“Mum please can I have my own room. It’s not fair that I’m a teenager and still having to share a room with my little sister! I need my privacy!” This was the third time that week that Esme had begged her mother for her own room. She could see she was starting to wear her down.
“Esme I am tired of having this argument with you,” Anna replied exasperated by her daughter’s constant whingeing. “There are no other rooms unless you want to share with your brother.”
“Yuk no thanks,” Esme snapped back. “Well how about the basement? I could clear it out for you and decorate it myself. I promise I will do a really nice job.”
Anna let out a big sigh, she knew this was not just going to go away. Once Esme got an idea into her head she never let it go. “Ok maybe. I will have to discuss it with you father.”
“Yay, thank you mummy,” Esme screamed jumping up and down.
“Hang on just a minute young lady, I haven’t said yes yet!”
But Esme knew she would, she normally got her own way in the end.
The following week Farah and Danny helped Esme carry her things down to the basement – although Danny did most of the carrying.
“Ouch what have you got in here,” Danny said setting a box of stuff on the floor and straightening his weary back.
“I can’t believe you want to be down here,” Farah gasped with her hand over her nose. “Its dark and it stinks!”
“But it’s all mine,” Esme replied looking around at her little dungeon. Farah and Danny crept out leaving her too it, they could not stand the smell any longer. As soon as they were gone, Esme screamed with joy, her voice echoing around the hollow room. Privacy and freedom at last!
But she did not have to live this way for long, there was no way her parents would let her sleep in that damp. As soon as they could, they got the builders in and had the room re-sealed and decorated. They also re-decorated Farah and Danny’s rooms so they would not feel left out.
“Thank you mummy, I love it,” Esme cooed hugging her mother tightly.
“It’s my pleasure sweetie, but you have to promise me you are going to look after it. You’re father has spent a lot of money on this for you so I want you to stop all this whining ok?”
“I promise I’ll be good,” Esme cheekily replied though they both knew it wouldn’t last, this was Esme after all.
Apart from now having her own privacy there was another reason for Esme wanting her own bedroom. There would no longer be any hiding or creeping around Farah, nervous that she would tell on her. Sleeping in the basement meant freedom. When she wanted to escape at night all she had to do was head out through the garage, there was no more shimmying down the drain pipe – down here no one would hear her.
Everyone would meet down at the beach. Most of the other kids did not have to sneak out at night. Some of them were older and did not live at home anymore, and other’s parents either were really relaxed or simply did not care that their kids were out at all hours of the night. Esme was jealous of these kids although she never told anyone about having to sneak out – for all they knew her parents were just as cool as theirs.
To Esme, the beach parties were as starlit and romantic as the ones on TV and in the movies. Dozens of teenagers invaded the city beach, guzzling beer in the sand, sitting by a bonfire or heavy-petting.
Esme immediately recognised the laughter of her best friends Kara and Kasey by their laughter crackling above the roar of the ocean and the wails of a boy band on the radio. She kicked off her flip-flops, crossed the sand glowing white in the starlight and headed over to them.
They turned around with wide eyes. “Esme!” they both squealed at once as they rushed at her. They both jumped up and down and hugged her but Kara stopped soon and gave her some air, whereas Kasey did not let go until she said, “Okay,” and pressed her shoulders to stop the bouncing. It was clear to her which one was drinking tonight and which was the designated driver.
They were twins, not identical, but they might as well have been, the way they finished each other’s sentences. They did look similar, both petite with bright orange hair just as wild as they were, but from there they diverged. “I can’t believe you’re here!” Kara squealed. “I thought you said it would be harder for you to get out now that your sister was onto you!”
“Yeah well my parents let me move my room down to the basement this weekend so now I have no prying little sister in my business anymore. Its gonna be easy from now on.”
“Yay,” the twins squealed jumping up and down. They were in the category of having cool parents who cared but allowed them lots of freedom.
While they were busy cheering, Esme stole a cheeky glance to her side. He was here! Her heart did a flip as he looked back at her and they made eye contact.
