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Drew Payne

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About Drew Payne

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  • Favorite Genres
    Drama

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    Who I Am
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    I tell stories.
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    London, England
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    Reading,
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    and being at home with my husband.

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  1. Chapter Seven of The World Out There is now up.

    Liam is awaiting his trial, housed in a secure children’s home, as different people visit him, all with their different agendas.

    Find the chapter here.

    Happy reading.

  2. Drew Payne

    Seven

    That night, Liam didn’t go home. Instead, they took him to a Children’s Home, Rokeby House, were he stayed until his trial. He kind of liked Rokeby House: there were nine other kids there and they all seemed to have their own problems, which they would often act out in public, demanding the attention of the staff there and allowing him to just be left alone. Also, he didn’t have to go to school - he could just sit up in his room and read whatever books he could find. The down side of life there was that he was visited regularly. His mother visited him every Saturday lunchtime for the first six weeks he was there, and then suddenly her visits stopped. He didn’t mind: when she visited him, she didn’t stop telling him all the problems he’d caused her, all the stress she was under from what he’d done, and that the council wasn’t willing to rehouse her. He sat silently as she lectured him on all the things he had done wrong. When she stopped visiting, he was glad that he no longer had to hear her telling him off and shouting at him. As the weeks passed by without any visits from her though, he found himself more and more missing her - she was his mother. Mark Hiller also visited him regularly. At first, he said he was “checking in” on Liam, though later he told Liam details of what was going to happen, especially about his trial. The things Mark Hiller said only seemed real when he told Liam that his court date was set. Suddenly, he was able to countdown to when his trial would be, when everyone would know what he’d done. At one of his later visits, Mark Hiller quietly asked him, “Why did you do it? Why did you kill that lad?” Liam had swallowed down his nerves and his gut feeling to remain silent, and quietly said: “I wanted him to stop hurting me. He was always hitting me and beating me up all the time. I only took that knife to school to threaten him and stop it but… but it went wrong.” “Was he bullying you?” Liam just nodded his head in reply. “Jesus Christ,” Mark Hiller muttered. His other regular visitor was Dr Harvey, a psychiatrist. She was a plain, middle-aged woman, who wore over-sized jumpers and dark coloured trousers. He never saw her wearing a dress or a power suit. He would meet with her for an hour, every fortnight. They would meet together in the home’s Quiet Room, a small room next to the staff’s office, set aside of the kids there to have meeting like this. The first time he had met her, she’d briskly said, “The court has appointed me to write a psychiatric assessment on you. I will visit you here every fortnight and ask you some very serious questions which you must answer honestly. Do you understand me young man?” He had just nodded his head in reply. She had asked him questions about his mother and how he was at school. She’d questioned him about his emotions and how he was sleeping, and always he’d answered her with a nod or a shake of his head. Something deep inside of himself told him to remain silent, not to talk with this woman. How could he tell her about the nightmares he had, almost every night, where he’d relive killing Rhys Clarke stab by stab, that made him fearful of actually sleeping? How could he tell her about the crippling guilt he felt almost all the time he was awake? He knew this mess was all his fault and he knew nothing he could do would solve it. How could he tell her that most of the time he felt like his emotions had been turned off, that he was no more than a robot walking around Rokeby House? He couldn’t tell her any of that, so he told her nothing - it was all he knew to do. So often, faced with his total silence, she would snap at him. “You are not helping yourself by this pathetic silence, young man. You have to talk to me because I am the only person who can help you.” He knew that, but it didn’t help. Silence still felt so much safer. He had one very important visitor there, though she only visited him once. It was two weeks before his trial and Mark Hiller brought her to see him. She was the most glamorous woman he had ever seen in the flesh: she was tall, her figure was almost statuesque, only gentle curves at her breasts and hips interrupting the straight up and down lines of her clothes. Her shiny blonde hair was worn neatly pulled back from her face and held at the back of her head in an equally neat twist. This only emphasised the strong features of her face and her clear blue eyes staring at him. The only make-up he could see on her face was bright red lipstick that drew attention to her almost perfectly formed mouth. She wore a slim, black suit of matching jacket and narrow skirt over an electric blue blouse, which only accentuated her statuesque figure. When she sat down, she’d elegantly crossed one leg over the other. “This is Mrs Bernadette Stewart-Graham,” Mark Hiller told him as they all sat down together in the Quiet Room. “She’s your barrister.” Liam thought that her surname sounded like a boy’s name, but he didn’t say anything: her presence was dominating that room. He just nodded his head in reply. “You’re a quiet one,” she’d said in a voice as commanding as her presence. He just nodded again. “Don’t worry. I have no intension of making you give evidence,” Mrs Stewart-Graham said. “I’ve never found that children make good witnesses. I want you to look small and pathetic in the Dock. I need the jury to feel sympathy for you. What am I saying? I need them to feel sorry for you. I’m sure you can do that.” He just nodded his agreement. “Mr Hiller, Mark, told me the other boy you stabbed was bullying you,” she said. He nodded his head - he didn’t want to explain any further. “That can really help us,” she said. “Except, the only person who will back that up is one of Liam’s teachers, Miss James,” Mark Hiller added, a heavy note of disappointment in his voice. “Then we need to work on that,” Mrs Stewart-Graham said to Mark Hiller. “Now Liam,” she continued saying she turned her attention onto him. “I need you to talk to a psychologist I know. He’s called Duncan Loughton and he’s a really nice man. I have worked with him many times. I need him to be able to tell the court, at your trial, about who you really are. The prosecution already has Dr Harvey and I need someone to tell the court the truth about you.” “We all know about Dr Harvey, the prosecution’s best friend,” Mark Hiller said, with a strong wave of sarcasm in his voice. “So I need you to actually talk with Duncan. Do