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Authors: Stephen Barnard

Leave the Last Page

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Leave the Last Page

Stephen Barnard and Aidan Barnard

Copyright © 2015 Stephen Barnard and Aidan Barnard

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the

publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with

the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries

concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.

Matador
®

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ISBN 978 1784629 670

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Matador
®
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

Converted to eBook by
EasyEPUB

For Nanna, on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday

CHAPTER ONE

ALEX HOLLIDAY WAS A SERIOUSLY BUSY MAN. He was in the middle of a crucial week for his small business. They made kids' placemats and coasters and he had a number of important meetings in the next couple of days which would hopefully result in contracts being signed with some big stores. This would change his small business to a medium-sized one overnight. This would mean that Mr Holliday might actually be able to afford the money and time to take the Holliday family on an actual holiday at the end of the summer.

However, if he didn't get the deals he needed, it would probably mean his small business would turn into a none-at-all business.

It all depended on whether or not this week went well.

It was looking like the brakes had been put on things this Wednesday morning. The home help, Janey, who minded Tom in the school holidays, was off sick with a nasty case of measles.

Alex stood at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, shovelling down some toast with one hand and texting with the other. He washed the toast down with some coffee, almost spilling it down his tie. Muttering under his breath, he put the mobile phone down and forced himself to take a bit more time.

His wife Charlotte came in. ‘I've spoken to Kelly Sanders. She says she's no problem with having Tom around her house all day.'

‘Who's Kelly Sanders?'

Charlotte rolled her eyes at her husband. ‘Kelly is Jack's mum – Tom's friend on Embers Avenue? She says she has a few errands to run, but Tom and Jack will be fine.'

‘Fine?' Alex's brow furrowed. ‘What if Tom has an accident? What if he falls out of his chair when she's off shopping or having a coffee with some other mums? Does she know the first thing about looking after someone in a wheelchair?'

Charlotte approached Alex, took his cup off him, and started straightening his tie and the lapels of his jacket. ‘Kelly doesn't need to know anything about wheelchair-bound boys because our lovely son is eleven years old and can look after himself.'

‘He can't, Charlie – what if he takes a tumble?'

‘Then he'll do what he always does: pull himself up and get back in the chair. Jack will help him.'

‘She won't be watching him all day. What if she lets them out and the chair gets stuck somewhere? What if it malfunctions in the middle of a road?'

‘Alex, he's had Dodge for two years.' That was what Tom called this particular wheelchair. ‘When has it ever malfunctioned?'

‘There is always a first time.'

‘Alex, really? Aren't you worrying about all the wrong things here?'

‘What about a ramp in and out of the house? Does she even have a downstairs toilet?'

She shook her head. ‘You're unbelievable.'

Then Tom rolled into the kitchen. The motorised action on Dodge was pretty smooth so they didn't hear him coming. They jumped a little when he spoke. ‘Off to Jack's then?'

‘Oh hi, Tom,' said Alex. ‘No, I don't think so. I'm going to ring round and see if I can get a replacement for Janey so you can stay home.'

‘You're joking, right? Jack's mum said it was okay…'

Alex looked squarely at Tom. ‘Well I said it isn't. You'll stay home. I'll get someone.'

Tom grabbed his hair in frustration. ‘Mum! Tell him!'

Charlotte put her hand over Alex's phone. ‘Look, I'll take a couple of days off work. Then Janey will be back.'

Alex shook his head. ‘You need to save your holiday time for the end of summer so the three of us can go away when these contracts are up and running. You haven't enough days left.'

‘Then perhaps we need to postpone the holi-'

‘No!' interrupted Alex. ‘We are having a holiday this year. We need a holiday this year.' He let out a big sigh. ‘I need to be on the road in ten minutes. Let me quickly find someone.' He returned to his phone.

Charlotte indicated with her hand to Tom for him to back up and go into the living room. He did so and she followed him, leaving Alex to his calls. She knew that he wouldn't let her sort it for him, even though she had more time than him before she was needed at work. Alex liked to be in control of everything where Tom was concerned.

