“That’s wall showed 3pm. The dark red curtains

“That’s it!” Jake shouted. His
face was red with anger. “You don’t give a fuck about me!” The analogue clock
on the wall showed 3pm. The dark red curtains had been opened to allow light to
filter through the grey net curtains. Jake’s feet were bare, and the underlay
was beginning to make marks into them.

His mother’s face appeared
confused as she looked at the thirteen-year-old. “I don’t understand why you
would say that. I do care about you.” She fiddled with her dress as she spoke –
white with yellow dots. Her hair was tied up in a bun.

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“No you don’t!” Jake screamed.
“You wouldn’t have treated me like this if you did!”

The anger had been unexpected.
Jake’s mother couldn’t fathom any reason for it. She had been talking to a
friend, Brian, and things had seemed calm, until after Brian had left.

Jake’s mother shifted her feet.
“What’s wrong, Jake? I really don’t understand. If you don’t tell me, how can I
possibly help you? Please just tell me…”

“You know!” Jake shouted. “You
know exactly what you did!” His voice began to break.

“I honestly have no idea.” Her
eyes pleaded with him, but this went unregistered by Jake.

“I’m gonna make sure you’re
sorry for treating me like that!” Jake stormed out of the room and up to his
bedroom.

His mother, Gloria, stood in
the living room, absolutely dumbfounded. She heard Jake slam his bedroom door.
He began to cry, but was still almost shouting through his tears,

“Why did she do that? Why
doesn’t she give a toss about me? Why doesn’t she care?”

 

“I’ve had enough!” shouted
Blake. His face was red and he looked ready to start smashing things. “You
don’t care about me!” It was 3 O’clock in the afternoon. The burgundy, eyelet
curtains were open, and daylight filtered through the white net curtains. Blake
was stood in his bare feet on the underlay. He was wearing his blue tracksuit
bottoms and a plain blue T-shirt.

The thirteen-year-old boy’s
mother looked confused. “I do care Blake,” she muttered. She wringed her hands.
Her brown hair, in a short bob, was a neat contrast to her faded white dress with
a pattern of blue squares.

“If that was true, you wouldn’t
treat me like this!” The anger had been sudden, and there seemed to be no
explanation for it. Blake’s mother had just been talking to Mike, a neighbour,
and everything seemed fine, until after Mike left, just before 3pm. Now Blake
was inexplicably angry.

His mother shifted
uncomfortably. “I don’t know what’s wrong, Blake. How can I help you if you
don’t tell me? Please tell me…”

“You know what you did!” His
voice began to break.

            “Honestly, Blake, I don’t.” She pleaded with her eyes. It
went unregistered by Blake.

“You’ll be sorry about how you
treated me!” Blake stormed upstairs. His mother, June, stood in the living
room, dumbfounded. Blake went into his room and slammed the door. He was starting
to cry, but was still half-shouting through tears.

 

“Why doesn’t she care about me?
She says she doesn’t know what’s wrong, but she does know.” He
threw himself down on the bed and stared at the ceiling, ignoring the smell of
unwashed socks and stale sweat that seemed to linger around his room all the
time. The house was now silent.

In that silence, it was as
though there was nothing but him and the world – with the world very much
against him.

“She’s going to be sorry! Let’s
see how she feels when her son goes missing!” More quiet. More tears. He sat
up, on the edge of the bed.

“Actually she probably won’t
give a toss. Well that’s alright then, she won’t have a son, and I won’t have
to be treated horribly by her.”

He went around his room,
packing his things, sobbing hysterically. Then he composed himself, threw on a
jacket, then hurled some clothes, his CDs, and some snacks into a bag, and
stormed downstairs.

“Blake, what are-” his mother
began to ask. Her tone of voice changed to one of desperation as Blake opened
the door.

“Blake! Where are you going?!
Blake, please, don’t go!”

In response, Blake walked out
of the house and slammed the door. His mother immediately went outside and
shouted after him.

“Blake! Please! Blake!” She
began to cry, but Blake was too far ahead to notice. “Blake. Please, Blake.” Her
sobbing mixed with trembling.

“Blake.”

She stood and stared as he went
up the street, too infirm to run after him. Then she went back inside the house
and called the police.

“Emergency Services, which
service?” said a female voice.

“Police, please, my son-”

“Police. Putting you through.”

            Click.

“Police emergency.”

“It’s my son, he’s run away
from home!” June was breathing fast.

“Try to speak slowly and
clearly, madam,” said a male voice. “What’s
your son’s name?”

“Blake Masters. Tall, blonde-”

            “And your name, and the last known location.”

The operator took some further
details, including Blake’s age and the circumstances that had led up to Blake
leaving home and about him actually running away.

