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About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
About a boy
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  • 1. Pearson Education Limited Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Contents Essex CM20 2JE, England and Associated Companies throughout the world. ISBN-13: 978-0-582-77962-4 page ISBN-10: 0-582-77962-6 Introduction iv First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz 1998 Chapter 1 A Man and a Boy 1 This edition first published by Penguin Books 2003 Chapter 2 SPAT 6 7 9 10 8 Chapter 3 The Dead Duck Day 15 Original copyright © Nick Hornby 1998 Text copyright © Penguin Books 2003 Chapter 4 Marcuss Plan 20 Chapter 5 New Trainers 27 Typeset by Ferdinand Pageworks, Surrey Set in ll/14pt Bembo Chapter 6 Ellie 34 Printed in China SWTC/07 Chapter 7 Christmas at Fionas 41 Chapter 8 Falling in Love 45 All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, Chapter 9 Depressions 50 electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Publishers. Chapter 10 A Trip to Cambridge 56 Chapter 11 Growing Up 63 Published by Pearson Education Limited in association with Penguin Books Ltd, both companies being subsidiaries of Pearson Plc Activities 71For a complete list of titles available in the Penguin Readers series, please write to your local Pearson Education office or to: Penguin Readers Marketing Department, Pearson Education, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Essex CM20 2JE.
  • 2. Introduction Chapter 1 A M a n and a B o yThey were all staring so hard at the scene of the crime that they didntnotice the park-keeper standing next to them. Marcus felt very frightened. Will Freeman was thirty-six years old and he had never had a jobHe would be in big trouble now. in his life. Sometimes he thought about working. He looked One of your ducks has died, said Will. He made it sound like the through the job advertisements in newspapers and wrotesaddest thing hed ever seen. Marcus looked up at him. Maybe Will occasional letters to employers, but he was never invited towasn t such a bad guy. interviews. He didnt mind. He was OK as he was. He was a cool guyAbout a Boy is the story of the growing relationship between with a cool lifestyle. He read quite a lot; he saw films in theMarcus, a twelve-year-old boy, and Will, a 36-year-old man. Marcus afternoons; he went running; he cooked nice meals for himselfis having problems at home and at school. Will wants a life without and his friends. When he got bored, he went to Rome or Newresponsibilities; he isnt interested in children, marriage or work. York or Barcelona for a few days.But Will is interested in attractive single mothers, and he invents a Will didnt need to work for money because in 1938 his fathertwo-year-old son so that he can join a single parents group. When had written a very successful Christmas song. Many famoushe meets Marcus and his mother, his life begins to change. singers had made recordings of this song, and each time Wills About a Boy is very funny and enjoyable, but it also has a much father had received royalties. Since his death the royalties hadmore serious side. come to Will.The writer, Nick Hornby, was born in 1957 and grew up in So Will had become rich without having to work at all. Henorth London. He studied English at Cambridge University, then was happy with his life. He lived in a nice flat in London andworked for the Korean company Samsung. Later, he worked as a drove a fast car. He liked women and had lots of girlfriends, butteacher and journalist before starting to write fiction. he never got too involved with them. He preferred to look at Nick Hornby has written four books: Fever Pitch (1992); High other peoples lives from the outside, like watching TV. If aFidelity (1995); About a Boy (1998) and How to be Good (2001). relationship with a woman became complicated, he ended it. HeThe stories all take place in north London, and are mainly about wanted to keep his life simple.relationships. The first three books have been made into In the evenings Will usually went out with friends. Thesesuccessful films. In About a Boy, the popular British actor Hugh were guys who worked in music shops or belonged to the sameGrant plays the character of Will. The end of the story was sports clubs as Will, or who were part of the same pub-quizchanged for the film. Which ending do you prefer? team. They werent close friends - but they were good enough for a drink or a meal. The evenings were fine, but Will had a lot of free time during the day because all his friends were at work. So he filled the time IV 1
  • 3. bath, tidying his flat, going to the shops, watching Countdown. Im fine, thanks.Countdown was an afternoon TV quiz show and it was his favourite Dont you want your own family?programme. Sometimes he wondered how his friends had time to I cant think of anything worse, thought Will. Not yet, hework. How could a person work and have a bath on the same day? said. Will didnt like children. He wasnt interested in them, and he Were worried about you, said Christine.didnt want any responsibility for them. But his friends, John and Im OK as I am, thanks, said Will.Christine, had two. The second was a baby girl, born just the Maybe, said Christine, and smiled.week before, and Will had been invited to see her. Will was beginning to feel very uncomfortable. Why did they When he arrived at John and Christines flat, there were want him to have children? Children would make him verychildrens toys everywhere. Pieces of brightly coloured plastic unhappy. If John and Christine wanted children, and to bewere spread all over the floor, videos lay out of their cases near unhappy, that was fine. (Will was sure that John and Christinethe TV, a white cloth over the sofa was covered with dirty brown were very unhappy, even if they didnt realize it.) But why shouldmarks . . . How could people live like this? they want him to be unhappy too? Christine came in holding the new baby while John was in Will could see only one reason for having children. When youthe kitchen making tea. This is Imogen, she said. were old and poor, then they could look after you. But Will had Oh, said Will. Right. He paused. What did people usually plenty of money, so he didnt need toys on the floor or dirtysay about babies? Shes . . . he began, but stopped again. It was no sofas.good. He decided to ask Christine about herself instead. How John and Christine used to be OK, he thought. Will and aare you, Chris? he asked. girlfriend had gone out to nightclubs with them once or twice a Well, you know. Im rather tired. week, and they had all had a lot of fun. But since John and Why? A lot of parties? Christine had had children, everything had changed. Will didnt No. Ive just had a baby. want to meet Imogen, or hear how Barney was. He didnt want Oh. Right. to hear about Christines tiredness. He decided not to visit them John came into the room, carrying three cups of tea. Barneys again.gone to his grandmothers today, he said, for no reason that Will We were wondering, said John, whether youd like to becould understand. Imogens godfather? The two of them looked at Will, smiling Hows Barney? Barney was two, and interesting only to his and waiting for his reply.parents, but Will knew he should ask John something. Will laughed nervously. Godfather? he said. You mean . . . Hes fine, thanks, said John. Hes still getting used to Imogen, church and things? Birthday presents? If you two are killed in anbut hes lovely air crash, Ill have to look after her? Will had met Barney before and knew that he wasnt lovely, Yes.but he decided not to say anything. Youre joking, arent you? 2 3
  • 4. youre a very serious and responsible person. More happened, and that was a good thing. Oh, no, said Will quickly. No, Im not. Im really a very But now Marcus was very worried about his mum. She hadshallow kind of person. Thank you very much for asking me, but started crying a lot in London - much more than in Cambridge.I cant think of anything worse. He didnt know why she cried. He wondered if it was about He didnt stay much longer. boyfriends. Marcus didnt mind if his mum had a boyfriend. She was pretty, he thought, and nice, and funny sometimes. He • wanted his mum to meet someone who would make her happy. Not far away, in the Holloway area of London, a twelve-year-old He couldnt help his mum with her problems, and sheboy called Marcus was lying in bed, unable to sleep. He was couldnt help him with his other big problem - school. His firstworrying about his mum and his new school. day at his new London school had been a disaster. Marcuss mum was called Fiona, and she and Marcus had only Marcus knew that he was different from most other kids of hisbeen in London for a few weeks. They had moved there on the age. He wasnt right for schools. Not big secondary schools likefirst day of the summer holidays because Fiona had got a new the one in London. His school in Cambridge hadnt been so bad.job. Before moving to London, they had lived in Cambridge, The children there were younger, and there were lots of weirdwhere Marcuss father, Clive, still lived. Fiona and Clive had kids there, so Marcus hadnt felt uncomfortable.separated four years ago. It was OK not to be right for some things, he thought. He Marcus thought London was quite boring. He and Fiona knew that he wasnt right for parties because he was very shy.hadnt done much in the holidays. Theyd been to see Home That wasnt a problem because he didnt have to go to parties.Alone 2, which wasnt as good as Home Alone 1. Theyd been to But he had to go to school.have a look at his new school, which was big and horrible. And Marcus couldnt talk to his mum about his problems at school,theyd had lots of talks about London and the changes in their because she couldnt help. She couldnt move him to anotherlives. But really they were sitting around waiting for their school. Even if she did move him, it wouldnt make anyLondon lives to begin. difference. Hed still be himself, and that, it seemed to Marcus, Marcus had had two kinds of life. The first, which had ended was his real problem. The other kids laughed at him because hewhen he was eight, was the normal, boring kind, with school and was weird. They laughed because he had the wrong trousers, theholidays and homework and weekend visits to grandparents. The wrong shoes and the wrong haircut.second kind was more confused because there were more people Marcus knew that he was weird partly because his mum wasand places in it: his mothers boyfriends and his dads girlfriends; weird. She was always telling him that clothes and hair werentflats and houses; Cambridge and London. It was surprising how important. She didnt want him to watch rubbish TV or listen tomany things had changed when Fiona and Clives relationship rubbish music or play rubbish computer games. All the otherended. kids spent their time doing these things, but Marcus had to argue But Marcus didnt mind. Sometimes, he thought, he even with his mother for hours and he usually lost. She could explain 4 5
  • 5. Bob Marley and Joni Mitchell. And why it was more important and a lot of men didnt like other peoples children.to read books than to play on the Gameboy that his dad had Will wanted to push the table over and run out of thegiven him. restaurant, but Angie was a very beautiful woman. He was quite happy at home, listening to Joni Mitchell or Really, its no problem. Ive never been out with a mumreading books, but it didnt do him any good at school. It made before, and Ive always wanted to. I think Id be good at it.him different, and because he was different the other kids made Good at what?him feel uncomfortable. Right. Good at what? What was he good at? That was the big It wasnt all his mums fault. Sometimes Marcus just did weird question which he had never been able to answer. Maybe hethings. Like the singing. He always sang songs to himself inside would be good at children, although he hated them. Maybe hehis head but sometimes, when he was nervous, the song just should give John and Christine and baby Imogen anothercame out of his mouth. It had happened in his English lesson on chance. Maybe he was going to become Uncle Will!the first day of his new school. The teacher was reading and all I dont know. Doing things that kids like.the other students in the room were quiet. Suddenly, for no For the next few weeks, he was Will the Good Guy, and hereason at all, Marcus had started to sing, and all the other kids had loved it. It wasnt even very difficult. He played with Angieslaughed at him. children, and took them to McDonalds and to parks and for a boat trip on the river. It was a very good arrangement, he thought. He had never wanted to be a father, but this was Chapter 2 SPAT different. He could walk hand-in-hand with a beautiful woman while the children played in front of them. Everybody could seeWill first saw Angie in a music shop off the Holloway Road. She him doing it. And at the end of the afternoon, he could go homehad lots of thick blonde hair, big blue eyes and a lovely sexy again if he wanted to.voice. She reminded him of Julie Christie, a beautiful film star. Angie made Will feel very good about himself. Suddenly heTwo days later, he saw her again in a cafe and started a became better-looking, a better lover, a better person. And sheconversation. By the time they had finished their coffee, he had especially loved him because he wasnt her ex-husband, who hadher phone number. problems with drink and work, and who was sleeping with his Will was rather surprised that Angie wanted to go out with secretary.him. He had never been out with a woman who looked like Julie Will went out with Angie for six weeks, but there were someChristie before. Women like her didnt go out with men like things that he was beginning to find difficult. Once he bookedWill. They went out with other film stars, or lords, or racing tickets for the opening night of a new film, but Angie was half andrivers. hour late because she couldnt get a babysitter. And when they He learnt the reason over dinner on their first evening out, spent the night together, it always had to be at her place and shewhen Angie told him that she was a single mother with two didnt have a video machine or many CDs. 6 7