If it was left to Charlotte she'd wave Alex off to work and then send Tom to Kelly's house anyway. That would mean an argument later, but he wouldn't have a leg to stand on once he saw that Tom had been perfectly safe and had had a great time with his friend all day.

Of course, Alex knew that she would do that, which was partly why he was so adamant about sorting everything out himself; she always backed down regarding Tom.

‘Your dad is doing what he thinks is best,' Charlotte explained to her son.

‘But I'm not a baby any more. I've lived with a chair for as long as I can remember. I'm not going to be freaked out if you two or Janey aren't around to help me!'

‘I get that, Tom. It's just going to take a bit longer for your dad to understand. He worries about you.'

‘Well he should worry about me having no friends, stuck in this house all day during the summer holidays!'

‘I'm sure once he's sorted someone to come over, we can arrange for Jack to spend the day here too. I don't think his mum will mind.'

Alex came into the living room, a smile on his face but it looked a little forced. ‘I've fixed it.'

‘Who?' asked Charlotte.

There was a slight pause. ‘Grandma Patty.'

Charlotte put her hand on Tom's shoulder to indicate that he shouldn't overreact. ‘You've asked your mother over?'

‘It's good. They never get to spend quality time alone together. They can…bond.'

Tom dragged his fingers down his cheeks, making his eyes look huge. ‘But she's old!'

‘Don't be silly, Tom – your grandma is only sixty,' said Alex. ‘She's full of beans!'

‘That's what worries me,' said Charlotte. ‘You think your mother is a safer bet than Kelly Sanders?'

Alex shrugged. ‘I don't know Kelly Sanders.'

‘But you
do
know your mother. I would have thought that would be all the information you needed.'

Alex waved the comment away as he looked at his watch. ‘It's sorted now. I can't stay here and go through it all; I've got to beat the traffic getting onto the motorway. I want to be at the office early so I can set up for the meeting.'

Tom held up the A4 notebook that had been resting on his lap. ‘I thought you were going to read my story this morning, Dad.'

‘I haven't got time, buddy. Ask me later.'

‘That's what you said last night.'

Alex looked down at his shoes briefly. ‘I'm just rushed off my feet at the moment.' He couldn't tell his son the extent of the difficulties he was under. He hadn't really told Charlotte fully. He still felt bad though about how much he was having to put off spending time with his son. But he couldn't fit in reading one of Tom's huge notebook stories.

Then he looked back up as an idea popped into his head. ‘Maybe Grandma Patty will read it! Isn't it the story you did in the Generations Project? She'll love that! She said she'll be here in thirty minutes.' He reached over and ruffled Tom's hair, trying to reassure his son with a smile. ‘You'll have fun catching up.'

‘Yeah right,' said Tom.

‘Don't be sarcastic,' said Charlotte. ‘It's not nice.' She leaned over and kissed her husband. ‘I suppose it'll work out. I'll get her to ring me, then I'll text you updates.'

‘Thanks. He'll be fine with her.'

‘And he would have been fine round at Kelly Sanders' too, but never mind. Have a good day.'

‘Keep everything crossed for me. See you tonight, Tomahawk!'

‘Bye Dad,' replied Tom, not too enthusiastically.

Once the front door shut, Tom guided Dodge down the hallway and back into his room. Charlotte watched him go with a pensive smile.
Grandma Patty
, she thought.
Really?

*

Tom waited in his room, brooding.

It wasn't that he didn't like his grandma – she was pretty cool for an old bird. It was just that he was going to be like a prisoner in his own home, and he could see this being the story of the entire summer. He would be starting high school in September looking like a ghost while everyone else sported their bronze tans. He didn't need something else to make him stand out, now did he?

He rolled over to his desk and threw the notebook on top of a pile of others. He was always writing stories in those hardback jotters; when you couldn't run around doing everything that popped into your head, it meant you spent quite a bit of time thinking up adventures and putting them on paper.

He thought about his latest story. Maybe he would ask Grandma Patty to read it. It did have an older character in it, after all. For the Generations Project just before they finished school, they had to write a story that had a character in it that was two generations older than them. He immediately thought of Grandpa Max and his relationship with Ben 10. He didn't copy that though – he was all for having his own ideas, and he
was
getting a bit too old for kids' TV.

