Playing with characterisations.....
Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep….Josh Millett reached out, feeling for his phone to hit the snooze button, eyes still closed. He felt like he’d only just fallen asleep, but that was nothing unusual. Why couldn’t you feel like you do in the morning at night? he’d often pondered. He vaguely remembered dreaming about a beach, gun fire, shouting, mud, lots of mud. He pulled his duvet up further, tucking his feet inside, feeling as warm as he used to when camping with his dad and he’d be in his cocoon of a sleeping bag. It was the last day of term before Christmas, Josh didn’t have any lessons that day; he just had to go and pick up his work from Mr. Douglas, head of sixth form. It wasn’t going to be much of a break he reckoned; he had shed loads of coursework to catch up on over the next couple of weeks.
Beep, Beep, Beep….Josh sat up and turned off his alarm. No messages. He ran a hand through his hair, then quickly checked his Facebook, didn’t look like any of his mates were up yet. Sensible. Lucky for some. He grabbed his dressing gown and ran down stairs; no point even trying the upstairs bathroom, his sister Leah basically owned it in the mornings. Dunno how people cope with only one loo, he thought, I’d have to take a piss in the garden!. The sound of gunfire hinted at his dream again; his little brother Alex was busy killing aliens on the Xbox, one sock on, toast in mouth. Extra terrestrial invasion doesn’t take getting ready for school into consideration you know. ‘Alex, will you turn that off NOW’, their mother begged, ‘you’re gonna miss the bus if you don’t get a move on.’ Josh grabbed the controller and took a few shots, much to Alex’ annoyance. Alex took a kick to Josh’s leg but missed as Josh was used to maneuvering quickly after winding his little brother up. Alex Millett was eleven, the baby of the family. Of course, if Alex had had younger siblings he’d be considered capable and helpful, but when you’re the youngest you’re always the baby. Alex felt triumphant as he darted in front of Josh and switched the game off, leaving Josh helpless as he was being surrounded by slimy face stickers.
‘LEAAAAAAAAAH’, Mandy Millett screamed, ‘’ten minutes, will you please come and get something to eat?’ ‘Nice hair’, sniggered Josh as his sister flew down the stairs, and grabbed her bag from the banister. Leah was fifteen, and going through a stage of changing her colour every other week, this time she’d tried going blonde, this was the third attempt to go over her previous black hair experiment, and although better it still had a rather ‘ginger’ tone to it. ‘Shut it, soldier boy’, she answered. Josh wanted to join the army though his mum couldn’t bear the idea. ‘You’re an intelligent boy Josh, you can do anything you want, its not all glamorous you know, being a soldier, have you not watched the documentaries, young boys like you killed, lives devastated, legs blown off and for what?, hey, for what? , do you know?, ‘cos I sure don’t.’ His mother had a barrage of reasons why he shouldn’t join, but still he just knew it was what he wanted, he just knew it.
‘You’ve just got to put the work in, your future depends on it,’ Josh looked at the bare wall in Mr. Douglas’ office, all the pictures from that term had been taken down ready for a Christmas clean. Mr. Douglas taught art, and also tried to help with the football team, which was something Josh could never understand as he was about as sporty as Harry Hill. Josh’s teachers and his mum, and indeed himself two years ago, all reckoned on Josh going to uni to study art. He was a gifted drawer but ever since he happened upon an army careers stall at his schools annual jobs fair a year ago, something about it had him hooked.
Mandy Millett sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of lemon squash. Smithy, a scruffy mongrel they’d adopted six years ago; half Border terrier, half something only his mother knew, sat looking up at her expectantly. For all his lack of a neat exterior, he’d looked like a long haired rat when they’d first brought him home; he somehow had developed the cutest face imaginable. Mandy gave him a quick stroke, which seemed to be an acceptable offering to him, as he trotted off to his bed, scrapped about with his blankets, curled into a tiny ball and went straight to sleep. Mandy eyed the calendar: 16th December. In about five weeks there was going to be a big change to the Millett household. Mandy was expecting.
