Chapter Six: Grounded
I am grounded and it’s so unfair.
Mel King was with me and Sal and Jenny in the lunch queue. She said that she was bunking off that afternoon to meet a lad on Croftlands Estate. She was bragging and said that he was even fitter than Jason. Most of the boys I’ve seen from Croftlands are mingers. This Adam dude was older, she said that he’s sixteen and he was going to try and get some booze and fags. She thought she was big, but I just thought she was stupid. Jenny asked her if she was going to do it and Mel looked proper shocked. ‘No way,’ she said, ‘I don’t even kiss on a first date.’
‘Have you ever kissed anyone?’ Sal asked.
Mel blushed, ‘No, but if I had, I wouldn’t.’ I think that a sixteen year old boy, with or without— but especially with—fags and booze would probably expect to be kissing on a first date and maybe even a lot more.
‘You just be careful,’ I said like a dweeb and sounding like somebody’s mother. ‘You know how rough Croftlands is. Are you sure this lad is, you know, all right?’
‘I don’t know. He looks okay; I only met him at the shops, last night. Mum sent me out for cat food and I’m standing in the queue with a box of twelve Kitty-Kat pouches in my hand wishing that I was holding something cool, like a bottle of vodka, if I could buy it, or a big bouquet of flowers because there was these three lads in front of me and they were all dead fit. They kept on looking around at me and then whispering and I could tell that they weren’t saying anything horrible. It was all good, you know? I paid and left the shop and they were waiting for me outside. I was shy and felt myself going red and trying to pretend like I hadn’t noticed them. Then one of them, I think he’s called, Ian, shouted at me, ‘Oi, wait up.’ I stopped and turned around, he pointed at the one next to him, ‘Adam wants to know if you’ll go with him?’
‘I said, ‘Dunno,’said Mel, 'I didn’t want to appear too keen, but my heart was banging. And then they came over and started talking to me and that’s how it happened. ‘Hey, why don’t you two come with me? Ian and Josh are hot, too, but not as hot as my Adam.’
‘I can’t. I’ve got my piano lesson tonight,’ Sal said. She’s really good on the piano, something else she can do better than me. I can’t do it at all, unless playing Lavender’s Blue (dilly dilly) with one finger, counts. Sal’s lesson wasn’t until half past five, she could have gone with Mel until then, but she was scared of bunking off and was just using her lesson as an excuse. Me and Jenny both made up excuses, too. I’m not allowed on Croftlands, it’s where all the crews hang out and Dad says that three quarters of the trouble makers in town live on that estate. He says it’s a malevolent place to be and that we ought to be very grateful that we can afford to live somewhere else. He’d kill me if I started hanging out there. But I still felt guilty letting Mel go on her own.
‘Look, ring me if you need me,’ I said when we were sitting down at our table. The mash looked lumpy again. I didn’t think she would.
It was just after six o’clock. We’d had dinner and I was doing my homework. I’m not a swat, or anything, I’ve just learned that it’s best not to hand it in late, especially in Miss Chew’s class. And in Mr Hunter’s class, he’s English. My phone rang but I didn’t hear it because I had my earphones in listening to One Direction. Jason Parkes is nearly as fit as Harry Styles, everybody thinks so. Anyway, it was only that I had my phone on vibrate from school still, and it nearly bounced itself off my desk that I saw that it was ringing.
‘Who is this?’ Whoever it was they were crying really bad and I couldn’t hear them properly.
‘It’s Mel. I’m all mashed up; can you come and get me?’ I could hardly make out what she was saying. She sounded as though she’d been in a car accident or something. Her words were all slow and she talked as though she might have a mouthful of blood and broken teeth. She’d be devastated because Mel had lovely teeth and no fillings, as far as I’m aware.
‘Oh my God, Mel, Are you okay? What’s happened? Have you been hit by a car?’
‘I’m in the phone box on Ainslie Street. Hurry,’ and then the phone went dead. I was in a state I can tell you. Mum says that I’ve got an overdeveloped imagination. I expected Mel to be mangled when I got there. Maybe she’d been raped.’ It was nearly a mile and I ran all the way. Now that it’s all over, I just wish that I’d put my pedometer on before I left. I notched up loads of steps and it didn’t stop there. I saw Mel before I got right up close to her. She was sprawled on a bench outside the phone box and this old lady was with her.
‘Are you her, friend, dear?’ Asked the old woman when I ran up. ‘I wanted to ring for an ambulance, but she wouldn’t let me. I think she needs taking home, dear.’
I could see that there was a puddle of puke on the floor beside Mel and she couldn’t sit up. I tried to pull her up but she was all floppy and loose and she just lolled and groaned. She couldn’t even speak. The old woman was still going on about calling for an ambulance so I told her that it was all right, I’d call my dad.
‘Kate. Hello honey. What’s up?’ He didn’t say what’s up like he knew there was something wrong, he was just kind of saying hello. I knew he was going to be mad and I was scared. I could have rung Mel’s parents but her dad’s got a really bad temper, and last year, when she was late home once, he hit her. My day was way scary but he was still the best bet.
