through the sobs.

‘The only way this will stop is if you tell someone, you will be perfectly safe and you deserve to be so,’ Dr Mason leaned over the table a little, trying to make eye contact.

‘I deserve everything I get,’ Pandora completely lost control of the tears, put her arms on the desk and let her head rest on them face down.

‘That’s what they tell you, I’m telling you that you certainly don’t deserve it. Who are you going to believe? Two horrible human beings who shouldn’t have the right to be parents? Or an expert in human behaviour?’

Pandora couldn’t talk, she could only cry.

‘Pandora, you don’t deserve this, you don’t deserve this,’ Dr Mason’s words kept the tears coming. ‘And there is a way out, if you make a complaint now, you won’t ever have to go home again, you won’t ever have to see them again, we can get you into a good foster home, you can get those straight As you’re capable of, go to whichever college you want and then do whatever it is you want to do with your life. Your whole life can turn around right now, it can be a million times better from this moment on. All you need is a few moments of courage, enough courage to speak the truth and you will be free from your prison for ever.’

For a few seconds Pandora remained face down on the desk, then she slowly picked herself up and leant back in her chair. She grabbed the end of her right sleeve with the fingers of that hand, then used it to wiped both her eyes. After taking a couple of deep breathes Pandora closed her eyes for a few moments, then looked at Dr Mason.

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Okay I’ll tell you.’


About an hour later Dr Mason was outside the room, heading back towards it with a cup of coffee in his hands. Pandora was inside the room, talking to two police officers. The female teacher who had been complaining about Pandora in the staff room earlier that day, was walking by, heading for the exit, then she stopped by Dr Mason.

‘The police? I’m guessing you now see what I mean about her, glad to see someone having the gumption to do something about her,’ she said.

‘I didn’t call them for her, I called them to protect her.’

‘Protect her from what?’

‘It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen to people.’



Four police officers stood outside a terrace house in the middle of Warrington, one of them knocked loudly on the door. A man in his mid-thirties pulled the door open quickly, stood in the doorway and stared at the police.

‘What do you lot want?!’ He asked.

‘Mr Harris?’ The police officer at the front checked.

‘Yeah well done, you’ve got something right for a change.’

‘I’m arresting you,’ the same officer said and stepped into the house, followed by his colleagues, and two of them grabbed him and turned him around whilst one of them handcuffed his hands behind his back.

‘What the fuck is this about?’ He screamed and then struggled a little until they pushed him up against a wall.

‘We’re arresting you for the physical and sexual abuse of a minor, your own daughter,’ the same officer continued to do the talking whilst another two of them held Mr Harris up against the wall, the officer leaned up to Mr Harris so that he was talking right into his ear. ‘Have you any idea what’s going to happen to you in prison?’

‘I’ve not touched that fucking slag, she’s a lying bitch!’

At this point Mr Harris’s wife came out of the kitchen and into the hall way. ‘Don’t listen to him, he beats me too.’

‘You bitch!’ Mr Harris screamed at the top of his voice.

‘I’m fairly sure that is the case Mrs Harris,’ the officer who had done all the talking said. ‘But that really doesn’t give you the right to sexually and physically abuse your own daughter does it?’ He added as he spun her round and handcuffed her too.


Three months later Dr Mason walked into his little office at the high school, he accidently stood on a big envelope on the floor, just inside his office. He opened it to find a big ‘Thank you’ card. Inside the card was a photo copy of some GCSE results, where the pupil had got A* in every subject. The written message inside the card read: ‘I thought I’d send you this because I know how much you like being right! J ‘.



A husband and wife waited in their car, in the car park at the Peace Centre in Warrington.

‘What did her last text say?’ The husband asked.

‘It said they had just got off the motorway and were going past LA Bowl,’ his wife replied.

‘She should be here any minute then,’ the husband said with a smile. ‘I bet she’s loved it.’

‘A week away from us you mean?’ The wife said with a little smile of her own.

