Read an Excerpt
Eddie’s father was killed by dragons.
No, actually, that’s a lie.
He was killed when his submarine exploded.
No, actually, that’s a lie as well.
The absolute truth is that he was killed by aliens and his death was covered up by the government because it didn’t want to frighten everyone.
Sorry—but that’s not true either.
The absolute, absolute, hand on heart, swear to God truth is that he was murdered by terrorists.
Well, no, that’s not it either.
The simple fact of the matter is that Eddie’s dad wasn’t dead at all. He wasn’t dragon food, and he wasn’t undergoing hideous experiments on one of Jupiter’s moons. Eddie didn’t even wish his dad was dead. It just sometimes felt like he was.
They had lived, quite happily, or so he had thought, in a small village on the coast of Ireland called Groomsport. It was a quaint little village, with just a couple of shops, a picturesque harbor and a creaky old church, and it was surrounded by lots of fields and woods, perfect for a boy to play in. His father worked as an engineer in the Belfast shipyard, and his mother as a nurse in the local health center. Eddie went to the village school, he did reasonably well, he was happy.
And then one day his mother came home from work and offered him a Jaffa cake.
Now, his mother never, ever, offered him a Jaffa cake, or indeed any sort of biscuit, because she was thinking of his teeth. She liked watching American television programs where everyone had clean white teeth, and she wanted Eddie to have teeth like that when he grew up. She said it was too late for her own teeth, the damage wasdone, and so kept several packets of biscuits and numerous bars of chocolate hidden around the house for her to chew on after he had gone to bed, but there were none for him—there was still time to save Eddie’s teeth, she maintained.
So Eddie knew something was up when she sat him down and offered him the Jaffa cake, and then when he had swallowed that first one, almost whole, in case she tried to take it back, she shook the packet at him and said, “Have another.”
He took it, and blinked at her with his wide brown eyes and said, “What’s wrong?” before taking a bite. Her face was pale and her eyes were red-rimmed, as if she’d been crying. He wouldn’t normally have been concerned by this, because his mother always cried—at a dead cat on the road, at a baby bird falling out of its nest, at somebody getting terminally ill on Coronation Street, at somebody discovering a dusty old painting was worth thousands on the Antiques Roadshow, and sometimes when she ran out of cigarettes and the village shop was closed—but tears and Jaffa cakes together—well, it wasn’t a good sign at all.
“I have good news and bad news, Eddie.”
Eddie took another bite of his Jaffa cake.
“Which do you want to hear first?”
Without thinking much about it, Eddie said, “The good.”
Part of him was still hopeful that this would be something along the lines of she’d bought him a Walkman to listen to his CDs on, and the bad news was he’d have to spend his own pocket money to buy batteries. But most of him knew it wasn’t going to be that straightforward.
“Okay—the good news is . . .” She took a deep breath. “The good news is—I’ve got a new job, and we’re moving to the city, and you’ll have a wonderful new school and make lots of new friends.”
Eddie almost choked.
“What?” was the best he could manage.
“Yes,” she replied, blinking at him uncertainly. “Isn’t it wonderful? A new job, a whole new life, Eddie.”
“That’s the good news?”
“THAT’S THE GOOD NEWS?”
“Now don’t get upset, Eddie.”
“UPSET! You’re making me leave my school, you’re making me leave my friends, you’re making me move to the city? And that’s the good news! How could you? MUM, HOW COULD YOU?”
“Well,” his mum said rather weakly, “that’s just how it is.”
Eddie shook his head. “And Dad agrees with this?”
His mother drummed her fingers nervously on the table. “Well,” she said, “that’s the bad news.”
She reached across the table, took his hand and clasped it tightly. This was not a good idea, because it was the hand with the half-eaten Jaffa cake in it. The biscuit immediately began to melt, but Eddie didn’t try to move his hand because he’d never seen his mother look so serious before.
“Eddie,” she said finally, “I’m not going to beat about the bush here, I’m going to give it to you straight. I think you’re old enough for me not to have to dress it all up in cotton wool like you’re a little baby. You’re a big boy now. Are you ready?”
Eddie nodded warily.
“First of all—your father has moved to Liverpool, and second of all, we’re getting a divorce.”
“We’re getting a divorce.”
“We’re getting a divorce.”
“You’re . . .”
“Eddie, there are only so many times I can say it. We’re getting a divorce.”
“But, but, but, but, but . . .”
“I know it’s a shock, and to tell you the truth it’s a bit of a shock to me as well.” She sniffed, and sat a little more erect in her chair. “While I was out at my night class, your father was having an affair with my good friend, my employer, the wonderful Dr. Betty Armstrong.”
“You mean . . . Spaghetti Legs?”
“Yes, I mean Spaghetti Legs.”
“But . . . she’s married.”
“Yes, Eddie, I know. But not for much longer.”
His mum was drumming her fingers on the table again. She had let go of his hand, and was unaware that her fingers were thick with melted chocolate.
Eddie stared at the cupboards. He stared at the sink. He stared at the floor and the ceiling and the window and the ceramic tiles and the wooden floor. He took a deep breath. He looked at his mother, who was also trying not to cry. This time he reached across and took her hand.
“So,” he said, clearing his throat, and trying to appear grown-up about the whole situation, “to paraphrase: Dad has run off with the doctor, because of that you’ve lost your job and have to move to the city to get a new one.”
“I have lost my father, my school, my friends and my home, and I also have to move to the city, a city you have always said was dark and dangerous and never allowed me to go to.”
She nodded again. And then there were tears rolling down her cheeks. Eddie began to feel tears roll down his cheeks too.