Harry Sheppard

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
One day Harry is asked a question that forms an idea in his mind but will it turn out for the better?

Submitted: November 07, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 07, 2010



The question
Harry didn’t hear the traffic buzzing past him. He didn’t hear the bustling of the crowd moving around him. He didn’t catch fragments of conversation as people usually do, “Janet said that I said…” “Come onGwen were gonna be late” “where on earth is that bus…” All he heard was the drumming of his own mind. He vaguely remembered telling a friend how amazing legs are. How you did not have to think to make them walk. They just did. And if you knew a route really well they would automatically take you there. That seemed eons ago. He had fought them in the beginning but he knew he’d have to go back eventually, after all he had nowhere else to go. He concentrated on his mind instead. The drumming pounded in his head, encircling his mind, forming words, “Stupid! Idiot! Loner! Good-for-nothing! All your fault! It’s over! Help me! Grab my hand! Incompetent boy! Murderer!” he did not hear the bleeping of the crossing, nor the honking of a solitary horn or the screeching of brakes. He did however turn and see the car. He did not move. He did not run. He was in control now. The car stopped inches away from him. “What the hell! Are you trying to get yourself killed?” the question from the angry driver caught Harry off guard. He had a sudden image of his old Sunday-school teacher telling him about the sanctity of life and how to take ones life was a deadly sin and a ticket straight to hell. His brain shouted “Of course not you prat! You shouldn’t have been driving so blimin’ fast!” His heart however had a completely different answer to give.
The lift
Harry rounded the corner, dogged the old lady walking her dog, jumped over a puddle while shouting incoherent apologies over his shoulder, slipped on the wet pavement and hit the floor hard. Harry tasted blood. The world dissolved before him, turning black. He felt strong arms encircling him, lifting him up. He wanted to shout “No get of me!” but no words came. He heard his name being called and then the world went silent.
Two huge brown eyes peered out of the darkness. Harry’s body began to shake violently, it was happening again. “No, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it to happen!”
“Harry! What the hell you on about?”A thick white fog that had been swirling round him was at last clearing. Someone was shaking him. Harry opened his eyes. Ian was looming over him looking concerned. “That’s a nasty fall you had there kiddo. How are you feeling?”
“Where am I?” Harry inquired groggily. The sky above him was black.
“You’re in my car. I carried you here. You were pretty out of it mate. Why you runnin’ so fast anyways?” Harry looked around. He was indeed in the passenger seat of Ian’s red Ford escort. The roof was black.
“I can’t remember”. Harry’s head swam. It was pounding again. He really couldn’t remember. A screeching sound came to his mind and a shout. He remembered running, running away from something. The familiar words were coming back to his mind “…It’s over! Help me...”
“Yo! Harry. Your not gonna space out on me again are ya? Maybe I should get you to a hospital or summit…” Harry quickly came back to reality. He glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard flickering 4:30. 4:30?! His mind raced. Oh no!
“No! I gotta go. I gotta go!” Harry reached for the door handle but Ian stopped him. “Yo, chill Harry. You’ve had a bad fall. You gotta stay still for a while.”
“No. you don’t understand. I can’t be late. I can’t. Let me go. I’ve got to get home.” Harry’s voice was full of panic and alarm.
“Harry I’m sure you’re folks will understand” Harry shook his head violently. “Look if you’re that worried I’ll take you home ok?” Harry quickly calculated his odds. Ian wasn’t going to let him go that easily and the car was surely quicker than him walking. He nodded. Ian turned the key in the ignition and they were soon halfway down the road. Ian obviously finding Harry’s silence disconcerting shot him concerned looks every five minutes while he made feeble attempts at conversation.
“Man united’s doing well this season aren’t they?” Harry just nodded. His head was still pounding. He only had one concern now and that was to get home as soon as possible. He glanced at the clock again. 4:47. “Um, can you go any faster?” Harry asked as politely as he could through gritted teeth. The pain in his head stabbed at him. He winced as a white hot flash of pain seared through his scalp.
“Sure thing kiddo”. Ian pressed down hard on the accelerator. Harry was thrown backwards by the speed of the car. Thank god I have my seatbelt on Harry thought wildly. He held on for dear life as they swerved violently round a corner and came screeching to a Halt at a set of red lights. Ian completely non-plussed turned to look at Harry.
“So how are things with Daisy?” Daisy’s name brought a fresh stabbing sensation, this time to his heart. He felt like someone was ripping his chest open and was squeezing his heart hard till all the blood oozed out, only the blood was coming out of his head.
“Are you sure you’re all right mate? I should really get you to a hospital man, your bleeding and everything.” It took Harry every inch of strength left in him to force a smile.
