Authors: Daisy White
Copyright © 2012 Daisy White
All rights reserved.
For my boys
; Rob, James and Ollie.
Must thank the following fab people for contributing to ROADKILL……Stef Lilley; photographer
Rob Crocker; photographer, Loz ‘The Ghost’; urban photography
Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design Inc.,
Paul at Sparticle,
Abi Truelove; final edit/proof reading, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, Writers workshop and The Word Cloud. Sanita Gourley, Claire Lauf, my lovely husband, and my parents who are all as mad as me! Also my excellent cast for the ROADKILL trailer; Maisie Lord as CAZ, Gina Neal as ROSE, Matt Kinsbrook as ASH, Jenni Burgess as FRANKIE and Archie Neal as LEO…..Plus all my lovely friends on Facebook and Twitter who have supported me all the way. X
ROADKILL, LiveWire and all the characters and contents are entirely fictional, and any resemblance to any person or place is entirely coincidental.
Rose would have said I look like a tart, but she can’t say that now can she? Which is obviously why I’m heading out to the party tonight. Because I’m fine, I’m over it and ready to get on with my life.
The clothes are wrong, and even with more makeup I still look like a ten year old playing dress up. Defiantly I add a red gloopy lip gloss with a shaky hand, slamming the tube back down viciously. The lid breaks with a crack, for a second Max Factor’s finest becomes her blood, spilled across the tarmac, shining wet in the moonlight. Get a grip Caz, I tell myself firmly, taking a shivery breath and flicking a last glance in the mirror as I whirl from the room.
“Are you sure you want to go out tonight? You don’t have to Caroline. Your friends will understand.” It’s my mum, or the pale ghost who used to be my mum before it happened. Even her red hair, which is curly like mine, has lost that lovely glow. Her red rimmed eyes are shadowed from crying, and her jeans hang off her skinny frame. A slender white hand tentatively squeezes my fingers, but I snatch them away. I know I’m being a bitch. She lets all her tears out, but I am truly terrified of what might happen if I start crying. I might never stop.
“Everything is fine Mum. Leo’s going with me,” I glance down as my phone beeps with a text. It might be Rose…oh, stop Caz. “We’re going across The Road, and then…” But the mention of The Road is too much as she’s crying again. A tiny bit of me wants to comfort her, to throw my arms around her. But I can’t, so I run out, down the stairs, past the framed photos of my dad and into the summer night. A car whizzes past, music blaring, and the narrow street is alive with glammed up teenagers. Everyone out to have a good time. I flick back my long hair, which is straightened to within an inch of its life, and wonder again if I’ve made a mistake with Rose’s denim mini (too big) and revealing pink vest top (too tight).
“Hey Caz! Wow you look great. Um different, but great,” Leo emerges from the trendy crowds with his peculiar crab-like stride, a result of endless childhood illness and countless hospitals. He’s so lovely though Leo, with his cute lopsided smile and neat glasses. We’ve been best mates practically since we first met, right after he and his mum moved down from Glasgow, and I can’t imagine life without him. Especially now. Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve only known him six months. He loved Rose too. She was always taking the piss out of him, but he just laughed and gave it right back.
“You mean I look crap but you’re too sweet to say it,” I tell him, linking arms as we wander up towards the road. The thick makeup feels weird on my face; kind of itchy. Maybe I put it on wrong? But I am only distracting myself with these random thoughts, laughing with Leo, who is casting me anxious little looks, and holding my arm so very gently and carefully, as though I am made of glass and might break at any moment. Which, I suppose, is entirely possible.
It’s a hot muggy summer night. The air is thick with the smell of cheap perfumes, and metallic hairspray, all mingling with the wafts of barbeque smoke. Midsummer
and our estate is making the most of the long holiday.
We pass under the shadows of some huge oak trees, just before joining the swarms walking over the motorway bridge. Which obviously spans The Road. Which I haven’t been near since it happened. My heart is racing, and my banter with Leo becomes harder to maintain. Now he asks something about my college courses; biology and chemistry if you are interested. And art history, which is the nearest I can get t
o real art…
“Renoir. I thought you knew that?” I snap and pull my arm from his.
