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NIGEL HINTON

The right of Nigel Hinton to be identified as the


Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance
with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Copyright Nigel Hinton 2017


Illustrations Claire Ruddock 2017

Edited by Lauren Thomas, Shaun Russell & Will Rees

Published by
Candy Jar Books
136 Newport Road
Cardiff
CF24 1DJ

ISBN: 978-0-9955595-1-6

www.candyjarbooks.co.uk

All rights reserved.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted at any time or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise
without the prior permission of the copyright holder. This
book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way
of trade or otherwise be circulated without the publishers
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than
that in which it is published.
For Rolande the girl of my life
CHAPTER 1
Tears and Tantrums

H old on, hold on! Dad said. This is supposed to be a


family discussion, not a family row!
Its Beths fault, Georgy said. She doesnt listen to anyone
else. She just shouts people down.
I dont shout people down!
Youre shouting now, Georgy said. And youve made
Katie cry look.
Beth sat down next to Katie on the sofa and made herself
speak extra softly and gently. Come on, Kates, dont cry.
You said I was a silly b-baby and t-told m-me to grow up,
Katie said between sobs and then buried her face in the fur of
her toy dog, Buster.
Beth blushed. OK, she did think that Katie was a bit
babyish for a ten-year-old but she was a lovely kid and she
should never have shouted at her. She tried to put her arm
round Katies shoulder but her young sister shrugged it off.
She was just giving her opinion and you yelled at her,
Georgy said. You yell at everyone.
OK, OK youve made your point! Beth snapped.
You even shouted at Dad when he called you Lizzie.
Typical. You change your name for the millionth time and you

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bite peoples heads off if they forget.
Thats enough, Georgy, Mum said.
Its true.
Yeah, and how would you like it if we called you Georgia?
Beth said. You hate that as much as I hate Elizabeth. She
could hear that she was shouting again.
I dont hate it. I just prefer Georgy.
Exactly. And I prefer Beth.
But I dont change my name every couple of days and
expect people to remember, do I?
Oh for goodness sake, you two. Will you just stop it! Dad
said, slapping his hand on the side of his leg.
Beth had just been going to tell Georgy to mind her own
business but she froze. Dad never lost his temper and it was
shocking to hear the suppressed anger in his voice. Even Katie
stopped crying and looked up at him in surprise.
Theyre upset, Matt, Mum said. They dont mean it.
Well, they should realise that this is a tough decision for
me, Dad said. I really hoped I could explain things and we
could all talk about it sensibly, but instead all I get is tears and
tantrums.
A wave of shame swept through Beth as Dad glared at her.
He was the last person in the world she ever wanted to upset.
Mum went out of the room and Dad followed her.
There was a long silence.
Georgy picked up one of her athletics magazines and
started reading. Katie pulled her knees up to her chin and
wiped away her tears then began playing with Busters floppy
ears. Beth wanted to say something anything to break the
silence, but she was worried she might start another row so
she kept her mouth closed and reached for her nail varnish.
She unscrewed the top and began painting her fingernails. Her

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hands were shaking a bit and she had to concentrate to stop
smearing the varnish off the nail onto her finger.
She had just finished doing her left hand when she realised
it was the black varnish. Too late to stop now. Dad didnt like
it when she used black make-up: black varnish, black lipstick
and loads of mascara. He always teased her, calling her Goth
Girl and asking her if she was going to a funeral. If only he
would tease her and make jokes now, instead of being angry
with her.
She took her time painting the nails on her right hand and
she was blowing them dry when the door opened and Dad
came in.
Right, he said. No more trying to discuss it with you. Ive
talked it through with your mum and Ive made up my mind.
Im going. I know youre not happy about it but I hope youll
come to understand.
When are you going? Georgy asked.
Tomorrow.
Georgy nodded as if that was OK. Katie hugged Buster
and hid her face in its fur.
Beth wanted to run up and throw her arms round Dad but
instead she calmly screwed the lid back onto the bottle of nail
varnish.
A moment later she looked up as the door closed behind
him.
There were a couple of stifled sobs and Beth saw Katies
shoulders heaving. She got up and went over and sat next to
her just as Georgy arrived and sat on the other side. Beth put
her arm round Katies shoulder and found Georgys arm
coming from the other side. They looked at each other as their
arms crossed.
Im sorry, Beth mouthed.

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Me too, Georgy mouthed back.

An hour later, Beth went upstairs to Mum and Dads bedroom.


