فصل 09

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فصل 09

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CHAPTER NINE

Depressions

Will wanted to spend the rest of his life with Rachel, and he knew that he couldn’t continue pretending to her that Marcus was his son. So he told her the truth one evening when they were having dinner in a Chinese restaurant.

‘Oh,’ said Rachel. ‘So who’s his natural father?’

‘It’s a guy called Clive who lives in Cambridge.’

‘Right. And are you friendly with him?’

‘Yes. We spent Christmas together, actually.’

‘So… if you’re not Marcus’s natural father, and you don’t live with him… how is he your son?’

‘Yes,’ said Will. ‘It must look very confusing from the outside.’

‘Tell me how it is on the inside.’

‘It’s just that kind of relationship. I’m old enough to be his father, he’s old enough to be my son…’

‘Did you ever live with Marcus’s mother?’

‘No. Listen, I never actually said he was my son. The words “I have a son called Marcus” never passed my lips. That’s what you chose to believe.’

‘You mean… I wanted to believe you had a son, so I just imagined it? I’m the one who was imagining things?’ Clearly Rachel thought that Will was crazy. But he felt she was beginning to see the funny side of the situation too. ‘But what about Marcus? You didn’t just hire him for the afternoon. There’s some kind of relationship there.’

So Will told her everything about Marcus. Nearly everything anyway; he didn’t tell her that he’d first met Marcus because he’d joined SPAT. He didn’t think she would understand about SPAT. She might think he had some kind of problem.

Rachel invited him back to her flat after the meal and they sat drinking coffee out of big blue cups.

‘Why did you think Marcus would make you more interesting?’ she asked.

‘Was I more interesting?’

‘Yes, I suppose you were.’

‘Why?’

‘Because… you really want to know the truth? Because you seemed to be a shallow kind of person. You didn’t do anything; you didn’t seem to care about anything or have much to say - and then when you said you had a kid…’

‘I didn’t actually say…’

‘I realized that I’d made a mistake about you. And I had made a mistake. You do care about Marcus, and you understand him, and you worry about him. You’re not the shallow kind of guy I thought you were.’

Will knew that Rachel was trying to make him feel better about everything, but he still felt bad. He’d known Marcus for only a few months, so what about the thirty-six years before that? And he didn’t want to be interesting only because of his relationship with Marcus. He wanted to be interesting for himself.

Will was in love with Rachel and everything had changed. For the first time in his life he wanted to be deeply involved with someone.

Three or four weeks passed. Marcus saw Will, and he saw Ellie and Zoe at school. Will bought him some new glasses, and took him to have his hair cut, and played him some music by singers who he liked and Ellie didn’t hate. He felt that he was changing, in his own body and in his head, and then his mum started crying again.

Just like before, there didn’t seem to be any reason for it. Finally, she started crying at breakfast again and Marcus knew that things were serious and that they were in trouble.

But one thing had changed for Marcus. When she had started crying at breakfast before, he had been alone. Now he had Will and Ellie.

‘My mum’s started crying again,’ he said to Will. It was a Thursday afternoon and they were in Will’s kitchen, making toast.

‘Oh,’ said Will. ‘Are you worried about it?’

‘Of course. She’s the same now as she was before. Worse.’ That wasn’t true. Nothing could be worse than the last time, but he wanted to make sure Will knew it was serious.

‘So what are you going to do?’

Marcus had thought that Will would help him. That’s what he wanted. Wasn’t that what friends were for?

‘What am I going to do? What are you going to do?’

‘What am I going to do?’ Will laughed, and then remembered that the situation wasn’t funny. ‘Marcus, I can’t do anything.’

‘You could talk to her.’

‘Why should she listen to me? Who am I? Nobody.’

‘You’re not nobody. You’re…’

‘You come round here for a cup of tea after school, but that doesn’t mean I can make your mum feel better. I know I can’t.’

‘I thought we were friends.’

‘Yes, Marcus, we’re friends. But I’m not your dad, I’m not your uncle, and I’m not your big brother. I can tell you who Kurt Cobain is and what trainers to get, and that’s all. Do you understand?’

‘Yes.’

