23 June 2019 - 01:37
Fiona Watson sat on the red bench at the bus-stop, fiddling with her black backpack. The moon was shining down on her, even though she half thought that she didn’t deserve its tranquil light. She took another precious moment to think about what she had done.
I ran away. Left the home I knew for sixteen years.
She gasped as a figure ran past, and huddled herself up in a tight ball, thinking that the girl was Ashley. Relieved as the figure went out of sight, she pulled out of the ball and reached out for her diary. She started to finger the pages.
Okay, what have I done? Did I do the right thing?
9 June 2019 - 11:45
You would think that someone would wake up themselves after sleeping for twelve hours, especially because of the time. I certainly would, Mum wouldn’t let me sleep that long. For Fiona, it was the piercing wail of her alarm, and she wasn’t grateful. ‘Ssh,’ she complained. ‘I know that I need to wake up,’ Fiona rubbed her sleepy eyes.
In the distance, she could hear a song. ‘Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…’
Suddenly, Fiona jumped from the comforts of her bed. It was her little brother’s birthday. ‘How dare they didn’t wake me up! You can’t start a birthday without me. But then again… why would they? They don’t even care about me so…’
But still, Fiona stomped out of her room and kicked her brother’s room’s door open. Inside, her parents and brother were laughing. WITHOUT HER. Again.
Why am I part of this family again?
‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’ Fiona screamed over their laughter.
‘Sorry, sweetie. We just thought you needed some more sleep. You don’t sleep much nowadays, with all your stress and problems…’ her mum’s faked caring voice started.
Fiona wasn’t going to take it. ‘Sleep? Yeah… right, totally. I’m his flipping big sis and…’ she started to say.
‘Don’t talk to us like that!’ her dad yelled. ‘Especially on Jack’s birthday!’
She frowned and continued to scream. ‘You don’t even give a fudge about me, do you? You know what? Why am I even here? I’m not wasting my time around… idiots.’ She restrained herself from swearing at her parents.
She didn’t even wait for a reaction. Slamming the door shut, she ran down the stairs. Fiona didn’t care anymore.
If my parents don’t care, why should I? Why do I even need parents to look after me? I’m fine by myself. I can be alone. I don’t need help. My parents don’t care. THEY DON’T BLOODY CARE. Even if I left. I should leave. It’ll be better than living under this roof, anyway.
She was racing ahead in her thoughts. She was also ignoring the quiet voice at the back of her brain whispering, ‘should you be doing this?’
23 June 2019 - 01:39
She had got onto the bright red bus scowling and sat at the bus, keeping a distance from the cheery driver. The bus shook a little as it moved off onto the road and Fiona leaned against the wall and watched the dark view out of the dirty window moving past her. Slowly, she felt the salty tears roll out of her eyes.
Happy birthday to me. Better get the tears out of the way first…
23 June 2019 - 01:30
Fiona even thought about it in bed, whilst twisting her fiery hair around her finger under the duvet.
School tomorrow. And my birthday… it’s my birthday OMG.
‘I’ll be sixteen… that’s old enough. Enough… to leave. I will leave. I need to leave. The hell… I AM LEAVING!’ she practically shouted in her room, then quietened, aware of her surroundings.
She leapt out of bed and reached for the first bag she could find in her wardrobe. A backpack.
She thrust everything she thought that she needed. Her hand brushed against her phone.
I read somewhere that your phone tracks you. They’ll find me… I can’t take it… She reached out behind her wardrobe. Money. And lots of it. She had learned that money could be useful, and if your parents don’t give you it, then you take it yourself. My mum never taught me that. She also decided to ignore who she had learnt that valuable lesson from. She smirked and placed it all in her backpack. Her watch told her it was time to get going. Suddenly, a thought came in her jumbled mind.
Should I be doing this? Is it right?
She wanted to be a singer when she was older.
If I leave… who will support me? Who am I kidding, why would my parents support me? They probably want this as much as I do. Right? My friends would be so proud of me… so come on Fiona. You can do this. I’m clever enough, and brave enough, certainly old enough.
