Read Fifty Fifty Online

Authors: S. L. Powell

Fifty Fifty

This book is dedicated to my friend

Kathleen Bailey

18th May 1968 – 15th February 2010

S. L. Powell was born in Shetland and by the age of seven she had lived in Somerset, Norfolk, Dorset, Australia and Dumfries and finally the Isle of
Wight, where she stayed until she was grown up. She lived on boats for many years, but currently lives in a house in Oxford with her husband and daughter, and combines writing with working for a
charity.
Fifty Fifty
is her first published book.

Find out more at
www.slpowell.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2011
by Piccadilly Press Ltd,
5 Castle Road, London NW1 8PR
www.piccadillypress.co.uk

Text copyright © S.L. Powell, 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

The right of S.L. Powell to be identified as Author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron
© 1971, 1988 Bienstock Publishing Company
Copyright Renewed - All Rights Reserved
Lyric reproduced by kind permission of Carlin Music Corp., London, NW1 8BD

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

ISBN: 978 1 84812 123 2 (paperback)
eBook ISBN: 978 1 84812 184 3

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Printed in the UK by CPI Bookmarque Ltd, Croydon, CR1 4PD
Cover design by Simon Davis
Cover illustration © tanakawho

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Gil poked a finger deep into his breakfast porridge and immediately whipped it out again. The porridge was even hotter than usual, which meant there was almost no chance of
beating the record he’d set yesterday. Still, he ought to give it a go. He watched the kitchen clock, waiting for the second hand to flick round to twelve.

Ten. Nine. Eight . . .

‘You’ve got money for lunch, have you?’ said Mum from behind him.

‘Yeah,’ said Gil, hunched over his porridge bowl with the spoon in his hand, concentrating.
Six. Five.
Crap. ‘Yeah’ was the wrong answer. He’d have to find a
way to get round Mum later.
Three. Two. One . . .

Lift off. Gil started to shovel porridge into his mouth as fast as he could. It burnt his lips and skinned the roof of his mouth, and the gloopy stuff in the bowl glistened and oozed like pale
lava.

Come on, come on
, thought Gil, jiggling the hot porridge between his teeth, trying to cool it down.

He watched the seconds steadily flicking away. The quicker he finished his porridge, the more time there was for . . . well, for what, exactly? That was the problem. It just left more time for
the argument that was always sitting quietly in the spaces between him and Mum and Dad these days, waiting for them to come too close to each other. Then it would suddenly blaze up from nowhere,
like the crackle of static electricity.

‘Slow down,’ said Mum. ‘What’s the hurry? You’ll burn yourself.’

She hadn’t even looked round, as far as Gil could tell. How did she know he was eating too fast? He swallowed the last lump of porridge and noted the time. Two minutes twenty-four.
Disappointing. Nowhere near his personal best. And it would drag his average down, too.

Dad swept into the kitchen and grabbed his phone from the top of the fridge.

‘I’m off,’ he said. ‘Gil, your job when you come home from school is to tidy your room, please. It’s a complete tip.’

‘You went in my room?’ said Gil.

‘The door was open,’ said Dad.

‘So? It’s my room. I decide who’s allowed in.’

‘Oh, really,’ said Dad. ‘Is that so? Well, it doesn’t alter the fact that your room is a mess and needs tidying.’

Gil looked up properly and saw Dad – Dad in his smart-but-casual work gear, always black trousers and a blue jumper, with his phone in one hand and his laptop in the other, and that look
of invincible rightness on his face – and felt the zap of electricity jolt him into a reply.

‘Is that so?’ he said, slowly. ‘Well, sorry Dad, but I’ve got plans for after school.’

‘Your plans for after school,’ said Dad, ‘are to come straight home and sort out your room.’

‘But I’m going into town,’ said Gil.

‘Are you?’ said Mum. ‘Who with? Louis?’

Gil ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth, feeling the shiny raw patches where he’d blistered it with the hot porridge.

