This is my first story on here. I actually wrote this a while ago but I never put it on anything. There are more chapter already written but I'll probably rewrite most of them. Feedback would be much appreciated. I can probably write better than this now because I've developed my technique a lot more. Anyway, feel free to PM me if you have any questions or just leave a review and I'll do my best to reply.
London isn't the nicest place at the best of times, but after the destruction of the riots just over a year ago, people were on edge worrying about whether it would happen again, worried about the ever increasing taxes, and the difficulty to get a job; it wasn't exactly the 'Golden Age' in British history. Everyone was struggling for money, something that many university students were hoping would give them more options for lodgings whilst they were studying. One family had left an advert in the local shop window, hoping it would draw the attention of a suitable 'young adult' who would happily pay the requested £300 a month rent to stay in their house.
"Hello?" A voice sounded, "Is anyone here? I'm looking for lodgings." Still only silence was his reply.
"Ah yes," Someone finally answered, "we spoke on the phone, did we not? I found a lovely household in need of a lodger. The Rendals."
"Sounds great, I'll send a letter asking if I can stay..." The rest of the conversation was drowned out by the deep rumbling sound of the London rush hour on a Monday morning.
James Kay was nineteen years old and had come to London for two reasons; number one his foster mum had been diagnosed with cancer a week ago and is being taken to The Royal Marsden Hospital for treatment. Number two James was offered a place at London University to study art and will be doing so for the next four years.
He had been spending his weekend looking for lodgings, when he finally found someone who knew a family that were looking for someone to be their lodger. The house was number 43 Lambridge Road, North London. The advert offered a bedroom, washing facilities and food all for three hundred pounds a month, it also noted that they had a dog named Jeff and there was a thirteen year old daughter of the owner named Laura Rendal.
Dear Mrs. Rendal,
Thank you for taking time to read this letter, my name is James Kay and in September I start my course at the local college studying a mixture of art history and fine art. I've been looking for lodgings for about a month but nothing I had seen until now really fitted what I needed. I was told about your advert by an old friend who had seen it in a shop window.
When I read it, it immediately sounded perfect; a nice house on a quiet road with my own room and a chance to meet some new people. So I would be delighted if I could be your lodger.
You mentioned in the ad that you have a thirteen year old daughter, I myself have a ten year old younger sister and I'm used to babysitting, I'm not very outgoing compared to some of the people I know so I will usually be around in the evenings to babysit if you want to go out. I'm good with children and I used to look after my little sister so as I said, I'm experienced if you ever need a babysitter.
I love animals and I've always wanted a dog but my family wouldn't let me, so having a dog is brilliant from my perspective. My hobby is drawing and like I said, I'm studying art history and fine art at university, so that's mainly quiet and I won't be making too much noise.
I hope you consider me as someone who you could live with as I do really need somewhere to stay,
Thanks for your time,
Mrs Rendal received his letter and decided that he could come and have a look round before he would be able to move in. James was invited round and met with Mrs Rendal, she showed him round the house and he seemed quite satisfied with what was there. "Thanks Mrs Rendal, I think I'll like it here. If you let me stay that is?"
"You can stay here if it's all okay, I could really do with the money and we have a spare room. You seem like a decent enough kid and Laura's always said she wanted a big brother and this is the closest she'll ever get, even if it is only for a few years."
"Yeah that'd be great, look, thanks for this I really needed somewhere to stay, the college I'm going to doesn't have enough accommodation and it's too expensive anyway and I want to be close to my Mum, She's quite ill but the doctors think she'll make it, but there's no certainties. Anyway I really appreciate this and hopefully I'll see you soon." James felt a smile creep across his face, "Thanks, I'll email you about the date I can move in. Bye."
"Bye," Mrs Rendal quietly whispered as James walked out the door, his long coat fluttering in the wind.
Helen Rendal was a single mother born in Northern Ireland but moved down to London when she met a man in a bar when she was out with her friends, he was on holiday with mates from work, London born and stockily built, he wasn't her usual type but after a few drinks people tend to forget their normalities. When she was twenty-five, one year after she met her man, he proposed in the same bar that they met, in an attempt to be even slightly romantic, although this bar was more of a cheap pub that housed some of the worst furniture that Helen had seen. She still accepted his proposal and after six long months they were married and Helen was expecting her first child, a little girl.
Remember I said she was a single mother; this man didn't end up staying forever, turned out when he got drunk he turned nasty and on a night out with some friends he got into a fight with another guy which resulted in an ambulance and a police car being called to the scene with one man unconscious on the pavement outside a pub and the other completely drunk attempting to start a fight with other people. The unconscious man was taken by paramedics to the nearest hospital where he died of a brain haemorrhage after a particularly nasty punch to the side of the head during the fight. It was about 3am when Helen got a phone call telling her what had happened, the relationship was over at that moment, one man dead, another locked up in a prison cell.
