Authors: Kate Hanney
Published in 2013 by Applecore Books
Text – Kate Hanney
Copyright © Cover images – Michael Hanney
The author asserts their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this work are fictional. Any resemblance to real persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
To my friends Louise and Nicola, for reading and commenting, and re-reading, and discussing, and proof-reading, and most of all, for caring.
And to my family, for putting up with me.
I love you, x x
1 – Jay
The foreman of that jury never altered his face once. Not when they showed the x-rays of the injuries, not when the victim said how it’d affected his life, and not now; as we all stared at him and waited for the verdict.
He stood up proper slowly and pulled his sleeves down. Then he coughed this quiet cough into his fist and looked over towards the judge.
Me and Billy were already on our
feet. The judge started talking – I know he did because I could hear his voice, but not the actual words; I’m not sure exactly what he said. All I could do was watch the foreman; all I cared about were the words that came out of his mouth.
I waited for that
first sound. A ‘n’ would be wicked. It’d be like having a pistol pressed up against the side of your head, closing your eyes as you hear the trigger being pulled back, but then there just being a click, cos it’d run out of bullets.
A ‘g’ though, that would be bad. And I don’t mean good bad, either. I mean like really, proper bad; the worst thing that could happen.
Billy stood next to me with his hands in his jeans’ pockets and looked straight ahead. I messed about with the zip on my jacket; zipping it part way up, then down, than back up again. There was a quiet click as my solicitor pressed the button on the end of his pen and put it in the inside pocket of his suit.
I knew all this was happening, even though I still hadn’t taken my eyes off the foreman, and he still hadn’t taken his eyes off the judge.
Then I heard my name.
‘... the defendant, Jayden Harris ...?’
My fingers tightened round the zip. The foreman lifted his chin slightly, opened his mouth, and it was a ‘g’ – ‘g’ for guilty.
2 – Anna
72%. Oh my God, that was even worse than last time. They’d go crazy.
Unless it was just a really difficult test, and nobody had scored highly? I glanced up and down the science lab bench. 97%, 99%, even two who’d got the full forty-five out of forty-five.
And I’d revised so hard as well.
Miss Welbourne handed out the last of the papers, sauntered along the bench and hovered behind me. ‘So, Annabel; another disappointing result. I think perhaps tomorrow lunchtime you and I should meet to discuss this?’
I looked up at her pale lips and narrow pointed nose, then back down again. ‘Yes, miss.’
‘Twelve-thirty,’ she said, turning away and striding back to her stage at the front.
Sophie and Beth gawped at each other and didn’t even try to hide their stupid sniggers. But Lizzie glared at them and tutted. ‘It’s not that bad,’ she said, putting her test paper into her folder. ‘It’s still the equivalent of a B.’
I smiled. It was kind of her to be supportive, but we both knew her result would earn her an A-star, and the B I’d got stood for one thing in this school: below average.
The shrill ring of the bell ricocheted around the classroom. Three o’clock; thank God – the best time of the day.
Outside, I said bye to Lizzie and rushed over to where Mum was waiting in her usual place.
‘Hi, darling,’ she said. ‘Good day? Did you get your science results back?’
I hadn’t even closed the car door behind me, let alone fastened my seatbelt.
Word for word, I heard her response in my head:
‘Oh, Annabel; what went wrong this time? We’d been through it all; you said you’d learned it. Grades like that won’t get you into the universities we’ve chosen, you know that. I mean, it’s not like we don’t try; we pay for your education, give you the best start in life, but in the end it’s got to be down to you – you have to start making the grade ...’
And she would go on and on and on. Then we’d arrive home and she’d tell Dad, and he’d go on and on and on. And then, in that disapproving, stomach-twisting, but ultra-supportive way they’d perfected over the years, they’d go on about my various failings non-stop for the next three days.
I picked at the skin around my thumbnail, then shook my head. ‘No, not yet.’
She scowled like I’d trod in something and the smell had just reached her nose. ‘That’s unusual for Miss Welbourne, she usually returns test results really quickly.’
Mum flicked down the indicator and pulled out in front of an old man in a Mini. He hooted his horn twice and flashed his headlights, but Mum just waved into the rear view mirror.
‘Anyway,’ she said, turning the seat heaters on. ‘Guess where Dad and I have been today?’
‘Do you remember that young black mare I told you about? The o
ne Auntie Caroline saw jumping in the county finals last summer?’
‘Well, I know you won’t believe it, but she was for sale. We were all so convinced she’d be perfect for you, that we went to have a look. You should’ve seen her jumping – fast and high and careful – Dad could hardly believe it. The price was a little steep of course, but as I said to him, horses with her potential don’t come along every two minutes – so we struck a deal, right there and then!’
I looked at her for the first time. ‘You mean you’ve been to see her and bought her? Without even asking me about it?’
‘What’s there to ask? She’s amazing; you’ll absolutely love her.’
‘I love Pepper,’ I said, shaking my head and turning to stare out of the window again.
‘Sweetheart, Pepper’s a plod-along; you’ve outgrown him. I know he’s been great for teaching you to ride, but you’re ready to move on now, to something younger, with more speed and spirit; something you can succeed on.’
‘But what about him?’
‘Oh, don’t worry, we’ll still keep Pepper if you want. He can go and work in the riding school or something.’
A feature came on the radio then about the history of Chanel, and she turned up the volume. I leaned back against the headrest. What if I couldn’t handle this new horse – all that spirit and speed? What if I wasn’t good enough, and she never reached her potential? I knew Pepper like I knew myself; I didn’t want him working in the riding school. I didn’t want another horse.
Then there were the science results. I’d have to explain about those eventually, wouldn’t I? One, two days perhaps, at the most, then they’d be on the phone asking why the papers hadn’t been marked.
What would Miss Welbourne say tomorrow? What would we ‘discuss’? My score must’ve been the worst in the whole class – maybe the worst she’d ever seen.
Mum swung on to the long driveway that led up to our house as the news came on and she turned the radio back down. The potholes were still solid white ice from the frost we’d had the night before, but she zoomed along at her normal speed, trusting the four wheel drive to cope with it. ‘So, are you excited about your new horse?’ she asked.
‘It won’t be straight away unfortunately
– she’s got to be examined by the vet and everything first – but hopefully a week, maximum. I was thinking, we could go shopping for new tack and rugs at the weekend, would you like that? We could get some things embroidered with her name and ...’
She carried on making her plans for me and the horse as we drove up our driveway and came to a stop outside the house.
‘I’m just going to check on Pepper,’ I said, interrupting her as I got out of the car.
‘Do you have to? You’ll get your uniform all dirty.’
‘I’ll be careful.’
‘Well, don’t be out there for hours, it’s bitterly cold tonight.’
The gravel crunched under my shoes as I ran down past the stables and alongside the white post and rail fencing that enclosed the fields. Pepper was tucking into a huge round bale of hay that he had all to himself, but when he saw me he trotted over and nudged my pockets. I found a couple of Polos and he chomped them happily while I put my hand under his rug to check he was warm enough. His dark blue eyes looked black in the fading light, and he blinked them as I stroked his fluffy white head and scratched behind his ears. ‘You don’t care, do you, boy?’ I whispered. ‘Seventy-two percent, ninety-two ... twenty-two. It makes no difference to you at all. You still love me.’