Torn apart

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Rose Tyler met Alec Hardy the first day she went to a new school when she was just 13. Her mother had followed a boyfriend to Paisley in Scotland and said they were staying. Rose daren't speak at first but Alec was different. He became her friend, they had their first kiss at 13 but 3 years later, she was gone. This is how they found each other and fell in love again in 2012.
Chapter 1 - The news
Suitable for over 16's only

Rose Tyler in this story is the same age as Alec, making it that she was born in 1971, a month after Alec.  Based loosely on David Tennant's childhood but then follows Alec Hardy's story.  No disrespect or intrusion is intended.  Dates may not be the same as in the series concerning Sandbrook and may contain some elements of my other stories on the Sandbrook subject including 'No witness protection' where Rose's friend Shareen leaves the estate with her mother to live with her boyfriend.

This is very sad in parts as Rose makes friends with Alec and he and his dad begin to realise how Rose is unhappy at the flat she shares with her mother and her mother's boyfriend and Alec's dad thinks Rose is being abused, maybe not physically but mentally and it's tearing a young Alec apart to see her like that.  There are no mentions of physical abuse but readers should be warned it may or may not be Rose who is involved as her mother never allows her to spend any more time with Alec than after school and holidays while she is out at work.

~~~~{ silversurfer60 }~~~~

It was the last day of school and thirteen year old Rose Tyler couldn't wait to stop wearing her uniform and go around in her jeans and t-shirt again for six weeks.  She'd seen Mickey Smith on the way home, he'd left school last year, being four years older than her and he was a trainee mechanic.

"School's out for summer?" Mickey laughed as she passed the garage where he worked, talking to her friends.

"Why ya bothering with him?" Shareen asked her, pulling her chewing gum out of her mouth, twisting it and putting it back in, which even Rose thought was disgusting.

She'd been trying to convince her friend it wasn't a cool thing to do but to no avail.

"Hello to you too Shareen," Mickey joked, getting him a scowl from Rose.

"Mickey Smith, don't think we're gonna spend the whole six weeks hanging around here," Rose warned him.

She heard laughing in the background as the other men saw them.

"Smith, get back to work," Stan, the foreman warned him.  "You girls, take notice of your friend there," he pointed to Rose, who was turning a bright shade of red.  "Don't let me see you lot hanging around all summer unless you want to work and I doubt very much you'd want to get your hands dirty and break your fingernails."

"Bloomin' cheek," Charlene, one of the other girls remarked, checking her own fingernails where Miss Walker in hygiene had made her scrub off the pink nail varnish Shareen had passed to her, who hadn't been the one to get into trouble over it. 

"Go play with your ponytails," one of the men laughed, making Mickey turn.

"We haven't got them," Rose retaliated.  "Are you blind or what?"

That made the others giggle, patting her on the shoulder.

"Come on Rose, you're wasting your time with him," Keisha laughed.  "Thought you fancied my brother?"

"What?" Mickey asked, since he thought the now teenager had a crush on him.

"Stop it Keisha, I never said I fancied Jay.  Take no notice Mickey," Rose replied, since his boss had gone back to what he was doing – reading the paper in the corner.

"Well tell your friend there to keep her mouth shut," Mickey replied.  "See you later when your mum goes out?  She still seeing that bloke, what's his name?"

Rose wished her mother, Jackie Tyler had never met 'Scottish' Bob as everyone called him.  He was part of the firm renovating the estate, which Rose thought was a bit of a waste of time and money since the kids, well not her age would just 'redecorate' the brick walls and chalk on the pavement with slogans amongst other things, some unreadable.

"Leave it Mickey, if she wants to see him, there's nothing I can do about it," Rose replied sadly, not liking the fact she was sent to her cousin's flat most nights and had hoped she could be trusted to stay in on her own.  "They're almost finished though, the scaffolding was coming down this morning."

"Good job," Shareen laughed, Rose seeing the disgusting chewing gum again.  "Otherwise all the younger kids will be playing on it all summer and that security guy couldn't catch a tortoise."

That made the others laugh and agree.  Mickey stared after them, Rose would never agree to go out with him and he'd have to wait another two years at least.  Even then she was out of his league and her mother would slap him into another universe if he dared to even suggest it.  Well maybe she would have done but would she still be seeing the Scottish builder if he was leaving?

Leaving her friends, Rose took the stairs to their flat since she didn't fancy getting stuck in the lift if someone had been messing about with it and wondered if her mother was in.  Jackie Tyler was a hairdresser who partly worked from home but often went around the estate to those with young kids and the older women who would gather in two's and three's and Jackie would get a bonus.

"Are ya home Mum?" Rose called out as she locked the door behind her and threw her school bag on the floor of her bedroom, not that there was any more room on the floor than there was elsewhere, something her mother had expected her to stop now she was a teenager.

Rose had just thought her mother had forgotten what it was like to be a teenager but now she was seriously thinking since she had six weeks of trying to get to her bed when she wanted to be alone, she may do something about it.  Little did she know when her mother popped her head around the kitchen door, she was going to have very little choice.

"In here sweetheart, come and say hello to Bob."

Rose hated saying hello to Bob and what was he doing there, since men were still finishing off in the courtyard?

"Guess what Rose?" her mother asked, Rose getting some juice out of the bottle and filling the glass with water.

"What Mum?" she asked, praying her mother wasn't suggesting Bob moved in with them but considering how much time they spent together, wouldn't be that surprised if he was.

"Just tell her Jackie love," Bob told her in a thick Scottish accent and leaning over to put his arm around her waist.

"Rose, Bob and I have been talking and we've made a decision," Jackie started to tell her.

"Is he moving in with us Mum?" Rose asked cautiously.

"No Rose, he has to go back to Glasgow, well just outside Glasgow.  The job here's almost done and he only came down to replace someone, the head office is based there," Jackie replied.

Rose had a feeling there was more to this and wondered why the council hadn't employed a local firm to do the work or maybe they'd saved some money?

"Get on with it Jackie," Bob told her, getting up and helping himself to another pot of tea but Jackie took it off him, smiling at him.

Rose thought it was gross the way he mauled her mother, what he did when they were alone, she dreaded to think.  She wondered if her mother did everything for him and he was just letting her.  She'd no idea where he'd been staying but was just glad it hadn't been with them.

"Okay Bob.  Rose, we're moving love.  Bob asked us to go with him, back to Glasgow, well just outside," she repeated.  "He has a two bedroom flat, you get your own room as long as ya keep it tidy," she continued as Bob pulled her onto his lap as he'd sat down again.

Rose wondered what he'd been doing in her room but it served her right for leaving the door open she supposed.  It wasn't her fault she had girls magazines with pop stars on the front or records her friends had left when they'd been over scattered across the floor, there should be more storage.

Rose reached for the nearest chair and sat down.

"What?" she asked, thinking she'd heard wrong.  As if thinking Bob was moving in with them wasn't bad enough.  At least they'd get to stay on the estate.  "Why are you just telling me?"

"Don't be cheeky to your mother Rose," Bob warned her.

"Rose, we only talked about it last night.  His job finishes on Tuesday, he's going back to get the flat ready for us then we go next Saturday.  Going now gives me chance to get you into a school, I'll have a lot to do sweetheart and I'll have to give notice here.  I'll have to tell my cousins, they can look after what I can't take with us and Bob's mate he made here has a lockup so we'll have the furniture taken there until we can arrange to get it up there, he'll only charge me a fiver a week."

Rose couldn't be more stunned if she tried, she was trying to take it all in, forgetting about getting something to eat, which she probably couldn't manage anyway with the feeling in her stomach.

"Well say something Rose?" her mother urged her.

"I have to go Jackie, I'll see you in the pub later love," Bob told Jackie.  "I'll leave you two to talk about it but it's not up for debate Rose.  Your mother and I are going to live together and since most of my firm's work is in the Glasgow area, it's not very often I work so far from home.  She'll tell you what to expect."

Rose couldn't believe this, what did her mother have to tell her?  That he had three kids who lived with him from an ex wife or maybe three ex wives or maybe they were ex girlfriends?  Shareen knew all about that, well so she claimed.

Rose got up and ran to the living room when Bob grabbed hold of her mother again.  Jackie was going to run after her.

"Leave her Jackie," Bob told her, kissing her neck as they stood.  "She'll get used to the idea, it will be better her growing up in Paisley than around here."

"She's managed so far," Jackie smiled.  "Yeah, I expect it'll be different for her but she'll soon make friends."

Bob let go of her.  "About that Jackie, she has to pull her weight helping you around the flat, you can't let her get away with doing nothing, like she seems to do here."

"Yeah Bob but I brought her up on my own, I had no-one until I met you," Jackie reminded him, nudging for a kiss.

"Well that's all changed Jackie.  I expect her to do as she's asked," he replied.

"Well can we make it look like it's coming from me?" Jackie suggested.  "I mean if I ask her, she'll take it better, won't she?"

"Well I suppose so but she does it or I'll have to get involved.  We also have a few more things to discuss."

"I know.  So you'll give me the names of the schools up there so I can make some calls before we move?" Jackie asked him, knowing what he'd meant and if that's what it took then so be it.

"You'd be best trying the grammar school, she's too old for the other one, schools are different up there," he replied.

Jackie wondered if he was just saying that, did he actually know?  Bob left, them planning to meet later and she'd agreed to let him stay over the weekend for Rose to get used to seeing them together and she went into the living room to find Rose trying to watch the older kids programmes but thinking they were stupid, as if anyone wanted to come home and watch a drama about being at school.

Didn't the programme makers think they saw enough of school?

"He's coming back later Rose, he's staying over until he goes back on Tuesday," her mother announced.  "Rose, we did only actually decide last night but he's been asking for a while now."

"It doesn't make it any better Mum," Rose replied, trying to hide a tear in her eye.  "I've hardly seen him before today."

"He makes me happy Rose.  For the first time since I lost your dad and I know we keep talking about him, we always will but I have to move on.  I've had thirteen years on my own, it's time to move on."

"I don't even know his name," Rose continued, seeing her mother had her mind made up.

"It's Johnson, he's got a good job Rose, he has a nice flat in the better area of the town and there's two schools close by but he reckons the grammar school will be the best one, I'll give them a call on Monday and see how to get you enrolled.  Just think Rose, it's only eight miles from Glasgow, we'll be able to go on shopping trips.  He reckons I'll easily get a job in a hairdresser's shop and you already let yourself in after school."

"Mum, what about the school holidays?" Rose asked, thinking she'd wanted to be on her own but maybe not all day.

"Oh.  Well for now you'll have to manage but you'll make some new friends and spend some time with them.  You'll have to help around the flat though and he only knows about your room because I wasn't expecting him coming over and I didn't have time to close your bedroom door.  Really Rose, you have to tidy it now and throw everything away you're not taking with ya.  We're gonna be busy for the next week so you'd better not have anything planned, like hanging around that garage with that no good Mickey Smith."

"I've already been told by his boss to stay away, geez mum, I was only passing by on my way home, he stopped me," Rose complained, picking up the TV remote and wishing there were more channels.

"I don't know what happened to him, he was such a good kid before he started hanging around with that Jimmy what's his name but at least he got a job, if he manages to keep it.  He'd better hope Jimmy doesn't get any ideas about getting Mickey fired or turns the place over, Mickey will get the blame."

"Yeah, well Mickey's old enough to know better Mum, even I stay away from Jimmy Stone.  Charlene said he's thinking of starting a band, as if any of his mates even know what a guitar is let alone play it," Rose replied.

"Well we'll see, if they get a record to the top of the charts," her mother joked.

"I'll have to tell my friends, it's not like I'm just moving a few streets away.  It's a big thing Mum, you dropped a real bombshell on me."

Meanwhile, in the town of Paisley in Renfrewshire, just eight miles from Glasgow and which the town housed one of the city's airports where thirteen year old Alec Hardy used to like to go plane spotting with one of his few friends in the summer evenings, he had just got home from school and was clearing out his school bag as his dad got his tea ready.

"All done with then Son?" James Hardy asked him.

"Yes Dad, I don't know what I'll do all summer while you're at work though," Alec replied, looking a bit sad.

"I know it's not easy for you and I've talked to your aunt Mary.  She's agreed you can spend some of the time there, I know you're only used to a week at a time but it's the best thing to do.  I'm sorry I can't take you away this year though, it just wouldn't be the same."

Alec wondered what that was supposed to mean?  It was less than six months since his mother had died and all they'd done on holiday was leave him to fend for himself on a beach somewhere on the south west coast of England last summer while they'd sat 100 yards away arguing.

Now she was gone and the house was quiet and all his dad did was try to make up for it.

"Maybe next year Alec eh?" his dad asked him, getting Alec's tea out of the oven.

James Hardy, or Jim to his few friends was a postal worker and worked early mornings, something his supervisor had encouraged him to do in order to be home when the then twelve year old Alec was devastated over his mother's death, which had been quite sudden as no-one knew she had a bad heart.

Alec knew his dad felt partly to blame for not seeing the signs but the hospital had told them it was no-one's fault.  He couldn't help but think his dad thought he'd caused it as at times his mother wasn't an easy person to get on with.  He accepted his tea and sat up straight.

"I know Dad, it wouldn't be the same without her but I'll be okay at aunt Mary's, me and Stuart were talking about going plane watching."

His dad ruffled Alec's spiky blonde hair that was beginning to turn brown underneath.

"Face it Son, you only go to see if any spaceships in the shape of a blue box land there by mistake," he joked.  "Tell me you stopped writing those stories?"  Alec had a guilty look on his face.  "I think you should concentrate on other things Alec, maybe start taking an interest in girls instead of science fiction," he suggested.

Alec put on his best smile and thought he'd maybe just not say anything.  It was going to be a long summer and when he finally got back to school, he wouldn't have as much time to think about his mum.  Being a teenager now didn't make him feel any better and she'd not got to see him become one, the school counsellor had tried to help him as much as she could but even after six months, it didn't go away.

He just hoped after the holidays he could start pulling himself round and take more interest and join a few clubs to take his mind off it.  He also hoped maybe the new term would bring new students but if they were girls, he would forget it, he wasn't ready for that, especially with the likes of Kristin and Moira, who had tried to smother him when it was announced in school assembly that Alec was to be given the school's sympathy and they were all asked to be nice to him, which all but a few miseries had done and he'd become clever at dodging the head bully who had no mercy for anyone, not just him.

So as Rose and her mother were talking about what to take and what to leave, Alec went to his room, the last photo of him and his mother on the window ledge, he wondered what the next term would bring and he could always hope he could try to make a new friend.

Chapter 2 - The goodbyes
Rose had a week to break it to her friends she was moving away - a long way away and she wouldn't be able to get on a bus from another part of London to meet them on Saturday morning, which meant no more trying to dodge store detectives when being cheeky and one of them asking an assistant for their size in a dress they couldn't afford and them all sneaking in the dressing rooms and taking it in turns to try it on.

That had kept them amused for a while and the poor Saturday girl whose job it was to make sure every item was returned to the rail was kept busy getting another size if one of the friends found it didn't fit.  She would miss that more than anything, they'd been doing it since they were twelve and a half, well that and lurking around the men's department and looking for cute boys looking embarrassed their mothers were buying them t-shirts and school shirts.

So when they'd had enough the following day when they'd all got their spending money and tried to fool the bus conductor they all had bus tickets, they went to the kiosk and bought two cans of soda to share and had gone to sit outside Hendrik's Department Store after swearing several months back when they'd mostly all turned thirteen they were going to get jobs there when they left school.

Shareen was sipping on a straw after Rose offered the can of orange to her after taking hers out.

"So, where did ya say you were going?" she asked Rose, who was looking at a cute boy following his mother out and carrying two bags.

Shareen nudged her, the others giggling.

"What?  Oh some town near Glasgow I've never heard of.  Mum's getting all giddy over it, she's already planning shopping trips there every Saturday but I'd rather be hanging around with you lot."

"Face it Rose, you'd rather be looking at the cute boys," Charlene laughed, nudging Keisha, who was taking too long taking a drink.

"Yeah, I guess I'll miss that too," Rose laughed.  "Anyone want my red bike?" she offered, knowing one of her cousins would probably claim it and wishing now she'd never asked for it.

She'd asked for the red bike for her twelfth birthday to join some of the other kids even though her mother couldn't really afford it but there it was, outside on the balcony and her mother had claimed she had no idea where it had come from and Rose knowing she didn't want to admit she'd gone without something to pay for it.

Now, she had better things to do and the bike was forgotten about.

"Think I'll give that a miss," Shareen laughed, handing the can back to Rose and Rose shaking it to see if it was worth sticking the straw in again or just finishing it off.  "So you'll be starting a new school then?"

Rose thought that was rather obvious and felt like saying no, she'd be getting the bus every morning.

"Yeah, some posh grammar school by what mum said, Bob reckons schools are different up there," she replied.

"When was he at school then?" Keisha laughed as Charlene scowled at her for finishing the drink.  "Was that in the dark ages?"

"Probably, I don't know what mum sees in him, he's worse than Jimbo and Howard put together.  I think he must have charmed her on the way to the shops.  I bet it all started that time the washing machine stopped working and she went to the launderette when the repair man said he'd have to go back with a part for it, I mean Bob had to do his laundry, right?"

The others nudged her.

"Yeah, betcha he saw her going in so he took his shirt off and stuffed it in the dryer just to chat her up," Shareen laughed.

"Yeah, then I bet she asked him for change even though there's a change machine," Keisha joined in.

"How do you know there's a change machine, thought your mum had a washer?" Charlene questioned her.

Keisha tried to bluff her way out of it.

"I went in once with my gran," she replied, knowing they'd never go for it.

"Whatever," Shareen huffed, trying to aim the empty can at the rubbish bin and missing.  "Hey Rose, betcha anything your mum flashed her knickers at him when she took them out of the washer!"

"Shut up Shareen," Rose blushed at the thought but that could explain why her mother had suddenly started getting all defensive where she was going.

She'd never worked out why Bob had started calling for her mother and her being told to go over to her cousin's flat.  Now, he was taking them away from their friends and family and her mother was willing to do it.

"Well he must be some bloke then?" Charlene suggested, sitting on the back of the bench as people walked past looking at them.  "I mean to follow him all the way to Glasgow.  Where is it you're going?"

"I think she mentioned Paisley," Rose had to admit, trying to forget about it.

"Where they make the shirts?" Keisha laughed.

"What would you know about shirts?" Charlene prodded Keisha's shoulder from behind.  "Oh, does your brother wear fancy patterned shirts?"

Rose had to smile at the thought.  She was beginning to like Jay but he was older and probably had half a dozen girls lined up already and she'd just be in a long line of them.  She wished Mickey Smith had a long line of potential girlfriends so he wouldn't want her to hang around with him, which she was always trying to avoid.

She also wished they didn't have to go past the garage he worked at on the way back from school.  She had been thinking of ways to avoid him all summer, now that wasn't going to be a problem.

"You with us Rose?" Charlene asked her, nudging Rose with her leg.  "You daydreaming again?"

"Yeah, Earth to Rose," Keisha laughed.  "Bet there's different stars up in Glasgow?"

"Do ya even know where Glasgow is?" Shareen teased her.

"Yeah," Keisha huffed indignantly.  "It’s in Scotland – duh!"

"You only know that 'cos Rose said," Charlene joined in.  "You've gone quiet Rose.  Come on, let's go get two lots of fries from the takeaway, anyone got any spare money or we'll all be walking home."

Once home and saying she'd see them all on Monday, just after five, there was a knock on the door, Rose dreading it was Bob coming back with his belongings as he'd just gone back last night with an overnight bag but that was probably all he'd brought with him.  It was Mickey, which was almost as bad.  Her mother just had to pop her head around the kitchen door as she was preparing tea.

"What's he doin' here?  What do ya want Mickey?" she shouted.  "Rose is too young ta be hangin' around with you."

"Leave him Mum, you never bothered before," Rose protested, not knowing why she was defending him.  "I'm going out for an hour."

"You'd better be back in an hour, we're not waitin' for you to come back to eat, yours'll be in the oven young madam," her mother replied.  "Well you won't be hangin' around with him for much longer, just you remember that."

Mickey was about to ask what that meant when Rose grabbed his arm and pulled him outside.

"What did she mean by that?" a confused Mickey asked.

"Nothing, which did ya mean?"

"Both.  Is she still seeing that bloke, they'll all be gone by Monday, then she'll be upset," he replied.  Then he saw the look on her face.  "He's staying?"

"Not exactly," Rose admitted as they walked down the steps.

Mickey stood in front of the door when they reached the ground floor.

"She'll be upset when he goes, won't she?" he asked as Rose tried to get past him.  "Answer me Rose, is he staying or going?"

"Chill Micks, he's just staying with us until Tuesday, then he's going home," Rose replied.

"And?" he questioned her.  "You mean she's just gonna forget about him?  Huh, I can't see that, I've seen them coming home from the pub."

Did he have to remind her?  She'd gone home and straight to her room so she didn't catch them in the living room.

He moved out of the way and they walked across to sit on the concrete bollards, Rose taking up two as she put her legs up and rested her feet on the side of the next one.

"Okay Rose, what aren't you telling me?" he asked, seeing her staring at the ground.

He'd come to know when she was avoiding something.

"No!  Hang on a minute.  She's going with him?  I mean you're both going with him, to Scotland, wherever he comes from?"

"Mum said he's from Paisley," Rose replied quietly.  "We're leaving Mickey, next Saturday."

Mickey looked lost for words, for a change Rose thought.

"That's a bit soon," he finally said after five minutes silence.

"Tell me about it, how do ya think I feel?  I have to leave school and my friends."

"Can't you stay here with your cousins?" he wondered.

"Yeah, great idea Mickey, I'll just share a bed shall I?  You know what my mum's like when she gets an idea in her head as well as I do," Rose replied.

"Well if you ask me, it'll never last," Mickey suggested.

"She'll do it just to prove a point, trust me," Rose told him.

While they had been talking, she'd seen Bob go towards the front of the block of flats then seen him walk along the balcony.  She didn't like him much, he was a bit too smug with himself and she wondered why on Earth her mother had picked him up.  She'd had to smile to herself that her friends had been right, about picking Bob up in the launderette.

"I'd best go Mickey or mum will let my tea dry up in the oven and her cooking's not brilliant to start off with though I think she's got a cookbook stashed away from the library lately."

"Come by the garage before you leave?" Mickey asked as she got up.

"I was told to stay away, remember?" she reminded him.

"Yeah, sorry.  Guess I won't see you before you go then?" 

"Guess not unless you call and you saw what mum was like?"

"Yeah, thought she'd have lightened up since she met that bloke," he grinned, not knowing what else to say.  "Just for the record, I mean if you don't come back, I was gonna ask you to be my girlfriend when you were sixteen."

"You were?  You seriously thought I'd agree?" Rose teased him.

"Well we hang around together, I thought, you know?" he muttered back.

"I was teasing ya, you 'nana.  Still, it's a long way off, you might have found someone by then anyway, don't wait for me Mickey."

"So what's all that with you stopping by the garage every night then?" he wanted to know.

"I'm not going out of my way to get home Mickey, I used to go past it before you started working there ya know?"

Mickey looked disappointed but tried to laugh.

"Yeah, if you say so Rose, see ya around then, I mean maybe before you go?"

"I don't wanna go to Scotland ya know?  It's not like I have a choice."

With that, she ran off and put the code into the door to get back in.

While she'd been out, after Jackie and Bob had made out, as Rose would have called it, he reminded her of a few things.

"So you agree then?" Bob asked her.

"Well she'd get most of that if she had a dad I suppose?" Jackie admitted.  "About the rest though?"

He put his arms around her and kissed her neck.

"You're not backing out on me are you Jackie?" he asked.

"No, 'course not, it's just, ya know?  She's only thirteen," she reminded him.

"That's why we came to our little arrangement Jackie love," he reminded her back.

"Sorry Bob, I just have to get used to it," Jackie replied, trying to rescue their tea.

"Well consider the alternative?" he asked as he heard the door open.

Rose walked into the kitchen, Bob sitting on one of the wooden chairs.

"You could have shouted hello when I passed you," Bob told her as she went to wash her hands.

She glanced at her mother.

"Yeah Rose, you shouldn't have ignored him," her mother agreed.

"I thought it was rude to shout over to people across the courtyard?" Rose asked.

"Don't be cheeky to your mother," Bob reminded her yet again, how many times, Rose had lost count.

"Well say sorry to him," her mother told her, dishing up what Rose thought was maybe one recipe she could actually manage not to spoil.

"Sorry Bob," Rose said quietly, wishing she dare add that next time, she'd lean over the balcony and do it.

"That's better, best get used to being more respectful to your elders Rose," Bob grinned at her mother as she put his plate on the table.  "This looks good love."

Rose was dying to say wait until he tried the rest of her cooking.  Actually, maybe if she herself sabotaged his food, he may go off on Tuesday and tell them to stay here.  She had no such luck though as he left for work on Monday morning, Rose having gone over to Shareen's the previous afternoon to escape watching yet another repeat of a James Bond film, one with the Scottish version, surprisingly.

"Bye Jackie love," Bob was saying as Rose was deciding what to do that day before her mother had her packing or taking things to various friends and relatives when she decided what they were leaving.

"Yeah, see ya tonight Bob, we are going out?"

"Yes love, we are, then an early night, I have a train to catch tomorrow morning.  Don't forget to check the times on Saturday and book your tickets."

Rose wondered where her mother was getting the money from to pay for them, she was giving up her job as a home hairdresser.  Rose had heard her cancelling appointments for next week.  She was about to give Bob time to leave when her mother asked where she thought she was going.

"Just to Shareen's, why?" Rose replied.

"You can forget that madam, go down to the shop and see if ya can get any cardboard boxes before someone beats ya to it.  Cousin Mo's taking your dad's trophies and some of the ornaments and any clothes we don't want you can help me take them to the charity shop.  Oh, Bev said she'd take that bike for Vicky if ya don't want it any more.  I mean there it was, on the balcony when you went to answer the doorbell, despite me telling ya not to answer the door then a year later ya never go near it."

"Mum, come off it, I know you bought it for me.  What did ya have to do without to pay for it or did ya take extra clients?" Rose asked her.

"What ya talking about Rose?  I keep tellin' ya I've no idea where it came from and then we were tripping up over it in the hallway.  Well get goin' then or they'll be no boxes left and we'll have to carry them over a few at a time."  

Rose shook her head.  So where had the bike come from?  Bikes just don't appear out of thin air, no matter how much you wanted one and she'd lost count of how many times they'd passed the bike shop and she'd stopped to look at it and her mother had to go back and drag her away.

Had it been her dad watching over her and somehow, a total stranger had been prompted to buy it and leave it outside on her twelfth birthday?  No, it had to be something else.  She set off to the shop and began to wonder how they were going to choose what to part with but there would be no room in their cases for anything except necessities.  It wasn't like they were going down to Southend and staying in Jimbo's run-down caravan that smelled of damp and she'd gone back with a chest infection.

She swore she'd never go in a caravan again.

Alec had gone off to his aunt's, her fussing over him ever since his mother had died.

"What's wrong with you this morning Alec?" his aunt Mary asked him as he took his notepad out of his shoulder bag.

"Nothing, I just miss my mum during the holidays."

"Sorry.  Are you going swimming with your friends later?" she asked as she saw the towel.

Alec nodded.  It would be the first time he'd been allowed to go on his own, he was meeting a few of the other boys he actually talked to who didn’t think he wasted his time writing stories.

"Tell you what, tomorrow, why don't you pick some flowers from the garden and we'll take them to put on your mum's grave?" she suggested, patting his shoulder.

Alec smiled.  He'd not been able to accept his mother had gone just like that, even though she'd been ill but she'd covered what had really been wrong with her.  He'd always thought she'd recover when she'd been taken into hospital but she was gone, the surgeon saying she'd never admitted to her own doctor she'd been having heart problems. 

He'd never even got to say goodbye to her properly, his aunt had been with him while his dad had laid on her, holding her hand, even after they'd argued for the past few years that he'd been aware they'd been arguing.  Now his dad was trying his best to make up for it.

"Well go on then, use the dining room table if you want to write," his aunt smiled at him.

"Where's Peter?" he asked about his older cousin who had been off at university.

"He was staying in Edinburgh a while longer with his friends though I expect that's his excuse and he's got himself a girlfriend," his aunt smiled.  "Not got a secret girlfriend of your own then Alec?" she teased him.

"No, I'm not interested in girls yet," Alec smiled back as he got his pencil case out.

"Well that'll all change soon enough, trust me," she replied as she went back into the kitchen.  "Maybe you want to be a writer when you get older?"

"No, I want to go to college, I want to join the police," he replied.

"Really?  You never said before Alec.  What makes you say that?"

"I just want to help people.  I've been thinking about it for a while," he told her.

He'd never get his mother off his mind but he could join the police and help other kids get over losing theirs by finding out how they'd died.  He couldn't bring his own mother back but now his aunt was offering to go to the cemetery with him, maybe he could say goodbye without his dad seeing him getting upset.

By Friday, after Rose had seen her friends to say a final goodbye, their furniture had been taken to the storage unit and they were staying at Mo's for the night then heading for the station for the train to Glasgow.  She was hoping that every time the phone rang or her mother called Bob, they were going to call it all off, though it would have been hard getting all their things back and her mother was handing the keys in to the council office after taking their things across the courtyard.

Rose had guessed Bob had given her mother the money for two one-way tickets to Glasgow, where he was meeting them so she supposed he had a car and had chosen not to drive down to London.  She'd heard her mother saying how they were looking forward to it but she wished her mother wouldn't speak for her.

It had been hard the last few days, trying to cram everything into their suitcases and cart the rest to the charity shop in black bin-liners, her mother smiling at the woman behind the counter and saying they were having a clear-out.  Rose thought her mother was fooling no-one, she'd bought most of them from the shop next door.

It was when she was laid on the sofa trying to sleep that it finally hit her.  She had to start all over again, making new friends, settling into a new school and trying to hide the fact she was English to save being picked on.  She'd already been given several ideas from her friends and was deciding which one to go with and may settle for Shareen's idea of losing her voice but that wouldn't last long but maybe long enough for her new classmates to accept her.

If her new teacher knew where she was from, maybe she'd get away with admitting it.  Maybe she'd find someone to confide in who would help her break the news and who would stick up for her?  Well she could but hope as she drifted off to sleep and tomorrow, her and her mother would be starting a new life but something was worrying her.

All the quiet phone conversations all week, her mother trying to keep her voice down but she'd heard a few things and couldn't work out if they were about her or not.  It was too late now though, they were committed to going, the flat was empty where she'd spent the last thirteen years of her life and they would be living in Scotland.  She'd been to the library, much to Shareen's dismay as she had a library ticket but she'd just looked at a book at the large table while Shareen was pulling faces and chewing her gum, less the disgusting part of taking it out of her mouth.

The next morning after a quick breakfast and saying goodbye to cousin Mo and her younger second cousins, they got a taxi to the underground station which took them to their train station and struggled between them with their luggage.  Then as they were let on the platform for their train to Glasgow, she glanced at her mother, who seemed a lot happier about it than she did.
Chapter 3 The move
"Come on Rose, we ain't got reserved seats," her mother called as other people were still getting off, some just waking up by the look of it Rose was thinking as they made their way to a doorway where no-one was coming out of.

Jackie was putting their luggage in the rack, pointing for Rose to grab the first two sets of seats with a table in the middle so she could keep an eye on their cases and Rose was trying to put the rest of their things including two shoulder bags on the overhead rack and getting in the way, a man stopped to help her.

"Thanks," Rose grinned at him as people were squeezing past.

"No problem Miss, they seem quite heavy," the man replied as Jackie sat herself down opposite as she didn't want to go backwards all the way to Glasgow as it made her feel sick.

She'd made a point of noting where the restroom was when walking down the platform and how she did it, Rose had no idea but she'd done the same when they'd gone down to Jimbo's caravan.  Rose was sure her mother had crammed most of the remaining trinkets and other junk into the shoulder bags, explaining why they were so heavy.

Rose sighed as she sat down next to her mother and hoped whoever sat opposite wouldn't try to spread their legs out but being so near the front, people were forgetting about the seats and walking past, thankfully.  As the guard blew the whistle as he slammed all the doors shut, Jackie motioned for Rose to sit opposite, getting two bottles of soda out of her large handbag.

Rose smiled, dragging luggage from home hadn't been her idea of fun, especially when she'd not wanted to move in the first place.

"Might as well save it for later," Rose told her mother.  "How long does the train take to get to Glasgow?  We don't have to change do we?" she asked, hoping not and that Bob, no matter how she disliked him would be on the platform at the other end to meet them.

"It's a long way Rose, it's gonna take a while sweetheart, I did warn ya.  We can start making our plans for when you start your new school.  Bob said I can apply for a grant to get ya a school uniform and I called the grammar school, you'll have to take a test so I hope you were paying attention last term and not messin' around," her mother warned her.

"Great Mum, now I'll have to hope it'll be enough to get me in.  Is that the only school then?" Rose asked.

"No but it's the best one so Bob said," Jackie replied.

Rose was already fed-up at Bob said this and Bob said that, she already wanted to strangle him before they moved in with him.

"Well when we get settled, we'll get you a library ticket and you can get some books out to catch up," her mother continued.

After the conductor came round, followed by two women with a trolley of tea and coffee and snacks, Jackie splashing out and getting something then moaning to Rose about the prices, Rose was looking out of the window at where they were passing then the train had a longer stop when it got to York, Rose wishing she could get off and stretch her legs but a woman with a small boy was looking for a double seat so Rose got up and let them sit where she had been, smiling at what looked like a two year old.

"Thanks love," the mother told her as she settled the boy, him putting two toy cars on the table.  "Not many youngsters would bother moving.  Mind you, not many adults would either, I came from the carriage in front and men were spread out talking to each other across the tables and leaving the outside seats."

"Tell me about it," Jackie spoke up.  "It was the same last time we travelled by train, remember Rose?"

Rose had no idea what her mother was on about, she'd only been on two trains in her life – on holiday and back and not being well on the return journey, after the damp caravan.

The train carried on, stopping at Newcastle Rose thought the platform sign said and thought it seemed like they'd been on for days, not hours.  The train had got busy, some people were standing in the doorway and between the carriages, glaring at Rose but her mother told her she'd paid for two seats and the people staring had only just got on at the last stop.

The conductor called out for those who had just got on, Rose seeing a man in the doorway say something to him and the conductor looking at Rose.  Jackie saw them.

"He'd best not ask ya to move or they'll be trouble," her mother told her.

A man and a woman were now sat opposite as the woman with the boy had got off at Newcastle.

"Children are expected to stand and give up their seat to their elders," the snooty looking woman wearing a hat said to no-one in particular.

"I've paid for her seat," Jackie replied to the woman as the conductor was waiting for the man with her to show their tickets.

"Madam, I already pointed out to the gentleman over there that the young lady is not a child," he smiled at Jackie, making the other woman look up as her husband nudged her.  "If you ask me, it's the men that should give up seats if ladies are standing but there's no manners left in the world."

"Well my husband's not standing, he has a bad leg," the other woman spoke up.

"It's fine dear, if there are any ladies standing, I would let them have my seat," her husband replied.

Rose was quite amused, geez, if she ever got married, she wouldn't show her husband up like that, well unless it was Mickey Smith, then she might make an exception.  She'd not dared tell her mother Mickey had dropped that bombshell on her and told her if she'd stayed, he was going to ask her out when she turned sixteen.  Great, that was something to look forward to – not, she thought.

It had taken a drastic move by her mother to drag them to Scotland to get her out of it though, maybe her mother had already had a premonition and was trying to prevent it?  The woman opposite was still glaring at Rose and her mother, Rose dying to pull a face but then the man with her might take his wife's view and demand the conductor made her stand up regardless if a woman was standing or not.

Finally, Rose losing track of the time, the train was pulling into Glasgow, the conductor shouting as he walked down the carriages.  Rose wished someone would invent a sign that told you what the next stop was or a map like the underground, she could ride that with her eyes closed.

It was just like her mother to guess which platform the train would pull into and they'd be sat on the right side, Jackie watching out for Bob and waving madly when they passed him as the train pulled to a halt, rather abruptly Rose thought, glad she'd remained seated as people were gathering to get off.

Then Jackie turned her attention to the luggage rack, a few more cases piled on top of theirs and people pulling them off.

"Rose I'll get the bags off the rack, you go help Bob with the cases when everyone's got off," her mother suggested as people were making their way off.

Rose wondered if her mother thought the train was there for the remainder of the day.  Bob was soon able to get on but went to help Jackie pull the bags off the overhead rack, leaving Rose standing by their three cases, two large ones and one smaller and wondering how the hell they'd managed on their own earlier.  Bob put one of the bags on his shoulder as Jackie nudged him to lift the cases off.

"Hey, sorry Rose, want some help?" he joked.

Rose knew better than to say something sarcastic back to him but was considering making an exception.  Instead she just nodded.  He took the cases down, Rose grabbing the smaller one and getting off before he had chance to object and stood back on the platform to let some stragglers off including her mother and Bob.

Bob led then through the barrier, having got a platform ticket and Rose not working out how they had the cheek to charge people for greeting friends and relatives off a train when at smaller stations they could just walk on.  He had parked his car in a short-stay car park and put the cases in the back, Rose had been wondering what type of car he drove and was surprised how big it was.

He drove them out of the city and through the suburbs until she saw a sign for Paisley with a 'Welcome' on it.  Then it finally hit her – they were here to stay, not just for a few days.  Bob drove on and turned down a reasonably decent street and pulled into a driveway of a block of apartments, Rose quickly counting there were eight floors and hoped there was a lift and they were not on the top floor if there wasn't.

She thought it was a far cry from where they'd just come from, there were separate balconies every other window or so, some next to each other as Bob stopped the car in what she assumed was his parking spot, a large notice saying 'Residents only' on it.

Once they got the luggage out, Bob showed them both the code to get in and told Rose not to forget it.  

"I've got you two keys," Bob told them as they rode up in the lift to the third floor.  "Don't lose yours Rose."

Rose wondered what her mother had been telling him but she'd had a key since she was twelve and never lost it but maybe he'd had to pay to have the keys cut or the landlord had charged him for them.  Once they carted everything inside, both Jackie and Rose stood in the entry-way looking around.

"You never said your place was so posh," Jackie joked as she put the case and shoulder bag down, Rose still convinced she'd brought things they didn't need with them.

"I'll show you around then?" Bob suggested.

He led them to the kitchen, about the same size as their old one but a slightly different shape, then the bathroom, considerably larger then a storage cupboard, half empty and Rose laughed to herself he'd expected her mother not to leave much behind.  Then he opened a bedroom door containing a single bed and wardrobe, plus a set of drawers and a desk.

"This is your room Rose, I expect you to keep it tidy," he told her.

They left the door open and he led them to the lounge, nicely decorated and not cluttered like their old one had been but if her mother kept her old habits, that would change.  There was a nice TV, not like their old one Rose had no idea who had claimed it, a hi-fi on a black unit along with some records and a rack containing cassettes and some ornaments and vases amongst other things then Rose noticed he'd put a picture up of him and her mother that must have been taken in the pub.

"Come on Jackie, I'll show you our room," Bob suggested, going to put his arm around her.

Rose guessed she wasn't invited so she went to get the smaller case and trusted her mother would unpack the other two and hand her the things she'd had to cram into one of them.  She closed her new bedroom door and sat on the neatly made bed and tried to take it all in.  Her mother had told her before they'd left London that Bob would have a list of rules she was expected to follow and they weren't up for debate but he'd already made that much clear.

She expected one of them would be if she managed to make new friends, she wouldn't scatter things over the floor but that had been her having more things than there had been room for before.  Now she had a larger wardrobe and behind the door was a built in cupboard so she really had no excuses she supposed.

Her mother knocked on the door.

"Rose, Bob's going to the takeaway for some food, then tomorrow he'll show us a round the town."

"Yeah, fine, guess I'll have to know my way around?  How far is it to this school I'm supposed to go to?" Rose asked.

"I think it's in walking distance, I'm not sure though but you'll get a bus pass.  First ya have to get accepted."

Rose wished she hadn't been reminded.  So after being shown around the next day and finding out where the local library was, she went to get a library ticket and got the books out she was going to need when her mother called the school the day before to ask about an entrance examination, hearing her mother's end of the conversation.

