Author: G. Jefferies
Adrian “Ade” Johnston was a bright kid that mixed with the wrong ones after his parents took their eye off the ball. Easy to do moving from toddler through to adolescence. Those days are cute. Maybes not at the time but looking back Pamela and Carl figured those were the times before “get out of my bubble” and “what do you know” appeared. The omnipresent realisation that every new teen cracks open. Older folk were always old and don’t know the minds of teenagers. How could they? They’re old.
Ade knew this to be true though. After all his generation were obviously the first to actually be sixteen…ever. Thirty seemed past it, unreachable, never going to happen. But folk older than that were just wrong. They were the ones running the world and screwing it up. They should all be put in homes until they get too old to have a say. Might be folk would just get along fine then. Only grandparents knew stuff. Well they had when he was a kid. Tales of the war, real stuff from history that even the Internet knew about. Gramps had been in it. Really in your face, up to the eyeballs, proper in it. He had medals too and that way of avoiding details which, to an empathic minded child, says hey, you really were weren’t you. As opposed to the hyperbolic crap most of his current mates said. Teens for you though. They all did it and they all knew they did it and that was just fine.
What was not fine, in his parents view, was how they had managed to watch good grades slump in the key years leading to examinations that counted. Ade knew why though. Love was money. It bought him stuff as a surrogate. Bespoke room that, in fairness, was the envy of his mates but when he needed help a new video game or bag of sweets didn’t cut the mustard. Then again they were in the age bracket that should be in homes to safeguard the planet. When you looked at it like that then what could you expect? The age of got to have the latest gadget, car, just so house was running. Any fool looking at 24/7 news could figure it out. Spend more get less; earn more do less. Wasn’t rocket science. Not to him and his mates at any rate. Politicians sucked, world leaders sucked and idiots that voted were sheep indoctrinated like religious folk. Dare to say something was wrong and boom. Off they went in the rhetoric of what the heck would Ade know at his age. They did though. Ade and his pals. They knew plenty. After all they were the first kids ever to be teenagers.
It started going off the rails when gramps passed away. Nothing sinister or untoward. He was just old. That didn’t make it hurt less because of all the people in his family who ever gave him any time to talk about stuff gramps was the only that chewed the fat. Ade thought that was a war thing. When you saw that up front it was bound to change you. A mate blown to pieces in front of you. One you had the crack with over breakfast, gone in seconds. There one minute, gone the next. Get your head round that people. The smell of fresh rain on mud, the chill of the air blowing a gale in wet clothes, boots full of water rotting your feet, the actual smell of flesh lacerated with bullets and screams of soldiers lying in the dirt waiting for medics that were just to damn busy. If movies came with smell-o-vision punters would be chucking up all over the place.
Ade saw it all in gramps eyes and the way a rustic index finger tapped the side of his nose when a question got too close. Gramps remembered the carefree days before and then the bloodshed after. They were there. Ade felt it sitting in the living room when he visited. Living room. That always threw him too. So quiet, a bit like he imaged a morgue with just a clock ticking the time away until the moment to drop the coffin came. He often wondered if you could ever really come back after an experience like that. Yes, Ade sure missed gramps a whole heap of ways.
That was when Rowena the Goth found him. One afternoon after lunch at school when he was leaning on the railings at the furthest edge of the playing fields. Having some time out away from everything, lessons, mates, people. Space to just say cheers gramps and thank you for being the real parent; the one that cared.
“Go on then” came a soft voice behind him.
Ade took no notice. He was there to be alone. Besides girls didn’t speak to him outside class very often. The owner he couldn’t place anyway.
“Are you gonna jump the fence or not?”
“What?” Ade hoped that had some proper fuck off irritation in it.
“I’ve seen you here everyday for the last two weeks at least. Figured you were working up to blowing this joint.” She was still behind him.
“Yeah, well I might just do that. Life’s a bitch then you die.”
Gramps cut him up there. Young un, t’aint her fault. It rolled round his head for a few before he replied. “I didn’t mean bitches as in girls. It’s just stuffs fucked up a bit.”
He turned round and things changed. Rowena the Goth as he’d never seen her before. Well, he had, just not paid any attention to her in school uniform. Her reputation was after hours. The black gear with silver bangles and purple highlights. Not forgetting the nose stud. Here she was kinda normal, uniform in the uniform and, well, fucking gorgeous.
“I know that one Adrian.” She smiled.
Fuck, she knows my name. A freaking girl knows my name. Gramps tailed away. “What do you know about it?” Imbecile, why did I say that?
“This and that. Being the weirdo that everyone laughs at for a start.”
“Do they?” He was looking into her eyes. He liked the way they stared back. More than that though, they reminded him of the light in Gramps. The one that said I know more than I let on young ‘un.
She laughed and he was hooked. “Yes they do.”
It may have been the glisten of tears in his eye that moved things on. Nobody cared before and Rowena the Goth was hope.
“I lost my grandad not long ago. Best friend I ever had.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.” Except she moved closer. He saw her arms move in the way his mums once had when he was upset.
“No, don’t apologise. I’m glad you did. It’s just hard with parents that don’t give a toss.” There, he’d never told anyone that before. It felt good.
Next he knew she was hugging him. Rowena the Goth, weirdo extraordinaire was embracing him, Ade, by the railings at the furthest point from school you could get without going truant. He clutched her back. Get your head round this people. Me and a girl…a real live girl.
“If you ever need to talk Adrian” she left it unfinished. Not that a sentiment like that needs terminating. It is what it is. An offer of friendship, maybe more. The school bell ended lunch. They separated and walked back holding hands until they neared the main buildings where they separated. Not cool to be seen with a girl during school. That’s a tease job waiting to happen. Sixth form acceptable, but year too early. Fuck the world he thought that’s crap too, like the lock up ages. He reached back, took her wrist and slid his fingers back into place. Rowena smiled and schoolwork went out the window.
© G Jefferies and Fictionisfood, 2016. All rights reserved.