Totally unplanned and she still couldn’t quite grasp the reality of it all. After splitting with the kid’s dad five years ago Mandy didn’t want to get into another relationship, but last year she’d had a short lived fling with a guy from work. They’d been friends for years but he’d persuaded her to come out for a drink, and well, one thing led to another, soon they were dating, but it was all going a bit fast for Mandy, she’d called the whole thing off when Ray started talking about her and the kids moving in with him and his son from his previous marriage. Lo and behold two months later, Mandy realized that she wasn’t going to be able to forget Ray quite so easily as she was expecting his baby. Mandy sighed as she looked on the wall at the photo of her, her ex husband Tony and the three kids. To all intents and purposes they were the picture of the perfect family, but Tony had suffered from depression, he also liked to gamble, and it was hard work coping with his bouts of staying in bed for days on end, debts mounted, and in the end they were arguing more than they were talking, and it was mutually agreed, although more mutual on Mandy’s side, that he would go and live with his mother, if anything just to give them a break. A temporary separation…
Only as time went on, and Mandy started to enjoy peaceful living, well, as peaceful as it could be with three children, but there was no tension, no walking on eggshells, she realized that she couldn’t get back with Tony and resigned herself to single life. Not that that was a negative life, going out with the girls from the hospital where she worked, or out for coffee whenever she wanted when she wasn’t working was a real blessing, something she’d neglected these past years with Tony always needing something or causing arguments if she wanted to go out. Yes, life had certainly started taking a new direction, and it was about to take on a whole new one. But they’d get through it, Mandy just knew it. There was a reason for everything, she firmly believed that.
Josh was just getting a bottle of coke from the machine when his phone rang, ‘Hi mum,’ he muttered, as though it was really inconsiderate of her to ring him. ‘Josh hun, when will you be home only I need you to get the Christmas tree and stuff from the loft, I was hoping to have the tree up before Alex gets home,’ Mandy asked. Josh rolled his eyes at his mate Nathan. ‘Have you seen Mr. Douglas, is everything ok?’ she continued. ‘Everything’s fine mum. I have to go the library and print some stuff off, probably be home in a couple of hours, OK?’ ‘Alright babe, see you soon, byeeee’. Josh stuffed his phone in his back pocket, ‘Gotta help me mum with something later, so what we gonna do? gotta couple of hours to kill’ he asked Nathan. Just then Amber Reilly and her friends Abby and Tiegan entered the cafeteria. When Amber spotted Josh she smiled and waved. Josh lifted his head and eyes in acknowledgment, then got his coke from the slot. Abby called Nathan over so Josh followed on. They pulled up a couple chairs from the next table, ‘so what have you got planned for today?, Nathan asked the group, Abby in particular. ‘We’re off into town in a bit, Christmas shopping you know’, Abby told Nathan smiling. Josh, as usual, was quite when with Amber. He had fancied her ever since she joined in year 10 when her family moved into the area. But he’d never had the courage to ask her out, let alone talk much to her. ‘How about you two?’ asked Abby. ‘Nothing,’ Nathan told her. ‘Might hang around here for a bit, then go round mine, play some footy on Xbox.’ ‘Are you two going to Luke Harding’s party on Saturday,? ‘asked Abby. ‘Might be,’ said Nathan, ‘what d’ya reckon mate?’, he asked Josh. ‘Should be alright’ Josh answered, fiddling with his coke bottle lid. ‘You bringing any booze’ asked Tiegen, ‘I’m gonna try get some out the house.’ ‘Shouldn’t be a problem’ answered Nathan as confidently as he could. ‘Might see you there then’ Abby told Nathan. ‘Indeed’ winked Nathan. ‘I don’t know why you don’t just ask Amber out mate’ Nathan teased Josh as they walked to his house. Its obvious you fancy the pants off her.’ ‘Shut up,’ laughed Josh, ‘as if’.
