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showcasewas good, that the twins needed to separate, find themselves as individuals. Mum threw that back at him, after the accident. It was one of the reasons Dad left. I was glad Jamie was friends with Ethan because when the twins weren’t taken up with each other, they both had time for me. And it was exciting, when Jack and Ethan let me and Layla go with them. Layla and Jack, me and Ethan. After the accident, everybody said Ethanhad always been bad news, he was a bad influence on Jack.Layla’s back. She sits down, says carry on I won’t listen. He says, how’s Jack doing? I’m like, the doctors want to switch him off and Mum won’t allow it, she thinks he’ll come round one day. That was another reason Dad left, because he said they should let the doctors switch Jack off. Ethan says, you hear about things like that, she’s right to wait, I would.The guard says finish your visits please. Ethan wants me to send him some truck magazines. I think Mr Pradesh in the newsagent’s will tell me what he means.I turn round at the door, he’s biting his fingernails, looking at the table.The connecting train from York is cancelled so we’re late and Mum texts me where am I because Jamie’s texted her that I’m not back from school. He’ll be wanting me to cook his tea. I text her that I’m having tea at Layla’s.Friday, I go to the hospital at dinner break. Since Dad moved in with Gran, Friday’s pretty much the only time I see him. Sometimes we go to the canteen for egg and chips. We have a laugh. It sounds cruel, but we forget, for a few minutes. I don’t tell Mum because she’d stress at there being nobody with Jack, even though it’s only half an hour and if he hasn’t woken up for eight months he’s not going to do it then, is he?Mum and Dad are by Jack’s bed, talking. Dad sees me and comes out. We’ve had some news, from the victim service, about Ethan, he’s getting out in a few weeks. We can’t face it, seeing him around. He won’t be allowed to approach us, but even so. I’m going home now, to break it to Jamie. Mum is holding Jack’s hand. She’s thin, like dried out, no crying left.Driving home, I keep my lips closed because stuff about Ethan is trying to burst out of me. Dad says, I know love, you’re as shocked as we are. We sit in the car outside our house, looking through the windscreen. The Santa on Wilkinson’s chimney is hanging sideways. The drizzle makes it nearly dark and the lights on the houses look blurry and sad, like they’re crying. Dad says,22 Mar/Apr/May 2017 mslexiashall I come round and put the lights up? I shrug. I don’t want to think about Christmas. Jamie’s in his room. Dad goes in and shutsthe door. I put a couple of pizzas in the oven with some chips and get the ketchup out of the fridge, then Jamie screams I’ll kill him, I swear, and the bottle slips out of my fingers and I watch it smash and splash giantred splotches across the floor. Jamie runs downstairs and slams out of the house. He’ll be going to his mates. I know what they’ll be talking about. Dad hugs me. I know you’re upset, love, aren’t we all.Saturday, Layla texts me to go round, she’s got a letter off Ethan. He writes, dont worry, I wont tell but I havnt got nobody and if I cant come home yu have to come with me. Iv got a mate here from Belfast says I can get a job there. I dont care ware but you must come with.Part of me’s excited, thinking about running away. Belfast sounds boring, though. Once, Mum and Dad took me and the twins to Tenerife. That was mega. I can pass for older and we could get jobs in abar. Would you come? and Layla says, andbe gooseberry to you two? Which makes us both think of Jack, who she fancied like mad, before, and we go quiet.Then she says, tell your mum and dad, you’ve got to. I know. Before I leave hers,we tear Ethan’s letters into little bits. It’s pouring freezing rain. I get to the hospital drenched, my shoes are squelching and my hair’s sticking to my face, and when Mum sees me looking through the window, she jumps up and runs out. Jesus, you look likea ghost, and puts her hand over her mouth because she’s not supposed to say things like that. The nurse brings a towel and Mum rubs my hair like a little kid and I put on her fleecy onesie that she keeps at the hospital just in case. I’m crying and she hugs me like she hasn’t since that night. She says, I’ll get you a hot chocolate, warm you through. Isit down and hold Jack’s hand, thinking he might wake up and say, don’t be soppy. It’s the first time we’ve been on our own since.Why, just why didn’t you put your seatbelt on? You went on and on about thieving a car. I know how you felt, I felt the same round Ethan, excited, dangerous. You knew he didn’t want to because he was on a caution and he promised, if I went out with him, he’d go straight. But you kept on ‘til he showed you how to start the car with a wire. He wanted to go home then. I made him getin. Layla was with us because she fancied you. You was literally driving like a maniac, buzzing with the skunk. So I made you get in the passenger seat. You told me how to drive.But just why didn’t you put your seat belt on? My fingerprints must’ve been on the steering wheel, but they didn’t look because Ethan owned up straight away. They believed me. And Ethan, when he swapped seats with me, and I said I’d stick by him, he believed me. But I can’t.Mum’s pushing a paper cup into my hands, wrapping my fingers into the warm chocolatey cream that’s running over the side. You can’t change your story now, love. It won’t help Jack. Leave it be.KATE MITCHELL worked in the probation service but is now an independent consultant. Her self-published first novel, The House Fell on Her Head, made it to Number 1 in Amazon’s Historical Mystery list. ‘Joyriding’ is one of a collection of short stories she completed on the Cinnamon Press mentoring scheme. The press also published her story ‘Eclipsed’ in the anthology The Day I met Vini Reilly. She is working on her second novel.

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