A short story for young adults.
This year, I have started to have a go at writing short stories.Whenever we went away on holiday I would always think up a story to tell the kids in the car on long journeys. I tried to make the stories personalised, using their names and mentioning their friends, possessions etc. I thought I would post this one here on hub pages in case anyone was interested in reading it. It's just about the shortest one of the lot and aimed at a young adult reader, but if you are a bit older than that I hope you can enjoy it too. I know I'm not exactly a writer but my children always enjoyed my stories and as I have had so much fun producing hubs I felt brave enough to branch out a bit.
The Adventures of Leslie and Nigel
It didn’t matter where she stood, or knelt, or sat, or slept within the small ten by ten room, there was no hiding place, nowhere they couldn’t see her. Hear her. Sometimes late at night when the rest of the house was still and quite except for the soft snores coming from her parents room she fancied she could hear them. Whispering. Always whispering, not exactly words - just noise. It would be oddly comforting if it wasn’t so outrageously disturbing.
They didn’t exist, or at least, they shouldn’t exist. Not here, not in the real world. They belonged in fantasies, in dreams, in jokes shared with friends on sleepovers on warm summer nights long after they should have been sleeping. Long after the last of the midnight snacks had been produced and consumed, long after absent friends had been texted, teachers mocked and cute boys discussed.
In the cold light of day their existence faded, she went about her business like any other normal fourteen year old. She met friends for lunch, stole the choicest food from besotted boys, traded sniggers in the toilets and walked a fine line between good natured cheekiness and outright insolence with her teachers. She was funny and smart and popular and no one guessed her deep, dark secret. No one guessed the power she had. No one knew that she and she alone was responsible for bringing them into the world. She had tried it again many, many times on far more interesting and acceptable subjects. Had tried to bring forth the pretty little tabby kitten on her cat calendar, the iridescence blue green hummingbird wind chime. Andy from Razorlight, even the dolphin from the post card her big sister Claire had sent her two years ago. It was probably a damn good thing that that one hadn’t worked, come to think of it, her mum would have had a real head fit if she’d come home from work to find her youngest daughter’s bedroom flooded and seaweed floating down the stairs. Not to mention a rather large blue grey sea mammal flopping around on the soggy rug. Just as well they were her only success.
Leslie and Nigel. Stupid names, really, she wasn’t sure why she had called them that. In fact, she wasn’t entirely sure that she had been the one to come up with those names. It could well have been one of her friends, she didn’t know anyone called either Leslie or Nigel, she didn’t much like the names and if she could have her time over she would think up far more apt names for them. Something fitting like…well, she couldn’t think of anything fitting, actually, they just weren’t the sort of things people named. If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself in possession of one of them the best course of action would be to run screaming for a pair of tweezers and a well lit mirror, preferably in a locked room.
The first time she had become aware of them had been three weeks after Easter, a Thursday, just before tea-time. She had strutted into her room as usual, in a bit of a mood, as usual, had slumped down onto her floor, as usual, stuck her headphones in her ears and turned on a CD, as usual. Very, very loud, as usual. Well she didn’t want to actually be able to hear her mother call her for tea, as usual. She fully expected her mother to have to make the trip up the stairs, as usual. Mum needed the exercise anyway, so actually she was doing her a favour, as usual. She glanced up at her posters on the wall, as usual. Leslie was lying in his normal position across Liam’s forehead, as usual. But…but…but Nigel…Nigel was now a rather fetching large, hairy moustache slashed across Noel’s face like a giant furry caterpillar. Definitely, most positively, undoubtedly NOT as usual!
“BOY!!” She had yelled down the stairs. Followed closely by, “MUM!
Mum had flung open her door. “What is it now; I’ve been calling you for the last five minutes.”
“Look what the boy’s done to my poster, mum.”
Nigel was back in his normal position, as usual.
“What has he done? It looks the same as usual to me. Get up and come down for your tea.”
She stared at the poster as her Mum left the room, had she imagined it?
That had been the first day. The second day Nigel was a go faster stripe down the side of the dolphin, on the third day he was a furry collar on the tabby calendar kitten, on the forth day he was a rather nice looking hair extension on her poster of the actor Michael Shanks, it quite suited him, actually. On the fifth day Nigel was joined by Leslie, the two of them making a pair of flipper wrist bands on a penguin sticker in the left hand corner of her mirror, the one below the £2.99 price ticket she had pulled off of a t-shirt.