She reached out for a piece of scrap paper.
I should write a note at least, like in movies.
She scribbled a short message down with her slightly trembling hand. Then, checking everything was ready, she sighed and carefully opened the door. Taking one last look at the home she had known for sixteen years, she walked on… not knowing where she was going. She was walking into the real world. All because of her friends. And she would find out exactly who she was.
Who am I, really? I am Fiona Watson, and I will fulfil my dreams. Without you.
‘What! She… she can’t,’ Emily stammered.
‘I want Fi-fi back, I miss her!’ wailed Jack, Fiona’s eight-year-old brother.
‘Call the police,’ Peter looked at his wife and decided. ‘We need to find her.’
They all stood around the one single note, awe-struck.
I am leaving. You don’t care. I don’t (want) need... you. Fiona xxx
‘The police will look for me. I need a disguise. Something. My red hair…’ Fiona stared at the shops in front of her whilst muttering to herself. ‘I’ll dye it.’
There would have to be hair dye in shops, right?
Fiona ran her hand through her chestnut brown hair.
More like it.
The idea almost came naturally, like she had it all planned before.
Maybe I have planned it before. And I can’t remember, even though my subconscious does. Okay, that just sounds weird. And being weird is wrong. I fit in with the crowd. It’s what’s best for me.
Fiona sat down on the bus stop bench and waited for another fourteen bus.
I can’t go around using my real name. Especially a name my ‘parents’ gave me. This is starting to be a lot like books… and movies. How about, Isabelle Smith? Isabelle Smith. I like it. I’m not Fiona Watson, I’m Isabelle Smith. Always liked the name Isabelle. Does that sound familiar? Well…
The bus arrived at that moment and she scanned her oyster card whilst hiding the photo. She smirked and sat at the back again. No depressing tears this time.
23 June 2019 - 04:59
Fiona walked down a busy street and then ducked into an alleyway. She stared up at the sun’s light caressing her pale skin.
What can I do? I don’t even know where I am… or anything, really…
‘Hey,’ a new voice said.
Fiona spun around in shock. There, in front of her, was a girl… around her age, or maybe younger. She had a warm smile and wore a denim dress. Her brunette hair was tied into a messy ponytail, and her sea-green eyes flickered in the sunlight.
‘What’s your name? I’m Charlotte Waters.’
Fiona was dazed for a moment or two before starting to stammer. ‘Um… hi. I’m Fi… err… Isabelle. Isabelle Smith.’
Charlotte laughed. ‘Don’t you even know your own name? Anyways… are you new here? Never seen you before…’
‘How many people here do you actually know?’ she asked, staring at the busy street that seemed to have a mind of its own. She almost felt like an outsider.
Charlotte laughed again. ‘You know what, I actually know a few people - not personally, of course. You see that guy with the coffee in his hand?’ Fiona nodded. ‘Every day at five am, he pops into that café and gets himself a chocolate muffin - which he eats inside the café - and a cup of coffee that he drinks whilst looking at his reflection in that clothes shop window. Then, he travels through the busy street and looks ahead at the London underground sign for precisely two and a half seconds, before checking his watch and heading towards it.’
At that moment, the man was looking at the Underground symbol, and on instinct Fiona turned to the red and blue sign, camouflaged in the array of colour on the street. ‘See! Like I told you. Everyone here has a routine; you looked a bit lost and out of place. That’s how I realised you were new here.’
‘Yeah, I’m new. Um… do you know where we are… like… I’m a bit, well, a lot, lost.’
‘You’re funny. It’s Central London, silly. One of the busiest cities in the world? The capital of this country? Where are you going? Maybe I can help you out?’
‘I’m not going anywhere in particular…’
‘Are you here by yourself? Education? Parents? Home?’
‘I’m well…’ Fiona tried to find an answer before deciding. ‘I’m here to get a better life.’
‘What do you mean?’
Fiona wasn’t sure.
I have to lie.
‘I don’t um… have a family…’
‘Are you an orphan then? Oh Isabelle…’
‘Where did you live? Were you adopted?’ the questions came rolling out of Charlotte’s mouth.
