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THERE was a brilliant fire in the London evening that burned outside the oily kitchen window like a growing ribbon of blood-red light, cut with bruising purple clouds and smoking over the great tower on that building Gareth's dad always told him was called Parliament. Where all those funny people met, MPs or PMs, or something, to talk and fight and do whatever they do. It rose there, with its boldly waving flag, the Union Jack, and its funny, pointy turrets. To Gareth Marks, gazing sadly through the grimy little window, it looked almost medieval, like that dumb book he'd seen of Camelot and King Arthur, although this was modern London, for sure. Gareth Marks knew it from the screaming police sirens he could hear screeching and wailing through the London streets again, right now, as if there had just been another horrible terrorist attack.There seemed so much fear about nowadays, all over the world, in fact.
Gareth suddenly felt himself filling up with feeling, standing in front of that great and brilliant sunset, like a tumbler of water overflowing, and as he thought of the horrid shouting match between his mum and step dad again, yet another vicious row, he wanted to cry. Why do stupid adults have to talk to one another like that, don't they know how it makes you feel?
12-year-old boys don't cry though, do they? So instead Gareth Marks bit his bottom lip to stop himself shouting or swearing and started bashing hard on the kitchen work top, with a lump of muck brown modelling clay that had long dried out. His silly art teacher had insisted on his taking it home from school. Gareth didn't want to model anything though, that was stupid, he wanted to break something now, for all the hurt and loneliness he was feeling inside. He felt like a prisoner in this dark, mean little flat, where he lived with his mum, now his stupid step dad had just moved out. With its one pokey bedroom, but a pull down bed for him in the main room, where he usually slept in a sleeping bag. He never told his friends at school about it. What friends he had, that is, because Gareth Marks had only just started at the local comprehensive and it felt like a whole new world.
Gareth's mum wasn't in now, of course. Always out to work, his poor mum. But Gareth's holidays had just begun. If with the blocked, sinking, almost exhausting feeling, that this would be as boring and lonely as all the others. His best friend Mac was going away on a school trip, which Gareth's mum had no money for, and it was too rough around here for Gareth to be let off the leash too easily. For fear of those other kids on the block; the kind that carry knives, or smoke cigarettes, the morons, or do things like drugs. Meanwhile his football had a puncture, the Internet was down again, with that ancient modem, and his mum wouldn't let him have a mobile. She was old fashioned like that,, What was Gareth going to do now then, for two whole months?
Above all Gareth Marks knew that although he had wished with all his heart that his Dad might visit them suddenly, and soon, it was just not going to happen. Not that kind of magic. Gareth and his mum hadn't seen his Dad in three whole years, not least because he and his stupid step father so disliked each other. Well his step dad was off again, thank heavens, after the horrid bust up yesterday, on some secret army thing or other. At least if Dad did turn up there wouldn't be a fight, or any horrid feelings floating round. It hadn't stopped mum breaking down again though, into floods of tears. He hated it when she cried but she was often cracking up these days.
Gareth felt something heavy in his stomach now he couldn't understand. He missed his dad so much, his real dad, but hardly remembered him sometimes, except for the picture in his back pocket. If he told the truth, sometimes Gareth Marks almost hated him too, for ever going away and leaving them like that. The tall, flaxen haired twelve-year-old thumped hard again with the clay, as the door bell rang, a muted chatter, since the metal cover didn't even fit and there was no one to fix it. No man about the place.