Helen was now thirty-nine years old and lived with her thirteen year old daughter, Laura. Laura was only one when her Dad got into that dreadful fight, she can't remember him but Helen has always been honest with her about what happened, after all, what's the point in lying about things, you will always get found out and then things will be worse than ever.
It was hard for Helen being a single mother, she never had enough money for anything special, it was hard enough buying enough food and other essential supplies for the house; so she decided to rent out a room in the house to earn extra money which would allow her and Laura to have more luxury in their life, however, saying that, Helen wasn't the sort of person who would waste her money on more material things but for her teenage daughter Laura, designer clothes and make-up were top on her list of priorities and all of that costs a great deal of money that they simply didn't have.
Helen worked as a teaching assistant at the local primary school in the area where Laura had gone when she was younger but now she was in the grasp of the secondary school system where the work is hard and still isn't the worst bit, it's the people you end up having to spend all your time with, people that will, if they don't like you, make life horrible for however long they can be bothered to keep it up for. The job didn't pay well and with the ever increasing economic pressure and rising costs of university Helen really needed some money so she could start saving up for her and Laura's future.
James emailed Helen a week after he had look around the house giving a date that would suit him to move in and asking if that would be okay for her as well. He also asked if she knew any local places that were offering some sort of work because he's going to be a bit short of money after paying for his accommodation and for what he can afford of the university fees. It wasn't easy for a nineteen year old man to get work in modern times, most places weren't looking for anyone let alone a nineteen year old with little or no experience. James also mentioned that he used to make money off selling his paintings and drawings when he lived in his Sussex village but now as he was moving to London people would be less likely to want to buy his work.
At home he was secretly working on a gift to give to the Rendals when he moved in, something to thank them for their generosity of letting him move in with them. As you can probably guess he drew for them, he drew a picture of their house as best he could given the bad quality of the picture he had. The end result was surprisingly quite good in his opinion, not his best piece of work but better than he had expected it to be.
James soon got at a reply to his email saying that he could move in on the date that he suggested, the 24th of August 2012. As he walked up to the house again he took in all the details. He was thinking of doing a drawing of it and putting it into his scrapbook so he would remember staying in these lodgings every time he opened it, he wanted to do this because after what had happened to his foster mum he wanted to savour every moment and never forget any detail, no matter how small.
The house was a semi detached three bedroomed property on a quiet road with the houses of Mr Holmes, and on the other side Miss Amy Burgundy, neighbouring. As you walk through the front door of number 43 you immediately find yourself in a living room, on your left is the toilet and on your right is the kitchen-dining room. Up the stairs there is Laura's room on the right, Mrs Rendal's room on the left and straight ahead there is a room that is soon to be James' and immediately to the right of that is the only the bathroom in the house.
As James Kay stepped into 43 Lambridge Road and into a new chapter of his life, he was almost knocked down by a sweet chocolate brown Labrador puppy, he bent down with his hand out letting the dog lick him while he asked "so what is this little guy's name Mrs Rendal?"
Mrs Rendal replied "Jeff, he's cute isn't he, we found him at a rescue centre he's only 10 months old. Oh and call me Helen, I find Mrs Rendal way too formal."
"He's great, I've always wanted a pet dog; I'll make sure I take him on walks sometime if you want?" He bent down and was stroking Jeff, "Thanks again for letting me stay Helen. I know I was here only a few weeks ago but I want to put my stuff in the room, where is it again?"
"Just go up the stairs and straight in front of you is a white door with a brass handle, it's through there."
"Oh yeah, I remember now, thanks, I'll just go and unpack before I end up getting too caught up in chatting, my mates from school all say I talk too much. In my opinion they don't talk enough, it's always me making the conversation" James smiled at Helen as he hoisted his bag onto his left shoulder and ambled up the cream-carpeted stairs and into his new room. It wasn't as big as he expected but it would be fine, it was bigger than his room back home was.
His hand left a damp mark on the door handle from where he was sweating a bit on his palms. His black Vans made a sharp thump on the floorboards as he tripped over the difference in height of the floor from the landing to his room. As he sat down on his bed, a bird flew past the window carrying a twig, "Looks like I'm not the only one making a new home today," James whispered, staring wistfully out through the window. The calm atmosphere that was in the room was quickly ruined by a crash made by the lamp falling off the bedside table, seemingly off its own accord, but it was probably because it was teetering on the edge of the table and when the bad knocked into it as James sat down, it probably just fell off.
