‘What the feck are you doing carrying a knife?’
‘That—that kind of thing. That just happened. Never thought I’d. Really do it.’
‘You didn’t, right?’
We were both gasping for breath and her face was white under the streetlamps, bone-white. Don’t suppose mine was much better. I never used a blade on anyone before; never. I hadn’t thought it would take such force to plunge it in. I hadn’t thought the feeling would tingle up my hand and into my arm. I hadn’t thought he’d bleed so much.
Jinn had begun to cry, glinting starlit tears streaking her face. ‘D’you think he’s dead?’
‘Nah. He ran off, didn’t he?’
‘We are gonnae be in so much trouble.’
‘No you’re not. I am. I’m not gonnae tell them it was yours. Christ, those knives are a fiver in Tesco. I’ll get you home. Right? I’ll see you tomorrow.’
‘Nathan? When you get me home.’
The little sister was fast asleep, so Jinn’s mother had taken the chance to go out for a drink. She was even later back than we were, and I was out earlier in the morning, so it wasn’t a problem.
I don’t think it would have been a problem anyway. Poor Jinn.
Me, I had a problem, and its name was Dad. When I sloped home in the grey dawn, he was still up waiting. I can’t tell you how unusual this was, but he had his reasons.
‘Nathan,’ he said. ‘Christ almighty, Nathan.’
His eyes were red and sleepless and his face was about as grey as mine. I was a bit surprised he didn’t look angrier. He looked more scared than furious, and you know, that was worse.
‘Richie Muir,’ he said.
‘Richie Muir!’ This time he yelled it. ‘Did you get in a scrap with him yesterday?’
My tongue hovered over a lie, but on balance there didn’t seem any point.
‘You know he works for Christy Fyfe? Christy Fyfe, the big sonofabitch I owe money to?’
No, but I’d guessed it by now. Nothing else would have put the frighteners on my dad like this. ‘That Richie Muir’s a bastard,’ I said sullenly.
‘He’s a dangerous bastard.’ Dad raked his hands across his thinning hair, and I realised he was even older than I thought.
I licked my lips, my heart thudding. ‘You mean he still is?’ Thank God for that anyway.
He gave me a look that was all reproach. ‘If you were going to do it, you might have made a better job of it.’
I thought about that. Still I was glad I hadn’t.
‘So what are we going to do?’
‘Do? We’re gonnae leave, obviously. And we won’t be back till Richie Muir’s dead.’ His voice softened a bit. ‘Not that unlikely, since you’re not the first to stick a blade in him. And you won’t be the last. Go and pack.’
‘Now. Today. Get your stuff.’
Surprising how the first panicked thought in my head was of Jinn. But I couldn’t take her. Obviously.
I had to tell her. It was harder than I’d have believed possible a month ago. It almost made it worse that she put such a bright face on it, and smiled, and stroked my cheek like she really was sad for me.
‘It’s my fault,’ she said. ‘Sorry.’
‘Don’t be,’ I said, ‘’cos it isn’t.’
I skimmed another pebble across the lapping water and counted.
‘Six,’ she corrected me, squinting into the light. ‘You ever coming back?’
I put my hands in my pockets. ‘I’ve got to go,’ I said, and kissed her.
Biting her lip, she looked past my shoulder. ‘I’ll miss you.’
My dad swung open the car door, tapped his fingers on the wheel, smoothed his sweating bald patch. I turned back to Jinn.
‘I’ll come back, yeah.’
I smiled. I kissed her again, properly this time.
‘I’ll bring you a present,’ I said.
Great story, huh? What did you think of the ending?