you think you can do that?” Mrs Stewart-Graham said, leaning forward in her chair and looking kindly at him. He nodded his head and quietly said, “Yes.” “Good. Then we can work together,” Mrs Stewart-Graham said, smiling at him. Her smile made her face seem even more beautiful. Duncan Loughton had visited him twice there and both times they’d met in the Quiet Room. The first time, Kat, one of the staff at Rokeby House, had brought him down there from his bedroom, where he spent most of his time, but she had quickly left him there. In the Quiet room he found a handsome man sitting in one of the armchairs who greeted Liam warmly. “I’m Duncan Loughton. Mrs Stewart-Graham asked me to come and talk to you. I’m a psychologist. Please sit down.” Liam had been hovering just inside the room’s door. The man’s strikingly good looks suddenly made him feel intimidated. When the man spoke, when Duncan Loughton spoke, Liam stepped further into the room and sat down on one of the other empty armchairs. Duncan Loughton was very handsome. He had thick black hair which was collar length and swept back over his head, with a soft wave to it, giving it body that lifted it off his scalp. His face, with its pale complexion, had strong and elegant features, a strong profile that drew the eyes back to it. His body, sat in that chair, seemed strong and muscular: his arms were thick, and his chest was broad. Both of them were pushing out against his pale blue cotton shirt. He was also dressed in pale tan canvas trousers, not for him a formal suit. “Now Liam, you don’t mind me calling you ‘Liam’?” Duncan Loughton asked. Liam just shook his head in reply. “Mrs Stewart-Graham wants me to talk to you so that I can make a report to the court about what happened to you that day at school.” Again, Liam just nodded his head. “Now I’ve been told you’re rather shy, so I’m going to start asking you questions that you can answer with one- or two-word answers, if you want to,” Duncan Loughton said. “Yes,” Liam quietly replied. “Good,” Duncan Loughton smiled back at him. Duncan Loughton’s questions that day were all about his home life and how he did or didn’t enjoy school. The questions were easy to answer and as he did so, still with one or two words, and Duncan Loughton smiled back at him every time he did. He didn’t exactly find talking with Duncan Loughton easy, but he did find it rewarding. The handsome man would smile at him and nod his approval. Duncan Loughton would say things that showed he was listening to Liam and trying to make conversation with him. Liam didn’t feel he was being interrogated, the way he did when he had to meet with Dr Harvey. At the end of that first session, Duncan Loughton had stood up to leave, except he didn’t easily stand up. He’d reached for a pair of crutches he’d hidden away behind his chair. He then held them together in front of himself, almost like an A-Frame, the handles held together, which he used to pull himself up. One hand held onto the crutches’ handles, while his other hand pushed against the chair’s armrest. Duncan Loughton awkwardly pushed himself upright this way, almost pulling himself forward against falling back into the chair. Once upright, he manoeuvred one crutch onto his left arm and then twisted the other crutch around until it was fixed around his right arm. With the crutches firmly in place, Duncan Loughton seemed much more stable and almost upright. To Liam’s surprise, both Duncan Loughton’s legs was twisted and withered. His knees were pressed together, his feet splayed apart, while his legs themselves seemed so thin and week under his trousers. “Are… are you okay?” he asked Duncan Loughton. “I was born with a condition that ruined my legs. This is normal for me. Don’t worry.” Duncan Loughton walked out of the room, but slowly, as his crutches moved first and then his legs swung forward to catch up with them. The second time he saw Duncan Loughton, the next day, had been again in Rokeby House’s Quiet Room, but this time Liam had arrived there first, after being told he had an “appointment” by one of the workers. He’d thought it was again with Dr Harvey, so when he’d seen Duncan Loughton slowly and awkwardly walk into the room, he’d felt a moment of comfortable relief. That day, Duncan Loughton had asked him about Rhys Clarke’s death, though he wasn’t as blunt as Dr Harvey. “Why did you take the knife to school that day?” Liam took a moment to answer this question, but he pushed himself to do so: he had to, didn’t he? “I just wanted scare him off,” he told Duncan Loughton. “This was Rhys Clarke?” “Yes,” Liam said. “And this was to stop the bullying?” “Yes.” “And how long had he been bullying you?” Duncan Loughton asked. “Since Year Six.” “That’s over a year.” “Yes,” Liam said. That sounded such a long time, but it had been so long. “And what happened at that breaktime?” Liam swallowed hard - he had promised Mrs Stewart-Graham and Mark Hiller he would answer all this man’s answers, but he had kept quiet about those events, pushing them down inside of himself, hoping they would just go away. Though those vivid dreams, almost every night, meant that it wasn’t working. He looked into that handsome man’s face and quietly said, “He found me in the playground. I tried to hide from him.” “Rhys Clarke?” “Yes.” “And what happened?” “I took the knife from my school bag and he laughed at me.” “That must have been horrible.” “He wasn’t afraid. He dared me to stab him.” “Is that why you stabbed him?” “I just wanted to hurt him, to cut him and make him bleed. But the knife just went all the way in. I didn’t push that hard.” He could see the knife sinking into Clarke’s stomach, how easily and quickly it slid into Clarke’s flesh - he barely had to use any force at all. Why was he remembering this? Why did he always remember this? “Why did you keep stabbing at him?” “I don’t know,” he said. How could he talk about how good it felt to suddenly have power over Rhys Clarke? How did he look saying he’d enjoyed hurting Clarke for a moment, making Clarke suffer, making Clarke bleed? Did that make him look like he was just as bad as Clarke? “Do you remember stabbing him again?” “Yes.” “Do you remember trying to stop yourself?” “No.” “Do you remember what you were thinking?” “No.” “Do you know what is meant when people say they lost control?” “Yes… Sort of.” “Did you lose control?” “I’m not sure.” He really wasn’t. It had all happened so quickly and so suddenly. The chance to hurt Clarke and make him powerless had taken over. “It sounds like you did, to me,” Duncan Loughton said. “I don’t know,” Liam replied. He couldn’t look the handsome man in the face, he felt so ashamed of what he had done. “It sounds like things got away from you. You only wanted to scare away Rhys Clarke and when it didn’t, when Rhys Clarke belittled you, you lost control.” “It was my fault,” Liam quietly said. “But he had been bullying you for so long, he’d made you so afraid of him. Then you tried to stand up to him, he laughed at you. I bet he called you names too.” Liam just nodded his reply. “And you simply lost control,” Duncan Loughton continued saying. Liam nodded again. Duncan Loughton made it all sound so simple. But had it been? Liam looked up at him and found the man gently smiling back at him.
  3. Chapter Six of The World Out There is now up.