“Caz I just asked where Ian’s house was. You know, the party that you say you’re fine to go to?” There is an edge of sarcasm to his normally unflappable voice.
A group of girls totter by on skyscraper heels and I catch my name, whispered like a curse. Then Rose’s, and all the time we are being swept towards the bridge. And The Road. A few lads swagger past laughing and swigging from cans, and I jump in fright.
“Caz, you don’t have to do this. Come back to mine and we’ll watch a DVD or something, or I’ll beat you on the Wii. My mum’s out so we can order a pizza.”
His mum is always out. I reckon in the six months I’ve known Leo, I’ve met her about three times. I am shaking now, and shivering in the hot night air, and the idea of going back and chilling out on the
sofa, before thrashing Leo at W
tennis is very appealing. But I won’t.
Defiantly I drop Leo’s arm and march out onto the bridge, swinging my hips like Rose, tossing back my hair.
“Hey Caz! You look hot. Going to Ian’s party?” Sexy Matt from my art history class walks up close, cigarette dangling from one tanned hand. Our arms brush and my skin tingles.
“Yeah,” still channelling my dead sister I meet his slanting brown eyes and give a cheeky wink. He looks puzzled. I’m not surprised, normally I’m too shy to even look at him.
There is a big “Whoa get a room!” from his mates, and he is carried away on the tide of revelling teenagers. Someone is playing music and the beat thrums inside my head, chasing Rose away, and more importantly, drowning the sound of the cars on the motorway below.
Click, click, my high heeled silver sandals carry me trit-trotting over the bridge like the magic shoes in a fairy story. It’s all going well, and Leo is as usual right by my side, like a kid’s comfort blanket.
“Oh look, it’s Caroline. That top looks great…did you know you’ve put on a bit of weight? I expect it’s normal after such a traumatic time. I meant to say I’m so, so sorry about your sister. She was so stunning, I’m sure she could have made it as a model.”
Bitch Anita and her evil brethren are pushing past, whether or not on purpose, I am being carried closer to the edge. Another wave of cackling girls are swaying to the beat, and they nudge me out the way, bringing me hard up against the metal railings. A swathe of headlights slices the darkness below, followed by another, and another, glittering like lasers in a nightclub. The Road is busy at this time of night; people hurrying home, heading out for the night.
I am mesmerised, clinging to the rail like a drowning person clutching at a piece of driftwood. At first they thought she jumped, but her injuries showed it was definitely a hit and run. A single car that drove away and left her to die. Leo is tugging at my arm, and a couple of people stare, but I can’t move. On the side of the fast lane, huddled near the crash barrier is a fox, its crushed bleeding body sprawled across the gleaming cats’ eyes. As the traffic whizzes past, the breeze ruffles its dirty fur, giving an illusion of life. Everything goes black, and I lose grip on my driftwood.
“Stupid idiot. What did you do that for? I told you it was too soon,” Leo is sitting on my bed, fiddling with his phone. His faint Scottish accent is stronger when he’s upset.
“Is she awake?” my mum slides into the room, and immediately it’s too crowded. I blink at my digital alarm clock. Midnight. I kind of remember Leo leading me home like a sleepwalker, or an escaped loony returning to confinement; the crowds parting to let us through, revelling in new gossip. Perhaps I really am going mad.
Again my mum takes my hand, while Leo tactfully mutters about heading home.
“Thanks Leo. You’re the best,” I say softly, and he does that sweet thing of looking away and at the ground, like little kids do when they’re embarrassed.
“Caroline is so lucky to have you as a friend,” my mum adds, smiling in the dim light.
As the door closes I force myself not to tear my hand from hers, to stop being cruel. She needs me. I cannot fall apart.
“Do you want to talk about it?” The bad thing about having a super smart scientist mum is that, as well as solving
general problems (global warming
, meteor attacks, kids’ stuff really), she totally reads minds. I mean really. Sometimes I like to wind her up by just not talking, not confirming her guesses. We can go a whole day without me letting anything out, which drives her mad. I suppose I’m not really very nice…..Outside the claustrophobic silence of my room, a woman screams, and somewhere a child wails sadly. In the distance sirens blare, and an engine revs harsh and violent in the stillness. The Estate never sleeps.