“So he’s ran away then?”

“Yes! Please, do something!”

“Madam, lots of kids run away
in the heat of the moment. I’m sure he’ll head straight back home after a while
without you.”

“No, you don’t understand. He’s
got a mental health condition. When he gets emotional, it’s incredibly
difficult to get him to come back out of his emotional state. He could run to
anywhere, miles away!”

“Well if he’s still on the run
in twenty-four hours, call back.”

“You’re not supposed to wait
twenty-four hours before doing anything anymore! The first four hours are the
most important!”

The call handler’s tone of
voice changed. It was much rougher and brusque. “That’s for kids who
have gone missing! Not for kids you saw leave your home. Don’t tell me how to
do my job.”

“Well somebody has to if you
won’t do it properly!” June shouted down the phone. Then, in a softer voice,
“Please, just help my son.”

 

***

 

Blake walked some distance from
his home, tears streaming down his face, glistening in the warm sun as it shone
on him. He was too absorbed in his own emotions to notice the few cars driving
along the road or the smell of petrol from an old banger that a man was working
on across the road. He wiped his eyes, then spoke to himself.

“She wanted me to go away, so
now I have. She even said it. “‘Go away, Blake, I’m talking to Mike.’ She even
laughed at me.” He took a deep, gasping breath. “She doesn’t want me. She’s my
own mother, and she doesn’t even want me.”

He walked a little longer, the
smell of exhaust fumes now drifting to his nostrils; the low hum of car engines
drifting to his ears.

He reached a bus shelter, the
floor partially strewn with glass that was glinting in the sun, and sat down on
the cold metal seat. He felt as if the very world that he knew had been ripped
apart from him. He had previously thought that his mother cared for him. Now he
was certain she didn’t.

A bus approached, its loud
engine filling the quiet air. Blake dipped his head to hide his tears as
passengers got off, veering off in different directions. He laughed derisively
to himself. There were so many people, but he was so alone.

 

Eventually, he became aware of
a presence. He looked up and to his right, and saw a man in branded clothing,
neatly ironed, and wearing a baseball cap. He was clean-shaven and looked very
presentable even with the cap, but Blake sensed there was something “off” about
him.

“Alrigh’ ar kid,” he said, the
Manchester colloquialism immediately betraying where he was from.

“Alright,” Blake returned.

“You just chillin’, or wai’in’
fer a bus?”

   Blake leaned back,
rested his arms on his inner thighs, and tried to sound casual. “Erm, I’m
waiting for a bus,”

“You can never ge’ one on time round
‘ere.”

   The man moved closer. He
smelled of cheap aftershave.

   “Listen, mate, if yer
runnin’ away from home or sumfin’, it dun’ ma’er to me. Bu’ I know a way you
can make a bi’ of cash.”

   Everything inside Blake
was telling him to be wary of this man. To run. But he would need money if he
was going to survive on the street.

   “How?” he asked.

   “You like girls, yeah?”
Blake nodded apprehensively. “Then you can make some money. Easy money. You a
virgin?”

Blake laughed unconvincingly, and his
accent changed to match the man’s. “Nah, nah, I’m not a virgin.”

   “Yeah you are.” The man
seemed certain. “But don’ be shy abou’ i’. I know some girls ‘oo love virgins.
Follow me, yeah?” He began to walk away, then looked back. Blake was
hesitating.

   “You comin’ or what?
Easy money, or si’ on yer tod all day. Your choice.”

 

   Blake stood up. The man
put his arm around Blake’s shoulder, and led him along a side road. The man
couldn’t walk very fast; he hobbled a little, obviously injured at some point
in the past.

   Blake was vaguely aware
of the hedges lining the sides of the road, and the odd care home dotted on the
other side of the street. He had a feeling that someone was following him, but
when he tried to turn his head to look back, the man’s grip on his shoulder
intensified, distracting Blake.

   “Don’ be nervous, ar
kid,” the man said. The sun filtered through gaps in the hedges, creating
strange patterns on the pavement.

   They approached an old,
run-down building, half-hidden by overgrown plants. They walked inside and down
some grubby stairs. Blake’s new “friend” was silent as they descended the
staircase. After what seemed like an eternity to Blake, they reached the
bottom. In reality, it had taken only seconds.

   The man walked past him
and stood near a room that was directly in front of the staircase. Blake looked
behind him. There was nobody blocking his path. This was his chance – his
chance to run.

   He just had to run
upstairs and leave.

   His instincts were
telling him to escape, now, while he could.

   But he was too scared.
He didn’t want to anger the man. He walked into the room.

