1: Just Watch the Fireworks

The firework display was arranged to take place on The Green. A huge field almost dead centre of the town. The council were arranging the display in the community spirit, hoping to bring the town together, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, boys and girls…

"…It is with great pride that I declare the Silver Bay bonfire-night display this Saturday. Entrance is free, and I encourage you to all invite your family and friends to come down and join in the community gathering. But don't forget to wrap up, it gets very cold, even in spite of the huge fire we'll be having…" the mayor of Silver Bay stepped from the podium, and together, the three-hundred students gathered in the main hall clapped. The headteacher of Silver Bay Secondary School stepped up, clapping his hands softly, he spoke into the microphone.

"And let's have another round of applause for Silver Bay's own Mayor Crowley." The headteacher said, beginning to clap again. The students joined in unison, it was custom to clap for the previous speaker twice when they were followed by someone else. The headteacher then stood back onto the podium and demanded silence. He then went on to explain the plans for the up-and-coming trip to London to see a play in a theatre, the week's lunch-time arrangements, and other arrangements for the week that Jay Andrews could not be bothered to listen to. The only interest to him was the speech about the London trip. He had already paid the £310 fee for the trip, and within the next two weeks, they'd be there, watching the play, and staying in the London Hilton, in his own hotel room. But after the details of the assembly had been filled in, Jay's attention span switched off. He slouched in his chair and blew out through his nostrils. There were only five more minutes left, then he'd be on his way to first lesson, it was Art, or double Art, or something like that. Whatever. Jay shut his eyes and relaxed, partially taking in the headteacher's words, and subconsciously filtering out the crap.

Double Art, great, what a heap of shit. Oops, sorry, students aren't allowed to use that word in school.

Jay thought to himself as he took a seat in the maths classroom. The room was arranged in a "horse-shoe" layout, with the tables creating a U shape, and the space in the centre being where the teacher worked. Jay removed his jacket and sat back, letting his arms hang loosely down his sides, in a mock expression of boredom. Once all of the students were seated, the teacher took the morning register, which Jay listened to and answered with his eyes closed. The teacher then began to pace up and down the room, explaining how they would be drawing still life. Jay found it hard not to laugh, drawing pots and pans, bottles and flowers was not exactly his idea of a fun art lesson, and usually, he didn't follow the lesson plan, and rather, just drew whatever the hell he felt like drawing, mostly graffiti-patterns and other similar things. The art teacher never seemed to mind though, apparently the work was so good that it made up for the lack of following instruction.

As the thirty students took up their pencils and began to draw the stained-blue bottles on the table in the centre of the classroom, Jay took up his pencil and immediately drew up his name in old-school graffiti style. As the noise escalated, Jay heard the girls sitting opposite him giggling, and for once, despite all the years this had happened before, decided to look up. As he did, he saw one of the girls staring back at him, she was pretty.

Yeah, pretty fucking hot… Jay thought to himself, never being one to take anything too seriously, least of all, girls. She looked away, but Jay kept looking, and after a couple of seconds, she looked back, blushed, and began to twirl her hair around her finger and look down at her paper. Smirking to himself, Jay got back to the work at hand, or at least his own interpretation of the work. Occasionally he looked back up at the girl opposite, once or twice he caught her looking, but she always blushed and pretended to be looking elsewhere. As Jay finished what he thought was a sufficient amount of work for the lesson, he threw his pencil down on the desk and reclined in his seat, looking across at the girl in the seat opposite. She knew he was looking at her now, and the glances lessened. But one time, Jay caught some eye contact, and smiled at her, she smiled back and Jay smirked. Within the next five minutes the bell rang for the end of class, and the girl rushed quickly from the classroom with her friends. Jay took the slower approach, getting the praise from the teacher before he slowly walked out of the classroom. It was break time, time to head to the playground and play some football with the lads.

The ball rolled smoothly to Jay's foot. He stopped it with the sole of his trainer and looked up, Dan was closing in fast, and up in the other team's box, and Joe was calling for the ball. Jay rolled it backwards and took a step back, before stepping forward and launching the ball up the court to the box. Tom caught the volley and made it into a goal. As the team celebrated, a group of three girls walked onto the pitch. They walked straight up to Jay, blocking the game, and they spoke.

"Hey Jay. Hope wants to know if you'll go to the fireworks display with her… Like a date?" one of them said, in that fast-talking secondary school girl slang. Jay shrugged, he knew what they were talking about. The girl opposite him in Art, her name was Hope Richards. Obviously she thought he was fit, and that would explain the staring. The girl spoke again before Jay even had a beat to think. "well?"

Jay put on a mock expression of total confusion; widening his eyes, shaking his head and looking around frantically, he spoke gibberish.

"Uh… Fuh… Guh… Beh…" he said, trying to keep a straight face at his own brand of humour, before he ran off up the court, away from the girls. They didn't find it funny, and the three of them stormed from the court. As the ball came back, Jay caught it with his foot, and Liam moved in for a tackle, speaking as he did.

"What the fuck did they want?" Liam asked, sticking a foot in.

"Wanted to know if I'd hook up with Hope, or some other bullshit." Jay said, rolling the ball backward with his foot, and twisting around Liam.

"You and Hope? Ah man, I was hoping to get in there before your filthy hands did." Liam laughed, finally managing to take the ball, knocking it shortly, he headed for the goal.

"Take her, I ain't gonna, unless she's one to fuck on a first date and not want to be called…" Jay said, spinning and closing in on Liam, who laughed, but Jay was serious. As Liam got closer to the goal, he launched the ball, slamming it into the back of the net, he drew his shirt up over his head and ran in a circle, before stopping and walking over to Jay. He pulled down his shirt and clapped a hand to Jay's back.