Dad had put his suitcase on the bed and was organising his
clothes.
Dad? Beth said.
Um? he said, stopping in the middle of folding a shirt.
She hesitated. It was so hard to apologise but she couldnt
bear Dad being angry with her so she forced herself to say it.
Im sorry about earlier. It was my fault.
Youre a great girl, you know that? Dad said. But
sometimes, my love, you should bite that tongue of yours.
Beth nodded. It was true. She had to control her temper
more. She had to.
I will, I promise, she said.
Until the next time.
No, I promise.
OK, he said and smiled. And I promise not to call you
Lizzie.
They looked at each other and she knew it was all OK
again.
I dont mind, she said.
No, Beths a good name. I like it. But a couple of years
ago it was Eliza. Last year it was Lizzie. I kind of lose track.
Well you shouldnt have given me such a horrible name!
she said, knowing he wouldnt be upset now.
Theres nothing wrong with Elizabeth. Its my mums
name.
I know, but Beths way more cool.
Well, as long as you dont change it to Betty next month.
Never!
It was good to be back on good joking terms again.

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Beth, seriously, though. No more arguments with your
sisters. Please. Its the last thing your mum is going to need
now.
I know. We wont. Weve made it up. Honest.
Good. Now come and give your old man a hug.
She held him tight and wanted to never let go.

It was raining the next day. Dad said goodbye to them in the
hallway and then Mum followed him out into the pouring rain.
Beth told herself it would be best not to watch but she
couldnt stop herself. At the last minute she ran into the front
room and looked out of the window.
The rain was pouring down and Mum was standing on the
pavement, soaked to the skin. She looked lost and lonely as
Dad climbed into the taxi.
The taxi drew away from the kerb and Dad was gone.

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CHAPTER 2
Beth:
The Explanation

B eth looked at the list of friends who were in Chat. Good,


Daisy was there. She didnt want to talk to anyone else
so she ticked Appear Offline and started sending a message.

Beth: hi daze
Daisy: hi.
Beth: ;-((
Daisy: y sad?
Beth: my dads gone
Daisy: ??????
Beth: 2 Kallanda
Daisy: omg. y????
Beth: work
Daisy: thought he works for water company
Beth: does but oec wanted him to help that big
drought there
Daisy: oec?
Beth: overseas emergency council. they send
people when theres a disaster. they asked
dads company for someone to help build a
dam. hes a genius engineer
Daisy: 4eva?
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Beth: 15 weeks
Daisy: ok - back for xmas
Beth: miss him already. + dangerous over there
Daisy: yeah. u must be worried
Beth: am
Daisy: y didnt u tell me?
Beth: happened yesterday
Daisy: !!!!
Beth: he told us he wanted 2 go but he wouldnt if
we didnt want.
Daisy: u should of said no
Beth: did. but he went on about people dying
Daisy: yeah seen it on tele. gross. fighting as well
Beth: i no!
Daisy: was he scared
Beth: dunno. done it before when I was 6
Daisy: bit of a hero innit
Beth: yep. luv him to bits
Daisy: i had gud weekend down my nans at the
coast.
Beth: suntan?
Daisy: i wish. sum tasty lads!!!!!
Beth: lol
Daisy: not as hot as that new kid josh
Beth: u like him?
Daisy: 2 rite. u?
Beth: ok
Daisy: o yeh i saw you drooling
Beth: was being sick
Daisy: yeah! cu 2moz
Beth: k. nite. bff
Daisy: bff
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Later, when she went to bed, Beth tried not to think about
Dad but it was no good. She kept seeing his face. Daisy was
right. He was a hero, volunteering to go and help. A bit like
his own mum and dad. Theyd left their jobs years ago and
gone off to India to run an orphanage. And then she couldnt
stop seeing the pictures about Kallanda they showed on TV:
the starving children, and the long, dusty streets with bodies
lying where they had been shot.
She tried to concentrate on other things. What did that
new kid, Josh, look like? It was true that all the girls in the class
hadnt been able to take their eyes off him when he walked in.
He knew it, too. Hed sat down and smiled, super cool. And
Beth had made up her mind she wouldnt show him that she
thought he was fit.
But she couldnt picture his face now. All she could see
was Dad. And those dead bodies on the street.
She got up and went downstairs. Mum was on the sofa.
The TV was on but the sound was off and there was a
magazine on her lap but she wasnt reading it. Beth sat down
next to her and put her head on her shoulder.
Cant sleep? Mum asked.
Beth shook her head. Mum put her arm round her. They
sat like that, their eyes closed, not speaking until Mum chuckled
quietly.
What? Beth said.
Just thinking about when you were a baby. Terrible
sleeper, you were.
Really?
And what a screamer. Dad was the only one who could
calm you down. Used to put you over his shoulder and walk
up and down humming until you nodded off.