Fiona burst out: ‘YES! I mean… yes. By some really… mean people. I, I slept on the floor and… did all the housework and if I didn’t break my back by the end of the day, they would lock me up without food and water… and I only got one meal a day.’
What is this, Fiona? Oliver Twist?
‘OMG. Report them. Jail them. They can’t do that to you!’
‘I… can’t. I forgot um… everything. And stuff.’
Really good lying, huh?
‘How about school?’
Now look what you’ve got yourself into.
‘I did go to school, but my ‘foster parents’ would pick me up sweetly… and then it was work, work, work.’
Imagine a life like that… far worse than yours.
‘No wonder you left… oh Isabelle. Where are you gonna live then? You’ve escaped now.’
‘I really don’t know.’
‘Well… you could live with me for a few days… until we find you a place to stay. My parents won’t mind… I’ve done this before… with my girlfriend…’
Living on mercy now? Great, Fiona. Simply great.
Charlotte steered her towards another bus stand. After thirty minutes, they finally arrived.
‘Ta-da!’ Charlotte exclaimed.
Fiona looked up. There was a two-floor detached ‘chalet’ bungalow in front of her, painted white. The double-glazed windows stared at her. She stared back.
‘You’ll have to sleep in my room,’ Charlotte continued. ‘Let me just ask my mum, you know? By the way, how old are you?’
‘Sixteen today,’ Fiona mumbled.
‘OMG happy birthday! I’m fourteen but like…’
Yay happy birthday to me…
Charlotte opened the door and went inside to talk to her mum. Fiona was left outside on the driveway to wait. She walked onto the pavement and started counting cars.
Three red cars… five blue… six black…
‘Do you live here, darling?’ asked a scruffy man with black clothes. On the other end of the lead was a little dog.
‘No. You have a nice puppy,’ Fiona complimented shyly. ‘I like puppies.’
‘Do you now? She’s friendly, dear. Name’s Snuggles. What about you, lass?’
‘Isabelle,’ she replied, stroking Snuggles.
‘Wouldn’t you like to see some more? Got loads at my house. Won’t you come?’ he gestured towards his black car whilst asking her.
Seven black cars.
‘Yes please if it wouldn’t be any trouble…’
‘Trouble? Oh no, dear. Come on.’
He started to walk, followed closely by Fiona.
‘EXCUSE ME! I WOULD LEAVE NOW IF I WERE YOU!’ shouted a new voice.
Immediately, the man and Snuggles sped away.
What’s going on?
She turned to look at the voice. It came from a middle-aged woman with dark, curly hair. She had brown eyes and glasses.
Maybe this is Charlotte’s mother.
‘Hello, Isabelle. Charlotte told me all about you. I can’t believe you nearly went with that man! Kidnapping… big problem. Child labour. Lots of stuff you could’ve got into. You need to be more aware, Isabelle. Really, you don’t know how bad this world is. Getting worse by the minute!’ she explained.
So much for being clever.
She was realising how difficult the outside world really was.
Fiona woke up with a start, earlier than usual. Actually, it’s the time I usually wake up.
She was going to move into a hostel that day. From her research, it had a bad reputation. ‘Charlotte? You are coming, right?’ she tapped her friend as she questioned her.
‘Of course, Izzy. You can come and visit anytime. It’ll be fine, I swear.’
‘So…’ Charlotte leapt out of bed, ready to ask her own question. ‘You going to college, or even university later?’
You think I can afford it?
‘Well… I want to go to music college but… I don’t think I can afford it. I want to be a singer when I’m older and…’
‘You could try out for a scholarship? Royal College of Music is good. In South Kensington,’ Charlotte suggested.
A young girl walked into the bedroom, still wearing her nightdress. Her brown hair was messily plaited, and her brown eyes were looking curiously at Fiona.
‘What’s your name?’ she enquired.
‘Umm… Isabelle. You?’
‘Patricia, but you can call me Trixie, or Tissie, I don’t mind. I’m Charlotte’s sister. I’m seven years old! What are you doing here? You look incredibly old… oh! Are you a grown-up?’