    Liam has been arrested by the police and things are slipping away from him fast.

    Find the chapter here.

    Happy reading.

  4. Drew Payne

    Six

    They drove Liam to the police station in a police car, him sat on the backseat between Miss James and another police officer, a woman. He didn’t watch any of their journey there. He barely knew where he was being taken. He just sat there and stared at the back of one of the policeman’s head, the one who was driving. The man had surprisingly red hair which was cut into short bristles at the back of his neck. At the police station, two policemen - one portly and old, his black hair streaked through with grey; the other one thin, pale and so much younger - took him off into a small room, but they insisted Miss James had to wait out in the corridor. There, the older policeman told him to remove his clothes. He knew not to defy them, but the idea of undressing in front of these two strangers made him feel deeply uncomfortable. He slowly removed one item of clothing at a time, which the young policeman then snatched off him and sealed up inside a separate plastic bag for each item. Both policemen were wearing gloves, bright blue doctor’s latex medical gloves. He’d stopped when he was only wearing his underpants, an old and faded pair. In embarrassment, he covered his groin with both his hands, even in his underpants he’d felt so exposed. The older policeman handed him a white, plastic jumpsuit barking, “Put this on!” It was far too big for him, the sleaves falling far past his hands, the legs dragging on the floor past his feet. The policemen then left him alone in the room, carrying out his clothes in all those different plastic bags. A moment later, Miss James entered the room and started fussing over him. She rolled up the sleeves and legs of the jumpsuit, trying to make it fit him better. When he and Miss James sat down on the chairs there, he realised they were in an interview room. There, they were left alone for what seemed like an age. The room’s walls were a pale green and the only furniture was a wooden table with plastic chairs surrounding it. He and Miss James were sat there in silence, but he didn’t mind. He liked silence: it always felt safe in its own strange way. He didn’t know when, but their silence was interrupted by the room’s door suddenly opening and a man walking in there. He looked as old as Mr Stein, but that was the only thing they seemed to have in common. This man had a head of unruly, dark curly hair flecked through with grey. He was wearing a dark brown suit that was so creased and wrinkled, it looked as if he had been wearing it for days and days. His round, doughy body pushed out against his suit, putting the three buttons on the jacket under stress. The man’s face was round, his cheeks slightly flushed pink, his eyebrows the darkest black in contrast to his greying hairs. His wide mouth was framed with full but pale pink lips, while his round and slightly podgy nose seemed to match his face. But what dominated his face were his large and bright brown eyes. Liam had never seen someone with such bright brown eyes before. Until that moment, he’d only though blue eyes shone that brightly. In those few moments it took the man to enter the room, Liam realised that this was a friendly face: the man wore such a friendly expression, not creased at all by anger. “Hi, I’m Mark Hiller. I’m your solicitor,” the man said to Liam, holding his hand out. Liam stared back at him: adults never held out their hands towards him wanting a handshake, and he didn’t know what to do. Was the man being real? “Liam is a quiet boy,” Miss James said to the man, Mark Hiller. “You’re his Appropriate Adult?” Mark Hiller asked her. “I’m one of his teachers, Leanne James. We couldn’t get hold of Liam’s mother.” “Neither can the police. I think you have the job for now,” Mark Hiller said as he sat down next to Liam. “I think I do,” she replied. “Now young man,” Mark Hiller said, turning his attention onto Liam. “Have you ever been in trouble with the police before?” Liam just shook his head in reply. “Right,” Mark Hiller said. “You have the right to remain silent in law, which means when the police ask you a question you can say ‘no comment’. It’s not wrong to do so and at the moment it’s the best thing to do.” Liam had nodded his reply. “Now, Miss James and I will be with you during your interview, but at the moment just say ‘no comment’ to all the police’s questions. If there’s any problems, we’ll step in. That’s our jobs,” Mark Hiller said. Again, Liam had just nodded his reply. It was only a few moments later that two police officers entered the room and sat across the table from the three of them. Both police officers were dressed in business suits and not uniforms, though from their body language and attitude, he knew they were police officers. Their presence shouted that they were in command here. They were a woman and a man, though the woman obviously was the one in charge: she was the one who spoke first, her voice level with a hard edge to it, and over the next few hours, she was the one who asked most of the questions and there was a lot of them. The first thing she