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I’d always liked Steve. I’m not sure why. He’s an odd boy, with ridiculously messy hair, faded clothes that hang loosely from his tall, thin frame, and his face didn’t seem to have been washed in days. His bag has been repaired several times, mostly on the strap, where his peer-mentoring ‘buddy’ badge is pinned. But despite his flaws, Steve is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He is always laughing about something, and always shares the joke. He’s a writer, like Lily and I, and we often had lengthy discussions about our characters, and what we’d been writing about the day before. Like me, he is planning a novel, but his is a murder-mystery thriller, while mine is a gothic dystopian romance.
“Yours sounds pretty good,” Steve leans the chair back on two legs, balancing it against the wall. “Complicated, but pretty good. It’s a series, I’m guessing?”
I smile. “Yeah. There are four books, so far.”
“How’s your work coming along?” Frau Wrigley appears by the table, “assessment next week, are you both excited?”
“No,” Steve scrunches up his nose, his eyes wide. I laugh. He looks so comical when he pulls that expression.
Frau Wrigley rolls her eyes, “Get the date down! Deinstag, den eins Märs, zweitausendzwölf.”
The door slams suddenly. “Sorry!” Nathan shrieks. “It wasn’t supposed to slam!” Frau Wrigley glares at him, and he continues; “I was on my paper round.”
Steve shakes his head, his matted hair striking his greasy face. “I do a paper round, and live at the opposite end of town. I still get to school on time.”
“Hi Steve!” Nathan grins, a little too wide, waving idiotically. He is ludicrously thin, with too-big feet, and a huge nose. His bowl-cut hair flops over his sickly pale face, and his large teeth stick out of his mouth, despite the braces that are supposed to pull them back into line.
“Get out of my face,” Steve’s expression drops from his yellow grin, to a serious glare.
“You pushed me over on Tuesday,” Nathan complains.
“Should have left me alone then,” Steve says bluntly.
“There was no need for that violence,” Nathan whines. He doesn’t actually care; he’s just creating a scene.
“Get lost, nerd,” I snap.
“That’s not very nice,” all eyes on Nathan, exactly how he wanted it.
“Sit down Nathan,” Frau Wrigley finally notices the corruption in her classroom.
“Did you know its Baby P’s birthday today?” I create a conversation with a now distraught Steve.
“Speaking of babies, it’s also Justin Bieber’s birthday,” Steve’s grin grows back. “Baby, baby, baby ooohhhh!”
“Stop singing!” I cry, stifling laughter.
“At least it’s not….” Steve pauses. I know exactly what’s coming; “Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday, fun, fun, FUN!” his eyes grow wide, and his head cocks slightly to the side each time he chants ‘fun’, making him seem psychopathic. I splutter, unable to contain my laughter.
“It’s not Friday,” Steve says, doodling randomly in the back of his German book, “But it is World Book Day.”
“Miss Cook was handing out book tokens, remember?” I say, grinning.
“I know,” Steve holds up a collection, all fanned out.
“You do know you can only use one per book, right?” I say, sneering slightly. “You can’t get a free book, just because you’ve a whole load of tokens.”
Steve face falls.
“Steve, you’re right tight!” a girl on another table shouts across the classroom. We look across at her. She is sat with Nathan, who is showing her a bruise, claiming it was Steve who had injured him.
Steve growls, “He seriously needs to grow up.”
I nod. “Why did you push him anyway?”
“He was just…” Steve flaps his arms about in frustration. “In my face being….”
“A complete little b****?” I guess.
“Yeah,” Steve laughs. His face drops again, and he pulls on the sleeves of his faded black jumper. “Can I tell you something?”
“So you’re finally going to tell me?” I can’t help thinking. I worked his secret out quite a while ago, but never asked him about. I’ve let him tell me in his own time.
Steve pulls his sleeve down. My jaw drops; I didn’t know it was that bad. On his wrist, is a patch of red slices, some pink and almost healed, the others red and ugly.
“I’d stopped,” Steve stares into the nothingness that seems to float behind me. He doesn’t see anything, his eyes are just hovering. “I did it again, on Tuesday. Because of Nathan.”
I nod soberly, swallowing hard. Smiling wearily, I slide my hand from my book, under the table. Today’s not just Thursday. Nor is it just Baby P or Justin Bieber’s birthday, or World Book Day.
“Happy Self-Harm Awareness Day,” I murmur, adjusting my watch over my own wrist.