Laura came rushing down the stairs shouting "Hey Mum? Is he here yet? I wanted to say hi to him,"
Helen replied "He just got here, he's in the spare room unpacking."
Laura rushed down the last few steps and bounded into the lodger's room, James turned round, with a smile on his face, "Hey, I'm James your new lodger, Laura isn't it?"
"Yeah, nice to meet you James!" She said in an excited voice.
On the bed was the content of James' suitcase; a pile of clothes including some rather tattered t shirts covered in paint splatters, four sketch books also rested on the pillows, one blue, two black, one purple, along with a box of pencils and a handmade scrap book.
"I better get going, I've got some things to finish doing before I go back to school," Laura smiled at him as she left the room, going over to the door that lead into her small bedroom with the same decorations from when she was younger; they hadn't had enough money to redo it.
Sunday 14th August 2012
Today this guy moved in, his name's James Kay, he's our new lodger because me and mum are really skint at the moment. He seems like a decent guy, better than that other guy that was looking around anyway. I've always wanted an older brother and I know he's not really my brother but still it's nice to have someone other than just me and mum, don't get me wrong, I love her and everything but sometimes it's nice to have someone closer to my age. I've not got too many friends at school at the moment, things weren't going great at the end of last year anyway, people weren't exactly being the nicest people to me; hopefully this year'll be a fresh start for me. I'm going to be in year 9, I've got to start thinking about my GCSE choices, I'm thinking of doing;
But I might do Latin instead of Classical Civilisation depending on whether I'm just going to be seen as a nerd if I do Latin, I do like it though. Guess I'll just have to see how this year goes, I've got till February or something so there's time but I've still got to start thinking about it.
There's just so much to think about. I had this massive argument with my best friend at the end of last term, she'd been spreading rumours about me saying I was talking about her behind her back when I wasn't, she was just trying to turn everyone against me. It worked pretty well in my opinion, I used to be kind of popular, I always had people to sit with at lunch and in lessons but by the end of last year I was so pleased it was ending, I hated it. I had no one. The stuff that she was saying I'd said was really bad and she made out like I was bullying her and that I was the one in the wrong when really it was her making stuff up about me. The teachers didn't believe me though; I got an after school detention for apparently cyber bullying her and stuff like that. For evidence she printed off parts of conversations we'd had but edited the bits she'd said so it made it look like I was being really horrible to her when I was just replying to what she'd said to me, yeah some of the things I said weren't exactly nice but she deserved it after what she said to me.
It all got really complicated because when we were friends she had told me something really bad and told me not to tell anyone but I couldn't not tell the school, it was that bad. She refused to talk to me after that. I tried to help her and support her but she just made me feel like I was making it worse, she even said that it was my fault for not being supportive enough and it was my fault that her parents found out when that was nothing to do with me. She tried to turn this guy against me who I was really close to at the time, she said that I was saying stuff about him to her and that I was saying stuff about her as well to try to turn him against me. She said that I had sent her Facebook message about him and then she made one up and told him that I'd sent that. When he asked for proof I said that, he asked her to show him the actual message, she said that she didn't have it anymore because I must have deleted it from my profile which according to her deletes it from her's as well. Kind of weird how that doesn't happen... He still believed her though, along with everyone else, got so much stick thanks to her.
The more I think about this the more I hate her. I thought I'd got over it but every time I open my Facebook I'm scared I'm going to have a little number by my messages tab and when I open them it'll be some nasty message. That happens to often but not usually on Facebook, people are too cowardly to do it where I can see their names, instead I get anonymous Formspring messages, no idea why I've even got an account on there.
I'm starting to go on a bit now, and it's starting to upset me, remembering all the stuff last term and over the holidays, there's no way I can report it though, people will just give me a hard time about that as well. God, look at me, I'm getting all worked up about the people at school and I haven't even gone back yet. Bet this is going to be a good term.
Helen was standing in the kitchen; it wasn't that bad a kitchen that they had, if a little dated, but it still did what it was meant to and they didn't have enough money to get it redone. It was made to look wooden but in reality was probably MDF or some other cheap material with a varnish or coating over the top to make it look wooden. The worktops were a plastic-like material which was worn and had marks from where knives had cut down on the surface, and darker marks from spillages.
James was sitting on his bed with his sketchbook, hands working quickly across the paper, a pencil in his hand, quickly sketching a silhouette of figure in the rain, a red coat standing out against the black and white streets of London. When it was finished, 'The Man In Red', James shut his sketchbook, the one with the purple cover, and lay back on his bed looking up at the ceiling.
"Dinner!" Helen shouted over the sound of the smoke alarm going off, "James, can you give me a hand with this stupid alarm?"