‘Partly,’ the husband laughed a little. ‘But she will have really loved meeting loads of new people and having a go at all the activities.’

‘I’m sure you’re right,’ the wife replied. ‘This must be them now,’ she replied as a coach pulled into the car park.’

Both of them got out of the car and stood on the pavement next to each other, looking at the coach as it parked up just a few yards away from them. Even before the doors were opened singing could be heard from inside the coach.

‘Certainly sounds like they had a good time!’ The wife said with a big smile.

‘I do miss those days!’ The husband said with his own smile.

They watched on as they saw their daughter get off the coach, she gave a high five to one of the youth workers and hugged just about all of the other twenty nine young people who got off the coach. She grabbed her big bag then started looking for her parents, as soon as she saw them she dropped her bag and ran over to them and gave a big hug to her Mum, then her Dad then all three of them hugged at the same time. Just as they broke up that group hug, the youth worker that had given her the high five came over with her bag.

‘I’m guessing you are Holly’s parents?’ she said as he placed the bag on the floor.

‘Yes,’ Holly’s Mum said with a smile, but still looking slightly worried about why the youth worker had come over to them.

‘I thought I had to come over and say how amazing Holly is, we often find ourselves making complaints to parents about young people when they’ve done bad stuff, so I like to do it the other way around too. Seriously she was an absolute delight to have in the group, I don’t have kids myself but if I ever have a daughter I would love her to be like Holly.

‘Don’t, you’ll make me cry,’ Holly said followed by a little giggle.

‘Thank you so much for saying that,’ Holly’s Mum said.

‘Yeah, that means a lot,’ her Dad added.

‘No problem at all, she deserved every word and you guys must have done a great job too. Have fun this weekend and we’ll see you again next week Holly.’

‘Can’t wait, I miss those guys already!’ Holly beamed.





Chapter 2


A teacher made her way from the school to the car park, another day closer to retirement, it had been one of the more uneventful days for her at a High School in Warrington, but she was still glad to be finished for the day and to be heading home. Just as she got through the last door to get outside, she felt her phone go off in her pocket on vibrate. She was virtually certain the text would be from her husband, and not all that important, but after a moment or two of considering whether to bother checking it she decided to check the message. Indeed it was from her husband and simply read: ‘Call me’. She called him straight away, whilst taking a deep breath in, then slowly exhaling whilst puffing out her cheeks, this was at the same time as a few little shakes of her head.

‘Hello,’ her husband answered.

‘What it is?’

‘You leaving work yet?’

‘Just about to get in the car, why?’

‘We’re just about to go out for a drink in town after work, come and join us.’

‘You know I don’t like doing that, so you’re only inviting me so I can’t complain when you get back around ten tonight.’

‘Why don’t you like it?’

‘Which bit do you think I would like? The part where you have vulgar conversations with blokes you work with, the bit where you all talk about something at work leaving me completely out of the loop or the bit where you laugh and joke with some of your female colleagues who make a point of laughing loudly at any of your attempted jokes and even go for a few clichéd touches of your arm as they laugh?’ She replied as she got into her car and slammed the door.

‘It’s called socialising, you should try it sometime.’

‘Whatever, see you at ten,’ she hung up without waiting for a reply.

She threw her phone onto the passenger seat, started up her car and pulled away so quickly she nearly did a wheel spin.


As all the other pupils head home, one fifteen year old girl is sat on a wall watching her fellow pupils walking past her on the way out. A few acknowledge her existence with a word or two as they walk, but none stop to talk properly.

‘You desperate to stay at school Shelley?’ One girl asked her.

‘Just not keen on going home,’ Shelley replied, the girl who asked the question never slowed down, instead just offered a little smile as she went past.

