Martin woke early on his fourteenth birthday. Everything was quiet. All he could hear was the birds chirping outside. His brother stirred in the bunk below. Martin stayed still, taking care not to wake him. Half an hour later he heard the toilet flush. Peace over. His mother stood in the doorway shouting.
‘Get up you lazy sods.’
She flicked the ash of her cigarette on the floor and went into the living room. Martin groaned. Just another day. Another day like all the rest.
Ruben was waiting for him at the bottom of the hill. His school bag was on the ground, half open. He was smoking a cigarette.
‘Give us a drag,’ Martin said pushing him as a way of greeting.
‘My birthday present to you,’ Ruben smirked handing Martin the soggy fag end. ‘Thought we might have a proper smoke later to celebrate.’
Martin hesitated. ‘Don’t know,’ he said, ‘mum will kill me if she finds out.’
‘And how will she find out?’ Ruben asked.
‘She’ll smell it a mile off. Like a bloody sniffer dog she is.’ Martin laughed nervously.
‘Nah, by the time she gets home from bingo she’ll be too far gone to notice.’ Ruben said.
At school everything was normal. Mr Luxton told them off for being late again. Then they got caught smoking at break time and sent to the head’s office. Some kids got into a fight in the corridor whilst others stood around cheering them on. Just another day. Another day like all the rest.
Last period was Geography. Mrs Henson had been ill for a few weeks now. In her place was a young supply teacher. She was short and stocky, and wore thick glasses. Martin couldn’t quite work her out. Nothing really seemed to faze her. Whatever he did or said she just smiled at him. Last week he had made a comment about her glasses and was certain he had pushed her too far. She had just laughed it off. Today was no different.
‘You can’t tell me off can you?’ Martin said flashing his best smile at her.
‘Not very easily,’ she said.
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘I don’t think you really are as bad as you like to make out,’ she said flatly as she turned to wipe the board.
On their way home Martin and Ruben stopped off in the park. There was an old shack over by the hedges where the grounds men used to keep their tools. A couple of the other lads were already there. Jack was busy skinning up.
‘Where did you get it from,’ Ruben looked on with hungry eyes.
‘My brother,’ Jack replied. ‘Come on then lads, birthday boy gets the honour.’
Martin hesitated for a split second before he lit the joint. Last week his mum had found out and all hell broke loose. He couldn’t resist it though.
The spliff was passed around. They all went quiet for a bit until Ruben broke the silence.
‘What’s all that about earlier then Martin, ‘he said taking another drag, ‘you and miss four-eyes, you teacher’s pet all of a sudden or what?’
His voice had gone high- pitched.
‘What you on about?’ Martin giggled,’ I’ve always been teacher’s pet, didn’t you know?’
They all laughed.
A few hours and another two joints later, Martin walked home. His head was buzzing. He was pretty certain the whole world knew he was high. And mum would know for sure if she saw him. What if she had not gone to bingo, what if she was waiting for him? Nervously he turned the key and entered the flat.
Robert was in the lounge playing Play Station.
‘Mum’s out,’ he said, eyes fixed at the screen, ‘she left some money for chips.’
Martin found a fiver on the kitchen table. Attached to it was a yellow post-it note.
‘Back late, mum.’
She had put two kisses and a smiley face at the bottom.
‘Result,’ he said to himself punching the air.
After they’d eaten, Martin and Robert had a game of Grand Turismo. Robert won, hands down.
Martin was in bed by eleven. Just before midnight he heard his mum come home. She had someone with her. Martin turned off the lights.
The end of another birthday. Another day just like all the rest.
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