“Okay. I’ll leave you to sleep, but Caroline?” I can feel her hope, but I keep my eyes down pleating the bedspread with busy fingers. The scar on my left wrist is red and scabbed in the weak moonlight. “If you ever want to talk, or you want some help, I’m here. Or there are other people…..”
Yeah, shades of the loony bin again. They hung around after the funeral, The Vultures; counsellors, journalists (Rose was a great story), well meaning friends. Even thinking about them puts me in a bad mood. By the time I look up mum is gone, stepping carefully down the creaky stairs. I am left with a familiar feeling of guilt, like a bitter taste in my mouth.
A text beeps on my phone, and I glance over to my table. A course book from college (the new Tracy Emin biography), a glass of water, and my unfashionably chunky silver phone, now adorned with the sparkly Swarovski crystal that used to hang from Rose’s mobile. A little piece of her I managed to snatch back from The Vultures.
‘Sleep well hon – see u 2mro. Love u x’
I smile, relaxing as the tension drains from my body. We always said that…. ‘love u.’ Me and Rose used to say it too….For a while I was kind of worried that Leo fancied me, not in a vain kind of way, just that it would have ruined our friendship because I never think of him in that way. Luckily he was quick to reassure me, and him being gay means I can happily keep him as my best friend, my rock, without the whole girl/boy thing becoming an issue.
Rose always stamps over my dreams, beautiful, bold and strong, in a way I will never be. Her hair was black, legacy from our Irish dad, and her eyes aquamarine blue. She was so vivid and alive I can’t believe she’s dead. I saw my sister in a coffin and I remembered when I was a kid and used to crawl onto her bed in early morning. Rose would pretend to be asleep and I would try and prise her eyelids apart, until she laughed, and got up to play with me. My big sister.
The Vultures would have had a right laugh if I climbed into her coffin and started trying to wake her up. Instead I did what I did at Dad’s funeral, read the other gravestones, counting the letters, dividing them, subtracting, anything to keep the screams from escaping. I’m not good at maths so it was a successful diversion. I didn’t cry.
After a fitful sleep I wake exhausted as usual. My porcelain pale face peers anxiously into the funky metal mirror above my dressing table. The mirror was a present from Rose, shaped like a starburst, and usually it makes me smile. Sod the makeup mask. Today I am going to be me, and I tap out a text to Leo as I eat toast.
“I’m off now love. Ring me if you need anything,” Mum pecks me on the cheek, and heads out to the taxi, moving as usual lightly, confidently. She usually looks like this fragile, delicate doll person, but since Rose, she seems somehow even smaller, crushed by her grief. I try not to imagine how bad it must be to lose your husband and a kid. In fact, I force myself not to think about this on a regular basis. I’m getting pretty good at avoiding stuff like that.
Alone I tour the house, picking things up, fiddling with ornaments, until it’s time to meet Leo. By the time I get to the park I am sick of drifting around like some pathetic ghost.
“Hi Hon. What are we doing today?” Leo stretches his skinny frame on the wooden bench. It’s a memorial bench and the bronze coloured plaque on the back
‘In loving memory of Tom Cleaver 1914 – 2012’
He was ninety-eight. Rose was nineteen. I consider this for second then something explodes in my brain, a rush of anger and emotion that clears the mist that has fogged my thoughts; that pathetic feeling of being just so tired I could sleep forever. For the first time in three months I am sparkling with energy and I know what I have to do. Already Rose is closer, and I have to stop myself from calling out her name.
A random ray of sun glitters across the sky, picking out Leo’s gentle face, highlighting his blonde hair. His forehead wrinkles as he frowns, and I realise I haven’t answered his question.
“Budge up,” I squeeze onto the bench, next to Leo’s computer bag. He never travels anywhere without his precious laptop.
“Well? You look different,” he inspects me, glasses glinting in the morning sunlight, “a bit better.”
“We’re going to find the driver who killed Rose. I’m going to find out what happened.” I tell him.