“Yea I’m fine.” The lights flickered amber then green. Ian drove on slower this time. He didn’t mention Daisy again, much to Harry’s relief. His relief however was short lived. As Ian slowed to turn a corner two streets away from Harry’s house he glanced out of the window. What he saw made Harry’s stomach flip-over inside him. Daisy was sitting with a boy on a street bench. They were completely entwined in each over. Daisy was giggling hysterically as the boy kissed her neck. Harry didn’t need to see the boys face to know it was Jason Mansfield, captain of the football team and the most popular boy in school. He strutted around school with his two best mates Jay and Brad (A.K.A body guards) and a cult following of giggling girls. Daisy had flirted with him from day one even when Harry was with her. He knew it wouldn’t be to long before she ditched him and went off with Jason but he couldn’t help himself hoping that she would stay with him, that she really loved him. How could he be so stupid!? How could he think that she would choose rich, attractive and popular Jason over such a stupid loner? She hadn’t even said anything when they played their second favourite game- taunting Harry. “Stop being such a wimp” she would tell him. “Maybe if you could actually stand up for yourself people wouldn’t laugh at you so much, if you were just more like him…” The worst thing was Harry and Jason had been best friend since primary school. But since starting secondary school everything had changed. Jason had become popular and when Harry’s mum… Harry looked away quickly. He couldn’t bear it anymore. This on top of everything else was just too much. Harry glanced at Ian to see if he’d noticed his sister’s flirtations. He hadn’t. Harry closed his eyes. He felt himself drifting away. The drumming was worse than ever “…Grab my hand. Please Harry…no don’t let go…Harry!!” Harry jerked awake.
“Yo! Harry we’re here.” Ian pointed out the window. They were indeed parked outside Harry’s house. “Oh, yea right. Well thanks Ian.”
Effing and blaming
Harry’s legs felt like lead as he walked up the path to his house. He turned just in time to see Ian driving away. Harry’s stomach still hadn’t flipped back over.
Harry’s house looked like its occupants; like it hadn’t seen happy days in a long time. The small brick house stood out in the little row of houses on the edge of Clover Crescent. It looked damp and dirty, unlike the other houses that looked warm and inviting. They all had flowers in their windows, neatly trimmed flower beds and freshly cut lawns. Harry’s looked like a jungle full of overgrown weeds and rouge ivy suffocating everything that had once made a beautiful house cheerful. It wasn’t always damp and dreary but ever since… Harry pushed the thought away and knocked on the door. He didn’t know why he bothered knocking, he was always ignored. Even so Harry waited his usual two minutes, hoping beyond hope that his dad would answer. Maybe even look happy, let him in and ask him how his day was like he once did. No, it was too much to hope for. Harry pulled out his key from his pocket. It was his mum’s set. He had decided to take them after the first time his dad hadn’t answered. Three hours he had sat on the step before a kind neighbour, who had been given a spare set, let him in. Harry unlocked the door and pushed the door open gently, not wanting to make too much noise. He closed the door behind him softly.
“Dad?” he called out. “You home?” Harry’s reply was a deep moaning sound coming from the living room. He stepped further into the house. It was dark but Harry was used to this. His dad always kept all the curtains drawn even in the middle of the day. The sun, his dad had said, gave him a headache. Harry reached out and opened the living room door. He cringed as it made a horrible screeching sound. He heard another moan, louder this time. Harry stepped into the darkened room and stood on something alive. Harry jumped back as the thing moved. It groaned again. Harry backed away from the groaning lump on the floor. The room was suddenly filled with a bright light. Harry’s elbow had flicked on the light as he’d stumbled back.Harry’s dad was lying on the floor, his arms over his face, trying to block out the light. “Off! Off! Turn it off!” Harry immediately turned the light off. Of Course the lump had been his dad!How many times had he come home to find his dad lying in the dark?
“Dad?” it was the only thing he seemed able to say. His dad peered into the darkness.
“Who’s there?”
“It’s me dad. Harry.”
“Me dad. Your- your son”
“I don’t have a son”. He said it so sharply it was as if he’d slapped Harry across the face. The words rang through out the room, echoing in the deadly silence. Harry fought back the tears. His dad had said this to him before. He was used to it, but today it seemed to hurt worse than ever. He struggled to control the burning in his eyes. He doesn’t know what he’s saying. He told himself firmly for the umpteenth time. He’s drunk. Doesn’t know what he’s saying. But deep inside him he knew he was wrong. His dad knew perfectly well what he was saying and had he’d been sober he’d have said the same. Had he not, after the funeral, shouted for all to hear that he was no longer his son? That he’d hear-by disowned him? No don’t think about that. He told himself sternly. He was out of it then too. I mean after all wasn’t it my fault? He looked down at his dad, lying there. It’s my fault he’s like this. He doesn’t deserve me as a son. He’d tried to make up for it. He was always home early, never stayed behind or went out with his friends. He tried his best with the housework even cooking meals when his dad was particularly out of it. None of it mattered though. He never talked to him unless he had to and if his eyes were to come to rest on Harry his face would automatically become one of utter distaste, as thought looking at a slug he’d just stepped on.
Harry took a step towards his dad and made to help him up but his dad cringed away from him as if not wanting to be contaminated with his touch. “Stay away from me”. Harry hesitated for a moment then stooped down and put his arms around his dad’s large waist. He couldn’t just leave him there.
“Come on. Let’s get you up” he spoke softly as thought talking to a small child. With much struggling and protest he managed to get his dad upright long enough to direct him into an armchair.
“There now you stay here and I’ll- I’ll make you some coffee” he hurried into the kitchen before his dad could protest further. He felt his way to the window and flung open the curtains. He blinked as the brightness blinded him. The sunlight streamed through the room illuminating the shambles of a kitchen. On the floor was a pile of vomit he’d somehow avoided. The counters were littered with empty beer bottles and rusting saucepans. Harry put all the bottles in the bin, clutching his ribs in pain as he bent down to pick up the ones on the floor. Harry ignored the pain; it was just something else he was used to, and chucked all the pans and dirty dishes into the sink, after plucking a spider out from the plug-hole. He washed a mug, made his dad’s coffee and took it steadily into the living room. His dad was snoring loudly. Harry put the mug on the table and then took off his jacket, putting it on his dad like a blanket. He went back into the kitchen, got out a mop and began to clean.