After that they became even more inventive and Emma found herself spending longer and longer each day trying to find them. She avoided looking at the Oasis poster if at all possible after the initial check to see if Nigel and Leslie were missing. Liam and Noel just didn’t look right without their trademark uni-brows, they looked far too normal. They looked just like a hundred men you could see walking down the street on any given day. They looked like your uncle Fred or Bert, or your friend’s dad.
Leslie and Nigel made them stand out, without them they seemed like half-men, invisible like the vast majority of humanity. Leslie and Nigel completed them.
On this particular day she came home from school early, it was P.E day and she had used her powers for good and brought forth a sick headache. It disappeared the instant the car door shut but had luckily lasted long enough to fool dad that she really was sick when he came to pick her up. She did the big sad eyes, head down thing and held a hand protectively over her tummy, just for good measure. That extra gesture brought her a trip to Tesco Metro for the latest edition of the NME and a giant chocolate chip cookie.
She left dad watching the cricket, (boring) and went up to her room to ‘have a lie down’. She found Leslie almost immediately, he was a fuzzy stain on her green day poster, (honestly, some days he didn’t even seem to be trying, he had hidden in the exact same spot the day before) but Nigel was nowhere to be seen. She searched every poster, every sticker, every scrap of paper…nothing. Nigel had vanished! She was just starting to get really worried about him when dad knocked on her door.
“Come in dad.” Dad always knocked. Emma suspected the poor man had been traumatised in the past by walking into her sister’s room without knocking. Probably caught her doing something outrageously girly and embarrassing like picking a bra up off the floor, or putting on her lipstick. Mum sometimes knocked but more often she just barged in hoping to catch her doing something. Emma wasn’t at all sure what her mum thought she was going to catch her doing, eating crap between meals? Using the phone to ring Outer Mongolia? Plotting to overthrow the government? Homework??? Yeah, right!
“Do you want anything to eat? Or are you still feeling sick?”
“I might be able to manage something, dad.” After all, you did only buy me one giant cookie. “Perhaps some soup.” For a moment Emma thought she might have overdone the pathetic tone, but no, with a big grin dad left to find soup. His hunter gatherer skills having been called into play by the youngest member of the family. She heard him crashing around in the kitchen in full cave man mode, no doubt lamenting the fact that he didn’t have to rub two sticks together to make fire.
“Should have asked for some bread and butter too.” A quiet voice murmured at her side.
“Yeah, da…” Emma froze, she was alone and dad had shut the door behind him. She spun ‘round quickly scanning the room. “Wh…who said that?”
There on the end of her bed, wedged between her tatty old teddy and her schoolbag, sat Nigel. Not on a poster, not on a sticker, not on a scrap of paper. ON. HER. BED! She pinched herself…hard. Then, having confirmed that she was indeed awake, she slowly edged her way towards her pillow. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, her back felt all cold and shivery and she was sure her heart had stopped pumping the moment she realised just who, or rather what, was speaking to her. A three dimensional Nigel looked very different to a two dimensional one, hairier, blacker, more menacing somehow. Menacing? Where had that thought come from? Nigel was, after all, only an eyebrow. A collection of individual hairs, growing together haphazardly to form a facial feature. Granted in Nigel’s case they were an awful lot of individual hairs but he, it, whatever, was still only made of hair and imaginary hair at that. Emma’s own hair stood on end as Nigel slowly inched his way towards her. Closer. Closer. Closer. She leaped to her feet and ran from the room, ploughing straight into dad just as he reached the top of the stairs. Dad fell one way, the soup fell another and Emma fell head first onto the landing.
She became aware of someone calling her name. She didn’t want to open her eyes though; it was nice here inside her head. Nice. Safe. Warm.
“Emma. Emma. Oh God, your mother’s gonna kill me. Emma, please love, wake up.”
Dad sounded frantic, so she took pity on him and cracked one eye open, just a slither.
“Oh thank God, Emma speak to me, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, dad. Just fine. Go kill Nigel for me will you.” She pushed herself up to a sitting position using his arm as a lever. What was he waiting for? He should be beating Nigel to death with a large stick by now. Parents, huh! They hang around for years waiting for their kids to ask them to do something really important for them and when they get the chance what do they do? Sit on their backsides, mouths wide open, catching flies.
“Yes, Nigel. Kill him,” where was the confusion in that? This was the man who understood the off-side rule. The man who watched AND followed cricket. The man who did the Sunday Times crossword, not the cryptic one obviously, I mean, ‘bends to pick up the tea-cup Caruthers, but only on every third Sunday’ is a bit too vague a clue even for a man like dad, he had thrown the paper away in disgust when he discovered the answer to that one had been 48. Maybe she should stick to words of one syllable.
