It wasn’t meant to be like this.

Me and Cass, we were meant to be together.  We were together, and I thought it would be forever and ever, as long as we both shall live.  I couldn’t imagine a day dawning, the yellow sun coming up without Cass: couldn’t imagine going to sleep, being able to sleep without Cass: couldn’t imagine breathing, my chest rising and falling without Cass: I couldn’t even see how my heart could beat without Cass.  But look how it is now.  This wasn’t what I planned.  It wasn’t meant to be like this.

We got together in school.  I remember the first day I saw her.  She’d come from a posh school in Liverpool: flunked her grades, she said, father bankrupt after the banks fell, we knew.  She was like a fawn; dark eyes peeping out from behind those lush, sweeping lashes.  Her glossy hair flowed, chestnut falls cascading over her shoulders, tumbling and curling.  I squared my shoulders, glowered from under my tatty blonde locks, and pretended that I didn’t care.  But I was chuffed when she had to sit beside me in art, and I liked the way she tried not to look, tried to pretend that she didn’t notice my farm-muscled frame brooding under my shirt, that she couldn’t smell the aftershave I’d nicked from my brother.  She hadn’t been there a week before we were an item.

We were together; it was so right.  The same clothes, the same music, the same films; we shared the same taste in everything.  We looked good together, everyone said so.  And our parents approved, although it would have been kind of cool if they hadn’t.  Other kids stared when we necked in the common room.  I loved the way their jealous eyes burned into us, but tore away the moment we surfaced.

She even changed her plans for uni so we could be together.  Her parents got kind of pissed off then.  They wanted her to go to Oxford, but she said no: we had to be together.  And that was cool.  Me, I’ve always been going to work on the farm.  But with Cass around, even that didn’t seem so bleak.  I’d thought about the army, anything for an escape, but now I didn’t have to.  I had her, and she was all I needed.  And everything would have been just fine, if it wasn’t for Richard-bloody-Miles.

Richard-Bloody-Miles.  I hate that name.  And I hate the way it rolls around my mouth like a dollop of horse shit.  He scuttled here from god-only-cares-where, and moved in three doors down from my Cass.  I didn’t bother to be nice; he was a skulking Neanderthal with joined-up eyebrows and the sort of hair that normally only grows in places where it can’t be seen.  I didn’t bother to speak; we don’t like incomers round here.  Oh yes, so they bang around with a townie mania for joining this and doing that, but they’re all the same in the end: outsiders, incomers, here today snapping up ‘cute cottages in need of renovation’, before they piss off back to where they came from.  If it was up to me, they wouldn’t be allowed.  They shouldn’t be allowed.  But I don’t have a say in such things, and nor will I, at least, not for some time to come.

Richard-Bloody-Miles.  He can’t even walk properly, not without that stupid swinging gait of his.  I’d mimic it, to make Cass laugh.  She’d laugh so hard, she’d be bent double.

“Mick!  Mick, stop it!  He can’t help it.”

“Can’t help it; my arse.  He only does it to make it look like there’s so much down his pants that he can’t put his legs together.”

She was in hysterics then, tears trickling down her warm, smooth cheeks.  I can still feel her cheeks like peaches under my thumbs, perfectly curved and irresistibly soft.  What I wouldn’t give for none of this to have happened, to go back to that time when no one had heard of Richard-Bloody-Miles.

“Aw, Mick, he’s all right,” she spluttered.  “You should give him a chance.  Did I tell you he’s doing the same as me at college?”

“Tosser.”

They were lab partners at school.  I never did science: it was boring.  Trust him to be into geeky stuff like that.  Cass said she was only doing it to keep her parents happy.  I didn’t care who she sat beside.  I never thought about it.
So I was kind of shocked when I found out.  I never saw it coming, never thought anything of it when she said she wanted to back off a bit.  She said she needed time to study, what with the exams coming up.  And my mates had been teasing me for spending more time with her than being down the pub, so I was cool with that.  But I still don’t understand.  I don’t understand at all.  Suddenly, I was the outsider.  Me, born and bred and related to nearly everyone in the village, how could I be the one on the outside?  But I heard people talking.  I heard what they said.  And I heard all the crap about a couple made for each other.  That was me and Cass, right?  It was me and Cass what were meant to be together, not Cass and Richard-bloody-Miles.

I’m not sorry.  I never will be.  I’m only sorry they could prove it was me.  You see, I got up early one Sunday morning, real early, without my mother having to nag.  I knew Richard-bloody-Miles went fishing with his uncle every Sunday.  I knew he left at five-thirty on his motorbike, no matter the weather, and went to Holland’s pond, the boring sod.  And this particular Sunday, just as he was accelerating on that lovely bit of straight road that leads through the woods, he hit the wire strung across the road.  It was wound around the trees and waiting, waiting to get him.  Still makes me smile, remembering how the bike flew out from under him, how his head snapped back, and the crunch when he landed on the tarmac.  It was beautiful.

I’m not sorry he’s dead.  I meant him to die.  I wanted him dead.  I wanted him out of the way, so that me and Cass could be together again.  I wanted us back the way we were; the way we were meant to be: just me and my Cass.  But that’s not what happened, and you know it, don’t you.

She wouldn’t see me.  She wouldn’t speak to me.  No one spoke to me.  They all knew it was me before Steve Faraday, the village plod, worked it out.  Steve Faraday.  We used to call him Steve Faraway, he was such a dim tosser.  They say he’s gonna get promoted now, after matching the cable to some kit on the farm.  How was I supposed to know it was that obvious?  Even Cass never said she loved me for my brains.  It didn’t take long for him to come a-calling.  He knew he had his man.

It wasn’t meant to be like this.  I got life, and they’ve said there’s no chance of parole, not for the foreseeable.  And I get no visitors; even my mother doesn’t bother.  I’m stuck in this dump with nothing, not even a letter from my Cass.  But then, she isn’t my Cass any more, is she?  I saw in the local paper while I was on trial that she got engaged to some other numpty.

I am staring out through the window across the grey rain soaked concrete at concrete and more concrete.  It wasn’t meant to be like this.  It wasn’t meant to be.

* * *
Sam Pennington

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