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Authors: John Marsden

Dear miffy

Also by John Marsden

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The Journey

The Great Gatenby

Staying Alive in Year 5

Out of Time

Letters from the Inside

Take My Word for It

Looking for Trouble

Tomorrow … (Ed.)

Cool School

Creep Street

Checkers

For Weddings and a Funeral (Ed.)

This I Believe (Ed.)

Dear Miffy

Prayer for the 21st Century

Everything I Know About Writing

Secret Men's Business

TheTomorrowSeries 1999 Diary

The Rabbits

Norton's Hut

Marsden on Marsden

Winter

The Head Book

The Boy You Brought Home

The Magic Rainforest

Millie

A Roomful of Magic

TheTomorrowSeries

Tomorrow, When the War Began

The Dead of the Night

The Third Day, the Frost

Darkness, Be My Friend

Burning for Revenge

The Night is for Hunting

The Other Side of Dawn

The Ellie Chronicles

While I Live

Incurable

Circle of Flight

John Marsden's website can be visited atwww.johnmarsden.com.au

First published 1997 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty LimitedThis Pan edition published 2007 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited1 Market Street, Sydney

Copyright © John Marsden 1997

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of AustraliaCataloguing-in-Publication data:

Marsden, John, 1950-.Dear Miffy.

For secondary school aged children.ISBN 978-1-74334-622-8 (pbk).

1. Letters - Juvenile fiction. 2. Love - Juvenile fiction. 3. Teenagers - Juvenile fiction. 4. Young adult fiction.I. Title.

A823.3

Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

 

This electronic edition published in 2012 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

Copyright © John Marsden 1997

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

This ebook may not include illustrations and/or photographs that may have been in the print edition.

Marsden, John.

Dear Miffy.

EPUB format 978-1-74334-622-8

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For Rob Alexander,may you havemany happy endings

Many, many thanks to Sarah Bower

Contents

Also by John Marsden

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Begin Reading

 

Dear Miffy,

This is pretty weird—I just suddenly felt like writing to you, don't know why. Suddenly wanted to talk to you, got this strange feeling. It's not like I never think of you. It's the opposite. I think of you every day, every hour. Sometimes more than that even. Things change though, don't they Miff? We both know that. WHAM! Makes me kind of nervous if you really want to know.

I look over my shoulder a lot now. Never used to do that, hey? Remember when I did my balancing act on that concrete wall above the freeway? Good trick, hey? Makes me sweat thinking about it. I can't believe I did that. Give me a million bucks right now and I still wouldn't do it, couldn't anyway, so what's the use?

You know where I am right now, Miffy? I guess you wouldn't. I'm in the back of the TV room. I'm watching the others while they watch the movie. To tell you the truth, that's what gave me the idea of writing to you. The movie—I don't even know its name—that's what set me off thinking about you and me again. See, in the movie, it was just like us. It's crap, but it's just like us. This boy meets this girl at school see, when they're both in trouble with the Principal. They're outside his office waiting to see him. They're there for two different things but—she's got an ‘attitude problem', he's been nicking off from school.

‘Attitude problem.' Doesn't that crack you up? I love it how they call it an ‘attitude problem' just because you don't want to spend the best years of your life sitting in a straight line, talking in a straight line, walking in a straight line. Just because you don't want to do what they want you to do. And then they try to tell you that you're the one who's sick.

I don't think so.

Anyway.

So, back to the movie, there they are sitting outside the office waiting to see the Principal and of course they start talking and little sparkles come out of their mouth and away they go . . . like, love at first sight and all that crap.

OK, I know the last part's not like us, but how about that first bit, hey?

I thought you were such a stuck-up bitch, Miffy. I thought you were bloody good looking, I admit that, but I thought you were that stuck-up I didn't care what you looked like.

You know the first words you said to me? Ever? I asked you once and you couldn't remember. But geez, I remember. It was outside Hammond's office that day, of course. I tried to get in between you and his door, so I could go first, and I was being all polite to you and I said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I go in first cos I've got to see Fishbum after this,' and you said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I shove my docs up your arse?'

Nice! Before I could think of anything to say back, the door opened and Hammond was standing there saying, ‘Well, well, well, all the usual suspects. And Miss Simmons, you've come along to make up the numbers, I suppose.'

Sarcastic bastard.

You gave him a note and he read it and then he said to you: ‘Who was the boy involved?' and you said, ‘Nick Tremayne,' and he said, ‘I should have guessed,' then he said to Mrs McVeigh, ‘Right, get Nick Tremayne from 10W, would you please?' and he went back into his office and shut the door and I said to you, ‘You lagging bitch,' because Nick was a mate of mine in those days, then you picked up the Rock Eisteddfod trophy and hit me across the head with it, as hard as you could.

Geez, it bloody hurt. I didn't see it coming till too late, so I didn't get my hand up fast enough, otherwise I would have stopped it. The next thing I'm against the wall trying not to fall over and there's blood pouring down my face and when I realise what's happened I try to get across to where you are because I want to kill you, that's all I want to do, but Mrs McVeigh's screaming and Hammond and Fishbum and even Paspaley are all pouring out of their offices, so I've got as much chance as a stray cat at KFC.

Anyway they had to call my aunt and I had to go down to the hospital and get my head X-rayed and I got a day off, so that was cool. You got a week off, suspension, good one, hey? Must have been a big thrill for your parents.

I was waiting for you to get back so I could beat the total crap out of you, but before you did, Nick told me the full story: how you'd all agreed Nick'd take the rap so Sam and Georgie and Dino wouldn't get busted. So that left me up the creek a bit.

I still had a go at you but, in the gym, and I know you remember that. You were coming out as I was going in and I took a look around to make sure no teachers were watching, then I got you up against the wall and said, ‘Listen you moll, touch me again and I'll kick your fucking head in.'

You just looked at me like I was some scum that had overflowed out of the sewerage. Then I heard Ellis' door open so I had to let you go.

They were our first two dates. Pretty good, hey?

Love at first sight? I don't think so.

I'm being hassled to go to bed so I'd better stop. I don't want them to read this, that's the main thing.

See ya,

Tony

Dear Miff,

Hey, it wasn't bad writing that letter to you last night. Never written so much in my life. Pretty weird, hey? But I don't care.

Yeah, so only problem now is I want to do another one but I don't know what to write about.

Oh well, might just keep doing the same as last night, raving on about us and school and all that.

Geez, we carried on like dickheads for a while, hey. Nick called it the ‘hate stare'—the way we'd give each other greasies. I don't know how it happened. How can you hate someone you've only spoken about six words to? I hated you, but. And you sure hated me. Everything you did, I hated. I'd look at you and just think everything about you was totally off. If you didn't wash your hair I'd think it was woggy. If you wore make-up I'd think you were up yourself, and if you didn't I'd think you looked like a corpse. When you wore that black jacket, I'd say you were too good for us, and when you wore your old jeans I'd say you looked like a moll. If you answered a teacher's question I'd say you were sucking up and if you didn't I'd say you were dumb.

Everyone knew we hated each other and it was kind of a joke to them, but not to me it wasn't. Not to you, either.

Then Nick had that party. ‘What do you want to invite her for?' that's what I said to him when I found out you were coming.

‘Oh, you know mate, I owe her one,' he said.

‘What for?'

I'd already forgotten all the stuff about him and Sam and Georgie and Dino, and how they would have got busted if you hadn't worked out that bullshit story for Hammond. But Nick hadn't forgotten.

‘Oh shit, mate, she saved Georgie's ass, she's pretty smart. Georgie thought I was a legend after that, mate. She would have got suspended if I hadn't taken the rap for her. That's how I got my end in, mate.'

I'd heard that last part of the story about fifteen times.

But Miffy, you know what I couldn't work out: why'd you hate me? I mean, I know why I hated you, because I thought you were a snob, a rich bitch—and because you floored me with the Rock Eisteddfod trophy and made me look like an idiot in front of the other kids. You never would tell me why you hated me, but I reckon it was my reputation. I reckon you believed all that shit that people said about me. When I tried to talk to you about it you'd change the subject, but I still reckon you believed it.

