Chapter 7


...furthermore, the dialogue at the end of chapter three could also suggest a possible romance between Mr Spencer and Miss Clark, although this is later contradicted in chapter seven.

My fingers hovered above the keyboard as I read through the paragraph displayed on the screen. Grimacing, I highlighted the entire wall of text and tapped the Delete key. Shaking my head, I sat back in my chair and gave an exasperated sigh. "Oh, come on!"

Despite having spent the better part of an hour trying to work on the English presentation, progress was at a snail's pace. Every time I'd begin to write something, my mind would flick back to my conversation with Sean. It didn't take long for my chain of thoughts to derail and lose the will to continue working.

Two days had passed since our conversation and I hadn't heard a word from anyone. Sean didn't send any more emails, Tess remained as silent as ever, and Josh never got back to me about his talk with his sister. I was well and truly in the dark about everything, with no idea of what to expect next. Instead I was left to speculate on what was going to happen, preoccupying my thoughts to the extent of blocking out everything else.

Groaning aloud, I shifted back towards the computer and surveyed the three additional slides I'd so far managed to create for the presentation. Rereading a small paragraph, my eyes grazed a sentence that Harry came up with when we were working together at Tess's house. I could remember Tess and Sean arguing over how the sentence should be structured when Harry came up with a third and better alternative, quickly diffusing their disagreement.

Distracted from the presentation once again, my thoughts focused on Harry, recalling a conversation I'd had with him earlier that week. Following his walk home with Tess, he called me up later that evening and told me what had happened, notably that he'd officially asked her out. Not only that, he did it in style too, actually offering to take her to a restaurant that weekend. Much to his relief, she agreed and they made plans for Friday evening. Harry was thrilled, completely unable to contain his excitement as he told me. I was equally as pleased for him, content to see that he'd finally told Tess how he felt. If anyone deserved to be happy, it was Harry.

The screen of my computer darkened from my prolonged inactivity. Moving the cursor to reawaken the display, I raised my fingers over the keyboard, ready to start typing when the doorbell sounded downstairs. Being the only one at home, it fell to me to answer it. Great.

Traipsing downstairs, I briefly debated whether it was even worth opening the door. Knowing my luck, it was probably going to be a door-to-door salesman trying to flog some double-glazed windows or something else I couldn't care less about.

Ready to dismiss whoever was there, I opened the door and stared at the man standing on the doormat. It took me a moment before I suddenly realised who it was.


Dressed in a dark overcoat and sporting several days worth of stubble on his face, he looked drastically different to the last time I'd seen him. His unkempt form, coupled with his unexpected appearance, had completely fooled me.

He offered a meek smile. "Hi, West. Is your dad home?"

"No." I frowned. "He's out with Mum."

"Oh." Disappointment registered in his eyes. He truly was the image of a broken man. "I'll come back another time."

Regardless of what he may have done, it just didn't feel right to turn him away. I opened the door wider. "Come in."

He shook his head. "I shouldn't."

I didn't want to press things, but there was still a lot about the whole situation with him that I didn't know about. Dad continued to remain quiet on the issue, leaving many unanswered questions. I needed some answers.


After staring at me for a few seconds, Keith relented and stepped inside. Closing the door behind him, he removed his jacket and hung it up beside the door.

I had no idea what I was doing. I was hardly qualified to handle what had happened with him and the business. How should I react? More to the point, what was I going to say? After debating it over inside my head, the answer became clear to me, that I should simply treat him the same as I always had. He was still the same person who'd been a great man to Georgina and me. He may have made some unfortunate choices, but our memories hadn't changed.

Stepping away from the door, I headed into the kitchen. "I'll make you a coffee."

Walking over to the kettle, I flicked it on while I grabbed a teaspoon and the two pots containing coffee and sugar.

Keith entered the kitchen, his eyes following me around the room as I rummaged about. "How's school going?"

"It's alright. We're working on our coursework right now," I replied. "But it's not too hard."

"That's good. How about Georgina?"

"She's ok," I answered, the kettle coming to the boil. "You know what she's like. One minute she's doing this and the next-"

"She's onto something else," he finished knowingly. "She'll settle down soon."

Pouring the boiling water into the cup, I picked up the spoon and gently stirred to help dissolve the granules of coffee and sugar. "She'd better. She's got exams coming up in a few months."