~~~~{ silversurfer60 }~~~~

Even after a week of the holiday, Alec was already bored.  He'd been with his aunt to the cemetery and she'd left him on his own to cry when he'd put some flowers in the vase and she'd taken the others away and she'd told him it was okay.  So the following Tuesday, he decided to meet one of his friends at the library and spend some time there as they'd been told what subjects were coming up the next term so they'd met outside.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea?" his friend Jamie told him as the library seemed fairly full but they were going to the reference books after they'd been to the desk to alter their tickets, since they now qualified to move up from the junior library.

"Well it will give us an advantage," Alec was trying to persuade his friend.

"Maybe but maybe you came here to watch the girls Alec," his friend grinned as two girls were sat in a corner pretending to read something.

"You're as bad as my aunt," Alec replied, running his fingers through his too long hair and seeing the girls hide their grins behind their books.

"What about her over there?" his friend nudged as Alec tried to find one of the books on his list.

Alec turned and looked at a blonde-haired girl sat at a table on her own.  He wasn't that interested in girls, he was shy in that department but he could talk to the girls in his class when they didn't tease him about his spiky hair, especially when Kristy did it, egged on my her friend Moira.

"I don't think she's from our school," Alec replied, turning back to the shelf and trying to convince himself and his friend he wasn't interested.

"She's probably from the local comprehensive school," his friend surmised.  "As if we'd want to been seen with one of them."

"Don't be so stuck up Jamie," Alec told him.  "Just because we passed our exams, they can take them later and still get in our school.  She might be here studying."

"I suppose so.  Let's hurry up here and go down to the river," his friend urged him.

Alec wasn't so keen.  It reminded him of family days out when his mother would pack a picnic and they would walk a mile or two downstream.

"Let's go hang around the park instead?" Alec suggested, not that that didn't remind him of his mother pushing him on the swings but it wasn't as bad.

"Maybe we should ask her to come with us," his friend teased him, looking at the girl who seemed not to have noticed them.

Alec thought the girl was probably tired of boys trying to pick her up, especially if they didn't go to her school.

"Leave her alone, she might go to a better school than we do," Alec replied, going to check out two books he thought he may need.

Rose had seen two boys around her own age but had taken no notice, what would they want to do with her, she probably wouldn't get into the grammar school, which was probably where they went.  She saw them get up and leave, she'd probably see neither of them again but the one with blondish spiky hair seemed cute.

She thought back to Mickey's revelation he'd been going to ask her to be his girlfriend when she was sixteen but she didn't think she'd actually agree, there was more to life than the estate she'd grown up on and now she was getting to experience it.  While Rose was at the library, her mother was having an interview at a hair studio a ten minute walk from where they'd gone to live and she was showing the owner, Marlene her portfolio she'd made of her clients posing and some with Rose, whom she'd often roped in to show off her skills.

"Well Jackie," the other woman began after looking through the dozen or so pages with 'Hair by Jackie' on the fancy cover.  "Is that your daughter?" she pointed to a photo of Rose.

"Yeah, she's thirteen now, this has been a big move for her," Jackie confided.

"I can imagine.  Well you seem to have the experience and the certificates, how do you feel though about confining yourself to a salon?" she was asked.

"Well, I have to start somewhere, it's a big move for me as well," Jackie admitted.  "That's all I ever did really, after my first job I decided it would be easier for my daughter if I worked around her, she's old enough to fend for herself now."

"Including school holidays?" the woman asked her.

"Oh don't worry about her, she'll make friends and she'll be out all the time.  She's gone to the library to study for her entrance exam to the grammar school."

Jackie was trying to impress her potential boss.

"Well Jackie, I think then that you'd fit in here rather well, shall we give it a try?  If you're sure your daughter will be okay on her own?  What's her name?"

"It's Rose, she can get her own lunch, she's done it before and she's got a key," Jackie replied.

"So what made you both move here?" she was asked.

"My boyfriend lives in the town, we met when he was working near where we lived in London, we hit it off right away," Jackie smiled.

Her working hours were arranged and she was to start the following Monday, having Wednesday off when she assured Marlene that Rose could make her own breakfast and get herself off to school after the holidays.  Well she hoped her daughter could and so far, she'd managed to keep her room tidy but it was early days yet.

Jackie set off back to her new home.  Bob had said they needed to talk and she wasn't looking forward to it now they were actually living together.  When he'd been just visiting and staying over the odd time or two, it had been different and when he'd suggested before he'd left that he wanted to take the role of Rose's father, she'd been keen at first until they got to the finer details, which were still under some discussion.

Now she knew this 'talk' was about those discussions and she knew he was capable of throwing her and Rose out if she didn't comply or came to a compromise, which she hoped he'd accept.  She was doing it for Rose, she had convinced herself.  Rose had done well so far but she was a teenager now, she needed a father figure as she'd seen the way the other girls on the estate were turning out without someone to keep them in line and she'd not wanted her daughter to turn out like them.

She was determined though that Bob was not going to get all his own way but from what he'd been saying, it looked like he'd get most of it but there was one thing that was going to be made clear – that they stuck to their initial agreement about Rose and that was never going to change.

Chapter 4 - Settling in
A few weeks had gone by, Rose trying to adjust to having someone who wanted to play the role of her dad, since she'd managed quite well without one all her life.  Jackie was settling in at the salon, Rose sometimes waiting for her at lunchtime when they'd grab a sandwich and find somewhere to sit down and Alec was trying to get used to spending the summer going to his aunt's instead of being at home with his mum, who had been a totally different person when his dad wasn't there.

He'd often wondered why they argued, it never seemed to be over him or anything in particular and now, his dad was totally different, trying to be both parents to him but he'd seen some of his friends change in the last few months, their attitudes towards things in general and he was scared he would become like them as their parents had divorced or separated.  He couldn't talk to his dad though but his aunt knew there was something wrong.

She sat opposite him one day when he was thinking about a story he was writing.

"Alec, I know there's something wrong.  Can you tell me?" she asked.

Alec shook his head.

"Then why don't you write it in one of your stories?  Why don't you write about the last time you went on holiday before you lost your mum?" she suggested.

"I can't Auntie Mary, they argued all the time.  I had to go sit under the cliffs so I couldn't hear them," he replied sadly.

"Where was it you went again?" his aunt smiled, feeling sorry for her nephew.

"Somewhere down south, Dorset I think dad said.  I'd rather not think about it."

"Alec, you have to remember the good times, that's how we get over the loss of someone we loved.  Write a happy story then.  What exactly do you write about, you never say anything," she asked him.

"Mostly about that TV programme I like, I pretend I'm him and have adventures," Alec admitted.

Only his two best friends knew why he carried his notebook around with him and never let anyone catch him writing in it when he got an idea.

His aunt smiled back.  "There's nothing wrong with dreaming of being an adventurer Alec, maybe just not one with a blue box that's a time machine eh?  Sure they're not about John?  Don't let me put you off though, if it takes your mind off things.  Not doing anything today?" she asked since they'd just had lunch.

"I might go to the library, see if that book I wanted has been returned," he replied, putting his notebook away.

His aunt watched him.  She felt really sorry for him and there was no sign his cousin Peter was coming back, it seemed he was having difficulty leaving.  Peter's older brother John though, who was away travelling around the world on one of his fact-finding missions for his research was tall, thin (no matter how much she tried to fatten him up) and always wore a blue suit with brown stripes and a purple t-shirt underneath and red or black Converse trainers on his feet.  She had despaired at him but being in his early twenties, he had the girls following him everywhere, especially when he flicked his out of control hair.

She had constantly tried to get John to have it cut on his visits home, his last one being for Alec's mother's funeral when he'd tried to cheer young Alec up for a few days before he'd gone back to travelling.  It was then she and Alec's dad had noticed Alec was growing to look more like his older cousin in appearance, unlike Peter.  She thought no wonder Alec wrote stories about travelling, he would look forward to hearing about them when John got back.