So now I'll tell you the truth, Miffy, and one thing's for sure, you can't shut me up in a letter.

OK, when I was twelve my family busted up. Oh yeah, you knew that. My mum, I didn't know where she'd gone. She just pissed off when I was at school one day. Never heard from her no more. Anyway, I didn't care where she went; I didn't care if I never saw her again, still don't. Then all that shit happened with my little brother and about a month after that my father went to Queensland to look for a job, and somewhere for both of us to live. I moved in with my uncle and aunt. But the trouble was, seemed like my dad was taking a long time to find a place where I could come and stay with him. He'd ring up every week or two and I'd be on the phone crying my little eyes out and begging him to let me come up there and he'd get mad and tell me to put my uncle on. Then, after he'd hung up, my uncle and aunt'd get mad at me for upsetting him. So seemed like I just couldn't win.

Then one night my dad rang again and talked to my uncle and this time I wasn't even allowed to talk to him. And when my uncle got off the phone he said my father got a job on a fishing boat and I wouldn't be able to live with him at all. Then that night, when I was in bed, I heard them talking, my uncle and aunt I mean, and they were arguing, and I heard my aunt saying, ‘Well, we don't want him either,' and my uncle said, ‘I don't know what she's got against kids anyway, but we're stuck with him unless Jim comes to his bloody senses,' and my aunt said, ‘Who is she anyway, the same one or another one?' and my uncle said, ‘The same one, of course, he's not that bad,' and my aunt said, ‘Oh, isn't he just. Well, in my book, a man who walks out on his kid as soon as some bit of skirt comes along isn't much good to anyone,' and my uncle said, ‘Well, what about Rosie then?' and my aunt said, ‘She's just as bad—no, worse. I still think it's a woman's job, I don't care what anyone says, and what happened to Owen is all her fault as far as I'm concerned.'

So I knew it all then, or I thought I did. Anyway I knew my father didn't want me because he'd found a girlfriend. And you can bet I was pretty upset. But I didn't show my feelings to anyone: I think that's when I first started covering stuff up; I just decided it was better that way. They try and teach you here that it's not, that it's better to talk about stuff, but I'm still getting anFin that.

Oh well, life went on, for about three months. Then one day I was down the markets helping this friend of mine, Salvatore, you don't know him, he goes to St Bernard's, and his father's got a stall at the markets.

And I seen my father.

At first I thought, ‘Oh good, he's back from Queensland at last and he's looking for me, about bloody time,' and I was going to go racing over there, but something, I don't know what, made me pause for a sec. And then I realised he was with someone, this tall chick with red hair and kind of leopard-skin pants like that lady on TV, and what's more he didn't look like he was in a hurry to find no-one, and neither did she. And then I thought, ‘How would he know I was here, anyway?' because not even my uncle and aunt knew: they were still in bed when I left and I just said I was going to a mate's, could have been anyone. They didn't even know Salvatore. So I was standing there spinning out, thinking about all this, and next thing they're right at the stall and they still haven't seen me. And me dad and this chick are all lovey-dovey holding hands and shit and he asks something about the apples and Sal's dad says, ‘Did you like those Rome Beauties I got youlast week?' Last fucking week! And at that minute me dad looks up and sees me and I say, ‘You've been back from Queensland a week!' and he looks guilty as hell and suddenly I realise and I say, ‘You never even went to fucking Queensland!' and before I know what I'm doing I've picked up a knife off the fruit stall and rammed it right into the chick. I would have stuck it into me dad only she was closer. It was weird, but Miff, it went in so easy, I didn't mean it to go in that far, I swear, I just meant to, you know, nick her a bit, scare everyone. And suddenly this bitch is screaming her fucking head off and she's fallen down on the ground and there's blood just leaking out of her and it won't stop and my dad goes down to help her but he just falls over. I didn't work out for a long time that he'd fainted, a lot of use to everyone. But other people, Sal's mum especially, she's there and she done a good job. Then suddenly there's people everywhere. No-one notices me for a bit, I've dropped the knife and I'm standing there thinking, Oh shit, what have I done? What did I do that for? Then this bloke from the next stall grabs me like I'm a dangerous criminal or something. It's funny, I didn't feel dangerous. Anyway, I just stand there and let him hold me till the cops come, even though Sal's dad keeps saying, ‘It's all right, you don't have to hold him, he's a good boy,' though I don't know how he'd worked that out, cos he hardly knew me.

I was spinning out, man; really spinning out.

So the ambulance comes and the cops come and it's like something out of TV only it's real.

Weird, Miff; really weird.

Well, anyway, that's what happened.

Hey, that party of Nick's, it was pretty funny when you think about it, although it didn't seem that way at the time.

Geez, we went for it, didn't we? I've never had such a full-on fight with a girl before. You were pretty crazy doing that with me, considering my reputation. You had guts, Miff, got to give you credit. I don't know how pissed you were, but. I know I was pissed out of my brain. I still beat you pretty easy though, hey? Sorry about the scar. But I've still got the scar on the back of my neck. I thought it would have gone by now, but hey, maybe it's a permanent one, reminder of you.

Shit, look how much I've written. I must be crazy. Stuff this for a joke, I'm going to bed.

See ya around,

Tony

Dear Miff,

I don't know how I got so fucking violent, Miff. Do you know? You probably do, you're so fucking smart. But you were pretty violent yourself. At first, anyway. I just can't seem to help myself, Miff. I wish you were here so I could talk to you about stuff. These letters, they're crazy, hey, but I'm still writing them.

Every time we met, for about two or three months, there was hatred in the air. No love in the air for us, hey. Remember when I pulled that chair out from under you and you nearly broke your back? I did get scared that time. See I was on probation from the court and probation from the school and on a contract with my uncle and aunt and I thought I'd blown the whole lot in one hit. I was more scared about that than about making you a paraplegic for life, if you want to know the truth. That's the kind of selfish bastard I was. And maybe still am. I don't know. Sometimes I think I've changed and I'm better; sometimes I think I'm worse.

But even that day, standing there watching you on the floor with everyone thinking you'd wrecked your back and me thinking I was going to be put in care for the next five years, I still didn't give a flicker. Not a flicker. Tough guy, big man, that's me.

Come to think of it, you were pretty tough yourself—I was kind of shocked that you didn't cry. Impressed, but I hated you for it as well. I think I wanted to make you cry or something. It's not like I had this conscious thought that I wanted to do it, but when I looked at you I just seemed to want to make you cry. I can't explain it any better than that.

Geez, I said some terrible things to you for a few months there. In Maths that day when you said something and I said, ‘Hey, if I'd wanted to hear from an arsehole I would have farted.'

Pretty good line, hey? Not original though. Wish it was. Wish I had thought of it myself.

I never could figure you out, Miff, not for a long time. Maybe never at all when I think about it. It was just with you being so rich and all. No, more than that. Other kids at school were rich. But they were rich without much class. You were rich and you had class. Like, the way you said stuff. You never said ‘youse' or ‘shut up' or ‘g'day' or stuff like that. I couldn't work out what you were doing in our school. You didn't seem to belong. The clothes you had, even your jewellery, it was just different to what I was used to. We're all moccas and tats and shit, you know what I mean, but I had the feeling you wouldn't have any fluffy dice in your car. Then Georgie told me how you'd been chucked out from some big richo private school. I got pretty interested then. But no-one could tell me why you got chucked out. I was trying everything to find the reason. Then Dino said, ‘How come you keep asking about her—do you like her or something?' and I said, ‘No way, mate,' so I didn't ask any more then, cos you know what they're like—they get their teeth into an idea like that and they're worse than vampires with virgins, they never let go. So I shut up fast.