  • 6. But just when Will was thinking about ending the relationship, did it, and because he didnt understand, he couldnt help. So heAngie decided to finish it. stood there staring at her with his mouth open. Will, Im so sorry, but Im not sure this is working. Its not Do you want some tea? she asked him in a sad little voice.your fault. Youve been great. Its me. Well, my situation anyway. Yes. Please. He made some toast, drank his tea and picked upIve met you at the wrong time of my life and Im not ready for a his bag. Then he gave his mother a kiss and went out. Neither ofserious new relationship. them said a word. What else could he do? It really was very strange, Will thought. Angie had believed he On his way to school, he tried to work out what was wrongwas serious about her, and he hadnt been serious at all. Now she with her. What could be wrong that he didnt know about? Hewas starting to cry. He had never before watched a woman cry didnt think it was money problems. She had a job - she was awithout feeling responsible, and he was rather enjoying the music teacher - so they werent poor, although they werent richexperience. either. But they had enough money for the flat, and for food, and You dont have to be sorry for anything. Really. for holidays once a year, and even for occasional computer games. Of all the evenings he had spent with Angie, he loved the last What else made you cry? Death? But hed know if anybodyone the best. The relationship had been perfect, and had finished important had died. Hed seen all his relatives - his grandparents,in a perfect way too. Usually when his relationships with women his uncle Tom and uncle Toms family - at a party the weekended, he felt guilty, but this time he had nothing to feel guilty before, and theyd all been fine. Was it about men? He knew hisabout. mum wanted a boyfriend because she joked about it sometimes. Will knew then that there would be other women like Angie But if she joked about it, why should she suddenly start crying- bright, attractive single mothers, thousands of them all over about it?London - and he knew he had a lot to offer them. He could So what else was there? He tried to remember the othersleep with them, make them feel better about themselves, be a things that people cried about on TV programmes. Prison? Anparent for a limited time, and walk away without feeling guilty. unwanted baby?What more could a man want? But Marcus had forgotten about his mums problems by the time he was inside the school gates. He had his own problems to • think about. A group of kids usually bullied him on his wayOne Monday morning Marcuss mum started crying before across the playground. Today, though, they were at the other end,breakfast, and it frightened him. Morning crying was something so he reached his classroom without difficulty.new, and it was a bad, bad sign. It meant that it could now start at His friends Nicky and Mark were already there, playing aany time of the day without warning. game on Marks Gameboy. He went over to them. When he went into the kitchen, she was sitting at the kitchen All right?table in her night clothes, a half-eaten piece of toast on her plate, Nicky said hello, but Mark was too busy to notice him.her eyes red from crying. Marcus never said anything when she Marcus tried to watch the game, but he couldnt see thecried. He didnt know what to say. He didnt understand why she Gameboy very well, so he sat on a desk, waiting for them to 8 9
  • 7. finish. But when they finished, they started another game; they before we knew you, and now we have problems every day. didnt offer him a game or put the Gameboy away. Marcus felt he Marcus understood. They would be better without him. But was being shut out, and he didnt know what hed done wrong. he had nowhere else to go. Are you going to the computer room at lunchtime? he asked. • That was how he knew Nicky and Mark - through the computer club. It was a stupid question because they always went Will was looking for ways to meet single mums like Angie, but to the computer room. It was the only place where they would he didnt know where to find them. Where did single mums gobe safe from the other kids. and how could he get their phone numbers? Then he had a Dont know, replied Nicky after a time. What do you think, wonderful idea. He would pretend to be a single father and join aMark? single parents group. So he invented a two-year-old son called Dont know, said Mark. Probably. Ned. They werent real friends - not like the friends hed had in Im a single father. I have a two-year-old son. Im a singleCambridge — but he could talk to them because they were all father. I have a two-year-old son, he told himself.different from the other kids in the class. All three of them wore But he couldnt actually believe it. He didnt feel like a parent.glasses, none of them was interested in clothes and they all liked He was too young, too old, too stupid, too intelligent, too cool,computer games. too impatient, too selfish, too careless, too careful. When he Two older boys came and stood in the doorway. Give us a looked in the mirror, he couldnt see a dad, especially a singlesong, they said to Marcus. dad. Marcus didnt know these boys, but theyd probably heard He telephoned a single parents group called SPAT (Singleabout him singing in the English class. Mark and Nicky started to Parents - Alone Together) and spoke to a woman called Frances.move away, leaving him alone. Then the older boys started SPAT met on the first Thursday of each month in a local adultinsulting Mark and Nicky, and making jokes about girls and sex. learning centre, and Frances invited Will to the next meeting. HeMark turned the Gameboy off, and all three of them stood was very worried that hed get something wrong, like the namewaiting for the boys to get bored and go away. Marcus tried to of his imaginary son - he couldnt stop thinking of him as Ted,play a game inside his head, listing different kinds of chocolate. not Ned. At last the two older boys left. The three of them didnt say The centre was a depressing place with lots of classrooms. Willanything for a time. Then Nicky looked at Mark, and Mark listened for the sounds of a party but he couldnt hear anything.looked at Nicky, and finally Mark spoke. Finally he noticed a small piece of paper on a classroom door Marcus, we dont want you with us. with the word SPAT! on it. Oh, said Marcus. Why not? There was only one woman in the room. She was taking Because of them. bottles - of white wine, beer and water - out of a box and Theyre not my problem. Putting them on a table in the centre of the room. All the other Yes, they are, said Mark. We never got into trouble with anyone tables and chairs had been pushed to the back of the room. It was 10 11
  • 8. the most depressing place for a party that Will had ever seen. Oh . . . hes a good little boy, said Will. Very brave. Have I come to the right place? he asked the woman. She To his surprise, he was beginning to feel quite upset. Suzie put had a sharp nose and a bright red face. a hand on his arm. SPAT? Come in. Are you Will? Im Frances. She likes me, Will thought. Great! Will smiled and shook her hand. • Im sorry theres nobody else here yet, she said. A lot of people are late because of problems with babysitters. Some parts of Marcuss life continued normally. He went to his Of course, said Will. He was wrong to come on time, he dads in Cambridge for the weekend and watched a lot of TV. thought. He should pretend to have babysitting problems too. But On the Sunday he and his dad, and Lindsey, his dads girlfriend, then the other members of SPAT began to arrive, all women in went to Lindseys mums house. Lindseys mum lived by the sea, their thirties, and Frances introduced him to each of them. The and they went for a long walk on the beach. most attractive was a tall, blonde, nervous-looking woman. After Marcus liked Lindseys mum. He liked Lindsey too. Even his she came into the room, he stopped looking at anybody else. mum liked Lindsey. Marcus felt better after the weekend in Hello, he said. Im Will. Im new and I dont know anybody. Cambridge. He had a good time with everybody and nobody Hello, Will. Im Suzie. Im old and I know everybody. seemed to think he was weird. He laughed. She laughed. He spent most of the evening with But the day after he got back, he came home from school and her. She talked a lot and he listened. He was very happy to listen found his mum lying on the floor with a coat over her. because he didnt want to talk about Ned. Suzie had been Didnt you go to work today? married to a man called Dan, who had left her the day before she This morning. I was sick this afternoon. gave birth to her daughter Megan. What kind of sick? asked Marcus. Suzie told him about the other women in the room. It was the She didnt reply, and Marcus felt angry. He was only a kid and same story - their husbands had all left them with children to things couldnt continue like this. He was having an awful time at look after. Will began to feel very depressed about being a man. school and an awful time at home, and school and home were How could men behave so badly? almost the only places he knew. So someone was going to have Im sorry, said Suzie at last. I havent asked you anything to help him, and that person had to be his mum. She had to do about yourself. Did your wife leave you? something about it. He was only a kid, and she was his mum, and Well . . . er . . . yes. if he felt bad it was her job to stop him feeling bad. And does she see Ned? What kind of sick? he asked again in a rough voice. Sometimes. Shes not very interested in him. He was She began to cry and Marcus felt frightened. beginning to feel better; he could show her that women could Youve got to stop this. behave badly too. He was acting, yes, but he was doing it well, I cant.just like Robert De Niro. Youve got to. If you cant look after me, then youll have to How does Ned feel about that? asked Suzie. find someone who can. 12 13
  • 9. His mum turned over on her stomach and looked at him. Chapter 3 The Dead Duck DayHow can you say I dont look after you? Because you dont. You make my meals and I could do that. Will wanted to go to the SPAT picnic in Regents Park becauseThe rest of the time, you just cry. Thats . . . thats no good. Thats Suzie was going. But he knew that Suzie would expect Ned tono good to me. be there too, so he had to invent a reason why Ned couldnt go. She cried even more then. Marcus went upstairs and played a He telephoned Suzie on the morning of the picnic and told hercomputer game, but when he came downstairs again, she had got that his ex-wife had taken Ned out.up and was cooking supper. But thats terrible, Will, said Suzie. You cant let her change Youre going to a picnic on Saturday, she said suddenly. your plans like that. A picnic? Where? I know, I know, he said. And shes taken my car too. Can I go In Regents Park. with you to Regents Park? Who with? Yes, of course, replied Suzie. Im bringing a twelve-year-old Suzie. kid too - Marcus, my friend Fionas son. Shes asked me to look Not that SPAT crowd. after him for the day. Yes, that SPAT crowd. All the way to the park Suzie talked about Wills ex-wife. She I hate them. When Marcus and his mum had first moved to was very angry about Paulas behaviour. Had he called her Paula?London, they had gone to a SPAT summer party in someones Will couldnt remember. Things were getting rathergarden. It had been full of horrible little kids, all about ten years complicated, he thought. How much longer could he continueyounger than Marcus. pretending? And how could he ever invite Suzie round to his Are you going? he asked. flat? There were no toys there, and he didnt even have two No. I need a rest. You told me to find someone to look after bedrooms.you. So thats what Im doing. Suzies better at it than I am. They walked through the park to the lake. Suzie was pushing Suzie was Fionas best friend; theyd known each other since her daughter, Megan, in a pushchair, and Marcus was walkingtheir schooldays. She was nice and Marcus liked her a lot. But he beside them. Will thought Marcus was a weird kid. He had a verydidnt want to go to a SPAT picnic. strange haircut and odd clothes. I can stay here. Ill keep out of your way. I can sit in my room I dont even know what you do, said Suzie.all day, playing games. Nothing. He usually invented a job, but he had told enough I want you to get out. Do something normal. Were not doing lies. He had to give Suzie something that was real.each other any good. Oh. Well, what did you do before? Marcus was shocked. What did she mean, they werent doing Nothing.each other any good? She wasnt doing him any good, but what Youve never worked?had he done to her? He couldnt think of anything. He felt like Well, only for a day or two. My dad wrote a famous song, andcrying too. I live from the royalties. 14 15
  • 10. Michael Jackson makes £60 million an hour, said the weird They could see the SPAT crowd of mothers and childrenkid. How much do you make? sitting by the lake in front of them. The mothers were pouring Marcus! said Suzie. So whats this song, Will? juice into cups, and the children were eating sandwiches. Will told them. He hated telling people because the title Will played with the children for most of the afternoon. Hesounded so silly. kept away from the adults sitting on blankets under a tree because Really? Suzie and Marcus both started singing the same part he didnt want to have to answer difficult questions about Ned.of the song. People always did this, and he hated that too. He kept away from Marcus too. Marcus was walking round the But havent you ever wanted to work? asked Suzie. lake, throwing bits of his sandwich at the ducks. Oh, yes, sometimes, but I never seem to do anything about it. Later, Suzie came to talk to him. You miss him, dont you?It was true. Every day for the last eighteen years he had got up in Who? He meant it; he had no idea what she was talkingthe morning thinking about finding a job. But by the evening he about. But then he remembered about Ned. Ill see him later.had lost interest. Whats he like? asked Suzie. He decided to talk to Marcus. If he made friends with Marcus, Oh . . . Nice. Hes a really nice boy. Suzie would think he was a nice guy. Before Suzie could ask more questions, Marcus ran over to So, Marcus, he said, whos your favourite footballer? them. He seemed very nervous and upset. I hate football. I think Ive killed a duck, he said. Right, said Will. Well, whos your favourite singer? Will, Suzie, Marcus and Megan stood on the path by the edge Are you getting these questions out of a book? asked Marcus. of the lake, staring at the ducks dead body in the water. Suzie laughed, and Wills face turned red. What happened, Marcus? Will asked. No, he said. Im just interested. I dont know. I was just throwing a piece of my sandwich at it. OK, said Marcus. Well, its Joni Mitchell. I didnt mean to kill it. Really? said Will in surprise. Does everyone in your school Whats that in the water next to it? Is that the bread youlisten to Joni Mitchell? threw at it? Most people. Yes, said Marcus. He didnt like Will much, so he didnt want Will was confused. He read a lot of modern music magazines, to answer his questions.but none of them had said anything about Joni Mitchells new Thats not a sandwich, thats a loaf, said Will. Im notpopularity. surprised the duck was killed. Marcus turned away, so Will began to talk to Suzie. Perhaps I didnt kill it, said Marcus. Perhaps it died because it Do you often have to look after him? he asked. was ill. Not often. But Fiona, his mum, isnt feeling very well. Nobody said anything. Shes going crazy, said Marcus calmly. Cries all the time. They were all staring so hard at the scene of the crime thatDoesnt go to work. they didnt notice the park-keeper standing next to them. Marcus She isnt crazy. She just needs a rest. felt very frightened. He would be in big trouble now. 16 17
