"Hey, Dad. Ellie May's staying over, do you mind?" I ask as I shove the twins into the front room.
"Hey, Heidi, Ellie May, how you doing?" Dad pushes himself up and I can see the strain on his face.
I can tell Ellie May does too because she says "I'm fine, Mr Green, please don't strain yourself."
Dad shakes his head. "Ah, you kids. You worry too much."
"Yeah... Um, dinner's gonna be a bit late tonight. Lula, Milo, go play upstairs." I close the kitchen door and look at Ellie May. She turns, walks to the other side of the room and runs her hand through her hair. "Ellie May, what has he done to you?"
"He's selfish and I think he's only going out with me because all his friends have girlfriends," she pushes a hand through her hair again.
"He seemed nice before he asked you out, though. Now he's..."
"Yes, I know. But Samuel's not even half the problem..." Ellie May's sigh is shaky. "It's my mum," she says, "She's... she's ill."
"Oh my goodness, Ellie May! I'm so sorry!" I hug her tightly but she pushes me away.
"It's not your fault," she sighs. "But I can't... I mean, I know you look after your whole family but... Heidi, my mum's the only family I've ever had and if I... if I lose her I'll have nothing..." Tears begin trickling down her cheeks.
"Oh, Ellie May." I suddenly know what she meant today outside the Spanish classroom. She knows I'll always help her. Always. "Listen, I can't help you as much as I know you need me to, but I can help." My turn to shove a hand through my hair. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"
Ellie May shrugs and I notice how weak she's looking. It reminds me of how I looked during those first few, hard months. "I wasn't allowed. She told me not to."
"How long has this been going on?"
"Two months..." she admits.
"And you've had no help whatsoever," I state it rather than ask it and she nods.
"OK, so now what's the problem with Samuel?" I lift myself up onto the counter and Ellie May does the same opposite me.
"He's a complete nob, that's what," she kisses her teeth.
"What did he do?"
"Well, he walked into my house, dissed my mum to the max, put down my house, was a lazy ba- person and made it quite clear that all he really wanted to do was make out the whole time."
"Want me to kick his ass?"
"Certainly. Kick it good and make it look like I have no idea why he;s veing so nice to me afterwards." Ellie May grins.
I give her my all purpose 'look'. "You're not gonna break up with him, are you?"
She sighs. "No, I'm not. And I know I should, but he's technically old enough to 'look after' me. If he isn't there then Mum'll be taken into hospital, I'll be taken into care and 'dyou know what I'll have then?"
I say it at the same time she does. "Nothing."