did, once she was sat down, was turn on the large tape-recording machine there and loudly state, “I am Detective Sergeant Jennifer King, and this is Detective Constable Harry Greig. We are conducting the interview with the suspect, Liam Andrews, in the presence of his solicitor, Mr Mark Hiller, and his Appropriate Adult, Miss Leanne James.” The policewoman’s voice had only been stating facts and yet the hard edge to it seemed to fill the room, pulling everyone’s attention towards her. Liam looked down at the table in front of him. It hadn’t begun, and he wanted all of this done and gone away. He wanted to be a million miles away from here. The first question she’d asked him was about how he knew Rhys Clarke. He shook his head and remained silent. This seemed to annoy her because she leant forward onto the table and said, in her hard-edged voice, “I asked you how you know the victim, Rhys Clarke.” Liam just shook his head again, not looking back at her. “My client is saying no comment, in his own way,” Mark Hiller said. “He has to say it for the purpose of the recording,” the police woman replied. “He’s only twelve,” Miss James said. “And you have video cameras recording this as well,” Mark Hiller added. “All right, all right,” the policewoman said. They seemed to ask him hundreds upon hundreds of questions, and each time he just remained silent. At first, it seemed safe but as the questions continued, he kept hoping his silence would end them, that the policewoman’s next question would be her last one, but her questions kept coming and coming. The more she asked him, the more afraid he became. This all had long ago run away from him, and he didn’t know what to do next - how to stop any of this. When the questions finally ended, he felt a moment of relief, sinking down into himself and slipping down physically on his chair. But it was short lived. Before the two police officers even left the room, another policeman entered it, and he was dressed in uniform. He had slate grey hair that was styled into a sweeping wave across the top of his head, and his neck bulged out over his shirt collar. He told Liam to stand up, and when he did, the policeman told him he was being charged with Rhys Clarke’s murder. He recited a statement, using Liam’s full name, that was the actual charge. When the man finished, all three police officers silently left the room, the door being slammed loudly by the last one. In reply, Liam just sank down again onto his chair and started to sob. Everything was out of control, and he was so lost now. Someone put their arm around his shoulder, as he sobbed, gently drawing him into a hug. It was only when his face pressed into the woollen cloth of Mark Hiller’s suit, did he realise the man was comforting him. He buried his face into that slight acrid smelling cloth and hid his tears, as the man’s arm held him. That hug had felt so nice, and, for a moment, he felt safe in it. When he finally stopped crying and lifted his head off Mark Hiller’s shoulder, he saw that he’d left a wet stain on the man’s suit. “I’m sorry, I’ve messed your suit,” he mumbled. “This suit has had worse crap on it, believe me,” Mark Hiller replied in a gentle tone. Mark Hiller left a short while later, telling them that he had to sort out Liam’s paperwork from that day, and had squeezed Liam’s shoulder in a reassuring gesture as he did. Miss James, though, stayed with him in that room. His mother arrived at the end of the evening. He’d been still sat in the interview room with Miss James, though the two of them were eating a dinner of McDonald’s’ burgers and chips. It was rather a treat to eat McDonald’s: usually he wasn’t allowed to. His mother would complain that it was all too “expensive”, but he kept silent about that too. His mother charged into the room, still wearing her work clothes, and screamed at him: “You stupid little bastard! You’ve ruined everything now!” She then struck him hard across his face, her open hand striking his check, forcing his head backwards. The pain had made his eyes fill up with tears, and her raw anger directed straight at him. He pulled hard upon himself to stop from physically crying, as his whole mind shook from the physical impact of her striking him. “Mrs Duffield!” Miss James shouted at her. “It’s Miss Duffield, actually,” his mother shot back, “and I can raise my child the way I want to, bitch!” “And maybe if you cared about your son more, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” Miss James shouted back at her. “You don’t know me, bitch! And you,” his mother turned her attention onto him. “I don’t fucking know what to do about you.” “Shut up and sit down!” Miss James barked back at his mother. “You’re not helping anything!” Strangely, his mother quietly sat down on one of the plastic chairs, obeying Miss James’s command. He’d never seen his mother become so silent and so quickly, her anger being stopped like a switch being turned off. The surprise dried the tears in his eyes.
  5. This is my first blog about writing my short story collection, it explains I came to write it. This is the first in series of blogs about writing this collection and about my writing in general. Read it here.