  • 11. One of your ducks has died, said Will. He made it sound like He couldnt speak. He didnt know what to say. He didnt cry the saddest thing hed ever seen. Marcus looked up at him. Maybe either — the situation was much too serious for that, so he just Will wasnt such a bad guy. stood there. But Suzie dropped the car seat and ran over to his I was told it was your boys fault, said the park-keeper. Its a mum and started screaming at her and shaking her. Marcus was crime to kill a duck, you know. confused. Why was Suzie so angry with someone who wasnt Are you suggesting that Marcus killed this duck? Marcus loves very well? ducks, dont you, Marcus? Suzie shouted at Will to call for an ambulance, and told Yes, said Marcus. Theyre my favourite animal. I mean, my Marcus to make some black coffee. His mum was moving now favourite bird. This was rubbish, because he hated all animals, but and making a terrible noise that Marcus had never heard before he thought it helped. and never wanted to hear again. I was told he was throwing enormous loaves at it. Fiona! How could you do this? Suzie screamed. Youve got a No, said Will. He was throwing bread at the ducks body. He kid! How could you do this?wanted to sink it because the sight of a dead bird was upsetting Suddenly Marcus understood that his mum had tried to killmy friends little girl, Megan. herself. He had seen some shocking things, mostly on videos at There was a silence. At last the park-keeper spoke. other peoples houses, but they hadnt frightened him because Well, Ill have to go into the water and get it, he said. they werent real life. This situation with his mum was different Marcus felt much better. He wouldnt have to go to prison. because it was very real. There wasnt anything shocking in the They were walking back to the rest of the SPAT group when room, and he could see that his mum wasnt dead. But it was thesuddenly a strange thing happened. Marcus saw - or thought he most frightening thing hed ever seen, and he knew hed neversaw - his mum. She was standing on the path in front of them forget it.and she was smiling. But when he looked again, she wasnt there. When the ambulance arrived and Fiona was taken to hospital, • the ambulance men didnt want to take Marcus and Megan too. So Suzie went to the hospital with Fiona, and Will drove MarcusUsually when Suzie took Marcus home after a day out, she left and Megan there in Suzies car.him outside his flat and waited until he got inside. But today she When they arrived at the hospital, Fiona had already beenparked the car and lifted Megan out in her car seat. She was taken away.never able to explain why she had done this. Will wasnt invited, Whats happening? asked Will. He was finding the wholebut he followed them in. experience very interesting — almost enjoyable. Marcus put the key in the door of the flat and opened it, and a I dont know. Theyre pumping her stomach or something.new part of his life began, without any warning at all. She was talking a little in the ambulance. She was asking about His mum was half on and half off the sofa. Her face was white, you, Marcus.and there was a pool of sick on the carpet and an empty pill Thats nice of her.bottle beside her. Suzie tried to put her arms round him. Listen, Marcus, she 18 19
  • 12. said. This isnt about you. You k n o w that, dont you? I mean, kitchen, as Suzie had told h i m to do, w h e n he saw a n o t e on theyoure n o t the reason she . . . youre not the reason shes here. kitchen table. He picked it up and sat d o w n . H o w do you k n o w ? He pushed Suzie away and went to get a Dear Marcus,drink from a machine. A big part of me knows that Im doing a wrong, stupid, selfish, W h a t can you tell a kid whose m o t h e r has just tried to kill unkind thing. But unfortunately thats not the part that hasherself? Will asked. He really wanted to know. control of me now. I dont know, said Suzie worriedly. But well have to think of None of this is about you. Ive loved being your mum, always,something. although Ive found it difficult sometimes. And I dont know why T h e y waited in the hospital for a long time. M e g a n went to it isnt enough for me, but it isnt. I just feel very tired, and there doesnt seem to be anything to look forward to.sleep and Marcus ate a lot of sweets and chocolate from the Things will be better for you than they were before. Really. Youmachine. N o n e of t h e m talked m u c h . At last a w o m a n came over can go to your dads, or Suzie has always said shed look after you.to see t h e m — not a nurse or a doctor, but somebody official. Love you, Hello. D i d you c o m e in with Fiona Brewer? Mum Yes. I m her friend Suzie, and this is Will, and this is Fionasson Marcus. Marcus was still sitting at the kitchen table w h e n his m u m came R i g h t . Were keeping Fiona here for the night. Is there back from the hospital w i t h Suzie and Megan. She could seesomewhere Marcus could go? immediately w h a t hed found. H e can stay w i t h me tonight, said Suzie. I m sorry, Marcus. Id forgotten about the note. She put M e g a n back into the car seat and they made their way You forgot? You forgot you wrote a letter about killingout to the car park. yourself? Ill see you soon, said Will. Ill call you. Well, I didnt think Id ever have to r e m e m b e r it, did I? She I h o p e things are OK with N e d and Paula, Suzie said. laughed at that. She actually laughed. T h a t was his mother. W h e n For a m o m e n t Will didnt k n o w w h o she meant. N e d and she wasnt crying at breakfast, she was laughing about killingPaula, N e d and Paula . . . ? Ah, yes — his ex-wife and son. herself. O h , itll be fine. Thanks. He said goodbye and w e n t to find a It was stupid of me to leave Marcus here before I w e n t to gettaxi. It had been a very interesting experience, but he wouldnt you, said Suzie. I wasnt thinking.want to repeat it every night. Suzie, n o n e of this is your fault. But maybe Marcus and I ought to have a little talk alone. O f course, said Suzie. She gave Marcus a kiss. Shes fine, she Chapter 4 Marcuss Plan whispered, loud e n o u g h for his m u m to hear. D o n t w o r r y about her.T h e next day Suzie t o o k Marcus h o m e and left h i m while shewent to get Fiona from the hospital. He was just tidying the W h e n Suzie had gone, Fiona made tea and sat d o w n at the table with Marcus. 20 21
  • 13. Are you angry with me? Not too bad, I think. She hasnt gone back to work, but What do you think? Marcus went to school today. Because of the letter? Listen, do you think theres any way I could help? Perhaps I Because of the letter, because of what you did, everything. could take Marcus out? I can understand that. I dont feel the same as I did on Would you like to? said Suzie. I could ask Fiona.Saturday, if thats any help. Thanks, said Will. And it would be nice to see you and So your problems have all just gone away? Megan again soon. No, but . . . at the moment I feel better. Yes, said Suzie. Im looking forward to meeting Ned. At the moments no good to me, said Marcus. I can see that Will bought Time Out, a magazine with information aboutyoure better at the moment. Youve just made tea. But what events in London. He was looking for something that a twelve-happens when I go back to school? I cant be here to watch you year-old boy might like to do on a Saturday. He tried toall the time. remember what he liked doing at Marcuss age, but he couldnt. No, I know. But weve got to look after each other. Then the telephone rang. Marcus was no longer interested in what his mum said; the Hi, Will. Its Marcus.important thing was what she did, or what she was going to do. Hi, Marcus.She wasnt going to try and kill herself again today. Shed drink Suzie said you want to take me out for the day on Saturday.her tea, and tonight theyd watch TV, and it would feel like the Ill come if my mum can come too.beginning of a different, better time. But that time wouldnt last What?for ever. Marcus knew that, for him, things would never be the Ill come if my mum can come too. And she hasnt got anysame again. money, so well either have to go somewhere cheap, or youll Two people in a family werent enough. Hed always thought have to pay for us.that two was a good number, and that hed hate to live in a family Well . . . wouldnt it be better with just you and me? Yourof three or four or five. But now he could see that if there were mum could stay at home and have a rest.lots of people in a family, and one of them died, you wouldnt be Suddenly Will remembered last Saturday. They had left Fionaleft on your own. But how could he make his family grow? He at home to rest, and she had tried to kill herself.was going to have to find a way. Im sorry, Marcus, he said quickly. I wasnt thinking. Of • course your mum can come too. That would be great. We havent got a car. Youll have to bring yours. And you canWill kept thinking about Marcus and Fiona. There wasnt much bring your little boy if you like.else happening in his life, so he had a lot of time to think about He laughed. Thanks.them. He had a strange thought: perhaps he should try and help Thats OK, said Marcus generously.them. He telephoned Suzie. Hell be with his mum again on Saturday. I was wondering how Marcus and Fiona are, he said. Fine. Come round at about half past twelve. You remember 22 23
  • 14. where we live. Flat 2, 31 Craysfield Road, Islington, London Will looked shocked, but she just laughed. Marcus hated it N1 2SR when she made jokes to people who didnt know her well. Right, said Will. See you then. Will took them to a restaurant called Twenty-Eight. After • they had ordered their food, Marcus hoped that Will and his mum would start talking. But they seemed to be finding itMarcus wasnt really worried about leaving his mum. She was still difficult to start a conversation, so he had to help them.in a strange, calm mood. But he wanted her to come so that she Dont just sit there, he said. Talk to each other.and Will could meet, and after that, he thought, it should be easy. Both Will and Fiona looked at him.His mum was pretty, and Will seemed quite rich. They could go What do you want us to talk about? asked Will.and live with him and his kid, and then there would be four of Anything. Politics. Films. Murders. I dont care.them, and four was twice as good as two. Then if one of them Im not sure thats how conversation happens, said hisdied, it wouldnt matter so much. mother. Marcus wasnt even sure whether he liked Will or not, but it Marcus started asking questions to make them talk, but hedidnt matter. He could see that Will wasnt bad, or drunk, or wasnt very successful.violent, so he would be OK. And Marcus knew a little about Leave us alone, Marcus. Youre making it more difficult, notWill. One day on his way home from school, he had seen Will easier, said Fiona. Well start talking soon.out shopping and had followed him home like a private Then Will asked questions about Marcuss dad, and soon theydetective. were talking about relationships. They were talking so much that He hadnt really found out much about him except where he they didnt notice when the food arrived. Marcus ate his lunchlived. But Will seemed to live alone - no girlfriend, no wife, no happily. Would they move into Wills place, he wondered, or buylittle boy. Perhaps the little boy was with his girlfriend at home? somewhere new?But if Will had a girlfriend, why was he trying to get friendlywith Suzie? • When Will arrived on Saturday, his mum was looking good, Will knew that Fiona wasnt his type of woman. She didnt look Marcus thought. She was wearing her best trousers and a hairy the way he wanted women to look. He didnt think looks werejumper, and she was wearing make-up for the first time since the important to her at all. Why didnt she get a good haircut andhospital, and a pair of brightly coloured earrings from wear nice clothes? And she was just too strange. He could seeZimbabwe. now why Marcus was so weird. She believed in things that Will Thanks for everything you did last weekend, she said. Im didnt care about, like being a vegetarian.very grateful. Will still wanted to help them. One evening he was invited to It was a pleasure. I hope youre feeling . . . I hope youve . . . supper at their flat. He didnt like the food very much - something My stomachs fine. I suppose I must still be a bit crazy though. vegetarian with peas and rice and tinned tomatoes — but he quiteThat sort of thing doesnt get better quickly, does it? enjoyed the conversation. Fiona told him about her job as a music 24 25
  • 15. teacher and they talked about his dads song. But later Fiona sat I followed you here once.down at the piano and started to sing. Why dont you just go home, Marcus? She wasnt a bad singer, but Will was very embarrassed. She All right. But Im going to tell my mum.sang old pop songs from the sixties, and she sang them with deep Will couldnt think of any explanation to give Marcus exceptfeeling; she even closed her eyes. Then Marcus began to sing too, the truth — that he had invented a child so he could join a singlein the same way, and they made Will sing with them. It was awful. parents group and meet women. And the truth sounded much Will could see that hed made a big mistake about Marcus and worse than he had ever intended.Fiona. He couldnt do anything to help people like them. They Listen, Will, said Marcus. I wont say anything to my mum ifwere too weird and they felt too deeply about things. Will didnt you go out with her.feel deeply about anything. He couldnt imagine wanting to kill Why do you want your mum to go out with someone like me?himself. He just wanted to live a long life without any problems. I dont think youre too bad. I mean, you told lies, but you Fiona called Will and left a message on his answer machine, seem OK. Shes sad, and I think shed like a boyfriend.but he didnt call her back. He was trying to return to his old life. Marcus, I cant go out with someone just because you wantHe went shopping for CDs and clothes, he played a bit of tennis, me to. I have to like the person too.he went to the pub and to see films with friends. Then, one Whats wrong with her?afternoon, the doorbell rang. It was Marcus. Nothings wrong with her, but . . . Ive come to see you, he said. You want to go out with Suzie, dont you? Oh. Right. Come in. I dont want to talk about this with you. Marcus marched into the sitting room, sat down on the sofa I thought so.and looked round. You havent got a kid, have you? I didnt say anything. I just said . . . Listen, I really dont want Well . . . began Will. to talk about this with you. Go home. Marcus got up and walked around the flat. Wheres your OK, said Marcus. But Ill be back.toilet? he asked. When Will had joined SPAT, hed imagined entering the Its just down the hall. world of single mothers and their sweet children. He hadnt When Marcus was gone, Will tried to think what he could say imagined Marcus, and he hadnt expected anyone to break intoabout Ned, but he couldnt think of anything. his world. He was one of lifes visitors; he didnt want to be Youve only got one bedroom, said Marcus when he got visited.back. Youve got no childrens toys in the bathroom, there are notoys in here . . . You havent even got any photos of him. Is that your business? Chapter 5 N e w Trainers No. But youve been lying to me, and my mum, and mymums friend. Marcus knew that he couldnt make Will go out with his mum if Who told you where I live? Will didnt want to. But he knew Wills secret now, so perhaps he 26 27