But I'll tell you what I did. I never told you this before. I followed you home. I was like a stalker! I felt pretty weird about it, but I just had to know more about your life. I followed you to the station and waited till you'd gone down to one end of the platform, then I went up to the other end. And when you got off at Kramer I mixed in with the crowd and kept about a hundred metres behind as you went down Ferris Avenue. You went left at St Peter's Street—well, I don't need to tell you cos I guess you know the way to your own house—and it got tricky then cos it's such a quiet street. I had to stay way, way back. I was worried you'd go into some house and I wouldn't even be able to see which one. Then you crossed the road to Moriah Place. As soon as you'd gone I ran over there. Must have looked bloody suss to anyone who was watching. Luckily, I don't think anyone was. I was just in time to see you going into this mansion. I thought, ‘Geez, unbelievable.' I mean, fair dinks, Miff: I'd only seen places like yours on TV. I thought it must have been about a hundred years old, your house, all that ivy and stuff. All white and big and them green shutters, and the garden out the front with them roses and all that other shit. And the tennis court. I mean, fuck.

I couldn't get that close because I was scared you'd see me, but I got a good-enough view. I watched for about ten minutes, then this lady came along with her dog and she looked at me like I was a used condom and the dog growled at me like I was a kilo of steak, so I thought I'd better rack off.

But I hated you even worse after that. Just, I don't know, not exactly because you were rich. Because you seemed like you had everything, I guess. I felt like I had nothing and you had it all. I tried to imagine what it'd be like living in a place like that and I couldn't even start. It's like you're trying to tune a radio and you can't even find a station. I felt sick every time I thought about you inside that big house.

That's when we had that fight at PE. You remember? We were doing netball and I got this bib sayingWAand you said, ‘What's that stand for: wanker?' and you had one with a C. I said, ‘What's that stand for: cunt?' and you chucked the ball at me and then tried to rip my face off. I won that fight, too—or at least I was winning it until Ellis broke it up.

That was the first time we got sent to Hammond together, like for the same offence. We sat there in the corridor, steam coming out of our ears. Hammond made us shake hands! Can you believe it? What a dickhead. Then that big speech about my being on probation and shit. I don't reckon he had a right to say so much in front of you. It was none of your business.

Then, when we got outside, you said, ‘What are you on probation for?' and I said, ‘None of your fucking business.' I just couldn't believe what was happening, that Hammond had opened up my life to you like that. Like, you'd tried to rip my face off and failed, and then he comes along and kind of rips it off anyway. You know what I mean? All the stuff he said about me, a lot of that was real private. I'm getting mad all over again thinking about it now. ‘I know your mother leaving so suddenly like that, and then what happened with your brother, these things have been difficult for you to deal with.' He was saying stuff like that. Fuck him. I couldn't believe I was hearing it. If I hadn't been in so much trouble already I would have gone him, I reckon. But what hope have you got? You can't beat those blokes.

Another thing that really got me, I couldn't figure how anyone living in your kind of house could have any idea about my life. I thought I must have been a Martian to you. It never crossed my mind that you'd care about someone like me. So that's why I told you to fuck off.

Sorry.

Anyway, fuck this letter, too. I've had enough of this writing shit. Might give it the ass I think.

Nightie-night, Miff.

Tony


Page 2

Dear Miff,

Geez, I feel like shit tonight, Miff. I mean everything's shit these days but some days are worse than others and this is bad, bad, bad.

Seems like the nights are the worst times.

How does it all work, Miff? I don't understand it at all, not one little bit.

There's fuck all to do at this place. Like, there's a pool table, nothing else. And that's pretty hacked from blokes stuffing around with it. The computer's totally hacked. I've got my CD but the batteries have had it, and you're not allowed to use the things, what do you call them, those three little holes in the wall where you plug stuff in? I mean, people do, but you just get in more trouble.

I was thinking about my uncle and aunt, you know. I don't even know where they are any more. I don't care a helluva lot either, but that's another matter. After the stabbing they went apeshit. You can't blame them for that, of course. But it's not like I killed her or anything. You'd think I had, the way they turned it on. My uncle, when they bailed me, he took me back to their place and beat the crap out of me. I mean, full on. I knew I couldn't fight back, I just had to take it. I mean, he'd been a boxer, you know. Did I ever tell you that? Twenty-eight fights, fifteen wins, two draws, two disqualifications, nine losses. He got knocked out six times. Like, that's a lot of knock-outs. I reckon it fucked him up a bit, fucked his brain up, but you reckon I'd ever say that to him?

He really could punch. I had to go back to the cop shop for an interview the next day and I had bruises all over. My head was the size of a watermelon. The cop said, ‘Been in another fight, have you?' and I just said, ‘Yeah' and he didn't say nothing, he knew, he just looked at my uncle and my uncle didn't say nothing neither, just sat there looking at the wall, and the cop said, ‘You ought to be more careful,' but I don't know who he was talking to, me or me uncle. Cos me uncle, he had a few mates in the force, he knew quite a lot of them.

Bastards.

It's not like they were real bad, my uncle and aunt, I'm not saying that. I mean you've got to see it from their point of view. They never had no kids of their own, and it's not like they wanted to and couldn't, like some people: it's because they didn't want any. And then suddenly along comes this kid who gets shoved on them just because his old man wants to go off and fuck some young chick. And I know I'm not that easy to get on with. Like, I know some of the stuff I do really shits some people. I know that. They didn't like my music, and the stuff I wanted to watch on TV, not that I'm into TV much, but sometimes there'd be something good, like that ‘Rats Unplugged' concert.

They didn't like the stuff I did to my hair, and the rings and shit, and some of my mates, Nick and Ali for instance, they didn't think much of them, neither. For a while they banned my mates from the house. If my mates came around they had to stay outside, like, I had to go and talk to them out in the street. Good one, hey? Did a real lot for my social life.

Then, after the stabbing, I was grounded something bad. I couldn't see why really. I mean, it's not like I was some uncontrollable maniac who was going to go around the streets killing people. I only stabbed her cos of me dad and all that. I just lost my head. Before that I'd been on a curfew of nine o'clock school nights, and midnight weekends, which was pretty bloody stupid, but after the stabbing I was on a curfew of nothing! I had to come straight home after school and I wasn't allowed out at all. Even to go to the bloody shops I had to get down on my knees and beg. It was like, what do they call it, house arrest. It wasn't that good an idea for them anyway, because it meant I was there all the time. Every time they turned around, there I was. In the kitchen, in the yard, in the lounge with the TV turned up real loud. I was doing it half-deliberately, you know, cos I figured they'd soon get jack of it, get jack of me, but I think I got jack of them before they got jack of me.

Anyway, you know what adults are like, they couldn't keep it up for ever. I wore them down after a while. We had some terrible fights first, but. They still wouldn't let me go to parties but I could go to friends' houses, or down the shops, or to the footy. Well, that's where I said I was going. I think footy's pretty boring if you want to know the truth, but it was a good excuse to get out of the place.

That's when I started hanging around with Franco so much. His mum let him do whatever he wanted. She never had no control over him. And he always had heaps of money so he could buy them little placcie bags. You know what I'm talking about. I don't want to say too much here in case these bastards read it. They want to know everything. But yeah, Franco, he was good that way. I kept saying, ‘I'll pay you back, Franco, I swear I will,' and he'd just say, ‘Don't worry about it, I don't give a shit.' I never got into no heavy stuff, not really, but geez, I gave that soft shit a hell of a workout.

Franco, he wasn't that popular, but when I started hanging around with him he got accepted better. So he thought that was all right.

Anyway, you don't want to hear all this, Miff. It's ancient history now, hey?

So, be seeing you (joke).

Tony

Hi Miff,

How's things where you are? I wonder how you're getting on, and where you are, I really do.

I'd like to visit you, Miff; I'd like it very much.

