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Friday, 12 March 2010

The Counting House - Chapter 1 part 3

“Let’s see your book,” James said.
“Suit yourself.”
“Come on,” I galloped back to the shed, “let’s capture Saladin.”
Jessica sat on the grass, “I’m bored with Crusades. It would have taken ages for you to rescue me.”
James leaned over her, “You were very brave. You deserve a medal for courage,” and, putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a bottle top tied to a string.
I stared in disbelief, “You said you….”
“Sorry about that, Georgie. I forgot I had this one.”
I didn’t argue. I drew a pattern in the soil with the tip of my sword and wondered why he loved her. She wasn’t brave or daring. I ran with him, dug trenches, built castles and slew enemies while she made her perfumes in jam jars and tied ribbons to his lance.
I swung on her shoulders, “Come on, it’ll be teatime soon. Let’s play something.”
I shook her and the book slipped from my shorts. I jumped to pick it up but Alan had snatched it and threw it to his brother.
“It’s mine!” I leaped up at them as they held it over their heads.
They ran about the grass passing it between them like a rugby ball until they came to the wall of the extension where they huddled in a scrum and fingered my poems:
‘A song for James’, ‘The Hero’ and ‘I love the Lionheart’ Line after heartfelt line of my most secret sacred dreams: his eyes, his hair, his smile, and my undying love.
They laughed at my spelling, my joined-up writing and forced rhyme. Alan shrieked with delight and read the lines aloud until I felt hot tears burn my eyes. I fidgeted desperately with the elastic in my socks and pretended to laugh.
“Listen to this!” Alan yelled.
“I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean any of it! It’s all just things that Jessica says. It’s Jessica! She’s in love with James. That’s why she cries all the time.”
James stopped laughing and glared at me with anger in his eyes, “That’s a nasty thing to say.”
“She does! She writes everything you say in her diary and she cries all the time so you’ll put your arm round her.”
He shook his head and turned away, “I didn’t think you could be so cruel.”
Alan flung the book into the bushes and I scrambled after it, trying to straighten the pages.
“It’s nearly tea time,” James said. “We’d better be going.”
He and Alan disappeared up the drive and Jessica followed Peter into the kitchen. I hoped I’d never see any of them again.
I lay down on the grass and rolled over and over until I reached a trench where I curled up and cried. I hated James; I hated his silly hair and sissy voice. I mouthed his words scornfully, “I didn’t think you could be so cruel.”
I picked up my sword and considered playing the Roman and plunging it through my heart. Then they’d be sorry. Jessica would cry at my funeral and James would kneel by my grave whispering that he had always loved me best of all.
The soft soil where Dad had filled in my moat trickled into my shoes and gathered between my toes. I climbed into the shed where woodlice crawled across the beams, and sat among the insects, wiping my tears on my T-shirt.
I saw my dirty shorts, my sand-scuffed shoes, my silly sackcloth tunic, “I hate me. I hate me! I’m horrid and cruel! Bloody poems, bloody silly girl who looks like a boy, bloody James, bloody Alan, bloody Jessica…BLOODY BLOODY BLOODY!”
The shed door opened.
“What are you doing?” Peter said.
“Are you crying?”
“I’ve got soil in my eyes.”
“It’s tea time,” he sounded sorry. “Mum told me to come and get you.”
“I don’t want any tea.”
“We can play out again later. You can have the castle and I’ll…”
“It’s not a castle, it’s a shed. It doesn’t even look like a castle,” I kicked the wall, “and they’re not swords, they’re sticks.” I snapped the cane across my knee, scratching the skin but concealed the wince. “You couldn’t kill anyone with them. You couldn’t really kill anyone.”
“It’s a game,” he said quietly, “you’re not meant to kill for real.”
“One day I’ll get a real sword and chop off their heads.”
“My head?”
“No,” I followed him to the house, “not yours. James’s and Jessica’s and Alan’s.”

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