If there's one thing I hate, it's cliches. I just can't stand them. They are the work of unimaginative writers and poets. My mother used to use them all the time before she left and it drove me nuts - 'There's light at the end of the tunnel', 'Bob's your uncle', 'It's raining cats and dogs'.
I especially despise the ones that refer to some sort of significant point in your life. I've never been at a turning point in my life, I've never been at the crossroads, I've never walked down that 'winding road', whatever the hell that is.
Of course, I don't mean I've never had anything interesting happen to me in my life. I have. I think one of the most important events in my life was about five years ago, when I ran away from home. That's a cliche in itsself, but I'm not sorry I did it, because I met Joel and his gang on the streets.
The reason I'm writing this is because I want to remember those people as much as I can. After I ran away, I was eventually brought back by the police.
I was sitting in the back seat. There were two policemen, both in the fromt seats. I had the whole back of the car to myself, and normally when that happens, I take advantage. Stretch out, get comfortable. But at the time, I was kind of in shock. I was leaving friends behind, I was going home. I sat scrunched up very small and silent.
After a bit, one of them noticed.
'What's the matter?' he asked.
'Nothing,' I said.
''Are you sure?' the other one said, looking in his mirror. 'You don't look very well.'
I stayed silent, not really knowing what to say about it. Not really wanting to.
It was quiet for about fifteen minutes, then I said-
'I'm just going to miss those people, you know? We've spent weeks together. And, it... I don't know.'
'Are they friends of yours?'
'It's complicated,' I said, regretting my decision to bring it up. 'It's just, er, we got on really really well, and that's - well, it's kind of unusual for me.'
'What were their names?'
'The one with the black hair was Joel. The girl was called Natasha - Tash - the other two were Dave and Ben.'
'Do you know their last names?'
I thought. 'No, I didn't. I didn't really need to. I mean when you're that close, you dispense with such... formalities.'
The driver flicked on his indicator as he circled a roundabout.
'So, tell us what happened there exactly. Why did you run away?'
I sighed. I'd been dreading this question. First of all, it was personal. I made it a point years ago not to spill your problems to anyone who doesn't want or need them. He was a police officer. A stranger, and I wanted to keep my experiences to myself, thanks very much.
So I told them 'I don't know. I was bored at home. I don't really get on with my Dad, you see.'
It was a predictable line, but they said nothing about it.
'So why were you such good friends with these people?'
'I don't know. It's difficult to explain. If I could write it down or something, then yes, I'm sure I could come up with the most eloquent response imaginable, but I'm a bit stressed right now, ok?' I sank back in my seat, and began picking at the rubber lining or the cushion.
'You can write it down if you want,' the police man said, frowning slightly as he watched me pick at the seat.
'You might find it more helpful that way. Just write the first thing that pops into your head.'
It made me think. It made sense. I'd probably never see them again - Joel, Dave, Tash, Ben. If I wrote about them, at least they'd still exist in some form.
So that's what I'm going to do. So before we begin, I'm goinfg to tell you - I'm going to be completely uncompromising about the reality of this story. There will be some nasty bits, but I'm sure you're familiar with most of it. Why disguise it as something 'nice'? This is what the world is really like.
It happened suddenly one week. I realised I hadn't really been handed a good life by... whoever's job it was to hand them out, I guess.
I have two parents, but my mother is notable by her absence. She left my Dad after they had this big fight and he ended up breaking her nose, and since then she hasn't come back. I do sometimes get the odd phone call from her - if Dad doesn't reach the phone first.
Dad and I share a house in the suburbs - we did then, we do now. He's nearly always at work trying to support us, so it's pretty much my job to look after things at home. I do most of the housework by myself, but I find the bathroom stuff especially difficult. I wish I knew how to clean a toilet properly. Most of the time I don't even use it - I use the one at school instead. Dad doesn't seem bothered about whether it gets cleaned or not, so I leave him to it.
Dad has a very lazy approach to life - let Kathy do the work and the cooking, and it won't matter that the wife's gone. Who cares? Get some more women in. Get a diffrent woman every week if you want to. Send Kathy outside to amuse herself while you have a romantic night in with Ms. Tart 2004.
I digress. I'm trying to tell you about the night I decided I'd had enough. I think it was a Thursday, because when I came home from school, Dad was watching 'Greatest Building Mishaps', which is a Thrusday programme. Then again it could have been a re-run - they all looked the same to me anyway.
I dumped my schoolbag in the hallwy and strode into the living room. ASure enough, there he was - a huge bloated lump of a father, wearing a curry-stained grey shirt and tracksuit bottoms. His socks had holes in the toes.
'Alright Kath?' he said.
'Fine,' I mumbled back. I went into the kitchen then to see what I could make for dinner. There wasn't much - just some fish fingers, potato wedges and tinned tomatoes, a bit of mashed potato, some luminous ice lollies that nobody had eaten yet.
I decided to make fish finger sandwiches. Preheating the oven, I spread soem of them out onto a flat oven tray, then meandered back into the living room.
The two armchairs were piled high with dirty washing, and Dad was taking up most of the sofa, so I crouched on the floor at his feet.
'After dinner,' Dad said, 'Can you go out and play for a while? I've got Sasha coming over for a few hours.'
I stared. 'Who's Sasha?'
'I met her at the pub. Nice girl. I dunno if I've mentioned her - she's, er, that blonde one... wears a lot of sequins?'
Great. Another of Dad's women come along to ruin the evening I had planned. Which admittedly wasn't much - probably some sitting around my room listening to music.