Eventually Shelley makes the slow walk home. When she gets there she heads upstairs where her mother is in bed. Her Mum asks how her day went and Shelley manages to just about fake enthusiasm as she talks through her classes from that day, she also keeps up the pretence that her grades are as high as ever. Despite Shelley’s insistence that she’s more than happy to make more, all her Mum wants for tea is a tin of mushroom soup and some toast. After duly making that for her Shelley dutifully sits with her whilst they eat and watch a few quiz programmes on the TV. When she’s been up there for an hour or so Shelley says she has some homework to do and heads to her room.

Shelley sits in her room, listening to music, searching online, checking facebook and twitter and then watching a DVD, anything but homework. Just before midnight, just as she is about to drift off to sleep, to her complete distress and utter disgust he comes into my room. He does what he does, as badly as ever, Shelley wants to scream out but she has trained herself to keep quiet.


A teacher made her way from the school to the car park, another day closer to retirement, it had been one of the more uneventful days for her at a High School in Warrington, but she was still glad to be finished for the day and to be heading home. Just as she got through the last door to get outside, she felt her phone go off in her pocket on vibrate. She was virtually certain the text would be from her husband, and not all that important, after a moment or two of considering whether to bother checking it she decided not to check the message. As she heads to her car Miss Forrest notices a pupil sat on the wall, when all the others have gone home.

‘You okay Shelley? You’re cutting a most forlorn figure.’

‘We’re out of class now Miss, you don’t have to talk like you’re quoting Dickens or Austen,’ Shelley said without looking up but offering a tiny little smile.

‘Curse of the job I’m afraid. Seriously Shelley, you do seem down lately, lots of blank staring into space.’

‘Just contemplating life I guess.’

‘You’re way too young to be made so sad by contemplating life.’

Shelley can’t help bursting into tears. Miss Forrest puts a hand on her shoulder. ‘Oh Shelley honey, what’s wrong, you can tell me anything. You know I can’t promise to keep it a secret and that I probably won’t be able to magically make it all go away, but whatever it is you can talk to me about it. You can tell me absolutely everything or just a little part of it, whatever you are comfortable with, but know that I will be absolutely all ears.’

It takes Shelley a minute or so to be able to talk amongst the tears. ‘It’s My Mum, she,’ the sobs become so strong that they stop her from talking for another few seconds. She takes a few deep breaths, stare straight ahead, not at Miss and say ‘She has cancer, it’s the first time I’ve said that out loud.’ Shelley turns to face her teacher and she has a hand to her mouth then she takes it away as she puffs out her cheeks and slowly exhales.

‘Oh wow Shelley,’ she says as she puts an arm around her. ‘There’s nothing I can say that’ll make that better. Do you know how bad it is yet? Sorry that sounds like a stupid question, I just mean that many people recover from cancer.’

‘It’s ok, I know what you mean,’ Shelley says between sniffles. ‘Mum won’t be recovering though, she’s just got a few months left,’ she adds and then the tears take over once again.

Miss Forrest pulls Shelley closer with her arm allowing her to literally cry on her shoulder, for a couple of minutes or so she just lets Shelley cry without any questions or her talking at all.

‘Is it just you two at home?’ She eventually asks.

Shelley sits up a little, moving off Miss Forest’s shoulder, then wipes her own eyes, the tears are still falling, but a lot slower. ‘My uncle, her brother, lives with us too.’

‘Does he help look after her?’

Shelley produces a little laugh. ‘Not at all, I’m the only help she has.’

‘Oh Shelley, that’s way too much for someone so young, there are agencies that can help you, there’s a brilliant young carers organisation.’

‘I know, I have heard of them,’ she says, still wiping away tears. ‘But right now I really don’t want other people involved in all of this.’

‘All of this? Is there something else?

Shelley takes a really deep breath. ‘I’m sorry Miss I just can’t tell you about that.’

‘That’s okay Shelley, like I said, you tell me as much or as little as you want to right now.’

‘I just feel so guilty.’

‘Why on earth do you feel guilty?’ Miss didn’t try to hide her exasperation.

‘Because I should be with her right now, I should be spending every spare minute I have with her. Instead I waste time and when I am with her I’m thinking of excuses to get away, then I tell her I have to go and do homework but I don’t really do any, at least not for as long as I make out I need to.’