That first day you took me to your place, I was trying so hard to be cool. I bet you knew that. Well, I kind of gave it away when I said I wouldn't go unless it was just us two, I didn't want to be there with your parents or anyone, couldn't have handled that. But I was still packing shit. It was sort of funny, because I had to pretend I didn't know the way, never seen it before etc, etc. Suddenly there I was, going along the yellow brick road, through the magical gates into the golden palace and, even though you'd told me all that terrible stuff about your father, I put it in the back of my mind, because I convinced myself that living in a house like that would have to be like living in fucking Beverly Hills, just everything beautiful, blokes in white coats handing out drinks from silver trays, everyone sitting around having little chats about the fucking opera or something.

What did get me, though—and what I'll never forget—is how cold everything was. It was weird to me. I'd never been in a house like yours, Miff. Everything was so, you know, like a shop or something. I was trying to count the number of TVs, but I don't know how many there were. That one in the lounge, that was about the size of a movie screen. And everything looked so expensive. I reckon stuff like the rug in front of your fireplace would have cost more than all the furniture in my uncle and aunt's place put together.

All those old pictures on the walls with their little lights above them like the place we went to on the Art excursion, geez, I couldn't believe that.

I kept thinking, geez, it's a wonder no-one's ever done a burg here.

Yeah, no risk about it Miff, your family had the big bucks.

But a lot of the stuff was fake, too. Like, the house itself. I thought it was really old but when we got close you told me it was built seven years ago and just made to look old. Those plants in the first room: when you opened the front door they looked great, but they were all artificial. You couldn't hardly tell, but. Then there were the walls. I thought that shit was painted on them, but when you get up close it was only wallpaper. The fire was burning away like there was proper logs in the bastard but it was only gas! Sometimes it seemed like nothing in the house was for fucking real.

You were showing me all this stuff and I was just going, ‘Oh yeah, right, seen that. OK, what's in the next room?'

I didn't want to give you the satisfaction.

We went upstairs, walking on that carpet. It was like walking on feathers. More paintings on the walls. You know which one I liked but, don't you? That great big one with the clouds all rolled back and the angels and shit. Pretty corny, but who cares? Whatever turns you on, I reckon.

Well, I know what really turned me on, and that was you in your bedroom. Don't think I'll write about that, but; I don't want to cream me PJs, I got a clean pair on tonight. I'll write about your bedroom instead. Pretty nice room, Miff! Good views. Geez, you can see the city and right across to the bay. And it's so big, your room I mean. When I was going out with Becky I spent a bit of time in her room, just an hour or two here and there, don't get the wrong idea, but it was kind of different to yours. She had magazine pictures stuck on her walls, and cheap old furniture that rocked every time you touched it, and perfume that smelled like that plastic shit you hang up in toilets. She had a mirror that was all blotchy and the ceiling was fuzzy with mould and the bed was so soft in the middle it was like sleeping in a sponge.

Not that I'd know what the bed was like, of course.

Your room, everything in it matched, that's what got me. Like, the flowers on the wallpaper matched the leaves on the doona, and the gold in the carpet matched the edges of the doona and the curtains, just everything matched.

I'll say one thing for myself, Miff, I'm observant. I notice all that stuff. I even noticed how the clock had those little rose things twirling around it. I mean, it was all kind of square, old-fashioned, but geez it was nice, Miff. It got to be my favourite place in all the world, the only place where I felt a bit of peace, you know what I mean?

Bloody different from my bedroom here.

You know, sometimes I wish we'd gotten on with each other a lot earlier, because then I would have been able to spend more time with you. We only had three months when we got on, a bit less really, and four months fighting. I wish it had been the other way around, at least. Geez, we wasted those four months, didn't we? Ripping into each other. I didn't understand you then. I didn't try to understand you. It took me a long time to figure out what the deal was with you and why you were the way you were. Pretty dumb, hey? But you didn't give me a lot of help. You didn't give anyone a lot of help. I thought you were just too big a snob to bother with scum like me.

See, everyone thought I was scum, Miff—at least they treated me like they did. Just everyone. Geez, I'm getting sorry for myself now, but I can't help it. As long as I don't cry. You don't cry in here. I just felt like everyone was putting shit on me, every chance they got. My uncle and aunt, it's like they just waited for me to make a mistake. It was like they wanted me to make mistakes. Didn't matter what it was—a drip of tomato sauce on the floor, getting in late from a movie, a pack of ciggies in my pocket. They were out to bust me. It was like living with a couple of cops, I reckon.

And speaking of cops, the pigs were out to put shit on me, too. Geez, they made it hard. Like, before I did that terrible thing to me dad's girlfriend they'd pulled me up a few times. After that but, when I was on bail, they must have all known me then, because once my uncle and aunt let me go out again the cops stopped me every bloody day. Well, just about. Fair dinkum, it was no joke. They never beat up on me or nothing, like they've done to some of me mates, but they just hassle you. And they try to scare you. They make all these threats about how they're going to get you. And how they're going to make sure you get put away and how you're going to get the shit beaten out of you, and raped and stuff, once you're in there. And there's no way I was gonna let them know they were getting to me, but they were.

So I was getting it on the streets, getting it at my uncle and aunt's, and if that wasn't enough, I was getting it at school, from the teachers. And, geez, was I getting it there. Once they heard about me getting charged, I was like the worst mother-fucker in the whole place. Hammond, I reckon he followed me round the school trying to pick me. Funny though, the worst stuff wasn't him giving me dets and sending letters home and putting me on report and stuff. The worst thing was the bullshit he kept hanging on me about what a failure I was. You know, ‘Great future for you, Tony, you'll be in jail by the time you're eighteen,' ‘You've got no hope, son—you tell me what kind of employer'd take someone like you.'

I suppose they all talk like that but it just eats at you somehow, even though you know it's bullshit and they wouldn't know if their arses were on fire. I reckon the girls are better off—they get counselling and shit from teachers when they're mucking up. Even the girls say that they can get the teachers on the end of a string, especially the men. Dirty buggers, they still reckon they can pull some sixteen-year-old chick by talking to her about her problems.

It wasn't just Hammond, though. It was Fishburn or Fishbum or whatever his name is. He'd look at me and shake his head like I was some hopeless case.

They're all the fucking same, teachers, I reckon.

I don't want to think about them fuckheads anyway.

I don't know, seems like I can't work anything out at the moment.

I was thinking again tonight about stabbing that bitch at the markets, Miff. Seems unbelievable, don't it? Like, one minute I'm a typical teenager with all the typical teenage problems, worst thing I ever done just about was racking stuff from shops with Nick (hey, good name for doing that, Nick, what do you reckon?) plus one night I went for a spin with Dougie in a very hot Calais, like very hot, so hot that if they'd caught us I'd have got third-degree burns. But I swear, that was the worst thing I'd ever done. And then the next minute I'm a psycho. You know what I mean? I'm the same bloke, same bloke the day before the stabbing as I was the day after, but everything was different . . .

Oh, geez, I don't know, I don't know what I'm saying, cos everything changes you, doesn't it? So when I put that knife into her, I know it did change me. But I mean, fuckit, everything changes you. You have a Quarter Pounder instead of a Big Mac, it changes you. You cross the street at the lights instead of fifty metres along, it changes you. Turn left instead of right, sit at this desk instead of that one, say ‘Yes' instead of ‘No', watch ‘The Larry Freeman Show' instead of ‘Whispers', you're different every time and, what's worse, you don't know what you would have been like if you'd done it the other way.

I mean, I know stabbing that lady, it wasn't some little thing like having a Quarter Pounder. I know it was a real big thing. I gotta admit I didn't really know that when I went up before the magistrate, though I said I did, I said I understood the seriousness of it and all that shit. You gotta say that. Geez, you'd be a dickhead if you didn't. Hey, imagine if you stood up in front of the magistrate and said, ‘Aw, gee, your worship I dunno what's so bad about sticking a knife in someone; I mean, what's the big deal?'