His mouth twists, eyes suddenly darker, opaque behind those ugly glasses. A mirror flash of emotion so quick I know I’ve made a mistake. Not quite the reaction I was hoping for, but I guess he still thinks I should be ‘moving on’. Whatever.
“Yeah. I need to know how she died, and why she died. Come on. You gonna help me or what?”
For a second I think he is going to refuse, but as I reach out and yank his hand, pulling us both off the bench, he smiles, and we link arms and head out the park. Leo is silent on the walk back to my house, but I’m buzzing with purpose, feeling alive for the first time since that night.
“It seems kind of weird we won’t ever be at college together again, doesn’t it? You know, just hanging out.” Leo sounds wistful, and I smile.
“We must have walked round the playing fields a hundred times when we were…”
“Supposed to be studying!” Leo finishes for me, laughing.
“It’s alright for you. I had to catch up in the evenings. Wish I had your brains!”
Of course it’s the same for everyone leaving sixth form, one minute you’re caught up in rules and timetables, endless study, then bang, you’re thrown out, ready to hit the world.
We don’t always agree and a lot of the time it seems like it’s me bossing Leo around, but he was the only person outside the family I could tell about Dad. Of course it happened way before we met, but he totally understood. His dad left when he was young, so for him, it’s like he never had one. At least mine left me some memories, I’m just not quite ready to…um….remember.
I smile at his worried expression, “I’m okay you know.”
Leo squeezes my arm, wisely saying nothing, and we saunter into the Estate.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” my best friend is doubtful again, as Rose laughs down at us from the picture covered walls. Dozens and dozens of crazy photos with friends, with me, and my favourite one of all. It was when she won a modelling competition for some new sportswear company, and the shoot was mocked up like a snow covered mountain.
Rose is leaping straight out over the bright, white slope, her hair glittering like ravens’ feathers in the harsh light, whole body alive with that vibrant energy that was hers alone. Quickly I reach for a garbage sack and move towards the wardrobe.
“Stop nagging Leo, mum said it was fine. She thinks it’s a good idea I do it.”
“She doesn’t know you’re actually doing it to find out what happened,” he puts his laptop gently on the neatly made bed, and snaps a kit-kat, offering me half with his usual good manners. I’ve never seen Leo mad, stroppy, he’s like this angel kid. Which makes me…the horned version I guess.
I pause, sifting through yet more photos, “I know what happened Leo. Somebody killed my sister. I am going to find out who.”
“Go to the police. I dunno, kill him maybe!”
Leo rolls his eyes, “Maybe it’s a her?” he suggests. “Seriously though, the police went over everything. If they can’t find the driver, I’m guessing we won’t.”
“Pessimist. The police thought she killed herself,” I snort in disgust, “As if! Look I found her diary.” I sink down next to him, focusing all my emotions on this new task; a quest for justice I tell myself is exactly what I need to take my mind off the fact that, well, Rose is dead.
It feels kind of weird looking at my sister’s diary, like I really should not be prying into her life. Eventually when I get the courage to open it the contents are disappointing. This is not a pour
out, lock with a secret
key diary, but more like an adult planner, with notes for coursework due, parties, sports events.
Leo is breathing down my neck, I can smell his hair gel, feel his hand reaching over mine to turn the page. There is no tension, he could have been my old teddy bear, and we are both totally engrossed in the last entries. Her writing was big, spiky, and punctuated with exclamation marks.
“Or who? New boyfriend…..” Leo muses.
I snort, “No chance, you know what Rose is like. Um… was like.” A stab of pain, which I ignore.
“True, the world would have known if she split with Ashley. Probably would have been published in Heat magazine.” Leo giggles like a girl and in spite of myself I smile.
“Do you remember when Carl Jackson asked her out?”
He grins, “And she said, “Sorry mate, I really don’t fancy you.” And just carried on telling us that crazy story about pigs.”
“Pigs? Jeez Leo, how do you remember all that stuff? I wish I had a photographic memory and all that. No wonder you got great exam results.”