"Georgina's a smart girl, she'll be alright."

After adding some milk to the coffee, I handed the cup over to Keith. "I think that's how you have it."

He took a sip and gave a single nod. "It tastes fine. Thank you."

"No problem." Sitting down at the dining table, I watched as Keith perched himself opposite me. I didn't want to bring up the troublesome topic straight away, but we both knew it'd eventually come to it. In the end I just decided to face it head on without wasting time beating around the bush.

"So, what's happening?" I asked, breaking the silence that had formed between us. "Dad said there was an investigation or something..."

"There was." Keith gave a grim nod. "But I told your father everything at the beginning. He knew what to expect."

"So what happens now?"

"I've started to pay back what I took," he stated simply.

"Are you back at the bakeries then?"

"No." He shook his head. "I won't be going back."

Although I'd expected him to have said as much, I couldn't hide the disappointment from showing on my face. I wanted to hope that it wouldn't turn out like that, yet it had.

I couldn't understand why he'd do it. He had a job that he loved and was surrounded by people who respected him, so why would he destroy such a perfect career? It always came back to that same question. Why?

"Why'd you do it?"

His eyes dropped to the coffee in his hands. "It's a question I've been asking myself."

I leaned closer. "Is there an answer?"

Taking a breath, his gaze returned to me. "I was foolish. I kept on thinking about the now, the present, never giving a thought about what happens next. Sometimes I wondered if I even cared. I got carried away, too focused on what I was doing to even think about whether to stop."

"I like to gamble," he continued. "That's where all the money went, straight into another man's pocket. After a while, taking the money from the bakeries began to feel like another game to me, another stupid game made for a fool." Sadness filled his eyes. "And in the end I paid the price."

I sat there, stunned and shocked by his revelation. Gambling? He'd gambled twenty-thousand just like that?

Finishing the last of his coffee, Keith rose to his feet. "I should probably go."

"Yeah." I stood up from the table, unsure of what else to say or do.

Heading over to the front door, he pulled on his coat and spun around to face me. "I really am sorry about everything, West. Please let Georgina know that too."

"I will."

"Thank you. Bye, West." Reaching out to the door, he pulled it open and stepped out.

"Bye," I called out, watching him walk down the front path for a few seconds before I shut the door behind him.

Closing my eyes, I leaned forwards and let my head rest against the door as I gave a sigh. What a bloody mess.


Standing up from my chair, I pushed my arms up into the air above my head as I stretched out. Three hours had passed since Keith left and I'd finally gotten the English presentation completed. All that remained was to present it to the class, something that wouldn't be too troublesome.

Oddly enough, I was actually able to continue working on the presentation quite easily following my conversation with Keith. While it wasn't the highlight of my week, hearing him talk about his situation with the bakeries distracted me from my own thoughts, allowing me to get things done.

Heading down to the kitchen, I grabbed myself a few things to munch on, knowing that it'd be a few hours until dinner. Pouring myself a glass of juice to take up to my room, my eyes fell onto the dining table. My mind flashed back to earlier that afternoon, to when I was sitting there with Keith. I still remained unsure of what to think about his whole situation. On the one hand I felt sorry for everything that had happened to him, yet I couldn't ignore the fact that he'd brought it all upon himself.

Gambling. I knew that he liked to do the odd bit of betting here and there during some of the big football matches or the Grand National, but gambling away twenty-thousand over a three-year period was quite substantial. Then again, he'd only taken twenty-thousand from the business, I had no idea how much of his own money he'd used too.

What a waste. Shaking my head, I grabbed my food and went back upstairs to my room. Climbing onto my bed, I switched on the TV and searched for something to watch. As usual there was nothing decent on in the early afternoon time-slot, just some game shows and antiquity fairs. Luckily I was able to find a good film that had just begun on one of the movie channels. Propping up some pillows behind me, I rested back and began to watch.

After burning through an hour and a half, my phone began to ring over on my desk. Leaning across the bed, I picked it up and brought it to my ear. "Hello?"

"Hi, West."

A smile came to my lips when I recognised the voice. "Oh, hey, Josh."

"Are you at school?"

"No, I'm at home. Today's my day off."

"Good, didn't want to interrupt anything."

"You're not." Grabbing the remote, I hit the Mute button to silence the TV. "You alright?"