‘I know I don’t know your Mum but I’m sure she’d hate for you to be feeling any worse about this whole thing than you have to, it’s only natural that you don’t want to spend too much time with your Mum while she’s in such a terrible state.’

‘Why does this sort of thing never seem to happen to bad people? It’s always the good ones.’

Miss hugged me tight again, ‘I don’t know sweetie, I really don’t.’

After wiping away some more tears and gently moving out of Miss Forrest’s hug Shelley said; ‘I really should get going now, but thanks so much Miss, it’s definitely made me feel a little better talking about it.’

‘Crying can help too,’ she said with a smile.

‘I know, but seriously, thanks for stopping and checking up on me, I know it’s not really part of your job.’

‘Maybe not part of my job as a teacher, but I reckon its part of my job as a human.’

‘Sadly not many humans do that job very well.’

‘Let me know if you want to chat anytime.’

‘I will do, thanks,’ Shelley says as she gets up, then sets off walking for home.

‘You want a lift home?’

‘No it’s okay, it’s only a short walk, but long enough for the tears to dry.’


When Shelley gets there she heads upstairs where her mother is in bed. Her Mum asks how her day went and Shelley manages to just about fake enthusiasm as she talks through her classes from that day, she also keeps up the pretence that her grades are as high as ever. Despite Shelley’s insistence that she’s more than happy to make more, all her Mum wants for tea is a tin of mushroom soup and some toast. After duly making that for her Shelley dutifully sits with her whilst they eat and watch a few quiz programmes on the TV. When she’s been up there for an hour or so Shelley says she has some homework to do and heads to her room.

Shelley sits in her room, listening to music, searching online, checking facebook and twitter and then watching a DVD, anything but homework. Just before midnight, just as she is about to drift off to sleep, to her complete distress and utter disgust he comes into my room. He does what he does, as badly as ever, Shelley wants to scream out but she has trained herself to keep quiet.





Chapter 3


Two PE teachers at another high school in Warrington were packing away some pieces of equipment at the end of another day.

‘How did the girls do today? All jolly with their hockey sticks?’ The male teacher asked.

‘Still not as jolly as I would like them to be, any of us wanting to fight the alarming dropout rate in teenage girls from sport are fighting a losing battle I’m afraid,’ she replied.

‘I suppose they’ll always be some who will never be interested, just like there’s some who will never be interested in maths or science or any other subject. It’s our job to make it as interesting as possible to as many as we can.’

‘Were you born this upbeat or did you have to work at it? Or is it just one big act?’

‘Little bit of all three I reckon,’ he said with a smile.

‘I can see how that works,’ she said and returned the smile to such an extent that she produced a little laugh.

‘You off home now?’ he asked her.

‘Might go for a bike ride first, but yeah I’m done for the day, you?’

‘No I’ve got detention duty,’ he said followed by a deep exhalation.

‘I’m guessing that’s not your favourite part of the job.’

‘Sitting in silence for an hour in a room with one or two naughty kids in it? No I love it, I’m always volunteering for it any chance I get.’

‘Be careful I think teachers can get a detention for excessive sarcasm. Actually it is good to know there’s something you’re not upbeat about. You want me to fill in for you?’

‘As tempting as that is I could do with not giving any more reasons for the Head to not like me, you go and have your bike ride.’

‘Okay, I’ll be thinking of you,’ she said with smile.

‘Upbeat has its limits you know, fake or not, even I know that.’


One male pupil was in the detention room on his own for a few minutes before the teacher came in, how bearable detention was depended largely on the teacher that was on duty.

‘Just you tonight Frank?’ Mr Cunningham asked as he sat down behind a desk.

‘Yes sir, good lesson today Sir, always enjoy your Rugby sessions.’

‘Glad you liked it Frank, but you know you don’t have to suck up to me in detention, you know how this works with me.’

‘You mean you leaving me alone?’