‘Err, not really. I’m fifteen, no sixteen.’
‘Oh okay,’ Tissie frowned slightly, but then her face exploded into a big smile.
Fiona looked down a bit, unable to stand the innocent eyes that reminded her of her brother, and in some ways, how she had been when she was younger. Tissie’s curious expression was unbearable to her.
‘GIRLS! Come down please,’ a loud voice boomed from the living room.
‘Bye Tissie, see you later!’
‘Au revoir. That’s bye in French!’ she declared proudly.
Charlotte’s father was standing in front of the telly. He was a tall, slender man with green eyes. His brown hair was neat and tidy. ‘Doesn’t that girl look like you, Isabelle?’ he questioned her. He was pointing at a girl on the screen.
She was around sixteen, with fiery-red hair, and pale skin. Her turquoise eyes stood out, and she had thick lashes. Her white dress and pearl necklace looked pretty. But, under the smiling girl, was writing:
FIONA WATSON - MISSING
Oh no, oh no. Why?!
She let out a sigh of shock. Her sky-blue eyes were open, and her limbs erupted with goose bumps.
Why God, why? I shouldn’t be on telly… no, no.
She smiled a fake smile. ‘Wow… we could be long lost sisters or something. Sweet.’
‘Are you sure you’re OK, Izzy?’ Charlotte enquired anxiously.
‘Of course, Charlotte. Don’t worry.’
‘Well, girls. Shouldn’t you be getting ready?’ Charlotte’s dad asked.
Can I really cope with living on my own? Fiona, think of your friends. Just do this.
Fiona got out of the car a while later and looked at the massive brown bricked building.
Charming. How… lovely?
She could hear music playing.
Repercussions. By BBX. My favourite song. Almost like they knew…
‘Go in then. It’s fine,’ Charlotte smiled.
It’s ‘fine’ for you.
She stepped inside. The brown floor glowered at her and the white ceiling turned grey. Fiona quickly made her way to the receptionist. She was a skinny lady, who were thick lenses, making her eyes look as small as saucers. Her name tag prominently stated that her name was Esme Lloyds. She stared at all three of them.
‘Which one?’ she asked busily, almost like it was a habit for her. To be perfectly honest with you, the hostel was not busy at all. It had its terrible reputation to thank for.
‘Me,’ Fiona crossed her arms.
‘Isabelle Smith, sixteen.’
‘Proof of identity.’
Shoot. I can’t… oh my family would help, but they aren’t here…
‘Isabelle? You… do you have anything?’ Charlotte nudged her.
The receptionist wrote something down and handed it to Charlotte’s dad.
‘You can still stay here… but money.’
Personally, I would have turned away and ran out at that moment. Fiona did the opposite. She extended her hand out towards the frowning woman.
This hostel is bad… no proof? Seriously? Okay, whatever. I’ve seen worse. Have I?
She handed the cash reluctantly and looked up over to the family’s frowning faces. Being assigned to room twenty-nine, she said a quick goodbye to the Waters and started to walk up the stairs. I really don’t like this place. But what choice do I have?
Fiona stared at her room extremely awkwardly. It was small, but as the receptionist said, it was how much her money was worth. When I went to see the room myself as research for this book, I could barely fit myself in it.
I don’t really need much space. I’m lucky to even have a roof over my head. Right?
Beside her, was a single sized bed with a pillow and a white duvet. There was also a small cupboard, a table, a chair, and a tiny radiator.
‘Perhaps, I should… well… make some friends?’ she thought aloud. She opened the door and quickly ran down the steps. She entered a hall, and in the corner of her eye, she saw a group of girls laughing. She felt a glimmer of hope.
Maybe I could join them?
‘Hi,’ she waved at them. The group, however, was oblivious.
‘Hello?’ she said again. This time, they took the time to observe her. A girl with green eyes smirked and looked away. The others followed her lead.
What shall I do? I’m being friendly but they’re just aloof.