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What about Georgy?
Georgy? Oh, she was a kicker. Even when she was still
inside me, it was almost as if she was training for running. Kick,
kick, kick. And then in her cot her arms and legs were always
going like mad.
And Katie?
Quiet little thing she was. You and Georgy used to howl
like mad when you wanted to be fed but she never did. Almost
like she didnt want to be a nuisance. I used to worry about
her a bit. Still do sometimes. Shes so sensitive.
But everyone loves her.
I know. She sighed. I wish she was a bit tougher though,
like you and Georgy.
Tougher?
You know what I mean. You each do it in your own way
but you and Georgy can take care of yourselves.
Katesll be fine. She just needs to grow up a bit.
Your dad always says, How did we have three girls who
are so different?
Everyone says we look like sisters same auburn hair,
green eyes.
No, he means temperament different personalities.
There was a long pause, and it felt good being here with
Mum.
Finally Mum gave her shoulder a squeeze and said, Dad
tried not to show it but he was really upset this morning.
Leaving you all. He loves you so much.
He loves you, too.
Yes. Were lucky.
Then they fell silent. Both thinking the same thing: will he
be alright?

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CHAPTER 3
Georgy:
Early Morning Run

G eorgy snapped the alarm off before it could wake anyone


else. 6.00am. She was always the first to get up and she
loved the early morning. She went into the bathroom and
splashed some water on her face then got into her track suit.
She carried her trainers down the stairs and sat on the step
outside the kitchen door to put them on.
Light was just beginning to flood the top of the hill behind
the town and the air was chilly. There was the smell of leaves
in the air autumn was coming.
She rubbed her calf muscles to get the blood flowing then
she opened the side gate and set off. A gentle jog for the first
two hundred metres then increasing the pace until she reached
the end of the road and turned left up Sitchel Avenue. This
was the hardest part of her circuit a long, long, steady climb
for over a kilometre. It always hurt but it was good.
Ahead, the street lights were going out one after the other
as if they were racing her. Another few weeks and her early
morning runs would be in the dark with those pools of light
stretching up the hill.
Somewhere on the other side of town Layla Grant would
be running, too. It always helped to think of Layla. It made
her keep going, even when she felt lazy and was tempted to

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slow down or give up. One day she would beat Layla and it
would be the best day of her life.
They had started at the same club when they were both
eight, and in all that time Georgy had never won a proper race
against Layla. True, shed beaten her a few times in training,
but that didnt count. No, each year and in all the sprint events
it was always Layla Grant first, Georgia Norris second. People
at the club said it was great to have two top youngsters coming
through and her coach, Ken Bradley, always encouraged
Georgy, telling her that she was a natural, a born runner.
Youve got a great engine, Georgy, a great engine. Keep
working hard. Ive got high hopes for you.
When she was eleven she had decided to switch to middle
distance running thinking that she would be free of her rival
at last. For a couple of months she won all her races and then
suddenly Layla decided to take up middle distance, too, and it
was back to the old routine Layla first, Georgy second. A
good second, never more than five or six strides behind, but
always second.
Then, two months ago, Layla had broken five minutes for
the 1500 metres. Georgy had set her heart on being the first
one to do it but as usual Layla had beaten her to it, and there
was her name at number six in the rankings on the Power of
Ten website: Layla Grant 4.52.19.
Georgy was so caught up thinking about Layla that she
suddenly realised she was at the top of the hill and had
forgotten all about pacing herself. She had been going too fast
and already her body was starting to feel the pain. Go through
it. Ignore it. Ken Bradley had taught her to do visualisation when
the pain kicked in. See yourself running easily and smoothly.
See the finishing line, far far away, but know that each easy
stride is taking you closer.

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But this morning Georgy visualised something else: Dad
running with her. He was a good runner, too, and it was
because of him that she had got interested in athletics in the
first place. He didnt have time to run for the club nowadays
but he still tried to train with her sometimes and she always
loved it when they ran together. So now she imagined him by
her side, not far away in that dangerous country. Imagined him
matching her, stride for stride, as she ran past the park, along
the crest of the hill past the leisure centre, and then downhill
through the housing estate to the main road, and back home.
She checked her stopwatch. Twenty-one minutes and
twenty-nine seconds. A good time for that circuit, one of her
best. No doubt about it, she was getting better. Fitter and
stronger. One day, Layla Grant, one day
She did her warm down routine, then went in for a shower
and breakfast.