"Alec, why don't I try calling Peter and ask him when he's coming home?" she asked him.

Alec nodded and got up.  "I wish John would come home, he makes me laugh.  I'll be back in an hour or so, unless you want me to stay out longer?" he asked.

"I want no such thing Alec, I told your dad I would look after you during the holidays.  You can go out or stay in as much as you want.  I can make the spare room tidy, if you'd like some time on your own?  I'll ask your uncle to put everything in the loft and we'll get you a single bed and things, would you like that?"

Alec hadn't wanted to impose on his aunt.

"Yeah, thanks, if it's not any trouble?" he replied.

"Of course it's no trouble, I'll get him to sort it over the weekend.  You go to the library then, you never know, you might make some more friends there?"

Alec had thought nothing else about the blonde girl he'd seen a few weeks ago.  She may not even have gone back in but there again, she could have borrowed the book he'd wanted.  Rose wasn't there when he arrived though, her mother had left her a list of things she wanted doing, including a trip to a new supermarket that had opened nearby and had thought it would save some money.

One thing Jackie Tyler had not got over since their arrival in the town was everything was cheaper than in London, she had a regular job and Bob had just received a promotion so she could afford to shop locally.  It was just her not being able to let old habits go.

Rose entered the new supermarket, warily and took a plastic shopping basket but she'd smiled when it was the same name as one that had opened nearby before they had moved.  For thirteen though, she did look older and got away with not being questioned by any of the staff as if she should be shopping on her own.

She was glad though that Bob was out all day, she'd still wondered why they would talk quietly in the kitchen and why they were being so secretive then it dawned on her as she got back from the supermarket.  Why hadn't she seen it?  She bet they were planning on getting married and Bob adopting her, that was the only explanation.  She waited for her mother coming home, having started preparing tea though why she never got the credit, she didn't know.

She could only assume her mother wanted Bob to think her cooking skills had improved.  Well just wait, if they were planning on getting married, she would conveniently forget to make the meal preparations and Bob would see he was wrong.  It had only been a few weeks and she missed her friends, hanging around with them and maybe getting Mickey into bother with his boss now and then, not enough to make him lose his job though.

She and her friends found it easy to wind up Mickey, it was sometimes just too easy but when he'd started hanging around with Jimmy Stone, she'd tried to avoid the pair of them.  She jumped as the door opened and her mother shouted her.

"Hello sweetheart, had a good day?" her mother asked her, looking on the kitchen counter.

"Mum, are you and Bob getting married?" she came straight out and asked.

"What?  Where did ya get that idea from Rose?" her mother wanted to know.  "No, we haven't even talked about getting engaged, we'd tell ya if we were.  Honestly Rose, I don't know where you get your ideas from, you don't even hang around with Shareen any more, I could understand it then, her mother had a different bloke every week."

Rose thought her mother had a cheek to say that before she'd met Bob.  Now she wished things had stayed like that and Bob had remained here and never taken over the job on their estate.

"Mum, what about all the things I'm expected to do when I start school?" Rose asked her.

"We don't expect ya to do everything Rose," her mother replied as she put the prepared meal in the oven.  "Bob thought it would be good practice for ya to do things on ya own, I agreed with him."

Rose thought how much her mother had changed in the time she'd known Bob.

"Anyway, what makes ya think we're getting married?  Do ya think he wants ya to start calling him 'dad'?"

The thought had crossed Rose's mind.

"I don't know Mum, maybe?  It's taking some getting used to just living with him," was all she could reply.

"Well we're here to stay Rose so ya better had get used to it.  For the first time since your dad died, I found someone who doesn't just want me as a friend or just the odd date.  You're too young to understand that."

"I'm thirteen Mum, I've seen what my friend's parents are like.  Anyway, I was thinking about spending some time in the library, if I pass that test, I'll have to catch up.  When will ya get to know?" she asked.

"Soon I hope, we'll have to get ya a uniform.  They said if ya didn't pass, the education authority would allocate you another school, hopefully nearby.  I never realised that ya would need to get a bus, sorry.  Bob made it sound like it was close by."

Rose thought trust him to get it wrong and just why did she have to pass a test to be allowed in the school, a posh one at that?

"So from Monday, can I get some time to myself?" Rose asked.

"I expect so, it's just working in a salon all day now, I don't get time to sit down and chat like I used to.  I'll stay a while longer then see about starting out on my own again but my boss won't like it if I steal her clients."

Rose didn't think she would.  Still, it wasn't fair all this had been put on her when she didn't even want to be here.  The Friday morning though, a letter came for her mother, with a stamp of the grammar school across the top and she knew her fate had been decided.  There were only just over two weeks before the term started and it would be a rush to get the uniform and she'd been warned short skirts were not acceptable so she couldn't even get away with her old one, if the school colour still included grey.

She knew they wore blue blazers and blue jumpers and she just hoped her mother wouldn't pull her out at the last minute if she couldn't afford the recommended uniform shop.  Her mother finally got home, Rose having returned a book to the library and seen the boy from the other week, whom she noticed hanging around the 'Just returned' books the librarian had taken a pile of and placed on the trolley.

She wondered if he went to the grammar school then?

Alec had thought it was worth his while going back to see if the book he wanted had been returned and he'd been rewarded when the female librarian had wheeled a small trolley piled with books, sorted them out and he'd been the first to spot it.  He had seen the blonde girl across the other side of the library and wondered if she'd been the one to return it?

Rose was waiting anxiously as her mother checked her other mail, making Rose wait.  The letter was finally opened, quite a thick one Rose thought but it could have been the thickness of the posh paper she supposed.  Then she saw there were two other sheets her mother held separately.

"Rose, sweetheart, you didn't quite pass the test," her mother announced, Rose thinking why all the sheets of paper then?  "You did get a high enough score to qualify for an assisted place though, they have to take so many, it's the law here.  They've sent a list of clothes and equipment you'll need and a grant towards the cost.  Well try to look pleased love."

Rose was trying her best but at the words 'didn't pass' she thought now she'd have to see what other school she'd been offered, which could be ten times worse than the one she'd been at.

"We'll go into town tomorrow and find the best place to get your uniform, there's a list of places that take the grants, then we'll get the rest of the stuff ya need.  Aren't you excited love?" she asked, forgetting putting dinner in the oven and Rose hoping it wouldn't be ready when Bob got home.

It would serve him right for dragging them both up here.  She thought her mother would opt for the cheapest uniform store and get as much as she could out of it for the money.  She knew her mother was used to a tight budget and that would never change.

Alec was also having to go with his dad the next day to get anything that needed replacing, since he seemed to find his blazer sleeves were a little short and his aunt had tried her best with it using her sewing machine.

"Sorry Alec," his aunt had apologized that morning.  "I just can't do anything with it, tell your dad.  I have some good news for you though, well two lots.  Peter's staying where he is for now, he got a part-time job and he's staying with one of his friends but John's coming home for a visit, before you go back to school.  That should cheer you up?" she asked him.

Alec thought maybe it just would, he could get some ideas for his time-travelling adventures.  The next day, Alec and Rose had arrived at different shops to look for uniforms though Alec wondered why he hadn't been taken to the department store where his friends went, it wasn't like the clothes lasted any longer.  His dad though had said that was where parents who got a grant shopped and since he could afford to pay for it, they should not get anything from there in case someone who needed it more than Alec couldn't get their size.

Alec wondered if it wasn't something else though, maybe it was because his mother had frowned at the 'discount' clothes store as she called it and she didn't want any of the other mothers she had in her circle see her shopping there.  His mother didn't appear to be stuck-up but he didn't know how she was with the mothers of his friends, whose parents all had good jobs.  Had she considered his dad's job as good?  He was just a supervisor at the postal depot but had now taken a different job to get better hours.

As Rose managed to get as much as her mother said they were allowed, she'd made sure she had a spare jumper, just in case but had hated trying the blazer on, it being the most expensive item and her mother frowning she had to put her own money towards it.

"That had better last you Rose," her mother warned her as they went down the escalator to the ground floor to find the shoe department, something else she was going to have to pay for.

"Mum, we could come back for the shoes and the gym shoes," Rose tried to insist.

"I'm not coming back just for those," her mother replied.  "Bob was so pleased you got in there.  Do ya wanna know why he insisted you went there?"

Rose wasn't that fussed about knowing but her mother would tell her anyway.

"He didn't want to let on he used to go there, he was trying to play it down by pretending he didn't know much about it."

Rose bet he did – not.  It was easy for him to fool her mother, who usually saw through any deception but Bob had her good and proper on that score.  If he'd convinced her mother about that, what else had he convinced her of?  She'd never listen to a bad word against him, there was no use trying to convince her of anything.  Rose was sure he was hiding something but maybe she was just being paranoid?

Soon, the next weekend was looming and it was back to school on the Tuesday, which Rose thought was a bit odd to say the least.  She got everything else she needed on the Saturday, her mother opting to buy things in the market and Rose was trying to pretend she wasn't with her mother and hoping anyone she met at school hadn't seen them going in.

She spent the Monday in the library again, just reading a few things she may need, Alec was with his friend Jamie at the other end but Jamie had seen Rose.

"That girl's back Alec," his friend nudged him.  "Go say hello to her.  My older brother may beat you to it if you're not careful, she looks older than us."

"I expect anyone looks older than us," Alec disagreed.  "Your older brother goes to college this year."

"Yeah, lucky him.  What happened to your cousin?"

"He stayed there, he never came back for the summer but John came back, he should have come back last week but he got delayed.  I won't see much of him but we went around yesterday."

John Smith had arrived back home on the Saturday before and hired a car at the airport.  His mother greeted him and told him Alec had been disappointed at his delay.

"Sorry Mum, you know how it is?" John grinned as he planted his holdall on the kitchen table.  "How has he coped without his mum?"

"John, you don't have to put on that English voice with me you know?" she scolded him.

"I only do it when I'm abroad, sorry.  Otherwise no-one would understand me, would they?  Should I go round and see Alec?" he asked.

"They're coming round tomorrow, go say hello to your dad, he's in the garden shed.  Shame you didn't come back the other week, we did the spare room out for Alec so he'd feel at home."

"Aw, that's nice Mum, I bet he liked that?" John grinned.

"Your hair has got wilder," his mother reminded him.  "How did you cope with it in that heat?"

"It wasn't that hot where I was, I didn't go anywhere exotic Mum.  Is Alec still writing his stories?"

"Yes and I know what they're about now John.  He's not writing about that TV programme, he's pretending to be you."

John looked surprised.  "I did wonder sometimes but I didn't want to brag," he smiled, flicking his hair and stubbing his Converse shoe on the chair leg, getting him another scowl from his mother.

"You knew what he was writing about?" she asked him.

"He asked me not to say anything, he told me after his mum's funeral.  I promised him I wouldn't, after he was already upset."

So while Alec and his dad went for their visit, John took Alec out into the garden and they sat on the garden swing.

"So Cous, looking forward to going back to school?" he asked Alec, who was hoping now he was getting older his hair wouldn't get that wild so maybe he should get it cut?

"Yeah, I expect they'll be new kids in my class and in the first year, I don't envy them," Alec admitted.

"How's the stories then, still basing them on me?" John grinned.

"You wish," Alec laughed.

"Aw come on Alec, admit it, that programme is just that you know?  At least I've really travelled, just not in time."

"Yes you have, what about through time zones?" Alec insisted.

John scratched his head, making Alec smile.  John didn't mind his young cousin made fun of his choice of making a living, doing research for any travel company who would employ him after he tried to make a good impression.

"Weeell, you got me there Cous," John laughed, patting Alec's shoulder.  "Your aunt doesn't like me using an English accent."

"I like it," Alec smiled.  "How long are you staying?"

"I don't know Alec, I can stay for a while, I'll have to convince another travel company they need my services.  So, got a girlfriend yet?" John teased him.

"Promise not to say anything?" Alec asked quietly.  John nodded.  "Can I trust you?"

"Alec Hardy, I'm surprised at you," John pretended to be shocked.  "Who else can you trust?  My younger brother's not here in case you'd not noticed?  You'd trust him over me?"

"I trusted you when I was six John, you told my aunt I wanted to be a writer."

"Alec, you were six, then when you were nine, you were writing stories on scraps of paper.  Still want to be a writer?" John asked him.

"I don't know, maybe not?  I think I might want to join the police?"

"The actual police or the band?" John joked.  "Sorry.  That's very commendable Alec.  No-one ever told you how your mum died so quickly, right?"  Alec nodded.  "Your dad will tell you when you get older but she didn't want to leave you Alec, you do know that?"

Alec nodded again.  "Yeah, I know John, it was just really hard, losing her."

John tried to change the subject.  "So, you never finished why you wanted me to promise not to say anything.  You have got a secret girlfriend?"

"Not exactly John.  I keep seeing this girl in the library but I don't know her from school.  Jamie thinks she goes to another one," Alec admitted.

"Do you want to find out who she is?" John asked him.

Alec wasn't sure and he had no-one else to go to for advice, certainly not his friends.

A/N: Alec's cousin John is based on the clone Doctor, in case you've not already guessed!

Chapter 5  Getting ready
Rose hadn't been able to sleep all that Monday night, thinking what was going to happen with her new classmates, well the entire school when they found out she was English.  Surely though there would be others but they would have either already been accepted or had their own little 'club' or circle of friends she may or may not be invited to join should she be an outcast.

It was something she'd not really thought about until that day and she doubted her mother had considered it, things were different for adults, it didn't seem to bother them.  It was probably the fact that Bob had a Scottish accent that made him stand out while he was working on their old estate that got him her mother's attention in the first place.

She'd no idea how they'd met, it just seemed to Rose like it had happened and there had been nothing she could do about it.  Her mother was hardly going to give up a good thing when she saw it because she'd not taken her feelings about it into account.  

As she tried to sleep, she thought about that boy she'd seen again, whom she knew must keep hanging around the library to try to talk to her but even when he'd been there on his own, he'd not attempted to do so.  He'd been with another boy, the same one she'd seen him with the first time and he'd looked like he was trying to encourage his friend but maybe some other girls had been sitting behind her at another table and they hadn't even meant her?

Before she'd gone to bed, her mother had questioned her.

"So, have you got everything for tomorrow Rose?" she'd been asked.

"Yes Mum, you've asked me a dozen times," Rose had replied.

"Don't be cheeky to your mother," Bob had warned her, yet again.

"It's okay Bob," her mother had defended her, for a change Rose thought.  "I don't know how many times I used to have to remind you, you always told me on the Sunday before you were going back that you needed a new pencil case or some gym shoes.  What was I meant to do?"

"Mum, that was years ago and this time I wasn't starting school on a Monday.  How come it's different here?" Rose asked, thinking Bob would tell her off again.

She couldn't even have a conversation with her mother any more without Bob butting in, he was a real spoilsport.

"I expect it's just how it is, you're not back in London any more," her mother replied.

Did she have to keep reminding her, Rose wondered.  She was hoping her mother had got fed up by now and taken them back home, not that there was anywhere to go, they would have to depend on relatives but it wasn't like her mother to just take off in such a hurry after a bloke.  It had been bad enough when Howard from the market had stayed over on a Saturday night though at least they'd not had to move, hundreds of miles away.

"Yes, Rose, remember that," Bob agreed.  "You'd best stay quiet for a few days, your accent will stand out."

"Great, just what I need, a new school and I can't talk to anyone," Rose thought to herself.  To Bob she just said, "Why, what will they do?"

"Just be warned," he replied, looking at her mother.

"Just pretend you've lost your voice Rose," Jackie suggested.  "I'll write you a note to say you've got a sore throat, there's some lozenges in the bathroom cabinet, put them in your school bag."

Rose didn't think she had much choice, her classmates would pick her out and make fun of her at least, goodness knows what else.  Surely her mother would have pointed that out to the headmaster but wouldn't there be more pupils there that weren't native to Scotland?  Maybe her new teacher would make her stand in front of the class, well she hoped not.

She had escaped to her room, wondering if the two boys she'd seen at the library went to the grammar school but she was only interested in the blonde haired one.  He'd look kind of sad, she'd thought, like he didn't want to be there anyway and considering he'd snapped up the book she'd only just returned, it was a safe bet.

Alec was reading the book eagerly, at his aunt's house, which made her smile.

"Some last minute studying Alec?" his aunt had asked, John in the other room watching TV.

"I tried to get it before, it's only just come back in," Alec admitted, though not that he'd bet the blonde haired girl had it and he'd been watching for her to return it.

"Good thing you went then?" his aunt smiled, relieved he was actually reading a book and not writing one of his far-fetched stories she was still convinced he based on his older cousin.

John had come back into the large kitchen, grinning at his young cousin reading a book.  Going up behind Alec, he ruffled his hair.

"Trying to catch up?" John asked him, going to the cupboard looking for a snack.

Alec was just glad his cousin had dropped the subject as to if he liked the girl he kept seeing in the library though he'd be bitterly disappointed if she wasn't actually going to be at his school.  If she was though, he just hoped Jamie wouldn't tell the whole class that he'd been staring at her or looking for her every time he went in.

His aunt went off to do something and John sat opposite Alec.

"You never answered my question yesterday Alec," John reminded him.

Alec had got away without answering the awkward question his cousin had asked him when his dad had come looking for him.

"I don't know John but if she goes to my school, I'll see her then," Alec replied.

John grinned at him.  "Seems there's more to it then just seeing her in the library, Cousin," he teased Alec.

Alec knew this would happen sooner or later, he'd seen John tease his younger brother Peter many a time over a girl at school or the youth club they used to hang round but he'd stopped going when Peter had, it was no fun without him causing mischief. 

"There's nothing else to it John, she was just a girl in the library," Alec tried to deny anything else.

"Who was just a girl in the library?" his aunt asked as she came in from the laundry room with a basket.

Alec knew he'd never get out of it now.  "Nothing Auntie Mary, Jamie and I just kept seeing this new girl and we wondered if she was going to our school," he had to admit.

"Well, you'll find out tomorrow," she replied, glancing at John, whom she knew was making more out of it than there actually was, she'd seen him doing it with Peter.  "Still, it'll be nice for you to make new friends, not like that Kristy and her followers."

Alec wondered how she had remembered the school showoff.  You were either in Kristy's little gang or looked down on and anyone who had any sense stayed away from her and Moira.

"Those two still bothering everyone?" John laughed.

"I just stay away from them, they're not worth it," Alec replied, knowing he wouldn't get the book finished now.

"Good for you kid, who needs friend like them?" John replied, his mother despairing he wouldn't drop his adopted English accent even though it seemed like he'd come home for a while, unlike Peter had done.  "You'll make some new ones, maybe that girl eh?" he grinned and nudged Alec.

"Stop teasing him John," his mother told him.

"It's okay Auntie Mary, Jamie does it as well," Alec had to admit.

His aunt went off again and John wanted to know more.

"Seems you may have a rival then?" John asked him.  "If you don't do something, someone else will snatch her up."

"I'm not ready to go chasing after girls John," Alec replied.

"Oh come on, who are you kidding?" John wanted to know.  "Everyone has to start somewhere, have their first crush.  Go on admit it, she's yours."

Alec wasn't ready to admit anything. 

"So does Jamie fancy her?" John continued.

"I don't think so, the way he goes on but he said if no-one made a move on her, his older brother would.  Besides, she looks older than me."

"Aw, anyone looks older than you," John teased him, reaching to ruffle Alec's recently cut hair.  "What happened to the spiky look?"

"Dad make me have it cut," Alec replied, not looking too happy about it.

"Well you look more grown up now, maybe that girl will take more notice of you?" John told him.

Alec just hoped he was right but was he ready to take notice of just one girl when he was surrounded by them at school?  So he'd gone home, talked to his dad for a while and gone to his room to try to finish his book.

"All ready for tomorrow?" he asked Alec.  "You look much better with flatter hair you know?"

"Mum liked it like that," Alec reminded him.

"I know Son but she's gone now and you're getting older.  You don't want your friends making fun of you."

Alec thought maybe his dad did have a point?  As he tried to get to sleep later, he laid awake thinking of the blonde girl – why was he even bothering?  What would someone like her want to do with him?  As to Jamie though, he acted more grown up but that was maybe because he had an older bother, on the other hand, so did his cousin Peter but John acted more like a kid out of the two of them.

Both of them were up early the next morning, Alec's dad was just getting ready to go to work, Alec being trusted to lock the door and get himself to school, getting the early bus to avoid the rush.  Rose on the other hand had got the times of the buses and figured the one that got her there fifteen minutes before school started was the best one since she had no-one to hang around with.

That was half the problem, her old mates would have gone back yesterday and she would have been hanging around, maybe calling by the garage to torment Mickey on her way with Shareen just to get him going and they would have been laughing about it all day.  Now she had nothing to look forward to, getting made to pull the extra stitching out of the hem of her school skirt by one of the teachers to make it longer and the others giggling at her being caught and chewing gum and making a mess when told to spit it out in class.

She smiled to herself as she got her breakfast, her mother fussing as usual to make sure Bob had his packed lunch, leaving Rose's on the counter top then them sneaking into the hallway for some groping, Rose imagined it was groping anyway since they could hardly keep their hands off each other.  She usually heard her mother calling out to him that she'd see him later then act all coy and get her own breakfast.

It was a far cry from Rose remembering her mother not getting up until the last minute and still not dressed when she had gone out.  She wondered if things would ever have changed so drastically if her mother had never met Bob?  Rose did not know the conversation that had been taking place in their bedroom though.

"Bob, I told ya, I don't expect Rose to do everything when she comes home," Jackie had protested as she'd sat at the dresser.  "She'll make some friends and want to hang around with them, then she'll have homework to do."

"I know that Jackie but don't let her stay out too long, make sure she's home when you are," Bob had told her.  "Remember what we agreed?"

Jackie remembered only too well what had been agreed when he'd found out she had a thirteen year old daughter.   What had started out in their agreement had changed over the weeks they'd been together and she was so gone on him by now, she had no choice but to agree.  She watched Rose get her lunchbox and handed her some bus fare.

"You'll have to ask about a bus pass Rose," she reminded her.

"I hope I qualify for one then?  It's not very far though," Rose replied.

"Yeah but it's too far to walk though and you don't know your way.  Go on, don't miss the bus and be late on your first day.  Have ya got that note?"

"Yeah but I don't know Mum, I'll be deceiving everyone," Rose hesitated.

"Well what else can ya do other than let the whole school know?" her mother asked.

"Well the bus conductor will know," Rose protested.

"Well just mumble or whisper, then those getting on will already know you have a sore throat," Jackie suggested.

"Well I don't have much choice then, do I?" Rose asked.  "Bye then, see ya tonight, I might not come straight back if I make some friends."

"Well Bob said for ya to be back the same time as me, I'm agreeing with him," her mother replied.

Rose half expected as much.

"Rose, can't you call it home?" her mother continued as she got ready for work.

"You know I can't Mum, this isn't my home," Rose replied sadly.

"Well we're here so make the best of it sweetheart.  Go on or you really will be late."

Alec was setting off to the bus stop at the end of the road, which was the next one up from where Rose would be getting on but he was half an hour earlier.  He met Jamie at the corner and they saw there were only two or three others from school already there in the bus shelter, thankfully Kristy and Moira lived elsewhere or it would be a nightmare.

"Are we having a bet then?" Jamie asked as he sat on a wall instead of in the bus shelter, Alec just leaning against it so the person whose wall it was wouldn't protest.

"About what?" Alec asked, not that he didn't already know.

Jamie nudged him.  "You know what about.  Today is the day you find out if that girl goes to our school or not so I bet you a pound she does."

"I have better things to do with my pocket money Jamie," Alec replied, pretending not to care.

His friend laughed.  "I was telling my brother, he wants to go to the library with us next time," he teased Alec.

"Is that meant to bother me?" Alec asked, trying to act tough.  

"Well I told you he would if you were too slow Alec," Jamie warned him.  "What would your mum have said?  She'd have told you not to mess around and do something."

"Stop it Jamie, my mum's not here, is she?"

"Sorry.  The bus is late or have they changed the times?" Jamie wondered, knowing he'd hit a raw nerve.  "I didn't mean anything but she would have done, she always encouraged you."

