Leo lives at the low rent end of the street, near the Seabird Estate where a boy got stabbed to death halfway up the stairs last Saturday night. Leo went over on a bike – the one with a picture of Disney Princess screwed to the handlebars and silver and purple streamers on the pedals. Leo is small for his age, but too tall for the bike so his knees gun like pistons as he pedals up and down the road. That night, he got as far as the line of Police tape between the bollards and leant over on his handlebars, but they wouldn’t let him through.
In the morning, his mum’s boyfriend Paul came over with Libby.
‘I wanna see it,’ Libby whined when Paul said there’d been blood on the stairs at Seabird.
‘Libby – there’s no way you’re going over there, it’s not right for little girls’ said Leo’s mum and she looked at Paul and shook her head and said, ‘your Tracey’d kill me.’
Under the table, Leo turned over an old animal bone jawbone in his hands. He’d had it on his windowsill for ages – it had two back teeth in it and the end was splintered like wood. He whipped it out and shoved it in Libby’s face – and she jumped and nearly fell off her chair.
‘Bet you could see the bones through his skin,’ said Leo.
His mum clipped him round the ear. Paul chuckled and grabbed the bone off him. All Libby did was fold her arms up tight and look at the table.
By Sunday lunchtime there were bunches of flowers in their crackling packets against the wall. Leo and Paul went to look.
‘Fallen soulja,’ said one card.
‘Love you bruvva,’ said another.
Leo and Paul popped over the main road to the garage to get their own bunch of flowers, even though they didn’t know the boy that was stabbed. Paul said it didn’t matter, that it was right to pay your respects and he wrote out a few words on a card in biro.
‘RIP mate – undeserved.’
It wasn’t long before the whole pavement was totally covered in flowers. Leo wanted to put a ramp up, with brick and plasterboard from the skip, and jump them on his bike; but he didn’t say anything to Paul cos he knew he shouldn’t. But, if he did do a jump and he took off in the air on his bike, he could crash down on to the flowers in slow motion and bits of pollen and petals would explode like bombs all around him.
In class, someone said that when bees poke their proboscis into flowers it’s like they’re fucking them in the face. Leo thought about this as he and Paul walked back from the stairwell. All the bees were hovering around the bushes and shoving their little bee booties in the flowers, just like Leo’s mum does when she’s in a good mood before Strictly and she waves her backside in Paul’s dinner.
Baby Leona loves that and laughs for ages on the rug.
Bees don’t really fuck flowers in the face, Leo just likes to think about it. It makes him feel the same as when he cycles all the way up to the other end of the street just to read the graffiti that’s sprayed on an old car parked by the dog bin. It says BITCH PISS in bright pink spray paint on the passenger door and every time he reads it now it makes him want to open his mouth up wide as it will go and roar – like when his mum does the lion on WiiFit Yoga. Leo’s mum said it was out of order them doing that to such an old car, but Paul made a snorting sound on the back of his hand when he heard about it. Leo stood on the rug playing Xbox by the settee, muttering bitchpissss, bitchpisssss, bitchpisssssss, like a steam train.
‘Why d’you think they wrote that then Paul?’ Leo asked, not taking his eyes off the screen.
Paul just smiled at him and then wrestled him to the floor and they rolled around having a giggle and then they carried on as they were.
Paul lives on the same street as they do – he lives in the same house as his mum; his sister Tracey; and with Libby as well. Paul’s mum is called Mrs Kidd and she wears false teeth that look like old keyboard keys, all smooth and sheeny. Every Thursday morning she takes her tartan trolley to get her bits and pieces from the Lane. Paul’s at work then on the deliveries, Tracey’s on the desk at the surgery, Libby’s at school: the house is empty for at least an hour, guaranteed. They haven’t got much – just a Widescreen and Tracey’s Blackberry. But Leo knows that you don’t shit in your own back yard.
On Tuesday night they all piled over to the Kidd’s to watch the telly in their front room.
‘No way!’ shouted Paul as he leant forward on the edge of his chair and pointed at the TV. ‘Look Libby, it’s you! It’s you – you’re on the telly.’
Libby was sat on the settee leaning back into the cushions, with her knees pulled up. She gasped as soon as she saw herself on the screen.
‘Oh my god!’ she started laughing.
Tracey took up the other end of the settee and had her hand over her mouth, her eyes looking from Libby to the telly and back again.
‘No way,’ said Paul again, looking all happy and proud. Leo’s mum sat behind him in the armchair, her legs dangling down on either side.