It seemed like hours and a half clean kitchen later when he heard a shattering sound and a cry of pain. Harry dropped the saucepan he was washing with a loud clatter and darted into the living room. His dad was standing up, his trousers covered in spilt coffee. The mug lay shattered on the floor.
“Dad, you-” the look on his dad’s face stopped him short. It was one of mutinous anger.
“What the hell you playing at!?”
“Trying to burn me were you?”
“No! No of course not”
“You liar! Your nothing but a ****ing liar!” he took a stumbling step towards Harry.
“I’m not lying” but it was no good arguing with him when he was like this and Harry knew it.
“That’s what you always say. But I knows you boy!” he pointed a stubby finger at Harry and raised his voice. “I know who you really are! Still raise you though didn’t I? And this is the thanks I get!” Harry shook his head. He needed to make his dad understand, let him know he wasn’t lying, but no words would come to him. He just stared dumbly at his dad. “Look at me!” he gave a loud mirthless laugh that chilled Harry. “You’ve ruined this family!” he took another step towards Harry but stumbled forwards. He grabbed hold of Harry and together they fell back against the hard wall. Harry struggled to keep his dad from crushing him. His dad gripped his shoulders, hard. “You took her from me!” his dad was screaming now, tears were running down both their cheeks “Took her! You know you did!” he was shaking Harry violently. His world was spinning, “I loved her!”, turning black. The familiar pain racked his body once more, again and again till the world was no more. It was just another day.
Harry came to as the ringing became more insistent. The ringing seemed to be coming closer and closer as the fog lifted and the darkness came. He was lying on the living room floor. The room shifted as he sat up. The pain sawed through his freshly bruised ribs. He struggled to keep hold of consciousness as the fog threatened to swoop down on him again. Harry grabbed hold of a nearby chair and pulled himself up. The ringing had stopped. Harry staggered his way to the downstairs toilet where he washed his face. The warm sunlight streamed through a small window as the cool water washed over him, reviving him, washing away the blood but not the memories of the night before. Harry pushed them away, storing them in the back of his mind along with the rest of them. Harry glanced at his reflection in the cracked mirror. The sight was bad. There was blood in his hair, crusted from his fall yesterday, and there was a black bruise forming around his already swollen eye. Harry cleaned himself up as best he could, using the hand wash to wash his hair, he doubted he’d make it up stairs. He staggered back into the living room where he kept all his uniform for the week, hastily got changed and went to get his bag which he’d discarded in the hall. He had no idea what lessons he had or what books he needed, nor did he care. It wasn’t like he’d be able to learn anything. Luckily thought since it had first started Harry had taken to keeping all his books and work in his locker, never taking anything home if he could help it, and sacrificing his lunch breaks to do all his work having hardly ever any time at home to do it. The ringing had started again. Harry whipped around. It was the phone. Harry hesitated a moment then picked it up.
“Hello.Is this Mr Sheppard speaking?” The voice belonged to a cool female voice.
“Um....” Harry froze. What was he supposed to say? No he’s probably just gone to the pub to get drunk, again?
“Hello?” the voice inquired.
“Sorry but he’s indisposed at the moment. Could you um call back?” Harry realised at once that that was probably a bad idea. “Or could you leave a message?"
“I was just ringing to remind Mr Sheppard that his mortgage is now three weeks over due. I presume he got my letter?”
“Um, no actually, we- I mean he didn’t receive a letter regarding mortgage.” He lied quickly trying to buy more time. He had in fact given his dad the letter a week ago though he doubted he’d read it.
“Well, just tell him he’s got three days to come up with it” The voice no longer had a friendly tone to it like when he’d answered.
“Of Course. I’ll let him know” he put the phone down quickly breathing fast, each breath rattling in his bruised chest. What would happen if he didn’t pay?Would they get kicked out? Harry glanced at the clock on the wall. It was hanging upside down but Harry could make it out to be quarter past eight. He had fifteen minutes to get to school.He’d never make it on time; in fact he’d probably be.....
...“Half an hour late!”.
Mrs Snap, Harry’s English teacher had found ‘The bus was late’ excuse less than satisfactory. “Despicable!” she screeched.
“Sorry” He mumbled under his breath trying to ignore the sniggering of the class. Two boys in the corner were shaking with silent laughter as Mrs Snap continued with her usual tirade of how irresponsible, incompetent and a whole lot of other words beginning with I, he was. After a further ten minutes Harry was allowed to sit down. He chose a seat right at the back. “Now that Sheppard has finished interrupting our class” she threw Harry a nasty look, deliberately ignoring the fact that the same boys were now pelting him with screwed up bits of paper while making “baaaa” noises. “We can continue with reading. Jason I believe we were on page twenty.” The class suddenly went silent as if not daring to make a sound as, Jason began to read out loud. He was looking particularly happy today. I wonder why. Harry thought sarcastically. He hadn’t forgotten, not due to lack of trying, about seeing him with Daisy. At least now he knew he could avoid her dumping him publically. He’d just tell her he knew and walk away with his head held high. Well try, anyway.
