Thought Diary: Why do I never, EVER, learn?
The silence lasts most of the following week. Mum says nothing, but her mouth is set in a straight, hard line that Joe says is more worry than anger. He shrugged his shoulders when I told him what Banks had done, as if to say what did I expect? Goth Girl was kinder, but even she thought I was crazy to be surprised. ‘He’s, like, a tramp,’ she said. ‘Give the guy a break.’
I sit in Sam’s room now, in secret, while Mum and Dad whisper to themselves downstairs. I don’t know why I came in here. Perhaps it’s because it’s the last place anyone will look for me.
I remember once, when we were small, we went on holiday to Cornwall. I don’t know why I did it, but I stole a marble from a tourist shop. I’d been brought up to know that stealing was wrong - but I remember wanting the marble more than anything I’d ever wanted before. It was a clear green like the sea, with a twisting spiral of white deep inside, which trapped the light when you held it to the window. I didn’t have a penny of my holiday money left, and something just made me do it. I remember looking around, mouth dry, hands shaking, and then, before I knew what I’d done, the marble was in my pocket and my heart was hammering as if it would jump right out of my chest. I changed my mind at once - my hand went to my pocket and clutched the marble ready to lift it back out and return it – but then I saw Sam, staring at me from across the aisle. I ran, and he ran after me, shouting my name. He chased me all the way to the cliff path and caught me in a grip of iron. ‘What’s in your pocket?’ he demanded, ‘What did you do?’
‘I didn’t mean it,’ I cried. ‘I’ll take it back!’
‘You can’t,’ he said, ‘you’d give yourself away. I’ll do it.’
‘Don’t tell, Sam. Don’t tell Mum and Dad.’
He looked at me with his hand out, waiting, and I put the marble on his palm where it winked in the sunlight like the most beautiful green eye.
‘This is going to be hard,’ he said. ‘I could get caught doing this and go to jail. You owe me. Never forget that. You owe me now.’
I was only young. I believed him. I remember it clear as day, and I remember how I paid. I look across his room now to the old chest of drawers still lumped in a corner where it was put when we brought it here from the old house. I remember the day, years later, that I sneaked into his room to see if he’d taken
my purse. I remembering easing the drawer open only to see the green marble lying in one corner like a dirty secret. People seem to have been stealing from me for years.
At lunchtime I see Joe. He’s sitting alone in the canteen, his hair a white shock. He looks at me as I walk past but says nothing, and nor do I. I’m angry with him. He always seems to be judging me, and now I just know he’s all smug. He was right about Banks, wasn’t he? And I bet he just loves it. He isn’t waiting after school either, so I wander down to the sea front, well away from the Mansion. I don’t know what happened to Banks with the police, and I don’t think I care. Then, I realise that I didn’t have to come down here. If I really didn’t care and I didn’t want to see him I’d have just gone home.
I turn with the wind behind my back and think of Gran’s ring in the window of a pawnshop. That’s the thing to do if something hurts too much - think of something that stops the pain getting through and making a mug of you - something that allows you to feel hate, or something like it, then walk away.
I go home and have dinner with Mum and Dad, talking trivia; anything to avoid talking about what we’re all avoiding. Afterwards we watch a drama together, curled up like sheep avoiding a storm. We're together and not together, feeding off one another’s warmth for a brief time before going to sleep alone. As I go up to bed, a real storm gathers outside, rumbling away somewhere over the sea then moving across the town flinging rain at the window. I wonder where the homeless people are and whether the old man is disturbed by the thunder, twitching on his sleeping bag bed.
I fall into a half-dream, where the red headed man runs naked across the stones, outlined in thunder. He screams at me that he has seen God and has a message for me. It’s written on the underside of a white stone that he turns and hurls into the dark water like the best bowler anyone ever saw. Then he laughs at me. ‘I know where your answers are,’ he screams at me, ‘It’s on the bottom of that stone – swim for it!’ and he screams like a wet, white gull and flaps away over the water.
I wake up with a start. Mum is standing at my window staring out at the night. I pretend to be asleep so that when she bends to pull the duvet up, she won’t know how much it means to me. I pretend to sleep on, hiding the knowledge inside in an act of defiance.