  • 16. could make him do something else. He started going round to glasses. And my singing. Sometimes . . . I sing without noticing.Wills flat after school. Will laughed. Its not funny. The first time, Will wasnt very pleased to see him. He stood Im sorry. But you could do something about your hair. Youin the doorway and didnt invite Marcus in. could have it cut in the way you want it. What? This is how I want it. I just thought Id come round. What are you doing? Why do you want your hair like that? Watching Countdown! Because thats how it grows, and I hate going to the Marcus knew about Countdown — the most boring programme hairdresser.in the history of television. But he wanted to get inside Wills I can see that. How often do you go?flat. Never. My mum cuts it. I could watch it with you if you want. I really like it. Your mum? How old are you? Twelve? Youre old enough to Will looked at him for a time. All right. Come in. get your hair cut yourself. You could get married in four years There were lots of interesting things in Wills flat — hundreds time. Will you let your mum cut your hair then?of CDs, records and cassettes. There were pictures from films on Marcus didnt think hed be married in four years time, but hethe wall, and black and white photos of people with musical understood what Will was telling him and knew that Will wasinstruments. right. But there was another way of looking at the situation. If his Who are these people? And why are they on your wall? mum was going to cut his hair in four years time, then she would Theyre musicians. And theyre on my wall because I like still be alive.their music and theyre cool. Marcus visited Will a lot that autumn, and by about the third Why are they cool? or fourth visit he felt that Will was getting used to him. They I dont know. Because they took drugs and died, probably. didnt talk about much at first, but one day Will said, Hows the Marcus thought he wouldnt want pictures on his wall of situation at home? for no reason that Marcus could understand.people who took drugs and died. Hed want to forget all about You mean my mum?that kind of thing, not look at it every day of his life. Yes. Will made tea in the kitchen. Then they went back into the Shes all right, thanks.living room and sat down on the sofa. Marcus had never talked about it, and hed never said how he Do you like school? Will asked. felt. But what he felt, all the time, every day, was a horrible fear. No. I hate it. This was the main reason why he came round to Wills after Why? Do the other kids bully you? school. Every time he climbed the stairs at home he remembered Marcus looked at him. How did he know that? the Dead Duck Day. When he saw his mum watching the news Not really. Just a couple of kids. or eating or preparing work on the dining table, he wanted to What do they do to you? cry, or be sick or something. But he couldnt talk about it. Nothing really. Just, you know, say things about my hair and Are you still worried about her? 28 29
  • 17. A bit, when I think about it. Marcus, does this happen often? How often do you think about it? Well, theyve never thrown sweets at me before. I dont know. He thought about it all the time, all the time, all Im not talking about the sweets. Im talking about older kids the time. Could he say that to Will? He didnt know. He couldnt bullying you. say it to his mum, or to his dad, or to Suzie. They would all be Oh, yes. Not those two too worried about him. He just wanted a promise from someone, No, OK, not those two. But others like them. anyone, that it wouldnt happen again, ever, and no one could do Yes. Lots. that. Right. Thats what Ive been trying to find out. Your problem Will was wishing that he hadnt asked Marcus about Fiona, is, Marcus, that you look different from other kids. Thats why because it was clear that the boy was very upset. Will wasnt used they notice you. You need to look more like them. You need the to coping with people with real-life problems. He liked watching same clothes and haircut and glasses as everyone else. You can be peoples problems on TV, but hed never had anyone with as weird as you want on the inside. Just do something about the problems on his sofa before. outside. Sometimes they managed conversations about other things, Will took Marcus shopping in Holloway Road and boughtlike Marcuss dad. him a pair of expensive Adidas trainers. Marcus thought they Do you see your dad often? were cool, and Will was pleased. He couldnt remember feeling as Quite often. Some weekends. Hes got a girlfriend called good as this before. He had made an unhappy boy happy, andLindsey. Shes nice. there hadnt been any advantage in it for him at all. He didnt Would you like to see him more than you do? even want to sleep with the boys mother. No. But the next day Marcuss new trainers were stolen. He came Well, thats all right then. home from school wearing only a pair of black socks. The next week, while Will was watching Countdown as usual, Where are your shoes? Fiona screamed. She hadnt noticedhe was interrupted by a long, urgent ring on the doorbell. He got that he had been wearing new trainers.up off the sofa and opened the door. Marcus was standing on the Stolen.doorstep, and two ugly-looking boys were throwing hard sweets Stolen? Why would anyone want to steal your shoes?at him. Some sweets hit Will. Because . . . He was going to have to tell her the truth, What do you think youre doing? He couldnt remember the although he knew the truth would lead to a lot of questions.last time he had been so angry. Because they were nice ones. They were new Adidas trainers. The boys ran away and Will went back into the flat. Marcus Will bought them for me.was sitting on the sofa watching Countdown. Will who? Will, the guy who took us to lunch? Who were they? Yes. The guy from SPAT. Hes become my friend. I dont know their names, said Marcus, his eyes on the TV Hes become your friend?Theyre in the class two years above me at school. Marcus was right — his mum had lots of questions, but she 30 31
  • 18. asked them in a very boring way. She just repeated the last thing I know hes taking some time to get used to his new school, he said, made it into a question and shouted. but . . . I go round to his flat after school. Will laughed. Oh, yes. And after a couple of weeks hell be YOU G O R O U N D T O HIS FLAT A F T E R S C H O O L ? OK? When theyve stopped stealing his shoes and following him Well, you see, he doesnt really have a kid. home from school, everything will be great. H E D O E S N T REALLY HAVE A KID? That was wrong. They were all mad. I dont think so, said When the questions had finished, he was in a lot of trouble, Marcus. Its going to take more than a couple of weeks.although probably not as much trouble as Will. Marcus put his Its OK, I know, said Will. I was joking.old shoes back on, and then he and his mother went straight to Marcus didnt think there was much to joke about in theWills flat. Will opened the door and Fiona immediately started situation. But he was very pleased that Will understood what wasshouting at him about SPAT and his imaginary son. At first Will happening to him at school. Hed only known Will for a shortlooked embarrassed — he had no answers to her questions, so he time, and hed known his mother all his life. So why could Willstood there staring at the floor. But as it continued, he started to understand, and his mother couldnt? But now his motherget angry too. understood too, because Will had told her. Why do you invite twelve-year-old boys round to tea-parties Youre not going to Wills again, Fiona said to Marcus on thein your flat after school? asked Fiona. bus on the way home. If youve got anything to say, you say it to Will looked at her. Are you suggesting what I think youre me. If you need new clothes, Ill get them.suggesting? He went red in the face and started shouting very But you dont know what I need. I dont know what I need.loudly. Your son invites himself round here. Sometimes hes Only Will knows. He knows what kids wear.followed by other kids who attack him. I could leave him We dont need that kind of person. Were doing all right ouroutside, but I let him in for his own safety. I wont do it again. way. Marcus, Ive been your mother for twelve years. I do knowNow, if youve finished, you can both get out of here. what Im doing. I havent finished yet, actually. Why did you buy him a pair of Marcus didnt think either of them was doing all right. Heexpensive trainers? wondered if his mother had a kind of plan for him. In the next Because . . . because look at him. few days he began to notice the way she talked to him. He was Whats wrong with him? interested in everything she said about what he should watch on Will looked at her. You really dont know, do you? Marcus is TV or listen to or read or eat.being eaten alive at school by the other kids. He gets bullied She had always said it was important to talk about things, andevery day. that she wanted him to think for himself. They had often Marcus is doing fine, his mother said. discussed what was bad about fashion and modern pop music Marcus couldnt believe shed said that. He wasnt doing fine; and computer games. But if she didnt like what he said, shehis mum was being blind and stupid and crazy. argued with him until he agreed with her. But he hadnt agreed, Youre joking, said Will. really; hed just lost the argument. 32 33
  • 19. Ive been thinking for myself, he said,and I want to go round sleep with her. But conversations with her were never dull. to Wills flat after school. Ive always been worried about Marcus not having a father No. Hes a rich guy who doesnt work, who tells lies, and around, said Fiona. But hes always told me it didnt matter. who . . . Then, when I said I didnt want him to see you, he said he He understands about school. He bought me those trainers. needed a father. He knows things. He was getting annoyed. Im thinking for He said that because he wanted to win the argument. Never myself and . . . it doesnt work. You always win. trust a human male when he talks about his feelings. Marcus, its not enough to tell me youre thinking for Really? Well, maybe its best if he doesnt see you. yourself. Youve got to show me too. Give me a good reason why What do you want me to do if he rings the doorbell? you want to go round to Wills. Dont let him in. Marcus gave her a reason. It wasnt the right reason, and he felt Right. bad saying it because it made her cry. But it was a good reason Marcus was waiting for Fiona at home. He didnt like the idea and he won the argument. of his mum talking to Will because hed stopped believing that Because I need a father. he and his mum and Will and Ned were going to live together in Wills flat. Ned didnt exist, and Will and Fiona didnt like each other very much. Chapter 6 Ellie When Fiona came back, he looked at her face to see if she was angry or depressed, but she seemed OK.Will hadnt seen Marcus for a week and hadnt thought about Did you have a good time?him much. He preferred watching Countdown alone anyway. It was OK. But youre not going round there again. Hes notThen Fiona phoned. going to answer the door. He told me. Marcus seems to think he needs an adult male in his life. Like Marcus wasnt worried. He knew how loudly Wills doorbella father. He talked about you. rang inside the flat, and he knew he could ring it for a very long Listen, Fiona, I definitely dont need a son in my life. Why time.doesnt he use his own father as a father? His father lives in Cambridge. Its a long way You told me not to see Marcus again. Fine. I told you I didnt Fiona had made a complaint to the school about Marcuss newwant to see Marcus again. And now youre telling me . . . I dont trainers being stolen, so he had to go and see the head teacher,understand. Mrs Morrison. He was waiting outside her office when a girl Listen, said Fiona. Can we meet tomorrow night for a drink called Ellie McCrae came and sat down next to him. Ellie wasto discuss all this? fifteen and she was famous in the school. She wore a lot of black They met in a quiet pub. Will had never been alone with Fiona eye make-up and cut her own hair, and she was always in trouble,before. He didnt find her attractive and he certainly didnt want to usually for something serious. 34 35
