SOMEONE DIFFERENT

 

1 – Jay

The foreman of that jury never altered his face once. Not when they showed the x-rays of the injuries, not when the victim said how it’d affected his life, and not now; as we all stared at him and waited for the verdict. 

He stood up proper slowly and pulled his sleeves down. Then he coughed this quiet cough into his fist and looked over towards the judge. 

Me and Billy were already on our feet. The judge started talking – I know he did because I could hear his voice, but not the actual words; I’m not sure exactly what he said. All I could do was watch the foreman; all I cared about were the words that came out of his mouth.

I waited for that first sound. A ‘n’ would be wicked. It’d be like having a pistol pressed up against the side of your head, closing your eyes as you hear the trigger being pulled back, but then there just being a click, cos it’d run out of bullets. 

A ‘g’ though, that would be bad. And I don’t mean good bad, either. I mean like really, proper bad; the worst thing that could happen.

Billy stood next to me with his hands in his jeans’ pockets and looked straight ahead. I messed about with the zip on my jacket; zipping it part way up, then down, than back up again. There was a quiet click as my solicitor pressed the button on the end of his pen and put it in the inside pocket of his suit. 

I knew all this was happening, even though I still hadn’t taken my eyes off the foreman, and he still hadn’t taken his eyes off the judge. 

Then I heard my name. 

‘... the defendant, Jayden Harris ...?’

My fingers tightened round the zip. The foreman lifted his chin slightly, opened his mouth, and it was a ‘g’ – ‘g’ for guilty.

 

2 – Anna

72%. Oh my God, that was even worse than last time. They’d go crazy. 

Unless it was just a really difficult test, and nobody had scored highly? I glanced up and down the science lab bench. 97%, 99%, even two who’d got the full forty-five out of forty-five. 

And I’d revised so hard as well. 

Miss Welbourne handed out the last of the papers, sauntered along the bench and hovered behind me. ‘So, Annabel; another disappointing result. I think perhaps tomorrow lunchtime you and I should meet to discuss this?’

I looked up at her pale lips and narrow pointed nose, then back down again. ‘Yes, miss.’ 

‘Twelve-thirty,’ she said, turning away and striding back to her stage at the front.

Sophie and Beth gawped at each other and didn’t even try to hide their stupid sniggers. But Lizzie glared at them and tutted. ‘It’s not that bad,’ she said, putting her test paper into her folder. ‘It’s still the equivalent of a B.’

I smiled. It was kind of her to be supportive, but we both knew her result would earn her an A-star, and the B I’d got stood for one thing in this school: below average.

The shrill ring of the bell ricocheted around the classroom. Three o’clock; thank God – the best time of the day.

Outside, I said bye to Lizzie and rushed over to where Mum was waiting in her usual place. 

‘Hi, darling,’ she said. ‘Good day? Did you get your science results back?’

I hadn’t even closed the car door behind me, let alone fastened my seatbelt. 

Word for word, I heard her response in my head: ‘Oh, Annabel; what went wrong this time? We’d been through it all; you said you’d learned it. Grades like that won’t get you into the universities we’ve chosen, you know that. I mean, it’s not like we don’t try; we pay for your education, give you the best start in life, but in the end it’s got to be down to you – you have to start making the grade ...’

And she would go on and on and on. Then we’d arrive home and she’d tell Dad, and he’d go on and on and on. And then, in that disapproving, stomach-twisting, but ultra-supportive way they’d perfected over the years, they’d go on about my various failings non-stop for the next three days. 

I picked at the skin around my thumbnail, then shook my head. ‘No, not yet.’

She scowled like I’d trod in something and the smell had just reached her nose. ‘That’s unusual for Miss Welbourne, she usually returns test results really quickly.’

Mum flicked down the indicator and pulled out in front of an old man in a Mini. He hooted his horn twice and flashed his headlights, but Mum just waved into the rear view mirror. 

‘Anyway,’ she said, turning the seat heaters on. ‘Guess where Dad and I have been today?’

‘Where?’

‘Do you remember that young black mare I told you about? The one Auntie Caroline saw jumping in the county finals last summer?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, I know you won’t believe it, but she was for sale. We were all so convinced she’d be perfect for you, that we went to have a look. You should’ve seen her jumping – fast and high and careful – Dad could hardly believe it. The price was a little steep of course, but as I said to him, horses with her potential don’t come along every two minutes – so we struck a deal, right there and then!’

I looked at her for the first time. ‘You mean you’ve been to see her and bought her? Without even asking me about it?’

‘What’s there to ask? She’s amazing; you’ll absolutely love her.’

‘I love Pepper,’ I said, shaking my head and turning to stare out of the window again.