But, to tell you the truth, I don't really know what it did to her. No-one ever seemed to mention her. It was like she was a banned topic. No-one wanted to talk about it. All I know is when me case came up, the police bloke—the prosecutor—said she'd recovered from it physically but she was traumatised by it and getting counselling.

‘Traumatised.' Hey, lucky this thing's got spellcheck. Hasn't got ‘fuck' in it, but; I checked just a minute ago. Bit of a poor effort, that.

Anyway, like I say, I don't know what it did to her, but I know what it did to me. Fucked me right up. That's why it's all ended like this, I reckon. None of this would have happened. I went from being a naughty boy to being a fucking juvenile fucking delinquent.

Gonna stop now, Miff, before I get fucking RSI or whatever it's called. Don't think that's on spellcheck, either.

Night, Miff.

Tony


Page 3

Dear Miff,

I'm totally off my head tonight, Miff. Nothing new about that, I suppose. It's just this place, being the way I am now, being here with so many dickheads . . .

One of these guys got busted last night with half an ounce inside his pillow. I wish I had a mattress full so I could get totally and utterly stoned for months to come.

I wish I could hurry up and get through this sickness that they call life.

Miff, I was thinking about you so much today, all afternoon. I wish I could see you and touch you again. Tell you the truth I want to make love to you, Miff. I know I can't, but try telling my body that. Your long black hair, Miff, like poetry: I want to run my fingers through it. I want to feel its softness. I want to take a handful of it and let it fall away strand by strand while I rub it against my cheek. I want to tap on your perfect teeth like they're piano keys and I'm playing a little tune on them—remember how I did that one time and you laughed and pushed me away with the lightest touch I've ever felt?

That was good that day.

Miff, I want to see your breasts again. You had the most beautiful breasts I've ever seen. It was like God made them out of sand, golden sand that was lying in the sun a thousand years. They were so warm and alive and firm. When I touched them I thought my brain was going to melt. I felt like I'd stop breathing. I could hardly keep my stuff in me, just from touching them. The brown buttons, pointing away from each other, so proud, like little volcanoes: only I was the one going to erupt.

There's this old blues singer, Robert Johnson, so old he's dead, and he sings this song ‘Travelling Riverside Blues', and it's got this line in it, ‘You can squeeze my lemon, baby, juice runs down my legs.'

Well, you sure squeezed my lemon, Miff, and the juice ran down my legs.

Christ, I love chicks. I know why God invented them: to drive guys mad. I could never be gay, I just love chicks too much.

I'm driving myself mad, writing this, but I can't stop.

Sometimes you did seem about a thousand years old. I felt like an idiot, a clumsy idiot, lying next to you. You seemed so, I don't know, wise, ancient or something, like there was this blood flowing in you and it had been flowing through chicks since the beginning of time. It gave you this understanding of stuff that I knew I'd never have. Doesn't matter how long I live, I'll never have that.

‘Can't you hear me howling, baby, down on my bended knees?' That's Robert Johnson again. Different song, but.

The thing is, when I write like this, it's like I'm dreaming onto paper, I can escape into that past world where I used to live, and even though at the time a lot of it sucked bad, really bad, when I go back and live in it like I'm doing now, it don't seem so shitty after all. You know one thing, it's a whole lot better than what I've got now. I don't want to think about what I've got now, so instead of thinking about it I write these letters to you. And then I feel better. Makes sense, don't it? Pretty smart, you got to admit. And they used to reckon I was so dumb at school.

Sex, I can't stop thinking about it, but. It's like the best sweetest torture ever invented. It tears you apart but you wouldn't want it any other way. It's the drug you never try to give up. It's the poison that flows through your system and you'd rather have it than food or drink or dope because it makes you feel SO FUCKING GREAT! Even while it makes you depressed.

Thank you, God, for inventing sex. You did us all a big favour.

Thank you, Miff, for the great sex. It was fantastic, even if sometimes it wasn't as good as it was at other times, if you know what I mean, and I think you would. But even bad sex is better than no sex.

This is doing me no good, Miff, no good at all. I was wrong what I said before, about how great it is writing these letters. How it makes me feel better. It doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel like all I want to do is die. And I can't even do that. Remember how Mr Ellis reckoned there was this Japanese soldier in World War Two and he was captured and that was like a big disgrace for him and he tried to kill himself but they tied his hands so he couldn't? What he did was, he just lay down in the bottom of the boat and willed himself to die. And he did. Like, he thought himself to death. Don't reckon I could do that, but. So I'll just go to bed like I do every night—every fucking boring night—and go into my dreaming death instead. And think about how I'll probably never have sex with anyone except myself again.

Bye.

Tony

Dear Miff,

Don't want to think about what I wrote last night, Miff. I got a feeling it was pretty bloody dumb.

I dreamed about you again, but; like I do most nights. Sometimes it's nightmares, sometimes it's good dreams, sometimes I have to change the sheets. Depends on whether I'm remembering the beginning or the middle or the end, don't it? Geez, for a long time I didn't think there was going to be a middle or an end. It was pretty amazing that we ever got together, wasn't it? When you think about how we started. And it was funny the way it happened. I like thinking about that day. That's the best part of going with anyone, I reckon: the first time when you realise you like each other, that she feels the same way you do, and it's like, ‘Fuck! This is magic!'

Still, with us it was just a bloody shock. I didn't know you liked me and I sure as hell didn't know I liked you! And it was exactly the same for you!

Geez, that day, I'll never forget it.

At first it was just bloody embarrassing. When I got to the det and realised it was only us two, no-one else, all I could think of was this movie I saw yonks ago where some bunch of high school kids get a Saturday morning det and they talk about life and stuff as if they're real good buddies.

All these movies, a lot of them seem like us, don't you reckon?

But when I was thinking about thatBreakfast Clubmovie I was just laughing, thinking nothing like that could ever happen with us.

I didn't even know anyone else had a det; I thought it was a little treat Fishbum had dreamed up especially for me. I can see his point, but: if he's going to waste his Saturday at school he might as well get even with everyone he can think of. Why keep it just for me?

So there it was. I rolled up ten minutes late, feeling pretty proud of myself that I'd got out of bed at all. And there you were, walking up to the door at exactly the same moment.

‘What the fuck are you doing here?' I said. It was the most polite I'd ever been to you, but I got such a shock to see you, that's why.

‘I've got a fucking det with fucking Fishbum,' you said. You flicked your hair out of your eyes. Your hair was still wet; I guess you'd washed it and then had to hurry to get to school. But I always remember how beautiful you looked as you flicked that long wet beautiful black hair. You always walked like a panther anyway, and you had eyes like one, and you never looked more like a panther than you did that morning.

‘So have I,' I said. ‘I thought I was the only one.'

‘I hope we're not the only two,' you said. ‘I don't want to spend the next three hours locked in a room with you.'

You seemed different to normal, but. Kind of . . . switched off. Like you weren't awake yet, sure, but more than that: like you had your ropes cut and you were drifting in some big old sea and you didn't know the name of it or whether it was water or what. I felt a bit weird being around you when you were like that.

Like, even when you were telling me how you didn't want me in the same room, you seemed you weren't really thinking about it. Like, your mind was in another place.

But before I could say anything Fishbum appeared. He didn't yell at us for being late, the way I thought he would. Guess he was pleased we'd turned up at all. And besides, Saturday morning is, like, different; everyone seems kind of quieter. The school felt pretty weird. Everything echoed, and it all looked bare and empty.

He just put us in that room, B13 I think it was, and gave us our work, then off he went to his own little office. And there we were for three hours, just the two of us: the two worst enemies in the southern hemisphere and no-one else to talk to.

It was pretty cold and silent in there for a while, hey? You sat on one side of the room, I sat on the other. We couldn't have got any further away from each other. I just stared at the textbook. I would have read the same sentence seventeen times and I still didn't know what the first word was. I always do that, Miff; I don't know whether I'm stupid or what, but I can read a sentence a hundred times and not have a clue what it's about. The words sit there on the page like dead black ants.