LV was scribbled a couple of times throughout March and April, but there is nothing to tell who or what it was. A cursory search of the wardrobe, chest of drawers, and even under the bed yields nothing but the usual girly mess of clothes, t
oiletries, stray tampax, shoes…
Apparently bored with the lack of action Leo asks permission and flicks on her computer. Earlier doubts seemingly gone, he is full of energy and buzz. I look up, pushing hair out of my eyes.
“Waste of time. The police went through everything,” for a second I feel uneasy, “So did Garry.”
“Well I expect your mum asked him to, he’s an IT bloke isn’t he? And I know he bugs you but he is her boyfriend. Although if you ask me he was always down on Rose. You know all that stuff about she should be studying not breaking her neck out on mountains, or wasting her time modelling.” Leo has captured the poor man’s Australian accent, and his gruff voice, to perfection.
I almost smile, tell Leo he should be an actor, and put it out of my mind. But then I see Garry again, carefully tapping at the keyboard. It was after the police brought her stuff back so I guess it might have been just curiosity……or like Leo says mum asked him to have a look.
“Caz?” Leo flicks my arm, “Can you hear me? Come back! Jeez I wish you wouldn’t do that drifting off thing. It’s like talking to a ghost or something. Listen, don’t worry. Whatever you want to do, we’ll do it okay?”
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Now there must be something, but all you’ve got is a load of dust and cheap make-up. What are you looking for anyway?” Leo pulls a packet of dolly mixtures from his baggy beige pockets and carefully selects a pink sugar-crusted one. If you listed all the things Leo could have been bullied for at college it
would have been pages long
, and yet he slips through life with minimal hassle, smiling his gentle dreamy smile. It was like nobody noticed him. In fact a couple of times I had to check it wasn’t just me and my imaginary friend chilling out in the canteen.
“I don’t know! But for a start why she was on the bloody road in the first place. I mean, we all use the bridge.”
Our sprawling estate, Whitmoor, was helpfully built on loads of farmland, separated by the road from the nearest town; Broadridge Heath with all its amenities, schools, sports centre. Clever old developers, I wonder how they swung that one. Come and live in the middle of the pretty countryside, oh we forgot to mention your only way out is across a motorway overpass. No wonder the estate is crap, full of bored teenagers and stressed out single mums.
The computer blinks crossly into life, dust dancing over its screen as sun floods through the window. The room already smells musty, disused.
“Perhaps she was hitching a lift, or getting dropped off.” Leo suggests, flicking through emails, “Hey this is interesting.”
“No, if we get a lift they use the slip road and drop us at the top. Nobody would stop on a motorway. You know that!” But I am remembering that there is a lay-by somewhere down near the bridge, possibly even within a hundred yards of the place where she was found…..I’ve seen lorries parked overnight down there.
Filing this thought away for future reference, I hitch myself up on the edge of the desk, legs dangling, peering at the screen.
‘Looking forward to it babe, I dare you to go for the big one! Don’t forget to message me on LV. ’
“Who’s Kelly Johnson?”
“How would I know? She had so many friends, I think she lost count,” I detect a note of bitterness in my voice and hastily swallow, “Seriously, could be anyone she met snowboarding, on the athletics team, street dance….We’re wasting our time. You were right. The police have already been over everything.”
Energy fading I feel that wave of uselessness, apathy returning, and wonder if I could just spend the rest of my life in bed. It seemed like such a good idea this morning, but the sheer size of the task I have set myself now crushes me. I feel like a beetle under a boulder.
“Shut it Caz, you need a sugar hit!” he scrunches the bag of sweets under my nose.
“I hate dolly mixtures,” I tell him sulkily, scratching at my nail polish. Wish I hadn’t been so thorough when I got ready for the party last night. The dark red is always a bitch to get off. And it clashes with my red hair.
“Eat it and pay attention.”
Stuffing a handful in my mouth I look where he’s pointing. Leo’s nails are better manicured that mine.
“Oh my god. Its LV.” Under the email is a little icon, and an advertising banner. The L and V are entwined in silver and black.
“Click on it!” Behind the LV is an arty shadowy sword and moon, and the icon next to Kelly Johnson’s name was a purple rose with a six in the middle. Weird.