  • 20. They sat in silence for a time, then Marcus thought hed try to Maybe you havent tried hard enough. talk to Ellie. His mum was always saying he should talk to people Marcus stood up to go. Hed had enough. She wasnt going to at school. be helpful because she didnt like him. Nobody at this school Hello, Ellie. liked him and he didnt understand why. How does a little boy like you know my name? Sit down, Marcus. I havent finished with you. Youre famous. He knew this was a mistake immediately. But Ive finished with you. What am I famous for? He had never been rude to a teacher before and he was very Dont know. surprised at himself. He walked out of Mrs Morrisons office, and Yes, you do. Im famous because Im always in trouble. Do out of the school. you know what Im in trouble for this time? Its this sweatshirt. Marcus was walking slowly along Upper Street when Will saw They dont want me to wear it, and I dont want to take it off, so him. Will was driving back from the supermarket, listening to theres going to be an argument. loud music in his car. What was Marcus doing out of school at Marcus looked at Ellies sweatshirt. It had a picture on it of a two oclock in the afternoon, he wondered. guy with long blond hair, big eyes and half a beard. At exactly 4.15 that afternoon, right in the middle of Whos that? he asked politely. Countdown, Marcus rang his doorbell. At first Will didnt answer, Dont you know? Its Kirk OBane. but Marcus rang and rang. Will turned off the TV and put on Oh, yes. Marcus had never heard of Kirk OBane, but that some music by the pop group Nirvana, hoping that Marcuswasnt surprising — hed never heard of anybody. What does he would go away. But Marcus didnt stop ringing the bell, so finallydo? - Will opened the door and let him in. Hes a footballer. He plays for Manchester United. You shouldnt be here. Does he? Marcus thought that the guy on Ellies sweatshirt I came to ask you something. I want you to take me and alooked more like a singer than a footballer. Footballers werent friend to a football match.sad, usually, and this man looked sad. You dont like football. Just then Mrs Morrisons door opened and two young kids I do now, said Marcus. I like Manchester United. And I like acame out. Come in, Marcus, said Mrs Morrison. player called Kirk OBane. Hes got long blond hair and a beard. Marcuss talk with Mrs Morrison didnt go very well. She Marcus, there isnt a player called OBane who plays forasked him about the boys who stole his trainers and he said he Manchester United. I know all the players and theres nobodydidnt know who they were. This wasnt true, of course, but he with long blond hair and a beard. There was a player calleddidnt want any more trouble from them. OKane who played for Nottingham about twenty-five years Marcus, if the other kids are bullying you, why dont you just ago. What lessons did you have this afternoon?keep out of their way? Marcus looked at him, trying to work out why he was asking Marcus was annoyed. Did she think he was stupid? Did she the question. History, and then . . . umm . . . think he went looking for trouble? I have tried, he said. Marcus, I saw you this afternoon. 36 37
  • 21. What, in school? noticed that he had been absent the afternoon before, so he Well, I didnt see you in school, did I? Because you werent didnt get into trouble. In the morning break he found Ellie and a there. I drove past you on Upper Street. friend from her class, Zoe, by the drinks machine. Ellie was It was Mrs Morrisons fault. The head teacher. She told me to wearing her Kurt Cobain sweatshirt. keep out of their way — the boys who stole my trainers. Marcus Kurt Cobain doesnt play for Manchester United, he told her. began to get upset, and to speak more quickly. They followed He plays . . . he sings ... for Nirvana. A friend of mine has got me! How can I keep out of their way if they follow me? one of their CDs. Nevermind. All right, Marcus, calm down. Did you tell her that? Thanks for telling me, said Ellie and laughed. What years Of course. But she didnt take any notice. your friend in? I didnt think anyone in this school liked Nirvana. Right. So go home and tell your mum this. Its no good And what do you think of them? telling me. Hes left school. Hes quite old. And I dont know what I Im not telling her. Shes got enough problems without me. think of Nirvana. Will had played him some of their music the Why cant you go and see her? Mrs Morrison. evening before. It had been very noisy with a lot of shouting, but Youre joking. Listen, Marcus. Im not your father, or your there had been some quiet bits too. He didnt think he would uncle, or any member of your family. No head teacher is going to ever like it as much as Joni Mitchell or Mozart, but he could take any notice of what I say. Youve got to stop thinking I know understand why Ellie might like it. the answer to anything, because I dont. Its a bit noisy, said Marcus, but the picture on the cover is You know about things. You knew about the trainers. And very interesting. It was a picture of a baby, swimming after ayou know about Kirk OBane. The footballer. dollar note. Will had said something about the picture, but he Suddenly Will realized who Marcus was talking about. Its not couldnt remember what it was. I think the cover has a meaning.Kirk OBane, you fool, its Kurt Cobain. The singer with Nirvana. Something about society. I thought he must be a singer, said Marcus. I didnt know Ellie and Zoe looked at each other and laughed.about him, and my mum wouldnt either, but you did. You see, Youre very funny, said Zoe. Who are you?you know things. You can help. Marcus. It was then, for the first time, that Will understood the kind of Cool name, said Zoe, and they laughed again. See youhelp that Marcus needed. Fiona had given him the idea that around, Marcus.Marcus needed an adult male in his life, but that was wrong. It was the longest conversation hed had with anyone at schoolMarcus needed help to be a kid. And, unfortunately for Will, that for weeks. Later, he told Will about Ellie.was exactly the kind of help that he could give. Will couldnt tell Can I invite her round to your flat? he asked.Marcus how to grow up, or how to cope with a mother who Im not sure shed come, Marcus. How old is she? Fifteen? Imwanted to kill herself. But he could certainly tell him that KurtCobain wasnt a footballer. not sure fifteen-year-old girls want to go around with twelve- year-old boys. She probably has a 25-year-old boyfriend who Marcus went back to school the following day. Nobody had rides a Harley Davidson. 38 39
  • 22. Marcus hadnt thought of that. I dont want to go out with Marcus felt very proud as he walked through the school her. She wouldnt be interested in someone like me. But we can with Ellie and Zoe. The other kids, and even the teachers, come round here and listen to your Nirvana CDs, cant we? stared at them in surprise. When they got to Ellies classroom, Shes probably heard them already. Ellie made him stand outside. He could hear her shouting to Marcus was getting annoyed with Will. Why didnt he want the other kids. him to make friends? OK, forget it then. OK, listen, everybody. I want you to meet Marcus. Hes the Im sorry, Marcus. Im glad you spoke to Ellie today. But a only other person in the whole school who likes Kurt Cobain. two-minute conversation with someone whos laughing at Come in, Marcus. you . . . Im not sure this relationship is going to last. He walked in, and everybody laughed when they saw him. Marcus wasnt listening. Ellie and her friend had said he was Ellie and Zoe stood beside him and Marcus felt great. funny, and hed made them laugh. That had made him feel good, and he knew he could make them laugh again. The next day he saw them again by the drinks machine. Chapter 7 Christmas at Fionas Ellie, how old is your boyfriend? The girls laughed andMarcus felt happy. My friend Will said hes probably about Will was feeling depressed. It was only 19 November, but hetwenty-five and rides a Harley Davidson. had heard his dads Christmas song in a supermarket that Hes a hundred and two, said Ellie. How olds your girlfriend? morning.She probably wants to kill me, doesnt she? Will hated Christmas: people knocked on his door, singing the I havent got one, said Marcus, and the girls laughed again. song he hated more than any other song in the world, andThey were laughing all the time now. expected him to give them money. His dad had hated Christmas Ellie and Zoe came looking for Marcus at lunchtime. He was too, but for a different reason: it reminded him of how badly heat his desk eating sandwiches when they came into his classroom, had failed in his life. His famous Christmas song was the onlycalling his name. Almost every kid in the room stopped what successful song he had ever written. At Christmas, Wills dad hadthey were doing and turned round. You could see what they always got depressed and angry and drunk a lot, so it had neverwere thinking: Ellie and Marcus? Even Nicky and Mark, who been a very happy time for Will.hadnt spoken to him for weeks, looked up from their Gameboy. Since his parents had died, Will had usually spent the holiday What are you all staring at? Marcus is our friend, arent you, with friends, or girlfriends families, but this year he had no plans.Marcus? Lets go to our classroom. You dont want to stay here There was no girlfriend, and so there were no girlfriends parents.with these boring little kids, do you? He decided that he would sit at home and watch old films on TV Some of the kids turned red, but nobody said anything. and get drunk, but that didnt seem very Christmassy.Nobody wanted to argue with Ellie. They watched as Marcus He thought about spending Christmas Day with a family —walked from his desk to where Ellie and Zoe were standing. not his family, because he didnt have one, but a family. HeWhen he got there, Ellie gave him a kiss. definitely didnt want to spend Christmas with Marcus and 40 41
  • 23. Fiona, though — eating vegetarian food, not watching TV, singing Oh, Lindsey said. She and her mum and Clive looked at Will Christmas songs with his eyes closed. But the next afternoon with interest, but he just smiled. Marcus came round and invited Will to spend Christmas with Clive gave Marcus some computer games and CDs and them sweatshirts. But Fionas presents to Marcus werent very Ummm, said Will. Thats . . . very kind of you. interesting at all, Will thought — books, and a hairy jumper, and But youre coming? some piano music. But Marcus was really pleased with them, and I dont know. for the first time Will understood that Marcus was a good kid. Why not? He didnt need expensive presents to be happy. Because They had lunch and then watched TV. Marcus was happy and Dont you want to come? Will felt very relaxed. But later in the afternoon Suzie arrived Yes, of course I do, b u t . . . what about your mum? with Megan. Fiona had told her that Will didnt really have a Shell be there too. two-year-old son called Ned, but Will hadnt seen Suzie since Yes, I know. But she wouldnt want me there. then and now he felt really embarrassed and ashamed. He stood Ive already spoken to her about it. I said I wanted to invite a up, and then he sat down again, and then he stood up again and friend, and she said OK. She guessed it was you. I havent got any said he had to go. other friends. Dont be so silly, Will, said Fiona. All right, Will said at last. Id love to spend Christmas with So Will sat down again and Suzie sat next to him, but sheyou, Marcus. refused to speak to him. When he arrived at Marcus and Fionas flat on Christmas Day, Megan went over to the Christmas tree and Fiona handed herhe was pleased to find other people there too. There was a present. This is for you, Megan, she said.Marcuss dad Clive, and his girlfriend Lindsey, and his girlfriends Megan stood holding her present and looked around themum, all sitting in a line on the sofa. Will was very surprised that room. Then she walked over to Will and tried to give it to him.Fiona and Clive were still friendly although their relationship had Will didnt move.finished some time ago. The people in SPAT hadnt been like Well, take it from her, you fool, said Suzie.that about their broken relationships — they had been angry and Its not my present, said Will, but Megan continued to hold itunhappy. out until he reached for it. Now what? he said. Will gave Marcus a CD of Nevermind and a Kurt Cobain Open it with her, said Suzie.T-shirt, and Marcus gave Will a book of Countdown quizzes. Will helped Megan open the present. It was a plastic musicalFiona gave Will The Single Parents Guide as a joke. toy. They both looked at it. Whats the joke? asked Lindsey. Now play with her, Suzie said angrily. Its easy to see that you Nothing, said Will quickly. dont know anything about kids. But you should learn. It would Will pretended to have a kid so he could join a single parents be useful to you in your kind of work.group, Marcus told her. What is your kind of work? asked Lindsey politely. 42 43
  • 24. He doesnt do anything, Marcus said. His dad wrote a famous Chapter 8 Falling song and he earns a million pounds a minute. He pretends he has a child so he can join single parents Will met a woman called Rachel at a party on New Years Eve,* groups and meet single mothers, said Suzie. and fell in love with her. Hed never wanted to fall in love Yes, but he doesnt get paid for that, said Marcus. because hed always thought of it as a very unpleasant experience. Will stood up again, but this time he didnt sit down. Thanks He had watched it happen to friends, and had seen them lose for the lunch, he said. Im going home now. weight and sleep and become unhappy. He was sure that Rachel Suzie has a right to be angry with you, Fiona said. was going to make him very unhappy, because he didnt think Yes, and now I have a right to go home. she would find him interesting. But I dont want him to go yet, said Marcus suddenly. Hes Rachel was beautiful and intelligent and she did drawings for my friend. I invited him. I should be able to tell him when he childrens books. She sat down next to Will at dinner and asked goes home. Why is everyone being so horrible to him? He only him questions, but he couldnt think of anything to say. Most pretended to have a kid for a couple of weeks. Thats nothing. people at the party worked in television, or had other interesting Kids at school do worse than that every day. jobs, but Will didnt have a job and he hadnt done anything Yes, but Will isnt a kid, said Suzie. interesting with his life. He watched Countdown and drove Yes, but hes behaved better since then. He never wanted me around listening to Nirvana.round his flat every day. I just went. And he bought me those The most interesting thing about his life, Will suddenlyshoes and he listens when I say Im having a bad time at school. realized, was Marcus. He could see that Rachel was quicklyAnd he knew who Kirk OBane was. losing interest in him. She had begun to talk to the person sitting Kurt Cobain, said Will. on her other side and they were having a conversation about pop And you all do wrong things too sometimes, said Marcus. I music. Rachel was saying that to her Nirvana sounded just likemean . . . He had to be careful here. He knew he couldnt say the sixties group Led Zeppelin.anything about the hospital or Fiona. I mean, how did I first I know a twelve-year-old boy who would kill you for sayingbecome friends with Will? that, said Will. It wasnt true, of course. Marcus had only just You threw a great big loaf of bread at a ducks head and killed started listening to Nirvana, and he didnt know anything aboutit, said Will. Led Zeppelin. But Rachel was interested. Suzie and Fiona started laughing. So do I, she said. Maybe they should meet. Whats yours Is that true, Marcus? asked his father. called? There was something wrong with it, Marcus said. I think it Hes not mine exactly, Will thought. Marcus.was going to die anyway. Mines Ali. Suzie and Fiona laughed even more. The three people on the Right.sofa looked shocked. Will sat down again. * New Years Eve: 31 December; the day before New Years Day 44 45
