Read Num8ers for Free Online

Book: Read Num8ers for Free Online
Authors: Rachel Ward
He grabbed it before it made contact and gave her a kiss on the cheek. When he let go of her hand, it rested affectionately on his face for a second. “He’s not a bad lad, Jem. Not a bad lad. Put your granddad back then, son.”
    “Val,” I said, speaking before I’d really thought about it, “what sort of aura did he — Cyril — have?”
    Her face registered surprise, and then she smiled, displaying a fine set of crooked, orange teeth. “You know, I’d love to know that myself. But I only started seeing them after he’d gone, love. The grief and that, I suppose it opened up my spiritual side. Never saw them before.”
    Then, quick as a flash, her voice low and intimate, “What do you see, Jem?” I recoiled back into the sofa. “What do you see? I know you do. We’re the same, Jem. We know what it’s like to lose someone.”
    She’d caught me with my guard down. I wanted so much to tell her. I had an urge to hold her bony hands in mine, feel her power. I knew that she would believe me. I could share this thing, unburden some of the loneliness it had brought me. I was teetering on the brink — she was drawing me to her. It was going to happen….
    “Nan, if you do this to people I bring here, I’ll never have any mates. For God’s sake, leave her alone.” Spider’s voice cut through the energy lines between us like a sword. Released, I jumped up. “I wanna show you my new sound system, man. Come on, it’ll blow you away.” He led me up to his bedroom.
    I glanced behind me as I went out of the sitting room into the hallway. Val was still looking at me, eyes focused on me even as she scrabbled in the pack and then lit another cigarette.

    The music was throbbing through the stairwell. I picked my way over legs and bodies. People hardly noticed me threading my way through: They were getting loaded, getting into the beat, getting into each other.
    I was on the lookout for Spider. “Baz is having a party, Saturday night,” he’d said, the day after the tramp died. We were down by the canal again, chucking stones at a can. “I’m in. Naturally. Come along, any time after ten. Third floor, Nightingale House.”
    I didn’t know what to say. He said it so casually, but a party on a Saturday night sounded suspiciously like a date, and there was no way I was getting into all that boy-girl stuff. I’d just about got my head around having somebody to hang out with, but it was a big step to anything more. Anyway, not that I’d ever say it, but it would have to be someone decent. If I’d ever thought about it, which I rarely did, I pictured someone good-looking — not ten out of ten, maybe, but at least an eight. Not someone like Spider — long, lanky, twitchy, with a major personal cleanliness problem. And a couple of weeks to live.
    I needed to suss him out, find out whether those retards at school were on the right track after all. I wanted to be careful, though, not make either of us look stupid. I’m not a complete bitch.
    “Spider?” I’d said, with a question mark in my voice.
    “You know at school…what did you do that for? Wade in like that?”
    Spider frowned. “He was disrespectful, Jem. What you said — I could tell it was real. It was what you were really feeling. He had no right to make a joke of it.”
    “Yeah, I know, he’s a tosser, but it’s nothing to do with you. You made a right show of yourself. You made a show of me.”
    “I didn’t want him to get away with it.”
    “Yeah, but I don’t need a knight in shining armor. I can look after myself.” He was smiling a bit now. I paused. “It’s not funny, man. It’s made everything worse,” I said quietly. “I’ve got comments all the time now, ‘bout you and me. Sly comments.”
    He looked away, studied his hands. The knuckles on the right one were nearly healed up now.
    My mouth had gone dry, but I had to get this clear with him. “You do know that there’s no ‘you and me,’

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