So there I was, doing that, with the cold starting at my feet and working its way up my legs.

I think it was about when it reached my knees that I got my big shock.

You were crying.

You, the great Miffy Catriona Simmons, princess of Salmon Heights, ex Warrington Girls' Grammar School, toughest wildest bitch in the school, more vicious than a rattlesnake with rabies, colder than a Maths classroom . . .

And you were crying.

At first I thought you had a cold and your nose was dripping onto the paper. And the sniffling noises were because of your cold. Then I realised what was really happening. I just couldn't believe it. Impossible! I sat there in shock. And before I could stop myself I said, ‘You're crying.'

You didn't say anything. And I said, ‘What are you crying for?' I was, like, amazed.

And you said, through these little sobs, ‘Mind your own fucking business.'

I said, ‘OK, I will.'

So we both just kept on sitting there, you still crying, me still in shock. Then I saw Fishbum's head coming towards the room. I said, ‘Fishbum's coming.' That gave you time to wipe your eyes and try and look normal. He came in and stood next to you for about five minutes, probably trying to look down your front, I reckon. He didn't say anything, but. Then he came over to my desk and did the same thing, except I don't think he was trying to look down my front. Then he went out. He hadn't said a word, not one.

And there we were, alone, just the two of us again.

I guess a lot of people who think they know me don't know me too well. A lot of people think I'm some total mongrel who couldn't give a shit about anyone: who'd pick up a cat and give it the helicopter treatment on top of a fifty-storey building, then let it go.

I reckon I'd do that, too. I don't like cats. And face it, I've done worse. Remember Clint Eastwood in that movie: ‘I've killed just about everything that walks and crawls, at one time or another.' I've killed mice and frogs and lizards and birds, and even a dog once, except that was an accident. But one thing I just can't hack, one thing I can't stand, even for a minute, is seeing a girl cry. It makes me feel so damn bad. I can't sit there and listen to it. So in case you've ever wondered, that's why I tried again after you'd pissed me off so bad the first time.

I think I said something like, ‘What the fuck's the big problem anyway?' which I guess didn't sound too sympathetic and you didn't even bother to answer. Which was fair enough. But at the time I didn't think that; I got the shits with you and said, ‘You reckon you're so bloody tough and now you're carrying on like a fucking wimp.'

See, I just couldn't stand to see you crying, like I said, so I was saying anything that I thought might shut you up.

Boy, you really cracked then. ‘WHAT THE FUCK WOULD YOU KNOW?' That's when you started chucking the books. I was ducking and dodging, and at the same time trying to look out the window to see if Fishbum was coming. I thought, If he comes, we're dead. I was counting on you running out of books. But I guess I must have miscounted because, just as I took one more quick look out the window, you got me fair and square on the side of the head with your fucking mobile phone. Geez, I was pissed off. It wasn't one of those little wussy phones that most people have; no, not this baby: it was a thing called The Brick and it felt like one, too. ‘Geez, you're a fucking bitch,' I was going to say, but I couldn't even finish the sentence, because you started crying full-on then, like you were totally out of control. Scary stuff. I went over to where you were sitting and you had your head right down on the desk and I didn't even know if you could tell I was there. I wanted to touch you but I was nervous about it and I had blood running down the side of my face—it was pretty funny, I guess, when you look back on it, but at the time it wasn't. I thought if I touched you, there was every chance you'd belt me again or else you'd get Fishbum and have me charged with assault or harassment or something. Still, I couldn't help myself. I put out a finger and gave your hair a bit of the old stroke stroke treatment and when you didn't shove your pencil case down my throat I got a bit more daring and went for the shoulder. And next thing you're holding me like I'm your best friend, and you're sobbing all over my shirt.

So that's how it started. Last thing I expected when I went in for the det. I've never had anything good come out of a det before. And it wasn't all good—Fishbum cracked the shits when he saw how little work we'd done, and on Monday he dobbed us in to Paspaley. But I'd been there and done that enough times before. And Paspaley's such a weak bastard. I seen him playing table tennis with the Year 12s and he was bloody pathetic, doing all these wussy little shots and they were smashing the crap out of the ball, smashing it right at him, and you could see they were doing it deliberately, and he was giving this weak little smile, like he wanted to be in on the joke, and he didn't realise that he was the joke.

Anyway, I just wanted to write about us, to make myself feel bad, not about Paspaley, whichreallymakes me feel bad.

Miff, as much as we hated each other before that det, that's how much we loved each other after it. Don't you reckon? I knew I was pretty damn intense about everything, and now I'd found someone as intense as me. We walked down the street to the park and we were just so into each other.

You know, Miff, touching you was like eating honey. I had your beautiful hair in my mouth, your beautiful clean black hair, and your hands were all down my back, pressing me so close it was like you wanted to pull me right into you. You had the hottest hands I've ever felt, it was like these two hot little animals were running all over me, making me hot wherever they touched. Christ, I wanted to rip my clothes off and your clothes off right there and then, and be right into you, and I know you wanted that too, but being in the middle of a tiny little park, it was a bit difficult. Then, fuck it, you had to go to meet your mother or something, and we had to rip ourselves apart.

Story of my life.

I floated home to my uncle and aunt as if I was on something. And I was, Miff. I was on you. Someone had grabbed a soldering iron and melted us together. Without even having sex we were into each other, like no-one I've ever been with before. It was so wonderful it was scary. So amazingly good that it scared the shit out of me.

I was actually nice to my uncle and aunt for at least half an hour when I got back there. Must have been a helluva shock for them.

You know what they say here, Miff? They say I'm in denial, which I won't bother explaining, and that these letters are all part of the denial. What a lot of shit. They know about the letters by now, of course, cos I spend so much time writing them, but I don't think they know they're to you. One thing's for sure, they don't get to read them. What I do wonder about though is how they even know they're letters. They must have been looking over my shoulder maybe. Makes me kind of nervous.

Anyway, that's enough for now.

See ya.

Tony


Page 4

Dear Miff,

I was saying about being intense and everything in that last letter, and I've been thinking about it ever since. It's the way I am, no risk about that, but geez Miff, I don't know, it's no good. The trouble is, it means everything matters so bloody much. You can't take a joke when you're like me. Or you. You pretend you can, but you can't really. That first Monday after we started going together, I lost it badly when Cam made that joke about you fucking him for a Mars Bar. I knew it wasn't true; you've got too much class to even spit on him, but he's always giving me the shits, and that day I went for him. Wham! Bam! Thank you, Cam. He's the first bloke I've ever knocked out, like unconscious, with my bare fists, and I tell you what, it was a bit scary, I thought I'd killed him for a minute.

He didn't dob on me though, that was one good thing about him, the only good thing about him, cos if he'd dobbed, I was gone, no risk. I was already on so many last warnings I'd lost count.

I guess everyone was so bloody amazed that I was with you. That's not surprising, the way we'd been on Friday, and every day before that. But they didn't know anything. They sure as hell didn't know all that stuff you'd told me on Saturday.

One of the things that meant a helluva lot to me, Miff, was the way you trusted me, telling me all that. Trust. Christ, that's a bloody joke. No-one ever trusted me before. I swear, I wasn't trusted to wipe my own bum. My father lying about Queensland, that was typical. When I was little, every time I went to the shops for him, he used to reckon I'd stolen some of his change. He'd belt me for it if I wasn't quick enough to get out of his way.

The real joke was that I actually did steal his change quite often.

But you. You trusted me, Miff. I don't know why. It could be that you're incredibly stupid, but I don't think that's it. You fail all the tests for stupidity that I ever heard of. Like, I mean you fail them by not being stupid, not the other way round . . . anyway, you know what I mean.

No, I never thought you were stupid, but I've never figured out why you'd pick the biggest delinquent in the whole school, your worst enemy, the kid from such a different bloody world to yours, why you'd tell him stuff you never told anyone else before.

It was a weird experience, believe me. Maybe that's what gave me the feeling I was on something—and for once I wasn't.