‘I’ll read my paper and my book, you check facebook and twitter and play games on your phone and when anyone asks I’ll say you read a book for your history homework?’

‘Sounds great to me Sir, that’s why you’re my favourite teacher.’


The detention passes by without any interruptions so Mr Cunningham gets to read his paper and book and Frankie gets to play on his phone for the full hour. On his way home Frankie sees some of his brother’s mates walking towards him.

‘Hey Frankie!’ Robin shouts as he leads the group directly towards him. ‘Just the guy we wanted to see.’

‘What’s up Robin?’ Frankie asked as they high fived.

‘All is good with us, just out looking for a job, how come you are just heading home now? Been on detention?’

‘Yeah wasn’t too bad though, it was with Mr Cunningham.’

‘Would’ve been better if it had been with Miss Dixon, but it couldn’t have been with her we saw her on her bike a while ago, she is a hottie, dirty bitch as well, I fucked her last summer.’

It was easy to tell when Robin was lying, his lips were moving, Frankie knew he was lying but he also knew if you called him on it his fists would start moving so it really wasn’t worth it. ‘So what type of job are you looking for?’

‘Thinking a car, you up for it? Your Phil taught you well, nobody gets into a car and gets it running quicker than you.’

Although being detained in a police station was unlikely to be as chilled out as spending an hour with Mr Cunningham, Frankie felt obliged to take up Robin’s offer. ‘Yeah sure.’

‘Good lad, there’s usually some good targets down this street,’ Robin said then pointed behind Frankie, who followed him, Matt and Trev down that street.

It didn’t take Frankie long to identify a car that would be easy to get into, took him even less time to get into it. Even in broad daylight he was so quick and smooth with his actions it didn’t arose any suspicion. The four of them got in and by the time the others had closed the door behind them Frankie had the engine up and running.

‘You want me to drive?’ he asked Robin.

‘Of course I do, just get us out of here, I’ll tell you when to pull over so we can swap.’

Frankie pulled away smoothly from the curb and got to a main road as soon as he could. If any driving instructors want to get one of their learners to check their mirrors more they should get them to steal a car, when you’re driving a stolen car you are constantly checking what’s around you. As they approached some traffic lights Frankie’s heart started racing.

‘Pigs behind us,’ he said.

‘Get through these lights,’ Robin said and without thinking for himself Frankie accelerated through them as they turned to red, as soon as he did that the sirens came on behind me.

‘Go left here, floor it down to the bottom and we’ll ditch it down by the canal,’ Robin continued to bark out the orders.

With his heart rate continuing to rise Frankie drove as fast as he could, clipping the mirrors of a couple of parked cars, making something on the other side of the road swerve and slam on to miss him but there was no way he was going to be able to go faster than the police car. He got to where Robin wanted him to stop and slammed on the breaks, before it came to a stop the other three were already out of the car. They headed straight off into the woods and they didn’t even get chased. Frankie barely made it ten yards from the car before being grabbed from behind by two policeman.

‘If you wanted to see your brother so bad Frankie you could’ve just waited for visiting hours,’ one of them said as they dragged him towards their car. ‘You sixteen yet?’ He asked as his mate opened the back door.

‘No, still fifteen, so you still have to be nice to me.’

‘Think you’ll find we have a different definition of nice,’ he said as he pushed Frankie into the back seat and slammed the door behind him.


Frankie waited in a room in the police station on his own for an hour or so, sat on a hard chair with his head on a table. Eventually the same two policemen that caught him came into the room.

‘We need a parent or guardian here to question and charge you officially,’ the same one who did the talking when they arrested Frankie said as they both sat down on the opposite side of the table to him.

‘You know my Dad can’t be here,’ Frankie said.

‘Indeed he can’t. We’ve left several messages for your Mum but she’s not getting back to us.’

‘Probably busy doing someone else,’ Frankie replied.

‘You mean something else,’ the other one finally spoke.

‘No I mean someone, if you knew her you’d know what I mean.’