"C'mon, let's go smoke already…" Liam said. Jay nodded and followed along.

There's this alcove round the back of the sports hall, it used to be a door, until they bricked it up, now it was just an empty space where you could avoid the gaze of the security cameras. This was a popular place for students to go and smoke during break and lunchtimes. Liam and Jay were regulars, normally playing football until the last ten minutes of the break, then going round to the 'smoking room' to meet up with Jake, Billy and Mickey. As they got there, Mickey was first to greet them, shaking up, hip-hop style, with Jay and then Liam. He then pulled out a box of cigarettes, flicking it so that two stood above the rest, he held it out to Liam and Jay, who took a cigarette each. After lighting up, Jay walked to the corner and slid to the floor. Liam leaned against the wall next to Jay, and for a moment it was silent, before Billy broke it.

"So what's going on today then?" he asked, taking a drag from the cigarette at the end of his phrase. Liam shrugged, taking two long puffs before he answered.

"Well I was thinking we could just go hang round up town today, y'know, take it easy." He said, sniffing heavily and puffing again from the cigarette, Jake nodded and spoke, twirling his cigarette in his fingers.

"We all goin', yeah?" he asked, Liam nodded before a puff and exhale.

"Well, thing is, Jay might be with his new bird…" he smirked, and Mickey blew out a long, low whistle, accompanied by a smokescreen.

"Who's the bird then Jay?" he asked.

Mickey Roberto, the biggest mouth in the year. If he heard that Jay and Hope were possibly going to go out, then the whole school would know by lunchtime. Sometimes, Jay could've sworn Mickey was supposed to be a woman.

"There ain't one, Liam's yankin' your chain." Jay said, suddenly taking an interest in the ember at the end of his cigarette. This was when Jay expected conversation to change, but it didn't, Liam spoke up.

"Hope Richards. Jay's gonna go to the fireworks display with her and fuck her…" he laughed, and the rest of the guys did too, but Jay didn't find it funny.

"Look, she's just some bird who asked me on a date, and I might not go anyways…" Jay said, lifting himself to his feet and pacing in the alcove. It went quiet after that, and it seemed like the longest silence ever, until the bell broke in. Time for third lesson.

The rest of the day went on pretty much smoothly, pretty regular stuff, except when it came to Maths. Jay got a note on his desk. Unfolding it, he read it. The note was from Hope.

'Meet me at the gates. Plz'

Jay screwed up the note and threw it, landing it in the bin; he got on with his work, until another note came.

'Plz Jay. I jst want 2 tlk'

Jay blew out in a sulking manner, before he turned over the note and uncapped his pen.

' 3. U got 5 mins'

He threw it over onto Hope's table, and heard the chatting from the girls escalate. Then he got back on with his work, as three o clock crawled ever closer.

The bell rang at three, and Jay took his time leaving. He stalled, talking to the teacher about his problems with the factorisation of algebraic formulae or whatever it was they were learning about. Glancing up at the clock, he realised that it was five past three. If Hope had any sense, she wouldn't still be at the gates. Jay grabbed up his things, pulling on his jacket and slinging his bag over one shoulder.

Stepping outside, and heading for the gate, he realised that Hope must not have had any sense, she was still there, at the gates, looking left and right. Jay slowed his pace, he wanted to postpone this meeting as much as possible, truth was, she was a fit girl, but Jay wasn't sure he wanted to date her. As he passed the cars in the carpark, and got closer to Hope, he took a deep breath, he wasn't sure of what he was going to say, luckily, he didn't have to. Hope saw him first and smiled, speaking before Jay could even have smiled back.

"Hey Jay." she said, her voice was tender and sweet, not the way most of the girls at the school were expected to talk. Jay just smiled and raised his head slightly to acknowledge he heard her. Seeing him do this, she bit down lightly on her lip, moving her left hand up, she grabbed hold of the strap of her bag, a nervous reaction. She seemed as if she was waiting for Jay to say something, and for about a minute, nobody said anything. Seeing that it couldn't possibly get any more awkward, Jay sighed.

"Look, what the hell d'ya want Hope?" Jay said, walking past her and out of the gate, turning right to walk home. She jogged up next to him and walked with him.

"I just want a word with you." Hope said, sounding as if she was about to burst into tears. Jay smirked.

"How does 'cat' sound?" he didn't laugh, but it was a joke, meaning that the word that she wanted was cat. She sighed, and she sounded closer to tears the next time she spoke.

"Please Jay, I'm serious. I just want to know if you'll let me come with you to the fireworks display." she asked. Jay was finding it harder and harder to not be sympathetic toward her, but no, one more joke. If she still tried, then he'd say yes- If only to shut her up.

"Sorry Hope, but I'm already going with Eric." he said, she seemed real confused.

"Eric?" she asked, probably now wondering if Jay wasn't gay. Jay nodded, and put his arm up to the side, and down. He was miming putting his arm around someone's shoulder. Hope spoke but this time, her voice cracked, and a tear rolled down her cheek. Shaking her head, she stopped, Jay stopped and turned, just to see why. She was in tears, crying on the spot, shaking her head slowly.

"You just don't get it do you Jay? It's all just fun and games to you, nothing's serious. Everything's a big joke and a chance to take the piss out of someone. Well it's got to stop, Jay, it's got to stop." Jay was going to step up and put his arms around her simply to comfort her, but as he moved, she raised a palm and turned, storming in the other direction. As she disappeared around the corner, leaving a trail of tears on the dry concrete, Jay sighed. He then picked himself up and turned, walking home, left with Hope's comments to last him the whole journey, and to haunt his dreams.

She's right you know… You can't keep being like this…