‘Excuse me… ’
The green-eyed girl whispered something to the group and a girl with chocolate brown hair turned around. ‘What do you want? You aren’t welcome here you know. To be part of our group, you have to PROVE yourself,’ she spoke rudely. ‘Loner dog.’ Again, I’ll be honest with you. She said something far worse than that but… let’s not focus on that. She re-joined her laughing group, muttering under her breath. Fiona continued to stare at the girls blankly.
What should I do? These girls are actually RUDE. Like Ashley’s were before. Before I… well, you know. Do I know?
The girls made their way towards the exit.
I should try again…
‘Wait!’ Another girl walked towards Fiona, grabbing her by the shoulders. ‘You really don’t get it, do you?’ the girl whispered in Fiona’s ear. ‘Sorry, dear,’ she pushed Fiona into the wall and put on a fake smile. The green-eyed girl walked up to her. ‘We’ll meet again soon, I’m sure. Just remember we’re going easy on you.’ Fiona eyed them as they left and attempted to stand up.
She felt lonely, confused, and heartbroken.
Maybe this place is different. You don’t make friends here. Or maybe I should try again. You know what? Take life as it is, Fiona. Gin was right.
In the corner were two girls observing the scene.
Maybe everyone here is aloof?
But one of the girls came up to Fiona and helped her stand up. ‘Thanks.’
‘No problemo,’ the black-haired girl smiled cheerfully.
‘By the way, are you new here? Never seen you before. Suppose you are. Welcome! I’m Anushka and this is Sansita, but most peeps call her Sita. You should be INCREDIBLY careful here. There are some people who you don’t want to be with. Like… Heather’s group. The one you just met. They’re mean to Sita, just coz she’s mute, and that’s not right. And by MEAN, I mean… serious trouble. One of them, I think Lilith, went to jail for um… weapon use. Lilith means night monster in Hebrew… so I’m not surprised. She’s stuck there for ten years, so HA. My name means ray of light so… it’s cool. Sansita means praise. And, I’ll stop talking, coz I’ve talked a lot, right?’ Anushka laughed.
They seem nice…
‘Um… hi, I’m Isabelle.’
Sita beamed and waved.
‘Your name means… God is my Oath and is an exceedingly popular North American and European name. Don’t mind me… I’m a name meaning dictionary. If that makes sense… ’
‘What does the name Fiona mean? Like… just asking…’
‘Well… it’s an Irish girl name that usually belongs to a girl with blonde or red hair, and it means fair or white.’
Well… I didn’t know that.
‘Oh, cool,’ Fiona looked around. ‘What even happens here?’
Sita sighed. Anushka rolled her eyes. ‘Daily routine? This place is a military regiment. Six am wake up. Breakfast half six. College, uni, whatever. Six pm, dinner. Lights off eleven pm max. They actually check LOL. And lunch, you pay extra like, five pounds. Any restaurant’s cheaper! Or a meal deal from a supermarket or something. This is a really dumb hostel if you want my opinion. My parents didn’t really want me coming here, but I convinced them. I want an adventure, what’s better than the mystery of a weird hostel?’
That’s a lot of restrictions… I’m more privileged at home. Now thinking about it. Fiona, stop it.
‘Thank you for the information, Anushka,’ she said in her best BBC-news-at-one voice.
Sita made some strange signs with her hands.
‘What’s that Sita? Oh shoot, yeah, it’s one. Come on, we need to eat!’ Anushka looked at Fiona’s confused face. ‘That was sign language, idiot. Wanna go and get a sandwich or something?’ ‘OK…’
Fiona stared at her tuna sandwich; half-eaten.
I don’t really like tuna, but I suppose that I could eat anything now. But I can’t keep spending money every day… I will run out of money. Plus, I can’t stay at the hostel forever. What about adult life? The future? Even tomorrow? Take a break, Fiona.
It’s only your first day here.
‘Sita… ’ Fiona began. But, to her surprise, Sita wasn’t there. There was just a group of girls surrounding her, and a very astounded-looking Anushka, standing up as her jaw dropped. The group was the very same Fiona had met earlier.
‘Let go of her, Heather. It’s them, Isabelle.’