“Kill. Nig. El.” Nope, nothing. Still catching flies. Oh well, she would just have to do it herself. She stood up, brushed herself down and headed for the kitchen in search of a nice sharp knife. The fly catcher followed a moment or two later.
“Um. What are you looking for, Emma? Don’t you think you should sit down? That was a nasty fall. Your mother will be home soon. Um…you won’t well, you know, will you?”
“A knife. No. Yes it was. Yes she will. And no, I won’t tell her I fell down the stairs.” Dad hated it when things went wrong on ‘his watch’. She found just the knife she was looking for but before she could get out of the kitchen dad had taken it away from her and put it safely back in the drawer. He picked up a j-cloth from the sink and headed back upstairs to clean up the mess, towing her with him. She stood outside of her bedroom, listening. She couldn’t hear Nigel, so she peeked around the door. She couldn’t see him either. That didn’t mean he wasn’t there.
In fact, she knew he was there…somewhere.
She could feel him.
She wondered, briefly, if God or the fates or whoever decided these things had taken a look at her when she was born and said, ‘yep, all the really weird stuff can happen to this one, she can take it.’ It sure would explain a lot of things. Her odd parents. The boy. The strange pets. The way her hair always went curly when she wanted it to go straight and then lay flat as a sheet of ice when she wanted it to go curly. The voices. That peculiar green stain behind her bed that never went away no matter how many times you painted over it. Uni-brows coming to life etc. etc.
She crept further into the room, looking swiftly up at Oasis, she released the breath she hadn’t realised she was holding. Leslie and Nigel were back where they belonged, although Leslie was a bit crooked and a shade too far to the left.
“Do you want me to fix you another bowl of soup, or have you had enough?” You know, for a big man Dad sure could creep up on you! And what did he mean ‘had enough’? She hadn’t had any yet, unless you counted the odd drop that had splashed on her on her way down the stairs. The look on his face told her that no matter what she said another bowl just wasn’t coming her way. In a dish or out.
“No, I’m fine thanks dad. I’ll wait ‘till mum makes tea.” At least mum never threw the food at her, well, not often anyway and Emma was pretty sure that one time had been an accident; mum had been aiming for the boy. It wasn’t her fault that Emma’s brother had ducked.
By bedtime she had almost convinced herself that she had imagined Nigel talking to her on her bed. By morning she was totally convinced and remained convinced all the way to school. Right up until the moment she pulled a pencil out of her bag and found him wrapped around the rubber on the end.
“Hi.” He said.
“Hi.” She said.
She stuck her hand in the air and asked for permission to go to the toilet. After three flushes she was forced to admit that Nigel was a damn good swimmer! Every time she thought he had gone he floated back round the bend and started swimming lengths across the toilet bowl. She fished him out and dried him off under the hand dryer, only because she didn’t want anyone else to find him. He was her problem and she would just have to deal with him.
“Are we going back to class now? Or shall we knock off and go steal something utterly useless but pretty from the spar shop?” An extremely fluffy Nigel asked.
She didn’t bother gracing him with an answer. She wrapped him up inside a hundred or so sheets of toilet paper and then stuffed him inside her pencil case and then stuffed that right down in the bottom of her bag under her books. By the time she got back to class Nigel had replaced one of her shoe laces and was humming away to himself; she couldn’t quite make out the tune but was pretty sure it was something by The Kooks.
At lunchtime Nigel called her friend Jordan a fat git whilst doing a fair impersonation of her, Jordan called her stupid and walked off in a huff.
That afternoon in science class, Nigel set fire to Jess’s hair with a Bunsen burner. When her dad turned up to collect her from the office after having a long talk with the headmaster he couldn’t even look her in the eye. She had pleaded innocence, claiming it was a terrible accident; she hadn’t been very convincing but had gotten away with a two day suspension.
Mum hadn’t been any where near that lenient.
After two days of picking fluff off of the carpet with her bare hands, washing her brothers dirty socks, (ugh) and underpants, (double ugh, with a yuk thrown in) and sleeping with her head down the stinky feet end of the bed she was more than ready to escape back to school.
Unfortunately, so was Nigel and this time he had Leslie along as back up.
The pair of them spent the first lesson, history; burping and farting letting Emma take the blame. The second lesson, French, they shouted oui! Very loudly every third minute until Miss Pearson could take no more and sent Emma out to stand in the hallway. The third lesson, art, they ‘helped’ Emma paint a very rude picture featuring two of her friends, Trevor and Sam, an elephant, two apples and a bunch of grapes. At lunchtime they called Becky a bitch, tripped up two first years and shed all over Emma’s sandwich.