  • 25. And is Marcuss mother here tonight? What do you mean, youre really interested in her? Why is Ummm . . . Will looked up and down the table. No. It she so interesting? wasnt a lie! Fiona wasnt there. I fancy this woman, Marcus. I want to go out with her. I want Youre not spending New Years Eve with her? her to be my girlfriend. No. We . . . er . . . dont live together. This wasnt a lie either. He At last Marcus turned away from the video machine and didnt live with Fiona, he had never lived with Fiona and he never looked at Will, his eyes shining. Really? intended to live with her in the future. How about Alis dad? Yes, really. Will wanted Rachel to be his wife, his lover, the He lives in America. centre of his world. Right. How do you know you want her to be your girlfriend? Rachel started to talk about Alis father and Will listened. He I dont know. I just feel it. was very good at listening when a woman told him how badly Oh, said Marcus. Well, I feel the same about Ellie. I want her her ex-husband had behaved. He had heard the same story many to be my girlfriend. times from the women in SPAT. You want Ellie to be your girlfriend? Not just a friend? At midnight Will and Rachel kissed, and at half-past twelve, Well, said Marcus, I want to be with her all the time. And Ijust before Rachel left, they arranged for Marcus and Ali to meet want to tell her things before I tell anyone, even you or mum. and compare computer games and CDs. And I dont want her to have another boyfriend. Now Will had a problem. He had allowed Rachel to believe So Marcus agreed to help Will. Will called Rachel and Rachelthat he had a twelve-year-old son because it made him more invited them to lunch the following Saturday. Marcus cameinteresting. He was going to have to talk to Marcus, and he knew round to Wills flat just after midday. He was wearing the hairythe conversation would be difficult. So he took Marcus out to a juniper that he got from Fiona for Christmas and a pair of brightplace full of video machines. yellow trousers. Will looked cool: he was wearing his favourite I want you to pretend to be my son, he said. shirt and a black leather jacket. But why? asked Marcus. I dont understand. Listen, said Marcus in the car on the way over to Rachels Because Ive met a woman who thinks youre my son. place. If youre my dad, you should know some things about me. Why dont you tell her Im not your son? No. Whens my birthday? I dont know. W h y not? Ill tell her if you like. I dont mind. August the nineteenth. And whats my favourite food? Thats very kind of you, Marcus, but it wouldnt help. Tell me. Marcus was busy playing one of the video games. Why not? Pizza. And where did I go on my first trip abroad?I dont understand. France. Marcus, listen. Im really interested in this woman. I let her No, Spain. And whos my mum?believe you were my son because thats the only reason she might What? The question was such an important one that Willbe interested in me. couldnt think what to say. Your mums your mum. 46 47
  • 26. So you were married to my mum and then you separated. If your dad goes out with my mum, youre dead. Are you worried about that? Am I? Oh, hes all right, said Marcus. The questions seemed so silly that both Marcus and Will Ali stared at him. I dont care if hes all right. I dont want him began to laugh. They laughed and laughed, and couldnt stop. going out with my mum. So I dont want to see you or him Rachel lived in a tall, thin house full of books and old round here ever again, OK? furniture and photographs. It had a warm, welcoming feel, very Can I use the computer? What games have you got? Marcus different from Wills cool modern flat. said, trying to change the subject. Come in, both of you, Rachel said. Come and meet Ali. She Are you listening to me? shouted up the stairs: Ali! No reply. ALI! Still no reply. She Yes, but . . . Im not sure theres very much I can do at the looked at Will. Hes got his headphones on. Shall we go up? moment. Weve come for lunch, and Will . . . thats my dad, but I They went upstairs. Alis bedroom was typical of a twelve- call him Will . . . hes talking to your mum downstairs and hes year-old boy, with large pictures of singers and sexy actresses on really keen on her, and who knows? She might be keen on him, the wall. Ali was bent over his computer with his headphones so . . . on, and didnt hear them come in. His mother touched him on SHES N O T K E E N ON H I M ! Ali suddenly shouted. the shoulder and he jumped. SHES ONLY K E E N O N ME! Oh, hi. Sorry. Ali stood up and Will immediately saw that Ali Marcus was beginning to realize that Ali was crazy, and heand Marcus were very different. Ali was cool, with fashionable wasnt sure what to do about it. He thought it would beboots and trousers, long hair and even an earring. His face dangerous to stay in Alis room. He could go downstairs and joinseemed to darken when he saw Marcuss yellow trousers and Will and Rachel, but he would have to explain that Ali washairy jumper. crazy, and that would be really embarrassing. He decided to run Marcus — Ali, Ali — Marcus, said Rachel. Do you guys want downstairs and out of the front door, and get a bus home.to stay up here? He was standing at a bus stop when Will drove up beside him Marcus looked at Will. Yes, he said, and for a moment Will and told him to get into the car.loved him. What are you doing? asked Will angrily. What happened OK, said Ali, but he didnt sound very enthusiastic. upstairs? Marcus knew the lunch with Rachel was very important to Alis crazy. He said hed kill me if you went out with Rachel.Will, and he wanted to help as much as possible. He also thought And I believed him. Hes really frightening. Where are we goingthat if he helped Will with Rachel, then Will might help him now?with Ellie. But Ali never gave him a chance. It was raining now and the streets were full of traffic and It isnt going to happen, he said when Rachel and Will had people out shopping. Everywhere Marcus looked, there weregone downstairs. people with long, wet hair. No? said Marcus, although he didnt know what Ali wastalking about. Back to Rachels. I dont want to go back there. Shell think Im stupid. 48 49
  • 27. She wont. She thought something like this might happen. was his son. So he told her the truth one evening when they She said Ali could be difficult sometimes. Anyway, hes crying were having dinner in a Chinese restaurant. like a three-year-old child. Oh, said Rachel. So whos his natural father? Really? Suddenly Marcus felt better. He was quite happy to Its a guy called Clive who lives in Cambridge. go back to Rachels, he decided. Right. And are you friendly with him? Ali has got something to say to you, Marcus, said Rachel Yes. We spent Christmas together, actually. when they walked in. So . . . if youre not Marcuss natural father, and you dont live Sorry, Marcus, said Ali. I didnt mean to say those things. with him . . . how is he your son? Marcus wasnt sure if he believed Ali. How could you say that Yes, said Will. It must look very confusing from the outside. you were going to kill someone by mistake? But Ali was crying, Tell me how it is on the inside. and that made Marcus feel generous. Its just that kind of relationship. Im old enough to be his Thats OK, Ali, he said. father, hes old enough to be my son . . . Rachel made Ali and Marcus shake hands. Did you ever live with Marcuss mother? Ali finds this kind of thing very difficult, she said. No. Listen, I never actually said he was my son. The words "I Will smiled. Its OK, he said gently, and Rachel looked at him have a son called Marcus" never passed my lips. Thats what youand smiled back. Suddenly Marcus could see why nice, attractive chose to believe.women like Rachel and Suzie might like Will. He had a way of You mean . . . I wanted to believe you had a son, so I justlooking at them that he had never used on Marcus — there was imagined it? Im the one who was imagining things? Clearlysomething in his eyes, a kind of softness. Would Ellie like him if Rachel thought that Will was crazy. But he felt she washe did that? Shed probably hit him. beginning to see the funny side of the situation too. But what My last boyfriend was . . . anyway, he and Ali didnt like each about Marcus? You didnt just hire him for the afternoon. Theresother. Im sorry, Im not comparing you to him. I have no idea some kind of relationship there.whether . . . I mean, I dont know, I just thought on New Years So Will told her everything about Marcus. Nearly everythingEve . . . oh, this is so embarrassing. Its all your fault, Ali. We anyway; he didnt tell her that hed first met Marcus because hedshouldnt have to talk about this now. joined SPAT. He didnt think she would understand about SPAT. Its OK, said Marcus brightly. Will really fancies you. He told She might think he had some kind of problem.me. Rachel invited him back to her flat after the meal and they sat drinking coffee out of big blue cups. Why did you think Marcus would make you more Chapter 9 Depressions interesting? she asked. Was I more interesting?Will wanted to spend the rest of his life with Rachel, and he Yes, I suppose you were.knew that he couldnt continue pretending to her that Marcus Why? 50 51
  • 28. Because . . . you really want to know the truth? Because you Thursday afternoon and they were in Wills kitchen, making seemed to be a shallow kind of person. You didnt do anything; toast. you didnt seem to care about anything or have much to say — Oh, said Will. Are you worried about it? and then when you said you had a kid . . . Of course. Shes the same now as she was before. Worse. That I didnt actually say . . . wasnt true. Nothing could be worse than the last time, but he I realized that Id made a mistake about you. And I had made wanted to make sure Will knew it was serious. a mistake. You do care about Marcus, and you understand him, So what are you going to do? and you worry about him. Youre not the shallow kind of guy I Marcus had thought that Will would help him. Thats what he thought you were. wanted. Wasnt that what friends were for? Will knew that Rachel was trying to make him feel better What am I going to do? What are you going to do? about everything, but he still felt bad. Hed known Marcus for What am I going to do? Will laughed, and then remembered only a few months, so what about the thirty-six years before that? that the situation wasnt funny. Marcus, I cant do anything. And he didnt want to be interesting only because of his You could talk to her. relationship with Marcus. He wanted to be interesting for Why should she listen to me? Who am I? Nobody. himself. Youre not nobody. Youre . . . Will was in love with Rachel and everything had changed. For You come round here for a cup of tea after school, but that the first time in his life he wanted to be deeply involved with doesnt mean I can make your mum feel better. I know I cant. someone. I thought we were friends. • Yes, Marcus, were friends. But Im not your dad, Im not your uncle, and Im not your big brother. I can tell you who Kurt Three or four weeks passed. Marcus saw Will, and he saw Ellie Cobain is and what trainers to get, and thats all. Do youand Zoe at school. Will bought him some new glasses, and took understand?him to have his hair cut, and played him some music by singers Yes.who he liked and Ellie didnt hate. He felt that he was changing, But on the way home, Marcus thought about the way Willin his own body and in his head, and then his mum started crying had said, Do you understand? to end the conversation. He knewagain. teachers said that, and parents said that, but he didnt think Just like before, there didnt seem to be any reason for it. friends said that.Finally, she started crying at breakfast again and Marcus knew He wasnt really surprised about Will. He thought of Ellie asthat things were serious and that they were in trouble. his best friend more than Will — not just because he loved her But one thing had changed for Marcus. When she had started and wanted to go out with her, but because she was always nicecrying at breakfast before, he had been alone. Now he had Will to him. Ellie had told him that she knew about his mum tryingand Ellie. to kill herself. Ellies mum was a friend of Suzies, and Suzie had My mums started crying again, he said to Will. It was a told her. 52 53
  • 29. But the next day, when Marcus went to find Ellie in her about your mum. Its OK. Shes not like Kurt. Shes not going to classroom at breaktime, she didnt seem very pleased to see him. try to kill herself again. Zoe was sitting next to her, holding her hand. He paused for a moment, then unlocked the door and looked Whats happened? he asked. Havent you heard? out. How do you know? Because youre right about him. Hes not a real person. Marcus hated it when people said that to him because he never had. I dont think so. Youre only saying that to make me feel better. Kurt Cobain. OK, hes a real person. But hes a different kind of real person. What about him? Hes like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix and all those people. Hes not like your mum. You think I know He tried to kill himself. He took a lot of pills. Is he all right? things, but I dont. I dont know why Kurt Cobain feels like he does, or why your mum feels like she does. And I dont know I think so. They pumped his stomach. Good. what it feels like to be you. Quite frightening, I should think. Yes. Marcus started to cry then. It wasnt noisy crying — his Nothings good, said Ellie. Hell do it, you know, in the end. eyes just filled with tears and they ran down his face — but it They always do. He wants to die. It wasnt a cry for help. He hates this world. was still embarrassing. Hed never thought hed cry in front of Ellie. Marcus suddenly felt sick. Hed imagined having a conversation She came in and put her arm round him. Dont listen to me. with Ellie about his mum, and Ellie making him feel better, but it You know more than I do. You should be telling me things. wasnt like that at all. They sat on the hot water pipes together in silence, moving How do you know? when they got too hot, and waited until they felt like going back You dont know him, said Ellie. into the world. You dont know him, Marcus shouted. Hes not even a realperson. Hes just a singer. Hes just someone on a sweatshirt. Its •not like hes anyones mum. Will knew that he should do something about Fiona and that No, but hes someones dad, said Ellie. Hes got a beautiful hed behaved badly towards Marcus. He was older than Marcus,little girl and he still wants to die. he knew more . . . He should get involved, help the kid, look Marcus was very upset. He turned round and ran out. Did his after him.mum feel the same way as Kurt Cobain? He went to the boys But he didnt want to have a conversation with Fiona abouttoilets and shut himself inside the end toilet because it had hot her depression. She would ask him what the meaning of life waswater pipes running along the wall and you could sit on them. — ask him why she should go on living. And Will couldnt tellAfter a few minutes someone came in and started kicking on thedoor. her what the meaning was, because he didnt know. But Fiona was lost and unhappy, and if he told her that life had no meaning, Are you in there, Marcus? said Ellie. Im sorry. Id forgotten she might actually kill herself. 54 55
