Chapter 4

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Friday morning saw perhaps the country's most indecisive weather. When I first pulled open my curtains, there was pouring rain. By the time I'd left my house to run for the bus, it had turned to a hailstorm. And when Alex got on three stops later, the sun came out like the star of the show.

Then again, maybe the weather was just a prediction of what was to come. Because on the final day of dare week, and with the challenge Alex and I had chosen to complete, there was really no telling how this Friday would go.

I dare you to carry each other around for an entire day.

Whoever had submitted the dare was, really, some kind of evil mastermind. On the surface, it seemed perfectly innocent. Piggy backs for a day sounded like a fun game, especially when the donation tagged along with it was pretty substantial. Alex and I had seized the slip of paper the previous day with matching enthusiasm. However, it was only once we'd hopped off the bus, and a game of rock-paper-scissors had ended with Alex hopping on my back, that we started to wonder exactly what we'd let ourselves in for.

"Faster!"

The demand came with a kick in my leg: an unfortunate collision of the toe of Alex's trainers and my upper thigh. Still, this was definitely easier said than done. My best friend didn't look like the kind of guy who spent six days a week at the gym, but with his weight dragging on my back, he might as well have been. We'd barely made it halfway up the hill to the school gates before I was struggling for breath.

Whose idea was it to put the school on a hill, anyway? Surely somebody must've considered what a terrible plan it was. Not only were we the only school to remain open when every other kids in the area got days off for flooding, nobody had taken into account how difficult it would be to piggy-back someone up to the gates.

"I'm going as fast as I can," I told him, though it came out much more fragmented when broken up by frantic gasps for breath. "Be patient."

"I am being patient," he said, "but we've been going at this for ten minutes now, and we're not even close."

"You want to switch places?" I snapped back. "Because, really, feel free."

"That's not how it works. You lost rock-paper-scissors."

"Rock-paper-scissors is a game of luck," I grunted. "And, trust me, you're the one that got real lucky here."

"Not feeling so lucky," his voice came back. "This is really uncomfortable."

It was then, under the pressure of my aching back, that I snapped. Before Alex had time to realise what I was doing, I came out of my hunched over position, standing up straight with such urgency that he lost grip and went sliding right off.

And, thanks to the morning's unpredictable weather, right into a pile of trampled mud.

His protest was instant, but all I could concentrate on was how much better my back felt. I turned around just in time to catch sight of him, flat on his backside, with an attractive brown stain now creeping down the back of his shirt. And I couldn't contain my laughter.

"What was that for?" he said, gathering to his feet and trying to twist his body to inspect the damage.

"Just wanted you to feel a little more comfortable," I said, with a sweet smile. "Certainly better for me."

"You are so going to pay for that," he warned. "Now let me get back on."

I shook my head. "I don't think so. It's my turn."

"Says who?"

"Says me," I said, moving to stand behind him and tapping two hands on his shoulders. "Fair's fair. And maybe this way you'll be a little more comfortable."

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