Leo is amused, “What do you mean click on it?”
I slap his shoulder, “You know what I mean. Like on those sites that pop up when you’re on the internet. You click and it takes you to a site.”
“Why do you think it’s a site?”
Why is he being so deliberately stupid? I lean over and grab the mouse.
“Wow, it’s a forum! Look at all this stuff….” I start to get excited as adrenalin hits my bloodstream; or maybe it’s excess sugary sweets.
eme sports for extreme people.
Can you handle it?” Leo reads the bold slogan.
I am already scrolling down, reading bits of postings, “Oh my god Leo, look, it’s just the kind of thing she loves. This photo is freaky.”
My best friend peers at the thumbnail I indicate and then enlarges it. Two teenage girls are abseiling down a church. At night. They appear to be using a couple of ropes held by shadowy figures at the top of the crenulated bell tower. One of the rope holders is swigging from a bottle of vodka.
“That’s crazy! They don’t have any proper safety equipment. How stupid is that?” He tuts disapprovingly and I remember Rose teasing him for being an old woman.
For a while we are silent, scrolling through the pictures, some are live feeds, and all of them are teenagers doing crazy things; car surfing, jumping off cliffs into the sea, driving at high speed through deserted streets. At night.
I bite my thumbnail, “It’s just like extreme sports at night though, I mean she would have loved it. Do you think she was climbing the bridge or something for a dare? Before she, um before her…” I can’t bring myself to say ‘her death’ because then it would be final. My shoulders and neck are aching from hunching over the computer.
“I found Kelly Johnson. She has loads of posts.” Leo adjusts his glasses, lank straw coloured hair tucked behind his rather prominent ears.
“See if there are any for last month. I can’t see that Rose actually posted anything.” I complain. My eyes are crossing from scanning down the list, heart leaping every time I get to a Rosie or Rosa.
“Might not have done it under her real name. I bet lots of these are aliases.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Duh. Most of what they do it breaking the law. This bloke ‘Dawes’, he was doing one of these dares last night and check out the video.”
I do, and note the camera focusing on the Speedo in his car; 120mph through an estate not dissimilar to ours.
“Good point. What about the little icons next to their names. Like this Kelly has six, and ‘Dawes’ has twenty-two. Wait I know! It’s like eBay,” Leo gives me a funny look.
“You know, your get a number of stars depending on how many times you buy or sell. I bet that means how many dares they’ve done.”
We’ve been up here for hours, and Mum is going to be disappointed we have done zero clearing out.
“I need to head off. See you tomorrow, or do you want to come over tonight?” Leo checks his watch, a silly schoolboy swatch thing with a bright red face.
I shake my head, still fascinated by LiveWire. Transfixed by a video of three blokes walking along a high wire suspended between a block of flats, my head is aching but dammit this stuff is compulsive viewing. I have almost forgotten my quest. But not quite.
“Can’t tonight. I could meet you by the skate park at ten. Or we could do some charity shopping first? ” I look at him hopefully.
“You know I don’t really get the whole vintage clothing thing Caz! Why would you want to wear a skirt your Gran could have owned? I want a lie-in anyway,” He sighs, flicking me a last sweet, “Catch!”
Take it that’s a ‘no’ then. I miss the lurid green square, and it tumbles into the dust under Rose’s bed. Me and Rose loved to trawl the charity shops in town, and luckily Broadridge Heath is stuffed with them. When I hooked up with Leo we used to occasionally bully him into coming along. Now Rose is gone he’s an essential accessory, and although he claims to find the whole thing boring he once snapped up a genuine Armani suit for a fiver!
Just now though Leo is looking at me with a concerned expression, hazel eyes squinting behind the thick lenses. “Don’t watch that all night will you Caz. They’re just stupid. I mean, they could kill themselves doing stuff like that.”
We stare at each other, and the words seem to echo in the dusty air. Then Leo shrugs and says we’ll talk about it tomorrow.
I watch the door bang behind him, shocked. We just hit on what could be the truth and he walked out. I am stupidly upset, but turn determinedly back to the screen. If my sister died doing one of these stupid dares, I am going to find out.