Josh was glad he was over six foot as it was a job getting into the loft on a short ladder. Mandy stood at the bottom as he passed down the tree, which was in two black bin bags, the box got ruined by Smithy last year, he had a thing about chewing/destroying anything cardboard. ‘Maybe we should have a real tree this year,’ Mandy wondered out loud. ‘Nah, it’ll be fine mum, Josh answered while handing down boxes of decorations to her. Mandy put the tree together while directing Josh where to hang the various bits of metallic decorations, tinsel, holly and other such Christmassy decorations. Then together they hung ornaments on the tree. Josh secretly loved decorating the tree, the ornaments he could remember from years past. How his little salt dough snowman had survived from primary school he didn’t know. One of its arms was missing but it hung grandly on one of the front branches. ‘There all done’ admired Mandy standing back and looking at the tree and room. Mandy gave Josh a little hug, ‘Gerroff’ shrugged Josh embarrassed. ‘Oi’ Josh ran after Smithy who had scampered to his bed with a long piece of tinsel. After a little tug of war Josh retrieved the now balding tinsel and stuffed it into the bin, ‘little bugga’ he scolded Smithy who listened with his head on one side as though Josh was telling him something good.
‘Look what I got’ Nathan pulled back his jacket to reveal a bottle of vodka. He also carried a bag with eight tinnys in. Josh had only managed to grab a bottle of wine which he wasn’t really keen on but figured it better than nothing. Luke Harding’s house wasn’t far from Josh’s. They could hear the music as they turned into Luke’s road. People were arriving. Facebook was a wonderful aid to getting out invitations and spreading the word about any parties happening. In fact it could go the other way, and let too many people know as had happened to one of Josh’s mates, Stewie, which had started off a good night and ended up with the police turning up and arresting two drunken yobs who’d gate crashed the party and smashed two garden statues from Stewie’s neighbours front garden. After Stewie’s parents arrived home mid police scene, the party was well and truly over!
‘Happy Birthday, mate,’ Nathan told Luke when they arrived, Nathan wrapping an arm round Lukes neck and knuckle ruffling Lukes well gelled hair. People already lined the hallway and the lights from the lounge spun round in the hall. Josh and Nathan made their way through to the kitchen. Drinks littered the kitchen worktops and table. Piles of cans of beer, bottles of beer and various bottles of wines and spirits in varying states of openness. Plastic cups sat everywhere. But it wasn’t a disaster zone, people seemed to be treating Lukes house with respect, just seemed like a really good party. Nathan soon clocked Abby in the dining room half of the lounge. An arched wall separated the lounge and dining area. As Nathan chatted up Abby, Josh took a wander; he knew a lot of the party goers. Most were from school, although there were quite a few he didn’t recognize. But then there was someone he did recognize. ‘Leah, what the hell are you doing here?, he could not believe his sister was over in the corner of the lounge getting all close to some guy who was, well, he must have been nineteen as he was in the year above Josh at school. Leah looked pissed out of her brains as she turned to see her older brother standing there. ‘What does it look like,’ she slurred, ‘same as you, partying’ she giggled. ‘Want another drink?,’ the guy asked her. ‘I think she’s had enough don’t you, and d’ya know my sister’s fifteen mate?’ Josh was feeling pretty pissed off. Since his dad Tony had gone, he’d kind of naturally taken on a role of surrogate father to Alex and Leah. He’d helped them with homework, looked after them if Mandy was working late, and like a father he didn’t like to see Leah all grown up. He felt overly protective, probably more than most brothers would. ‘Piss off will ya’, Leah told Josh and led the guy over to the sofa where she fell down beside him, laughing. Josh rolled his eyes, and muttered to himself, ‘stupid cow’. He decided that at least he was here so he could keep an eye on her so he’d know she was ok. But he wasn’t happy about it, not happy at all. Just then he heard ‘Hi Josh’, he turned to see Amber, looking gorgeous, as ever in his eyes. Suddenly he forgot all about Leah, and, really, the rest of the room too.