Read Love My Enemy Online

Authors: Kate Maclachlan

Love My Enemy

 

Kate MacLachlan

 

 

 

For Ian, James, Linnhe and Darroch

 

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

ISBN 9781849398237

Version 1.0

 

First published in 2004 by
Andersen Press Limited,
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SWIV 2SA
www.andersenpress.co.uk

 

Reprinted 2005

 

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 

© 2004 by Kate MacLachlan

 

The right of Kate MacLachlan to be identified as the author of
this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available

 

ISBN: 9781849398237

Version 1.0

1

'Fantastic – it's peeing!'

Zee, mortified, prayed for a small bomb, but the twins
were screaming with delight. They grabbed each other's
hands and whirled around, faster and faster, a dizzying
kaleidoscope of thin limbs and flying gravel, until
physics intervened and sent them spinning, in opposite
directions, to the ground.

'Ouch!'

'Would you look at that?' said their mother, Sue, in
disbelief. 'I've actually done it – it works!'

'Most kits work,' said Zee cuttingly.

'Oh, love, I know you weren't keen, but don't you
think it's cute now it's up and running?'

'Up and peeing, you mean.' Zee surveyed the two-foot
stone statue in dismay. 'I think it's gross, Mum,
downright tacky. Couldn't you at least have picked one
with water coming out of his
mouth
?'

'We wanted this one,' declared Josh, staggering as he
achieved vertical.

'Yeah, he's got curly hair like us,' said Gemma.

'Hardly his most striking feature.' Zee's lip curled in
distaste. 'Heaven knows what the new neighbours will
think. I bet they heard this was a classy area.' She
glanced, for the hundredth time, at the big removal van
parked a few yards down the street.
Rutters English
Carriers
was emblazoned in two-foot high letters on the
side. 'And I bet
their
choices aren't made by six-year-olds.'

Her mother side-stepped the accusation. 'There's just
one child I believe – about your age – according to Mrs
Gordon. The father's foreign, a musician.'

Zee shrugged. It seemed very uncool to be interested
in anything their nosy neighbour, Mrs Gordon, said but
in fact, local gossip was the only reason she was hanging
out in the garden. Her mum spent hours here, whole
days sometimes; planting, pruning, feeding, thinning.
Why, Zee often wondered? What was the point of it all?

After three hours Zee feared that her body might start
to self-destruct with boredom. Much earlier, a silver
Renault had pulled into the garage of Number 2 Hazel
Grove. Zee had legged it up the laburnum tree – for
some peace she claimed – just in time to see a black-haired
man, a slim woman and a girl in jeans vanish
inside the big house on the corner.

She had been waiting for the girl to reappear ever
since. This had meant heaving stones about at her
mother's request and shovelling tons of gravel in around
the grotesque little water feature. She had handled spiky
plants which would look more at home in a tropical
jungle, and spent hours squeezing kinks out of an old
hose with more holes in it than the
Titanic
. In all that
time nobody interesting had shown up – not even cute
Conor from Number 9.

'They've got some nice furniture,' said her mum,
nodding towards the van. 'Look at that chaise longue.'

'Let's go and say hello,' cried Gemma.

'Not now, love, they'll be busy. Plenty of time to
socialise later.'

'They will be busy,' said Zee thoughtfully, 'laying
carpets, plumbing in washing machines . . . too busy to
even think about food, I expect. Why don't you take
across some sandwiches, Mum? It would be very
neighbourly.'

Her mother pushed her prematurely grey hair out of
her eyes and wiped her hands on her gardening trousers.
'I'm far too hot and dirty, Zee. Besides, you're the
sociable one in the family. You go.'

'Me?' she enquired as if the thought had never
occurred to her. 'I suppose . . . if you really think I
ought
to . . . then I suppose I . . .
could
.'

'Go on – force yourself!'

'What about me?' demanded Gemma. 'I'm starving
too, you know.'

'And I will be,' said Josh, 'soon as I stop feeling sick.'

'Okay, okay, I give in,' said Zee. 'Sarnies all round,
then. Peanut butter or jam?'

 

The new people weren't answering. The third time Zee
rang the doorbell, she kept the flat of her hand hard
against it. A plate of sandwiches, perched waitress
fashion on the finger tips of her other hand, wobbled
precariously.

'Blrr-kk!'

The bell made a sound like an angry bluebottle, but
again, nobody answered.

'Miguel Molotov,' murmured Zee, reading the nameplate
again. 'Molotov, Molotov, Molotov.'