Mum is back late, which gives me time to check out the rest of the LiveWire site. It seems to be international, with members from Australia, Asia, USA, all teens, and all doing crazy stuff. Occasionally, and I pay particular attention to these, the pictures and feeds show it all goes wrong. Updates from other members’ document arrests, hospital stays, and the flashing blue lights make me edgy. Did she see the lights of the ambulance, or was she dead already?
“Caroline? Are you home?”
Oh great, its Mum’s bloke, Garry. He’s a loser if ever I met one, with his dumb shaggy light brown hair, and big open face. Like a St Bernard dog. He even has big white teeth. Can’t believe Mum gave him a key. Reluctantly I log off and stretch, shoulders aching. The sense of surreal purpose that has kept me going has snapped, and I’m exhausted again. Wish I could sleep.
“Hi Garry,” I stamp down the stairs, as he is bustling round, turning the oven on, taking ingredients from the store cupboard. The only good thing about this man is that he can cook. But men look stupid in aprons, and his is a naff jokey one, which makes it worse.
I do try not to be mean to Garry, but it just happens. Despite the fact Leo is dead right, and he was always nagging her about careers and stuff, Rose liked him, and she used to lecture me on giving him a break, how happy he made mum. Mentally I give her two fingers, wherever she is now.
“How are you doing Caroline? Do you fancy spag bol for dinner?”
With his big muscular body, and slightly sweaty face Garry looks like he would be more at home wrestling snakes in the outback, than frying onions. His Australian accent gets on my nerves.
He looks anxious, “I hope you don’t mind me coming over…..but your mum did ask.”
I make a huge effort, “Of course not Garry,” go on say it Caz, just do it, “ It’s….it’s nice to see you.”
He relaxes and beams, big watery blue eyes disappearing into layers of tanned wrinkles.
“I’ll see you later. Just going over to see Leo.” Of course I wasn’t, but now I just need to get out.
“Oh, well okay. Shall I leave some in the oven for when you get back?”
“Yeah, great. Bye Garry.” I make my escape before Mum arrives home, especially as I told her I was staying in tonight. There is of course another reason why I don’t want to be alone with him. Again I hear Leo’s words, “He was always down on her about something.”
ever seemed to bother her though, she just accepted his criticism and carried on doing exactly what she had been going to do in the first place. He was interviewed by the police twice though….
It’s cloudy outside
now, the moon peering sulkily from a grey flecked sky, but the air is hot and sultry. Late July and I’m sick of summer. My head hurts from staring at the screen, and I meander slowly along our street, spying on the happy, and less than happy families in the ugly red brick houses. Little squares of parched brown gardens are littered with discarded kids’ toys, like garish plastic flowers. The smell of barbeque smoke wafts sausages, burgers, and a reminder of Dad.
I don’t often let Dad into my head, because it was a long time ago and he messes with my mind. He was killed on duty in Iraq. Mum keeps all his photos up, and I’m surprised Garry ever dares stay the night with dad staring down at him from every wall. The Vultures have kind of been with me since I was eleven, and just as I get rid of them, finish those crappy counselling sessions, Rose brings them all back. Nice one sis.
My hair is sticky and itchy on my neck and I fumble for a band to plait the curly mess out the way. Wish I had straight hair. A beep on my phone is Melissa, a girl from college. We get on quite well, and I think she fancies Leo, because she’s always trying to engineer the three of us going out. Sometimes we do and she goes all coy and girly with him. Bless him, he just turns red and mumbles rubbish. He made me promise not to tell anyone about him being gay.
I scroll through the phonebook with an idle thumb, freezing when I get to Rose. As usual I hover over the edit button, until a little message on screen asks if I want to delete this contact. Just do it, I tell myself. I am shaking with emotion, and bite my lip hard, before hitting ‘no’. No I don’t want her deleted, no I don’t want her dead. I can’t do this by myself.
It might be summer, but I shiver in my thin T- shirt. Perhaps Rose just walked over my grave. No that would be wrong….it’s not me that’s dead. I have walked to the fringes of the Estate, and the shadowy bushes that screen us from The Road are bright with headlights. Deliberately I turn right, carefully skirting the bridge, heading like a homing pigeon for Leo’s flat.