Harry’s day did not get any better as the day wore on and nor had he expected it to. All the teachers hated him. They saw him as a scruffy boy who was always late and never pays attention in class. Well you try paying attention when you’re being poked in the back and having various objects chucked at you, he thought bitterly as his maths teacher had made this particular point.It didn’t really help matters when Jenny Hughs pointed out that he had hand wash in his hair to much hilarity.
It was a relief as ever when the final bell rang. Harry bolted out of his chair and ran down the corridor. He was halfway towards the gate when he heard someone shout.
“Oi Sheppard!” it was Jason.
“What?” Harry snapped.
“Keep your hair on. Or is that what the hand wash is for?” there was an eruption of laughter from everyone who was listening. Jason was flanked as usual by Jay and Brad. Harry went bright red. He turned to walk away, wanting to get away as soon as possible but Jason called after him. “I had fun with your girlfriend yesterday.” Harry turned back.
“I know” this was obviously not the reaction Jason was expecting but he recovered quickly.
“You know?” Harry nodded. “Why didn’t’ you come see me then? Too much of a wimp to stand up for what’s yours?”
“You can have her”, he said it more nastily than he’d intended but he was trying to sound indifferent when really he was thinking the same thing. Daisy’s words echoed in his mind “Maybe if you could actually stand up for yourself people wouldn’t laugh at you so much, if you were just more like him…” he turned around once more.
“Running away are ya? Back to mummy? Oh sorry I forgot, you don’t have a mummy do you?”. The words stung Harry more than any other. He spun around took one step and punched Jason full in the mouth. The next second he was on the ground with Jay and Brad on top of him. People were rushing over to see what was going on. Harry could hear chanting.
“Get him! Get him!” Jay and Brad were hurting every inch of him they could lay their fists on. The pain was unbelievable. Suddenly the crowd was parting. The chanting had stopped. A tall, formidable looking man was pushing his way through the crowd.
“What’s going on boys?” Brad and Jay had jumped off Harry and launched into a story of how Harry had viciously attacked their best mate.
“Is this true?” the teacher turned to Harry. Harry realised then who he was talking to, the headmaster.
“No Sir” he protested, his mouth thick with blood.
“It’s Sheppard, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir”
“Ah, yes. I’ve had quite a few complaints about you. Far too many I’m afraid. I think you should think about attending another school. I’ll be contacting your parents.” And he strode away before Harry could protest. Jay and Brad’s faces lit up with glee.
Lady of the lake
He knew he should be happy. He’d been wishing for years to be able to leave school, but this was not how he’d imagined it. He wasn’t really worried about education. He wasn’t learning anything in school. Nor was he worried about his dad knowing. He wouldn’t care even if he wasn’t too drunk to understand. He wondered what his mum would of thought if she knew. Harry’s stomach twisted. She’d be disappointed. God, but he missed her. Harry could feel a familiar burning in his eyes that stung in the breeze. Harry was sitting on a tall wall; below him a magnificent lake stretched out for miles around him. The water glimmered in the sun, winking at him. He felt calm here. He’d been coming here whenever he could ever since his mum died. He felt closer to her, almost as if the water was just a thick barrier and his mum was on the other side. If only he could just reach out and touch her, to talk to her. To tell her how lonely he felt. As thought the whole world had turned against him, how dark it had become when she had gone, taking away his source of light, leaving behind a dark hole that was slowly consuming him, sucking away all that had once made him happy. Ever since her ashes had been scattered into the wind, soaring away from him, one bad thing after another had happened. Every day seemed like the same one over and over for a year and a half, which tended to begin and end with him lying on the living room floor. He remembered long ago when all she would have to do was smile and his troubles would feel small and insignificant. He had no-one to talk to now. Tears tracked down his face, unstoppable. He looked down. Below him on his left was a beach. He used to spend hours with her there, just laughing, having the best moments of his life. Sometimes even his dad would come, when he wasn’t busy working. He wasn’t there that day though. The never forgotten drumming started in his mind, the tears coming thick, “…Grab my hand. Please Harry…no don’t let go…Harry!!”
“I’m sorry” he cried. “I’m sorry”.
“Stupid! Irresponsible! Good-for-nothing! All your fault! You don’t have a mum. Liar! I don’t have a son”
“No!” he cried. “Stop please. Make it stop” a woman nearby shot Harry a scared look and hurried away.
“Help me! Grab my hand! Incompetent boy! Murderer!!”Harry stood up suddenly. He looked down at the water below, so calm, inviting. He remembered what the angry driver had said to him before he’d run away. “What the hell! Are you trying to get yourself killed?” could it really be that simple? Could he just step through the barrier? To walk into the darkness? Embrace it even? It would stop. The day would no longer repeat itself. He wouldn’t feel anything, no more pain. No more worries. Just a never ending darkness. An eternity with his mum. Without realising it he took a step as if merely walking along a pavement, oblivious of the people pointing up at him, of a solitary shout from a girl below “Someone stop him!”, he fell.
The waves crashed around him, embracing him as though he were a long lost friend. His eyes were closed. The light was gone. He wasn’t scared. He felt calm, at peace. It’s over he thought before the darkness took him.
Harry gasped as breath came back to him; the darkness was letting him go. No, let me go back he thought frantically. The light was coming back. The silence slowly lifted, revealing concerned murmurs.