"Yeah she encouraged me to let my hair get spiky but dad said I had to grow up," Alec replied as he saw the bus come around the corner.

"Well all I'm saying is if she's new to the school, she should be warned about Kristy and Moira," Jamie said as they went to board the bus.  "Let's sit upstairs and she if she lives around here?"

Alec doubted it, it wasn't a small town where everyone lived in the same area.  She could live anywhere and may still not be going to their school but whoever she was and whichever school she was going to, some other boy would snap her up, maybe even someone like Jamie's brother.

"Come on Alec, cheer up before we get to school.  If she's there, she's there but if not, we can go to the library when we get out," Jamie suggested.  "I was only messing with you about my brother."

Alec wasn't so sure about that, Jamie's brother Alan was well known for talking to the girls, he was almost as bad as John.  As they got off the bus, pupils were already gathering in groups, some whose parents sent them off early and some who got there to avoid the over-crowded buses, they saw Kristy and her gang were already trying to get new recruits for the new term.

Jamie steered Alec towards a few boys they were friends with but before they got there Jamie stopped.

"Still writing your stories Alec?" Jamie asked him.  "Best not say anything, you're never going to get away with it."

"I know, I won't get my notebook out while they're around, okay?" Alec replied.

"Still basing them on that time traveller?" Jamie grinned.

"My aunt thinks they're about John.  I suppose they could be," Alec admitted.

"Are they?" Jamie wanted to know.  "He does actually travel Alec, even if it is only by train or plane.  At least his travels are real.  How long is he staying at home?"

"Who knows with John?" Alec wondered.  "Until he gets another assignment I expect but he'll be writing his reports up for the agency who sent him.  He said something about it the other day."

"Did you tell him, about that girl in the library?" Jamie wanted to know as the other boys were talking.

"I've not got an older brother to talk to about things like you have and Peter never came back, John is all I have," Alec replied.  

They went to join their friends, some of them noticing Alec's haircut and wondering if they maybe should have done the same.

Rose had been waiting at the bus stop, not being able to get in the shelter and hoping the bus wouldn't be full when it got there.  She cringed when the bus did arrive, some of the girls looking at her as if to ask who she was and that they'd never seen her before.  She listened as the others gave the amount of their bus fare and whispered the same as the bus driver issued her ticket and she thought maybe she'd not say the following morning, he seemed used to it.

She had to go upstairs, seeing a few empty seats but teenagers kneeling backwards to talk to their friends so she took a chance and sat next to one of them.  The other girl suddenly turned.

"I'm saving that seat," the girl huffed in a broad Scottish accent.  "Hey Annie, this girl thinks she's going to take our friend's seat," she continued.

If Rose hadn't been warned about speaking with an English accent and risk getting strung up, she would have told the girl not so politely that it was a likely story.  Instead she just shrugged her shoulders and remained where she was.

"Did you not hear?" the girl turned back to her.  "Hey, I think she's deaf or something."

The two girls behind them were already giggling and Rose, having grown up on a rough London council estate knew when someone was winding her up, she was an expert at winding poor Mickey up.  She had to put on an act though of pretending to ignore them so the girl next to her purposely took more room up than she needed but Rose just nudged back.  Despite the girls referring to her, she managed the next few stops, no-one wanting to sit there and got up when she saw others doing the same.

She followed them across the road and through the gate and that was when it hit her.  This was it, she wasn't in Kansas any more.  There were no friends waiting for her to catch up with, she was alone and she dare not even talk to anyone.  She had no idea where she was going, she'd been sent a timetable and what class she was in so she wandered inside the building to see if there was some indication where that was but came out again at the size of the place.

Everyone was gathering at the entrance, waiting for the bell to go as a teacher came out.  Rose followed them all in, stopping another teacher and showing which class she was in and being pointed to the next  floor.  Alec and his friends had gone inside and upstairs and were about to go in for registration as Alec saw Rose coming up the stairs.  He nudged Jamie.

"See, she is here after all," his friend told him, Alec remembering something about betting she wouldn't be on the way there.

Everyone was going into the classroom, Alec holding back as his friend shook his head.  Alec saw his chance as Rose was looking around, the teacher having pointed to the floor but not the classroom number.  Thinking about just giving in and asking someone, Rose recognized him – the boy from the library.

"Hi, are you lost?" Alec enquired as others passed him, taking no notice.

Rose couldn't break her silence if she was going to carry this off for a few days until she got up the courage to admit she was not native to Scotland.  Instead she just nodded.

"Well if you're in the third year there's more than one class," he replied as two teachers were talking outside the next classroom.

Rose showed him where she should be, holding out the piece of paper she'd scribbled it down on from the letter her mother had got.

"Right, it's this one," Alec replied, as a few stragglers passed them and the teachers were splitting up.

Rose just smiled at him, Alec wishing she'd done that in the library, not as they were about to go in the classroom.

"Why are you two still out here?" the female teacher asked.

"Sorry Miss, it was just she got lost and didn't know which was her classroom," Alec tried to explain, Rose just nodding in agreement.

"Well that's very commendable of you Alec but you need to take your desk," the teacher told him.

Rose nodded and followed Alec and the teacher inside, Alec cursing himself he still didn't know her name.  As the teacher read out each name, Alec was waiting for the girl he kept seeing in the library to raise her hand and finally, the teacher, Miss Robinson got to the 'T's"

"Sandra Taylor," the teacher called out as a redhead raised her hand, Alec hoping it was Rose's turn.  "Rose Tyler," the teacher continued as Rose raised her hand slowly, unaware Alec had been waiting as another twenty or thirty names were called out, all of the others he already knew.

There, he had her name, it had been bugging him since the first time he'd seen her in the library and she also now knew his name, Rose thought as Alec had raised his hand, since he was sat in front of her slightly but he'd turned around as two more names had been called out.  His friend smiled to himself and nudged Alec's arm.

Alec knew he would get teased more than ever now he had her name but he just hoped Jamie wouldn't tell the whole class that he'd spent most of the summer holidays wondering who she was or he'd never hear the end of it.  Rose was also glad she had a name for the boy who'd been waiting eagerly for her to return that book and whom she'd seen talking to the boy who was sat beside him.

Now all she had to do was hope she'd get away with being quiet until everyone got used to her and would accept who she was but her hopes were dashed as the teacher made an announcement.

"Class, we have two new arrivals with us this term, Sandra Taylor and Rose Tyler, who have transferred from other schools.  Rose, please stand up and introduce yourself."

Rose's heart leapt as everyone turned to look at her – including who she now knew was Alec Hardy.

Chapter 6 - First day
Rose remained seated, those in front of her beginning to chatter and the teacher telling them to hush.

"We're all waiting Rose," the teacher reminded her, in a soft Scottish accent.

Alec was also trying to turn around but suddenly put his hand up.

"Yes Alec?" the teacher asked him.

"Please Miss, I think she has a sore throat," he suggested, the others starting to giggle.

"Quiet," the teacher told the class.  "Yes Alec, I think it's that or she is just shy.  Rose, do you have a sore throat?"

Rose managed a nod, she was already in too deep to back out of her mother's suggestion and she had to play along, for now.

"Very well, rest your voice and no sucking throat lozenges in class.  Your mother should have sent a note."

Rose fumbled in her desk and brought out the hastily written note her mother had scribbled last night, she'd almost forgotten.

The teacher allowed her to get up and pass the note.

"You maybe should have stayed off?" the teacher suggested, glancing at the note, Rose thinking she'd never get away with it.

She also thought she was glad she hadn't stayed off, she'd finally got to know the boy's name and the one next to him was called Jamie.

It had been a double lesson since it was the first day so they had one more lesson before break time and Rose hung back, following everyone else to the next classroom.  Jamie was nudging Alec.

"Bet she's not really lost her voice, she's having us on," Jamie told him as they went through the door.

"Leave her Jamie, we don't know that," Alec replied.

Jamie sat next to him and nudged him as Rose sat next to a girl called Marie, who had less friends than they did.

"Maybe?  See how she gets on when she meets Kristy and Moira?"

"Then I'll have to keep them away from her, if she can't talk back, you know what they are like," Alec replied as the teacher put his briefcase on the desk in the science room.

"Good morning class," the teacher spoke up.  "I'm your substitute science teacher, Mr Brown is unable to join you.  My name is Doctor John Smith," the tall thin man grinned, putting his glasses on and picking up a piece of chalk to write on the blackboard.

Alec noticed at least he had the attention of all the girls, unlike last term when Mr Brown was there.  Rose was paying attention, the man had an Estuary English accent and she wished now she'd never gone along with her mother's idea of how to keep quiet to avoid being picked on.

"So, anyone else here from London?" the teacher asked, looking around.  

Rose was not going to admit anything and he was probably only here for a few days anyway.  He seemed to be getting away with the accent but he wasn't a thirteen year old teenager who everyone would turn on.  Alec saw her paying attention and began to wonder if she was covering something up.  Had he been right?  Was the sore throat just her playing along because he'd suggested it?  What note had she passed earlier though?

He'd been thinking more about what he'd told his cousin John, whose double could be standing in front of the class but his cousin was no science teacher and was not from London, though he liked to act like it now.  He'd told John he may want to join the police and since his curiosity always got the better of him, maybe he should?

The teacher was asking him a question, since he must have looked miles away.

"What's your name?" he asked Alec, everyone, including Rose looking at him.

"Alec, Sir."

"Then Alec, let's see how much you learned last term shall we," the teacher grinned, making the girls giggle.

Then it was Rose's turn as a few more answered questions.

"I've been told there are two new pupils this year?  Would you raise your hands?"

Rose reluctantly raised hers, as did Sandra, who was sitting next to Kelly.

"So, what's your names then?" they were both asked.

"I'm Sandra, that's Rose, she lost her voice," the other girl replied, Rose being thankful but had the feeling Alec had been about to tell the teacher anyway.

"Well, never mind eh Rose?  Bad luck on your first day," the teacher grinned, something Rose thought he seemed to do a lot of, when he wasn't coming out with words that sounded like he watched 'The Fonz' all day.

The lesson was almost over, Rose being relieved she'd got away with it so far but if this science teacher was going to be here again, she may go confide in him, if not, she would have to tell her class teacher, who should have already been informed.  Rose bet Miss Robinson did know and chose to keep it quiet and had guessed why she'd been reluctant to speak.

The bell went for break time and everyone gathered their school bags and headed for the exit but the teacher held Alec back.

"You seemed to have all the answers," he asked Alec.  "Do you know the new girl?"

"No Sir," Alec replied as everyone else left.  

"I just wondered, she kept glancing at you.  You were also looking at me a lot, any reason?" Doctor Smith asked, Alec thinking he should have been asking the girls that, not him.

"Sorry Sir, it's just you look a bit like my cousin, he has the same name as well," Alec explained, hoping Kristy and Moira weren't going around looking for new victims.

"Ah, no wonder then.  So is he a teacher?" he asked Alec.

"No Sir, he's a travel writer, he does reviews of holiday destinations for travel agencies," Alec admitted, hoping to catch up with Jamie, or maybe Rose.

"Interesting job?  Well don't let me keep you Alec, well done.  That girl though, Rose.  She seemed a bit lost."

"She was, when she arrived but I've seen her in the library a few times, she's been in town a few weeks, our teacher said she'd transferred schools," Alec replied, trying to be helpful if it got him excused.

"Right, that explains it then.  Well off you go," Doctor Smith grinned at him.  "Are you going to make friends with her?"

"I was going to try Sir, may I go now?" Alec asked, thinking this was the longest conversation he'd ever had with a teacher.

The fact the teacher looked a bit like his cousin was a bit strange, especially when his aunt thought he himself was beginning to look like John.

He got outside and went to find Jamie, who was talking to some of their other friends, well the ones who weren't trying to get in Kristy's gang, she wasn't really bothered who joined but she seemed to have lost a lot of followers, Alec thought.  Maybe the old ones had come to their senses?

He looked around for Rose and saw her sitting on a bench under a window.  Jamie was discussing where he'd been on holiday, Alec already having heard about it and it put him off because they'd been nowhere with just losing his mother several months ago and it wouldn't have been the same, well not for him anyway.

Since there were only just over five minutes left, Alec crossed to the bench and stood in front of Rose, who was trying to keep the sun out of her eyes but not wanting to move.

"Hi again, what are you doing on your own?" Alec asked her.  "Not made any friends, not even the other new girl?"

Rose shook her head.

Since she wasn't talking, Alec decided to try and get a few things out of her by the process of elimination, something he was good at.

"So, you transferred from another school?  Out of town?" he asked.  Rose nodded, hoping she wouldn't try to correct him.  "A long way maybe?" he continued.  Rose nodded again.  "The Outer Hebrides?" Alec grinned, making Rose smile.  "Well maybe not that far then?" he smiled back.  "Maybe Aberdeen or Inverness?"

Rose shook her head.  He was about to get his notebook out and suggest she wrote it down when he saw a teacher at the doorway and he'd have to remember to use the other end of the pad anyway, he wasn't ready to show the new girl any of his stories, well not yet anyway.

"Did you bring a packed lunch?" he dared ask her.  Rose nodded again.  "Me too, my mum never approved of school dinners.  Maybe we can talk later?"

Rose nodded and got off the bench, Alec thinking that was a daft thing to say but surely she could try and talk a little?  She'd not ever tried or cleared her throat but he'd seen her take something out of her bag while he'd been walking over and assumed it was something she took to help.  He followed her to line up to go inside, getting a look from Kristy and Moira, who nudged him from the next line.

"No good asking you, is there?" Moira asked, since she was the mouthy one out of the pair.

"Leave him, he wouldn't know what we're about anyway," Kristy told her friend.

Rose could see the two other girls were not so friendly and assumed she'd be best staying away from them.

After the next lessons, everyone was either going to the school canteen to line up to get their lunch or find a place to eat what they had brought with them, Rose having been used to a separate area in her old school but no-one seemed to be bothering.  She found a table but assumed she'd not be alone and sure enough, the two lead troublemakers made a beeline for her.

"You're new here, want to join our group?" Moira asked her.

Alec could see they were trying to get Rose on their side.

"Leave her Alec," Jamie nudged him as he watched the other two girls sit either side of Rose.  "She'll have to learn about them."

"What's so interesting about her then?" one of the other boys asked.

"She's new, she doesn't know about getting involved with their gang," Alec replied, trying to eat his chicken salad sandwich.

"Have you met her before?" another boy asked him.  "You stuck up for her earlier."

Alec was going to try to deny it.  "She just looked lost," he replied.

"Aren't you going to tell them?" Jamie grinned.  "She was in the library a few times."

Alec was going to thank his friend later.

"We never saw her," another one replied.

"Maybe because she was in our local one?" Jamie laughed.  "Not the one in town."

Rose wasn't having an easy time and Alec knew what they were like when a new victim came along.  The last two years, pupils had joined them and got tired of getting into trouble because of them and had the sense to leave.  He was hoping Rose hadn't fallen for their tricks.

"Don't you talk or something?" Moira was asking her as Rose tried to ignore them by eating.

"Bet she's lost her voice," Kristy laughed, not seeing Alec walking across as he'd been unable to stop himself.

"Leave her alone you two, she's new," Alec called out to them.

"Well if it's not Alec Hardy," Kristy laughed.  "Been hanging around the library all summer being a swot?" 

"Yeah, nothing else to do while everyone else went away?" Moira joined in as Alec stood there, his bag over his shoulder.

Rose wanted to tell the two girls to get lost but it would just give the game away.  She would have done and her friends from her old school would have made short work of the pair.

"Aw, I forgot, he'd have been at his auntie's since his mum's been gone," Kristy mocked.

"You leave my mum out of this Kristy Roberts," Alec almost lost his temper.

Rose wanted to say that was uncalled for.  She thought he'd looked sad in the library, his mum must have either left home or passed away.

"Go find somewhere else Alec, we're talking to the new girl," Moira carried on.

"No, you're not, now back off," Alec warned them.  "Go back under the rock you both came from.  You don't get the fact no-one wants to join you this term, who can blame them when they get into trouble for what you two do?" he asked, trying to give Rose a picture of what they were like.

Rose had already got it, she wanted nothing to do with them, she didn't want to make friends like them even though at her last school, she'd caused most of the trouble herself but she'd not been desperate to get anyone to join her.

"Come on Moira, we'll get to her later," Kristy told her.

"No you won't, if she wanted to join you, she would not have ignored you, would she?" Alec asked them.

"So that was what she was doing?" Moira asked as she got up, a teacher approaching and Alec noticing it was the science teacher.  "Thought she'd got a sore throat or something."

Kristy turned around and almost collided with Doctor John Smith.

"What are you two girls doing?" he asked.

"Nothing Sir, just talking.  We were just leaving," she replied.

"Were they bothering you?" he asked Rose as Alec sat opposite to try to finish his lunch.

Rose shook her head.

"Alec, is that right?" the teacher asked him, Alec assuming he'd been watching and he was on dining room duties.

Either that or he'd been waiting for something to happen, going around looking for signs of trouble and the two who had just left would give him plenty.

"They were trying to get Rose to join them, they're the troublemakers around here, Sir," Alec replied, knowing he'd find out sooner or later – the other teachers already knew.

"Then stay away from them.  If they bother you again, tell one of the teachers," they were both told.

"Yes Sir.  Finish your lunch Rose," Alec suggested as she looked in her lunchbox and brought out a carton of yoghurt.

"I'll leave you to it then?" Doctor Smith asked them.

When he walked off, Rose looked over at Alec, wanting to thank him but if she spoke to him, she'd have to speak to everyone, unless she could trust him to keep her secret – that she was a very long way from home, further than the Outer Hebrides, which Alec had suggested and had made her smile.

Instead, she looked around and since everyone was occupied, she reached to touch his arm.  Alec got she was trying to thank him.

"It's okay Rose, just ignore them again, they'll get the message.  They soon get tired and try someone else.  They'll have a go at all the new ones first then go back to the rest.  Have you enjoyed the lessons so far?" he asked her.

Rose nodded, taking a drink out of the carton of juice.

"The new science teacher kept me talking after class because I was answering all the questions," he admitted with a bit of a grin.  "I never intended to."

Rose thought then maybe he'd not intended to speak up for her at registration or got rid of those two girls for her.

"You would not have liked the last science teacher as such, he was boring but this one made it more interesting," he continued.

Rose was thinking if all the science teachers looked like that, she'd have taken more notice last year but he didn't sound like he belonged here and had already admitted it, she wished now she'd taken no notice of Bob or her mother and Alec didn't look like he'd be bothered if she was English.  She decided to keep quiet for now and in a few days time, she'd try whispering or muffling her voice and see how she got on.

Well that was if she didn't confide in the boy she'd kept seeing in the library, who had rescued her more than one that morning.  Everyone was starting to go outside, she wished she was back with her old friends plotting how they were going to wind Mickey up on the way home and if she was going to make her skirt shorter again.  Now, there was none of that – she was the new girl and there were already two troublemakers in her year and she was glad she wasn't in their class.

She'd not been really surprised to find the boy from the library had been outside the classroom she'd wanted nor that he'd stuck up for her.  He must have wanted to know who she was as much as she'd wanted to know who he was. All through the holidays, she had wanted to meet him properly and there he had been.

"Coming outside?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts.  She managed a nod.  "You finished that book then?  I was waiting for it taking back to the library," he admitted, thinking she had probably already noticed that since he'd pounced on the shelf the moment it had been put there.

Rose had to smile – she already knew that by how keen he had been the day she had returned it.  She was dying to ask him why he wasn't joining his friends as they went to sit under the window again in the far corner.

"So you like reading?" he asked, sitting a bit further away.  "I like to write my own stories, about travelling," he told her, not wanting to say too much.  "My cousin is a travel writer, I suppose I get my ideas from him," he had to admit, though he still insisted they were about a man from another galaxy.

When he thought about it, his cousin John could be the time traveller, well maybe not look like him but the way he acted and moved around, not staying in one place for long.  He thought he'd best not mention his cousin looked like the new science teacher – well maybe not yet anyway.

"You must live near me then, I mean if we go to the same library?" he asked, hoping she may break her silence if she was just pretending to have lost her voice, something he was thinking more and more was the case.

Was she protecting herself from something?  Her real accent perhaps?  Maybe she was genuine though and just a little overwhelmed.  Alec continued the one-sided conversation, Rose nodding and smiling now and then, unaware Alec's friends were watching them.

"Seems we've lost Alec this term?" Billy was asking no-one in particular.

"You should have seen him in the library when she was there," Jamie laughed.  "He told me he wasn't interested in girls, guess I should have known?  I wonder why he never went to talk to her though?"

"Maybe he did, when you were on holiday?" another boy asked.

"No, he would have said something to me," Jamie insisted.

"Maybe not?  Maybe he didn't want us to know?" Billy asked.

"I'm telling you, I'd know," Jamie insisted.  "He may have told his cousin though?  John came back a few days ago and I thought that was him in the science lab."

"His cousins looks like the science teacher?" one of them laughed.

"Never mind the science teacher.  What are we going to do about Alec?" Jamie wanted to know.

"Leave him to it?" two of them laughed.

"Be serious," Jamie replied, now a bit worried for his best friend.  "I've only seen him talking to the girls in school."

"She is in school," Billy joined in the laughing.

"Well I'm going to find out later," Jamie insisted.  "I'm not going to lose a friend to a girl.  I was only teasing him a few days ago that if he didn't talk to her, I'd get my older brother to pay a visit to the library.  You should have seen Alec's face."

"So there's more to it then?" Billy asked.  "You can find out what it is, Jamie."

A/N:  I couldn't resist bringing in the Doctor type character as the science teacher from 'School reunion' and the fact it would confusing for Alec with his cousin who had the same name and they looked alike.

Chapter 7 - Where do you come from?
Jamie was now wishing he had never said anything as he looked across to where his best friend was trying to get Rose to talk.  He hadn't thought that by Alec talking to the girl from the library that their other friends would take any notice.

"So Jamie, you're in then?" Billy asked him.

"What?" Jamie asked, coming back to reality suddenly, breaking his stare to where Alec had got half a smile out of Rose.  "Right, I'll see if he'll tell me anything then?  Funny how he said he didn't like girls."

"My cousin said it comes to all of us," Billy replied.

"I hope not," the others disagreed, pulling faces and pointing across to Alec, who had been tempted to get his notebook out again and see if Rose would tell him what was wrong.

Rose was trying not to laugh at Alec's attempt to get her to talk, letting herself smile slightly, which he had noticed.

"So, Rose, want to tell me what happened to your voice?" he asked, his cousin John always telling him the direct approach was best and since he wanted to join the police, he may as well make a start.

Rose shook her head, she was already too deep in this and it was only lunchtime on the first day.  She'd only last another day at most before not only the other pupils would begin to question her but so would the teachers, including that dishy new science teacher.  If only he'd have been at her old school, it would have given her and her friends something else to talk about other than making Mickey look an idiot in front of his workmates.

"How about you write it down?" Alec suggested, making Rose panic as to what she could say so she shook her head.  "Well I think you are just shy," he smiled, withdrawing his hand from his schoolbag.  

Rose took his arm and indicated for him to go back in.

"You can write in my notebook, at the back.  I don't get this notebook out for anyone else, it's personal, well not personal, just my stories, no-one else knows about them except Jamie.  He's the friend who was at the library with me.  Here, write down how you lost your voice.  Is it a sore throat?" he asked, thinking he could practice and maybe skip being an ordinary policeman and become a detective.

Rose smiled this time as he passed her a pencil and opened his notebook from the back.  Jamie was watching with interest, Alec never got his story notebook out for anyone, in case they told Kristy or Moira, who would make fun of him.  She looked at him, he seemed nice, he'd tried to make her feel welcome and talked to her plus he'd stuck up for a few times but so had the other new girl.

He'd also been subject to being picked on by two other girls who thankfully weren't in their class and they'd better watch out when she decided to end her silence, she made mincemeat out of girls like that in her old school, without any help from her friends and by the look of things, they were the school showoffs who wanted others to join their gang to make fools out of anyone who got in their way.  Well that wasn't going to be her or anyone she made friends with and that now included Alec Hardy.

