“Why don’t you have a dad?”
“I do have a dad, he’s just busy. He’s going to come back one day and I’ll bring him to school and then you’ll all stop laughing at me. He’s big and tall, he has a gun too, if you laugh at me he’ll beat you all up.”
I turn and run away to the sounds of laughter and my classmates imitating my voice. It doesn’t happen all the time, only sometimes. When they are bored and want to pick on someone different they choose me. The rest of the time it’s the fat kid whose clothes don’t fit him properly. I’m thankful for the fat kid. If it wasn’t for him it would be me all the time. I hope he never goes on a diet or his mum never wins some money. I sit in the corner of the playground and watch. Watch and wait until they forget that they were picking on me.
They are right, I don’t have a dad. I have never seen him, I don’t even know what his name is. I don’t want to admit that to them though. If admitted then they would tease me more. If I lie it might make them think, maybe some of them will believe me and be scared. Mum says that I shouldn’t listen to what the other kids say. She says they are only jealous of me because I can tell such good stories. None of them want to listen to my stories though. If they only listened for ten minutes they would like them, they would stop teasing me then.
I hope mum hasn’t gone out tonight. I have a new story that I want to tell her. She hasn’t been home in the evenings for weeks, when she gets back I am already in bed asleep. I know we need the money but she spends it all anyway. If she isn’t home tonight I’ll just go and see the nice old lady that lives in the block next door. I wanted mum to be the first to hear it but I just can’t keep it in anymore, if I don’t tell anyone I’ll forget it. The other kids have started to tease the fat kid. I think it’s safe to go back out onto the playground.
As I walk towards them I kick a stone that’s lying on the floor. Pretending to be a football player. Pretending I am at Wembley and about to score a goal in the cup final. One of the other kids comes over and joins me. He’s not my friend but he doesn’t tease me. He talks to me about football and what he does at the weekend. If none of the other kids see him, he sometimes walks back home with me after school. He lives on the floor above me. He said his mum doesn’t want him to walk back with me but he doesn’t care. Just don’t let her see us together.
As we kick the stone back and forth he asks me what I am doing after school tonight. I tell him that I need to go home and see my mum. She’s been busy working recently. I can see a smirk on his face as I say it. One of the other kids calls out to him and he runs off, leaving me to the stone and my imagination. The teacher told the old lady, Mrs Smith, that I have a vivid imagination. Mum was busy so she couldn’t go to the parent’s evening. Mrs Smith said she would go instead. I don’t really know what a vivid imagination is. I do like to dream though, even when I am awake I still try to dream.
Back in the classroom the teacher gives us some work. It’s boring. I wish she would give us something exciting. If she gave us something exciting she wouldn’t have to tell me off for daydreaming. I look around the classroom at all the other children. Some of them are sleeping and some of them are doing their work. The teacher isn’t paying any attention. The fat kid is playing with his ruler. I sometimes wonder if one day he’ll go crazy and kill us all. I hope he doesn’t, maybe I should make friends with him. Then he might not kill me, just kill all the others.
The bell rings and the teacher lets us go. I run out the door as fast as I can, the quicker I get out the further away I am from the kids that walk the same way home as me. I look back and can’t see any of them. I walk slower, if I get home too quickly mum might not be there, the later I am, the more chance there is that she’ll be home. I wish she would take a holiday like some of the other kid’s mums. I don’t think she has ever taken a holiday. As I walk across the park our estate comes into view. I can see the windows to our flat. It doesn’t look like anyone is home, I don’t know why but just by looking at the windows I know if someone is inside or not.
Our estate is big. Big tall, long buildings. We live on the bottom floor so I can play football outside the door if mum is at home and busy with work. There are ten floors above us. I always wanted to live on one of the higher floors, if I lived on one of them I could look out across the city. I can’t see anything from my window, only trees. The boy in my class who lives above me said at night you can see all the lights from the other buildings. I asked him if I could come up and see it one time but he said his mum doesn’t allow anyone inside their house.
There is a park just outside the door too. We don’t use it though. At night some of the older kids hang around there smoking and drinking. There is broken glass all over the floor. One of the little girls that lives next to Mrs Smith went in there one day and her hand got pricked by a needle. They had to take her to hospital. Mrs Smith said the needle could make her very sick. She has to wait for three months before she knows if she is okay. Now none of the other children will play with her. Even my mum said don’t play with her and my mum doesn’t care who I play with.