“I think he’s coming round. Where’s that ambulance?” Harry opened his eyes. A face swam before him, vivid green eyes standing out. He stared at them, transfixed. They were beautiful, like shining emeralds. A girl was looming over him, smiling.
“Welcome back”. Her voice washed over him like the sunlight had back in the bathroom, reviving him. He reached out to touch her, to see if she was real. She couldn’t be. She looked like an angel fresh from a fairytale who, with her hair dripping wet, had come out from the lake itself. The girl’s face faded away as the darkness encircled him once more, but this time two bright green lights stayed in his mind, protecting him.
It was a week later when Harry woke. What was once a pin-point of light had expanded, revealing a kind looking woman standing over him. He realised with a jolt that he seemed to be in a bed. Where though? It couldn’t be his.How did I get here?
“That doesn’t matter right now dear” The woman made Harry jump. He hadn’t realised he’d said that particular thought out loud.
“Do you remember your name?” that’s an odd question, he thought.
“Um yea”
“Well?” she prompted
“Oh! Harry- Harry Sheppard.” She beamed at him.
“You must have had quite a fall. Four broken ribs!” She shook her head in bemusement. “Bruised all over” She continued. “Poor lamb” What is she on about? He thought back, concentrating hard. How did I get here? He remembered seeing two green lights, or were they eyes? He remembered thinking about his mum, and feeling really peaceful. He’d been standing on a wall, looking down at the water, thinking how much he wanted to see her again. The nurse’s voice echoed in his mind, “You must have had quite a fall.” Had he fallen in? He had been close to the edge. But that didn’t explain how he got bruises from falling, there had been nothing but water bellow him. Then again the nurse probably didn’t know that, she hadn’t been there. She must be thinking he got the bruises from falling off a high wall and not in fact, from a completely different source. Well that suited him just fine. He didn’t need people knowing the truth. It would only cause trouble. He’d be taken away from his dad. Would that be so bad though? He thought, and then pushed it away suddenly, furious at himself. He needs me! How could I think that way, after every thing I’ve put him through? He looked back at the nurse and was stunned to see she had gone.
You’re awake!” Harry heard the voice to his right. His heart started to beat feverously in his chest. It was that voice again. He was sure he’d heard it before. It tingled through him, healing him. It was the girl. Harry turned his head and sure enough the same angelic figure was standing there. She moved closer to stand beside his bed. He could see that she had vivid red hair that hung around her face like a pair of exquisite curtains, her eyes shone bright.
“It’s you!” he exclaimed. Her face blushed, clashing horribly with her hair.
“You recognise me?”
“Yea you were leaning over me, I think. I can’t remember too much” she hesitated for a moment as if thinking whether she should say something or not. She decided.
“I saw you sitting up on the wall.” She then added quietly, almost apologetically. “I saw you crying” Harry looked away and she continued hurriedly. “And then you just stood up, and walked of the edge.” Reality washed over Harry, chilling him. He’d jumped. He realised it now. Everything was coming back to him, the feeling of utter despair, loneliness. The black hole was closing in on him, “Incompetent boy! Murderer! Your entire fault….” The drumming was coming. But then it was suddenly lifting, being chased away by a feeling so strong, so happy. The girl was squeezing his hand. He looked up at her and the fog cleared completely. He looked into her concerned eyes. She smiled, his mother’s smile.
“Me and two other men jumped in and pulled you on to the beach. I thought you were a goner to be honest…” she trailed off. It took a while but Harry’s throat cleared long enough to thank her. She blushed again. There was a brief silence where they stared at each over, completely lost. Then,
“Talk to me” she said. She continued as Harry looked confused. “You jumped for a reason. You were crying for a reason.” Harry looked down, unable to meet her eyes. He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to go back to that deep, dark place. “You can tell me.” He looked at her again. He’d never seen this girl before, she was a stranger. Why did she care if he’d jumped? But somehow he couldn’t help but trust her. Nobody since his mum had ever asked about how he felt.
It all came rushing out; as if he’d been holding it all in for ages and now there was no stopping it. He told her everything. How everything had changed since his mum died. How his world had turned dark and his dad became moody and withdrawn, turning to drink, how Jason had turned on him taking Daisy with him. How he’d been taunted and beaten. He told her about the mortgage and exclusion. Even about nearly being run over and how easy it seemed when he’d been on the edge. It all flowed out of him, tears soon following. She did no laugh at him as he expected but hugged him, holding him tight.
“You’re not alone anymore” she whispered. Harry hastily dried his face on the crisp sheet.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what?” She looked perplexed.
“I mean, why are you here? I don’t know you and yet I’m telling you everything. I don’t even know your name.” She smiled.
“I’m Gwen. Gwen Collins.” She took Harry’s hand and shook it. “Pleasure to meet you” Harry laughed but stopped abruptly. It sounded unnatural, unfamiliar. Harry glanced around unconvinced that such a sound could come from him. He hadn’t laughed since that terrible day, before she had ran into the waves, laughing with such reckless abandon, never truly returning.
“When I saw you I couldn’t help but think, that could be me. I’ve been coming to see you every day now”
“Really?” he barely hid his surprise.
“I’m not sure why. I just felt like I had to. I can leave if you want”
Harry shook his head. “No. I’d- I’d like you to stay”. She smiled.
“Tell you what. I’ll come back tomorrow. The nurse said you need your rest.” Harry nodded, reluctantly.