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CHAPTER 4
Katie:
The Stable

K atie stood on the bottom bar of the gate and watched


Paige trotting round the huge paddock on her pony,
Thistle. Katie had her fingers crossed, hoping that Paige would
stop soon and let her have a go. You could never tell with Paige
sometimes she let you have a ride and sometimes she didnt.
Katie waved as Paige headed towards her. This was it! But
at the last moment Paige pulled on the reins and Thistle trotted
away again along the fence.
Ill muck out Thistles stall if you like, Katie called the
next time Paige rode past.
OK, Paige shouted as she spurred Thistle into a canter.
Katie loved everything about ponies. Best of all was riding,
of course. But she loved grooming them, too, and she didnt
even mind sweeping out the stall, forking the smelly straw into
a barrow and wheeling it away to the big muck heap at the end
of the stables. It was hard work but Katie kept telling herself
how good the pony would feel when it came back into a clean
stall with fresh wood shavings and straw on the ground. Paige
would be pleased, too, and then she might let her ride Thistle.
When the job was finished she wandered up and down the
stable looking at the other ponies in their stalls. Which was her

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favourite? They were all beautiful, but probably Jimbo. She
liked the big white flash on his forehead and the gentle look
in his eyes. More than anything in the world, she would love
to have a pony like him.
She gave Jimbo a final pat on his cheek then went back
outside. Paige was standing in the middle of the paddock
talking to an older girl called Maisie. Their two ponies were
next to them nibbling at the grass. This would be the perfect
moment for Paige to say she could have a ride.
Ive finished mucking out! Katie called.
Paige turned and gave her a thumbs-up then went back to
talking to Maisie.
Katie climbed over the gate and wandered slowly towards
the girls and the ponies.
The two girls had their heads close together and were
whispering and Katie suddenly wondered if they were saying
things about her. She stopped some distance from them and
waited.
Thistle saw her and took a couple of paces forward but
Paige pulled him back.
No, she said, giving the pony a light slap on his back with
the end of the reins.
Hi, Maisie, Katie called and the tall girl looked at her
briefly and nodded then went on whispering to Paige.
Katie felt even more awkward. She bent down and fiddled
with her shoelace. Then she stayed down and pretended to be
examining a patch of clover on the ground.
She was still looking at the ground when she saw some
black riding boots coming towards her. She looked up. It was
Maisie.
Katie, Paige asked me to say something.
What? Katie asked, standing up.

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She knows you want to ride Thistle, Maisie said. Katies
eyes were level with the tall girls mouth and she found herself
looking at the little blue crosses of the brace on her upper teeth.
But shes going to be riding him in gymkhanas soon and its
best for a pony to only have one person ride him. Otherwise
he can get confused and not perform properly. I dont let
anyone ride Dakota.
Oh, Katie said, feeling tears begin to fill her eyes.
Its all right to do things like muck-out and groom him,
but you cant ride him. OK? Maisie said.
Katie nodded and Maisie turned and walked back towards
Paige. The two girls put their heads together and giggled. Katie
wanted to get away but she couldnt make herself move. She
blinked and a tear rolled down her cheek. She brushed it away
quickly. Silly to cry. She wouldnt. She wouldnt cry.
Finally, her feet moved and she forced herself to walk
towards the girls. She stopped next to Thistle and slid her
fingers into the long hair of his crest.
Ill groom Thistle, if you like. I dont want to ride him.
Oh, OK, Paige said, tossing the reins to her.
Katie caught them and, almost before she even pulled on
them, Thistle started to follow her.
Dont forget to give him water first, Paige called.
OK.
She opened the paddock gate and led Thistle into the yard.
As if I wouldnt give you a drink, she said as she patted
the pony. I know what you want, dont I?
Thistle snorted as if agreeing with her. She turned on the
tap and ran the water into a bucket and let him drink.
And youre not stupid you wouldnt get confused about
who was riding you, would you? she whispered, scratching
him between the ears as he lifted his head again.

15
Thistle shook his head, sending a spray of water from his
lips.
Katie laughed and put her arms round his neck. He
understood her.

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