But on the way home, Marcus thought about the way Will had said, ‘Do you understand?’ to end the conversation. He knew teachers said that, and parents said that, but he didn’t think friends said that.

He wasn’t really surprised about Will. He thought of Ellie as his best friend more than Will - not just because he loved her and wanted to go out with her, but because she was always nice to him. Ellie had told him that she knew about his mum trying to kill herself. Ellie’s mum was a friend of Suzie’s, and Suzie had told her.

But the next day, when Marcus went to find Ellie in her classroom at breaktime, she didn’t seem very pleased to see him.

Zoe was sitting next to her, holding her hand.

‘What’s happened?’ he asked.

‘Haven’t you heard?’

Marcus hated it when people said that to him because he never had. ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Kurt Cobain.’

‘What about him?’

‘He tried to kill himself. He took a lot of pills.’

‘Is he all right?’

‘I think so. They pumped his stomach.’

‘Good.’

‘Nothing’s good,’ said Ellie. ‘He’ll do it, you know, in the end. They always do. He wants to die. It wasn’t a cry for help. He hates this world.’

Marcus suddenly felt sick. He’d imagined having a conversation with Ellie about his mum, and Ellie making him feel better, but it wasn’t like that at all.

‘How do you know?’

‘You don’t know him,’ said Ellie.

‘You don’t know him,’ Marcus shouted. ‘He’s not even a real person. He’s just a singer. He’s just someone on a sweatshirt. It’s not like he’s anyone’s mum.’

‘No, but he’s someone’s dad,’ said Ellie. ‘He’s got a beautiful little girl and he still wants to die.’

Marcus was very upset. He turned round and ran out. Did his mum feel the same way as Kurt Cobain? He went to the boys’ toilets and shut himself inside the end toilet because it had hot water pipes running along the wall and you could sit on them. After a few minutes someone came in and started kicking on the door.

‘Are you in there, Marcus?’ said Ellie. ‘I’m sorry. I’d forgotten about your mum. It’s OK. She’s not like Kurt. She’s not going to try to kill herself again.’

He paused for a moment, then unlocked the door and looked out. ‘How do you know?’

‘Because you’re right about him. He’s not a real person.’

‘You’re only saying that to make me feel better.’

‘OK, he’s a real person. But he’s a different kind ofreal person. He’s like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix and all those people. He’s not like your mum. You think I know things, but I don’t. I don’t know why Kurt Cobain feels like he does, or why your mum feels like she does. And I don’t know what it feels like to be you. Quite frightening, I should think.’

‘Yes.’ Marcus started to cry then. It wasn’t noisy crying - his eyes just filled with tears and they ran down his face - but it was still embarrassing. He’d never thought he’d cry in front of Ellie.

She came in and put her arm round him. ‘Don’t listen to me. You know more than I do. You should be telling me things.’

They sat on the hot water pipes together in silence, moving when they got too hot, and waited until they felt like going back into the world.


Will knew that he should do something about Fiona and that he’d behaved badly towards Marcus. He was older than Marcus, he knew more… He should get involved, help the kid, look after him.

But he didn’t want to have a conversation with Fiona about her depression. She would ask him what the meaning of life was - ask him why she should go on living. And Will couldn’t tell her what the meaning was, because he didn’t know. But Fiona was lost and unhappy, and if he told her that life had no meaning, she might actually kill herself.

He decided to talk to Rachel about Fiona. They were in Rachel’s kitchen, making coffee.

‘A few years ago I got very depressed,’ said Rachel, ‘and I thought about killing myself, like Fiona. But I always thought I would do it tomorrow, never today. There were always a lot of reasons to continue living; there were too many things that I’d started but hadn’t finished, and I wanted to see what happened.’

‘Fiona must have things like that too.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Rachel. ‘Perhaps she doesn’t. Why don’t I talk to her?’

‘You? She doesn’t know you.’

‘It doesn’t matter. And maybe you could learn to help her too, if I showed you how. It’s not so bad.’

‘OK,’ said Will, but he didn’t want to think about Fiona just at that moment. He couldn’t remember ever feeling as happy as he did with Rachel.

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