    Happy reading.

  6. Chapter Five of The World Out There is now up.

    This is only a short chapter but is an important bridge to what is to come. Things are now out of control and out of Liam’s hands.

    Find it here.

    Happy reading.

  7. Drew Payne

    Five

    Mr Bowley dragged Liam at almost a run into the science block and into the first empty classroom there, all the while pulling at his arm and increasing the pain in his shoulder. Mr Bowley threw Liam down onto an empty chair and then stood over him. Mr Bowley shouted down at him, demanding to know why Liam had done it, Mr Bowley’s face red with anger and beads of sweat breaking out across it. Liam reacted in the only way he knew how to, he remained silent, stared down at the floor and waited for it all to go away. But it didn’t. Mr Bowley’s angry words filled the room. Mr Bowley only stopped shouting at him when Miss James entered the classroom, her voice cutting through Mr Bowley’s loud voice, saying, “Teddy, stop it!” “This little shit just stabbed another kid. He could be dead!” Mr Bowley shouted back at her. “I know that. Now get out of here before you make this worse Teddy.” “Leanne, this shit…” But he didn’t finish his complaint because she interrupted, snapping: “The police are on their way. Now get out before you make things worse.” “I’m not leaving you alone with him. He’s almost a killer.” “For God’s sake, Teddy!” her voice momentarily rose with frustration. “Then go and sit by the door, out of the way.” Miss James was almost half his size and yet he obeyed what she’d said and almost meekly went and sat on the empty chair, near to the classroom’s door, though he openly stared back at Liam. Without a word, Miss James sat down on one of the empty chairs near to him. There she waited with him in silence. She was wearing a calf-length, dark blue dress and white pumps. He didn’t know why he noticed that, but he did, and it seemed important to him. They sat there in silence for ages before the police arrived, but when they did, they burst into the room with such noise and movement. It was like the room was full of police officers, all dressed in their dark blue uniforms, all of them talking, a wall of noise and movement bearing down on him. Again, he’d pulled himself back into himself, knowing that silence was his only chance, staring down at his own feet and hoping this all would end soon. “Stand up boy,” a policeman suddenly snapped at him, the man standing over him was so tall, reminding him how small he was. Liam silently obeyed. “What’s your name?” the policeman demanded, but Liam remained silent. Standing there was terrifying. That man’s presence looming over him, he was frozen in silence, his body shaking as his mouth remained unmoving. “I said, what’s your name?” the policeman barked at him, obvious anger now in the man’s voice. Liam wanted to run away from it all and hide. Instead he just stared down at the floor under his feet. “He’s Liam Andrews,” Miss James said. “I’m asking him,” the policeman barked at Miss James now. “Can’t you see he’s terrified,” she replied. “Don’t defend him, Leanne,” Mr Bowley’s voice called out. “And he’s just killed another child,” the policeman said, his voice filling the room. A fast wave of nausea rushed over him, Liam pushed down hard against it, swallowing it down, once, twice, three times. He couldn’t vomit here, though the bile was trying to rush up his throat, he couldn’t disgrace himself even more. “He needs an adult with him, and we can’t contact his mother, so I’m staying here with him,” Miss James said. “And who are you?” the policeman demanded. “I’m Leanne James and I teach English here.” “Then you had better come with us,” the policeman said, turning away from them.
  8. Chapter Four of The World Out There is now up.

    Again it follows on directly from the previous chapter. In flashback it tells of that one day at school when everything changes for Liam.

    Happy reading.