Leo leant over the back of the settee, pushing down on his elbows and swinging his legs up behind him. Ewww, nooo, my god! What was everyone acting so shocked about – they all knew that the programme was coming on and that Libby was in it. She’s in Primary Five but easily the biggest in her year and when she walks down the street to the car, she breathes hard and her feet slap the pavement and her legs rub together swishswoosh.
Obese. Leo learnt about it in school. Obese isn’t the same as fat. Obese is really fat, like when all your insides turn to sausage meat, like they said Libby’s would do if she didn’t get a healthy eating plan and go in the paddling pool. Obese. Leo said the word like he was blowing bubbles in his cheeks.
‘Looking good Libbs,’ Paul winked at his niece and she smiled back at him, letting her knees drop to one side.
Leo’s mum pulled Paul back towards her and gave him a cuddle. Baby Leona liked that – she looked up at them from the play mat and hugged her doll. It had flippy eyes and no hair and looked like an alien, except it wasn’t green.
‘You’re a little star,’ Leo’s mum told Libby.
‘My little baby on the telly,’ said Tracey. ‘Awww, well done Libbs.’
Well done Libbs. Little star. Leo wiggled his head and said the words into the cushions.
The woman who had come to make the documentary about Libby had thin yellow hair and a camera and followed Tracey and Libby around for a whole month, filming everything she ate and making her go to the leisure centre. The woman sat in a silver Golf and smoked three straights every afternoon before knocking on the door.
‘What you up to?’ she said to Leo the first time she pulled up and he rode by on his bike.
He did a circle on the tarmac and drew up on the driver’s side.
‘Is that an iPod socket on the dash?’ he asked. ‘Have you got any cup holders?’
She pushed at a panel under the air con dials with her fingers and two plastic rings popped out. Leo raised his eyebrows and looked down inside her handbag which was in the foot-well and wasn’t zipped up: she had a Gucci wallet and an H-T-C. He reversed back, pushing off with his feet, making it look like he was going away and then he hid behind a car. When the woman got out, he shouted at her in the deepest, gravelly Rasta voice he could do:
‘Nice vagina,’ he said.
Vagina is the real word for pussy but no one says it much. The woman didn’t even look around, but carried on walking right up to the Kidd’s front door and knocked on it. After that, Leo said it to her every single time she came over and it made his belly fizz. The woman never said anything.
In front of the telly in the Kidd’s lounge, Mrs Kidd sat in a chair with her hands out flat on the arms and didn’t say anything about what was on. She kept rolling her top lip down over her teeth and nodding at Libby on the TV now and again, just like Leo’s mum used to do when she came to see him in the school play.
There was a ping and the microwave popcorn was ready and the house started to smell of papery sugar. Mrs Kidd got up to get it and came back with a little tub on a tray for everyone. Leo’s mum didn’t want any, so Paul had hers. Leo took a small handful of his and threw it up in the air to try and catch it in his mouth but he missed and it bounced off him and went down Libby’s neck. She whipped her head around to glare at him, made a whiny noise and smacked her hand on the cushions.
‘You two.’ Tracey said without looking round.
‘I want my bike back,’ Libby said to Leo through her teeth. ‘You’ve stolen my Disney Princess.’
Leo pulled a face at Libby. No one else noticed.
On the screen, there was a shot of Libby looking bright red - almost purple - in an aerobics class. Libby grabbed a cushion from the couch and hid her face in it and then there was another shot of her on a running machine with an oxygen mask on her face and some people in a hospital writing things down. She’d had to go to Woking for that.
‘Do you remember that Libbs?’ asked Tracey. ‘Seems like ages ago. Gave you a heart reading of a twenty-five year old didn’t they?’
‘Yeah,’ said Libby into the cushion.
‘I didn’t agree with it,’ said Tracey, ‘but that Dr Donaldson was nice wasn’t he?’
Libby took the cushion away from her face and started on her popcorn. She never shut her mouth when she was eating.
‘Gave you a special pen with a ballet dancer on top to write up your scores didn’t he?’
‘I’ve still got it upstairs.’
‘Yeah,’ said Tracey and everyone was quiet for a minute while they ate and watched the TV.
Leo didn’t think that being in the film had made Libby lose weight. She was still massive – looking over her head he could see her fat bulge out in rings under her jumper.
‘We should dig out that chart again – start afresh,’ said Tracey to Libby. ‘Stick it up on the fridge.’
‘Brilliant idea,’ nodded Paul. ‘Nice one.’
Mrs Kidd nodded too and Leona let out one of her gurgles and threw her doll at the TV screen.