WHEN MUM SAID I DO

Me and Nannan started giggling. Nannan was crying a bit too. Then we had a party. I’m tired now... Chris’s car makes a funny whirring noise as we stop at some traffic lights. Chris shakes his head and pats the steering wheel with his hand. Mum turns around to look at me. She’s smiling, and she still has her hat on. I saw you laughing, she says, You little devil you... Chris pushes the gear-stick forwards and we move on. The windscreen wipers squeak a bit of rain across the glass. I look at Chris’s big curly sideburns and wonder if I’ll have them when I grow up. Mum puts her hand on Chris’s hand as he rests it on the gear-stick. On the radio the DJ says this is his favourite Slade song of last year and plays How Does It Feel. I listen to it as I look out the window. This side of town looks different at night. I watch people come out of a pub laughing. Some people are snogging. I like Slade. This song is sad but I still like it. Chris’s car is called an MG. It’s orange. There isn’t much room in the back but it’s okay. Noddy Holder has big sideburns too... Mum asks me if I’m excited and I say I am. It feels strange leaving home though. My tummy hurts a little. I felt sad saying goodbye to Nannan at the party. I see Chris’s eyes in the mirror looking at me and I smile at him. He smiles back and his sideburns move on his face... Mum said to me yesterday that today Chris will be my dad. Then she said they’re doing something special for me, and instead of going on honeymoon like normal married people do, we were all going to our new house together after the party. She said that her and Chris thought it was important that we did this together as a family. I said I didn’t mind, but she said it was the right thing to do because we’re a family now. At the party I heard Uncle George say to Aunty Belinda that he thought it was daft taking a kid on honeymoon. He said something else too but Aunty Belinda saw me behind him and she told him to shush... I haven’t seen the new house yet. It’s meant to be a surprise. I’m excited a bit because the house is on a farm. Chris told me there are pigs and cows and a big wood I can play in. He says I can ride on tractors too. My mum asked me what I thought and I said I won’t have any friends there. She said that I’d make some friends. My new grandma said the same thing at the party. She’s Chris’s mum. They live in a big house so the party was there. I heard her telling one of her friends in the kitchen that she was sad the wedding wasn’t in a church, but she understood why. Then she saw me and said Look! Here’s my lovely new grandson!... Outside the car, everything is dark. There are no streetlamps here. Chris said the farm is in the country but near a village. At the party he came and sat with me on the stairs and he talked about how I’d be able to play in the fields. I asked him what I could play, and he said anything I wanted... Chris’s car slows down quick and Mum says LOOK!... In the headlights, a hedgehog is crossing the road. Mum turns around and smiles at me. I feel tired but the hedgehog wakes me up. The hedgehog has stopped moving now. It puts its head under itself and stays still. Mum and Chris are laughing. Chris gets out the car, pulls his seat forward, and says Come on Billy, come and have a look... I get out of the car and walk over to the hedgehog with Chris. It’s really cold and I want a wee. I must be really tired because I feel a bit wobbly. Chris says hedgehogs curl up like this because it’s how they protect themselves. He looks up at the car and says he doesn’t fancy its chances against the MG though. I watch as he picks the hedgehog up carefully in both hands. He holds it out for me to look at, and I look at where its face is. Its little brown eye goes orangey-red as Chris turns it towards the headlights. Then a car comes up behind us so we have to put the hedgehog under the hedge... We get back into the car and Mum looks really happy. On the radio, the newsman is talking about a bomb going off in London. I look up at the tall hedges as we drive down a twisty lane. The newsman says an eyewitness said there was a loud bang and a lot of smoke in the street. Chris says Bloody paddies, then tells Mum about how he keeps getting pulled over by the police because the MG has an Irish number plate. I close my eyes and listen to the radio. The DJ is playing Evil Woman by ELO. ELO stands for Electric Light Orchestra. I know this because Uncle George likes ELO. At the party, Uncle George kept making me and Barry shandies. Twice Uncle Gerry poured some of his beer into my glass until it was full. I think that’s why I keep wanting to wee. My belly hurts... Chris says if I can stay awake we’ll be at the farm soon. Mum asks me if I’m excited about my new school. I open my eyes and say Yes. She’s smiling at me again, and she says I’ll make lots of new friends... There is nothing to see outside. It’s dark, so I close my eyes again. Sailing by Rod Stewart comes on and I hear Mum say to Chris that she loves this song. I think about the farm. Mum and Chris said that from my window I’ll be able to see the woods. My bedroom at home has been nearly empty for a week. There was only my bed and my wardrobe left. Mum says Chris has bought me new ones. I’m glad I have a new wardrobe. I used to have bad dreams about a wolf in a top hat coming out of my old one. I feel sad about not sleeping in my old room anymore though... I’m a bit scared about living on a farm. A few weeks ago, me and Nannan watched a horror film called Blood On Satan’s Claw, and there was a farm on that. This girl was locked in an attic because she’d been scratched by the claw and she was turning into a devil. Her arm went all hairy and her fingers turned into claws. Lots of horror films are in the country. Dracula. Wolfman. Frankenstein. When something’s after you, there’s nobody around to help you in the country. You have to fight the monster yourself... Mum is singing and Chris is laughing at her. Mum makes her voice go funny and Chris laughs more. Mum said yesterday that I can call him Dad whenever I want to... My eyes feel hot and itchy. It seems a long way from town to the farm.

When I wake up everything is wrong. This is not my room. My head hurts. This is not my bed. My legs are cold and they sting a bit, and when I put my hand down under the covers I’ve wet myself. I get up quick and take my trousers and pants off. I go over to the window and open the curtains just enough to see out. I feel sick. Outside are tractors and barns and a wood that stretches down to some fields. There are no houses anywhere. I don’t remember getting here. My tummy feels heavy. Then the door opens behind me and it’s Mum. She’s smiling and sings Morning sleepyhead! Then she says Well, what do you think? Isn’t it brill! I cover myself with the curtain and shout GET OUT!... Oh Billy, Mum says, and she closes the door.

 

10. That first summer on the farm

08. Their mum and dad would scream at each other

 
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