Well, here is a story I wrote especially for (me and) you....
Meanwhile back at home
Veronica Comrie has to call home three times and when eventually her mother answers, she’s breathing heavily and asks Veronica to hold on while she sits down. ‘Where have you been?’ Veronica asks, clutching her tear soaked tissue. She is going to ask her mother to come and pick her up. She hates college. Choosing law was a big mistake. ‘On the running machine,’ her mother says. ‘Running machine?’ says Veronica. Veronica’s mother hates exercise. ‘We put it up in your bedroom, along with the weights and the yoga mats,’ says Veronica’s mother. ‘I feel like a new woman. Or that’s what your dad keeps saying.’ Veronica tells her mother that she has to go a lecture now, but that she’s fine. Really. It’s only when she puts the phone down that she realises her mother hadn’t asked.
When Colin Hiscox’s dad picks up the phone, Colin thinks at first he has the wrong number. His father answers in French. ‘Sorry about that,’ Colin’s dad says. ‘It’s these foreign students we have staying in your room.’ Three girls, Colin’s father says. Apparently it brightens the house up to have some young folk around again. Even Colin’s mother is loving it. And the money comes in useful. ‘We are becoming quite fond of garlic,’ Colin’s father says. Colin hears laughter in the background. He can’t remember the last time he heard laughter in his parents’ house. Or whether he’s ever knowingly tasted garlic. And he’s certainly never been allowed girls in his room before.
‘Your room is your room for life,’ says Jerome Connor’s mother. ‘I have kept it just as you left it.’ ‘A bloody shrine,’ Jerome’s father adds from the upstairs extension. ‘She wouldn’t even let the neighbour’s niece stay there. Poor girl had to sleep in a tent in the garden.’ ‘It’s your room, Jerome,’ says his mother. ‘Now the neighbour refuses to talk to us,’ his father continues. ‘And will you be back to us soon, son?’ says Jerome’s mother.
‘Ferrets,’ Jane Brown’s mother says. ‘If it was kittens, or even rabbits, I might be happier. But what’s he going to do with ferrets? Keep them down his trousers?’ Jane’s busy smiling at the blonde guy from her economics class. ‘And they smell,’ says Jane’s mother. ‘I can’t go into your room without an oxygen mask. Not to mention the noise. It’s scrabble, scrabble, scrabble all day and night. And knock, knock, knock as he builds more and more cages.’ Jane stops smiling. ‘My room?’ she asks.
John Jenson’s father has built bookcases along the far wall of John’s bedroom to fit in every copy from John’s booklists, both primary and secondary reading. Every night, he works his way through them. Sitting at John’s old desk, he grinds his teeth through timed essays from the lists of titles John emails him, before sending them to an independent tutor to be marked. John hasn’t told him that he’s making up the essay titles, that the books lists are from several years ago, and that John isn’t at university any more. He’s working in a sandwich shop. He’s happier than he’s been since he started school and his father learnt to read alongside him.
Susan Carter’s father has turned her bedroom into a refrigerated storage space for his butcher’s shop. Meats that need to be hung are left on large hooks he’s drilled into the ceiling. ‘It might be a bit cold,’ says Susan’s mother, ‘but your bed is still there and we’ve shuffled everything round so no blood will actually drip on you when you sleep. I honestly can’t see what the problem is.’
When Chris Leslie’s mother rings, there’s a familiar background noise he can’t quite identify. ‘I’m cleaning your room,’ she says. For a minute he’s filled with fury. But then he recognises that sound. It’s the down pipe gurgling. Chris used to lie in bed listening to it, imagining surfing the water’s waves until it took him out of there. Out of the family. Out of the house. Out of the town. For the first time since starting college, he feels homesick. ‘I’m just cleaning because…’ she says. ‘Shhh,’ he tells her. He wants to listen to the pipe.