She had to get settled first though, establish that she'd been dragged to Scotland against her will but maybe not mention her mother had followed a bloke, well she might tell Alec, who was looking at her for her to begin writing.  She smoothed the page and wrote 'Promise not to tell anyone else?'  Alec nodded.  'I've not lost my voice, I'm just shy and different.'

"What do you mean by that?" Alec asked her, knowing he was right, she was hiding something.

Was she willing to tell him just yet?  'I'm not from around here' was all she was going to admit but Alec had other ideas.

"You moved to the town?  From where, a long way?"  Rose nodded.  "So a bit further than Aberdeen but not as far as Inverness?" he asked since she'd smiled at his suggestion of coming from one of the islands.  "Fort William?" he suggested, Rose smiling and shaking her head.

Jamie was leaning on the side of the bench the others were sitting talking on, though he wasn't listening.  He wondered why Alec had decided to go talk to her, he'd seen her in the library nearly every time they'd been in and never even tried.  She was very pretty though, his older brother had said it was only a matter of time before he started noticing girls but he never imagined Alec would beat him to it.  None of the other girls in their class or any of the others were as pretty as she was and Alec had beaten everyone to her.

He thought though they were prime targets for Kristy and Moira but he'd seen Alec fending them off earlier.  It was almost time to go back inside, others were wandering towards the door and both Alec and Rose were taking no notice.  Rose was just writing 'No, not there either, try further south,' trying to give him a hint and thinking if he guessed, he wouldn't make fun of her as he probably would if she just wrote it down.

"Jedburgh, somewhere on the borders?" he asked, thinking that was still quite a way.  Rose shook her head, seeing some of the other pupils wandering past, taking no notice of them, thankfully.  He was running out of places, then thought it was more than likely the west of Scotland, naming a few places, most of which Rose had never heard of and would have to go back to the library to look them up on the map.

Then Alec began to think he was right, she was hiding the fact she wasn't from Scotland at all then?  "I give in if you're not from Carlisle or Newcastle," he smiled, Rose offering the notebook back as it was obvious the bell would be going soon and she'd escaped for now.  

Alec had other ideas.  "You can tell me later then, we have geography this afternoon, I'll watch your reaction."

Rose had to smile and got up, Alec putting his notebook away.  So, he wrote stories and didn't want anyone else to know about them?  She could use that to her advantage, confess where she came from and make sure he didn't tell anyone until she regained her confidence and began talking, then everyone would know.  They began to get in line, Alec allowing Rose first and Rose hoping no-one had been taking any notice of them apart from who she knew was Jamie and a few other boys Alec had been talking to before he'd been trying to find out where she was from. 

Suddenly, Moira decided to nudge Alec's arm.  "What were you talking to the new girl for Alec?"

"Mind your own business Moira, she would have talked to you if she had wanted to," he replied, Rose hearing them as they were about to go inside.

"We tried to talk to her, you butted in," Kristy decided to join in, Alec wondering who exactly was in charge, since everyone thought it was her but maybe they were wrong.

"We all know your way of talking," Alec replied as those in front started to move.

Rose turned around and gave the two girls a stare.

"What are you looking at?" Moira asked her.

Rose was so tempted to say her for showing herself up but Alec gently nudged her arm to move forward.

"Don't think we'll forget," Kristy called after them but the teacher was watching them.

"McColl, quiet," Miss Robinson told her as the two girls passed her, making Rose smile as she heard.

Moira tapped her friend on the shoulder and whispered, "They are not getting away with that are they?"

Kristy shook her head as they went to their classroom.

Rose had history first, hoping she'd learn a bit about Scottish history but guess who was the teacher?  She looked as she saw John Smith getting some books out of his battered leather briefcase.  Alec went off to sit next to Jamie, thinking he'd never get away with sitting next to his new friend and Jamie must have something to say about earlier, both in the dining hall and out in the playground.  Jamie nudged him as the teacher was writing something on the blackboard while making a scraping sound that was making Rose cringe.

"So what did you find out about her?" Jamie asked Alec.

"I wasn't spying on her Jamie.  She's new here, I was trying to find out what was wrong with her voice," he replied.

"Did you?" Jamie wanted to know as John Smith turned around.

"So, who can tell me about the battle of Bannockburn in 1314?" he asked, looking around the room and settling on Alec, who to him seemed like he had all the answers earlier.  "Alec?"

Rose wanted to ask where that was and how an English teacher knew about it but maybe he didn't, since he was asking the class.  She thought he must have known he was being sent here, to have looked up Scottish battles, well the place sounded like it was Scottish anyway. 

"Sir, it was the first war for Scottish independence," Alec replied, wondering how the teacher from England knew about it, since he'd not seen the man in the library.

"Very good Alec.  Anything else you can tell me?"

Rose was suppressing a smile, who needed to go to the library when they could ask a native of Scotland.  Alec though wasn't aware the old history teacher had also gone missing without any explanation.  Where else was this new teacher who looked too much like his cousin going to turn up?

Alec gave a few more answers since they'd already been taught a little about it, hoping to impress his new friend, who he now suspected came from over the border and talking about battles nearly 700 years ago between the Scottish and the English wasn't going to help, especially if he said any more and gave no-one else a chance.  Rose would think he was a show-off – or would she?  He could score a few points in his favour if he seemed to know enough.

If she was from over the border, she would need all the help she could get but maybe that was why she had spent as much time in the library as he had during the holidays but what was she doing in Scotland, in Paisley of all places?  He had room to talk though, since he wasn't from here originally but he barely remembered where he had been born, his mother had wanted to move nearer to her sister, who had got married and moved here.

"Right, someone else," the new history teacher told everyone as they shuffled things on their desks, a classic sign they didn't want to be asked.  "How about one of the new girls?  Rose, have you found your voice yet?" he grinned.

Rose could only shake her head, hoping to get away with it before he found out she had no idea, they'd not taught Scottish historical battles at her school, well not that she remembered anyway.  Maybe if they'd had a teacher like him, she would have actually paid attention.

"I hope you're not staying quiet to get out of answering?" he carried on, making the others laugh.

Rose shook her head again, hoping he wouldn't keep asking her.  She'd been embarrassed when he'd come up to her and Alec earlier but at least those two horrible girls had gone off, not that she couldn't have handled them herself but if she did that, Alec may not want to be friends, since he'd drawn the teacher's attention in the first place though he was trying to rescue them.

As the bell went and they were all leaving, John Smith stopped her.

"Rose, are you having a problem with those two girls who were in the dining room earlier?" he asked her as she put her bag on her shoulder.  Rose shook her head.  "If you are, tell me or your own teacher, okay?"

Rose nodded her agreement.

"Good 'cos if they are causing trouble, I'll be having words with them.  Go on then, don't be late for your next class, I think someone is waiting for you?  Maybe he's making sure you don't get lost eh?" he grinned.

Rose smiled.  "Thank you," she mouthed without speaking.

"You're welcome, I hate those who bully others.  It may not be bullying as such but it's intimidation non the less.  Don't make the both of you late."

Rose nodded and walked off, Alec now around the corner.

"Come on Rose, I'll show you where the geography room is, I want to find out where come you from unless you want to tell me?"

Rose wanted to ask him where his friend was but she saw the other boy going into another room.  When they got inside, Alec turned to her and said he'd see her in the playground and went to sit with Jamie, who nudged him.  Alec was hoping the science/history teacher hadn't followed them.

"Be careful Alec, you were waiting for the new girl again," Jamie warned him.

"So?" Alec asked his friend as he got his geography exercise book out of his bag and dared glance across to Rose, who had sat next to Sandra, though the other girl hadn't made any new friends either but at least Kristy and Moira had left her alone.  Rose thought they would probably get around to her eventually.

Sandra was trying to get Rose to talk as everyone settled down.

"I saw you at lunchtime, who were those two girls?" she asked Rose.

Rose thought she had best be careful and shrugging her shoulders mouthed 'Trouble' to which Sandra smiled.

"You seem to have made a friend with that Alec then?" Sandra continued.  "Have you come from far away?"

Rose could only nod in agreement, since it wouldn't be fair to break her silence to anyone other than Alec.  He'd tried in a nice way to find out where she was from, no-one else had talked to her really, apart from Sandra speaking up for her and talking to her now.  Rose had realised the geography teacher was their class teacher and she was pulling down a map of the region after handing out some map books.

She then started asking questions about the coastline, Rose noticing Alec was keeping quiet as someone else answered with details of how it was made up and was thankful she'd not been asked this time but spoke too soon.

"Sandra, how many miles of coastline does Scotland have?"

"Miss, does that include the islands?" Sandra replied, Rose trying to keep a straight face, unlike the rest of the class, which included Alec.  She finally replied then the teacher turned her attention to Rose.

"Rose, which is the largest of the Scottish lochs?"

Rose knew that one and raised her hand.  The teacher indicated for her to write it on the blackboard, Rose writing 'Loch Lomond' after reading it in a book in the library when she had first arrived.  She'd also looked up other facts in case she was ever asked but hadn't thought at the time she'd go along with her mother's idea of faking the loss of her voice.

"Very good Rose.  Can you write down which is the largest Scottish island?"

Alec knew that was a trick question.  "Miss, there isn't one," he answered as he stuck his hand up and she said his name.

"Yes Alec, you are right, it's actually two islands close together counted as one, which are called?" she asked him.

Rose was glad he'd come to her rescue again, since she didn't know that one.  Alec answered as Rose went to sit down, daring to glance at him.  He didn't get any clues as to where Rose had come from and she was glad the teacher had never bothered asking her as they left the classroom.  Once in the playground after she'd been in the girls room, she saw Alec talking to Jamie and went to sit down, avoiding the two troublemakers, who had cornered someone else.  She and her friends at her old school never had to bother gaining new friends, they all stuck to their little groups of four or five of them and only got together when sides were being picked over an argument.

Sandra had seen her chance to talk to Rose but Alec beat her to it, Jamie following him.

"Hi again Rose, you remember Jamie, from the library?" Alec asked her.  Rose nodded.  "I told Jamie I was trying to guess where you came from."

"Aye Rose, Alec says he can't figure it out but I bet I can," Jamie grinned.

Rose thought he'd never guess in a million years until she actually spoke, which wouldn't be for a few more days or unless she really had to.

"I bet she won't admit it even if you guess right," Alec replied, grinning at Rose as if to say she had better not, before she told him.

Jamie went through a few areas, since she knew the answer to the largest loch included that area but Rose shook her head.

"What was she writing earlier then?" Jamie wanted to know.

"Nothing, the bell went," Alec reminded him.  "I asked the same places as you did and she shook her head.  "So where do you live?" he asked her.

"Like she's going to tell us," Jamie laughed.

"We get the number 54 bus," Alec told her, wishing Jamie would stop.  Rose looked up, she had got that one.  "You do as well?"  Rose nodded.  "We never saw you this morning but my dad goes to work early.  He used to take me to my aunt's first but he trusts me to get the bus on my own now."

Rose wanted to know why his mother didn't see him off but she herself had got the bus on her own and she used to walk with her friends to her old school.

"Tell her why we get the early one Alec," Jamie hinted.

Rose could guess.

"We could get the same one home," Alec suggested, ignoring his friend and knowing Rose may have found the bus rather full since they had to get the normal one as the bus company withdrew the special.

He supposed the bus company thought thirteen year olds could cope with the regular one

Rose had to nod her agreement, he was only trying to be helpful and some company would be nice, even if his friend was tagging along.  She didn't want to make the two of them fall out though so she'd have to be careful and if Alec had his friend tagging along, she had to agree to it.

"Right, we'll show you where to get it, unless you have somewhere else to go?" he asked Rose.

Rose shook her head but if she wasn't careful, she'd suddenly say something and give the game up.  She suspected Alec already knew she was putting it on though, he had hinted at it and maybe tomorrow, she may admit it but just to him by writing it in his notebook.  She was dying to know if he was willing to show her the stories he was writing, he had surely shown them to his friend Jamie though, who was now giving her a funny look.

The bell went and they made their way back inside, Jamie catching Alec's arm.

"Did you mean that?" he asked Alec, trying not to let the two troublemakers hear.

If they did, they'd never hear the end of it, only the older boys kept company with the girls, whether the same age or not and he'd noticed a few of the older boys pay attention to Rose, more so than the other new girl but he himself had noticed a change in a few of their female classmates.  Why couldn't Alec have picked one of them?  Why did it have to be the mysterious girl from the library who Alec had been staring at for weeks?

More importantly, why had Alec not done anything about it then instead of in front of the class by sticking up for her?  He'd only teased Alec about his brother, Alistair already had his eye on a girl from the college he went to.  Still, he thought as he joined Alec in the maths class, surprised Rose hadn't gone to sit next to him while she had the chance, it was only the first day and the novelty would soon wear off – he hoped.

Alec had avoided answering Jamie as he'd followed Rose inside.  She had waited for him to indicate where the classroom was but he had meant it, she'd been lost in school, he should see she got the right bus home at least and maybe get to find out roughly where she lived.  She couldn't live that far away if she went to the local library and not the main one in the town.

Neither Rose nor Alec were picked on since the teacher never mentioned Rose or Sandra were new but Rose noticed the female math teacher with ginger hair had some odd things on the walls amongst different charts, including several male Scottish actors and singers.  She knew she was going to like this class, though she'd not taken much notice before.  There again, science and history had never been her strong points either but they may be now.

The bell went and Rose wondered why they'd not been in their own classroom all day, maybe she should ask Alec when she started talking?  Maybe they'd get to be in it the following day, it must be used for another subject.  She was looking forward to gym class though, she was good at that, she'd even got the bronze for under sevens.  She'd show the others that even though she wasn't talking, that she may not know Scottish history but she could beat them all on the ropes.

The bell was ringing as everyone were either heading for their lockers, which Rose now wondered how you got one or the girls room, where she herself was going and hoping Alec wouldn't desert her and she'd have to find the bus stop on her own.  He had seen her heading off but went outside to wait, thinking it was less conspicuous than making it obvious he was waiting for a girl and he knew Jamie wouldn't be seen dead waiting for a girl, especially if Moira and Kristy were around.

While Rose was in the girls room, she thought about going back to an empty flat, she had no homework with it being the first day and her mother had told her to have tea ready for her to put into the oven but now, she was going to tell her mother she'd made a friend and if Alec wanted her to hang around, she didn't want to make up any excuses why she couldn't.  Now though, it was hitting home that her mother wouldn't be there to greet her, she and her friends wouldn't be getting Mickey all hot and bothered on the way home or hanging around with Shareen.

She now seemed to have only one friend, since Jamie didn't seem that keen on Alec talking to her and she and Alec were from different backgrounds.  She just hoped he wouldn't be put off by firstly she was English and where she had grown up but if he wanted to be her friend, it shouldn't make any difference to him.

Chapter 8 - Getting to know you
Getting to know you

Alec was waiting outside in the playground, wondering if he should wait for his new friend or join the others as they headed for various buses.  He had ten minutes to wait for his anyway, the bus company must have had complaints from adult passengers so before the end of last term, it had been changed so it arrived outside the school five minutes before any pupils who wanted it came out and only the sneaky ones had caught it but he wasn't too bothered.

He had the choice of calling at his aunt's house or going home and wait for his dad getting back at four thirty and thought maybe it was time he grew up and do that but with John being back, it may be worth calling to see him.  Now, if Rose happened to live near him or got off at the stop before him, he could get off and offer to talk to her while seeing where she lived or maybe she could stay on and go to his house, if her mother was at work.

Rose was taking her time since she'd heard the mouthy Moira and her side-kick Kristy, whom she'd not heard say much and hadn't decided what name to give her yet were in the cloakroom as she was in a cubicle.  She listened with interest as the two girls were talking, probably admiring themselves in the mirror, she thought.

She was in no rush to get back to an empty apartment and get the evening meal ready so her mother and Bob could 'make out' later while she tried to watch TV, something she was finding even more gross as she got older.

"Kristy, we weren't good enough today," Moira was saying as she pouted and got her lipstick out she'd 'borrowed' from her older sister and was trying to apply it as Moira leaned on the sink beside her.

"I'm doing my best Moira," Kristy replied, wondering who was in the two closed cubicles she could just see through the mirror as she turned around.

"We hardly cornered anyone today, thanks to Alec Hardy.  I mean, we had new victims and one of them we couldn't get anywhere near," Moira complained, making a face to even out the lipstick, having watched her sister Gloria doing it when she was getting ready to meet her boyfriend Angus.

"Yeah, that's not like him, he was a real mouse last term but he'd just lost his mum," Kristy reminded her.

"Feeling sorry for him?" Moira asked her.

"Give him a break Moira, how would you like it?" Kristy asked her, shaking her head as she was offered the lipstick.  "Anyway, in case you forgot, I'm supposed to be in charge so what's with you taking over today?"

"What?" Moira asked, Rose now just leaning on the cubicle door, waiting to leave.  

Now she'd never catch the same bus as Alec, she was going to maybe catch him on his own and admit she was faking the lost voice.  Now she'd have to wait until tomorrow or maybe catch the earlier bus and see if he was on his own but he probably met up with his friend Jamie.  Since when did she start making friends with boys in her class?

"Come on Kristy, I'm the brains around here," Moira laughed.  "Don't you forget it either unless you want me to find someone else?"

"I never said that Moira but everyone thinks it's me.  Anyway, be careful what you say, others might be listening."

"Don't be so daft Kristy, no-one's in here but us.  You know everyone likes to close the doors to make others think there's someone in, it would have been the new kids, goodness knows where they've come from.  Come on or we'll miss the bus," Moira told her.

"Okay then but maybe tomorrow you might give the impression I'm in charge, we don't want the new girls getting the wrong idea," Kristy told her.

Rose heard the door close, then as she opened hers, the other one opened and it was Sandra, who just burst out laughing.

"I knew there was something about those two," she spluttered as she washed her hands, Rose doing the same.  "I've been watching them all day, it's my hobby.  I like to see who thinks they are the boss but it seems everyone got the wrong idea about them.  Come on Rose, say something."

Rose nodded.

"I get it, if you're shy and don't want to talk but you won't get away with it forever.  I think Moira was a bit annoyed Alec stuck up for you, more than once.  Be careful Rose, at my last school, it didn't go down well if the girls made friends with the boys, unless they were older.  We can be friends though, since we're both new?" she suggested.

Rose nodded again and held her hand out, once she'd dried them.

"Great.  Well I have to go find where my bus goes from, see you tomorrow then and we can sit together in classes, if you want?"

Rose nodded again, picking up her school bag.  She was glad someone else was wanting to make friends with her and together, once she decided to talk, they could bring the two school show-offs down a peg or two or whatever the phrase was in Scotland.  There again, she couldn't talk to Sandra before she had spoken to Alec but neither of them may take too kindly to her trying to fool them but they had both hinted they suspected why she'd chosen to stay quiet.

They walked out together and into the playground, where Jamie had given up trying to persuade Alec not to wait for Rose coming out, reminding him that girls liked to take their time.

"How would you know?" Alec had asked him before Jamie had said he was going to the bus stop and that they'd miss it.

Jamie had declined to answer, just shrugging his shoulders.

"If you miss the bus, I'll see you in the morning, unless you were planning on walking down to the next stop to meet Rose?"

"I'm only making sure she gets the right bus," Alec tried to explain, seeing Kristy and Moira coming out and nudging each other.

He hoped they'd not been taunting poor Rose.

"Waiting for your girlfriend Alec?" Moira teased him.

"Him, having a girlfriend?" Kristy laughed, trying to give the impression she really was the leader.

"Leave Rose alone, she's new around here," Alec tried to defend her.  "Where is she, have you been trying to get her on your side again after I warned you?" he asked them.

"Chill out Alec, we've not even seen her unless she was hiding in the girl's room," Moira laughed.  "Come on Kristy, he's not worth missing our bus over."

Alec knew they'd seen Rose, why else was Rose late coming out when she didn't know anyone?

"Something wrong?" an English voice asked from behind Alec.

"No Sir, I was waiting for Rose Tyler coming out, I was asking these two if they had seen her," Alec replied, not used to making up excuses on the spot but he'd been doing it all day, since he'd first found out Rose was the girl from the library.

"You're all going to miss your buses at this rate," Mr Smith told them.  "You don't have to keep calling me 'Sir' all the time, you can address me as just 'Doctor' when not in class.  So, where is she?" he asked the two troublemakers as he considered them to be.

"Why ask us Sir?" Moira spoke up, confirming to him she was in charge.

"Weeell," he prolonged the word.  "Seeing as you are both girls and have probably been applying lipstick in there, you may have seen her in there.  Are there no rules about wearing lipstick in school?  I'll have to look that one up."

"Sir, I mean Doctor, school's finished for the day," Moira tried to correct him.

He could see they were going to make life difficult for him but that was what he was there for, teenagers were more of a challenge than five year olds but he would maybe have to have a rethink once they got to sixteen.

The teacher looked at them instead, then saw Rose approaching, Rose hoping they'd not been talking about her but of course they were talking about her, she was the new arrival and Alec was waiting for her!

"Ah, there you are Rose," the teacher stated, giving the other two girls a frown and he'd not even had them in any of his classes yet.  "You two girls, haven't you got a bus to catch?" he asked Moira and Kristy.

They both went off, nudging each other, Rose staring after them.

"Are you okay Rose?" Alec asked her, concerned the pair of them had confronted her.

"She's fine Alec, aren't you Rose?" the teacher asked her.  Rose nodded.  "I reckon you can look after yourself eh?"

Rose wished he wouldn't speak for her, she didn't want Alec to be put off defending her until she was ready to start talking and even then, it was sort of sweet of him to be concerned for her.

She looked over at Alec, hoping he wouldn't be disappointed once she did start sticking up for herself.  The teacher though was just doing his job, unlike those at her old school who left the pupils to sort out their own problems most of the time.

"Come on Rose, if we hurry, we'll just catch the bus," Alec suggested.  "Thank you, Doctor Smith."

"You’re welcome Alec.  Making sure she gets home?" the teacher asked, as Rose started going towards the gate.

"Yes Sir, she gets the same one as me and my friend, well I think she does," Alec replied.

The teacher watched him run to catch up with Rose, shaking his head.  It seemed the boy had a crush on her and heaven forbid if anyone upset her, by the way he'd been defending her now and earlier plus answering for her in the classroom.

"Hey Rose, wait up," Alec was calling after her as she tried to remember which bus she had to catch.

She knew she'd maybe have to rely on him at least for tonight as he grabbed her arm and hurried towards a bus where pupils were still getting on, thankfully.  Now Rose was panicking that he'd hear her saying how much her fare was but he knew it was the same as his, his stop was the last one before it went up in price.

"Have you got your money out?" he asked as the boy in front asked for his.

He stepped up to the driver and asked for two of the same fare, Rose passing him her money.  He looked around, not seeing Jamie and indicated for Rose to go upstairs, thankful only two or three from their class got that bus and they were too busy hanging over the seats at each other to notice as he let Rose go first, just as the bus set off.  Rose glanced as she went to the stairs, it was just as bad as it had been that morning but maybe since Alec was there to talk to her, it wouldn't be as boring, though he'd be doing all the talking.

She saw an empty seat, having noticed Jamie talking to someone else a few seats further back and assumed Alec would just go to join them but he sat beside her.

"Do you know where to get off?" he asked her.  Rose nodded.  "Well let's see if you get off before me then?"

She just hoped she did remember but she'd made a note of a few things and once the bus joined the route the one into the town did, she'd be okay.

"So will your mum be at home?" he asked her, hearing some laughing from behind them and if was about him or Rose, he'd have something to say about it.

One of the other boys was asking why Alec wasn't joining them, trying to get Jamie to admit something.

"How do I know?" Jamie was protesting and turning back to see Alec sitting next to the new girl.

"We saw him talking to her earlier," one of them opposite told him.

"So, it doesn't mean anything," Jamie was saying, wondering why now, he was defending her as well as Alec was.

He wondered if she had that effect on everyone, well except Moira and Kristy.