  9. Drew Payne

    Four

    It was a Wednesday morning, Liam’s first lesson had been English with Rhys Clarke sitting behind him. Just the thought of it had made him shake with fear - he couldn’t even face stepping inside the classroom. Instead he’d turned around and walked away. He’d kept walking and walking. He walked right out of the school’s back entrance. He kept on walking until he reached home. There he let himself in with his key and spent the rest of the day watching television, alone and safe there. He didn’t know school had texted his mother that he’d absconded, but he knew when she returned home that evening. She’d been so angry at him as soon as she had entered their flat, snacking him hard across the back of his head and screaming at him that she wouldn’t have him showing her up like that. He fled from her anger in tears, he didn’t get a chance to tell her what actually happened. He only took the carving knife to school as protection: he only wanted to frighten Rhys Clarke with it. That Friday morning, it was easy to take the knife out of the knife block in the kitchen and hide it in his school bag - his mother was too busy getting ready for work to notice him. The knife made his school bag feel twice as heavy, the strap biting into his shoulder, and he was certain someone would notice it. As soon as he’d walked out of the house, he’d wanted to return the knife to its place in the knife block, but it was too late - his mother was already locking the front door and chasing him off to the bus stop. That morning at school he’d expected to be exposed for carrying that knife: for a teacher to demand to see what was in his bag; for another kid to shout out that he was carrying a knife. His nerves were wound so tightly causing time drag very slowly. And all through the morning, there hadn’t been a single sighting of Rhys Clarke. At break time he was sat in front of the science block, hiding away and hoping not to be noticed - it was one of his favourite places to hide away, and for half of the time, it worked. Then Rhys Clarke and his sidekicks found him, suddenly appearing in his vision. He jumped to his feet and grabbed hold of his school bag, hurriedly feeling inside of it for the knife’s handle. “Little queer’s trying to hide away from us,” Rhys Clarke snarled at him. “Leave me alone!” Liam shouted back at them, pulling the carving knife out of his school bag and waving it at them, hoping that just the sight of it would frighten them away. “The little girl has got herself a knife,” Rhys Clarke snarled. “Bring it on and we’ll kick your queer arse!” Rhys Clarke stretched his arms wide, leaving his abdomen exposed, and shouted, “Bring it on! Bring it on and we’ll fucking kill you!” Liam jumped into action, not thinking about his actions, just acting on fear and Adrenalin, letting his body lash out at his tormentor. Liam lunged forward, pushing the knife towards Rhys Clarke’s stomach just to scare him. When the blade reached the boy’s body, it just ripped through Rhys Clarke’s school shirt without any problem, sliding though his skin without any resistance, sliding deep into the other’s abdomen. It slid into Clarke’s flesh almost to the handle with barely any resistance. Liam pulled the knife back in surprise. Was it supposed to be that easy to stab someone? As the red blood spread out across his white shirt, Rhys Clarke screamed, “You bastard! You fucking bastard!” In panic and mounting fear, Liam pushed the knife back into Rhys Clarke’s stomach. He was trying to silence Clarke’s screams. He was trying to stop Rhys Clarke. He wanted the torment to stop, but he kept stabbing away at Rhys Clarke. With each stab, the knife slid easily into Rhys Clarke’s stomach, barely with any resistance, as if sliding into a side of meat. At last, for one brief moment, he was hurting Rhys Clarke back: he had power over the bully. Then, Rhys Clarke collapsed at his feet - he finally had beaten the bastard. Liam’s last knife blow struck Clarke in the shoulder, the blade’s tip bouncing off something hard under the skin, and someone’s hand was pulling him backwards. The hand pulled him back with such force that he lost his balance, causing him to fall sideways until his shoulder struck the wall of the science block and he slid down it, coming to rest, slouched on the ground. Mr Stein was stood over Rhys Clarke, his hands pressing down on Rhys Clarke’s stomach, and there was so much red blood everywhere, and it was so bright red. People were shouting and rushing around. Someone was screaming. There was so much noise and movement. Liam lay still there on the ground. Somewhere he’d dropped that knife, but he still had hold of his school bag. Was it really that easy to stab someone? It had taken so little effort; the knife had slid into Clarke without much force. It had never looked that easy on TV. When actors stabbed each other on drama programs, it always looked as though they had to put so much effort into: they forced the knife into their victim. He’d barely had to push the knife to sink it up to the handle into Clarke’s stomach. Was there something wrong with Rhys Clarke’s stomach? He only meant to scare Rhys Clarke, a small cut to his stomach, to stain his school shirt with blood, to finally threaten him off. Why had it gone wrong? He wanted those moments back: he wanted not to have taken that knife out of his bag, for none of all this to have happened. “Get that little bastard out of here!” Mr Stein shouted. For a moment Liam didn’t know who he meant: all he heard was that the Deputy Head had sworn. Then, another hand was pulling him up by the arm and dragging him to his feet, causing a sharp pain in his shoulder as his arm was nearly pulled out of his shoulder. He looked around and saw it was Mr Bowley, the PE Teacher, staring angrily at him, beads of sweat on the man’s forehead and one running down his nose.
  10. I have just been given an amazing honour, my collection Stories Written on Lined Paper has been chosen for July’s CSR Feature.

    This will mean more people will read my stories, it’s wonderful.

    1. Marty

      Marty

      Congratulations, Drew! :2thumbs:

      One of my short stories got chosen for June's CSR Feature. It's great to see some of us authors on this side of the Pond getting a bit of recognition here on GA. :yes: 

    2. Drew Payne

      Drew Payne

      Well done Marty, but you kept quiet about that. I'm going to check it out now.

  11. Thank you for that, feedback like this keeps me writing. At present I'm posting chapters of a long story called The World Out There, it is a dark story but that is nothing unusual for me. I am also writing new and re-writing old short stories and I'll create a new collection on GA later this year. GA has given me such support and feedback as a writer. This year I found the confidence to publish a collection of stories on Amazon.
  12. Chapter Three of The World Out There is now up.

    This chapter follows on directly from the previous chapter, Chapter Two. This begins the flashback of how Liam ended up where he is, which will make up the majority of this story, though his flashbacks are not an easy journey.

    Read it here

    Happy reading.

