‘Bye then,’ I say, reaching for the front gate.
Jamie moves in closer. He smells of sweat covered up with aftershave. I try to step backwards, but I have nowhere to go, the catch on the gate digging into my lower back.
‘You’re different, Ro Snow. Did you know that?’ Jamie says. ‘Good different,’ he adds quickly when I don’t say anything. ‘What I mean is, it’s a compliment.’
He grins. He clearly has no idea that ‘different’ (the good or bad kind) is the very last thing I want to be.
I fumble for the catch with my left hand.
Before I can register what’s happening, Jamie has wrapped both arms around my waist, his open mouth looming towards my very much closed one.
‘Er, what do you think you’re doing?’ I say, pushing him away.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asks, staggering to regain his balance, his face slack with confusion. ‘I thought we were getting along. Didn’t you?’
‘I wasn’t really thinking about it, to be honest,’ I say, digging into the front pocket of my backpack for my keys.
‘Oh . . . Well, can I use your loo at least?’
‘No!’ I cry, the keys slipping from my hand.
Jamie’s eyes widen in alarm.
‘What I mean is, you can’t,’ I stammer. ‘We’re . . . we’re having our bathroom retiled at the moment.’
‘I wasn’t planning on pissing on the tiles.’
‘Very funny. Look, the whole bathroom is out of action, OK?’
Jamie frowns. ‘If you don’t want me to come in, then just say so. You don’t have to lie.’
‘I’m not. God, do you really think I’d bother lying about something so mundane?’ I crouch down to pick up my keys.
‘But I really need a wee,’ Jamie whines.
I stand up. ‘For God’s sake, can’t you just go in the bushes or something?’
‘Hey, don’t have a go at me,’ Jamie says, holding up both hands. ‘We were having a nice time until you started making weird shit up.’
‘It’s not my problem you find the concept of my bathroom being retiled so bloody exotic!’
He shakes his head. ‘You’re a weird girl, you know that, Ro Snow?’
Downgraded from ‘different’ to ‘weird’ in a matter of minutes. It’s clearly a very fine line.
‘Well, that’s rich, coming from the boy who spent most of the evening monitoring my Doritos intake,’ I snap. ‘Because that’s not creepy at all.’
Jamie’s eyes narrow into a glare. I return it with a glare of my own. He looks away first.
‘Seriously, I’m going in now,’ I say.
Jamie doesn’t say anything, his shoulders hunched over like a sulky toddler as he pushes a pebble back and forth with his foot.
‘Night then,’ I add.
‘Night,’ he mutters, sticking his hands in his pockets and striding back up the street.
I sigh, ease open the front gate and walk up the path. I wait until I’m at the top before sneaking a look over my shoulder. Jamie has increased his pace and is already several houses away. Instead of using the front door, I go round the side of the house, the security light flicking on as I pass beneath it. I press my back against the wall, the bricks rough and cool against my splayed hands. I close my eyes and silently count down from sixty. About halfway through, the security light snaps off, plunging me into reassuring darkness for the rest of my countdown.
‘Three, two, one, zero,’ I whisper.
I creep back down the front path and look both ways, relieved to note the street is quiet and empty.
I take a brisk left in the direction I’ve just come from.
Towards number 48 Arcadia Avenue.
Click here to purchase a copy of Paper Avalanche from Waterstones.
Lisa was born in Nottingham and spent most of her childhood drawing, daydreaming and making up stories in her head (but never getting around to writing them down).
As a teenager she was bitten by the acting bug and at 19 moved to London to study drama at university. Following graduation, Lisa adopted the stage name of Lisa Cassidy and spent several happy and chaotic years occasionally getting paid to pretend to be other people.
Between acting roles she worked as an office temp and started making up stories all over again, only this time she had a go at writing them down.
One such job was at the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) – a highly specialised clinic for young people presenting with difficulties around their gender identity. The stories Lisa heard inspired her to create a fictional teenage character exploring these issues in her debut novel, The Art of Being Normal.
The Art of Being Normal and All About Mia will be published with new cover designs in January 2020, to coincide with the paperback release of Paper Avalanche. Lisa is also the author of Malala (Yousafzai – First Names) and was one of the seven authors for the collaborative YA novel, Floored. Lisa lives in London.