"Take no notice of the laughing," Alec was telling Rose as she tried to turn around.  "So will your mum be in?" he asked her again.  Rose shook her head.  "Is she working?  My mum was always in when I got home, now I have to wait for my dad getting back but he said I can wait on my own, I used to go to my aunt's just around the corner.  We've no homework tonight but tomorrow, well maybe you can come round and we can do it together?  I mean until you get used to the school's way of doing things?" he added.

Rose had warned her mother if she made friends, she'd stay out a while but she couldn't use Alec as an excuse though.  There again, she would have been out with her mates getting into trouble had she stayed in London.  She nodded her agreement, giving him half a smile and nudging him.

Alec was hoping she'd break her silence but maybe tomorrow, she'd get around to writing something down?  Rose recognized where she was and knew there was one more stop before hers as the bus set off again and indicated to Alec by putting the strap of her bag on her shoulder.

"Is yours the next one?" Alec asked her.  Rose shook her head and held one finger up.  "Next but one?" he guessed.

That was the one before his.  "Want me to walk you from the bus stop?" he suggested.  Rose shook her head, she wasn't ready to tell anyone where she lived just yet.  Alec was persistent though as they approached the next stop.  "I can get off there, I only go to the other one because it's a bit nearer and in the mornings, not as many get on there.  We can talk for a while, if you want?"

He hoped that once away from school, she may admit something.  As the bus set off again, Rose indicated for him to let her up.  He did so, picking up his school bag from the floor and getting up, surprising her by walking to the steps as she followed him.

"Why is Alec getting off here?" one of the boys asked Jamie, who turned around to see Rose disappearing down the steps.

"He gets off here to go to his aunt's," Jamie lied but he knew either stop would do for the both of them really and Alec had got off there before the summer holidays.  "Don't you remember?" he added.

Alec had rung the bell at the top of the steps even though others would be getting off but he hoped they wouldn't be paying any attention just the same as when they'd got on.  Once the bus stopped, Rose thought she was going to get trampled on as everyone got up at the last second and descended on her and Alec, including some almost falling down the steps.

Once off, Rose went to stand behind the bus shelter until everyone had gone off.

"It's okay Rose, they're always like that.   Have you never got on a school bus before?" he asked her as she saw they were alone.  She shook her head.  "Neither did I until I started at the grammar school, it's a bit daunting.  I used to go to a nearby school.  You used to walk home with your mum or your friends?"

Rose nodded, indicting to cross the road and hoping he wouldn't follow.

"I only live down the next but one street but my aunt lives just down on this side, the next street.  She might be expecting me but my dad mentioned to her I was going to try going back on my own.  It's not the same, going back to an empty house.  Sorry Rose, I never meant anything."

Rose scrambled in her bag and brought a notebook out, then found a pencil she'd not put back in the case.

She wrote 'Moira was making fun of you in the girls room.  Kristy stuck up for you, saying something about your mum not being at home.  What happened Alec?'

If he couldn't trust her, who could he trust at school but the bit about Kristy defending him surprised him.

"Kristy defended me?" he questioned her.  Rose nodded.  "Rose, my mum died a few months ago, my aunt insisted I went to her house every night until my dad got back.  Now he says I only have to go if I want to.  I was going during the holidays instead of being on my own when Jamie wasn't around."

Rose patted his arm, still leaning on the wall and hoping someone wouldn't tell her off but she wasn't tall enough to climb on it.  Alec could see she wanted to sit on the wall though.  Instead, she began writing something.

'I'm sorry you lost your mum Alec.  I never knew my dad, he died when I was a baby.  Alec, do ya promise not to get mad at me?'

"What for?" he wanted to know as he read it.

Rose thought about it.  Should she say anything just yet?  Maybe she should wait but he was looking at her now.  She decided to write something else instead, to just give him half of it.

'I'm not from Scotland at all, sorry I mislead you.'

"Rose, you never mislead me, I did mention a few English places," he told her.  "So you're not from the north of England then?"

Rose decided she had to give him something, since he'd been nice to her all day.  She was about to write again when he stopped her.

"Rose, would you like to go to my house maybe?"

Rose thought it would be better than getting tea ready and being on her own for two hours.

'Sure your dad won't mind?' she wrote before putting her notebook away.

"He says I spend too much time with Jamie, he'll be glad I made a new friend.  We could go to my aunt's?" he suggested.

Rose thought maybe that would be better but she'd get asked all kinds of questions.  She shook her head.

"Okay, it's this way then," he indicated.  

Rose followed him, dropping her pencil into her bag and trying to keep up with him as they crossed the road.  He walked across the next street then in the distance, she could see the other bus stop and supposed he could really use either but as they approached where he lived, Jamie was waiting on the corner.

"You two took your time," he told Rose and Alec.  "I had to cover for you when you got off back there Alec."

"I never asked you to Jamie but thanks.  Rose was going to be on her own, her mother is at work so I invited her back.  Are you coming?" he asked Jamie, surprising Rose.

So he invited everyone back then or was he trying to make her feel better by not making her think he had a habit of inviting just girls back?  She gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"No, I should get back, see you in the morning?  Are you going to be at this bus stop or the one you just got off at?" he asked Alec, already knowing the answer.

Now he was going to have to cover up for his friend and he was going to get his nose pushed out by the way Rose was looking at him.  He'd never known Alec defend anyone before and he was covering for a girl of all people.  When did that happen?  He waved to Rose and set off home, it was no different to when Alec had lost his mother and gone to his aunt's every night he supposed but he'd been hoping to hang around for a while or call later on and go to the park or somewhere.

Alec could tell his friend was disappointed they weren't hanging around with each other but Rose knew no-one else in the area and now, he had a load more places to guess where she had come from.

"This is my house," he told Rose as he stopped in front of a driveway, wishing his mother was waiting in the kitchen for him.  What would she think about him bringing a girl home with him though?

His aunt would find it amusing and so would John, since they'd both teased him.  He got his key out and went to the side door, allowing Rose in first.  She stepped into a fair-sized room, the other door leading to the living room half open and Alec indicated for her to put her school bag on a chair and went to the fridge, getting out a bottle of juice.  He indicated to Rose, who nodded.

"So, what time does your mum get home then?" he asked, hoping she wouldn't have to leave early, he wanted to introduce her to his dad because he had a feeling there was more to Rose Tyler than she had so far let on.  Why had she moved to Paisley of all places was one question he had to ask, if she would talk to him and why was she pretending she couldn't talk?  He knew she was shy but he had to get her to talk to him before someone beat him to it.

Rose sat at the table, Alec switching the radio on and going to hang up his blazer.  He offered to take Rose's as she took it off.

"Does she work until six maybe?" he asked, thinking he may as well ask questions and get some practice in again.  Rose nodded.  "Well how long can you stay?"

Rose wanted to say until her mother got home but she was expected to have everything ready but she could safely stay until after five, it wouldn't take her that long and from tomorrow, she was going to tell her mother she'd made a friend and that they were going to do their homework together.  She just wasn't going to admit her friend was a boy called Alec so maybe she could say it was Sandra instead?  Her mother wouldn't know any differently until she was ready to admit it and Sandra had said she wanted them to be friends, she could use that to her advantage.

Rose got her notebook out, then changed her mind.

"It's okay Rose, I know you're pretending that you've lost your voice, I won't tell anyone, I promise.  I get that you are shy on your first day, you can't hide it forever.  So, tell me why Rose, I hope we can be friends, that we can get to know each other.  Can we be friends?" he asked her.

Rose took a drink then nodded.  He hoped she would make a start soon.

"If it's meant to be a secret, why you're here, you can tell me.  I told you my secret, well part of it.  I like to write stories but not about things I know," he admitted.  He saw her looking up.  "Rose, I write stories about travelling but not around the world.  I write about going to other planets, like that programme on TV.  I never told anyone except Jamie, they'd all laugh at me.  My aunt thinks they're about my cousin who does travel reviews.  Do you think that I'm wasting my time?"

Rose shook her head.  He had a secret and so did she, he trusted her with his and she had to trust someone.

'Alec, I'm from London and my mother dragged me up here to live with her boyfriend and I don't want to be here.' she wrote in her notebook.

Chapter 9 - Revealing Secrets
Revealing secrets

She had almost broken her silence before she'd scrambled for her notebook.  Alec was staring at what she had written – he'd been right, she had been hiding something but it wasn't what he had expected.  She had turned the notebook towards him but he picked it up.

"Rose, it's okay, please talk to me.  I know why you were hiding, it was because of your accent, I won't tell anyone."

Rose looked around like she was expecting the whole class to be there or someone listening but there was just the two of them.  Alec moved his chair and put his hand on her arm.

"Please Rose, I know you were scared to talk in school, that's why I spoke up for you and answered the questions so you wouldn't be forced to talk.  No-one would have bothered, well maybe except Moira and Kristy but if Kristy stuck up for me, that means she's no longer in charge, if she ever was.  You know, don't you?" he asked her.  "They were talking in the girl's room?"

Rose nodded again.  She couldn't keep pretending to be shy or she may drive him away so she just wrote 'I'll only talk to you, outside school, okay?'

Alec nodded his agreement.  He knew his dad would be home soon so what could he say?

"Rose, when my dad comes home, talk to him, he's not going to tell anyone, is he?"

Rose supposed not.  She took the last of her drink to clear her throat, since she'd not spoken all day except to ask for her bus fare that morning, then she'd mumbled it.  She knew Alec was concerned for her but she'd never had to confide in a boy before as she'd always had her friends.  She put her glass down and leaned her head on her arms she had folded on the table, Alec waiting for her to say something.

"You still can't hide it forever Rose, you have to talk to a teacher, go see Mr Smith tomorrow, he's concerned about you, he was asking why Moira was wearing make-up," he smiled.

Rose knew they had been up to something in the toilets.

"Did Kristy really stick up for me?" he wanted to know, thinking he'd give her time to come round, now he knew why she'd stayed silent all day.  

She'd talk when she was ready but he now wanted to know what she sounded like.  This was all new to him, making friends with a girl and he was risking his friendship with Jamie for her but surely Jamie would understand and he was sure he'd heard his friend saying it happened to all boys eventually, they started taking notice of girls but he'd no idea what that actually entailed.

"Do you want to wait until my dad gets home?" he asked her.  

Rose shook her head, she had to do this.

"No," she replied, trying to keep it to a minimum for now.

"Was that so bad?" Alec asked her.  "See, I could hardly tell you are not from Scotland.  So, what did Kristy say about me?"

"That you'd lost your mother, I'm so sorry Alec."

"That's okay Rose, you were not to know.  Was Moira saying something about it?"

Rose nodded, Moira was being a right cow but she didn't want to repeat what she'd heard.

"It was about you sticking up for me, she was complaining she'd not had chance to get me on their side.  If she thinks I'm gonna hang around with them, she can get lost.  My old friends would have made a right meal out of them."

That made Alec smile.

"Alec, Moira's in charge, she reminded Kristy she was the brains and that she was only letting everyone think Kristy was the leader."

"I knew that all along, it was looking that way last term, a lot of the other girls began leaving their side.  So Moira thinks she can win you over?" he asked her.

"Yeah, fat chance.  Alec, I'm sorry, I just didn't know what else to do, in a strange school, I thought everyone would pick on me and it usually doesn't bother me but I don't want to be here, I wanted to be going back to my old school."

"It's okay Rose.  Maybe you should talk to my dad?" he suggested.

Rose didn't want to bother anyone but it was him or Mr Smith.  Maybe she would see how far she could get with him.

"Want to hear something funny?" Alec asked her.  Rose nodded.  "Mr Smith looks like my older cousin and they've got the same name."

Rose giggled, covering her face.

"You're kidding?" she asked.

"I thought it was him, he's been away for months, he writes for travel companies, does reviews and that.  My aunt thinks I base my stories on him."

"Do you?" Rose asked.

"Maybe?  Maybe it's just a coincidence he decided to travel the world, just not in a blue box?"

"Then are ya sure the teacher isn't your cousin?  How can there be two of them looking alike?"

"Well he never said anything to me and Doctor Smith never did either.  I've got another cousin but he's away so he wouldn't know.  It can't be him Rose, why keep it a secret?"

"So it wouldn't look like he was favouring you?" Rose suggested.  "Did he give any hints?"

Alec looked at her.  "Now I think about it, maybe?  He's just got back from a trip Rose."

"Does he come home during holidays?" Rose asked him, beginning to relax a little.

"He was late back this time but he comes and goes but if he's the new science and history teacher, how's he managed that?  My aunt never said anything.  Mind you….  Rose, my cousin pretends to be English when he's travelling and now he won't drop the accent.  My aunt's given up trying to get him to go back to his Scottish one."

"There ya go then Alec.  It has to be him then.  If it's not, then how did a teacher from England know about Scottish history, besides looking it up.  He's been winding ya up Alec, he's been training and he just got lucky, getting your school and he didn't want anyone to know.  Surely he'd have told the head teacher though?" she asked.

"No, he's my cousin on my mum's side though how his mother ended up being a Smith, I was never told.  Rose, does the head know you're from England?"

"I had to take an exam, I just barely passed it.  The thing is though, why didn't our class teacher say anything?" she wondered.

"The same as you said Rose, not wanting to say anything.  I'm going to ask my dad about John when he gets back, they were talking on Sunday when we went round, I bet now that John asked him not to tell me."

"I bet ya right, think about it Alec, then everyone would be getting you to do favours for them.  Are ya mad at me?"

"What?  No, I'm not mad at you Rose but why pretend to have a sore throat?" he asked.

"It was my mum's idea, I don't think she gave it a thought when she dragged me up here."

"So she's at work and leaves you to go home on your own, in a new place?  What does she do?" he wanted to know, forgetting about John.

"She's a hairdresser, she used to have her own home business.  She met a Scottish bloke and she followed him up here just as school broke up for the summer.  She wanted me to go home early and start making tea, he thinks she does all the cooking but she just puts it in the oven or warms it up, I do it all to make her look good.  I hate him Alec and she won't listen to me, she makes me do as he tells me."

Alec looked seriously at her.  "You have to tell my dad, he can maybe help you," he suggested.

"I can't let ya get involved Alec, I'd made up my mind I wasn't gonna make any friends."

"Yeah?  Well tough Rose, you have a friend and I want to help you.  Wait until he gets back but why does your mum make you do as he tells you?"

"I think he wants to marry her and moving up here was a test run.  She doesn't make me call him 'dad' but it's heading that way and I'm not sure I like it.  They whisper when they think I'm not paying any attention.  Do ya think it's my imagination?" she asked him.

"Rose, if it is, you have a better imagination than I have.  Want to see some of my stories?"  Rose nodded.  "I'll go get them, I started a new one, the others are in my room, you can borrow them if you want?"

"Can I just read them here?  I told my mum that if I made some friends, I wouldn't be going straight home but I have to be back before six, Bob gets in around seven or so."

"So he's your mother's boyfriend?" he wanted to make sure.  

"He's a jerk, he never leaves my mum alone.  Even before we moved, well he was working on our estate, that's where they met and she started going out with him.  The next thing I know, he's staying over the odd night or two and she tells me we're packing up and moving.  I wish I'd been older, I could have stayed with a relative."

Alec was thinking no wonder she'd looked so far away when he'd seen her in the library, she was catching up about where she'd moved to and if she'd just passed the entrance exam, seeing what was different.

"Can I ask you something Rose?" he asked as he got up to take the glasses to the sink.  "When I saw you in the library, you were trying to find your way around and trying not to make it look you were not from here?"

"Yeah, bet I was rubbish at it?" Rose grinned.  "I'm sorry I never spoke to you then."

"Jamie was daring me to go over and talk to you," he had to admit, rinsing the two glasses under the running water.  "It's okay Rose, I know now and I won't tell Jamie, not until you're ready to tell everyone else."

"I was gonna tell Sandra, she guessed I was faking it as well but I couldn't tell her before I told you," she replied.

"You made friends with her?" he asked.  "You did not have to wait until you had told me Rose."

"Yeah, I did Alec, you were nice to me today.  Sandra was in the girl's room when Moira and Kristy were talking, she thought it was funny how it came out Moira was in charge.  Ya should have heard them Alec," she smiled.  "Are ya friendly with all new arrivals?"

"Not really," he admitted.  "You looked lost and I had seen you in the library and wanted to know who you were.  So you think the new teacher is my cousin?  Why would he do that?"

Rose was sure he'd already asked that.

"Ask your dad then.  Alec, I should go before he comes home," she insisted.

"Rose, I want to help you, if you will let me?"

"No-one can help me Alec, I'm stuck here and I mean no offence against the town, it's a nice enough place, I just wish I was back home."

"I wasn't born here Rose but I was young when we moved here so I've known nowhere else.  It must be hard on you?"

Rose nodded. "I miss my friends, I miss walking home with them and annoying this guy we know who lives on the estate and seeing how much I can get away with in class.  I'm not usually so quiet but yeah, I felt lost when I entered the school."

"You looked more than lost Rose," Alec told her.  "I'm going to get changed, promise you won't leave?"

"Yeah, I promise, what do I have to go back to but an empty apartment and get tea ready for my mum to take all the praise?  If I leave it, with a bit of luck he'll kick us out and we can go back home," she replied as she flopped her head onto her arms.

"Don't say that Rose, you still might not get home, you might get stranded here and have to go into a hostel.  Did you give up your home before you left?"

"Yeah, we had a flat, I grew up there Alec.  You're probably right, she'd maybe get us back to London, then what?  She'd have to get a relative to put us up.  Sorry."

"Don't be sorry Rose.  Still, maybe you can stay out a bit longer?"

"Only until six, my mum's home just after that but maybe I could go straight home, get everything ready and we could meet later, if ya wanted?" she suggested.

Alec considered it, was she offering to keep him company every night?  Jamie wouldn't like that but if she went home for an hour, he could do his homework with Jamie then they could call for her before tea-time.  That was if Jamie agreed, which if earlier was anything to go by, he wouldn't.

"What about your homework?" he asked her, picking up his school bag.  "I'll get changed and bring one of my notebooks down for you to read, the first one."

"How long have ya been writing Alec?" she asked him.

"A few years, I was sick and laid in bed with nothing to do so I started thinking.  Then mum brought me a notebook and pencil when I told her I wanted to write them down.  That was before she got sick herself.   No-one knew she was ill though, she never told anyone."

"Sorry Alec.  I grew up without my dad, I know what it's like.  So these stories are about that programme on TV?  I like that one, he wears that cricket gear all the time but the other one, I got one of my aunts to knit me a scarf like his, I had to leave it behind."

Alec didn't want to say anything but his aunt has knitted him one.  Should he offer it to Rose?  Maybe at some point, if she didn't start hanging around with the other new girl.  Still, it wasn't up to him, she could spend her time with whoever she wanted and have as many friends, it sounded like she'd had a lot before moving here.

He went upstairs to get changed and hoped he wouldn't hear the kitchen door slamming before he got back down again.  She only had to go to the end of the road and she'd know where she was.  He somehow didn't think she'd leave though, she'd stuck pretty close to him all day but had given him the chance to talk to his friends.

Rose was sat listening to the radio, feeling nervous about meeting Alec's dad.  What would he think of her?  She didn't think Alec had brought a girl home before after school and hoped he wouldn't take it the wrong way but she couldn't tell him she was worried about things at home.  Maybe she could talk to the teacher, or was he really Alec's cousin?  Why pretend though?  Was it really to save Alec the embarrassment or didn't he want the head teacher to know they were related?  Surely though he would have gone to the same school and some of the teachers would remember him?

Over the road at Alec's aunt Mary's house, John had got home, trying not to feel guilty for pretending Alec wasn't his cousin but it had been a last minute decision for him to fill in for two teachers who were absent.  The agency had called him after he'd seen his young cousin and he'd not even told his mother where he was going, he'd just told her he was filling in somewhere.  Hell, he'd not even told her what he'd really been doing, training in Edinburgh inbetween doing odd writing jobs but his talents were wasted on that and he knew it.

It had only been a matter of time before work dried up so he'd taken advantage of doing two part-time courses in science and history and hoped he'd get qualified.  So he'd put his name down at the agency the education department used and crossed his fingers and admitted to his mother after Alec and his dad had left on Sunday.  To say she'd told him off had been putting it mildly.

"Really John, why did you never say anything?" she'd asked him as his father glared at him.

"Sorry Mum.  I just wanted to do something with my life and the travelling was good for a while but I'm sorry Mum, I had to keep up the pretence.  Did you not notice when I was coming home?"

"Why would we John?" his dad asked him. "Why were you so late back this time?"

"Ah, I got the chance to add another subject so I took it, not that they need me for english at present, they've got a perfectly good english teacher but you never know when one might be needed.  The thing is though, what if I end up at Alec's school?"

"Is it against the rules to teach at a relative's school?" his mother asked him.

"I'm not sure about that but it could make things awkward," he had grinned.

"So that's what the accent's for?" his dad had asked him.

"Yep, I had to have an excuse for working part time and then take the extra course.  Still, I reckon the kids might think it's a laugh and try to wind me up.  I can still take writing jobs inbetween, just cut them short if I have to.  So, it's the life of the substitute teacher for me then," he laughed.  "Blimey, if I get Alec's school, I'd best not give myself away.  He said you and his dad think he's gonna look like me when he gets older – poor kid!"

So when he'd got the call asking him to fill in for the science and history teachers at the grammar school, he hoped no-one remembered him and asked any awkward questions but he'd been fine until Alec had walked into the classroom.  He'd seen the way Alec had defended a new girl and knew instantly she had to be the one from the library.  This was going to be a very interesting assignment.

He thought though maybe he'd given the game away when his first subject was a famous Scottish battle and Alec saying he wanted to be a detective, would soon get to the truth and had expected him to be waiting but he'd then thought either Alec would be being brave and fending for himself or he'd invited Rose to his house.  Maybe he'd gone a bit far telling his cousin to call him 'Doctor' though, he still had to take his doctorate in science so he may as well take the history one as well.  

Something was troubling him about the girl though, not just the fact she was refusing to talk.  Something was very wrong with her, she either felt out of place or she had something to hide, maybe both but he knew his cousin would maybe forget about writing his stories and do a little investigating, since he was determined he wanted to join the police.

So when he'd seen those two troublemakers going after her at lunchtime, he'd felt compelled to do something then after school, take the two of them down a peg or two because he instinctively knew they had something to do with why Alec was anxiously waiting in the playground.  He bet anything Rose lived near Alec and he was offering to help her find her way home.

Now he was waiting for Alec to figure out it was him, who had decided to keep an eye on them, tactfully of course but he hoped if Alec discovered the truth, he wouldn't take advantage and tell all his friends though Jamie may work it out.  Would Jamie think he was having his nose pushed out if Alec made friends with Rose, which it seemed to him he had and all that from Alec himself who said he wasn't interested in girls had gone totally out of the window on the first day back at school because his young cousin was definitely having his head turned by Rose Tyler, whether he knew it or not. 

Chapter 10 - Rose's dreaded moment
Rose's dreaded moment

Rose was debating whether to make a run for it before Alec's dad got home but if she did, she'd not only be going back to an empty flat but she would lose Alec as a friend.  Alec had talked to her within a few minutes, he'd rescued her from those two obnoxious girls and defended her several times so she reckoned she at least owed him for that.  Yet though he'd not had the courage to talk to her the several times they had been in the library together so why had he changed his mind?

Was it that his friend Jamie was teasing him?  Maybe so but now the whole class knew he had stuck up for her, even those two girls would have figured that out.  She had meant to ask him what had been going on in the playground after school but she could guess.

Should she make excuses not to stick around when his dad got home?  She also had to decide where she was going to do her homework but it may be an advantage doing it with someone rather than ask Bob about local history.

Alec was changing into his corded jeans and a t-shirt then he went to his drawer to retrieve his notebooks.  It was very rare he showed them to anyone and his early stories were from before his mother had died.  Rose seemed to understand what he was going through, if she'd lost her dad, which was more than anyone else in the school.   He went back downstairs before his dad was due back, he dreaded to think what his dad would say finding a girl sitting at the kitchen table.

If that had been John at school, Alec thought he would be laughing at the way Rose had been defended all day.  John though had decided to come clean with his mother.

"You mean you never let on to Alec all day?" she smiled as she did the ironing.

"Yeah, he'll soon find out though that I've had a secret life for the last few years eh?" John laughed back.