  13. Drew Payne

    Three

    Again Liam looked around himself. His room was quiet. He couldn’t hear any of the other residents in the B&B hostel, not even an occasional raised voice or music playing loudly somewhere. But this room was barely furnished. It had that old single bed pushed up against one wall with its mattress that his body sank into every night. Pushed against the opposite wall was a wooden table. Next to that was the tatty old armchair he was sat on. It had a high and curved back and high solid arms: somehow it reminded him of an armchair an old grandmother would use in a Nursing Home, but he didn’t know where that image came from. The chair must have had a pattern to the fabric covering it, but it was so old and tatty now that it seemed just a dull green colour. Rhys Clarke had made his childhood a nightmare, certainly the year he’d spent in Secondary School. He’d been twelve but Rhys Clarke had been thirteen: Clarke’s birthday was in September and Liam’s was in the following June. But due to the strange way they channelled school admissions, the two of them ended up in the same year, in the same form class. Clarke seemed to take an instant dislike to him, but he didn’t know why. He wasn’t important or even liked at school. He was the quiet boy in any classroom, the one everyone ignored, including the teachers. He didn’t have friends: his mother had driven away what few friends he’d had with her erratic and even confrontational behaviour. He knew he was the weird outsider, but his mother’s forcing him to wear second-hand clothes and refusing to buy him any of the latest, must-have childhood accessories didn’t help either. He was nothing, and yet Clarke and his two mates, Keith Jones and Boris Flint, singled him out as the subject of their hate. Rhys Clarke was one of the boys who stood out in their year at school. He played football in the winter and ran athletics in the summer. People repeatedly talked about him being the captain of the school’s football team when his turn came. At their secondary school, sport was one of the most valued of all activities - it topped academic and creative work. Liam was useless at sports, uncoordinated and always left behind. When he ran, he was always last to be picked for any team sport. Rhys Clarke was also good looking. He had a tall muscular frame. His fair skin seemed blemish free, and his blonde hair always swept over his head in an almost perfect quiff. He made Liam feel short, podgy and plain, with his unrulily brown hair and skin that was always scarred with some rash or outbreak of blackheads. For some reason, unknown to Liam, at the beginning of year eight, Rhys Clarke and his two mates turned their attentions onto him. At first it had been name calling: they would shout “Freak” and “Bastard” at him. He just ignored them. Their name calling wasn’t imaginative. It was his main defence mechanism when anyone attacked him, to ignore the attack until it stopped. It was his only defence mechanism. The bullying rapidly ramped up. Clarke and his sidekicks were soon shouting at Liam that his mother was a whore and a prostitute, and with his mother’s reputation, he had no defence, even if he’d responded. His father left them when he was so young that he barely remembered the man and his mother had always had one boyfriend or other since then. Though her boyfriends changed regularly, his mother never seemed to stay with the same man for long. At the same time, the physical violence started. Whenever Rhys Clarke or his two sidekicks saw him around school, they would punch him or kick him. He would pass them in a corridor or entering a classroom and one of them would lash out and punch him on the arm or back or kick him in the shin or thigh. Then, they’d walk away laughing. Breaktimes were the worst. Some days Clarke and his sidekicks would seek him out and attack him, call him names and kick or punch him, only stopping when they seemed to be bored of it. Whether he cried out or stayed silent, the bullying would just continue until they grew tired of it and moved on. Other days, he wouldn’t see any of them at breaktimes or even throughout the whole day. There seemed no pattern to this - he couldn’t predict the days when they would leave him alone. This made every day at school a trial. He always reacted the same way to their bullying, the same way he reacted to everything negative: he remained silent and waited for it to end. As their bullying increased, without any reason, Liam only sunk further into himself, trying to build on the only defence he knew to do, ignore what was happening to him and remain silent and unnoticed. It had worked at home, especially when his mother was angry over something or someone, or one of her boyfriends was shouting at him how stupid and unwanted he was. But in the jungle of his school life, it only seemed to make things worse. The more he remained silent and tried to make himself unnoticed, the more Clarke and his sidekicks sort him out, it felt like. At the beginning of that term, the beatings started to happen outside of the school’s grounds. At least he’d felt safe once school finished, but now that was gone. Clarke and his two sidekicks would follow him out of school and attack him on one of the streets on his way home. They always seemed to catch up with him and, with their crude insults, would punch and kick him to the ground. They only stopped - always walking away laughing - when he’d curled up into a ball there on the ground and started to silently cry. They always seemed to catch him, whether he left school as soon as he could or else waited for everyone else to leave ahead of him. Clarke and his sidekicks always caught him and attacked him. The only day he could leave school in peace was a Monday when Clarke was attending football practice, and Jones and Flint would hang around behind the science block, waiting for Clarke. But that was only one afternoon a week. The rest of his time at school was spent hoping to avoid Clarke and his sidekicks. He didn’t have anyone he could turn to. The first time Clarke and his two mates had attacked him outside of school, he’d tried to struggle and break free of them which only made their physical blows more severe, leaving him bruised and the sleeve of his school blazer ripped. That evening, when his mother returned home from work and saw the rip, her anger snapped and she’d smacked him across the back of the head, shouting, “I’m not made of money! Treat your things right!” School offered him no safety either. One Tuesday, he’d been walking along a corridor when again Clarke passed him and punched him hard in the shoulder, but this time they were seen by the school’s Deputy Head. Mr Stein shouted sharply at both of them to stop fighting. Liam just looked back at Mr Stein as he marched away. The man had ignored the reality of what had happened. Liam had done nothing and yet Mr Stein had shouted at him too. He tried fighting back but he’d only been punished for doing that. During an English lesson, Rhys Clarke was sat behind him and was repeatedly punching and kicking him in the back, hissing “Queer” at him. Each blow and taunt tightened Liam’s nerves and pushed up his fear and anger. Suddenly, halfway through the lesson, his emotions snapped, he turned around and lashed out at Clarke, punching him hard in the face and giving the bully a black eye. Clarke had screamed like a stung little child, which finally grabbed the teacher’s attention. Miss James turned her attention on Liam, having been ignoring Rhys Clarke’s behaviour during the lesson. Liam found himself receiving a week’s detention as his “punishment”. He knew now there was no point protesting. When Rhys Clarke started calling him “queer”, usually followed by a punch or kick, it hurt more than those blows. He was slowly beginning to realise that he could be gay. It was handsome men on television he looked at, the handsome men who took their shirts off on the soap operas and reality shows his mother liked watching, not the pretty women in their underwear. It was blonde, handsome boys, like Rhys Clarke, that he liked to look at. Deep inside he’d wanted Rhys Clarke to like him, but all the other boy did was hate him. Soon, he was terrified of going to school, terrified that he’d run into Rhys Clarke and his sidekicks. Soon the fear was so bad that he was vomiting each morning before leaving home, the fear physically shaking his body. His mother wouldn’t listen to him when he begged her to let him stay off school, saying he had to go to school and that was it. No matter how much he tried to avoid him, Rhys Clarke would always find him. He’d put so much thought and effort into avoiding Rhys Clarke, and yet Clarke always found him. He’d even tried absconding from school.
  14. Chapter Two of The World Out There is up now.

