Across the other side of town, there was a very different conversation going on, and this one was far less excited. Daniel Yates was sat morosely at the kitchen table, opposite his mum Val. He had a face like thunder, and much as he’d never admit it as a nearly 12 year old boy, the glint of tears in his eyes, as he listened to his mum’s admonishments.
“Honestly, Daniel, you can’t live your life shut away on your own you know! I think it’s lovely that Emily has asked you to join her friends for her birthday sleepover, and if you’d just stop worrying and working yourself up into such a state about it, I know you’d have an amazing time.”
Daniel rolled his eyes, and the spat his sarcastic response back “Yeah, right, until ‘IT’ happens, and they all make fun of me. Then I’d be a laughing stock, and I’d never be able to show my face in school. I can’t believe you actually want to subject me to that.”
‘Oh come on now Daniel, please calm yourself down. Firstly, nothing may happen at all, you’ve been so much better lately and to be honest, how much sleep are you actually going to get at a sleepover anyway? Besides, if you’d actually listen to me for a moment, instead of flying off the handle, there may be some things we can do to help make sure that nothing happens, or that if it does then nobody finds out.” Val was getting desperate, not because she wanted to get rid of her son, but because she was so worried about how reclusive he was starting to become. All he ever did was sit in his bedroom on his computer, or run run and run some more. He didn’t seem to have many friends, and very rarely socialised with the ones he did have.
Over the past couple of days she’d seen a few hopeful signs, he’d seemed so much brighter in himself, and had started to mention a few more kids from school in his conversations. There were a couple of girls, Lucy and Becky, in particular who he’d talked quite a lot about, and she was sure she’d seen a glint in his eye when he spoke of Lucy. From what he’d said, they were friends of her niece Emily, and also in the same class together at school. He’d vaguely mentioned Emily’s birthday and that she was hosting a sleepover which these two girls were going to, but only in passing, and she’s not thought much of it as he’d never been one for sleepovers. Not since, well, not since he was much younger anyway.
Today though he’d been in a right state since he came home from school, despite winning what looked like it must have been every medal on offer at the school sports day, and it had taken a long conversation over a hot chocolate to get him to confide his worries in her.
You see, it turned out that Emily had actually invited him to the sleepover a little while ago, but he had understandably declined and made up some excuses. Emily hadn’t been too put out by this, she was used to it by now as she’d been trying to get Dan to stay over for years now, but he wasn’t having any of it. She’d have loved him to be there, of course, but she’d have all her girlfriends around her so was bound to have a great time anyway. It seemed that Daniel’s new friends, however, hadn’t been so easy to put off, and had pretty much talked him into agreeing to go to the sleepover, and now he was panicking, and trying to find a way out of it, even asking her to make excuses for him. She’d do anything to protect her son, what mother wouldn’t, but this time she really did think it would do him the world of good to go and have normal night away with his friends.
“Look, Mum, I’m not going ok, and that’s that! Tell them what you like, I really don’t care anymore. Tell them the bloody truth if you want, it’s better that than them finding out I’m a stupid little baby when I’m there with them all around me!” And with that pretty spectacular outburst, Daniel rose from the table and stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him as he did so.
“DANIEL! Don’t you DARE speak to me like that EVER AGAIN. Do you hear me?”
With his Mum’s angry words rising in his ears, Daniel threw himself onto his bed and cried. What was most frustrating was that he really, really did want to go. He’d already kinda wanted to, as he did feel like he always missed out, but then when Lucy had said she was going to be there and had talked about all of their plans, that had sealed it for him. He didn’t know what it was about her, but he knew he wanted to get to know her better, and he really enjoyed being around her. Why did it have to be a stupid sleepover, and why did he have to be a stupid little baby? He hated himself for ruining everything.4
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