“You two are driving me crazy,” Kasey tutted. “Will you just go and talk to him already!”
“If he likes me he can come and talk to me,” Esme replied triumphant in this. She had had a crush on Jace all summer and so far they had only said two words to each other. Normally Esme was much more confident with guys but Jace was different. For one, he was three years older and no longer and school. Secondly, he was extremely hot!
“Hey Jace,” Kara suddenly yelled. “Come here!”
“What the hell are you doing,” Esme gasped covering her hand over her face.
“I’m doing you a favour,” Kara snapped back.
“Hey girls,” Jace said sauntering over like he was walking a catwalk. “What’s up?”
“Not much,” Kara replied coolly. “Me and Esme were just talking about you.”
“You were,” Jace asked turning to Esme.
She thought she might die. There and then – dead on the sand! She could not believe Kara was doing this to her. “We were,” she stuttered looking at the twins. They both gave her a look of go on, and she knew she had to somehow make this work. “Oh yeah we were. We were just wondering….err….” She racked her brains. What was she expected to say, her mind went blank!
“Esme was wondering if you would go and sit by that bonfire over there with her as she is pretty cold,” Kasey stepped in. It was the lamest thing Esme had ever heard and she was simply mortified.
“Sure,” Jace replied even though they all knew there were spare seats at the main bonfire.
“Great,” the twins said at the same time. They nudged each other and then headed off down the beach.
“They’re not very subtle your friends are they,” Jace joked as the twins walked away.
“I am so sorry about them,” Esme replied completely humiliated and reminding herself to never speak to them again.
“It no worries, I think their funny.”
“Yeah funny stupid,” Esme replied under her breath. They both looked over at the twins who had seated themselves on a bench and were watching them closely without a clue of what they had done.
“So you wanna sit down then,” Jace continued moving over towards on the abandoned bonfire on the other side of the beach.
“Sure,” Esme replied stunned that he still wanted to sit with her.
Jace tousled with the fire pit and got the flames ignited again. Then he planted himself down next to Esme. He smelt so good, a mixture of soap and burnt wood.
“So what do you do then Esme?”
“I’m at high school,” Esme replied feeling a little silly for still being a school-girl! “How about you?”
“Oh you know a bit of this and a bit of that,” Jace replied cryptically. “But tell me more about you,” He obviously wanted to change the subject. “So which category do you fit into – parents who don’t care or they’re too cool for school?”
“Neither,” Esme replied sheepishly. She could lie, it would be easy but some reason she wanted to tell Jace the truth for once. “My parents do care and they are not cool. The truth is I sneak out to come here, they would kill me if they knew!”
“WOW, that’s pretty rad of you Esme!”
Suddenly Esme felt proud of her escapades. Jace was impressed by her and she was desperate to impress him even more. “Well that’s not all,” she started. She told him about all her tricks from pinching things every now and again to how she dooped her parents into thinking she was the angel child. Jace hung on her every word and the more he was interested the more she divulged.
He talked too. He told her a bit about being kicked out of home when he was 16 and making his own way since then. Esme was not really listening to him though, she just loved looking at him as he talked about his life, the glow of the bonfire reflecting like diamonds across his face.
**Cough Cough** “Sorry to interrupt guys but I think its time we should be going.”
Kasey’s voice pulled Esme out of her trance. She had been sucking face with Jace for what felt like forever now but suddenly she felt the fear of time. She jumped up and looked at her watch. It was 6am, the sun was coming up and soon her father would be in her room waking her up for school.
“Sorry Jace I have to go,” she screamed grabbing her flip-flops and sprinting up the beach with the twins in toe. If her dad found her room empty she would be in so much trouble!!
She had never run so fast in her life. By the time her house was in sight the sky was turning pink with the rising sun and Esme knew she had only minutes!
She ran through the open garage door and skidded into her room and under her duvet without even taking her clothes off. The whole time she could hear her dad’s footsteps on the stairs above her creeping down quicker and quicker.