In the afternoon they got really naughty.
By home time Emma was a nervous wreck.
She spent all evening researching demon possession and exorcisms on the computer. She had no idea where she could get holy water so she used lemonade, a copy of the Koran from Claire’s room as she couldn’t find a bible and a smudged printout of some Latin incantations.
Not surprisingly the exorcism didn’t work. She woke up the next morning to find Nigel and Leslie curled up on her pillow, snoring loudly and drooling all over her hair.
Over the following weeks Emma became the most unpopular kid in school, they drove away all of her friends, made her lots of new enemies, ruined her homework, spat in her food and pulled random chunks of her hair out whilst she was sleeping.
She ended up hating everyone and everything.
On the last day of school before the summer holidays she practically ran along the corridor heading for the exit. As she rounded the corner Emma caught sight of a large bottom, one she recognised.
It was her arch enemy Shelly, she of the perfect hair, cute nose and tuneful laugh. Emma hated her. She wasn’t quite sure why, some people were just like that. From the very first moment Emma had set eyes on Shelly way back in infant school she had been irritated by her. That irritation had festered all morning, so that by their first playtime together it had become full blown hate. Shelly was standing by the steps, bending down to pick up her bag, presenting a target that was almost too good to resist. Nigel picked that precise moment to pop out of Emma’s bag and crawl up her arm.
“Go on, you know you want to. What harm will it do? You hate her anyway. Go on. Do it. DO IT!” Nigel hissed at her from his position on her shoulder. Emma hesitated, briefly, then reached out and gave Shelly a good hard shove. She stumbled forward, pin wheeling her arms to try to keep her balance. For a moment she teetered on the edge and then tumbled down the steps, her bag spilling its contents all over the ground as she fell. She lay spread-eagled on the concrete, crying. Emma was appalled, she hadn’t realised just how close to the edge the other girl had been, she had only expected her to bump into the wall. On her shoulder Nigel was laughing uncontrollably, she reached up and grabbed him, then shoved him into her bag and zipped him in.
Emma rushed down the steps to help Shelly up but her friends were already there, one of them pressed a tissue to Shelly’s bleeding cheek.
Emma slunk back into the shadows, and then ran all the way home.
She was the first one in, mum, dad and the boy were still at work, she ran up the stairs and dropped her bag on the floor. She fell to her knees and fished around inside the bag until she found Nigel, then she threw him down onto her rug.
“I hate you! I hate you!” She screamed at him.
“No, you don’t. I’m your friend and so is Leslie. In fact, we’re your only friends. What would you do without us?”
“I don’t care; I’m not listening to either of you anymore. You just keep getting me into trouble. In fact, as soon as you go back into the poster I’m going to roll it up and have dad put you and it up in the loft.” Emma moved towards the wall, Leslie and Nigel scurried after her. They crawled over her feet and up her legs and made their way towards her shoulders and then down her arms. “Cut it out, that tickles. Now get back where you belong.”
Leslie wrapped himself around her right wrist and Nigel wound himself around her left, working together they somehow managed to drag her the rest of the way across the room towards the poster.
Emma screamed until her lungs hurt but the house was deserted.
There was no one to hear her. Her music was playing so loud that it probably swallowed up her screams anyway.
She felt herself being ripped apart, atom by atom, and then those atoms were pulled into the poster. She found herself tucked down in the corner, wedged against the side, right behind Noel’s leg. She could see into her room if she put her head on the side and squinted.
Mum came in, picked up Emma’s jacket and hung it up in her wardrobe, then she stood her school bag upright and took the half empty glass of squash that Emma had been saving for later and left the room. As the light faded outside the window Emma heard the family’s voices way off in the distance. Worried, they sounded worried and she tried again to call out to them to let them know where she was, but no sound came out.
Stuck here in her tiny prison she couldn’t even scream.
Later mum and dad came into her room; mum searched through her schoolbag then pulled out Emma’s mobile ‘phone. She rang all of Emma’s ex-friends asking if they had seen her, she used up all of her credit! Did mum have any idea how much she had had to beg dad to put that last ten pounds worth on for her? That’s it, thought Emma, when I get out of here I am so going to ring childline, surely using up all of your kids credit was child abuse.
In the morning, dad came in with another man, he wasn’t in uniform but Emma could tell he was from the police; they just had a look about them. He had a brief look around, and then they both left.
Over the following days mum, dad, Claire and the boy all came in, had a wander around and then left. Did none of her family have any concept of privacy! Several times she had tried calling to them again to no avail. She felt like one of those stupid mimes, the ones who pretend they were stuck inside an invisible box. How embarrassing, she was never going to live this down, once she got out.
