Once upon a time in a town near you

24th October 2003 at 01:00
Look, Miss, just don't ask me. I didn't do anything over the holidays. We didn't go anywhere. It rained. Just don't ask me. I can't write anything.

The first week was bad. I nicked some sweets from Bob's corner shop and he gobbed on me. My mum grounded me for a week. Fat lot of good that did because there's nowhere to go anyway.

I climbed out the window, but there was nothing to do so I climbed back in and wrote on the walls. My teacher said I'm getting better at writing, so I thought I'd practise. I would have written a story if I'd had some paper. A story about a girl who wins the lottery and lives in a huge house with a pool and a computer. I'd have read a book if we'd got any. My report said I would benefit from practising reading and writing over the holidays. With what? The only things in my bedroom are the Game Boy and the wet washing, and I nicked the Game Boy from Lennie. His mum won't let me in the house now, but she can't prove it. I said it wasn't me 100 times.

The second week my mum left home. She ran away to Ireland with her new boyfriend. She said she'd rather be dead than stop here with us. Grandma looked after me and Sam, but she's not right. She can't see properly and she can't read either. I nicked off every day. I went down the harbour and ate chips out the bins.

The third week social services came round. They said how polite me and Sam were and what good boys. I didn't tell her I was a girl. What's the point? She said Gran was doing a great job and who else could they contact? There's no one, I said.

They found my dad. And Mum came home. It didn't work out in Ireland. So she wouldn't rather be dead, would she? She'd rather be here in this one-room flat with Gran who can't see and Sam who can't speak properly and me who can't and won't.

Dad came round with his baby daughter. She was cute, in a baby sort of way.

He said he would take us out every weekend. He said he would take us to his house and we'd have a barbecue. He didn't turn up. Social services came instead and told Mum they would help us to get a better flat so me and Sam and Gran could have a bedroom each, because Gran can't live on her own any more. They went away and I haven't seen them since.

The last week of the holidays, Mum hit the bottle - gin mostly. I tried to hide it from her but it was a waste of time. Gran keeps crying all the time. I think she's hungry. I know I am.

So don't ask me, Miss. Ask Kylie. She went to Benidorm, wherever that is, and she played kiss chase in the pool with a boy from Bolton. Ask Jamie. He went in a caravan to Scotland and watched otters playing in a stream. Just don't ask me or I'll have to tell lies.

Val Woollven

Val Woollven is head of St Andrew's C of E primary, Plymouth

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