    It follows on directly from Chapter One and begins to explain what is troubling Liam. Read it here.

    Happy reading

  15. Drew Payne

    Two

    Liam glanced up at his room’s door which was still firmly closed and locked. It was held closed by a black, metal lock which Donna had quickly shown him how to double-lock it… and he always did. It was double-locked now. The door itself was wooden with two recessed panels, one at eye height and one at knee height. It had once been painted bright- gloss white, but over the years, that had faded to a dull cream, streaked with dirt and grease. The door was as old and neglected as the rest of the room. Next to it was what passed for the room’s wardrobe: six metal hooks screwed into the wall. He’d hung his clothes off these hooks, but he had so few clothes that two of the hooks were still empty. His pale blue cotton shirt hung on a hook on its own as he didn’t want it getting creased or torn. It was his favourite shirt – he’d bought it on a shopping trip with Aiden. It had been bought for him to wear when he left Nurton Cross, and he kept it for “best”. He’d only worn it for his meetings with Bryn. He kept his underwear, socks and t-shirts in the plastic box on the floor under the hooks, he’d guessed that was what it was intended for. No one had told him. He knew no one in that hotel and he was sure no one knew him, certainly not his real name. Donna had brought him to this place, but she’d spent so little time here, he’d actually heard her rushing down the stairs when she left. That way, he was almost certain she’d told no one here who he was. For the first time in years, he was a nobody again, and for a moment, it had even begun to feel good, but only for a moment. For once, everyone around him didn’t know who he was. However, that had all ended that morning. Every day he went out to the local supermarket to buy his food for the day. There was nowhere in his room to keep food fresh. Even though today was Sunday, he’d still walked around to that supermarket. He was standing in the short queue, waiting for one of the two self-service tills to become free, the few things he was going to buy in the plastic basket in his hand. Then he saw it. Next to him was the rack of magazines and newspapers, stretching up to almost head-height. Just below his eyeline, filling two rows, were the day’s newspapers. And right in the middle was The Sun on Sunday. The front-page headline screamed out: “This Monster Is Now Free!” Underneath it were two, oblong pictures, both in blurred colour. The first one was of him, aged twelve, his hair awkwardly parted at the side and an almost scowl on his face. The other picture was titled “digitally aged” and tried to show him as they thought he looked now. His hair was shown as still unrulily, short and side-parted, not centre-parted and touching his collar as it really was now. The picture showed his cheeks as still being puffy and his face as round and podgy as it was when he was twelve, not the thin body and face he’d grown into. But the face was still recognisably his: his eyes were the same, staring out of the picture and back at him. Liam’s mind had stopped in a cold moment of shock. He couldn’t move. They knew about him and were chasing after him. He could barely think: all he could see was that newspaper’s front page. His body moved, almost on automatic pilot. He stepped forward to the empty self-service till, scanned through his few items and paid for them with barely a thought to what he was doing. It was only as he stepped out of the supermarket that the panic gripped his mind. They were after him! There was a picture of his face on a national newspaper, announcing his old name. Everyone could see, Everyone could know who he was. He really wasn’t safe anymore. No more did he fear a single person recognising him: now the whole world could recognise him. He fled back to the B&B hotel, running up all four flights, not caring about the noise he made, ignoring the rapid breathing catching in his throat, rushing back into his room, slamming the door behind him and locking it firmly. Only then did he feel safe enough to stop. It was all happening again. He could hear all those voices again screaming for his blood, demanding he be killed too, coming after him. He felt like he was twelve all over again, and he just wanted to hide away in a corner until it had all gone away. But it hadn’t gone away, even when he was twelve.
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