If she got out.
Up until that point she had looked on this as just another adventure, a fantastic story to tell her friends when she had managed to win them back. They wouldn’t believe her, of course, but it would make a great story. Now, for the first time, she was truly scared, terrified actually.
What if she could never get out?
What if this was going to be her life from now on?
She felt sick.
She pounded on the poster, clawed at Noel’s leg, opened her mouth and let forth an enormous, silent scream.
Cried so much that the front of her shirt grew wet. Cried herself to sleep. Cried for all of the things she was missing. Cried for her family. Cried for her cats. After two days she was all cried out and didn’t cry again until Christmas. She cried then as she watched mum and dad bring in her presents and stack them neatly on the floor by her bed.
They were crying too.
It snowed that year; Emma watched the first flurries glittering past her window a little before dawn. She saw the neighbourhood kids running around the green, throwing snowballs, building snow men, rolling around getting their clothes all wet.
She ached to join them, but she didn’t cry.
She had made the decision to never cry again, it didn’t help and left her feeling like crap. And she was sure that Leslie and Nigel got a perverse pleasure from hearing her sob. She knew they were still up there at the front of the poster, she heard them sniggering to each other in the dead of night.
She hated them.
Hated them with such passion that whenever she thought of them her hands clenched into fists and her nails dug deep into her palms, leaving tiny half-moon scars.
In the beginning mum would come into her room most days, she would walk around, look out of the window, and sit on the bed. The worst days were the ones when she talked to Emma.
Asking her why?
Why did she run away?
What had they done wrong?
Begging her to come home.
Those days Emma screwed her eyes shut and stuck her fingers in her ears. Praying for her to go away, just go away and never come back.
And then she did, for the longest time, mum went away. The door stayed closed, the room stayed empty and Emma cried again.
Claire! It was Claire.
Claire was in her room!
Emma sat up straight and tried to get a better look at her big sister. Big sister was right. Claire was fat! Claire was enormous, just look at her belly! She crossed the room and sat down on the bed, she looked terrible, her eyes were red and her face was all blotchy.
Emma knew just how she felt.
Claire reached down to the bottom of the bed and picked up Emma’s tatty old teddy bear, she kissed him, pulled him up to her face and breathed in his smell…Emma’s smell.
Emma closed her eyes and filled her ears and waited for Claire to leave.
Claire came back once, not to the house, Emma had heard her voice many times, but she only came back into this room once.
With her baby!
She held her in her arms and showed her the room. Her auntie Emma’s room. Claire cried again and then she left.
The boy came in a few times, he stole her Guitar and a couple of CD’s, well okay he didn’t steal them, he brought the CD’s back a day or two later and he returned the guitar, eventually. Although, she thought she saw a scratch on the front and he had removed all of her stickers from it! He looked different, his hair was short and neat, his green Mohawk was gone and he was wearing a sensible shirt.
Emma measured the passage of time by the trees outside the window, bright green spring, darker green summer, red and golden brown autumn, bare grey skeletal branches winter.
Four long, lonely, grey winters. The pile of presents grew more slowly as the years passed, becoming just one for Christmas and one for birthdays.
The door opened and a child crept in, Emma watched her move cautiously across the room, eyes darting this way and that like a frightened little mouse. She suddenly looked up towards the poster, eyes wide as saucers.
“Hello.” She said quietly.
Emma’s heart stopped. Could she see Emma? Could this little girl actually see her? The child came closer, standing on the toy box to get a better look, she reached out a chubby little finger and ran it across the front of the poster.
Across Nigel and Leslie!
It wasn’t her she could see it was them! She reached up and pulled down the poster, Emma fell sideways and slammed into the side.
“EMMA!” Mum rushed into the room and grabbed the child, spinning her around. “What are you doing in here?”
“Nothing, Grandma. Honest. I was just looking at the funny wiggles…see.” She held the poster out and mum…Grandma snatched it away from her tearing it, the child fled just as the poster ripped slowly from top to bottom.
Emma fell out of the poster with a loud plop, landing on the floor at her mum’s feet in an untidy heap.
She wanted a bottle of Lucozade, a plate-full of pasta and cheese sauce but most of all she needed a wee, desperately!
She pulled herself to her feet, shaking out her legs; they felt like rubber from too long cooped up inside the small space. Mum had obviously caught dads fly catching expression, if her jaw dropped any further she would be able to lick her knees. Emma pointed to the ruined poster still clutched tightly in her mother’s hands and said, “You’ll have to buy me another one of those.”