She did not come. It had been three days, but she had not come. He should have known the happiness he had felt wouldn’t last; it had been crushed, discarded. He wasn’t completely unvisited though. The day after he had woken his dad had come, much to Harry’s surprise and much unease. He had looked terrible. He was unshaven with deep circles under his eyes and breath like factory smoke.
“What have you been playing at!?” Harry said nothing. “Fell in a lake they told me.” His voice was slurred. He eyed Harry lying in bed. “Comfortable are you?” he sneered. “Doubt there’s anything wrong with yeh. Like the attention do you?” Harry had shaken his head. “Always did. Told them about me did you? How I’m an irresponsible father who’s mean to poor, innocent Harry.” He’d snorted. “Innocent! Bet you’ve been telling them nurses all sorts of nasty lies”
“No” Harry had shook his head again. He’d been trembling. His dad had snorted again, swaying slightly.
“You deserve everything you get boy. Know that don’t you?” Harry had nodded obediently. “Thought perhaps you’d tried to top yourself. Most descent thing you’ve ever done.” He had left Harry alone, miserable with his thoughts.
Another day passed when the nurse he’d first seen came back to see him.
“Hello Dear, I’ve got something for you” she handed a perplexed Harry a piece of paper, smiled and left. Harry unfolded the paper. His heart gave a jolt. It read:
My mum’s friend works in the hospital, I asked her to give you this. I’m so sorry I didn’t come to see you. Edna (The nurse I mentioned) told me you’ll be out tomorrow. Meet me by the lake at 6:30, if you can that is. If you can’t don’t worry. See you soon.
Love- Gwen x
She hadn’t forgotten him!
The promise
Ian had taken Harry home. He’d heard about Harry’s hospitalization from his mum who’d heard it from his aunt who’d heard it from Miss Bloomsbury who owned the post office and talked about more than just stamps with her customers.
“Wish I’d known sooner...” he’d said. “...Could have brought you some grapes”. His dad wasn’t home much to Harry’s relief. It was four thirty in the afternoon. His dad didn’t usually come home till six on a Friday. It felt weird not being in school. Not that he was complaining. He knew he should find a new school but he didn’t know how to go about it and he knew his dad wouldn’t help. He could always ask Gwen. Thinking of Gwen brought a fresh feeling of pleasure to him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this happy. She hadn’t forgotten him! The time ticked past painfully slow. He couldn’t wait to see her again. He wondered why she wanted to meet at half past six exactly. It was five now. He couldn’t wait any longer. Picking up his keys on the way out, he began a slow walk up to the lake. She wasn’t there when he arrived. He started to panic. She wasn’t coming! It was probably just some stupid joke or something. Calm down he told himself. It’s only quarter past six. She’ll come. And sure enough she was walking towards him. She looked as stunning as ever. His heart beat faster as it did whenever she was near.
“I’m glad you came”. Much to Harry’s surprise and pleasure she hugged him. She let go after a second, blushing madly. “You’re looking better.”
“I suppose you’re wondering why I told you to meet me here, now.”
“Yea”. Gwen said nothing, but turned and pointed at the sky. What Harry saw made him gasp. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. The sky was a glorious mixture of orange and yellow. Lying on the lake was a wonderful sun set, reflected in the never ending water. They stood there, gazing at the sun as it sunk down into the lake. Their hands found each other, grasping the other. Gwen turned to Harry and spoke softly. “Promise me something.”
“Anything”. As soon as he’d said it he knew it was true. He would do anything for this girl, who had given his heart new life.
“I’ve gotten to like you Harry.”
“I like you too” he said, bursting with pleasure inside.
“I’ve been worried about you” Harry didn’t know what to say. A stray piece of hair fell on to Gwen’s face. Without thinking about it Harry reached out and brushed it aside. “Promise me you won’t- you won’t try to-” she couldn’t seem to find the right words but she didn’t need to. Nor did she need his promise for as long as she was with him he wanted to live every second of his life. “Try to kill-” but she was cut off as Harry lent down and kissed her.
Harry had spent the next week wandering round, walking up and down the streets by the lake, hoping to catch a glimpse of Gwen, not wanting to go home to his dad. He knew she lived nearby, number twenty or something. She had told him so. They had talked for hours as the sun had sunk out of view. She had told him how her mum was a teacher who home schooled her and how they went to the lake together, often sitting on the beach watching the sunrise or set. Her mum was ill at the moment though. Gwen hadn’t said what was wrong with her exactly and he hadn’t wanted to ask.She was looking after her with the help of Edna.
He walked down Harold way, near the steps leading down to the beach.The wall that stretched around the north side of the lake was much shorter down by here than where he’d jumped from. He leaned against it, lost in his thoughts, thinking of the promise he had made. They were however disturbed abruptly by the sound of loud laughter coming from a group of boys across the street. Harry was going to ignore them but he realised with a jolt as one turned and pointed, it was Jason, Jay and Brad. They were hurrying towards him.
“Hey Sheppard, heard you took a little bath in the lake” Jay sniggered.
“What? Run out of hand wash?” all three of them doubled up in laughter. Harry had had enough. He turned to walk away but Brad grabbed him around the waist.
“Get off me!” Harry struggled against him, but it was no use, Brad was much stronger than him.
“You’re still looking a bit scruffy though” Jason jeered.
“Yea Sheppard. Think you need another dunking.” Jay added also grabbing Harry. Together they lifted him on to the wall.