"Really John, you should have said something instead of letting your cousin's imagination run riot, writing all those stories."

"It was his choice Mum," he reminded her.  "I'll tell him tomorrow, I just wanted to see the look on his face when he walked into the classroom."

"Yes, well you've had your fun John, remember, this is the first time he's gone up a class since his mother died," she reminded him.

"Yeah, I know, sorry.  She was my aunt, we all miss her but I thought if I finished my studies and got qualified, just maybe I could help him get through it?  I'm sorry I never told you but all that time you thought I wasn't doing anything, I was studying.  It paid off though, I mean come on, what were the chances two teachers being off?" he asked.  "One is a coincidence but two's an intervention," he grinned.

"Maybe your aunt is watching out for him?" his mother suggested.  "Still, he has Jamie, he's been a good friend to Alec.  Did he make any new friends?"

John smiled to himself.

"Ah, yes, he did actually," he told her.

"Some new boys started?" she asked.

"Well no, two girls I think, well I know one was a girl.  You are not going to believe this but Alec stuck up for her at lunchtime when two other girls were making trouble."

"That would have been Kristy and Moira then?  I thought they would have gone easy on him?"

"Oh, he didn't need any help Mum, he saw the two of them off," he grinned, raising a finger.  "Then I saw them hanging around when school was out and since the new girl was missing, I figured they'd been trying again in the girls room."

"So Alec was waiting for her?" his mother smiled at the thought.  "Who would have guessed Alec would be waiting for a girl?"

"Yeah, I know," he laughed.  "Mum, I think she's the girl from the library, she has to be.  Why else would he stick up for her on the first day?  Do you know what the interesting part is though?" he asked her.  His mother shook her head as she carried on ironing.  "She either lost her voice or she's pretending she had and my bet is on the latter.  If she's new to the area, she may be shy?"

"Then talk to Alec about it.  Still, Alec making friends with a girl, who would have known it?" she asked.

"I know," John laughed.  "I think he was waiting to make sure she got the right bus and she lives around here somewhere.  He was on his own when I saw him talking to those other two girls.  They seem a right pair, one of them had lipstick on.  Since when did thirteen year old girls wear lipstick?" he asked.

"How would I know John?" his mother asked him, wishing he'd go back to his own accent.  "Did anyone make fun of your accent today?" she wondered.

"No," he replied defensively.  "Actually, they all believed I was from London, well maybe all except Alec?  I wonder if the new girl Alec was defending isn't from around here?  What if she's from somewhere in England and doesn't want anyone to know just yet?"

"Yes, maybe?  Well Alec wants to be a detective, maybe it will give him some practice?"

John raised his eyebrows, something his mother was noticing Alec was starting to do the same.

"I'm sure it will Mum," he grinned.  "Mind you, Alec did mention he thought I looked like his cousin."

"Well he's onto you then," his mother warned him.

"Yeah, I think my first mistake in history was asking about a famous Scottish battle," he grinned.

His mother shook her head and went to pick up the pile of ironed laundry.

Alec had got back downstairs and handed his notebook to Rose.

"Why don't you read it out loud?" Rose asked, in case she couldn't understand his writing or some of the words he used.

He went in his school bag and brought out a glasses case.  He was sure Rose wouldn't make a fuss about him wearing them, he tried not to need them but sometimes he got a headache.  With it being the first day back, he'd not bothered but he knew he'd have to start tomorrow so she may as well get used to him wearing them.

He went to sit beside her and opened the thick notebook, which was only thick because of all the writing in it.

"So, what's the story called then?" Rose smiled as he put his glasses on.

"Adventures in time," he replied proudly.

"Is that part one?" she teased him.

"Actually no, I called it that as it was the first one."

"So how many chapters does it have?" she wanted to know.

"Ah, I think this one had three.  I wrote it when I was poorly.  We only have about fifteen minutes before my dad gets back though."

"Well stop wasting time then," she grinned, moving her chair to face him.

Before they knew it, the kitchen door was opening and Alec put his notebook down.  Rose almost fell back with the chair as she tried to move it away.

"Hi Dad," Alec greeted him as he closed the door behind him.

"Well, who's your friend Alec?" he replied.

"This is Rose, Rose Tyler.  She just started today.  She had a bit of a sore throat earlier, is it better now?" he asked her.

Rose had to admire her new friend, he was devious to say the least and he was trying to impress her.  She nodded, not wanting to make a liar out of him so she tried to sound a bit croaky as she cleared her throat.

"Yeah, a bit.  Nice to meet you Mr Hardy."

"Well it's nice to meet you too Rose.  So, new school eh?" he asked her, going to fill the kettle.  "I hope Alec's been looking after you?  Alec, no homework?"

"Not today Dad, I was reading Rose my first story."

"Were you now?  Is that right, Rose?" he asked, not quite convinced as Alec never read his stories to anyone.

"Yes Mr Hardy, his first one, it's really good do far.  I should be going," she replied.

"Will your mother wonder where you are?" Alec's dad asked her.

"Not exactly, she won't be home yet," Rose told him.

"She leaves you to fend for yourself?" she was asked.  Then he realised he did the same to Alec.

"Dad, you leave me," Alec reminded him.

"Yes but you could go to your aunt's.  Have you no-one to stay with until she gets home?" he asked Rose.

"No, I'm new here, I don't know anyone, apart from Alec.  He said from tomorrow, I could do my homework with him, since it's a new school," she replied.

Alec looked at her.  Maybe she'd decided it would be better than trying to do it on her own?

"Is that okay Dad?" Alec looked at him.

"What about Jamie?" he asked Alec.

He couldn't believe his son would give up his best friend to befriend a new girl.

"I was still going to ask him Dad.  Anyway, I'll walk Rose home, she doesn't live far away, do you?" he asked her.

Rose shook her head.  "No, not far but I can find my way back."

"I'm sure he's only making sure you don't get lost, if you've just moved around here?" 

Rose expected he was right.  Alec had looked after her all day and she might disappoint him if she refused to let him walk her home.

"Well okay then, just to the end of the road," she relented.

"What time do you have to be back?" Alec's dad asked her, looking in the cupboard.  "Will you join us for tea?"

"I have to be back for six, my mum expects me to be making tea for her and…" she stopped, looking at Alec.  "We live with my mum's boyfriend, he says I have to help out with my mum working."

"Really?" Alec's dad asked.  "What about homework and spending time with your friends?"

"Rose has only made a few friends today, haven't you Rose?" Alec butted in.

"Alec, let Rose speak for herself.  Well Rose?" she was asked.

"I just made friends with Alec and another new girl.  Two girls were showing off, tryin' to get me to join them but I refused.  Why would I want to go around with them?" Rose replied.

"Sounds like you met Kristy and Moira then?" Alec's dad replied.  "Take my advice Rose and stay away from them, right Alec?"

"One of the teachers told them off today.  Shame you missed it Rose.  They were trying at lunchtime but Rose just ignored them, didn't you Rose?" Alec told his dad.  "We got a new history and science teacher today, the teachers are off sick and I'm sure it's John."

His dad stopped what he was doing.

"What makes you say that Alec?  Are you sure it's not someone who happens to look like him?"  Alec shook his head.  "He would have said something if he had become a teacher."

"He's been travelling a lot but Dad, what has he been doing when he's not had a writing job?" Alec wanted to know.  "Can you call and ask Auntie Mary?"

"I'll call her after tea.  Why don't you take Rose into the living room?" his dad suggested.   "Sure you don't want to eat with us?" he asked Rose again.  "You have time.  So what exactly are you expected to do after you get back?"

Rose knew this was a big mistake, people asking questions about the arrangements her mother had made and she didn't even know half of them.

"I have to tidy the flat and start getting tea ready.  Her boyfriend gets home around seven," she just replied, wanting to keep it to a minimum.

"So you're on your own until six every night?" Alec's dad asked her.  "What have you been doing during the holidays?"

"Keeping the place tidy, shopping and going to the library.  I used to see Alec there but I didn't know who he was," Rose explained.

"He told me he used to see a girl there.  Well go on Alec, take her into the other room, I'm sure she doesn't want to see me making something to eat if she has to wait almost another two hours?  Would you just like a sandwich?" his dad offered.

Thinking it would be rude to turn him down again, Rose nodded.  Why had he pointed out she had two hours to wait until she could eat, then she had to make it herself.

"Yeah, thanks Mr Hardy, I am a bit hungry but mum expects me to eat with them."

"If you come round most nights, why not ask her if you can stay out a bit longer?" Alec asked her.  "Then we could meet Jamie and go to the park or somewhere?"

He knew she'd already said she could go straight home and go out later but he now didn't like the idea she had homework, housework and tea to make.

"I don't want to be a nuisance," she replied.

"You are not being a nuisance, Jamie comes around sometimes but goes home at five for his tea," Alec told her.  "Then he comes round again and we go out.  Come with us Rose?"

Rose looked across at Alec's dad.  She'd had no-one to tell how unhappy she was with her mother's arrangements but she'd just met Alec, it was too soon to confide in him about her problems and by the sound of it, he had his own.

"It won't do you any good being at home on your own," Alec's dad told her.  "Go get some fresh air for an hour?"

"Well okay then, if Jamie comes round?" she agreed.

Rose went into the living room with Alec and he put the TV on.  His dad brought some juice and a sandwich in for her as he called Alec to the kitchen table, leaving Rose sitting on her own.

"Well Alec, what happened to you not being interested in girls?" his dad smiled.

"She's just a friend dad, I only met her today properly," Alec blushed.

"Your aunt told me you spent a lot of time at the library, any particular reason?"

"I was waiting for a book coming back in.  I didn't know Rose had it then I saw her returning one and it was what I wanted."

"You do know if you make friends with her, you may drive Jamie away?" his dad warned him.

"I don't think he'll mind," Alec replied innocently.  "She just goes to school with us.  I had to rescue her today when she arrived.  She didn't have a sore throat Dad, she was scared of what the others would say about her."

"I suspected that Alec.  Well if you want to be a detective, find out more about her.  She doesn't seem keen on going home."

"When we got off the bus, she didn't seem like she wanted to be on her own.  I got off at the other stop with her, she lives two streets away, almost opposite auntie Mary's street.  I think she's hiding something Dad."

"What makes you think that son?"

"Well whoever the teacher was who looks like John, I thought if she was faking the sore throat and he was using an English accent that she might give in and talk?"

"Hold on, the new teacher looks like your cousin and speaks with an English accent?" his dad asked to make sure he'd heard right.  Alec nodded.  "Well in that case, why was he hiding from you?  I think I'd better call him, don't you?"

Alec had thought it would be more fun to play along if his older cousin was playing games with him.  Surely John knew he was onto him and how had his cousin managed to get to teach two subjects?  He also wondered why he'd stuck with the English accent and done a lesson on Scottish history?  Surely that had been asking for trouble?

Alec helped his dad clear the dishes and went to see how Rose was getting on.  She looked around when the door opened.

"I was just gonna bring my plate in," she grinned at him.

"That's okay Rose.  My dad's calling my cousin, he didn't know after all but I'm surprised John kept it all secret."

"He's probably keeping it quiet to save everyone picking on ya?  What if it is him, watcha gonna do Alec?"

"Pretend I'm not related to him?" Alec suggested.

"Good luck with that," Rose laughed.  "Alec, can we go for a walk, I feel a bit out of it."

"Sure, leave your bag here if you want?"

"Nah, I can go straight home then.  Are ya calling for Jamie?"

"I'd best do, I think he was a bit mad at me earlier, for getting off at your stop," Alec replied.

"Alec, I'm not trying to stop ya being friends with him," she tried to assure him.

"I know that Rose.  I can have more than one friend at a time."

"I had lots of friends but I only hung around with one or two when I got home.  What if Jamie doesn't like me hanging around?  What do ya normally do anyway after school?" he asked him.

"We sometimes go to the park or walk on the river path or sometimes we just meet at the library.  What did you used to do after school?"

Rose was embarrassed to say her and Shareen would walk down to the shops and watch the boys cringe as they watched them or they'd go back and annoy Mickey again if they'd not got him riled enough on the way home.  Sometimes they'd sit on the concrete posts and wait for him getting home from work and tease him.  Then she wondered why he'd been going to ask her to be his girlfriend when she reached sixteen?  Why couldn't he have picked Shareen?

Well he wouldn't be spoiled for choice now, would he?

"Girl stuff," she just smiled at him and walked off into the kitchen, leaving Alec looking puzzled. 

What was that supposed to mean?  How did he know what girls did after school?  Did they go to each others houses and do their hair and pinch their older sister's or mother's make-up?  It seemed Moira had sneaked some into school anyway, it had made her look cheap like someone dancing around on a pop music show on TV.

Alec's dad had just got off the phone with his nephew, who had admitted he was the new teacher at Alec's school.

"Why didn't you say something John?" he asked him.

"Sorry Uncle but I'd no idea they'd send me to Alec's school.  He sussed me then?"

"You know he wants to be a detective John, what do you think?" he was asked.

"Did he tell you about that girl who started today?  They call her Rose."

"Yes, he brought her home with him," his uncle replied.

"Well who would have believed it?" John laughed.  "My little cousin bringing a girl home with him?  Mind you, he's been looking out for her all day.  Has she said anything?"

"Plenty," his uncle replied.  "She claimed to have had a sore throat but I suspect she was just nervous.  She sounds like she comes from London."

"Ah, I thought she was putting it on and didn't want anyone to know.  Trust Alec to get her to talk though.  I wonder if she'll settle down tomorrow and say something?"

"Maybe but what are you going to do about Alec being in your classes?" his uncle asked him.

"Keep up the pretence, I have no other option and he'll have to pretend as well, not going around bragging.  Still, you should have seen him hanging around waiting for her after school."

"Was he now?  That's not like him," his uncle told him.

Ten minutes later, Alec was knocking on Jamie's kitchen door.

"Alec, I can go home if ya want?" Rose offered.

"No, it's okay Rose, unless you don't want to hang around with us?" he asked her.

"It's just I don't want to be in the way," she replied as they waited.

Jamie opened the door, since he figured it would be Alec, who had finally got rid of the new girl but his face dropped when he saw Rose.

"Hi Jamie, coming to the park with us?" Alec asked him.

"Not tonight Alec, I have some reading to catch up on.  See you in the morning?  Which stop will you be at?" he asked Alec but looking at Rose.  "Are you still getting the earlier bus?"

"There's an earlier bus?" Rose asked him.  "Is it less full than the other one?"

"Yes, it gives us more time when we get there," Alec replied to her.

"Maybe I'll get that one?  I had to wait around after my mum went out, I can set off before her."

Jamie thought that was all he needed, as if Rose being on the bus coming home and Alec sitting with her, then getting off the stop before their usual one hadn't been bad enough.

"You should catch it then you won't be in a rush," Alec told her.

"I'm still here," Jamie reminded them.  "See you at school, if you're going to the other bus stop?"

"It's about the same distance Jamie.  Why do we go to the other one anyway?"

"To get our money's worth out of the bus fare?" Jamie joked, making Rose splutter. 

They said goodbye to Jamie and walked towards the park but by now, Rose only had about half an hour before she'd have to go home.  They sat on a bench just inside the park instead.

"See if you can stay out longer from tomorrow?" Alec suggested.

"I might not be able to Alec.  I want to hear some more of your story though," she smiled at him.

"You do?  You thought it was good?" he asked.

"Yeah, when ya did the different voices," Rose nudged him as he sat on the back of the bench.  "I couldn't have read it in my head like that, you reading it out loud was much better."

"It was?" he replied.

"Well yeah, it brought it to life.  Do ya wanna be an actor when ya get older?"

"An actor?  No, I want to be a detective, Rose.  When my mum died, no-one would tell me what happened to her.  I want to help people and other kids to find out why their friends and relatives died."

"Wow, I bet ya'd be good at it too," she smiled.  "You didn't believe I lost my voice and ya were right about that.  You got me to talk, ya'd be great at interrogating suspects."

"Would I?  Really?"  Rose nodded.  "Well when I go to college, that's what I want to do, go to the police academy.  What do you want to do Rose?"

"Be a hairdresser like my mum but I may change my mind before then," she replied.

"If that's what you want to do, don't give up Rose," he encouraged her, putting his hand on her shoulder.

"Yeah?  I might just stick to it as long as you promise you'll be a great detective one day?"

Alec didn't know what to say.  Ever since the day his mother had died and no-one would explain how she'd got sick so fast, he had been determined others would be able to find out, no matter how old they were.

"We could go to the same college," Rose was continuing.

That all depended how long her mother was going to be infatuated with Bob, they could be home before then, she hoped.  The last few nights when he'd got home, Bob had been glancing over at her while he and her mother had been engrossed in something and she didn't like it.  It was like he was playing games with her.

Alec was getting off the back of the bench.

"Come on, I'll walk you to your street or you can show me where you live?"

Rose wasn't ready for that yet as they made their way back, past Alec's street and they stopped on the corner.

"So are you getting the earlier bus then?" Alec asked, leaning on a garden wall.

"Might do.  I think I upset Jamie though?"

"He'll get over it.  Don't forget to tell your mum, about staying out longer?"

"Yeah, I'll try Alec but it's not gonna be easy.  She expects me to get tea ready so he thinks she did it," Rose admitted.

"That's not fair Rose, why can't she do it herself?" Alec wanted to know.

"Bob says I have to do my share of the housework, mum thinks that includes doing the cooking.  She'd be lost if I didn't do it.  I can ask for another half hour though."

"Well ask then?  See you tomorrow but are you going to talk?"

He was about to find out the next morning that Rose was going back to being shy again.

Chapter 11 - I will only talk to you
Alec walked back home, now worried for his new friend.  He'd only known her properly for a day after weeks of not knowing who she was as she'd been sitting in the library.  Now he knew why – she had been left on her own all day and by what she had just said, even when her mother and her boyfriend were in, it didn't sound like fun.

At least he had been able to go to his aunt's house and John had finally come home but if he was the new teacher, this was going to be difficult.  He was glad though he'd got Rose to talk but she'd never answered him as she'd pressed the code to get in the apartment block.

She seemed to have liked his story though, it had cheered her up a little at least.  He got back home and his dad was waiting for him.

"So, you finally found out who the mysterious girl from the library was?" he asked Alec.

"Yeah, it was driving me mad and there she was, in the corridor and looking lost.  She wouldn't talk though and sorry but she did not have a sore throat, I wasn't sure she'd speak to you."

"That's okay Alec, you were just looking out for her on her first day.  So where exactly has she come from and what is she doing here?"

Alec quickly explained some of what Rose had told him.

"So her mother works, gets Rose to do the housework and cooking and this man she lives with thinks she does it?" his dad asked, to make sure he'd heard right.

"From what she said and I'm worried about her Dad," Alec replied.

"Sounds like you need to be, that's not right.  Why did they move though?  It must have been a shock for her?"

"She never exactly said," Alec told him.  "I thought she was never going to talk to me.  Did you talk to John?"

"Yes and you were right, he never even told your aunt and uncle, he was training and writing at the same time, goodness knows how he managed.  That means you have to be careful Alec, no-one should know you two are related, understand?"

"Yeah but Jamie sort of knows about John, he'll ask questions," Alec replied.

"Well be careful Alec or John may be asked to leave even though he's only temporary.  At least you'll have someone on your side?  He said he was more determined to get qualified when your mother died, he thought it would help, if he got placed at your school.  So, is Rose coming around often?" he asked.

Alec wasn't sure but she'd said about her homework.

"Maybe?  I don't expect her to come over every night though but she's not made any more friends yet, she may do though, once she starts talking.  John kept his English accent so Rose felt more like she can get away with it."

"Well let's hope so eh?" his dad asked.  "If she's coming round after school, a few ground rules Alec, understand?"

"Dad, she's just a school friend," Alec insisted, remembering his cousin teasing him a few days ago.

"Yes and what about when you get older?" his dad wanted to know.  "I know you are both only thirteen but no going to your room with her and if I think I can trust you both then maybe, when it starts getting dark early and you don't go out so much, I may consider it, then there will be a few more rules.  Now, why don't you call your cousin and see how you are both going to avoid the fact you are related?"

Alec went to the phone and asked his aunt if he could speak to John, who had been expecting him to call.

"Sorry little Cous, I knew you'd figure it out, you're quite the detective, watch out Sherlock Holmes," he joked.

"You sort of gave the game away, the famous Scottish battle?" Alec laughed.

"Yeah, I knew that would give me away but only you caught on.  So, your new friend, has she talked to you yet?" John asked him.

"Yes, she's from London somewhere and now she's heard you talking with an English accent she may start talking.  She never asked why you had an English accent though."

"Just explain it to her but Alec, I had no idea she wasn't from here in Scotland.  So, did you see her home on the bus?"

"She only lives two streets away, I just walked her back.  She was going back to an empty flat until her mother gets home, I could not have just left her, could I?"

John smiled to himself – his little cousin had got himself a girlfriend!

"You be careful Alec, your other friends may take it the wrong way," John warned him.

"Well if they do, they are not my friends, are they?" Alec asked him.  "They had better get used to it."

"Yes, they will.  Now, remember to call me Sir at school but in class, I'll tell everyone they can call me 'Doctor' to make it easier for you, okay?"

"Thanks John," Alec replied.  "Rose won't say anything, if she talks tomorrow but she wrote down earlier she would only talk to me.  She talked to my dad though but John, I'm worried about her," Alec admitted.

"That she's on her own when she's not at school?" John asked him.

"Yeah and what about weekends?  I think she feels alone even when her mother is there."

"Alec, all you can do is be her friend," John reminded him.  "Try not to let it worry you eh?"

Alec thought that was easier said than done.  He hung up and went to the living room, after picking up his latest story notebook and went to sit at the table by the window.

"You got sorted?" his dad asked him.

"Yes.  Dad, maybe we can get Rose to start having tea with us, then she won't have to go back so early?" he suggested.

"Alec, we can't interfere with the arrangements Rose's mother has made, it's up to Rose to try and get around it.  Give her time eh?"

Alec didn't want to give her time, his friends had mothers who worked and were only expected to keep their rooms tidy, not the whole house and do the cooking.  He didn't however want to cause trouble for her but he knew he had to try to convince her to talk to her mother and say she wasn't happy doing it.

Rose had got in the apartment, tidied up a bit and was just starting to make the evening meal when her mother walked in.  

"So, how was your new school?" she asked Rose.

"Fine, I took your advice and didn't talk, it wasn't difficult, I felt lost," she replied.  "I made a couple of friends though, another new girl and a boy I kept seeing at the library and his friend."

"Don't start hanging around with the boys Rose, you never used to," her mother reminded her.

"Well I don't have a lot of choice since two girls are going around gathering support and I don't want to be a part of it," Rose told her.

"Sounds like you and Shareen," her mother replied.  "Are they the school troublemakers then?"

"Yeah, ya could say that, Alec rescued me from them, twice 'cos I wasn't talking."

"Who's this Alec then?"

"I told ya Mum, from the library," Rose tried to tell her.

"You never mentioned anyone at the library.  Is that why you went so often?" her mother wanted to know.

Rose knew now it was, though she had considered it was worthwhile going to see him being prodded by his friend to cross over and talk to her.

"Well if he has his own friends, he's not likely to give them up, is he?" her mother asked.

"He made sure I got home Mum, his friends were on the bus and his best friend Jamie didn't seem bothered.  I'm setting off a bit earlier in the mornings, the bus gives me more time when I get to school and I won't have to wait around when you leave."

Rose was just glad her mother went the opposite way down the street to what she did.  She wasn't quite ready for her to meet her new friend yet.  Just before Bob was due back, Rose decided to bring up the subject of tea.

"What?" her mother asked when Rose said she wanted to stay out longer and had been offered her tea at Alec's house. "What am I supposed to do?" she continued.

"Mum you can cook, we used to manage when I was younger," she reminded her.

"Well Bob's got used to it, what if he complains?" she argued.

"Then tell him you're trying something different Mum," Rose suggested.  "Besides, ya won't have to make any for me."

"No," her mother simply said.  "Rose, I can't risk him throwing us out, can I?" she asked.

"Mum, he won't do that, will he?" Rose asked, thinking her mother was over-reacting.