"I'm fine. Just thought I'd let you know that I spoke to Tess last night about Sean." He began. "She didn't know about the email he sent you, or the threats to out you."

I frowned. "She didn't?"

"Nope. Sean did that all by himself."

I raised a hand and ran it back through my hair. It was a relief to hear that she wasn't part of his scheme.

"Tess seemed a bit pissed about it too. I bet she'll be speaking to Sean soon, if she hasn't already."

I hope so. I nodded into the phone. "Yeah. Thanks, Josh."

"It's no problem. Hopefully, he'll back off now and leave you alone."

"That'd be good."

There was a brief pause on the other end. "Anyway, just wanted you to know that."

"Thank you."

"It's alright. Now try to stay out of any more trouble."

I laughed. "I will."

"Good. See you later, West."


Hanging up the phone, I lowered it from my ear as I reflected on everything Josh had said. I really was quite relieved to hear that Tess was in the dark about the emails. I'd hoped that she wasn't behind them too, that it was Sean going off on his own, but I couldn't be sure. Moreover, I also had the added benefit that she might be able to talk some sense into Sean, maybe even get him to ease up on his campaign against me. I wasn't expecting change to occur overnight, but it was a start.

Aside from Tess and Sean, there was also Josh himself. He really had taken an active role in coming to my defence and giving me a second chance. For someone who didn't know me that well it was quite a surprising thing to see. While it was a kind gesture, I didn't want him getting the idea that I was simply using him as a means of release. He'd mentioned that he'd like to have a conversation about 'happier' things, and I certainly had no qualms about getting to know him better. Unfortunately, I knew it'd be a tricky thing to do with Tess being around. The last thing I wanted was to aggravate things even more by turning up at her house and spending time with her brother. Regardless, it was an idea worth thinking about.

Hearing some movement downstairs, I tapped on my phone and checked the time, noting that it was probably Georgina who had returned from school. Climbing out of bed, I picked up my empty glass and made my way downstairs.

Entering the kitchen, I placed the glass in the dishwasher and walked through to the lounge to see Georgina sitting on the sofa. I watched from the doorway as she smiled down at her phone, oblivious to me standing there.

I grinned at her. "What are you all happy about?"

She glanced up at me. "Nothing."

"Doesn't look like nothing." I stepped into the room and sat down on the opposite end of the sofa. "Is it your boyfriend? Brad?"

"Brad?" She shot me an amused stare. "I've never had a boyfriend named Brad."

I laughed. "Well, I dunno. Whatever his name is."

"It's not my boyfriend," she answered, dropping her eyes back to the phone.

Wondering how far I could push my luck, I pressed on. "Is it a boy?"


"Are you talking to a boy?"

"Yeah." She cocked her head. "Does it matter?"

"No, just wondered."

Holding her gaze, she raised an eyebrow. "What about that guy who was here the other night? What's his name? Bradley?"

"Who's Bradley?" I laughed.

"That guy you had over on Monday night." She flashed a coy look. "He went upstairs to your room..."

My cheeks reddened, caught off-guard by her suggestive comment. "That was Josh."

She gave me a blank stare.

"He's Tess's brother."

"Oh," she replied. "He's hot."

The corner of my lips twitched. "Yeah, he is."

She watched me for a moment. "Is he gay?"

Instead of answering her directly, I shrugged. "Maybe."

"He could be bi though." She thought aloud. "Like you."

There was something about the way she said 'like you' that seemed a little off to me. I didn't think it was bad, but it did make her sound unsure, like she was testing the waters. I focused on her for a few seconds, before she smiled back.

"He could be," I replied.

Climbing off the couch, she stood up and headed for the door. "I'm gonna get out of this uniform. I'll talk to Dad about the lock for you."

I frowned. "What lock?"

"The lock for your bedroom door."

"What's wrong with it?"

"Nothing." She smirked. "Just thought you'd want a nice new one for when Josh comes over again, you know, so Mum doesn't walk in or something."

I shook my head as she disappeared upstairs. "You cheeky bugger. I'll talk to Dad about getting you a new one too, for when Brad comes over."

"His name isn't Brad!" she shouted from upstairs.

"So you do have a boyfriend!"

There was a slight pause before she answered, "Shut up, West!"

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Written by Kai Taylor
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