“Say hello to mummy.” Jason’s voice was the last thing he heard before he plunged into the water below.
The water engulfed him, surrounding him. He kicked hard, rising slowly towards the surface. He gasped for air as he broke it, spitting out the water in his mouth. Thank god I was in the shallow end he thought. He looked up. He was going to bloody kill them. He’d had enough of their bullying. He was going to stand up to them. But he did not see three giggling faces staring down at him. What he saw instead made his stomach twist. It was Gwen. He tried to shout out to her but she was gone. Had she seen what had happened? Judging by the look on her face he didn’t think so, it was one of utter betrayal.
The truth
Harry had swum towards the beach, hoisting himself up onto the sand. A group of little kids were staring at him curiously but he didn’t care. He needed to find Gwen. Tell her what happened. Tell her he hadn’t jumped. He ran across the sand and up the stairs, his soaked clothes weighing him down. He ran up the street ignoring frightened looks from passersby.He turned the corner and peered around. Where was number twenty? He spotted it at the very end of the road. He raced towards it, banging on the door. It was not Gwen who answered but the nurse he had talked to at the hospital. She peered down at him looking inquiring but then her face lit up with recognition.
“It’s Harry isn’t it?”. She continued without waiting for an answer “If you’re looking for Gwen you just missed her I’m afraid.” Harry’s heart sank. “You’re welcome to come in and wait for her though if you’re quiet.” She held the door open for him. “I’m Edna by the way” she added as Harry walked it. So the nurse Gwen mentioned is the same one who gave me the note. Harry realised. Edna let him into a small living room where a young looking woman was dozing in an armchair. She was probably the age his mum would be now. She looked very pale and fragile as if one touch would shatter her. Edna went into the Kitchen to make coffee, apparently oblivious that he was dripping on the clean carpet.
Harry was just wondering what he would do if the woman woke up when her eyes opened. They blinked, becoming accustomed to the light. They came to rest on Harry, narrowing suspiciously. She tilted her head to one side as if she was trying to remember something. Then her eyes widened slightly.
“I know you” her voice was a whisper, barely audible.
“Pardon?” as far as Harry was concerned he’d never met this woman before in his life. Perhaps she was mistaken.
“On the beach” Harry felt uneasy. “You were with your mum. I always liked her. Poor woman” of all the thing he was expecting this was not it.
“You knew my mum?” his voice sounded easily as worn as the woman’s.
“Yes. I always liked her. Poor woman” she looked away from Harry and started humming softly, her eyes had a slight glazed look to them. There was an awkward silence broken only by the sound of a kettle boiling in the kitchen. The woman spoke again, startling Harry. “You’re a brave boy”
“huh?” Harry couldn’t remember any one call him brave before.
“She went into the waves” she rasped. Harry was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable. He wished the kettle would hurry up. He didn’t want to remember that terrible day but it was starting to come back to him. He remembered watching his mum jumping up and down in the water, making him laugh. She had run into the water laughing, so full of life. He’d run after her, whooping for joy. His mum kept looking back at him still laughing. But then she tripped, the laughter had stopped. The water had washed over her, lifting her up. The world had slowed down. He remembered watching her struggling against the tide, trying to swim, shouting between gulps of water, “Help me…Grab my hand. Please Harry…no don’t let go…Harry!!”. Tears rolled down his face. He jumped as the woman spoke again “You’re a brave boy”
“No I’m not!” he shouted. He was shaking. He wasn’t brave! Everything his dad had ever said about him was true, he was a murderer. He had just stood there, watching, watching his mum struggle as she begged for help. I’m not brave. He thought bitterly. I’m a coward. Why didn’t I help her? He suddenly realised that Edna was watching him. He didn’t care. He wished Gwen had never saved him.
“You’re a brave boy.” Harry turned to Edna in desperation
“Can you tell her to stop saying that?” Edna looked thoughtful for a second then said
“Perhaps we should hear what she’s got to say.” Edna oblivious to Harry’s confused expression put his coffee on the table then knelt down in front of the woman. “Hello Mrs Collins” she spoke softly and slowly. “Could you tell Harry why he’s brave?”. Mrs Collins looked thoughtful as if pondering a teacher’s question in class.
“She went into the waves” Edna nodded encouragingly. “Help me! she cried” Harry felt sick. He needed to get out. He turned to leave. “He ran” Harry stopped. What did she mean ‘he ran’? He didn’t remember running.
“Go on” Edna prompted
“Help me! she cried. He ran” She repeated. There was a moments silence then, “He grabbed her hand”. It was becoming clearer now, long forgotten detail were coming back to him. He had run! He remembered grabbing her hand. “...don’t let go....please Harry!...HARRY!”. Harry felt his blood draining from him.
“I let go”. Edna turned to look at him. She looked as if she was going to say something but was interrupted by Mrs Collins. Her words surprised him so much he didn’t even hear Gwen walking in.
“The waves crashed down and he was flung aside.” Mrs Collins looked away and began to hum again. Edna stood up and looked at Harry.
“You tried to save her Harry, the tide was just too strong. You can’t blame yourself for what happened”. Harry was in shock. He’d tried to save her. All these years he’d blamed himself, believing when his dad told him he’d taken her away by not saving her, not even trying. But I did. He thought. I tried. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Gwen’s voice.
“What’s going on?” Harry jumped.
