Read All This Could End Online

Authors: Steph Bowe

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction

All This Could End

PRAISE FOR STEPH BOWE
AND
GIRL SAVES BOY

‘Beautiful and fresh,
Girl Saves Boy
is full of the absolute

truth: life is complicated. I could not put it down.’

Rebecca Stead

‘Steph Bowe’s debut is charming and quirky and

heartfelt enough to make you catch your breath

when you least expect it.’ Simmone Howell

‘The smart sometimes snarky characters are delightfully

kooky and have a lot of heart…a welcome addition to

Australian YA.’
Australian Bookseller & Publisher

‘There’s humour and sadness, silliness and wisdom

in this amazing debut.’
Readings Monthly

‘A charming, touching and twinkle-toed book.’

Fiona Wood

‘A cracker, tackling difficult material…with an

assurance many writers never attain…’

Weekend Australian

‘Bowe takes the teen romance genre and gives it

an edge…a writer to watch.’
Australian Book Review

‘This book has one of the best “hook-you-in” starts

I’ve read in a long time. Steph has expertly woven a

thoroughly original crime caper into a story about

“outsider” teenagers connecting with each other

against all odds. Stand back, world, Steph Bowe

is a serious talent.’ Gabrielle Williams

Steph Bowe was born in Melbourne in 1994 and lives in Queensland. Her first novel,
Girl Saves Boy
, was published by Text in 2010.
stephbowe.com
twitter.com/stephbowe

steph bowe

textpublishing.com.au

The Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000
Australia

Copyright © Steph Bowe 2013

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

First published by The Text Publishing Company, 2013

Cover design by WH Chong
Page design by Text
Typeset by J&M Typesetting

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:
Author: Bowe, Steph, 1994-
Title: All this could end / by Steph Bowe.
ISBN: 9781921758447 (pbk.)
ISBN: 9781921834394 (ebook)
Target Audience: For young adults.
Dewey Number: A823.4

For my brilliant sister, Rhiannon,
with whom I would never rob a bank
 (unless we
really
needed some cash).

PROLOGUE

December

Nina

Nina Pretty holds the gun to the boy’s head, her other arm around his neck. Her balaclava itches.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ she whispers in his ear, her voice calm and reassuring like she’s not freaking out right now. ‘Just don’t move. This will all be over very soon.’

Nina’s mother, Sophia, shoots her gun at the high ceiling and hits a fluorescent light. The glass shatters and falls like snowflakes. The sudden noise in the quiet of the bank is deafening.

‘Now that I have your attention,’ Sophia says to the terrified customers. ‘This is a hold-up!’ She announces it like she’s the ringmaster at a circus. Her voice booms. Nina wishes she didn’t have to be so flamboyant about this whole thing.

The boy gulps and Nina feels him shake. Actually, she’s not sure which of them is doing the shaking.

‘Everyone down on the ground!’ continues Sophia. ‘If any of you makes a run for it, or tries to call our friends the police, my associate will kill
him
’—she nods towards the boy Nina’s holding at gunpoint—‘and then you. Just in case you don’t value your own life.’ Nina can hear the smile in her voice.

The boy is definitely the one shaking now.

‘She’s just saying that to make sure everyone stays still,’ Nina whispers. ‘You’ll be fine. You’re safe.’ She loosens her hold on his neck.

He’s the same height as Nina, and his hair is short and black. She can’t see his face at all. He was the unlucky one at the back of the line. She’s not going to hurt him, of course. They never hurt anyone.

But Nina’s conscience purrs.
Imagine the emotional trauma. The years of therapy this boy will go through! All because of you.
Nina’s conscience always contributes unhelpful comments at inappropriate moments, like in the middle of a bank robbery. Nina’s conscience is a bitch.

Her brother, Tom, is spray-painting the lenses of the security cameras. Her father, Paul, gestures with a gun for the bank tellers to get down on the ground like the customers. Then he turns to Sophia.

‘I’m heading out the back. I’ll get the manager to open the safe.’

She nods as he disappears and continues to smile at the backs of the bodies on the floor. ‘Good, everyone,’ she says soothingly to the people whose faces are still pressed into the carpet. ‘We’ll be really quick. You’re doing great.’

Nina closes her eyes and imagines herself somewhere else.

Spencer

Spencer Jack was born without a pinkie toe on his left foot.

It’s a widely known fact that human beings have evolved to the point where they can stand upright and walk without their pinkie toes, which serve no purpose other than being decorative. But for Spencer Jack (his mother used to call him this when she was especially pissed off; he’s plain Spencer or Spence to everyone else), the lack of a pinkie toe on his left foot is a deformity.

When Spencer was born, the doctor told his parents that the absence of a toe was of no concern. But whenever his mother showed him off to her friends or took him to family barbecues, Spencer’s little feet were always wrapped in baby booties his mother knitted herself. She didn’t want anyone to think there was anything wrong with her Spencer. Not that there was, of course.