Shortcutting down the narrow footpath I dodge a couple of muscular blokes on bikes, and even though it’s dark, memory sears my brain. Because as usual Rose is closer at night.
“Are you okay?” Rose was in front as usual, and she leapt off to kneel beside the injured cyclist.
“Yeah. Just my leg,” the boy winced, geeky blonde hair a curtain over his pinched pale face. There was a deep cut on his right ankle, where the chain had apparently come off. Smart beige trousers were torn and his over large red check shirt was draped across skinny shoulders. He looked like a grubby scarecrow.
“Hey, it’s Leo,” I dismounted more slowly and propped my bike against a lamppost. It was only the second time I’d seen Leo, although we’d texted a lot since we met a week previous at the fair. I offered to show him around, help him settle into the area. It was the first day back after half term, a weird time to start a new school, but he didn’t seem much bothered.
“Lots of blood, not much damage,” Rose announced, deftly hauling Leo to his feet.
We had been in to town first and grabbed a Macdonald’s breakfast, before forcing our way over the rickety wooden bridge and through the edge of the park, to college. Rose obviously enjoyed the terrain but my new jeans were ripped by the brambles, and I was not in a good mood.
The twisting, muddy footpath was dotted with tree roots and dog poo.
Caz. Sorry, I know I said I’d see you in the canteen, but hey, I couldn’t wait!” He was struggling to his feet, and I remember Rose flashing us both a look.
Efficiently, scornfully, she fixed Leo’s bike and the three of us headed off for the first day of term.
It’s very dark, and this side road is quiet, leading past looming stinky recycling bins. I wrinkle my nose, fiddling with my phone as a bus chugs past in a cloud of smog and dust. A noise from the undergrowth makes me jump, and sets my heart crashing against my ribs. Rustling, a thud of feet and I feel a hand on my bare arm. Spinning round, I raise a feeble elbow, cringing away from my attacker.
“Caz! Are you okay?”
Narrowing my eyes against the glare of a flashlight I draw a long quivering breath, “Matt?”
Dimly registering his companion I lower my arm “Ashley? What the hell are you two doing here?”
It is indeed Rose’s boyfriend and sexy Matt. Relief makes me angry, and they look shamefaced.
“Sorry. We were just sitting down there,” Ashley indicates the long slope, tangled with brambles and crappy yellow flowering weeds. At the bottom of the slope The Road beckons.
“Why?” I demand, gripping my phone like a weapon. Crazy thoughts are rushing through my admittedly exhausted mind. Like did Ashley and Matt kill Rose? Maybe they pushed her in the road, and the hit and run driver didn’t see her…..
Then I look properly at Ashley’s devastated face. He looks like the kind of thin weedy kid Rose would despise, but with him it’s deceptive, and hides a catlike athletism. Ashley is like the perfect match for Rose, despite being a year younger, and he was only waiting to finish college before he and Rose were off travelling.
Anyway the point is his normally spiky blonde hair is plastered over his thin face, red eyes etched with purple shadows. His lips are rigid and clenched as though to stop from crying out. He looks like my reflection in the mirror, and I feel a little bit sorry. Sorry that he lost his wonderful girlfriend, but I lost my wonderful sister and I think that comes first.
“Why were you sitting by The Road?” I repeat, conscious of Matt’s restless eyes on my face, and also suddenly realising how rough I look, in yesterday’s clothes with my wild hair escaping in red tendrils from its twisted knot. This shouldn’t matter but somehow it does.
“Calm down Caz. We were just having a smoke.”
They both look slightly shamefaced and I realise suddenly what kind of smoke. Oh. On the plus side I didn’t actually get as far as accusing them of anything. Thank God.
“I am really sorry about Rose, and for you and Ashley. Must be crap. My cousin died last year, and all that stuff about getting over it is rubbish. You don’t, you just carry on living without them.” Matt smiles awkwardly and I stare at him.
Sometimes I get so caught up in my own life I forget other people have stuff happen to them as well.