‘Listen Frankie,’ the more talkative of the two said. ‘I want to make it absolutely clear how serious this situation is, this is your last warning before ending up in a juvenile detention centre. We’re not like teachers and parents, when we give a last warning we mean it.’

‘Yeah, yeah I know.’

‘You know, but you don’t seem to care. Don’t suppose there’s any point in me asking again who the other people in the car were?’

‘You know I’m not a grass.’

‘I know you’re one of those people that think being a grass is the worst crime of all, hopefully that will change one day. We’re going to take you home now and hopefully get to chat to your Mum.


As Frankie lets himself in the front door with the two policemen standing right behind him, a man he’d never met before walks out of the house. The policemen follow Frankie in and he starts looking round for his Mum, leaving the policemen in the living room and heads to the kitchen, from there he can see his Mum smoking in the back yard. She’s only wearing a black vest top and a little pair of shorts.

‘Mum the police are here,’ Frankie says after opening the back door.

‘You can see I’m having a fag,’ her words aren’t quite slurred but it seems like a big effort for her to talk.

‘But the police are her now in the living room.’

‘Then go and tell them I am having a fag and will see them in a couple of minutes.’

Frankie slowly walks back through to the living room and passes on the message, then sits in awkward silence for a minute or so before his Mum joins them.

‘What’s he done this time?’ She asks as she sits on the arm of the sofa that I’m sat on.

‘It’s very serious this time ma’am he has stolen a car.’

‘But he’s not hurt anyone?’

‘He’s probably done some emotional damage to the owner of the car.’

‘I’m sure they’ll get over that.’

‘We called you so that you could come down to the station, but you didn’t answer your phone or get back to us.’

‘I’ve been busy.’

‘Frankie knows this is his last chance, anymore crimes and he’s going to a juvenile detention centre.’

‘Might do him some good, he won’t listen to me.’

The policeman doing the talking puffed out his cheeks a little and slowly blew the air out. ‘Right then, there’s not a lot else for us to say, accept, hopefully we won’t be seeing you again.’

The two policemen showed themselves out of the house, leaving Frankie with his mother.

‘I’m going to bed now,’ his mother said.

‘Really?’

‘Yeah I have been working hard all day.’

‘Don’t you want to talk about what just happened?’ Frankie asked as she made her way out of the living room.

‘You nicked a car and got caught, I think that about covers it,’ she said loudly as she made her way up the stairs.



Two PE teachers at another high school in Warrington were packing away some pieces of equipment at the end of another day.

‘How did the girls do today? All jolly with their hockey sticks?’ The male teacher asked.

‘Still not as jolly as I would like them to be, any of us wanting to fight the alarming dropout rate in teenage girls from sport are fighting a losing battle I’m afraid,’ she replied.

‘I suppose they’ll always be some who will never be interested, just like there’s some who will never be interested in maths or science or any other subject. It’s our job to make it as interesting as possible to as many as we can.’

‘Were you born this upbeat or did you have to work at it? Or is it just one big act?’

‘Little bit of all three I reckon,’ he said with a smile.

‘I can see how that works,’ she said and returned the smile to such an extent that she produced a little laugh.

‘You off home now?’ he asked her.

‘Might go for a bike ride first, but yeah I’m done for the day, you?’

‘No I’ve got detention duty,’ he said followed by a deep exhalation.

‘I’m guessing that’s not your favourite part of the job.’

‘Sitting in silence for an hour in a room with one or two naughty kids in it? No I love it, I’m always volunteering for it any chance I get.’

‘Be careful I think teachers can get a detention for excessive sarcasm. Actually it is good to know there’s something you’re not upbeat about. You want me to fill in for you?’

‘As tempting as that is I could do with not giving any more reasons for the Head to not like me, you go and have your bike ride.’

‘Who are you kidding, the head loves you, and I’m sure I can find some report for you to write or session to plan to return the favour soon enough.’

