All text © by Laura Warby, 2015
No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
First Edition, Published 2015
Gabriel Tanner unlocked his front door, noticing as he pushed it open that the door and frame could do with a fresh lick of paint.
He awkwardly kicked the door shut, struggling with the heavy shopping bags he was clutching. His younger siblings, Liam and Rose, came barrelling out of the living room and tried to wrap themselves around his legs.
Impeded by the carrier bags, the twins instead snatched a bag each from Gabriel's hands, and scuttling into the kitchen with them.
Gabriel deposited the remaining bags on the dining table, and called his other sister, thirteen-year-old Phoebe, in from the living room.
“Could you help the twins unpack, please, and make a start on dinner?”
Gabe went upstairs, noting how the sixth and eighth steps were creaking and sagging more than usual, and knocked on his brother’s bedroom door.
Jordan was sprawled out on his bed, reading a thick textbook with a look of boredom on his face, and scrawling untidy notes occasionally.
“Can you go and set the table, please. Phoebe’s started dinner.”
“In a minute,” Jordan grunted.
“When you’ve finished that chapter, yes?”
“Fine,” Jordan grumbled, waving Gabe out of the room.
Gabriel went for a quick shower, redressed in a loose pair of jeans with holes in the knees and an old t-shirt that used to have an emblem emblazoned across the front but was now just a solid moss-green colour, and went to sort through the overflowing laundry hamper.
He piled dark clothes into the washing basket and went down to the kitchen, where Liam and Rose were perched on stools at the breakfast bar, finishing their homework.
Gabe put the clothes in the washer and turned to help Phoebe finish making dinner.
Jordan thudded down the stairs and ambled into the kitchen. He set the table quickly and turned to leave again; Gabe called him back, and he scowled.
“What?” He asked moodily.
“How did you do on your maths test?”
Jordan shrugged, his dark eyes uninterested. He definitely had some black ancestry; with his deep olive skin, ebony hair and near-black eyes, he was a handsome young man.
Unfortunately for Gabriel, he was also a moody one.
“Got seventy per cent,” he mumbled.
Gabe nodded slowly.
“I thought it was an algebra test. You’re good at algebra.”
"Not on this test apparently," Jordan said lightly.
"Well, perhaps you would have done better if you’d studied more," Gabe suggested quietly.
Jordan's dark eyes flashed dangerously.
Gabe saw his brother’s expression, and readied himself for a battle.
"I've told you before, Jordan, you need to study to get the grades you need for college.”
“I won’t even be applying to colleges for another year,” Jordan snapped.
“And they look at your grades for your entire school career,” Gabe said coolly. “The headmaster will write you a reference, and if you keep skipping classes, or start failing exams, you won’t-”
“I didn’t fail, Gabe,” Jordan growled. “Seventy per cent isn’t a fail. Besides, I don't even want to go to college."
"Oh? And what are you going to do with your life?"
“I’m going to be a mechanic.”
“Which requires training,” Gabe said. “Training you can get at college.”
"Florence's dad said he'd give me a job. An apprenticeship, after I finish school. I'll learn on the job."
"Jordan, the chances of you and Florence still being together when you leave school next year are small. And when you break up, the chances of her dad still taking you on are even smaller," Gabriel said, as gently as he could.
Jordan was silent for a moment, before he pushed himself violently away from the work surface he was leaning against.
"You know, Gabe, just because you have a miserable outlook on life doesn't mean we all have to!" Jordan shouted, making Liam and Rose jump.
Jordan snatched his plate from Phoebe, who had just finished dishing up dinner, and stormed from the kitchen; he loudly slammed every door he came across as he made his way up to his bedroom.
"How about you, Phoebe?" Gabriel asked after a moment of silence, deciding to ignore Jordan's outburst. "Did you get your geography project back?"
He accepted his plate from her with a quiet word of thanks, and they settled down at the table together.
Liam and Rose put away their homework and joined them at the table; they began slurping their spaghetti noisily, but a stern look from Gabriel soon had them twizzling the long pasta strands around their forks instead.
“I got an A,” Phoebe said, looking pleased. “Mrs Worthing was really pleased, because she had to give me extra help with some of the work.”
“Has she said any more about getting you a tutor?” Gabe asked. “She mentioned it a few weeks ago.”
“No. I’m mostly alright with geography. It was just this module that I didn’t really understand. I should be okay with the next module. Mrs Worthing says we’re doing volcanoes and earthquakes. I like them.”
"We did science today," Liam butted in excitedly. "We looked at a leaves and a flowers."
"And drew them too!" Rose added eagerly.
Gabe grinned proudly at them, reaching across to ruffle Rose’s hair affectionately.
He put his empty plate in the sink, dropped a kiss on Rose’s head, and smiled at Phoebe.