Next to the park there is a newspaper shop, an off license and a fish and chip shop. Sometimes when mum has come money she lets me go to the fish and chip shop to buy dinner. I buy a battered sausage and a large portion of chips. If I have enough money I buy a coke too. Mum sends me to the newspaper shop to buy her cigarettes, I am supposed to be 16 to buy them but the man doesn’t care, he knows they are for mum. When he gives me the cigarettes he winks at me. I feel bad because sometimes I steal a chocolate bar when he turns round to get the cigarettes.
I’ve only been into the off license once. They only sell beer in there and the man wouldn’t let me buy it for mum. He said if she wants it she’ll have to come and get herself. I know he sells it to the other kids though. I see them at night when I am kicking the ball against the wall. I’m not sure why he doesn’t like me. After that day I went home and wrote a story about the man and he got eaten by a lion. I told it mum and she really liked that one. I hope she likes my new one, it doesn’t have any lions but it has a dinosaur. Mrs Smith will definitely like it.
Our flat is right in the middle. There are nineteen on our floor and ours is number 9. Last year mum stopped working for a few months. She said she needed a rest. She painted the door red and put some flowers on the windowsill. When she went back to work I tried to keep the flowers alive but they died. I gave them water every day but it didn’t seem to work. The door is dirty now too, one of the windows has some cardboard in the corner, someone throw a stone at it. I don’t know why. I remember it frightened me. Mum said not to worry, it was an accident, I am not sure it was though.
I open the door and call out. There is no reply. The house is empty. I look into mum’s room to see if she has been home recently. Her clothes are all over the floor and I can smell her perfume. Her room is different from the rest of the flat. The walls are a dark pink colour. There is carpet on the floor too. It’s clean, the clothes just making it look messy. There are mirrors on the wall and she has a lamp on the table next to her bed. I’m not allowed to go in but when she is out I always open the door to have a look.
The living room doesn’t have much in it. There is one sofa, a wooden chair in the corner and a small table with the television on top. We used to have a coffee table in the middle but it disappeared one day. Mum said she threw it out because she didn’t like it but I looked in the rubbish tip outside and couldn’t see it. Maybe someone came and took it away. The floor has no carpet, only black tiles that are freezing cold in the winter, especially if she forgets to pay the electricity bill. Last year when she forgot I could see my breath in the air. I took some sheets from my bed and pretended I was on an expedition to the Antarctic to find some penguins.
My room is the smallest. I have my bed and a small wardrobe to keep my clothes in. There is no carpet in my room either. The walls are painted white, I want to paint them blue but mum says I’ll have to wait until next year. Underneath my bed I keep some of the books that I stole from the library. I push them right into the corner so that she can’t find them. Not that she comes in here anyway. Just in case, though. If she found out I was stealing books she would never let me go to the library again.
It’s nearly summer time so the house isn’t very cold. It doesn’t get dark until very late either. When it doesn’t get dark until late I can stay outside playing football for longer. I can stay at Mrs Smith’s for longer too. She doesn’t like me to walk back home in the dark. I am not scared but she says some of the older kids might cause trouble and she is too old to walk back with me because she’d have to walk back on her own then. I think she doesn’t want to see mum, but maybe she is right, it isn’t very safe around here at night.
Looking out the window I see some of the other kids playing football. I really want to go out and play with them but they won’t let me. They call me names and say bad things about my mum. Instead I just watch them from the window, hoping that they can’t see me. Every time I watch them playing I hope that they will stop playing and call out to me to come and join them. I can show them how good I am then, I could even tell them about myself, if they knew about me they wouldn’t hate me anymore.
As the light begins to fade their mum’s call out to them from the windows above. None of them wanting to hurry inside. If it was my mum calling me I would come in as quick as I could. They don’t seem to care though, they see their mums all the time. I only see mine when she isn’t busy at work and that’s not often. When they’ve gone back inside I think about sneaking upstairs to one of the balconies and looking out over the city. I hear a loud bang from outside, one of the older kids is playing with a firework. I change my mind.
This is an excerpt from the first chapter of my first book which will be released next month. The book is about a child growing up on a housing estate in London and his troubled relationship with his mother, the mixed emotions that he faces and his way of dealing with his problems.
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