It rattled around her teeth like a dark exotic chocolate.
The rest of the neighbours had boring names – Watson,
Chambers, Young. Boring names for boring people.
O'Keefe was as interesting as names got in Hazel Grove,
and that one stuck out for all the wrong reasons. So there
was no way, no way at all, that Zee was going back home
until she'd found out what a Molotov looked like.

Just then a strange clamour started up inside. Roaring
and grunting and banging mingled with a high-pitched
tinkling sound. The door swung wide and Zee half
expected some rabid beast to bolt past. Instead, the girl
she had glimpsed earlier stared down the steps at her.

'What's that noise?' blurted Zee before she could stop
herself.

'You might well ask,' came the reply. 'Believe it or
not, it's a piano.'

'I didn't know they made sounds like that.'

'They're not supposed to – it's being tuned.'

Her voice was a bit posh, but her jeans, like Zee's,
were torn at the knees and customised with felt tips. Zee
glanced back at the nameplate. 'Tuned by Mi-gw-ell
Mol-o-tov?'

'Good try,' said the girl cheerfully. 'It's pronounced
Me-gel Molo-toff.'

'Right. Is he your dad then?'

Her face clouded as if a whole nest of hornets was
stinging her on the inside. 'He's my Step,' she muttered.

'Er – Mum sent me over with these sandwiches.'

'That's awfully kind.' The girl hesitated. 'Look, if you
could just try to ignore the racket . . . would you like to
come in?'

Zee didn't need to be asked twice. She followed her
into a long room with tall arched windows that reminded
her of the assembly hall at school.

A team of removal men swarmed like Santa's elves
around rolled-up carpets, and furniture in various stages
of unpacking. Directing the operation was a small woman
with curly hair and overalls. She seemed to know exactly
where she wanted everything and she darted about deftly,
clearing gangways and giving instructions. Oblivious to
it all, in the middle of the room, Miguel banged away at a
grand piano, shouting at it as if he expected an answer.
His stepdaughter stood scowling at him but the woman,
seeing Zee and the plate of sandwiches, swiftly crossed
the room, covered his powerful hands with her own pale
ones and dragged them off the piano keys.

'Calm down, Miguel, you're frightening the neighbours.
You are a neighbour, aren't you?' she asked,
smiling.

'Yes, I'm Zee Proctor from Number 5. Zee is for
Zara.'

'I'm Tasha,' said the girl, 'this is my mum, Magda,
and he's Miguel.'

Miguel gave an odd little half bow. He had frowns
running down his forehead to each eyebrow which made
him look incredibly scary.

'Would you like a sandwich, Miguel?' asked Zee
bravely.

'You knows what they are?'

She swallowed a nervous giggle. Miguel's accent was
fabulous. He tripped over his Rs and stretched his
vowels like bubble gum. 'Of course – they're peanut
butter.'

'Ah! In Bosnia this is a favourite.' He stuffed a big
squelchy one into his mouth and a grin sent his frowns
lurching sideways.

'Is that where you're from – Bosnia? I've never met
anyone from that far away.'

He nodded. 'I am a long way from my home.'

'So it's wonderful to find the Irish as hospitable as
everyone promised,' said Magda, helping herself.

Zee, looking properly at the sandwiches for the first
time, felt herself blush. The filling was squelching out of
the sides and her fingerprints were clearly visible in the
peanut butter.

'Perhaps the removal men are hungry too, 'suggested
Magda and at once they crowded around. It felt a bit like
feeding pigeons; one minute Zee's hands were full of
bread, the next there wasn't a crumb left.

'Why don't you take Zee through to the kitchen for a
drink, Tasha?' suggested her mum. 'It's less chaotic in
there.'

Their kitchen, thought Zee a moment later, was
downright orderly compared to hers, even if they had
barely moved in. She had never seen such a big fridge
before. As big as a wardrobe it was with not one door
but two. Eggs, pâtés and purées nestled beside rolls of
salami and pastrami. There were a dozen foil-wrapped
cheeses with impossible foreign names. Jars of dark
pickle gleamed like medical exhibits and wraith-like
herbs in bottles of golden oil glistened under the bright
white light.

'Is it Bosnian?' whispered Zee.

'I don't think they've got food in Bosnia,' said Tasha
loftily. 'All I know is I can't find a decent can of Coke!
Would you mind sparkling grape juice instead?'

