"Sean," my mother addressed me with such a tone I searched my recent memory for any misdeeds. "Sean, I've kept you out so far because I know you're a sweet boy. You wouldn't get involved in these things if you had a choice." I looked my mother; she had hit the nail on the head with that one. Unfortunately, what came out of her mouth next destroyed any illusion of sympathy, "but I'm starting to think they're right about this place, so I'm sending you to Pasteur's."
"What?" I shouted with the practiced dramatics my age demanded. "I'm non-conformist and have girly hair, so you're sending me to a juvie half-house. Yeah, I get beaten up by normal kids, so you've giving me to the thugs to finish the job." I wasn't so much shouting now as pleading and my voice had taken on a high-pitched whiny quality. I tried furiously to blink away the mutinous tears now filling my eyes, I begged: "why mum?"
"Honey, you know I love you, right?"
I shook my head, treasuring the slapped look across her face. I'd hate myself later, but right now it felt like a tiny little victory.
"It's not like that, Sean; it's for intelligent but 'socially disruptive' youths. It's for characters, not fight starters. I'm not making you anyone's punching bag."
"Is that what the leaflet said?" I snarled, wiping my eyes with the heel of my hand while she sighed dejectedly into her Earl Grey. When she looked up, I turned away, embarrassed to show weakness like this.
"You can argue all you like, you're still going... Sean, honey, have you really got that much to lose?" She was right and that hurt more than her giving up on me. "It's not my choice, remember that," she whispered, kissing my forehead and leaving the room with an undeniable finality.
I stormed up the stairs to my room, slamming the door, and just sat on my bed staring blankly at the walls. A poster of the joker grinned sadistically at me. I walked up to it and swung a punch.
The stinging feeling burst through my knuckles, red trailing from the new grazes where I'd mashed my fist into the doorframe and giving me something to really cry about. I kicked out, stubbing my toes against the bed.
No longer quite so desperate to vent after my little tantrum, I sunk my head into my pillow and convulsed with the hurt I didn't want the world to see. I plugged in earphones and listened to something angry.
After an immeasurable amount of time, I felt vibration resonating through my mattress and fumbled for my phone. Bleary-eyed, I welcomed the little green robot in the absence of a caller photo. I answered with a: "Shit, Jessica I-"
"Sh'up. Listen, I'm in my pyjamas, watching Jeremy Kyle tell chavs to 'put something on the end of it' all by myself. Bloody inexcusable. Want to waste the best years of our lives and get fat together?" She knows when I need to talk to someone, that girl; something about female telepathy.
"Actually, can you come here?"
My voice croaked and I know that's the reason for what she said next: "Of course, let me just... I'll be right there."
Half an hour found us snuggled under my duvet, on the sofa with a jar of Nutella between us and two spoons, Kerrang! on in the background.
She wrapped both of her arms around one of mine and put her head on my shoulder before she spoke: "I hate to be the voice of reason-"
"-Yeah, she's a bitch, been shagging logic behind sense's back."
She laughed slightly, but it was lost in the back of her throat. "I don't think this will be as bad as you think it will, Sean. You should have more faith in your mum...
"Besides, here isn't an option, the have you down as a fight starter; nothing you say will make them believe otherwise. Those Neanderthals hate that you don't fit into their nice little mould. They also hate that the kid they think they're above can pull his weight in a scrap, and whilst I think you look sexy with a black eye,-"
"Don't mention it... I'm scared for you." A tear escaped her eye and I brushed it away.
"Don't cry!" I hugged on to her petite frame "I'll let you give me a make-over."
She perked up immediately and retrieved an eyeliner pencil from her bag, cheeky bugger. Who cares, I look hot in guyliner.
Jessica slept over that night. We shared the double bed I was bought about the time I overtook my mum in height. Although to say I slept would be an overstatement.
I just watched her heavy breathing, the rise and fall of her back. Much to both of our parents dismay, Jessica is probably closer to me than her own sister, they keep hinting in that subtle way adults have towards teenagers that we would make a cute couple. Jessica is pretty, but really, I have seen that girl vomit into a potted plant. That imagery appears whenever I start to think they might be right.
I'm not really that vain, I feel highly protective of Jessica. I know she feels something similar towards me, though; she's come to my defence on many an occasion. And that's not as violent as it sounds.
Louise Sikes had an ever-present greasy, slightly wonky pony tail, slight BO and a tendency to quote SpongeBob. The general student population had a name for her: Lou roll. Surprisingly, she was not what you would call popular. Unfortunately, she also had her eyes set on me.
She was annoying, somewhat slow, but not unkind enough to feel the full force of my cynicism. Apparently this qualifies as a basis for friendship. Whenever we had to get into groups, Louise was somehow there. I was too kind to turn the girl away, and plus, people weren't exactly beating down the door to be friends with me, so I entertained her for a while.
When she started laughing too long for it to be natural at the tiniest of comments, I noticed something, but not what. A snatched conversation with Jessica at break cleared this up. "She like totes fancies you babes," she drawled as we watched Louise queue.
"I know right, I'm like a well fit." I played along.
"No, I'm serious. She goes all hyena on your arse whenever you say something funny," she paused, scrunching her face up "I'm making that sound like it happens a lot more frequently than it does."
"For realzies? And I'm bloody hilarious, bitch!"
"Yeah, you interested?" she raised one eyebrow, an enviable quality.
"Erm, no, it's more of my good deed to the universe. If you're right, this could get brutal. Shit, cut her loose?"
"It's for her own good, Sean."
Louise was walking back towards us now, as I turned to Jessica with a grave face. "Got anyth-?" I was cut off by Jessica's mouth and a tiny bit of her tongue where my words should have been. I opened my eyes wide at her audacity, before cottoning on and shutting them, trying to imagine that I was in fact kissing somebody else.
I heard the squeaking of Clark's shoes going at quite a pace as Jessica pulled away and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. She murmured something about the taste of my gum before a more definite: "The look on your face, ha, God, I feel attractive right now. " Her expression softened"...And mean. Never speak of this again?"
I nodded vigorously in agreement. "Mint?" I held out the tiny tin.
Jessica stirred slightly next to me at the sound of somebody coming up the stairs.
My mum knocked on my bedroom door at ridiculous hour that next morning before opening it. She always makes sure to tread heavily on her way up the stairs as well; anyone would think she was scared of walking in on me doing something she'd rather not see. Really, at half nine in the morning?
She pushed the door open slowly, "oh, hello Jess, I didn't know you were still here," she chastised me. Jessica hates being called Jess, she says that it's to pretty, too obvious. I went through a stage of calling her Icky, it didn't last long.
"You didn't tell me you had something much more important lined up for today," I replied in an even more bitter tone. Does she expect me to just forgive her overnight?
"Sean, I realise that you're..."
"Pissed off." She tutted as my language.
"With me, but that tone isn't appreciated." She countered and left.
Jessica gave me the look. "You hurt her feelings." I nodded, well aware that she knew I was such a terrible son that I had intended to.
"If she really loves me, she'll play the bad guy."
Mum had put a plastic pocket down with home-printed sheets inside. I read them, searching for a get out clause. On the front in severe handwriting was the date of my first day. I start after half term, a fortnight from today.
Two weeks until D-day. I shuddered at the thought.