His hair started receeding when he was 13. Bald at the age of 15. In
the note found the day after he died he confessed it was him who had
grafitied the bridge by the railway tracks with Elly Cotton's name.
Another boy had been suspended for it. It had taken him two weeks to
scrub the paint off, he had no skin left on his knuckles. He didn't go
to the funeral. Elly Cotton did.
On the day he would have turned 16 his sister Lauren went to the bridge
by the railway tracks so she could be alone. There were four other boys
there, none of them talking to each other. She recognised them from
school. There was only one she knew - James, he'd been round to their
house. She stood with them under the bridge for five minutes, trying to
think of something to say, before walking past them through the
opposite end. As she passed them, she wondered which one had brought
The off licence was small, she flinched as the bell chimed marking her
entrance. The overweight girl behind the counter chewed gum and talked
loudly to a man ploughing through the Wheat Crunchies. She was asking
him out, without any success. Lauren could barely carry the 24 pack of
beer to the counter - Holstein Pills - it was what her dad drank. The
fat girl turned the box like a rubix cube, looking for the barcode to
scan. Taking her purse out, Lauren felt shifty, despite her approaching
her 19th birthday she had never had bought alcohol before. After
handing over the ?20 note saved over from Christmas, she started to
leave the shop, but had to turn back and interupt the fat girl's one
sided conversation, the box was too heavy. As the fat girl split the 24
cans into two plastic bags, the man left. She threw the beer into bags
with such aggression it nearly smashed the glass counter. With a bag in
each hand, Lauren walked back to the bridge in the dark. Only James was
"Where have the others gone?" Lauren asked, putting the carrier bags on
"Home" he replied nervously. "They weren't here long"
"Why were you all here?"
"Your brother. He'd have been 16 today. I'm James."
"I remember." James smiled for the first time.
"We used to come here with him. After school. Look"
James switched his torch on and shined it at the writing on the wall.
He ran it from left to right as Lauren read. There were five seperate
pieces of writing, all about her brother. Lauren hugged James, kissed
him on the cheek and sat on the dirty ground next to the carrier
"Do you want a can?"
It tasted bitter, she spat the first mouthful out and only drank with
small sips afterwards. It took her an hour to drink the first can and
it was still not empty when she threw it away. She dropped it onto the
floor next to where James had left his two empty cans, but minutes
later she picked up all three cans and walked to a litter bin. When she
came back James had finished another can and had dropped it in the same
place. When she saw it she laughed. He opened up another can and gave
it to her.
"Have you drunk beer before?" she asked him.
"Once. I stole some from my dad's garage. I drank it by myself in my
bedroom. He found me, he came in without knocking. Said he was
disappointed i was drinking lager, said I should drink real ale, it
tasted nicer. He went to get two glasses and we drank the rest of the
can together. Then he grounded me for two weeks."
Lauren laughed and sipped at her beer.
"Which did you do?" she asked, gesturing towards the wall. James picked
up the torch and shined it towards the writing, searching for his own
craftmanship. He fixed his torch on it. Lauren read it outloud.
"no-one will ever replace you." He averts the gaze of the torch. "What
was the fascination you and my brother had of writing on walls."
"The only thing he ever wrote was about Elly Cotton. And i've only
written that. I hope you're not mad."
Lauren shook her head, leant forward and kissed him on the mouth. He
kissed back and tried to put his hand inside her bra. She pushed him
off and ran home.
It was the day he would have turned 30. Lauren took her children to the
seaside on the train. On a wall near the station the words "I want to
shag Elly Cotton" were written boldy in 6ft letters. She let the
children run up and down the ailse of the train, while she gazed at the
wall until it had disappeared completely, wondering who the fuck Elly