‘Dad, I’m in trouble. I really need you to help me.’ He was up from his seat yelling because he was scared when I said that I was in trouble.
‘What’s the matter? Where are you?’
‘Don’t yell at me dad, but I’m on Ainslie Street, by the phone box. I’m with Mel, you know Mel whose dad is a Lorry driver? She’s really drunk, dad.’
‘Oh my God, are you all right. Have you been drinking? Are you drunk, too?’ He didn’t sound mad, just worried but he was still yelling his head off.
‘No Dad, honest. I was at home doing my homework when she rang me to come get her, but she can’t walk.’
‘In that case, it’s not our problem, is it? It’s between Mel and her family, we aren’t getting involved. You ring her parents to pick her up, and you come home, immediately. Do you hear me? I want you home, now, Kate.’ Mel’s dad would go mad. I couldn’t ring him.
I started crying. ‘I can’t ring her dad, he’ll kill her. Please Dad; she’s been sick and everything. Please come and help me. She’s really bad and loads of people are looking at us and I’m scared.’
I heard my dad sigh, ‘Sit tight honey, I’m on my way.’
When I was left alone with Mel I was really scared. I didn’t know what to do. What if she choked on her vomit, or something? She wasn’t asleep but she wasn’t awake either and she kept making horrible noises and I thought she was going to be sick again and she couldn’t talk to me or do anything. I’ve never seen anybody that drunk before and it was really scary.
He was fast. My dad turned up in less than five minutes. I was so glad to see him. He’d know what to do. He got out of the car and opened the back door and then he went to Mel and tried to get her to stand up. Mel looked at him but her head kept wobbling. She told him she was sorry, but you couldn’t hardly make out what she was saying. Dad picked her up and carried her into the car. When he put her on the backseat, her head banged against the window and stayed there. Her school skirt had come up and you could see her knickers. I pulled her skirt down and went to get in the front.
‘Get in the back with your friend,’ Dad said, and he threw me a carrier bag, ‘If she’s going to be sick, make sure you get it all in this. I don’t want her being ill all over my car.’ I didn’t want to hold the carrier bag while Mel was sick in it. I thought I’d be sick, too. ‘Where does she live? George Street, isn’t it?’ asked Dad.
‘No, we can’t take her home. Her dad gets really angry, and she’s scared of him.’
‘If this is the state she gets herself into, so she should be. It’s a disgrace. I have to take her home, Kate. Its home or the hospital and although I think she just needs a night to sleep it off, I think we should let her parents make that decision.’
‘Please, please dad, she doesn’t have to be in until half nine, they won’t know there’s anything wrong yet, so they won’t be worried. We have to take her to ours and try to get her sober before she goes home.’
‘What, and then she can hide this from her parents and act as though nothing’s happened? She could have been killed, Katie. It’s dangerous. I have to tell them. Think how I’d feel if it was you in this state, and your friend’s parents hid it from me. I’m sorry, love, but when you’re an adult you have to do the responsible thing.’
‘I know you have to tell them. But please, can we just try to make her a little bit better first? Please, Dad’
‘I must want my head examining.’ Dad pulled into a side road and turned the car around heading for home. ‘Your mother isn’t even home from work until seven, what do I know about dealing with a drunk teenager?’
‘What does Mum?’ I asked.
Mel hasn’t been sick in the car but as soon as it stopped and dad opened the door and started to move her, she lurched over and threw up all over our drive. It was horrible. Dad sent me in to get a bottle of water out of the fridge.
When I came back out, dad was trying to get Mel onto her feet. ‘Come on young lady; let’s go for a little walk. Kate, you get on the other side of her. We’ll walk her down the track by Parker’s pond.’
‘Aren’t we going to take her inside?’ I was a shocked. I didn’t want everybody to see Mel like that. If anybody saw it might get back to her folks how bad she’d been. And I was angry with Dad; I thought he just didn’t want to have her in the house.
‘Not yet, she’ll just want to lie down. If we’re going to get her sobered up, she needs a brisk walk, lots of water and plenty of fresh air. Come on Mel, honey, one foot in front of the other, that’s the girl.’
Dad was right, when we’d walked a little way, Mel got a bit better. Her legs started to work and the more her legs worked the better she got. She managed to lift her head up and we weren’t so much carrying her anymore, which was good because he was very heavy and made my arms ache. After a bit we stopped, Dad said she was okay to have some water now. He poured it gently into her mouth and Mel swallowed. Then we started walking again with me on one side and Dad on the other holding her up. We’d only taken a few steps when Mel leaned over and was sick in the bushes. ‘That’s okay,’ said Dad, ‘she’s probably going to do a lot more of that, but it’s getting it out of her system.’
Mel had stopped being sick but she was hanging between me and dad when Mr Billing came around the corner with his dog. Mr Billing is another manager at the Post Office, like dad.