Zee shook her head. They just had apple juice at
home, meal-times only mind, and diluted with lemonade
to make it go further. She drank two long glasses of juice
and ate continental bread sticks filled with chocolate. At
least Tasha didn't complain about those.

'Will you be coming to school here?' Zee asked.

'Not likely! Mum says Belfast's still a war zone.
Beats me why they agreed to come here at all.
Especially
him
. Talk about out of the frying pan into the
fire.' She laughed as if this was a private joke.

'There's been peace here for years now,' said Zee
indignantly. 'Well, a sort of peace.'

'There's still trouble though – I've seen it on the
news. Beatings and sometimes shootings too.'

Zee couldn't deny it. 'So you'll be going back to
England for school?'

'In September. I board at a place called Redbales.
Have you heard of it?'

Redbales – one of the most exclusive girls' boarding
schools in England. Of course she had heard of it.

'My dad pays the fees – my
real
dad that is. He lives
in London.'

'Do you see him much?'

'He's a businessman, dead busy.' She shrugged
carelessly but Zee noticed that she also changed the
subject. 'Have you been in this house before?'

'Only in the garden. When we were kids my big
brother, Gary, and I used to ring the doorbell and run
away. It's bigger than the other houses round here – we
used to dare each other.'

Tasha wriggled in delight. 'Last open day at school
we set off dozens of car alarms – we had parents and
chauffeurs dashing about everywhere – it was
wonderful!'

They laughed together. Wasn't it amazing how just
one confidence could reveal a soul-mate? 'Where on
earth did your mum meet Miguel?'

'At the refugee council, in London, where she
worked. They've moved here to set up a programme for
asylum seekers being settled in Northern Ireland. But
that's boring! What about you, Zee – got a boyfriend?'

'No.'

'Got your eye on one?'

'Maybe.'

Tasha beamed. 'So when do I get to meet him?'

'You don't. I don't either. I reckon guys are overrated
– all pimples and wandering hand trouble. Anyway I'm
outa here in three years' time – as soon as I get my A-levels.
I'm going to travel to London, Paris, Prague. I'm
not getting bogged down
here
with any guy.'

Tasha's almond shaped eyes widened in disbelief.
You're going to live like a nun for three years?'

'Not exactly a nun . . . '

Her new friend grinned wickedly. 'No harm looking
then, is there?'

Zee laughed loudly. After two weeks of unutterable
boredom the summer holidays were looking up. She
would get to know this family, especially Tasha who
could be friendly and sophisticated, both at the same
time. Just how did she
do
that? Perhaps it was something
they taught at English public schools? Or perhaps it
came from having such an exciting family. A rich daddy,
a successful working mum and a musical Bosnian for a
stepdad. Zee felt as if a passport to a whole new world
had been thrust into her hands.

'We'll make the most of this summer,' she vowed.
'We'll have a
really
good time.'

'Deal!'

Miguel came in for a glass of water just then. 'You
two could be twins, yes? Long blonde hair and the same
size, I think.'

'Plump, you mean?' snorted Tasha. 'Thanks.'

Zee cringed and felt obliged to break the silence
which followed. This was a bad habit of hers which
usually only made things worse but somehow she
couldn't stop herself. Zee hated silences.

'I don't want to be this size, I hope my puppy fat
disappears soon,' she babbled. 'Dragging these thighs
around is exhausting. As for my bum, it should have one
of those signs you see on lorries saying,
Caution. Wide
Load
.'

Tasha doubled up in peeling, over-the-top laughter.
Miguel, Zee realised, had not quite followed her rapid
Irish accent.

'So, my dear,' he said. 'What does your parents work at?'

'There's only Mum,' said Zee. It was as easy as that,
just three little words. Neither Tasha nor Miguel raised
an eyebrow between them.

'What does your mum do?' asked Tasha.

'Nothing – well – lots!' Zee added guiltily. 'But she
doesn't get paid for it, she doesn't go out to work. There
are four of us kids, you see.'

'Four?' Surprise, or perhaps envy, skated across
Tasha's face. 'Brothers and sisters
and
a mum who stays
at home – you're
so
lucky.'

Zee stared at her. After all Tasha was the one with the
expensive education, two dads and a fridge like
Aladdin's cave.

'Let's do something tomorrow,' said Tasha as Zee was
leaving.

'Tomorrow might be difficult. Mum wants me to go
to a flaming peace demo.'

'Tomorrow evening then?'

'It's the eleventh night.'

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