Jay Palmer is two months away from his sixteenth birthday. He doesn’t realise how his life will be changed forever when a gang of thugs leaves a badly injured boy on his doorstep. The biracial boy and his white single mum Maggie nurse the stranger, sixteen-year-old Aleksander Zukowski, also known as Sasha. Sasha ran away from care two and half years ago. He sleeps rough, is addicted to drugs and sells himself on the streets of London to fund his habit. For the first time in his life, he has a reason to change.
Sasha confirms what Jay already knows about himself but it doesn’t make it easy for him to come out to his macho mates in a largely black neighbourhood. Sasha has an uphill struggle to stay clean when his past threatens to throw him back into the abyss. Are the two boys strong enough to stay together against all odds?
It happened when Mum and I were having dinner in the front room. Well, if you grew up in a poor, single-parent family in fucking East London, you were lucky to have a sitting room separate from your bedroom. Mum always said that the flat cost her half her salary, so “don’t you complain”. I didn’t. I had a box room with a single bed, and I could never fault my mum’s ability to feed me. After all, I was not even sixteen and nearly six feet tall and I ate like an elephant all the time which was down to my father’s genes, apparently. My mum should have hated the way I reminded her of my dad because he walked out on her when I was only five, but she didn’t.
Anyway, this night we were in the sitting room with our dinner hot on the table. It was only October, but the sky had darkened since the late afternoon. A loud squeak cut through the thick blackness outside. Mum and I looked at one another, as we sat and listened.
We could hear a car stop; tires skidded across the road right in front of our place. Car doors opening and the voices indicated two or three men got out from the car and threw something heavy onto our front lawn. They shouted incomprehensibly to each other and got back in the car, slamming the doors with loud bangs. I called it our “lawn”, but it was a patch of grass that was basically part of the pavement. People dumped all kinds of crap there all the time. The car sped off, its tyres screeching with the friction.
“What the fuck!” I stood up to look out, expecting to see fly tipping in our front garden again. The bastards.
“Language!” Mum never failed to remind me.
Living in our part of London, we should keep our nose out of other people’s business. But, now that the men had gone, I wasn’t afraid to go and investigate. I lifted the curtains and peered into the dark, my breath instantly misting up the window. I assumed they had left a bag of rubbish, a piece of old furniture, or something like that, but they hadn’t. I screwed up my eyes to see in the dusk, to make out the shape of the thing on the lawn, and my heart pounded. Arms and thighs shimmered oddly white in the night.
“Shit, Mum. There’s someone out there. They dumped a body.” Perhaps I grew up watching too many crime and detective dramas. My mum loved them. But I was sure I wasn’t imagining things. Around our part of London it was entirely possible it was a dead man.
“A body?” Mum was a nurse which was a good thing because she sounded curious rather than scared or panicky.
I ran out first. The man—well, he was a boy about the same age as me—lay on his side, his legs drawn up. My heart thumped when I saw that his trousers were down just below his knees; his bare arse was bloody and his balls were black, as though someone had literally kicked his nuts. The rest of him was the same, black and blue everywhere; his face was covered in blood. In the pale, yellowy lamplight he looked dead. I could make out he was pale skinned and his hair colour was light, probably blond. My eyes were drawn back to his limp penis. I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t frightened or disgusted. Instead I was fascinated by the stranger as if the scene put a spell on me.
My mum had come out by then and stood next to me, watching with wariness. I could sense her concern vibrating in the air as she came closer and stooped to inspect the boy. She touched the side of his neck. “He’s alive, just.”
Thank fuck for the nursing profession. I added silent thanks for my mother’s presence. My mum and I were solid. It’d been the two of us forever, so I didn’t have any choice but to be part of the team.
She drew the boy’s trousers back up as gently and carefully as she could. Okay, yes. Give him some dignity.
“Come on, we’d better bring him in and call an ambulance. Don’t want him to freeze to death out here.”
Together we lifted him up. I didn’t expect him to be so heavy. As his body uncoiled, I realised he was probably as tall as me, though his arms and legs were very skinny. He wore only a short-sleeved T-shirt in the wintry frost. His skin was freezing like we were carrying a bag of ice. Awkwardly, we lugged him through the front door and into our warm livingroom.
We put him down on the couch, and I got a better look at him now. His hair was a bit long, messy and dirty, but it was ash-blond, and his eyelashes were so long they formed halfmoons over his eyes. Well, his eyes were both black and swollen, but I could still make out the pale lashes. His thin arms had puncture marks on them and they were just as bruised as the rest of him. I felt angry with the men who had done this to the boy. Who were they? How could they beat him so badly? What could he have done to deserve this? I didn’t even know why, but I was sure he was a nice guy and he was only my age, so how come these people were so cruel to him?
I turned to see that Mum was examining him, too, but for a different purpose, her eyes running over every bruise and mark on his body. She lifted his left hand. One of the fingers looked bent.
“Jay, we’ll have to call an ambulance and the police.” She shook her head.
“Really? We don’t even know who he is and what happened,” I reasoned. I had my fair share of troubles at school, but I’d never experienced anything this bad. If he was a friend, I wouldn’t like the police involved without knowing more. Even though Mum was white, my dad was Jamaican and I grew up with the black kids in the area and my schoolmates were almost all black, so I didn’t have a particularly strong trust in the police. Despite the fact that I’d just met the boy, I knew he was in trouble and I wanted to protect him.
I’m so glad I took the opportunity to read this book. I’m not familiar with this authors work however I’m definitely a fan. She wrote an amazing and emotional book. This book deals with topics, such as drug use, addiction, prostitution, finding yourself and acceptance.
We follow Jay and Sasha through a very heartbreaking journey. One that had me glued to my Kindle. Jay and Sasha meet after a violent event be fell Sasha. With the help of Jay’s mother they both care for Sasha.
Sasha and Jay develop a bond and Jay is finally able to admit out loud that he his gay. I loved Jay’s character, he was caring, trusting and curious. Sasha has a rough life one that bought tears to my eyes. I love that even though they live two completely different life styles they form a bond and love that blends into one.
Sasha is a product of his environment. He is broken, untrusting and self conscious. While Jay and his mother opened their hearts and home to him, he feels unworthy and inadequate. He wants so much to do the right thing but in order to survive he gets caught up with numbing his pain and doing dark things to score his next high.
I was an emotional mess watching Sasha spiral out of control. Jay and Sasha not only find themselves through out this painful and heart breaking journey, they also get a second chance at life.
I loved this story, it was about unconditional love and how when you find that person there is nothing that can stand in the way. I was able to get lost in this story, even though at times certain scenes made cringe. That’s the thing with really good writing, you get lost and actually find yourself reliving the same things as the characters and this author did that in spades. This is a very moving and emotional story which I highly recommend.
About The Author
I was trained in screenwriting at the University of the Arts London; National Film & Television School and Script Factory, UK. I worked as a film journalist, wrote and produced short films.
I create strong characters and make them heroes in authentic settings and unexpected scenarios.