Read He's After Me Online

Authors: Chris Higgins

He's After Me

 

www.hodderchildrens.co.uk

Other books by Chris Higgins

 

32C, That’s Me

Pride and Penalties

It’s a 50/50 Thing

A Perfect 10

Love ya Babe

Would you Rather?

Tapas and Tears

Copyright © 2011 Chris Higgins

First published in Great Britain in 2011

by Hodder Children’s Books

This ebook edition published in 2011

The right of Chris Higgins to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved. Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form, or by any means with prior permission in writing from the publishers or in the case of reprographic production in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency and may not be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A Catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 844 56999 1

Typeset in Berkeley Book by Avon DataSet Ltd, Bidford on Avon, Warwickshire

Hodder Children’s Books

A Division of Hachette Children’s Books

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

An Hachette UK company

www.hachette.co.uk

For my lovely daughters and amazing husband.
Thank you for all your help.

Thanks too to Anne, Naomi and Lindsey.

When they got off the bus it was dark and had started raining. Thrusting his hands deep into his jeans pockets, he watched the girls as they linked arms and dashed straight across the road to the towering warehouse. Quickly he pulled out his camera and snapped them.

They reached the shelter of the lighted entrance and their laughter rang out into the night as they shook their hair free of rain. He snapped them again. Recently converted into apartments, the building was already covered in graffiti.

As the bus pulled away, the blonde one turned to watch and spotted him in the gloom of the bus shelter.

‘Who’s that?’ he heard her say.

The dark one peered at him and he took a step back into the shadows, pulling his hood down low over his face.

‘Just some pervert,’ she said and leant hard on the buzzer.

‘Come on. Dad’s waiting.’

CHAPTER ONE
 

U
pstairs, my father opens the door to us, beaming from ear to ear, a large glass of wine in his hand.

‘Welcome! Welcome!’ he says, his arms wide, sweeping us in like it’s a party. ‘What a night! What can I get you?’

‘What are we celebrating?’

‘The weekend? Spending it together? You both making it here at last?’

I ignore the last comment and cast a critical eye around. It’s the first time I’ve been here. The apartment, basically the top floor of a Docklands warehouse, is bright and overheated after the murky dampness outside. Open-plan, with high brick walls and solid oak floors, the windows stretched from floor to ceiling. It must have cost a bomb.

So this is where Dad lives. With Jude, his new girlfriend. Or The Bitch, as Livi prefers to call her. Dad broke Mum’s heart when he left her for a younger woman. Much younger. At twenty-six Jude was only nine years older than me.

The Bitch is away for the weekend, which is the reason we are here. Livi’s been dying to come for ages, only she won’t if Jude is around. She misses Dad dreadfully.

I didn’t want to come, only I couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to. After all, I’ve got nothing better to do, now that I’ve dumped Ben.

‘I thought we might order in pizza,’ he says. ‘Unless you’d rather go out for dinner?’

‘Whatever.’ I sound about twelve so I add quickly, ‘Pizza’s fine. It’s pissing down outside.’

I sit down on the expensive leather sofa, automatically turning a photograph of Jude, perched proudly on the coffee table beside me, down on its smug, smiling face. Livi ignores him. She’s busy scrolling through her text messages with one hand and with the other flicking through the channels on the gigantic TV screen that takes up nearly the whole of one wall.

‘Good.’ My father pulls his tie off in relief and pours himself another glass of red.

‘Can I have one?’ asks Livi, without looking up. Dad stares at her uncertainly.

‘She’s joking,’ I say.

‘No, I’m not.’

He looks embarrassed, caught out, like for a moment he’s forgotten just how old Livi actually is. I’m not surprised – she looks way older than fourteen. She could pass for my age easily.

My sister is impulsive, an exhibitionist. A dizzy blonde, true to type. She makes out she doesn’t give a stuff about anything but it’s mostly an act. Actually, I care less about what people think than she does, though I’m pretty quiet on the whole.

Still waters run deep,
says Mum.

Yeah, right. No one’s ever waded round in mine long enough to find out. I wish I had more luck with men. I seem to attract them all right. I’m just not that good at keeping them.

Like that boy on the bus. I mean, it was Livi who caught his eye in the first place, singing out loud, but I know for a fact it was me he fancied.

Not everyone was impressed when Livi started singing. She got some black looks which made her sing even louder, and that’s when he turned around and grinned at us.