  • 30. He decided to talk to Rachel about Fiona. They were in That made Marcus angry. He went and sat in his room. Why Rachels kitchen, making coffee. had his dad never had a big think about his life before? And why A few years ago I got very depressed, said Rachel, and I did he only want to see his son when hed broken his arm? What thought about killing myself, like Fiona. But I always thought I about all the hundreds of days when his arm was all right, and would do it tomorrow, never today. There were always a lot of Marcus had heard nothing from him? reasons to continue living; there were too many things that Id He went downstairs again. Im not going, he told his mum. started but hadnt finished, and I wanted to see what happened. He makes me sick. Fiona must have things like that too. But the next day, when he told Ellie about his dad, he began I dont know, said Rachel. Perhaps she doesnt. Why dont I to change his mind. talk to her? You should go and see him, said Ellie. Tell him what you You? She doesnt know you. think of him. Ill come with you, if you like. It doesnt matter. And maybe you could learn to help her too, Marcus thought how nice it would be to have a whole hour if I showed you how. Its not so bad. with Ellie on the train to Cambridge. OK, said Will, but he didnt want to think about Fiona just at Will you come with me really, Ellie? that moment. He couldnt remember ever feeling as happy as he Yes, of course. If you want me to. It would be fun. Ill know did with Rachel. what to say to him. Marcus didnt stop to think about what Ellie was going to say Chapter 10 A Trip to Cambridge to his father. Hed worry about that later. So shall we go next week, then? It was nearly Easter, and theyIt was spring and the days were getting longer. Now Marcus was were on holiday from school next week, so they could stay inable to walk home from Wills flat in the late afternoon sunshine. Cambridge for the night if they wanted to.He began to feel better about things. Then his dad fell down Yes. Cool. Well have a great time.some steps and broke his arm. Marcus and Ellie arranged to meet at Kings Cross station in Youll have to go up to Cambridge and see him, said his mum. north London, where they would catch the train to Cambridge. Im not going while youre like this. Fiona wanted to come to the station with him, but he didnt Like what? want her to see Ellie. Crying all the time. It would be too sad, he told her. I dont want to say goodbye Im OK. Well, Im not OK, but Im not going to do anything to you there.silly. I promise. So Fiona and Marcus walked from their flat to Holloway But why do I have to go and see him? Road underground station and said goodbye in the entrance. He was asking for you. Hes lucky he didnt hurt himself Fiona gave Marcus an enormous hug, while everyone aroundreally badly. Maybe hes having a big think about his life. them watched. The underground train wasnt crowded. It was the middle of 56 57
  • 31. the afternoon and there was only one other person in the same their eyes and then other people led them around and made sure part of the train, an old guy reading a newspaper. He was looking that they didnt hurt themselves. at the back page, so Marcus could see the front. Marcus, have you gone mad? The photo seemed so familiar that for a moment he thought it Im going to guide you to the train through all these people, was a picture of someone he knew, like a member of the family. and then youll trust me for ever. But none of his relatives had long blond hair and half a beard. Oh, all right. He knew who it was now. He saw the same picture every day Ellie closed her eyes and Marcus led her to the part of the of the week on Ellies sweatshirt. He felt hot all over; he didnt station where the Cambridge train was waiting. She didnt see all even need to read the old guys paper, but he did. the people with newspapers coming towards them. Marcus was R O C K STAR C O B A I N DEAD, it said in big letters, and almost enjoying it, because he liked the feeling of looking after then underneath, in smaller writing, Nirvana singer, 27, shoots Ellie. himself. Marcus thought and felt a lot of things at the same time. Are we nearly there? He wondered whether Ellie had seen the paper yet, and how she Yes. The trains there waiting for us. would be when she found out. He wondered if his mum was I know why youre doing this, Marcus, she said suddenly in a OK, although he knew there was no connection between his small, quiet voice. He stopped, but she continued to hold him. mum and Kurt Cobain because his mum was a real person and You think I havent seen the paper, but I have. Kurt Cobain wasnt. He turned round, but she didnt open her eyes. Then he felt confused because the newspaper had turned Kurt Are you OK?Cobain into a real person. And then he felt very sad — sad for Yes. Well, not really. She felt around in her bag and got out aEllie, sad for Kurt Cobains wife and little girl, sad for his mum, bottle of vodka. Im going to get drunk.sad for himself. And then he was at Kings Cross and he had toget off the train. He met Ellie under the information board. Sheseemed normal. Will had arranged to go to a pub in Islington with Rachel and Everyone was carrying a newspaper, so Kurt Cobain was Fiona while Marcus was in Cambridge visiting his father. Theyeverywhere. There was a whole army of Kurt Cobains marching would all have a drink and a talk, then Will would leave andtowards them. Marcus didnt know what to do. He didnt want Rachel and Fiona would have another drink and a talk. FionaEllie to learn that Kurt Cobain was dead. Then he had an idea. would feel better about things, and not want to kill herself. What Ellie, he said suddenly. Do you trust me? Yes or no? could possibly go wrong? What are you talking about? Of course I trust you. Will arrived at the pub first, got himself a drink, sat down and OK, then. Close your eyes and hang on to my jacket. lit a cigarette, and Fiona arrived soon afterwards. But Rachel What? Why? didnt come. Half an hour passed and she still hadnt arrived. Will I watched a programme on TV with my mum once. It was all went to phone her, but he only got through to her answerabout learning to trust someone. They made some people close machine. Then he realized the truth. She had never intended to 58 59
  • 32. come because she wanted Will to talk to Fiona by himself. She she hadnt been anywhere or done anything. There was no one had said he could learn to help Fiona if she showed him how, and terrible cause of Fionas unhappiness, or an awful dark secret in this was what she meant. her life. Will didnt know what to do. He went back to his seat and he They got a taxi back to Fionas place. The taxi driver was and Fiona sat in silence for some time. Then Fiona started to cry. listening to the radio and Will suddenly realized that it was a At first Will tried not to take any notice of her, but he couldnt. discussion about Kurt Cobain. He knew he would have to try and help. Whats happened to him? Will asked. Whats the matter? he asked. He shot himself in the head. Hes dead. Nothing. Will wasnt surprised, and he was too old to be shocked. It Thats not true, is it? wasnt unusual for pop stars to kill themselves. But then he Yes, it is. Nothings the matter — no thing. Im just like this. I thought about Marcus and Ellie, and that worried him. Whatthink I probably need to talk to somebody. would they think? Do you want to go and get something to eat? said Will. Isnt he the singer Marcus liked? Fiona asked him. They went to a pizza restaurant on Upper Street. Yes. Suddenly Will was afraid. He didnt know why, but he Im sorry for being like this, said Fiona. And for being like had a strange feeling that Marcus might be in trouble.this with you. Can I come in with you? he asked Fiona when they arrived Will started to make a joke, but then he thought he would try at her house. Perhaps Marcus has left a message on your answerto say something serious and useful. machine. I just want to hear that hes OK. Im the one who should apologize, he said. I want to help, but There was 2. message from Marcus, but he didnt sound OK.I know I wont be able to. I havent got the answers to anything. He was calling from a police station in a town called Royston I dont need answers, said Fiona. I know theres nothing you and he sounded frightened and lonely.can do. Im depressed. Its an illness. It just started. Well, thats not •true . . . there were some things that happened . . . Suddenly Fiona started talking about her problems. It was Ellie had started drinking vodka on the train, and Marcus wasmuch easier than Will had thought; he just had to listen, and ask feeling very tired. Whenever people stared at her, she startedthe right questions. Hed done it before, lots of times, with Angie shouting at them and saying that she would stop the train.and Suzie and Rachel, but that was for a reason. This was Marcus was beginning to realize that he didnt actually wantdifferent. He didnt want to sleep with Fiona, but he did want to Ellie to be his girlfriend. She was funny and pretty and clever, butmake her feel better. she just wasnt the right kind of person for him. He needed to be He learnt a lot of things about her. He learnt that she hadnt with someone quieter, someone who liked reading and computerreally wanted to be a mother and that sometimes she hated games. Elbes behaviour was frightening and embarrassing.Marcus; he learnt that she was worried about not having a Why does Kurt Cobains death matter so much? he asked herrelationship and that her last birthday had depressed her because quietly. 60 61
  • 33. I loved him. waited for a moment, then, with a horrible sick feeling, he You didnt know him. jumped off after her. Of course I knew him. I listen to him every day. I wear him What are you doing? on my sweatshirt every day. He understood me. He knew what I I dont want to go to your dads. I dont know him. felt, and he sang about it. She walked out of the station and Marcus followed her. They Marcus tried to remember the words of some of the songs on walked up a side road and on to the High Street, past a chemist the Nirvana CD that Will had given him for Christmas, but they and a supermarket. Then they came to a music shop with a big didnt mean anything to him. cardboard figure of Kurt Cobain in the window. So how were you feeling? Look at that, said Ellie. Thats really terrible. Theyre trying Angry. to make money out of his death. What about? She took off one of her boots and threw it at the glass window Nothing. Just . . . life. Lifes awful. of the shop as hard as she could. The glass broke first time. Ellie Marcus thought about that. He realized that Ellie spent her reached inside and took out the cardboard figure of Kurtwhole time wanting life to be awful, and making things difficult Cobain. She sat down outside the shop, holding the figure andfor herself. School was awful for her because she wore her smiling a weird little smile.sweatshirt every day, which wasnt allowed, and because she Oh, Ellie. What did you do that for?shouted at teachers and got into fights. But why didnt she stop Once again, Marcus had the feeling that Ellie didnt have to dodoing those things? Her life wouldnt be so awful then. what shed just done. She didnt have to make trouble for herself. Do you feel like shooting yourself? Marcus asked. He was tired of her behaviour. There was enough trouble in the Of course. Sometimes, anyway. world without inventing more. Marcus looked at her. Thats not true, Ellie. The street had been quiet when Ellie broke the window, but How do you know? the noise of breaking glass had woken Royston up. Some people Because I know how my mum feels. And you dont feel like ran down to see what was happening.that. You have a nice life. Right, you two. Stay there, said a guy with long hair who I have an awful life. looked like a hairdresser. No. I have an awful life. And my mum has an awful life. But Were not going anywhere, are we, Marcus? said Ellieyou . . . I dont think so. Ill tell you, you dont feel anything like sweetly.my mum, or Kurt Cobain. You shouldnt say that you feel likekilling yourself when you dont. Its not right. They sat in silence. Marcus was looking out of the window of Chapter 11 Growing Upthe train, wondering what he was going to say to his dad aboutEllie. He didnt notice that the train had pulled into Royston A police car took Marcus and Ellie to the police station. Thestation. Suddenly Ellie stood up and jumped off the train. Marcus policemen were nice really. Ellie had explained that she wasnt a 62 63
  • 34. troublemaker or on drugs; she was angry because the owner of Ellie was his friend since they got on the train. He asked me to the music shop was making money out of Kurt Cobains death. come with him to Cambridge because he wasnt looking forward The policemen thought this was funny and laughed, which made to talking to you. Ellie even more angry. Marcus put his head in his hands. He was suddenly very, very When they got to the police station, they were taken into a tired. He didnt want to be with any of these people. little room and a policewoman came in and started talking to I suppose you think all this is my fault, said Clive. If I had them. She asked them their ages and addresses, and what they stayed with your mother, you wouldnt be in trouble. were doing in Royston. Marcus tried to explain about his dad What are you talking about? said Marcus. Whats happened? and the big think and Kurt Cobain and the vodka. But the I just got off a train. He wasnt tired now, but he was beginning policewoman couldnt understand the connection between his to feel angry. Whats wrong with getting off a train? Ellies crazy. dads accident and Ellie and the shop window. She broke a window with her boot because it had a picture of a He didnt do anything, Ellie suddenly said. I got off the train pop star in it. But I havent done anything. And I dont care if and he followed. I broke the window. Let him go. you left home or not. It doesnt make any difference to me. I just Let him go where? asked the policewoman. Weve got to wanted to try and look after my friend. phone one of his parents. Weve got to phone yours too. Ellie laughed. Cool speech, Marcus! Can we go now? The police telephoned Marcuss dad and Ellies mum. Then We have to wait for your mother, Clive told her. Shes Marcus rang Fiona, but she wasnt in so he left a message on her coming with Fiona. Wills driving them up from London. answer machine. Oh, no, said Marcus. They sat and waited in silence until Marcuss dad and Lindsey The four of them sat there staring at each other, like characters arrived. Neither of them was in a very good mood. Lindsey had in a play without an ending.had to drive, because of Clives broken arm, and she hated •driving. His dad was in pain. He didnt look like a man who hadhad a big think or wanted to see his only son. After the police had called Ellies mum, she had called Fiona. The policewoman left them alone and Clive sat down on a Then Fiona spoke to Clive, then she called Ellies mum andseat that ran along one side of the room. Lindsey sat down next offered her a lift up to Royston with her and Will. Ellies mumto him. Marcus looked at his dad unhappily. was an attractive woman in her early forties. She didnt seem He didnt do anything, said Ellie impatiently. He was trying surprised or upset about her daughters problems.to help me. When Will, Fiona and Ellies mum arrived at the police station And who exactly are you? in Royston, Clive and Lindsey were staring angrily at Marcus, Who exactly? Im Eleanor Toyah McCrae, aged fifteen years Marcus was staring angrily at the wall, and Ellie was staringseven months. I live at 23 . . . angrily at everyone. What are you doing with Marcus? Can we go now? Will asked the policewoman. Hes my friend. This was news to Marcus. He hadnt felt that Not yet. Were waiting for the shop owner to come. Its 64 65