He was pretty pleased with the outcome – he'd more or less filled the entire notebook. His teacher had been less than helpful though. ‘Too long,' she had said. And okay, he knew he wasn't the best in the class, but at least his stories meant more to him than just making sure he had completed a school assignment. He put a little bit of himself into every one, this latest adventure included.

He just couldn't get his dad to read it.

Dad was so busy these days.

He rolled over to where his TV and Playstation was set up, but then thought twice about switching it all on. Did he really want another day of just running and shooting and bashing and thrashing on a 2D screen? He looked across at his book shelf: he'd read them all, most of them twice.

What other options did he have? Paint one of his models? Jigsaw puzzle? Write another story?

What would be the point if no one was willing to read the last one?

Tom heard the door chime go. Grandma Patty was here. He sighed.
At least today it will be a different person to be bored with
, he tried to tell himself.

His mum called his name. ‘Coming!' he replied.

As he manoeuvred into the hallway, Grandma Patty was stood waiting. She stood no higher than five feet tall and leaned a little to the right on account of a dodgy hip. She used a stick to help keep her upright on that side. It was ornately carved from dark wood but she'd customised it with stickers and transfers. She wore multiple bangles on both wrists and – under a black waistcoat – a cotton shirt that Tom's mum had one described as ‘tie-dyed'. She had said it with her nose wrinkled, which Mum did when she didn't approve of something. Grandma Patty dressed brightly, and perhaps not in keeping with her age. She wore a tartan skirt with bright blue leggings underneath. She was the only old lady Tom knew who wore Converse boots.

‘Well hello, Master Tommy!' she exclaimed. Tom gave a brief reply. Her broad smile wrinkled her face even more. Her curly silver hair caught the light shining through the open front door, until Mum closed it. She ushered Grandma into the living room and offered her a cup of tea.

Tom followed, knowing too well that his mum would go crazy at him if he returned to his room. She was keen on good manners and Tom would have to make a fair amount of small talk before he had the freedom of the house again.

He wheeled over to where she was sat in the armchair. ‘Are you ok, Grandma?'

‘All the better for seeing you, dearie. Lean over here and tell me what you know.' She changed her voice to a whisper. ‘Any news?'

Tom shrugged. ‘Nothing much. Finished school. Start high school in five weeks.'

Grandma Patty beamed. ‘Such a big man! I bet you outgrew that last school, eh?'

‘I was glad to leave. Not everyone liked me there.' He thought that being abrupt might embarrass her and put her off the conversation. Not a bit of it.

She tutted. ‘I find that hard to believe. Some cheeky guttersnipes there?'

‘I don't know what that means. I had trouble with the head teacher, Mrs Aziram. She didn't like me for messing up the talent show, amongst other things.'

‘Not everyone has to fit in with what the teachers want, you know. I bet your act was fabulous.'

‘It wasn't an act. I was compere, but I threw in some wheelchair jokes. She didn't like it.'

Grandma Patty's eyes glinted. ‘Let's hear one.'

‘I can't really remember…I told one act I'd give them a standing ovation, only…' He waved at the chair underneath him with a little flourish. ‘My dad wasn't happy I got told off.'

‘I bet he wasn't. How
is
your daddy?'

‘He's…got a load on at work. A bit stressed, probably.'

‘Hmmm. That boy of mine needs to slow down and take a look around himself before he misses everything that's important. Going to high school…that must be worth a pound! Let's have a look.' She started to root around her large handbag. It too was tartan, but clashed with her skirt.

‘It's okay, Grandma, I don't need a pound…'

Tom's mum came back in with a mug. ‘There's your tea. And Alex is fine, by the way. He's just got a lot on at work over the next couple of weeks. He'll be able to relax then.'

‘He never relaxes.' Her nose came up out of her handbag. ‘There we go. 50p!'

‘You said a pound.'

‘And you said you didn't need a pound.'

There was a moment of awkward silence, at least for Tom. Grandma Patty just kept smiling.

Tom's mum spoke. ‘I need to go in a minute, Patty. There's everything for lunch in the kitchen. Tom has the number of his friend, Jack, who might come over later to keep him company-'

BOOK: Leave the Last Page
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