"Would you mind washing up for me, please, Phoebe?" He asked her. "I need to have a word with Jordan before I go back to work."
She nodded, and collected the twins’ empty plates.
Liam and Rose obediently went to fetch the dishtowel, and stated drying the crockery as Phoebe washed.
Gabe watched them working together for a moment, a little picture of domestic bliss, before he went up to Jordan’s bedroom and knocked on the door.
After waiting for a couple of seconds and receiving no reply, Gabe pushed the door open and went inside.
Gabe could hear music blasting from Jordan’s earphones from the doorway. He went over and gently shook Jordan’s shoulder.
Jordan’s dark eyes snapped open, and hardened when he saw it was Gabe, not one of his younger siblings.
“What?” He snarled, yanking off his earphones.
“Can we talk?” Gabe asked.
“Nothing to talk about,” said Jordan shortly. “Stop trying to rule my life.”
“I’m not trying to rule anything,” Gabe said, feeling his temper rise. “I’m trying to help you. You’ll thank me when you’re older.”
“Wanna bet?” Jordan said moodily.
“What’s wrong, Jordan?” Gabe asked wearily, perching on the edge of the bed. He vaguely noticed that the bedcovers were starting to look a little threadbare, and made a mental note to buy another set when he had the chance.
“We never used to fight like this,” he said quietly. “We used to get on well.”
“That was before you insisted on playing parent.” Jordan rolled over to face the wall, and put his earphones back over his ears.
Gabe rolled him back over firmly, and kept his hand on Jordan’s shoulder to keep him from rolling away again.
“I’m not playing, Jord,” Gabe said quietly, sliding off the earphones again. “I have to keep everyone in line, doing what they’re supposed to be doing. There’s no-one else.”
“You’re not here half the time,” Jordan snapped. “And when you are you’re acting like a commandant.”
“How else do you suggest I get everyone to do their homework, huh?” Gabriel groaned. “Asking nicely doesn’t work. And someone has to earn the money that pays the bills and buys the food.”
“Well, you never wear a uniform when you leave for work,” Jordan said. “You said you worked at the Black Pig, and they wear a uniform. I go in there sometimes, looking for you, and you’re never there.”
Gabriel sat quietly for a moment, before he sighed.
“Fine, I lied. I don’t work at the Black Pig.”
“So, where do you work?”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to wear a uniform for my work, because… Well, my work’s a little… unorthodox.”
“Whatever, Gabe,” he said. “I don’t care what work you do, or what work you don’t do. Just stop preaching to me about doing well in school when you dropped out yourself.”
“Someone had to go to work after mum died,” Gabriel snapped. “Unless you would’ve preferred I let you all be taken into foster care by strangers?”
“We could’ve used the savings mum left us,” Jordan said.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Jordan, use your bloody head!” Gabe shouted, losing his temper. “What savings? Do you seriously think four absent fathers and a crack-head mother put aside money for us in the event of an untimely death? No! We’ve never seen a penny from any of our fathers, not that we have more than a vague idea of who them are anyway, and mum spent every penny she had on her next goddamn fix!”
Gabe sighed heavily, and ran a hand through his hair.
“I work all the time,” he said in a voice of forced calm. “Because there’s hardly any money in the bank. About a thousand pounds, perhaps a little more. And that’s what I’ve managed to save since mum died. And… I know you’re smart, Jordan. Your teachers used to rave about you. Even mum knew you were smart, and she was barely aware of anything, ever. I just want you to do the best that you can do with your life. You could be a doctor, or a lawyer, or something really worthwhile. Just… be a mechanic for fun, in your spare time.”
“I don’t want to be a doctor, Gabe,” Jordan groaned. “I want to be a mechanic.”
Gabe looked at his brother’s stubborn face for a moment, before he sighed.
“Do your best in school for the next year. Promise me that. And if you still want to… At the end of next year, you can go to college to do a mechanical course, and then join Florence’s father’s business.”
Jordan hesitated for a moment, before he nodded reluctantly.
Gabriel ruffled Jordan’s hair affectionately, and grinned when Jordan brushed his hand away with a huff.
“I’m off to work. Keep an eye on them for me, yeah?”
Gabe waited for Jordan’s impatient nod, before going back to his bedroom and changing quickly. He pulled on his knee-length, black, military-style coat and checked that the belt around his waist was properly secured, before going back downstairs.
Liam and Rose were curled up on the sofa, watching a DVD before bed. Phoebe was in the armchair beside the window, reading a novel for her English class.
“Bedtime at seven o’clock, you two,” Gabe said, leaning over to kiss the twins. “Eight thirty for you, Pheebs.”
Gabe smiled at their absent-minded nods, and couldn’t help but spend a moment wishing that Jordan were as cheerful and obedient at his other siblings, before he turned and slipped out through the front door, locking it securely behind himself.