‘Hello Steve,’ said Mr Billing, he looked embarrassed, as though he didn’t know what to say.
‘Geoff,’ said Dad.
‘Do you need a hand? Looks like you’ve got a bit of a problem with your girls there. I’ve got two grown up daughter’s myself, I know what they’re like.’
‘No thanks Geoff. I’ve got it covered. She’ll be all right, thanks for asking, though. It’s nice that somebody’s prepared to help.’
‘No worries. See you tomorrow, Steve.’
‘Yeah, nice one mate. Take it easy.’
I was so proud of my dad. It would probably be all around the Post Office tomorrow. Dad had a reputation for being a hard boss, he’d be a laughing stock, but when his workmate had assumed that we were both his daughters, my dad never even bothered to correct him. You know what I think that is? I think that’s class.
We walked all the way around Parker’s pond and every five minutes Dad made Mel drink more water, even though she didn’t want it, and she stopped to throw up twice more and every time she started to look a little bit better Dad made her walk faster. She was walking on her own now but she kept staggering so Dad and I had to link her. By the time we got back home she was a lot better and you couldn’t tell that she was drunk anymore. Dad had rung ahead to let Mum know what was happening and when we got home Mum had the coffee pot on. We had coffee but Dad said it wouldn’t be good for Mel because it was a stimulant, he said that she’d be better with lots more water and a couple of large glasses of fresh orange juice. She said she couldn’t face any, but Dad made Mel eat two slices of toast.
‘How are you feeling, love,’ asked Mum
‘As though I’ve been run over by a truck.’
‘Aw you poor thing,’ Mum was sympathetic but Dad wasn’t.
‘Good, I hope you feel terrible and I hope you feel twice as bad tomorrow. With a bit of luck it’ll show you that the drinking might be fun, but the consequences just aren’t worth it.’
Mel was crying, it was nearly time for her to go home and she was terrified about what her parents would say. ‘Please don’t tell my dad, Mr Bell. I’ve learned my lesson, I promise I have.’
‘I’m sorry Mel, I’m going to have to tell them, it’s the right thing to do.’
‘Now then, let me think,’ said Mum,’ When was it, now? We hadn’t been going out long so you’d have been fifteen. I remember a certain young lad drinking too much to try and impress me and his mates, and then said young lad spent the night in casualty having his stomach pumped. Ring any Bells, Mr Bell?’
I was so shocked, ‘No way. Not my Dad?’
‘Yep, your Dad, sick as a dog and crying like a baby. Look at the poor kid, Steve. She’s had a rough time. I think she’s learned her lesson. Don’t you? We don’t have to tell her parents this time, do we?’
‘I promise there won’t be a next time, Mr Bell.’
‘No, I’m sorry, I’m sure you won’t do it again, Mel, but I just keep thinking that it could just as easily have been our Kate. I’d want to know. What were you doing over there anyway? How did you get in that state?’
I’d wanted to know the answer to the last question, too. I didn’t even know if those boys had hurt her but I hadn’t had an opportunity to get her by herself to ask. Mel looked at her hands, ‘I just met some mates,’ she mumbled, ‘they had some cider and gave me some. I didn’t know it would do that to me. I only had half a bottle.’
‘What a gallon bottle?’ asked my dad. Mel didn’t answer. ‘I know you think I’m being hard on you Mel, but it’s only because I care. Come on, let’s get you home. I’ll have a word with your dad and see if we can get him to go easy on you, eh? I think you’ve had enough of a lecture from me, and we don’t have to tell him quite how bad it was, do we?’
Mel smiled, gratefully but still looked vey worried. I felt so sorry for her, but I think it’s put me off alcohol for life. I never want to get in that state, it scared me.
When we got to the end of Mel’s street, dad stopped the car and told Mel to get out He gave her arm a squeeze and told her that we’d keep it just between us, this once. I love my dad.
Dinner was really late and I never got all of my homework finished, but I’d have time to do it in the morning
‘Kate?’ said Dad.
‘Consider yourself grounded for a week.’
‘Aw, why? I didn’t get drunk.’
‘No, but you know you aren’t allowed on Croftlands estate. You saw the state of Mel, we don’t make rules for nothing, and I don’t expect you to break them.’
‘But she called me to help her, what could I do, just ignore her? Would you have me just abandon my friends when they need me. ‘
‘Oh, come on Steve, there were extenuating circumstances. Couldn’t you take that into account and give her a suspended sentence, or something?’
‘No, Annie, she broke the rules and she has to face the consequences. Now, let that be an end to it.’ I was mad about being grounded, but, apart from that, my dad was great tonight.
‘Thanks for helping Dad.’ I gave them both a hug and squeezed my dad tight. As I got to the door he called me back. ‘Kate?’
‘Oh, what now.’
‘I’m really proud of you, for what you did tonight, pumpkin?’
‘Yes. You did the right thing calling me.’
‘So I’m not grounded?’
‘No, you’re still grounded,’