‘Sweetheart, Pepper’s a plod-along; you’ve outgrown him. I know he’s been great for teaching you to ride, but you’re ready to move on now, to something younger, with more speed and spirit; something you can succeed on.’

‘But what about him?’

‘Oh, don’t worry, we’ll still keep Pepper if you want. He can go and work in the riding school or something.’ 

A feature came on the radio then about the history of Chanel, and she turned up the volume. I leaned back against the headrest. What if I couldn’t handle this new horse – all that spirit and speed? What if I wasn’t good enough, and she never reached her potential? I knew Pepper like I knew myself; I didn’t want him working in the riding school. I didn’t want another horse.

Then there were the science results. I’d have to explain about those eventually, wouldn’t I? One, two days perhaps, at the most, then they’d be on the phone asking why the papers hadn’t been marked. 

What would Miss Welbourne say tomorrow? What would we ‘discuss’? My score must’ve been the worst in the whole class – maybe the worst she’d ever seen.

Mum swung on to the long driveway that led up to our house as the news came on and she turned the radio back down. The potholes were still solid white ice from the frost we’d had the night before, but she zoomed along at her normal speed, trusting the four wheel drive to cope with it. ‘So, are you excited about your new horse?’ she asked.

‘I –’

‘It won’t be straight away unfortunately – she’s got to be examined by the vet and everything first – but hopefully a week, maximum. I was thinking, we could go shopping for new tack and rugs at the weekend, would you like that? We could get some things embroidered with her name and ...’

She carried on making her plans for me and the horse as we drove up our driveway and came to a stop outside the house. 

‘I’m just going to check on Pepper,’ I said, interrupting her as I got out of the car.

‘Do you have to? You’ll get your uniform all dirty.’

‘I’ll be careful.’ 

‘Well, don’t be out there for hours, it’s bitterly cold tonight.’

The gravel crunched under my shoes as I ran down past the stables and alongside the white post and rail fencing that enclosed the fields. Pepper was tucking into a huge round bale of hay that he had all to himself, but when he saw me he trotted over and nudged my pockets. I found a couple of Polos and he chomped them happily while I put my hand under his rug to check he was warm enough. His dark blue eyes looked black in the fading light, and he blinked them as I stroked his fluffy white head and scratched behind his ears. ‘You don’t care, do you, boy?’ I whispered. ‘Seventy-two percent, ninety-two ... twenty-two. It makes no difference to you at all. You still love me.’ 

 

3 – Jay

That was it then; the chambers were full, the pistol fired, and the bullet sliced right through my head. 

Before it happens, you do all that stuff, don’t you? You tell yourself over and over again it won’t go your way. You don’t let yourself think about it being OK for even a second. 

And I’d done it all. I’d imagined them saying guilty, I’d imagined what it’d feel like and what I’d do. And yet somewhere, right deep down, some hope must’ve still hung out, because when I heard that verdict, I couldn’t stop my eyes watering. 

They weren’t like proper tears; I didn’t show myself up or anything. Nobody else even knew about it. But it took a bit of an effort to hold the sound in and dry my face on my sleeve without anybody noticing. 

Billy never blinked. It was like he hadn’t even heard it.

We sat down and I glared at the judge as he read his notes. How many years would he give us? The solicitor’d already warned us it could be ages. 

My insides clenched even tighter. I glanced at Billy again, but his eyes were still fixed on the wall opposite.

The judge picked his glass of water up and took a sip that wasn’t worth the effort. Then he looked at us. ‘You have been found guilty of committing a serious crime,’ he said, folding his hands together on the bench in front of him. ‘Your violent and chilling actions caused life-threatening injuries to an innocent person, and it is my duty to pass a sentence that reflects that. However, due to the complexities of your backgrounds and the questions surrounding intent, I am recommending that this court reconvenes tomorrow morning for sentencing, by which time I will be in possession of pre-sentencing reports from the relevant agencies.’ 

For a second, my shoulders relaxed. We weren’t going anywhere then; well, not tonight. But they soon scrunched back up again as I thought about the following morning and what it’d bring. 

A sharp movement from the public gallery made my head twist up. A guy with ginger hair put this dark blue cap on and disappeared through the exit. 

‘I would like to thank all the members of the jury for their service on this case.’ The judge’s voice sounded softer now, and I looked back to see him smiling in the jury’s direction. ‘You have, I am sure, arrived at the correct verdict, and as I see time after time, achieved yet another victory for the English justice system.’

We did the ‘court rise’ bit again, and the judge left.