 

   A double mattress lay on
the floor, a clean bedsheet atop it. The single light was switched on, and the
room reminded Blake of some seedy brothel he’d seen in a movie. It was dusty
and dim, and smelled of must.

   “Here’s what you’re
gonna do,” said a man’s voice behind him. Unlike the first man, this guy spoke
most of his words properly. He was clearly educated, but not posh.

   “You’re gonna fuck
Chantelle over there.”

   It was only now that
Blake noticed, stood in the back left corner of the room where there was the
least amount of light, a thin girl, completely naked. She looked about Blake’s
age, and she wasn’t smiling.

   “Then we pay you,” the
educated man continued. “Simple.”

   “But why?” Blake asked.
He fiddled with the zip on his jacket. “How do you guys get any –”

   “Let us worry about
that.” The man’s voice was firm. “You don’t need to ask questions. You want
money, we want you two to fuck each other. No problem.”

   Blake stood silently. He
looked around. No window. Only one way out. He heard a siren in the distance,
but as it faded, he knew it wasn’t someone coming to save him.

   “I’m not so sure about
this,” Blake began, but he was interrupted by the first man.

   “Listen, righ’, I’m
doin’ you a favour, yeah? I wanna help you ge’ some easy money. You said yer a
virgin.” Blake shifted uncomfortably and opened his mouth, but the second man spoke
again.

   “A virgin, eh? Then you
should love this. So quit complaining. You wanna do it, don’t you, Chantelle?”

   Chantelle didn’t move,
even to nod or shake her head.

   “Well, you know what
will happen if you don’t do it. You don’t want your friends knowing what you’ve
been up to, do you?” Blake made out the tiniest shake of the head. “Good,” the
educated man continued. “Then you know what to do.”

 

   Chantelle walked over to
the bed, and lay on it, legs spread. Blake couldn’t help looking, but none of
this felt right. Suddenly the room seemed a lot seedier.

   “Now you,” said the educated
man, as the first man walked past and out of the room. “Strip.”

   “I’m not ready for
this,” Blake replied, looking at the floor.

   “Too bad. You’re here
now, and you’re gonna do it.”

   Blake looked at
Chantelle. He couldn’t deny that he found her very attractive. And this was a
chance that didn’t come along often. But then he looked at her face.

   Numb.

   Devoid of any emotion.

   It was as if she was
dead. She clearly didn’t want this.

   Blake’s face became hot,
and he spun around to the man who was still stood at the door.

   “No!”

   He tried to force his
way past the man, intending to leave and get help for the girl. But the man was
too strong for him. A barrage of punches to his chest and stomach quickly
subdued Blake. He was in a lot of pain, and was now scared to fight back.

   The man sat on top of
him and started to take Blake’s clothes off. First, his jacket. Then his shirt.
Blake tried a different approach.

   “Please, don’t do this,”
he said, and began to cry. But the man just laughed and forced Blake’s untied tracksuit
bottoms off him.

   “I’m sorry, mum,” he
said quietly. The man either didn’t hear, or ignored it and began to pull
Blake’s boxer shorts off. It was at that moment that there was a loud bang of
wood hitting the floor, and shouts of “POLICE! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!” followed by
loud, fast footsteps on the wooden stairs.

   The man fought one
officer but others quickly piled into the room and subdued him. A woman with
red hair entered the room, and the girl who had been on the bed rushed towards
her.

   “Mum!” she shouted, her
face lighting up as she threw her arms around her. When Blake’s mother came
into the room, followed by a police officer who was restraining the Mancunian
guy, she threw her arms around her son, who apologised and explained himself.

   “I didn’t mean it,” his
mother replied. “I didn’t want you to go away. I was only joking with you – I
didn’t realise until after you’d left that it had upset you; I didn’t know why
you were so upset. I’m sorry.”

   “No, mum, I’m sorry.”
His mother held him close and stroked his air, so glad to have her son back.

   “Shh. The important
thing is that you’re safe.”

 

***

 

   Blake learned that he
had indeed been followed – by a young girl from the neighbourhood who knew
Chantelle. When Chantelle had gone missing over a month ago, the younger girl had
noticed a suspicious man – the Mancunian – hanging around. She heard the commotion
when Blake left his home, and looked outside and saw the same man, so decided
to follow him. She then rushed to Blake’s house and told his mother, who called
the police again. The police then rushed to the building and broke into it and
saved Blake and Chantelle. It transpired that Chantelle had been manipulated
into having sex, which had been secretly filmed. The film was intended to be
sold to perverts, and the Mancunian and his friend threatened to show copies of
the film to Chantelle’s parents and friends, to force her into carrying on. The
men were both arrested and imprisoned, and the film was destroyed. Blake made
up with his mother and they both lived happily ever after.