5. Lady Killer

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For the first time in a while, I almost felt good. I even giggled to myself on the way back up the stairwell, which gave me even more reason to keep grinning, because I hadn't heard myself laugh in months.

I was less scared of shadowy corners from this direction. It was like the sun's rays had finally hit the endless abyss at the bottom of the ocean. Or something gay like that. Whatever. I learnt about it from a documentary on Channel 4, once.

I arrived back to the flat hiding my grin behind my hand, which made Mum suspicious. Carl winked at me, which would have normally put him back into the total creepster category, but I let his gesture slide.

"So, did Tisha like her card?" Mum asked, unable to control her own smile too.

"Yeah," I replied, scrubbing the smirk off my face, prompt like. "She liked the rabbits I drew. Said they were pretty neat."

"I'm sure that's not all she liked," Carl added, batting my mum's arm. "You always said he'd turn out to be a lady-killer, Janey."

I shrugged in response. Girls were whatever.

But Mum wanted more out of me, and for me to say more than two sentences at any given point was far too much chitchat than I was comfortable with. "So...?" she prodded. "Did she say anything else?"

I shrugged a second time. I didn't really like them both looking at me like I had some big secret to reveal. I played it cool. "Nope. Why would she? She's not my girlfriend."

Mum did that big, exaggerated "oh, okay, honey" and let me get about my business. What did they expect would happen? That'd I'd get my first kiss or something? As if! I like Tisha, but not like that. Not like, kissing and stuff. She's just... pretty fly. And she's nice, and makes me feel good. And I've known her since forever...

But still, I couldn't help but spending the rest of the day in my room thinking about her. I lay on my back on my bed (which still had a lame Hot Wheels cover on it from years ago) secretly hoping she would keep my birthday card up in her bedroom so she could be reminded of her holiday in the forest when she looked at it, and then inside would be my crappy handwriting that would make her laugh because I'd spelt birthday with an F in it.

Maybe next year when we were both thirteen I'd be invited to her party if I was nice to her and made her like me more. It would be my first ever party invite, except the one I sent myself when I was nine, because Jonty was shady and didn't invite me swimming again.

Perhaps I could get her a present if I saved all my quids up. Maybe if I could be friends with Tisha I could be friends with her friends, and they'd all like me too, and then the people at school wouldn't keep ratting me out on stuff just so they could laugh when Miss Martens gave me detentions.

Adults say shit like 'it's character building' or 'you have to stand up to people who wrong you', as though they really don't believe me when I say I don't mean to keep messing up.

But if I knew Tisha... Wouldn't people think I was okay after all, because a cool girl wanted to hang out with me?

I hated to even think it.

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