Just as she pulled the duvet over her body and lay her head on the pillow her father was at the door. “Esme honey, time to get up,” he whispered in the gentle way her dad woke her up for school every morning.
“Ok thank you dad,” She murmured from beneath her blanket pretending to be sleepy. She was surprised her dad could not hear the loud beating of her chest. She had gotten away with it.
The next day at school Esme was shattered. She had had no sleep and was running on the adrenalin from the night before only. During her lunch hour she stretched across a bench and tried to have a little nap. “So what happened,” the twins asked. They had been texting her all day as they had had different classes and Esme knew she would not be getting any sleep until she gave them something.
“Oh you know, a bit of this and a bit of that,” Esme replied trying to sound as cool as possible. She still had not entirely forgiven the twins for their matchmaking tactics but as it had worked out in the end, she could not be too mad at them!
“Are you going to see him again,” Kasey asked.
“Maybe,” Esme murmured but inside she was freaking out. How would Jace get hold of her, she had run off in such a hurry last night she had forgotten to give him her phone number!
Suddenly the school bell rung signifying end of lunch and Esme dragged herself up from her lying position stretching out her tired limbs.
As she looked up she saw her sister under the benches snogging Curtis. “Oi, get a room,” she called out so everyone in the yard could hear!
The twins giggled and Farah pulled away from Curtis looking mortified. Why did her sister have to embarrass her all the time!
After school, Esme was ready to collapse. All she could think about was her bed so she gratefully accepted a lift home off the twins when they offered, even though she normally liked to walk. As they strolled out into the sunshine moaning about the amount of homework they had, they saw Jace standing at the school gates.
Butterflies swept through Esme’s tummy and she did not even stop to think what she was doing, he had found her! “Looks like I won’t be needing that life after all girls,” she called running towards him.
“Hey you,” you said tapping him on the shoulders.
“Hey yourself,” he replied spinning round and facing her. He is even cuter in the daylight, Esme thought!
“You ran off so quickly last night I forgot to get your number,” he continued eyeing her up.
“Well you seemed to have found me ok without it,” Esme replied trying to sound flirty but all she did was make herself blush.
“Hey I wanna show you something,” he said ignoring the fact that her face had turned bright red.
“Sure, where we going?”
“I wanna show you where I work,” Jace said leading Esme towards the subway.
Jace paid for her ticket and they rode the train all the way across town. They chatted for the journey and Jace told her how he had called every school in Bridgeport looking for her. He had almost given up. Esme felt very special – she could not believe a boy had gone to all this trouble for her.
Thirty minutes later, Jace announced this was their stop and Esme hopped off making her way towards the exit. As she came out into the sunshine she looked around her in horror – where was she?!
It was certainly not a part of town she had ever been to before. Surrounding the subway station were abandoned cars and wasteland. Derelict buildings surrounded them with a factory pumping out some sort of toxic fumes.
“Err where are we,” she asked feeling very uneasy. Should she have really agreed to go somewhere with a guy she just met. Her mother would kill her if she knew!
“I told you I’m showing you where I work,” Jace replied reassuringly. He rubbed her hand and led her up the road.
They walked and chatted for a while until they came to a big dilapidated building. “Here we are,” he said pointing up at the abandoned construction.
“In there,” Esme gulped. She suddenly felt extremely vulnerable and looked around her in panic for a familiar site or person. But there was nothing.
“Don’t be scarred Esme. It’s not as bad as it looks and I promise you its perfectly friendly. Now do you think you can you keep a secret?”
“Yeah I err guess so,” she replied wondering where this was going.
“That’s what a thought,” Jace replied stroking her face. “Then I would like to show you around if you want to. Or I can take you home now?”
There was a get out clause! Thank god he was giving her a get out clause. But did Esme really want to take it? She looked over at the building and then back into Jace’s eyes that smiled at her like she was a princess and he was her king. The adrenalin of fear filled her up and she stepped towards the building. “Let’s do it she replied,” letting Jace take her head and lead her in!