The lack of a toe became more of an issue for Spencer as he grew up. And became self-conscious. He didn’t go anywhere where he would have to take off his shoes—sandals and thongs were totally ruled out—and when he had to change in the locker room after P.E. he was very quick with his socks. Spencer was so careful, so afraid of being taunted by his peers, that no one had ever seen his left foot.

Fear of being revealed as having only nine toes is what’s in his mind when the cold barrel of the gun is pressed against his temple and the arm of the girl is tight around his neck. He only knows she’s a girl when he hears her muffled voice, and he wonders why a girl’s robbing a bank. Not that he wants to be sexist or anything. He tries to avoid thinking about his brains splattered on the dark-blue carpet of the bank branch his father manages, but now he can’t push the image from his mind. His payslip from McDonald’s is shaking in his left hand. He always knew McDonald’s would be the death of him.

Death, yes. Most of all, he thinks about being laid out naked on a slab in a morgue, like a piece of meat. A coroner remarking on his deformity. His body in rigor mortis, like his grey cat when it died the year before. He thinks of himself lying in a giant silver drawer, in a refrigerator, then in a black box underground.

Sweat trickles down the back of his neck even though the air conditioner is on too high and the air in the bank is frigid.

I’m too young to die!
He’s thinking it, but he can’t say a thing like that. Seventeen-year-olds die all the time. Death isn’t an age-appropriate thing. You don’t turn eighty and declare ‘I’m just the right age to die’. Or do you? He doesn’t know a lot of eighty-year-olds.

How are these situations usually resolved in movies? He flashes through a catalogue of
Law and Order
episodes, tries not to think about Quentin Tarantino movies. He can’t seem to remember anything. A mental blank. It strikes him every time he has an exam.

The girl whispers, ‘You’ll be fine, you’re safe.’ Until now, he’s been frozen with fear. But when he hears her voice—really listens to it now—he forgets about his fear for a second. The gun is still up against his head and her arm is still around his neck, but something else takes precedence.

He recognises the voice. It’s a voice he knows well. It’s a voice he hasn’t heard in four months, but it’s definitely hers.

‘Good, everyone,’ the woman says. Her voice sounds kinder. ‘We’ll be really quick. You’re doing great.’

He isn’t paying attention to the woman’s voice, but his fear returns. He’s too afraid to turn around and look at the girl, afraid she’ll shoot him, or that the woman will. Or one of the other two—there’s a tall, wide man disappearing out the back, and a shorter, slighter person spray-painting. Spencer is sure he recognises the voice of the girl, but it’s too preposterous. Why would she be here? Why would she be doing this? He decides to risk speaking.

‘Nina?’ he whispers, so quietly he’s not even sure whether he’s said it or not.

She moves her arm from his neck—the gun still against his head—and turns his face towards her. She’s wearing a balaclava. Her eyes are brown.
That’s not right
, he thinks.
Her eyes aren’t brown. It isn’t her.

But then, almost inaudibly, she whispers, ‘Spence.’

PART ONE

April, nine months earlier

Nina

Sophia is in the passenger seat, her bare feet up on the dash. Paul is driving. They’re heading north along an inland highway. The sun is glaring—summer doesn’t want to let go—and the windows are down. The family is relocating. Again.

‘Have I mentioned,’ Tom says loudly, ‘how much I hate road trips?’

‘Once or twice,’ Nina mumbles.

Sophia is reading a worn self-help book that should have been returned to a distant library a while back. Occasionally, she reads out a passage to the family, who really could not care less about affirmations or positive thinking, especially not in this heat. Nina has perfected selective hearing.

‘Tom,’ Sophia says, turning to face him. ‘Road trips were a highlight of my childhood. You have no idea how fortunate you are to be able to share this wonderful experience with your family.’ She gestures out the window, towards an expanse of nothingness. The scrub and dry grass are not exactly spectacular.

Tom looks across at Nina and rolls his eyes. Their mother doesn’t catch this. She never stops telling stories about her wonderful childhood. ‘Mum. It’s hot and I’m tired and I haven’t eaten since breakfast.’

‘That was two hours ago.’

‘Why can’t Dad get jobs that aren’t way across the country?’ asks Tom. He knows why, but he’s being difficult. ‘Every time I change schools I have to figure out what is and isn’t cool all over again. What if I show up in Converse and everyone hates Converse? It’ll be a disaster.’

‘Oh, Tom,’ says Paul, his voice thick with sarcasm. ‘I would’ve thought you’d be terribly concerned with the changing curriculum and keeping up your marks. But here you are, worried about being cool.’

‘Curriculum is such a teacher word.’ Tom sighs.

Two weeks ago, between houses, they had been staying in a motel further south. After a childhood that was a never-ending road trip with her father, Sophia has a fondness for crappy motels—the last one they’d stayed at still had VCR players. Nina doesn’t understand her nostalgia.

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