‘You know what I really do fancy a game of golf, so I might actually take you up on the offer. You sure you don’t mind missing your bike ride?’

‘Won’t miss it, I’ll just do it an hour or so later.’

‘You really don’t mind doing it?’

‘No, I actually quite like it, think it’s the hero complex in me wanting to turn the naughty kids onto the right path.’

‘In that case it is definitely a deal.’



When she got to the detention room there was just one pupil in there, slouched in a chair behind one of the many desks.

‘Hey Miss Dixon,’ Frankie said as soon as she came into the room.

‘Only you here Frankie?’

‘Looks that way Miss, love the shorts miss.’

‘I don’t consider myself an expert in the language young people speak, but I think I’ve managed to crack your code on that one, when you say you love my shorts, what you are actually implying is that you like my legs,’ she said as she turned a chair around so she could sit behind the desk in front of Frankie’s desk and still face him as she sat down.

‘Glad you like the flirty banter Miss, you are the fittest teacher in school.’

‘Is that official?’

‘Yeah all the lads think the same.’

‘Oh wow it’s so good to have achieved the one thing I’ve wanted most out of my teaching career. Am I going to be presented with an award at an assembly sometime?’

‘You should get one, but I don’t think they’ll let us present you with one, so you’ll have to settle for the knowledge of what me and the other lads are thinking.’

‘I’m going to stop you there before this conversation crosses the border into “completely inappropriate”. So why are you here?’

‘Mouthed off to a teacher.’

‘No I don’t just mean why you’re on detention tonight, I mean why you’re at this stage in your life being the person you are,’ she said and made a point of making eye contact.

‘That’s a bit deep for me Miss. I’m sure you know all about me, I wind teachers up, I argue in class, I don’t do my homework, I get rubbish grades and start fights.’

‘Oh trust me I’ve probably heard about every single insult you’ve ever hurled at a teacher and I know about all the other stuff you’ve mentioned too. But I don’t know why.’

Frankie moved around a little in his chair. ‘I don’t know why, it’s just what I do.’

‘I bet you have a lot more of an idea than I do.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘I’m just a dumb PE teacher, but even if I was a psychology professor I still wouldn’t know more about your life than you do, because you’ve been there for every second of it.’

‘Is this talk part of the detention?’

‘Not officially no, but we could either sit here whilst we both play on our phones and waste an hour or we could have a chat that maybe, just maybe could really help you out.’

‘I don’t really do the talking thing.’

‘It’s just you and me here, no one that’s going to be impressed by any macho nonsense, or make fun of you for showing any signs of sensitivity. I can tell you’re not comfortable with someone showing an interest in you.’

‘No one’s ever asked about me like this before,’ he was looking down at his hands and messing with his fingernails.

‘Your brother still in prison?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And Dad?’

‘Yeah.’

‘How’s Mum doing?’

‘Do we really have to do this?’

‘The fact that it’s so uncomfortable for you probably shows that talking about it will help you,’ Miss Dixon said as she tilted her head down in a vain attempt to regain eye contact.

He looked up but past the teachers gaze and started looking at the ceiling as he spoke. ‘Let’s see it’s a Wednesday afternoon so I’m guessing she’s drunk, at home getting fucked by some guy she’s only just met, just a matter of whether she’s getting paid for it or not.’

‘It’s okay to be pissed off Frankie.’

The shock of hearing a teacher swear caused him to momentarily make eye contact with her, before looking around the room at anywhere but her.

‘I’m all right.’

‘Clearly you’re not.’

His eyes moistened, then he shut them tight.

‘You’ve had a horrible upbringing and start in life, the three people who are your most natural role models have turned out to be hideously bad ones. A bad upbringing doesn’t have to translate into a bad life, there are millions of cases of kids who’ve had terrible parents and gone on to have good lives and make something of their lives. Some of them even go on to be PE teachers.’

Frankie looked at Miss Dixon whose eyes now were also a little moist. ‘You?’

She offered a little smile and a few nods.