"Yeah sure, just coming." James dumped the remaining contents of his bag onto the bed and ambled over to the blue door of the Kitchen. "Hey Helen," James shouted over the ringing shriek of the alarm, "what was for dinner again?" he said as he batted the smoke away from the alarm.
"Bolognese, is that all right?" Helen picked up two of the plates and started carrying them over to the table, "Oh and can you take that plate over to the table," tilting her head slightly over to where the remaining plate was by the oven.
"Yeah sure. I remember when I was a kid my Dad always used to say 'Plating, Plating!' whenever he was serving dinner. It got annoying after a while, " James let out a slight laugh and a soft smile played across his face.
Laura didn't even hear the calling, she was so deeply tied into her diary, thinking about those words, replaying the situation, the people who said them, the way their faces looked, how they acted, how they laughed. All of that, less than that, more than that.
"I better go and check if she heard me," James wearily walked out of the kitchen, through the plain white door, one foot on the first stair, hearing the creak of the wood underneath that cream carpet. One foot at a time he climbed, hearing his shoes sink into the floor. "Laura? It's dinner!" James was about to rap his knuckles on the door, an inch away. Swoosh, the door opened, Laura looked out,
"Oh right, just coming, one-second," She quickly reached over to her desk and shut her diary, "all right I'm just coming now." She opened the door and James was standing outside, leaning against the mocha walls. "Hey James, do you know what's for dinner I'm really hungry?" Her voice cracked a bit,
"Umm it's Bolognese," He paused, looking at her, "have you been crying?"
"No," Laura said sharply, turning her head away to look at the ground, "I'm fine."
James could tell she was lying, but he decided it was best not to say anything, easier to pretend things were okay. "Right then we better go downstairs, your mum's going to wonder where we are," A forced smile drew itself on his face, but his dark eyes showed his worry, his anxiety, his understanding. He could tell what was going on, he'd always been good at telling what people were thinking, too much practise, too much lying.
Helen was sitting at the wooden table, with the marks from where drinks had been spilled, tears had been cried and news had been told. On one side scratches, counting down to something, the uneven table legs that made the table wobble, that mark from where the coffee had spilt. So many memories filled the stained wood, if only it could cry out, could shout, secrets would be revealed, life changing secrets.
"Where've you two been, the food's getting cold? Oh come on just sit down, it's James' first night, you better not have been asking him too many questions Laura." Helen let a playful smile form around her lips, "Anyway James, what are you studying at university again?"
"I'm studying art history and fine art, so a mixture of researching the art and drawing things. I always loved history and art at school so when I saw this course I couldn't refuse." His knife cut into the pasta, casually turning it around his fork, "I never knew where I got it from-my artistic traits, my parents weren't good at art but when they told me I was adopted I sort of guessed that my biological parents were good at art, I never met them though, never really wanted to in all honesty. I mean they might share the same genes as me but they didn't bring me up did they. What about you, Helen, are you good at the art type things?" James slid the pasta into his mouth, dropping a bit of mince down onto his lap, "Oops sorry, I didn't meant to spill it, and by the way it's really nice." James quickly got a piece of kitchen roll and cleaned the seat of the chair,
"Oh it's okay, I've spilt countless things at meals, I'm quite clumsy as well. I used to be good at art but never really got round to doing anything with it. I loved pop-art, you probably know all about that,"
"Yeah course, I actually did my A-Level coursework on it, you know like Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein, It was the artistic movement against abstract impressionist art in the 1950s and 60s. Don't even know why I still remember that." James took a sip of his water, the square ice-cubes bobbing around, fish in a clear ocean.
The conversation turned to school and as the food on the plates slowly diminished the sound of a phone vibrating wafted through the air. Laura reached into her pocket and glanced at the glowing screen of her phone, battle scars from the times it'd been dropped, that little icon appeared at the top of the screen, '1 NEW MESSAGE'. She didn't dare open it at the table.
"Umm I'm just going to the loo," slipping the phone back into the pocket of her black skinny jeans, "I'll be back in a minute." The legs of the oak chair scraped along the tiles, hands shaking, opened the door handle. Again the phone vibrated, '2 NEW MESSAGES'. Her clammy index finger touched the screen, 'OPEN'. Her hand slipped. The phone started to drop down onto that cream carpet. Heart beating so fast. Hands shaking. Those words etched into her eyes. All she could see. The phone vibrated again. She had to compose herself, had to act as if she was okay. Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Keep breathing. Keep smiling.
She bent down to pick up the phone, her hand was still shaking. "Come on now. Deep breaths. It's fine. I'm fine", she whispered to herself. "Just open the door and go and sit down. Act like you're fine." She felt that strange twinge again, she knew she was going to cry. Clenched fists. Deep breaths. Just words. Since when did words hurt? Since always...