TWO ABANDONED REBELS. ONE EXPLOSIVE CONNECTION.
When Robbie faces his community after years of hiding in the shadows, he’s branded a monster. His condition means that his body is freakishly muscular, a bodybuilder gone wrong, where every shifting tendon pulsates. He wants to find Nurse Nola, the one who understood him when doctors performed the endless research that stripped away his childhood. Instead, he finds streetwise Kat who wants to find Nola for different reasons.
When Kat sticks up for Robbie in the face of her gang’s cruel digs, their friendship begins. But when Robbie uses his muscle to rescue her from a violent incident, his blind rage is exposed, and he has the daunting task of earning back her trust. This is the story of improbable love, where the universe unites two fragments of the past to create an extraordinary bond.
16+ due to adult situations, violence
If she was here, there wouldn’t be this mess. I was talking generally, in life, and not just about the scummy kitchen.
Get up, will you, lazy old man? I cracked two eggs into the frying pan and watched them sizzle, fat spitting off the sides. The bacon was getting crispy, and the smell of it would get Dad up eventually. He’d be starving after the night we had. “You’re my bonny wee girl,” he’d say. “Good to me, you are.” He was dead nice to me when I fed him, like a grateful dog.
I had breakfast telly on in the kitchen. Some woman with big hair and a shiny face was going off about wheat being bad for you. What a load of crap. I knew better, and I was only sixteen. No one ever died from eating bread. Face it, you’d more likely die of boredom if you didn’t eat pizza or bacon rolls. There were a lot of weird folk in the world, all scared of their own selves, carrying on like they had nothing better to think about.
I turned up the volume when the ads came on. Come on, Dad. Get your arse out your bed. The remote control was melted at the bottom, where he’d held it too close to the hob trying to light his ciggie in the flame. It still worked, but it looked deformed and wrong. He said he’d get another one, but I couldn’t think where from. Remote Control World. Save On Remote. Not going to happen.
That did it. The volume overload worked its magic.
There was a crash as Dad’s big feet hit the floor. You could hear everything in our place like you were in the same room. The council houses were brown and white, like they were made out of cardboard with globs of school glue in between. All in a row, they looked like a shite school project made by giants.
I turned the sound down and put two slices of bread in the toaster, wiping at some crumbs on the counter with the side of my hand. Some of them went into the crack that Dad hadn’t fixed up yet. It had been growing for about a year, catching hairs and sesame seeds and splashes of oil. Nice one.
I went through to the hallway. “Is that you up?”
He appeared at the top of the stairs, groaning, belly hanging over his boxers. “I feel terrible, Kat. I need a pee, then I’m away back to my bed.” He held on to either side of his head.
What a sight. He was mingin’. I said, “You’re just hungover. Are you not hungry? I’ve made bacon and eggs.”
He heaved. There was this gurgling sound, like he was going to throw up. “Maybe later,” he muttered.
I took a step back, in case. I didn’t want his diced carrots all over the new jeans that I’d got for Christmas. I wanted to wear them again that night, seeing as they made my legs look dead thin.
But Dad didn’t chuck.
First, he started coughing up a lung, like he always did in the mornings. He’d chained it at Mack’s place the night before, and his chest was rattling, like he had a tiny popcorn machine inside him. He tried to breathe in, wheezing. He clutched at his hairy chest and bent over, his face going red.
Then he wobbled.
His whole body rocked forward, his feet tipping over the edge of the stairs. I wasn’t proud of this, but my first thought was for my own safety. He wasn’t exactly in shape, my dad, and if he landed on top of me, I’d be as good as dead.
I took another step back. “Dad! Get away from the edge!”
I knew he was going to fall. Before I could say another word, he tumbled down the stairs. What a numpty. I watched it all happening in slow motion. All the years and the long days with just the two of us. The arguing and the cuddling and everything in between. They all came to rest at that moment when I realized he was a hopeless case. He was never going to change, stop drinking too much, and grow up. I needed more than him. I needed her.
Things had come to a head. It was my birthday. I was sixteen and I needed to get out of that house before I imploded, festered, and died in there. There were no bars on the windows, but there might as well be, the way I was kept inside like a prisoner.
Couldn’t sleep again. One of the muscles in my back had knotted up in the wee small hours. It stuck out like a thick horn, and it hurt when I lay on it. The rhinoceros boy. I hunched my shoulders forward and tried to stretch it out, but it clenched itself up like a fist, a hairy, horny haggis. Seemed my body was telling me to get up.
Turning onto my good side, I stared at the red numbers on my alarm clock until they blurred into the word Satan. That’d be about right. The devil was in me, raveling tendons together into tight balls of string. I’d been awake, on and off, since 4:17 AM, sweating over the dark side in which I lived. My world was a blur of shadows, blackout blinds, hoods, and closed doors. The darkness had been pressing down on me, squeezing the holy life out of me, for eight years. I should have started a tally on my bedroom wall to mark the days and months and passing years, like some lifer in his prison cell, eating cockroaches and talking to himself. I’d seen the film. I’d seen all the films actually, because the telly was pretty much all I had.
Steve McQueen, Papillon: “Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!”
I pulled myself up and sat on the edge of the bed, my punching bag a black shadow on the other side of the room. I’d given it a pummeling hours before, until sweat ran rivers down the ridge in the middle of my back. Now it stood proud, as if nothing had happened. But it had. I’d been hitting that thing forever, it felt like.