So, suddenly I knew so much about you. I felt like I'd walked right inside that big rich house and was sitting in the middle of the big lounge room with the grand piano and the fireplace the size of a garage. Without having met any of the people in the house except you, I knew why your father was so moody and silent, why your grandmother wouldn't speak to him from one week to the next, why your brother and sister only came in to shower and change before they went off for another wild night of sex and drugs and forget about the rock'n'roll.

I always thought doctors were kind of different, you know what I mean? I always thought doctors, with their clean hands and quiet voices and their old-fashioned classy-looking clothes, were like special people who'd been chosen by God or something to be doctors: they didn't have no bad thoughts and they didn't do no bad things. I can't remember who told me your father was a doctor, but I knew from somewhere, and I was a bit nervous about you after I heard it. I thought you must be from another world, like you were an angel, maybe. Is that too weird? Sorry if it is.

Then you told me the whole shithouse story and I was like in shock and excited at the same time. Before that I'd thought there were two worlds, one where people like me lived, a scungy world full of shit where you fought in the gutter just to stay alive, just to score another dollar. Like my mum getting paid about a dollar an hour or some shit to clean rooms in this el cheapo motel with cigarette butts on the carpet and torn flyscreens on the windows. There was good stuff in our world too, like sticking by your mates, but just not enough of that good stuff.

Then—this is what I thought—there was this other world for the rich pigs, where they drove around in their posh BMWs and talked posh to each other and they were all beautiful looking. If they did anything bad it'd be like on TV, where it wouldn't seem really bad, it'd be like glamorous bad, not scungy or shabby or disgusting. I never thought that maybe they could be really rotten underneath.

But your father and that little girl, that was rotten bad, as bad as anything that ever happened in our street, in our suburb. And it was worse in a way, with him paying them off. I'm not saying no-one around here wouldn't pay someone off if they could; the thing is, no-one'd have the money, so it's hypo—whatever that word is—hypothetical, or something.

I don't know what it would do to you, having a pervert for a father. You tried to explain it, a little bit, that day in the det, but we never really talked about it after that. I remember you saying you couldn't stand for him to touch you any more. Geez, I can understand it'd give you the creeps. I don't know how you could even look at him again.

My father had a lot of shit wrong with him but I don't think he'd do anything like that.

I tell you what it did for me: it made me angry as goddamn hell, that's what it did. I seriously thought about ringing the cops and dobbing on him, you know that? Like, anonymously. The only reason I didn't was because I knew how pissed off you'd be.

I had some strange feeling that I was going to be your protector, for God's sake; like, I wanted to take care of you suddenly. You'd have killed me if you'd known that! I don't know anyone who wanted protecting less than you did . . .

Wait a minute though . . .

It's about ten minutes since I wrote the last sentence. I've been thinking about you all that time. And you know, I've just worked out what anyone with an IQ in double figures would have figured out months ago. And it's this: you did want me to look after you! You know what I mean. All that toughness, all that aggro, it was real all right, but geez, you were a kitten when I touched you. A panther with anyone else, but a kitten with me. I never could quite figure that out. I know for sure that no-one else ever saw that side of you. They wouldn't have believed some of the stuff you said when we were just lying together, the way you sometimes went soft and mushy around me. You were like a little kid then. Remember? We used to laugh about it and I'd stir you about needing your dummy and your teddy and stuff, but I kind of liked it when you went that way.

I guess maybe I liked being all protective and shit around you. I don't know, I don't want to think about that.

I'll change the subject.

Well, sort of. The subject's always you, Miff, as far as I'm concerned. I know you wouldn't want it that way any more but it's still that way for me and I've got a feeling it's always going to be.

So . . . I'll go to that Monday again.

I half thought it all might be a dream, or not a dream exactly, but that you'd have changed your mind over the weekend, or that it had just been one of those funny things that happen, sometimes when two people come together for a moment and the air crackles, then they move away and go cold again.

Like, that movie I was talking about before. At the end they say something like, ‘Well, we're all going to be really good friends now,' and one of them says, ‘No, we're not, it's just a fluke that this happened, and on Monday we won't want to know each other, we'll be embarrassed to be seen together, we'll pretend this never happened.' And as soon as he says it, or she, I can't remember, you think, Yeah, that's exactly right.

So I really thought there was a big chance it'd be that way for us.

Monday when I saw you coming along the walkway I was shaking like a leaf. And me mates, they didn't know nothing, of course; they thought we was still worst enemies, and Artie was saying, ‘Hey Tony, here's your girlfriend,' real sarcastic, and I'll never forget the look on his face when you took my hands and kissed me right on the mouth.

Mmm, your warm firm lips, and your little tongue flicking into mine like a lizard, I forgot about Artie pretty quickly.

Oh fuck it, that's enough for this letter. Bye bye bye bye bye, Miff.

Lots of love,

Tony

Dearest Miff,

There's hardly been any time to write to you the last few days. Sorry about that. Sometimes I wonder if they do it deliberately, make me work my bum off just so I can't sit in the corner of the TV room thinking of you. Do you reckon they'd do that?

Too fucking right they would.

I want to live in a dream world with you, Miff, that's all. I want us to be on a boat, one of those big white bastards, drifting through the beautiful calm blue seas, not going anywhere in particular, just watching all them tropical coloured fish. And we wouldn't wear no clothes, we'd lie around on the deck and make love whenever we felt like it. Your beautiful brown body walking naked towards me. Oh God, Miff, I'm going to do myself damage here just imagining it. Better change the subject, change it real quick. A couple of times thinking about you early on, when we first started going together, I came without even touching myself, never done that before or since. It was out of sight, man. Unreal. That's how much I loved you.

Sometimes you can't hardly believe what your body will do.

OK, change the subject. What to? I don't know, I was just thinking about school and how different it was once we started being together. I lived for the sight of you, Miff. I'd come to school in the morning, get off the scummy old bus with its ripped seats and shitty smelly old Wally the driver, and I'd walk through the staff carpark where we weren't meant to go, round the Lasers and Hyundais and Nissans, all those shitty little clean shiny cars that teachers buy . . . past them and past the main entrance with the sign saying students can't use it—in case we contaminate it or something—along the covered walkway and the lockers with doors hanging off and graffiti all over them, past the rubbish tins that the cleaners never empty, through the plastic bags blowing across the bitumen, past the sexual harassment poster that says if you look at a girl's legs you're a pervert, past the try-hard library and the noticeboards with last year's netball results going yellow and faded, and there you'd be, Miff, in your tight black jeans and that plain grey T-shirt, playing with your long black hair, looking so clean like you'd just stepped out of the ocean, like a model in a magazine, justshining, shining like the sun was for you alone, shining like you were the sun, shining like this special light came from inside you, a fucking miracle, and you were a miracle, Miff, you were the greatest fucking miracle in my life.

After I started going with you I never wagged school no more, Miff—not unless you were wagging it with me. I mean, shit, I didn't do any more work than I had before, even though you kept giving me a hard time about it, trying to make me do a bit, but hey, at least I turned up. Be grateful for small mercies, OK?

I loved just talking to you, Miff, even though I never said anything much about myself. I know you didn't like that, you kept hassling me about it, asking all them questions, wanting to know every fucking thing about me. Now I wish I had said more. I'm trying to make up for it by writing these letters, but it's not the same, and anyway it's a bit late. Talking: that's what I should have done more of. It's just that I'm such a dickhead that I couldn't figure it out before. Christ, we fuck ourselves up, don't we Miff? Don't we just fuck ourselves up?

Trouble is, I've never been a talker. You gotta learn how to talk, I reckon. I don't mean just jabber on about footy and shit; I mean talk the wayyoudid, about yourself and stuff that happens and whether you should do this or that or something else. I found that pretty fucking hard, still do. I know you did too, don't get me wrong, but you did it better than I ever could.