Well, Livi loves an audience, so when we got up to get off at our stop, she practically danced her way down the aisle, just to attract his attention. It worked. As we passed, he looked up and I rolled my eyes at him and he laughed out loud.

But then his smile faded and our eyes held and that’s when it happened. A charge passed through me, like an electric shock.

I’ve never felt anything like it before in my life. It was intense.

I’ve never been in love.

All the boys I’ve ever been out with could see that. Some dumped me because I wouldn’t put out. Some I dumped because I got bored. Like Ben.

No hard feelings,
I said.
Let’s stay friends.

And I meant it. Heart still intact. I never once thought he was The One. Just a nice, kind, safe, unexceptional boy.

But the boy on the bus was different.

‘What do you want, Anna?’ Dad’s studying the pizza menu, his phone in his hand.

‘Anything.’

‘Olivia?’

Livi’s phone bleeps and she scrolls through to read her text. Her face lights up.

‘Nothing for me, Dad, I’m going out.’

‘What?’

‘There’s a party on. I won’t be late.’ She jumps to her feet and grabs her bag.


You
are not going anywhere.’

Livi looks at him askance. ‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s pitch dark and pouring with rain. You are not going out in this.’

‘I’ll get a taxi.’

‘I said no. End of.’

Here we go. My little sister’s about to kick off because she can’t get her own way. I’ve seen it so many times before and it still does my head in.

‘I HATE YOU!’ screams Livi. ‘YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE!’ She dashes into the bedroom and slams the door as hard as she can. From inside comes the sound of angry sobbing.

‘Happy days!’ says Dad with a grimace and tops up his glass again before slumping down beside me on the sofa. He pats my knee, like I’m his mate, his ally in all this.

Irritated, I get to my feet and walk over to the huge window with its view over the docks, and lean my head against its cool surface.

It’s like a furnace in here. I don’t just mean the heating. Livi with her tantrums. Dad with his menopausal affair. Me, overdosing on hormones myself, getting the hots for someone I’ll never ever see again.

Outside the rain, sleeting off the sea, drums horizontally against the glass. Dad’s right, it is a filthy night; who would want to be out in this? Down below, small boats clash together in the harbour and the wind whips litter up into the air to disappear over the wall into the gaping black void of the sea.

A movement in the bus shelter across the road catches my eye and I peer down through the driving rain, trying to focus on the one lone person in the world mad enough to be waiting for a bus in this weather.

I breathe in sharply as a current courses through my veins. He is looking up at me.

Feet planted squarely, hands in pockets, chest thrust out, from this angle only his chin is visible beneath his hood. But I know he can see me looking down at him. And I know he is watching me.

Suddenly I am aware how totally exposed I am up here at the very top of the building with all the lights blazing behind me. Anyone could see me out there in the darkness – any nutter or drifter or sad, lonely loser.

I step back so he can’t see me any more. My heart is thudding.

When I look back, he’s gone.

She’d seen him, he could tell by the way she’d suddenly stepped back from the window. They were up there in the top flat.

Take your time now, he told himself, don’t rush things. You’ve got all the time in the world. You’re good at waiting.

CHAPTER TWO
 

N
ext morning I wake up on the edge.

Literally.

On the edge of the bed, with Livi’s gaping, unconscious mouth exhaling stale morning breath in my face.

From the bedroom next door come Dad’s red wine snores. He polished off the first bottle when the pizzas arrived and was well into the second by the time I took myself to bed.

I couldn’t sleep. Livi was yakking away on her phone half the night trying to trace the whereabouts of some kid called Ferret who wasn’t answering his phone. Ferret! My sister was sending out a missing persons alert for a guy named after a polecat! Now she was dead to the world, exhausted by her failure to track him down.

I can’t imagine what it must it be like to care about someone that much.

I shower, dig jeans and various layers out of my bag, and go in search of breakfast. There’s not much here hiding in the cupboards, but I help myself to Jude’s seriously healthy muesli and splash skimmed milk over it. It’s like rabbit food. I can’t see my dad eating it.

And then, just to show how little you actually know someone, even if you’ve lived with them all your life, Dad comes out of his bedroom dressed in running gear. I nearly choke on my dried banana and coconut flakes. He opens the fridge, takes out the orange juice and tosses it straight back from the carton.

‘Coming for a jog?’ he asks.

I stare at him, rendered speechless by the sight of my father in very short shorts with a discernable paunch, drinking juice from a box.

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