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james knew that things had been getting bad before they even started going downhill.

maybe it was a special talent, a skill, a gut feeling that mum’s getting angrier, maybe this time she’ll leave me in the flat and just not come back. he'd been younger than his youth back then, stupid and naïve enough to really believe her lies about a quick weekend trip to ireland, packing all his stuff just incase they stayed a while longer. he’d left on friday, with a promise to his best friend harry that he’d be back in time for the school football game on monday.

it’d been exactly 13 mondays ago. his stuff is still in the suitcase just in case his mum has finally forgiven him, in case he’s finally repented for whatever he’s done that means she’s so upset with him. maybe tomorrow he’ll wake up and she’ll return with plane tickets in hand, so he can be back in the safety of his london flat. if ‘safety’ came in the form of hiding in his bed, waiting for mum to come back from her boyfriend’s house or from a meeting with a ‘coworker’. sometimes he does wonder whether harry is disappointed that he couldn’t make it, whether his teachers still print worksheets to lay on his empty desk with a cheery ‘does anyone know when james will be back?’. he cant help but wonder if anyone noticed his absence the way he noticed theirs.

that was just the before. he misses it, in someways. when his problems were larger than life, worries about whether his mum had bought enough food for when she was gone, worries about struggling to keep his mum focused on paul so he could keep the stepdad who treated him like he was worth something.  paul was the nicest of all stepdads. he wore soft jumpers and would play james’s favourite songs in the car on the short drive to school. the most effort he’d ever put into a relationship was holding mum and paul together, but he had never been enough.

 

today’s main problem focuses around his shoes being too small.

 

he knows it’s ridiculous. he’s almost an adult now and he’s still too scared to ask his aunt for new shoes. she’s wasted so much money on him and he knows it, by the pinched look in her eyebrows as she scans the most recent expenses she’s having to fork out on. it’s harder knowing that she didn’t even like him anyway, when he was just the result of a poor decision she didn’t make yet he was her burden.

it’s hard to keep himself from crying. it’s so fucking lonely here, knowing his existence is a slap in the face for all his family. he’s the least favourite only child, dumped off to be the boring replacement of a much cooler cousin. michelle has a sour look on her face just at the sight of him, the disappointment she barely conceals every-time she sees him leave niall’s old room as if she still hopes that somehow he’d traded places over night.

”the fuck are you doing dicko?!” michelle arrives at the door of his room, as if summoned by thoughts along.

he doesn’t have an answer, just a few choked noises from where his throat has closed with grief. she sighs, throwing herself down onto the bed at her cousin’s feet.

”you’re always fucking crying.” she’s blunt, as always, yet there’s a certain kindness to the way she’s guarding over his curled-up form. “what’s the fucking problem this time?”

”…my shoes are too small.” the pathetic whimper of his voice revolts him.

”what the actual fuck are you talking about?” michelle almost laughs at him, as if he was just a child throwing a tantrum.

”i can’t ask your mum for new ones. she already doesn’t like me.” he pauses, suddenly aware of how heavy his stomach feels, how much the best of his heart bruises his ribs. “no one likes me.”

”well- you are english-“ michelle tries to joke, but it falls limp. “but who gives a flying fuck who likes you? you’re out here crying like a dickhead, it’s not like mammy cares you need shoes you thick fuck-“

”she will care! she’s going to be angry at me and then she’ll kick me out or send me-“ james begins, still a stuttering mess.

”no fucking offence james but my mammy isn’t anything like your ma, and she’ll never be like her.” michelle’s words sting. “look, i know you’re fucked up and you’re scared of getting more fucked up, but to be honest, i don’t think that’s possible.”

“…i want to go home michelle.”