‘What happened to you?’ He asked.

‘An all too common story unfortunately, my Dad hit my Mum and me, wasn’t a fun upbringing at all.’

‘I’m actually happier when my Dad is in prison,’ Frankie said as he looked back down at the desk.

‘He hit the rest of you?’

‘No doesn’t hit any of us, at least I don’t think so, it’s just him an Mum having stupid rows, they shout so loud, they seem to hate each other, I’ve no idea why they are together. Plus anytime he’s out of prison I’m always waiting for the coppers to be knocking on the door to arrest him again.’

‘What are your Dad and brother in prison for?’

‘Dad for assault this time, brother for nicking cars.’

‘And how’s Mum?’ Miss Dixon asked as she wiped one eye and then tilted her head a little.

‘It’s not her fault, she’s got her own problems,’ Frankie got up and walked over to the other side of the classroom so that he could lean up against a window and look out of it.

Miss Dixon followed him and sat on a desk, just out of touching distance from Frankie. ‘She got a few harmful habits?’

Frankie let out a tiny laugh. ‘That’s the nicest way of describing a drug addict and alcoholic I’ve ever heard.’

‘When you’re a teacher you get used to phrasing things like you’re a character in Alice in Wonderland.’

‘I’ve tried to help her, I really have,’ he said as he stared blankly out of the window.

‘It sounds selfish but the most important person to help is yourself, ultimately you can only control your own life and besides I’m sure she doesn’t want both her sons in prison. You turning your life around will be a great way to help her.’

‘Think it’s too late for that Miss.’

‘It’s nowhere near too late, you’ve not got a criminal record, you’ve not been expelled from a school and you’ve got plenty of time to improve your grades and then you can do whatever you want to do. But I really think you need to make some changes soon or it might well be too late.’

‘I’m sure you’re right, but I don’t know how to make that change.’

‘It’ll be by what I call everyday changes, everyday you will be faced with choices and you’ll have to make different decisions from the ones you have been making so far. About whether to get involved in a fight, whether to answer back to a teacher, how to talk to people, whether to get involved in criminal activity and so on.’

‘Can’t promise anything.’

‘Promise me one thing, promise me you’ll ask me for help if you need it.’

‘Ok I’ll try.’

Frankie had never thought of Miss Dixon as much of a counsellor but as he walked home her words were all he could think about. The words were occupying his mind so much he almost walked past some of my brother’s mates without noticing them.

‘Hey Frankie!’ Robin shouts as he leads the group directly to Frankie. ‘Just the guy we wanted to see.’

‘What’s up Robin?’ Frankie asked as they high fived.

‘All is good with us, just out looking for a job, how come you are just heading home now? Been on detention?’

‘Yeah wasn’t too bad though, it was with Miss Dixon.’

‘That’s cool, she’s a hottie, have I told you about me fucking her last year?’

‘Yeah,’ Frankie knew Robin was lying, his lips were moving, but Frankie also knew if you called him on it his fists would start moving so it really wasn’t worth it. ‘So what type of job are you looking for?’

‘Thinking a car, you up for it? Your Phil taught you well, nobody gets into a car and gets it running quicker than you.’

Frankie took a deep breath. ‘Sorry Robin, not today, I’m on my last warning with school and the police so I’m trying to keep out of trouble from now on.’

‘You’re saying no to me?!’ Robin got right in my face and didn’t shout but sounded angry.

‘Yes I am, and if you’re thinking of what I think you are then let me tell you that if you think my Phil is loyal to his friends, wait to you see what he’ll do to someone who harms his family and he’ll be out of prison really soon.’

Robin stares at Frankie as he talked. ‘Get going then, see if I care, I was only asking as a favour to your Phil anyway.’

‘I’ll head home then,’ I said then carried on walking home, not daring to look behind me and waiting to hear footsteps behind me but thankfully they never came. The first of those everyday decisions had been made and I’m sure Miss Dixon would’ve been happy with my choice.





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