  • 35. something were trying here. Criminals meet the victims of their We dont need another chance, Mum, said Marcus. I havent crimes, so they understand the effects of their actions. done anything wrong. I only got off a train. Good, said Ellie. I want to see what this persons like. But Fiona took no notice of Marcus. She was mad, thought A nervous-looking young woman in her twenties was Will, and she was saying crazy things, and nothing could stop her. shown into the room. She was wearing a Kurt Cobain But he knew she had suddenly realized that she had to do sweatshirt and lots of black eye make-up and she looked like something for her son. And if she was thinking that, then she Ellies older sister. wasnt going to try and kill herself again. This is Ruth, who owns the shop. This is the young lady who Please let Marcus go, Fiona said, and put her face in Marcuss broke your window, said the policewoman. neck. Ellie looked at Ruth, very surprised. Did they tell you to look But Marcus shook her off and moved away from her and like me? she said. towards Will. Youre mad, Mum. I cant believe how mad both Do I look like you? Ruth asked. my parents are, he said with real feeling. Everyone in the room laughed, including the police officers. Will looked at this strange little group and tried to make some You put that picture in the window to make money, said sense of it. He couldnt understand these people. He hadntEllie, but she didnt sound as confident as before. known some of them before today; he had known some of them Which picture? The picture of Kurt? Thats always been there. for only a short time, and he couldnt say that he knew themI think hes great. Is that why you broke the window? Because well. But here they were anyway, one of them holding ayou thought I was trying to make money out of Kurts death? cardboard figure of Kurt Cobain, one of them crying, one with a Yes. broken arm, all connected to each other in different ways. Will Today has been the saddest day of my life. And then a stupid couldnt remember being involved in this kind of situationlittle girl breaks my window because she thinks Im trying to get before. He was looking at real life and seeing what it was like tomoney out of people. Just . . . grow up. be human. It wasnt too bad, really. Ellie was very embarrassed and didnt know what to say. Im •sorry, she whispered. All right, said Ruth. Come here. She opened her arms, and Marcus went to stay with his dad and Lindsey in Cambridge thatEllie stood up, walked over to her and hugged her. night. In the car Clive complained a lot about Ellie and what had Suddenly Fiona, who had been very quiet, got up too, walked happened. Why did Marcus want to be involved with someonearound the table, and put her arms round Marcus. like that? Why hadnt he tried to stop her? Marcus didnt say I havent been a good mother to him, she said to the anything, and finally his father was quiet. Later, when Lindseypolicewoman who had been looking after them. I havent been had gone to bed, he and Marcus talked.noticing things. I know I dont deserve another chance, but Im Ive had a big think, you know, since my accident, said Clive.asking for one . . . If you give us another chance, you wont be I know I havent been a very good father. And . . . you need asorry. father, dont you? I can see that now. 66 67
  • 36. Why do you think I need a father now? Im doing OK him, or meet someone else. He wasnt Will the cool guy whowithout one. didnt want to get involved with other people now. He was It doesnt look like it. deeply involved with Rachel, and he couldnt go back. He What, because Ellie broke a window? No, really, I am doing wanted to be an important part of her life, and to make her thinkOK. Maybe Im doing better. Its hard with Mum, but this year at of him as a responsible person. So he started taking Ali andschool . . . I cant explain it, but I feel safer than before, because I Marcus out on Saturdays, sometimes to football games butknow more people. I was really frightened because I didnt think usually to the cinema and McDonalds.two people were enough, but now there arent only two. There In some ways Marcus seemed older than Ali now. He dressedare lots. better — he had won the argument with his mother about You mean Ellie and Will and people like that? whether he could go shopping with Will — and he had his hair Yes. cut regularly. He was still good friends with Ellie and Zoe, but he It was wrong of me to leave you, said his dad. Thats what my was more careful about what he said to them, and they didntbig think was about. laugh at him as much. It doesnt matter, Dad. I know where you are if things get It was strange; Will missed him. Marcus was the only person inbad. Im OK. Really. I can find people. Ill be all right. the world who might be able to give him advice, but Marcus — And he would be all right, he knew it. He didnt know the old Marcus — was disappearing.whether Ellie would be, because she didnt think about things Are you going to marry my mum? Ali asked one day, whenvery hard. And he didnt know if his mum would be, because she they were eating chips at McDonalds.wasnt very strong a lot of the time. But he was sure he could I used to want him to marry my mum, said Marcus. I thoughtcope in ways that they couldnt. He could cope at school because it would solve all our problems. Your mums different, though.he knew what to do, and he had learnt who you could trust andwho you couldnt. Shes not as confused as my mum. Do you still want him to marry your mum? They talked a bit longer, about Lindsey, and how she wanted a Will stared at them both in disbelief.baby, and how his dad couldnt decide, and whether Marcuswould mind if they had one; and Marcus said he liked babies. No, said Marcus. I dont think it would help. Youre safer as aAnd then his dad gave him a hug and he went to bed. In the kid if everyones friends. Think about it. Your mum and my mummorning his dad and Lindsey took him to the station and gave are friends. It was true. Rachel and Fiona saw each otherhim enough money for a taxi from Kings Cross back to the flat. regularly now. And Will sees my mum, and I see you, and Ellie and Zoe, and Lindsey and my dad. There are lots of people now. • One afternoon, when Will took Marcus back to his flat,Will knew that his feelings for Rachel had changed his life for Marcus disappeared into his bedroom with a quick thanks.ever. He wanted her so much that it frightened him. He was He seems so much older, Fiona said.terribly afraid of losing her; perhaps she would get bored with Yes, said Will. Are you worried about that? Why do you ask? Of course I am. 68 69
  • 37. But . . . youve seemed better recently. ACTIVITIES I think I am. I dont know why, but I think Im more in Chapters 1-2control of everything. Before you read Will thought he knew one of the reasons, but he didnt want 1 Read the Introduction to the book.to hurt Fionas feelings. The truth was that the new Marcus a What do you know about the story from the Introduction?wasnt so difficult to look after. He had friends and he could look b Have you seen the film of About a Boy? If so, what did youafter himself. He was just like every other twelve-year-old boy. enjoy about it? If not, have you seen any other films with the Marcus came out of his room. Im bored. Can I get a video? actor Hugh Grant? What kind of part did he play? Will decided to give Marcus a little test. Hey Fiona. Why 2 Answer the questions. Find the words in italics in your dictionary.dont you get your music out and we can all sing a Joni Mitchell They are all used in the story.song? a Which of these nouns isnt a word for an adult? Would you like to? asked Fiona. godfather guy kid b Which adjective isnt used to describe a persons clothes? Yes, of course. But Will was watching Marcuss face carefully. blond(e) cool weirdMarcus was looking really embarrassed. c Which verb doesnt always lead to unhappiness? Please, Mum. Dont. bully depress involve But Marcus, you love singing. You love Joni Mitchell. d Which is a word for a game of questions and answers? I dont. Not now. I hate Joni Mitchell. picnic quiz royalties Will knew then, without any doubt, that Marcus would be e Translate these sentences into your language.OK. I never liked him anyway. My ex-wife took the children. After you read 3 Which of the people in the story a has just started a new school? b doesnt need to work? c cries a lot? d looks like a beautiful film star? e is Fionas best friend? f wants to go out with pretty single mothers? 4 Answer these questions. a Why doesnt Will want to be Imogens godfather? b What two things is Marcus worried about? Why? c Why does Angle want to go out with Will? d Why does Will join SPAT? e Why dont Nicky and Mark want Marcus as their friend? 71
  • 38. Chapters 3-4 10 What do you think the words in italics mean? Check in your dictionary. Before you read a I cant cope with three small children and a full-time job. 5 Discuss these questions. b He was wearing a dark green sweatshirt and Nike trainers. a What do you think is wrong with Fiona? What might help her? c We like him, but we wouldnt trust him with our money. b What are Marcuss main problems at school? How can things get better for him? After you read 11 What importance do these have in the story? 6 Find these words in your dictionary. a Countdown duck jumper pump truth vegetarian b a pair of Adidas trainers Which word describes c a sweatshirt with a picture of a famous singer a a bird? d the group Nirvana b someone who doesnt eat meat? 12 Work in pairs. Act out this telephone conversation. c the opposite of a lie? Student A: You are Fiona. Telephone Suzie and tell her that Will d something warm to wear? has been lying about Ned. e the movement of liquid by a machine? Student B: You are Suzie. You are angry and shocked. You haveAfter you read a lot of questions to ask Fiona. 7 Are these sentences true or false? Correct the false ones. a Will has a two-year-old son called Ned. Chapters 7-8 b Will wants Suzie to be his girlfriend. Before you read c Marcus throws a stone at a duck. 13 Ellie and Zoe stood beside him and Marcus felt great. Why does d Suzie is angry with Fiona. Marcus feel great? Do you think things will change for him at e Marcus wants his mother and Will to have a relationship. school, or not? f Will thinks Fiona is very attractive. 14 Find these words in your dictionary. Use them in the sentences 8 How are these things connected in the story? below. a bread and a duck fancy headphones keen on b a bottle of pills and a letter a He bought for his CD player. c vegetarian food and old songs from the 1960s b You my brother, dont you? c Im all kinds of sport.Chapters 5-6 After you readBefore you read 15 Who is speaking? Who are they talking to? 9 Discuss these questions. a I want you to pretend to be my son. a Marcus knows the truth about Ned. What do you think he will do b Its easy to see that you dont know anything about kids. with this information? Why? c What is your kind of work? b Do you think Will will go out with Fiona? Would they be happy d I think it was going to die anyway. together, do you think? Why (not)? e Shes only keen on me! f Will really fancies you. 72 73
  • 39. 16 Match the two parts of the sentences. 23 Imagine that you are Ellie. Write a letter to Ruth. Apologize for a Will usually spends Christmas on New Years Eve. breaking her shop window. b Will spends this Christmas a joke Christmas present. 24 How have Will and Marcus grown up by the end of the story? c Fiona gives Will at Marcuss place. Describe the reasons for the changes in their attitudes and d Will falls in love in America. behaviour. e Rachel lives to have a son. 25 Imagine that you are Fiona. Write a letter to Clive. Describe your f Her ex-husband lives with friends families. new relationship with Marcus at the end of the story. Explain how g Will pretends in a tall, thin house. you will now be a better mother. 26 Find out more about Kurt Cobain and write about his life. Chapters 9-11 Before you read 17 Discuss these questions. a Will has fallen in love with Rachel. What effect is this going to have on his life, do you think? b What kind of relationship will Marcus have with Ellie? 18 Answer the questions. Find the words in italics in your dictionary. a What is cardboard used for? b When might you want to hug someone? c What does it mean if you are the victim of a crime? d Which countries are famous for their vodka?After you read19 Work in pairs. Act out this conversation. Student A: You are a passenger on the train with Ellie and Marcus. You want to read your book. You are getting very annoyed about Ellies behaviour. Talk to her. Student B: You are Ellie. You are upset about Kurt Cobains death. You dont want to be quiet, and you dont care that you are annoying the other passengers.20 Fiona and Clive both say that they have been bad parents to Marcus. Do you agree? Why (not)? Will they behave differently now?Writing21 Write a one-page advertisement for SPAT, to put in a shop window.22 Imagine that you are the policewoman who interviews Ellie in Royston. Write a report of the interview. Penguin Readers Marketing Department, Pearson Education, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Essex C M 2 0 2JE. 74

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