‘Why should I?’ Heather smirked. She was a slightly overweight mixed-race girl with startling green eyes. ‘So, your name is Isabelle, huh? Well, Isabelle, one thing you should know. I’m the leader around here, k? So, you do as I say, or…’ she shook Sita, who mouthed ‘help’ as Fiona caught her hazel eye. ‘This happens. No point of hanging around with dumb girls.’
‘Don’t call us dumb, okay?’
‘Excuse me,’ Heather crossed her arms as she pushed Sita into the arms of the chocolate brown-haired girl. ‘Look, Isabelle. I don’t give this invitation to many people, but with a l’il brushing up, you might be OK… you can join our lot, but then again, it’s your choice.’
Not the same choice… not the same mistake… no, no, please…
‘I don’t think so, Heather.’
I said no. I said no. I said no.
‘As you wish, Izzy. But it’s best to keep me sweet around here. You won’t enjoy your time here, I promise. Hey, Emily, go on.’
My mum’s name…
Emily punched Sita in the eye and pushed her onto the concrete ground. ‘Don’t even think about telling anyone, you don’t know what I can do.’
I very well do know.
Fiona looked around her room. Again. Sansita had a black eye and she couldn’t even say anything. Anushka had left the hostel to go to Cambridge and Heather had kept her promise. Everything was going great. (I will clarify that everything was not going great).
If there’s one place I want to be… it’s home. Maybe I should visit Charlotte later. It would make time pass.
As Fiona opened the door, all she could hear were complaints and groaning. She closed the door and yawned. Do I have to be up so early?
She didn’t want to, but she got herself slowly ready and headed downstairs, trying her best to be at her slowest pace. Fiona sighed as people behind her yelled for her to go quicker. She sat on the steps, not caring about the people behind her.
Fiona got up and turned to find green eyes staring at her azure ones. The girl waved at her face.
‘Err… Isabelle, it’s me, Charlotte?’ Charlotte attempted to catch Fiona’s attention in vain. ‘You okay?’ she asked. Fiona opened her mouth to speak, but shut it tight again, shrugging. ‘It’s breakfast at this dumb hostel. I sometimes visit some friends here and then I thought that I might check out how you’re doing. Aren’t you gonna eat?’ Fiona shrugged nonchalantly. ‘Are you sure you’re fine?’ Fiona appeared to be extremely interested in the ceiling and shrugged. ‘Well… do you want to come to my house?’ Fiona took hold of Charlotte’s wrist and ran down the stairs. ‘So?’ Fiona shrugged. ‘Oh, for God’s sake, quit shrugging!’
‘Fine, whatever,’ Fiona muttered.
Charlotte and Fiona walked out onto the street, their destination being the bus stop. They walked onto the scarlet bus and sat at the back. Fiona kept a wary eye for CCTV cameras.
I can’t risk being spotted.
Charlotte was on her phone, playing Alto’s Adventure and listening to music. Fiona looked around and eventually resumed her game of counting cars.
Eleven blue cars, eight silver cars…
Charlotte noticed this and took out her earphones and placed them on her lap. ‘So, how’s life going?’ she queried.
Back to questions…
‘Well… not so well, to be honest.’
‘Oh. Why don’t you try out for a scholarship at that ‘musique’ college?’
‘I don’t think I can, Charlotte. Even if I do get the scholarship, which is very unlikely, I need… more money. To stay at the hostel and food. I can’t afford it. Also, I need parental signing and stuff, for like, anything.’
‘Should I go back home?’ The question that had been bothering her for endless nights, the reason why she was so miserable, rolled out of her tongue.
‘You can’t! Your parents are so mean.’
I'm starting to doubt that.
‘I want to go home, but…’
‘Why should you wish to resume residing at your foster parent’s home?’ she demanded in her poshest voice.
The confession lay on the tip of her tongue. Urging to come out. ‘My parents aren’t that bad. I am,’ she declared.
What makes you say that? Haven’t you learnt ANYTHING from Ashley’s group? Nothing?
‘Of course not! What nonsense has your head been filled with? Come on, let’s eat. Forget about your parents. They're dead to you.’