You know those movies where something bad, something real bad, is about to happen, and the sky gets darker and darker and this music starts, and it's always the same kind of music, real threatening, real scary, it's not exactly music even, just these sounds that are ugly and they don't go together all smooth and nice and sweet like some music do? It's like you can feel the wings of the dark angel beating over your head and you know something terrible's coming and there's nothing, not one fucking thing, you can do to stop it? That's what it was like with us Miff; I heard that music, I heard it getting louder and louder, and there wasn't nothing anyone could do about it. It scared the shit out of me but there wasn't nothing I could do about it.

Ah, fuck it, I don't want to think any more about that stuff, and besides my back's hurting like shit tonight, if you really want to know. I'm gonna go get some of the magic pills, Miff.

Bye,

Tony

Dear Miff,

They keep coming at me with all this denial shit, Miff; I mean, what the fuck would they know? I don't deny nothing, I know everything that's happened to me and I know it was my own fucking fault and I know what it means. I just don't need them to remind me of it every fucking day and night. Maybe they want me to be fucking grateful I'm in this fucking place, but I tell you what, I got news for them: gratitude ain't in my fucking vocabulary, not me baby, so fuck you all.

So what if I just want to dream about the past? So fucking what? It's none of their fucking business.

They reckoned that my uncle and aunt were going to visit yesterday but they never turned up, not that I want them to, anyway.

So you know what I'm going to do, Miff? I'm going to live in the past just a little bit longer—in fact, for as long as I want.

And you're the past I want to live in, Miff.

That's not so bad, is it—to live in the past? Not when the past was like we had. So many good times, so many laughs. Geez, it's a long time since I had a laugh. But that first Monday that we were together: that was the best day of my life, I reckon. The way everyone looked at us! Like they couldn't believe it. They couldn't either. Even with the teachers, man; they were spinning out, like, ‘This can't be for real! Tell me it isn't true!'

Cos, of course, everyone knew how much we hated each other's guts before that.

You know what that hate time was like, Miff? It was a zone we had to pass through. And once we'd passed through it we were in a new area, one I hadn't visited before. It was full-on, one-on-one, after that. Amazing. The world stopped existing outside us two. My uncle and aunt, my father, even my mum if she'd been there, they could be wherever they wanted, they could do whatever they wanted, they could have said any shit to me and I wouldn't have noticed. You and I, we lived on an island that floated through the school, down the streets, through the shopping centre, an island like a little spaceship, and no-one else could get on it.

No-one else had the passport or the visa or the tickets.

First time I went to your place with you was, what? After we'd had about two weeks together? Second time was about ten days later. I didn't really want to go again. You'd been hassling me trying to get an invite to my uncle and aunt's. But I didn't want that, either. I didn't want us to be together at my place or yours. Just in the streets with you, that was enough for me, in the parks, in the wild places.

But because I wanted to do everything right with you I gave in when you said to come the second time. ‘No-one'll be there,' you said. Well, I'm not going to give you a hard time about that again. Just because half your fucking family was there. At least your father was away, saving lives or feeling up little girls, or both. I don't know what I would have done if he'd crashed the place.

So, off we went, me talking more and more the closer we got because that's what I do when I'm nervous, that's the only time I talk, but just talking shit, and you talking less and less, because that's what you do. It was pretty weird when I saw the cars there, shit. There was your mother's Alfa and your brother's BM and your sister's Jeep. Like, that was a quiet day for you guys. Awesome. I don't know why I didn't piss off straightaway. Should have. I knew when I saw the cars that there were people home, and you knew it too, of course. I felt you getting more nervous—but you told me it'd be cool, so in we went.

It wasn't too cool, though. For one thing, I couldn't believe the way you talked to each other, Miff! I mean, I know these were your family and I don't want to put shit on them, but you were all so fucking polite, it really got to me! It was like a conversation on TV or at the doctor's; you know, when that lady—I forget what they call them—she sits behind the desk and takes all your particulars, she talks like, ‘Good morning, Mrs Marchesi. I'm sorry, Doctor's running a little late today. How long since you were last here? How would you like to pay for this?'

That's what it was like! I couldn't believe that. It was the last thing I expected.

We came into that big room where you've got the big TV and all them lounges and magazines and shit, and the mirrors that you nearly walk right through because you think it's the other half of the room, and there was your mother and your sister and your brother. I was bloody red as a beetroot, didn't know which way to look, and they're acting cool as if you bring home some loser like me every day, and your mother says, ‘Oh, there you are, darling. We were starting to wonder what happened to you,' when I know and you know and everyone else down the east coast must know that you did what you bloody liked and no-one in your family would have a clue from one week to the next where you were or what you were doing or who you were with.

‘And this must be Tony.' That was her second line. Cracked me right up, only I was too scared to laugh. I shook her hand but it felt like a bit of lettuce that's been out of the fridge a week or so. I couldn't look at her. Too embarrassing. Then I had to meet your brother and sister. They didn't seem too interested.

‘Where do you live, Tony?' Already your mother was into the questions. There was no way I was going to give the right answers; I mean the answers she wanted. She wanted you hanging round with private school boys who talked like your brother. The street I was living in then, I don't think she'd heard of it. I don't think she'd even heard of the suburb.

Miff, sometimes—I don't like to say this but I've gotta be honest—sometimes I wondered if you just went with me because I was the opposite of the kind of guy your parents'd want.

Like, you were using me to say ‘fuck you' to your parents. Not, like, deliberately—but sometimes I did wonder if that was what was going down.

Anyway, I'm not getting into that, I was just trying to remember how it all went that day. Seems to me it was nothing but a whole lot of questions. All hidden under your mother's super-cool super-polite voice. ‘What are your favourite subjects?' ‘And what do you want to do when you leave school, Tony?' ‘Is that what your father does?' ‘You don't think that some kind of tertiary course would be a good idea?'

And so on. By the time we escaped and you took me upstairs I was bloody shaking. We got into your room and I couldn't relax at all. You grabbed me and kissed me but I couldn't get into it. I said to you, ‘Is that the way they always talk?' And you didn't even know what I was on about!

‘What do you mean?' you asked.

What did I fucking mean? I thought it'd be obvious to anyone who wasn't a sandwich short of a lunchbox.

‘The way they fucking talk to you, like you're a fucking stranger, is that what it's always like? They're so fucking polite! Don't you guys ever, you know,talk?'

‘Well, what's it like at your place?'

You sounded so puzzled. I couldn't believe it.

‘Well fuck it, my uncle and aunt, we don't talk either, but we're not bloody polite. If someone gives you the shits you just scream at them! My uncle doesn't bloody sit around saying, “Oh dear, do you think Tony's playing that music a little bit loud?” He sticks his head out of the TV room and he yells, “Turn the fucking music down before I come down there and put a fucking baseball bat through your fucking CD!” If they're pissed off because they don't know where I've been they're yelling at me, like: “Where the fuck have you been?” not “Oh, we were starting to wonder what had happened to you.”'

Of course, I forgot that in your house everyone's rooms are about a hundred metres away from each other so you wouldn't hear their CDs. And anyway, they'd be playing opera or something. And, even if it was too loud, you'd just say, ‘Oh, excuse me, Miffany, we were wondering if you would mind making a tiny little adjustment to your volume switch.'

I don't know which is better, but; I mean my uncle and aunt gave me the shits with all the arguments, and so did my mum and dad before that, but at least you knew what everyone thought. With your family you wouldn't have a clue what they thought about anything. The only message that came through loud and clear was that I wasn't the kind of guy they would have signed up for their daughter to go with. But I figured that was their problem. It only made me more determined. That's the way I am, Miff, you know that. I'm a stubborn son-of-a-bitch. And I don't give up easy.

Trouble is, what I just wrote, I don't know if it's true any more. Since I fucked up so bad. I wish you were here to tell me, Miff. I can't work these things out for myself now. Am I tough, am I weak, am I pathetic? I don't know. And maybe it's the not knowing that's the worst thing of all.

Tony

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