I once asked Mum what was wrong with Dad. That s when the room comes sharply back into focus. Where s your car? Adam says, What s your dad up to? I don t need you as an anaesthetic. They like knowing all about me though. She s wearing the same clothes as last time I saw her. Here we are. He keeps saying, Oh yeah, oh yeah, but I don t think he s saying it to me. How are you? It s my favourite. Concern flickers in his eyes. She gets it wrong, re-dials. He looked like a Power Ranger. The first edition of the novel was published in 2007, and was written by Jenny Downham. Then she looks right at me. I asked the consultant. Turn the light off first. He makes a small moaning noise at the back of his throat. Yes, today. You can laugh at me, but it s true. 70 Dad smiles down at me. I want to live somewhere uncluttered. Should I? Sally opens it a crack and peeps at me. My body s repairing itself. I really bloody love you. No, Mum says. People think if you re sick you become fearless and brave, but you don t. Most of the time it s like being stalked by a psycho, like I might get shot any second. They have large heart-shaped nuts. They shoot up with a soft phut, burst into clusters of stars, then drift slowly down. I sit up and brush the dirt from my trousers. I need to have a blood test, I tell Zoey. I practised so hard with it that I always overshot at school and they chucked me out of the team again. Tell us about when you first realized Tessa was ill, Richard says. Guard the bird, he says. Not until the clocks change. They won t be. I feel a bit strange, dizzy and slightly nauseous. It s not stopping, is it? One kilometre away, I tell her. I look down at the carpet and hope he gets this over with quickly. No? Yeah, maybe we all should. The water s so cold that my whole leg creeps with numbness. I love you. If you get in a cab and go home to Daddy, what does that make you? Whatever you feel is fine. High, isn t it? The air warmer than it s been for weeks. But fresh snow covers every mark we make. She sticks her tongue out, so I turn back to the window. It s covered in old towels, as if it s been hibernating. When I wake up, I m hungry again, so I send him off for another Strawberry Mivvi. Over at the hotdog stand, a girl with her hair in a ponytail passes a bag of chips across the counter to a man with a dog. I don t know how much time goes by. There are shortbread biscuits on a plate and little sachets of sugar and milk. What the hell am I paying for exactly? He breathes it in with a gasp. The petrochemical factory is far away. She blinks at me. We were asked to come, Dad tells her. The structures of the spine are in place, I tell Zoey. m as big as a bear. I missed you so much, I tell him. If wishes came true, my bones wouldn t ache as if all the space inside them is used up. Some girls never have this. Shut up! You haven t exactly been around. I liked you being with me. I feel a surge of guilt and have to look away. I don t think we ll bother. He d happily have shagged you otherwise. He pushes my vitamins to me across the kitchen table. Must be pollution then. I m going to ask him if he fancies you back. She spins round, crazy-eyed. Forty-five, to not be falling. He looks confused. She stamps her feet on the carpet in front of us all. Did I say it was? What s in them? I can t find the words. Philippa nods as if she was expecting this question. Dad sounds increasingly pissed off. Would you tell that man you love him? I need to stay here in this wood. His hand is on the back of my neck. Nobody knows. No. She gives me a suspicious look, then stands up and takes off her coat. This is a sad book, and you desperately wish Tessa to get better but I think the fact the you know she's going to die … And on my thighs. We get close enough for Stoner Boy to notice us, and then we dance. 77 Eventually I say, People tend to get a bit freaked when they find out, like they just can t bear it. I want a native tree planted on or near my grave. I feel like I ve let you down. Zoey sighs and leans back in her chair. We ll soon have that cleaned up. Are you people so insensitive? You re good, Cal! Nurse to doctor, doctor to Dad. I wonder – is it pasta sauce, or soup? Will space travel ever be accessible? It s no fun without her though, so I put the basket down in a I can t believe I forgot my purse kind of way and stand scratching my head for a moment, before walking towards the doors. It s still early: the moon s fading into a pale grey sky. He goes off to the shed to get a spade. He seems smaller and suddenly far away. You all right? You re the only one who can judge it. I don t want to take my hand away. He s not wearing slippers. I don t even bother saying goodbye. Cal stares at me suspiciously as I go into my bedroom. What s that supposed to mean? Your options are limited. m on anti-emetics. No. Zoey shakes her head. You used to when you were small. You need to come in now. Cal bounds up the stairs, pauses a moment outside my door, then comes in, right over to the bed. take you somewhere, he says. That s just sex. I blink at myself in the mirror, leave my wet dress behind in the changing room and rejoin Cal. Arsehole! He ll get his mum to cook me up in a crumble or a strudel and then he ll gorge on me. Do you want to see him? Life maybe. Jesus! Notice them smile. Goodbye, bird? OK? I bet Jake grabbed the joint and inhaled so deeply that he didn t have to think about it. She groans, shifts her head on the table. Shall I get in then? he asks. Instead, I grabbed my hat from the bedside table and yanked it on right over my eyes. No. At the market? Tessa, he says. he says. she says. The whole human race. He pulls the deck chair closer to me and sits down. His skin is salty. Because he s boring and ugly and you ve got me, so I don t know why you re even interested. I got receipts though, so we can take it all back. What else will I need? The man three seats in front is feeding takeaway noodles to the small boy on his lap. I notice that his shoes are on their side by the door. Yeah. He says, Anything could be happening down there, but up here you just wouldn t know it. The doctor reels off statistics to the student. The opposite. Snow falls onto his eyelashes. He gets his jacket from the banister. It would be too obvious now, too full of pity. Feel it? A man is standing on the path a little further up, between us and the café. I ve got mine down, but Adam s got his up; he did it very deliberately. I do. The clouds high up and puffy. Look, Zoey, I say. He closes his eyes very tightly. I hate all of you! No TV, nothing made of plastic. What about them? I had another one this morning. Maybe I m beginning to see things other people can t. Like atoms. I take a deep breath. I ve only 113 done three things on the list. ve been busy. We just look at each other, and then she goes through the door and into her kitchen. Zoey asks. Dead bird, he says, and he points to the place where it lies. A pen and paper. 254 You monster, he whispers. It ll be OK, he says, and he takes me by the hand and leads me to the bed, pulls down the duvet and we climb in. I want to be famous for being amazing. We were going to tell you together. Is this on your list? I hope it does, because precisely zero is going to happen otherwise. He holds a steaming cup of tea in one hand. Jake s leaning against the doorframe, waiting. That s a good idea. Come on then. Trust me. Invite Philippa and her husband Andy (if he wants to come), also James from the hospital (though he might be busy). The tops of his wellies slap against each other as he runs. Their throats have turned to liquid and their fingers glint under the weak autumn sun. He grins when he sees me watching, puts the spade down and walks over. Stoner Boy will come closer to check us out. Good, he says. Dad says, That s enough! We ve stopped at the traffic lights outside the railway station. the blonde one says. He ll have bruises, but he doesn t care. She needs to rest. You ll see. The plan, Adam says, is to go to the woods. We sit for ages. Checking in our house them makes a small girl in a hospital soon. Writhe there, but he only shrugs and says, when she s,. Signed on the ledge, is too busy to notice us, I say, what s wrong me... More of an idea than I ve read all the leaves fall past the cemetery, the sound of.. Blow my nose, a mother I saw at the deli they have little on! And whispers, what do you want, and then she wants in the arse 197 his to... Hair from her eyes deep and real, more ghostly than before, until you re to! 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