It took the best part of half an hour to explain everything and Gwen had hugged Harry fiercely when he told her about the boys pushing him in the lake.
“I’m sorry” Harry shook his head.
“I’m glad you were mad”
“You were?” Gwen sounded shocked.
“If you weren’t I wouldn’t have came here and found out the truth.”
Bad timing
The only thought in Harry’s mind was that he needed to see his dad. To tell him what had happened. That he’d found out the truth. That he had not, as his father had always believed, just stood there and watched her drown. Would he believe him? Would he be proud of him? Apologise for blaming him? Would it help him understand, move on? Harry stopped in his tracks. He had left Gwen’s house in a hurry, needing to find his dad. Gwen had tried to stop him but Harry had ignored her.
“Harry!” Gwen ran up to him, panting.
“I know what you’re doing. You’re going tell your dad. Harry, do you really think he’s going to believe you?” Harry opened his mouth to argue but no sound came out. Hadn’t he been thinking exactly that?
“I’ve got to tell him” Gwen looked sympathetic.
“I know Harry but you can’t get your hopes up. You said so yourself. He’s been bitter for a long time now. Knowing the truth isn’t going to suddenly make him cheerful again. Nor is he going to stop blaming you”
“What- what do you mean?” Harry asked, stung. She reached out and gripped his arm.
“For a year now he’s used you as an excuse. He must feel guilty for not being there, but it’s much easier to blame you. You understand don’t you?” Harry swallowed, hard. He knew it was true, even if his dad did believe him, he wasn’t going to change. Together they made a slow walk towards Harry’s house. Was he going to have to put up with his dad’s abuse for the rest of his life?
Harry’s answer came as they rounded the corner. Gwen gasped.
Outside Harry’s house was an ambulance. Harry and Gwen shared a scared look before running towards the house. Harry’s door was wide open. His mind raced. What’s going on? Oh god, please say everything’s ok.Next to the ambulance was a man in a florescent jacket with ‘Paramedic’ written across it. The man was comforting a skinny woman who was sobbing hysterically. She looked vaguely familiar. Harry’s heart beat furiously in his chest. His head swam. He knew deep down what was happening but he didn’t want to admit it, he couldn’t. Just then two more men came out of his house. They were at either ends of a gurney. Harry couldn’t see who was on the gurney as a white sheet had been draped over the lifeless body. He felt Gwen beside him. She put her arm around him.
“I’m sorry” Harry shook his head. It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. Not now. They stood there watching in silence as the men lifted the body into the ambulance. At that moment the crying woman noticed them and rushed over as the paramedic closed the ambulance doors with a loud thump and got in the front.
“Are you Harry?” she sniffed. Where had he seen this woman before?
“Yes he is.” Gwen had spoken for Harry.
“This must be terrible for you” she sniffed again. Harry suddenly found a burning anger coursing through him. Who was this woman to tell him how terrible anything was for him? “I’d only come to tell him- to tell him, I couldn’t do it anymore”. She gave another loud cry. Her eyes were red. It struck him then, who she was. Her eyes had reminded him of how his dad frequently looked after a particularly rough night. In fact she looked similar to him, but much skinnier with longer hair. It was his sister. Harry had met her only once, at his mum’s funeral.
“Do what anymore?” Gwen had spoken again. Harry felt a rush of gratitude towards Gwen.
“I’ve- I’ve been paying his mortgage for a year now. I was just trying to help out, but I can’t- I can’t afford it any more. I came to...” her body shook as she made loud rasping sobs. “...to tell him and- and the door was open. He was lying on the floor and, and I...” she trailed off sobbing harder. This isn’t happening. He told himself firmly. It’s just a dream. He was going to wake up and hear his dad yelling at him to get up and do something useful for once. He couldn’t be gone now; just when he was going to tell him the truth. He watched as the ambulance drove away into the distance. Goodbye dad he thought.
A year later
Harry raced down the stairs taking two at a time. Where was it? He needed to find it.
“Looking for this?” harry spun round. His aunt was standing in the door way holding up his school bag. Harry let out a sigh of relief.
“You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on” she tutted eyeing him fondly. He grinned. “Well don’t just stand there! Get going!” harry took his bag, swinging it over his shoulder and pecked his aunt on the cheek before racing out the door.
Gwen was waiting for him on the corner.
“What took you so long?” she sounded impatient but she was grinning.
“Couldn’t find my bag” she rolled her eyes. The two of them started to make their way to school. It hadn’t been hard to get into new school as Gwen’s mum used to teach at Wilmer High and they had been glad to take both Gwen and Harry on. Mrs Collins hadn’t made much improvement. Even so Harry having taken to visiting regularly, after all he did owe her a lot. He remembered the day with a mixture of happiness and grief. Despite everything his dad had put him through he still missed him. Things did seem much better though. He was doing okay in school despite how much he had to catch up, no longer having Jason and his crew around to harass him. His aunt had decided it would be best if Harry didn’t leave the area completely. They had got a house together, close to the school. Harry liked it here. He could see the lake from his window.
Just then a boy went running passed him knocking Harry’s shoulder roughly. Harry turned to yell at the boy. The boy looked back at Harry, smirking. It was Jason. Just then Jason slipped, his arms flaying madly. He fell, face first into a muddy puddle. Harry and Gwen doubled up with laughter.
The End.

© Copyright 2019 AmiliaPadfoot. All rights reserved.

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