Martin, my Youth Offending worker, came over to me. The solicitor gathered his papers and stood up. ‘So,’ he said to Martin. ‘You need to prepare the pre-sentencing report. And Jayden, you must be back here at ten o’clock in the morning. Your bail conditions still stand, and should you fail to attend, an arrest warrant will be issued and your original sentence increased.’

Billy’s solicitor told him the same thing almost word for word. We walked out together, but then had to split up – one of the bail conditions, see; we weren’t supposed to have any contact with each other outside of court. 

Although Martin had been to our house more times than the postman, he still managed to get lost on our estate. Even ‘left’, ‘right’ and ‘straight on’ were a struggle for me as he drove me home though; my head felt like I’d been on weed for a week. 

In a way, I wish he’d just done it there and then; sent us down straight from court. I wish he’d said how long we’d get, and where we’d go, because then I’d know, and my head wouldn’t have been all messed up trying to guess.

When we stopped outside our house, Martin switched the engine off. ‘Do you want me to come in and explain everything to your dad?’

I shrugged.

‘Well, I probably should.’

He followed me down the path and in through the front door. My dad was laid on the settee. He didn’t get up, but he took his fag out and stared at us with his face all screwed up.

‘Martin Swift ... Jay’s Youth Offending worker?’ Martin had to do that every time he came.

‘Oh, yeah, yeah, I remember. How’s he gone on in court then?’

‘Well, erm, Jay’s been found guilty actually, Mr Harris.’

‘I knew it; I could see it comin’ all along.’ He lifted his bottle of Bud off the floor with the same hand that held the fag, and took a long swig. ‘Would he listen to me though? No. Waggin’ school, stayin’ out ’til all hours, smokin’ that stuff and teckin’ them pills. What did he expect? And I suppose that Billy Clayton’s got off scot free?’

Martin started to explain – I don’t know why though, my dad wasn’t listening.

‘It’s called joint enterprise, Mr Harris. Because neither Billy nor Jay would testify regarding which one of them actually committed the offence, they’ve both been found guilty of it.’ 

‘I warned him about hangin’ around with them Claytons. His dad’s always been a bad un, ever since he were young. I told him to stay away.’ My dad shook his head then drank from the bottle again. ‘What’s he lookin’ at?’

Martin turned to me and tried to work out which direction I’d been staring in.

I smiled. ‘He means, how long will I get.’

‘Oh, right, I see.’ Martin turned back to my dad. ‘Well, Jay’s solicitor is predicting a sentence of between two and four years.’

My dad grunted and flicked ash on the floorboards. Then his eyes went back to the telly as the adverts finished and Deal or No Deal came back on.

Martin kept trying. ‘It’s really important that Jay attends court tomorrow morning for sentencing. If he receives a lighter sentence he could be released in under a year – but if he doesn’t show up at all, he’ll receive a much longer sentence when he’s re-arrested.’

It took Martin a few seconds to realise my dad wasn’t going to be saying anything else. He jangled his car keys a bit, and said, ‘Right then, I’ll be off. I’ll pick you up in the morning, Jay, about half-past nine.’

‘Thanks,’ I said.

He smiled at my dad, my dad ignored him, and he went.

The light in the kitchen never even tried to flicker on, but the one in the fridge at least made an attempt. I stared at the only two things in there – the only two consumable things in the whole kitchen actually: Cola and Strongbow. Then, after a few seconds passed and nothing else appeared, I took the Strongbow. If this was my last night out, I might as well make the most of it. 

The time on my phone said ten-past five; nearly two hours ’til my curfew started. 

‘Dad,’ I shouted, going back into the living room. 

He stared at the telly.

‘Dad!’

‘Eh?’

‘I need some money, to buy somethin’ to eat.’

‘Meck yourself summat.’

‘There’s nothin’ in.’

‘There’s bread.’

‘No, there in’t; there’s nowt.’

‘How much d’you want?’

‘A tenner.’

‘Fuck off.’ 

‘A fiver then.’

‘Oh, for God’s sake. Go an’ look in my coat pocket – the big one – there’s a couple of quid in there.’ He turned the telly up louder. ‘No more though.’

My dad’s coat was screwed up on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. I rummaged around in the big square pocket at the front, and found a packet of Rizlas, four little blue pens from the bookies, a bit of grey fluff and a handful of coins. As well as all the one and two pences, there were two pound coins, which went straight into my jeans’ pocket. 

A loud, ‘Oooh’ came from the telly. I checked he was looking at that and not me, then I moved round ’til I had my back to him and felt in his inside pocket as well. What I brought out, was a crisp, new fiver. My eyes flicked from the coat to the settee; he was still well focussed on the programme. I stared at the note, then closed my fingers around it. Chances were he’d be too pissed to notice ’til he got up in the morning, and by then, one way or another, I’d be gone.

 

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