‘Actually,’ he said casually, ‘I thought I might go on my own, for once.’

There was a moment of silence while Mum and Dad looked at each other and Gil felt the feeling hit him again. It was a new feeling, and he hadn’t got used to it yet. It was like the moment
in a dream where you are running, and suddenly you can’t feel your feet on the pavement any longer and you realise you are running in the air. It made Gil feel dizzy, as if he couldn’t
breathe, as if he wanted to stop but couldn’t stop, and it scared him. But it was exciting too.

‘That is completely out of the question,’ said Dad, and at the same time Mum said, ‘Oh but Gil, you know we don’t really want you to go into town on your own.’

‘So you keep telling me,’ said Gil. ‘I still don’t get it, though.’

‘I could meet you when school finishes and we could go together,’ said Mum.

‘Mum. I’m nearly fourteen. You can’t pick me up from school any more, you really can’t.’

‘In any case, Rachel,’ said Dad, ‘you’re forgetting that I’ve just told Gil he’s to come home and tidy his room. End of story.’

‘Oh, yes, of course,’ said Mum. ‘Well, maybe you could go on Monday instead, with Louis.’

‘I don’t want to go with Louis.’

‘Oh dear, have you fallen out?’

‘Mum, for God’s sake! I just want to do something by myself for once. What’s the big deal?’

‘You are not going into town on your own,’ said Dad. He had put down the laptop, and now he shoved his phone in his pocket so he could fold his arms.

‘Perhaps I could meet you in town one afternoon,’ said Mum. ‘So you wouldn’t have to be seen with me at school.’

Gil looked down into his empty bowl. He’d reached the point where he had to be careful not to meet Mum’s eyes, because if he did he would start to feel sorry for her, and then it
would make him angry. He knew there would be a look in her eyes like a puppy that has no idea if it’s going to be punished or rewarded.

‘You do know that all the boys in my year are allowed into town on their own now?’ he said, staring at the scraps of porridge that were slowly beginning to harden into glue.

‘You’re not just any old boy, though, are you?’ said Mum.

‘Look, I’m not four, all right? I’m not a baby.’

‘You’re only thirteen,’ said Dad.

‘So, basically, you don’t think I’m old enough,’ said Gil. ‘You don’t trust me.’

‘Don’t put words in my mouth, please,’ said Dad. He hadn’t moved.

‘If you trusted me you’d let me have a front door key.’

‘You don’t need a key,’ said Dad. ‘There’s always someone here to let you in.’

‘So, according to you, I’m not even old enough to be home alone,’ said Gil. When Dad didn’t respond, he went on. ‘So when
will
I be old enough?

‘We’re not prepared to discuss it right now,’ said Dad.

‘No, Dad, I want to know. How old do I have to be? Fourteen? Fifteen? Eighteen? Forty-eight, for God’s sake?’

‘I said we are not prepared to discuss it,’ said Dad. ‘This is not the time.’

‘What the hell do you think is going to happen to me?’

Gil saw Mum’s eyes widen slightly. It was a stupid question. He knew exactly what she thought would happen to him. The bus might crash, or he might be abducted, or he could choke on a
piece of chewing gum as he walked down the High Street, or he might be mugged at knifepoint in that little alley behind HMV. He could see it all running through her mind in a big fast jumble, like
a violent film trailer.

Gil felt himself begin to buzz quietly. He should stop now, he knew that, before he slammed into the wall ahead of him. But the wave carried him, his legs carried him, running over thin air.

‘Mum, listen,’ he said. ‘You know I’d be careful.’

‘Drop it,’ said Dad.

‘We’ll think about it another time,’ Mum said, getting up. ‘I promise.’

‘Yeah, right. Like I really believe that,’ said Gil. He saw Mum’s shoulders twitch and half-regretted the comment. It was becoming too easy to hurt Mum. ‘Look, if
you’d let me have a phone I could text you every five minutes to say I was OK,’ he went on.

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