"Rose, you don't know him like I do," her mother replied.

So that was it, Rose thought.  Bob had been on his own and wanted to play house with them and her mother couldn't see it.

"Mum, ya never used to bother back home," she reminded her.

"That was before Bob and I were seeing each other.  Ya can have an extra half hour out, that's it and ya will have to fit the tidying up in while you wait for tea to cook.  I don't want ya disappearing at weekends either, you can come shopping with us or stay in."

"Can't I even go to the library?" Rose objected.

"Where ya will go meeting your new friend?  Rose, you're too young to be hanging around with boys on ya own.  You'll have to make do with seeing him after school, until you're fourteen, then we'll see, understand?" her mother asked.  "Don't say anything to Bob that you're making friends with a boy."

Rose wondered what Bob had to do with it but she'd not been liking the way he kept watching her but that may be her suspicious mind.

"Well I'm not staying in all day Sunday with the two of ya gettin' cosy on the sofa," Rose protested.

"Then go to ya room," her mother suggested.  "So are ya gonna talk at school tomorrow or not?"

"It was your idea Mum," Rose reminded her.

When Bob got home, Rose quickly ate then said she was going to her room to do some studying, wishing there was a lock on her door so she got the chair and wedged it under the handle, she was still suspicious of Bob.

Rose was up earlier the next morning, making sure Bob had already left and her mother was just getting ready to leave.

"So, is this Alec on the same bus?" she asked Rose.

"He only lives two streets away Mum.  I'll be back around the same time as you but I may eat at Alec's." 

"What does his mother say?" 

"Mum, she died a few months ago, he's just got a dad," Rose replied, trying to get ready or Alec would think she had changed her mind.  "Gotta go, I said I'd meet Alec there, bye Mum," she called as she grabbed her school bag.

That left her mother puzzled since Rose hadn't wanted to go at all yesterday and had half expected a call at work to say Rose hadn't shown up.  Maybe she would settle in after all but she wasn't so sure about her daughter making friends with a boy, considering she used to torment poor Mickey all the time.  She knew now that Bob would find out and he wouldn't be pleased so now she would just have to appease him somehow.

Alec had set off to the stop Rose got on at and hoped Jamie wasn't too mad with him but they could all sit upstairs together and have a laugh together, couldn't they?  He looked up ahead and didn't cross the road until he was sure Rose was walking up her street, or down it, however she considered it.  He had just got to the corner when she came out of the small driveway the flats were situated in and he waved to her.

"Alec, ya really didn't have to walk down, ya know?" she smiled at him.

"I said I would Rose.  So how did you get on last night, asking your mum?"

"I got an extra half hour and I still have to tidy up but it's better than no extra time," she told him as they looked to cross the road.

They still had a few yards to the bus stop but Rose looked and made sure the bus wasn't approaching, it had just got to the stop before, she could just make out.

"Alec, I'm not talking to anyone but you so don't think I'm ignoring you, will ya?" she asked him.

"No, I won't, I understand Rose but John's got an English accent, remember?  It is him, he admitted it last night after I walked you home.  I know I can trust you."

They rushed to the bus shelter as the bus approached and Rose was relieved there were less getting on this one, not that she'd seen any of them from the previous morning in her class, thankfully.  She didn't have time to ask him why his cousin had an English accent, that she'd forgotten to ask Alec last night.  They went upstairs and saw Jamie and the other boys near the back and Rose sat in front of them and Alec, without thinking sat next to her.

Jamie turned around and tapped Alec on his shoulder.

"Come and sit here Alec," Jamie suggested.

Rose wanted to turn around and tell him to get lost and that Alec could sit where he wanted but she resisted.  There would come a time though when she would tell him, Alec's friend or not.

"I'm okay here Jamie, it's rude to leave Rose on her own," Alec replied.

"Then maybe she'd be better sitting at the front with the girls?" Jamie asked him.

"She doesn't know them Jamie, they are in the class above us anyway, they are hardly likely to welcome her, are they?" he asked his friend.

"So are you two going to hang around all day then?" Jamie wondered, half-turning to the other boys, who Rose swore she could hear sniggering.

She thought just let them wait until she was talking, they would wish they had left her alone, she'd show them as soon as she got over being accepted as an outsider but Alec wouldn't desert her, that she was sure of.

Alec just ignored them and turned to Rose.

"Should be good today Rose, we have double maths," he grinned at her.

Rose hated maths but the teacher seemed okay, considering it was their class teacher.

"We have history again this afternoon," he added, hoping he wouldn't give the game away about his cousin and get John fired or moved to another school.  He still couldn't believe John had done that, just for him but now John could also help Rose get over her shyness or was she just pretending to be shy like yesterday, to get his attention?  The question was though, was he bothered she was only trying to get his attention?  He'd been trying to get hers all summer.

Rose got her notebook out and wrote 'I'll only talk to you today during breaks if no-one's watching'

Alec read it and replied, "Okay Rose, save your voice," for the benefit of those behind them.

Rose was relieved he was willing to play along.  They found a bench to sit on outside the school but Rose was still pretending not to talk and Alec was still worried about it, wondering why she was so reluctant.  He knew she wanted to be back in her old school, was this a protest?  Still, he couldn't tell on her but they were joined by John.

"Come on you two, nearly time to go in," John grinned at them.  "How's the voice Rose?"

Rose just nodded, not sure if Alec had told him or not.

"Rose, it's okay, I know.  Did Alec tell you I just put this accent on to get through teacher training?" he asked her.  Rose shook her head.  "You won't be the only one so give it a try eh?" he asked her.  "Talk to her about it Alec and mind you don't say who I am," he reminded them.

Kristy and Moira had seen the teacher talking to them and were debating what to do about it.

"Seems they've got some protection?" Kristy asked.

"Forget those two losers, they deserve each other.  Let's have another go at the other new girl in our year and if not we'll just have to have some fun going after year one," Moira told her.  "Mind you, it could be fun watching those two?  I bet she's putting that on to get attention?" Moira told her.

Rose was getting up after Alec, him waiting for her.

"Seems like she got it?" Kristy laughed.

"I think I feel sick," Moira replied.  "If I have to watch those two every break I will be.  Who'd be wanted to be friends with him, apart from the boys?"

Kristy patted her friend's shoulder as they walked towards the main entrance.

"Never mind Moira, we can have some fun teasing them," she suggested.

"And have that teacher onto us again?  No thanks," Moira replied.

Kristy shrugged her shoulders and followed her friend up the stairs.  They spied Sandra and went up behind her, putting a hand each on her shoulders.

"Hey, wanna have a bit of fun?" Moira asked her.  Sandra just shrugged her shoulders as best she could.  "We want to know if the other new girl has really lost her voice or she's faking it, we want you to find out."

"Get lost you two, I told Rose I'd be her friend," Sandra replied as she closed her locker.

"Well you might not want to be," Moira replied.  "She was sat outside with Alec Hardy, all the girls were chasing after him last year," she lied.  "We wouldn't want you to get jealous,"

They went off when the bell sounded, leaving Sandra wandering towards the classroom and just seeing Alec following Rose inside, whispering something to her.  Were those two telling the truth or just winding her up, could she trust them after hearing them talking last night?  She went into the classroom, Alec went to sit with Jamie, who seemed indifferent towards him and Sandra went to sit with Rose.

"Did you two arrive together?" Sandra asked her, nodding at Alec.

Rose nodded and scribbled, 'we get the same bus' on her notepad.

Sandra nodded back and went back to listening for her name being called, then in the other classes, she was going to see if Alec defended Rose again.  If he did, then those two could be right, not that Alec or any boy in the class was worth a second look, she had only just begun to realise she liked older boys and had her eye on one she'd seen yesterday lunchtime playing football with some other year four pupils, not that he would have noticed her.  She'd only been watching them because she'd seen Alec leave some other boys to go talk to Rose.

She raised her hand when her name was called and glanced at Rose, was she putting on the lost voice or not?  She bet Alec knew the answer to that question.  Throughout the rest of the morning, Alec only defended Rose once in a class they'd not had the day before, which had got a snigger out of some of the others and a frown from the teacher so when the lunch bell went, Rose was waiting outside for Alec.

"Not sitting with us then?" Billy asked him as he looked across at Rose.

Alec shrugged his shoulders, catching up with Rose who whispered, "Go join your friends."

Alec didn't know if he wanted to or not since they had done nothing but sneer all morning.  Billy caught up with Jamie.

"Alec's gone off with the new girl again Jamie, what are you going to do about it?" Billy asked him.

Jamie knew what he wanted to do – Rose Tyler was stealing his best friend from right under his nose and he didn't like it.

Chapter 12  Emerging

A/N I couldn't resist it turning out the new teacher was actually Alec's cousin - sorry!

Alec was torn between catching up with his friends and throwing Rose to the wolves – namely Kristy and Moira but they seemed occupied standing with a group of first year's so she should be fairly safe, until the girls started walking off one by one, leaving the two ringleaders virtually alone.

"What?" Alec realised Rose was saying something else to him.

"Jamie's looking over," she whispered, looking across the dining room.  "Shush, don't say I'm talking to ya, not yet," she reminded him.

"I would never do that Rose," he replied.

Didn't she trust him, he wondered.

"Alec, coming to sit with us?" Jamie asked as he avoided two first year boys tugging at each other's school bags.

"Jamie, Rose has been having trouble with those two over there," he nodded to the doorway where the two troublemakers were waiting for fresh victims to wander in.  "They tried twice yesterday and Rose hasn't quite got her voice back yet, have you Rose?" he asked.

Rose shook her head in agreement but she knew it wasn't fair he was still covering for her.  She reached over to whisper to him.

"Tell him if ya can trust him."

"Are you sure?" he wanted to know.  Rose nodded.  "Jamie, come and sit with us a minute," he told his friend.

They found a table and Alec hoped the noise would cover what he had to say.

"Jamie, Rose isn't from around here, she doesn't want to talk in case those two over there might make something of it and tell the whole school," he explained.

"When you say not from around here?" Jamie asked.  "She's not from outer space is she?" he joked.

Rose wanted to give him a kick under the table for being a smart-arse.

Alec leaned closer, just in case as Rose continued getting her lunch bag out.

"She's from south of the border, more or less from the same place as the new teacher," he told his friend, not wanting to say John's accent was put on.

"No way," Jamie replied, looking over at Rose.  "No wonder she's not talking but no-one seems to bother about the new teacher, you'd get away with it Rose.  Hey, I'm sorry I was so hostile yesterday, both of you but you should have told me Alec.  You won't get away with it much longer Rose."

Rose already knew that.  Alec had been really good to her so far, she couldn't have him sticking up for her all the time once she started talking.  If anyone picked on him, she'd be down on them like a ton of bricks, no-one bothered her friends.

"She knows that Jamie.  Rose, will you talk to him?" Alec asked her.  Rose shook her head, she didn't trust Jamie yet.  "He's been my best friend since junior school Rose, he's okay, he won't tell on you, will you Jamie?" Alec asked him.

"No, I won't say anything Rose, honest but you'd better watch those two, if they get you mad, you may give the game away," Jamie warned her, seeing Kristy and Moira sitting a few tables away.

"I think Rose might surprise us," Alec grinned.  "Eh Rose?" he asked her.

Rose gave him a smile back.

Billy and the rest of Alec's friends were wondering what was taking Jamie so long to come back.

"Seems we've lost him as well," one of the boys remarked.

"Yeah, you can't trust anyone," Billy agreed, going back to eating.

Kristy and Moira though were watching the three of them with interest.

"What are those three up to?" Moira asked her friend.

"I bet the new girl is seeing how many boys she can make friends with, just to show us up," Kristy replied.  "We have to get that other new girl on our side, if she's supposed to be making friends with her."

"I don't need reminding," Moira huffed.  "She's going to be trouble, just you watch, once she comes out of her pretending to have lost her voice."

"How do you know she's pretending?" Kristy wanted to know as Moira stared at her.

"Think about it," was all Moira said.  "We have to be more careful where we talk in future, she might have been hiding last night, since Alec Hardy was waiting around."

"You think she heard us?" Kristy asked.

Moira wondered how her friend had managed to get the reputation she was in charge.

As everyone started making their way outside, Jamie decided to tag along.  At least he wasn't actually going to lose his friend but it now seemed like he was sharing but he only had himself to blame he supposed.  It was him who had goaded Alec in the library to go talk to Rose so he probably deserved it.  They went to the bench where he and Rose had been sat earlier, just on the corner but Alec saw his cousin walking towards him.  So much for keeping it quiet they were related.

"Well, what have got here?" John grinned.  "The three Musketeers?"

Sometimes Alec wished they weren't related, especially since John had kept his accent but at least no-one now may believe they were cousins.

"Any more trouble Rose?" John asked her, since he'd decided if she was a friend of his little cousin, he'd watch out for her as well, without her knowing of course.

"No Sir, they've left Rose alone so far," Alec replied.

"Let her speak for herself Alec and I said you could call me Doctor, remember?" he asked his cousin.

"Sorry, Doctor," Alec corrected himself, getting a smile from Rose and a confused look from Jamie, who was perched on the end of the bench behind Alec.  "It's okay Rose, you can talk to him."

"Yes Rose, you can talk to me.  You're not from around here, are you, mmm?" he asked her.  "Shall I let you into a little secret?"  Rose nodded.  "I just put this accent on to get through teacher training.  I thought I might get away with a few things."

He wasn't sure about Jamie, he'd let Alec decide if he wanted his friend in on their little family secret but Alec must have mentioned that he had two cousins, well since Peter had disappeared, it seemed Alec now only had one.

Alec knew what those few things were, namely going off and doing travel reviews to fool everyone.  He had thought John had been just trying to surprise everyone though and it had worked.

"Well, Rose?" John asked her.

"No Sir, no more trouble, thanks for the rescue yesterday," Rose replied as quietly as she could, making Jamie almost fall off the back of the bench but the wall stopped him.

"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" John grinned at her.  "Are you in one of my classes today?"

"Yes. We have science later, Sir," Jamie chirped in as he recovered.

"Good, see you all then and Rose, don't worry, take your time eh?" John asked her.

He walked off smiling, Alec's new friend was just being selective but he'd bring her out of her shell sooner or later but he was still worried about the two troublemakers. 

"I'll leave you two then?" Jamie asked, getting down.

"Jamie, don't tell the others about Rose yet, will you?" Alec asked his friend while glancing across the playground.

"No but they expected some answers Alec, they want me to spy on the two of you but I'm not going to do it," Jamie replied.  "I'll just tell them Rose was whispering to you and I couldn't hear from where I was sitting.  Friends Rose?" he asked her.

Rose nodded then went for her notebook and wrote a 'Thanks'.

Jamie nodded back and went across the playground to the picnic tables on the edge of the grassed area.

"It's okay Rose, he won't tell on you but you have to start talking," Alec told her.

She knew he was right, then she could tell that Kristy and Moira they had some competition and they weren't going to walk all over her or Alec for the term.  She had been so confident at her old school but she had Shareen back then and wasn't the odd one out in a new school plus now, she had Bob to contend with and what made it worse was her mother wouldn't listen or hear anything wrong about him.  What possible hold did he have over her?

Billy was sat on the table as Jamie joined them.

"Well, did you find out anything?" he asked Jamie, the others looking at him.

"No, she was just whispering, I couldn't hear then the teacher came along and spoiled it.  We'll just have to wait for her to start talking," Jamie replied.

"Yeah and by then Alec will have forgotten about us," Billy told him.  "What's he want to make friends with a girl for?"

"My older brother says it happens to us all," Jamie reminded them.

"Seems like it's too late for Alec," one of the other boys laughed, looking in their direction.

They all joined in the laughing though Jamie was just pretending but still feeling a little jealous.  He decided if he was invited back to Alec's house and Rose was going, he might tag along just to see how they reacted towards each other out of school.  Maybe his older brother was right, Alec was just starting to prove that.

"You could have gone with him Alec, ya don't have to stay with me," Rose reminded him.

"They'll just be talking about nothing, I'm not missing much," he replied.

"And we're not?" Rose smiled.  "Just wait until I find my feet, I'll show those two," she nodded to where Kristy and Moira were talking to some boys, having decided to try a new tactic as it seemed to be working for Rose.

Rose had to laugh when one of the boys pushed his way past Moira and she would love to hear what was being said.

"Be careful with them Rose," Alec warned her.  "They caused a lot of trouble last year."

"Huh, they've not really met me yet, have they?" Rose replied.  "I bet they think by going after the boys, they'll get some protection?"

"You think I'm protecting you?" Alec asked her.

"Aren't you?  You were so good to me yesterday Alec, no-one stuck up for me at my old school, that was what made me tough.  You have no idea what I'm really like, you thought you were helping me because I was shy and lost."

"You looked it Rose, admit it," Alec told her, not sure what he'd let himself in for.

He had felt sorry for her, after weeks of seeing her in the library.  He'd never bothered watching out for a girl before, one he had no idea who she was and he'd finally found out and she needed his help but Rose was coming out of her shell and strangely enough, instead of it putting him off, he thought she was going to be fun to be with.

Little did he know Rose was putting on a tough act, even more so now she and her mother were living with Bob.  Before she had left her home, she had been tough but the last few weeks living in a strange place and seeing her mother acting like a different person was beginning to take its toll on her.

Rose knew she needed a friend and Alec seemed to be it, even Sandra had still been a bit distant though she'd seemed okay in class.  Maybe she was jealous of her being friends with Alec and was backing off?  Still, Sandra didn't live near her like Alec did.  Now it seemed Jamie wanted in and she couldn't bring herself to stop Alec being friends with him, it was his choice.

"So are you coming round to do your homework later?" Alec asked her as he sat on the top of the bench, something Rose had noticed he liked to do after yesterday in the park.

"Yeah, I can stay a bit longer but what about Jamie?" she asked.

"The kitchen table's big enough for three Rose," Alec laughed.

The bell went for end of lunchtime and science was their second lesson but Rose had decided to remain silent, well that was until John decided it was now or never.

"Someone other than Alec," John grinned, looking around the room, getting no other volunteers.  "How about you Rose?  How's that voice of yours?  You seemed okay earlier talking to someone."

Rose was furious, he'd said take her time now he was tricking her into talking.  Alec was glancing across to her and Sandra was nudging her.

"The game's up Rose, get it over with."

"Well Rose?" John was asking her.  "Do you know the answer?  We all know you're new around here, well I've got some room to talk, so am I," he laughed.  "Are you hiding something, I'm sure we all want to know where you're from, don't we class?"

Rose thought if that had been Mickey, she would have decked him.

"I know!" John declared.  "Let's all pretend this is the geography class eh?  Who wants to guess where Rose comes from and don't anyone say Outer Mongolia or a parallel world," he grinned, looking at Alec for the last one.

Alec wanted the desk to swallow him but no-one was taking notice.

"Alec, you've made friends with her, want to take a wild guess?" John asked, trying not to give too much away.

Alec was trying to think what he'd asked her yesterday, trying to keep to this side of the border.  He finally went just a little bit further.

"Carlisle?" Alec replied, making the class laugh and John think that was the end of the science lesson for today and he'd have to give them some homework instead.

"Is that right Rose?" John asked her.  Rose shook her head.  "Blimey, guess it's a bit further south than that then?  Anyone else?"  

He got no takers until Sandra put her hand up after some consideration.  John pointed to her.

"Go for it Sandra."

"Sir, I think she may be from London and she's just shy."

Rose wanted to say thanks a bunch to her supposed friend, even Alec hadn't given her away and she would have rather it had been him.  Still, if it had been Alec, everyone would think she'd told him, if they'd seen the two of them talking and Jamie definitely would.

"Well, well, well," John continued.  "Want to say if she's right, Rose?  Don't be shy Rose, in case you've not noticed, I don't sound like I come from around here, do I – Alec?"

Alec was trying to look away, what was John playing at?  If he was trying to throw suspicion off them being related, he wasn't making a very good job of it, was he? 

"No Sir, you don't sound like you come from around here," Alec agreed, knowing what his own voice sounded like.

"So, who thinks Sandra is right?" John continued as most of the class put their hands up, then Alec and Jamie joined in after Jamie nudged him.  

"We're all waiting Rose," he reminded her.  "We don't mind you coming from there, do we class?"

All of a sudden, everyone turned towards Rose and she thought she would never hear the end of it, all her fears of going there coming true as they chatted to each other.

"Hands up all those who think Rose should just be herself?" John asked them.

Rose was relieved all but one hand went up and that was Billy, who was still trying to figure out why Alec had made friends with her.

"Right, let's leave it at that shall we and your homework for today is the question I was asking which was:  Two identical strips of nylon are charged with static electricity and hung from a string so they can swing freely. What would happen if they were brought near each other?  I want the answer the next lesson," he told them as the bell went.

Thankfully it was break time and everyone headed outside but Alec was waiting for Rose, thinking she'd never talk to him again.  He saw her coming out, trying to ignore Sandra who was telling her it would have come out sooner or later and now it was out in the open.

"Sorry Rose but it was easy to guess," Sandra told her.  "So, say something."

Rose wanted to tell her to forget being friends but once Kristy and Moira found out, she'd need all the friends she could get.

"I don't blame you Sandra, I was just trying to hide it, I didn't know what to expect," Rose replied, seeing Alec.

"Go on, I'll let you off," Sandra grinned.  "He can be a better friend that I can but I'm here if you need me," she nodded towards Alec.

Rose was going to walk past him but stopped.

"Happy now?" she asked him as they walked off.  "I thought I could trust that teacher?"

"He did it for your own good Rose," Alec defended his cousin.  "How long could you have kept it going?"

"Maybe a few more days," Rose protested as the sun hit her eyes and she shielded them.

"It's best to get it over with, now you don't have to hide it," he reminded her.

"Yeah?  I told ya Alec, you have no idea.  You don't know what started because of him," she replied, meaning John.

"Are you going to be mad at me?" he asked as Rose walked to the grassed area and claimed a bench.

"No.  It's just you might not like me when you really get to know me.  Alec, at my old school I did everything and my friends followed me.  I was like Kristy and Moira only twice as bad, they're like a couple of two year olds compared to what I was like and do you know why I went shy when I came here?" she asked him.

"I'm your friend Rose, well I want to be.  You can't have been that bad, those two are just getting into the swing of things," he replied.

"Yeah?  Do they eat chewing gum in class and get into trouble for shortening their skirts?" she half smiled. "That's only the tip of it Alec, the rest would make you cringe."

Alec though wanted to hear more.

"No, it won't.  So why did you go shy then?"

"Really?  Try being dragged away from your home and your friends to somewhere that might as well be on an alien planet Alec, then on top of that, your mother shacks up with a bloke you hardly know and you go to live with him.  He's creepy, he never leaves my mum and me to talk once he gets home, he expects his dinner on the table, my mum thinks her cooking's not up to his standards and…." She trailed off.

"Rose, I'm sorry," Alec told her.  "You only told me part of it yesterday, why?"

"I'd just met ya Alec, why'd ya think?  I could have lost the only person who was kind to me."

"No, you wouldn't have lost a friend Rose, I want to help you.  I want to join the police when I'm old enough, to help people, I told you that.  You could have trusted me to tell me the rest.  I want to hear the rest Rose, really."

"Not here, I'll tell ya later but if those two start on me, you might disown me or get dragged to the head's office with me."

Alec almost burst out laughing, Rose was turning out to be a rebel and would give Kristy and Moira more than they had bargained for if they started on her.  She was still troubled by her home life though, he could tell she was still putting on a brave front.

"Rose, then let me help you?  I mean with home, tell my dad or John," he suggested.

"They can't do anything Alec, my mum's gone blind to it, she thinks it's the perfect life even though instead of working for herself, she works from nine to half five, five days a week and gets me to do the housework 'cos she's not used to it.  It was his idea, he's on good money but I suspect he's not giving her any of it and she only agreed to work to keep me and herself.  I wish she'd never met him Alec, I really don't like him."

Alec wanted to put his hand on her shoulder but everyone would see and it was bad enough they were spending a lot of time together.  He wanted to help her, if she would let him.

"Then talk to my dad tonight Rose, he'll know what to do," he told her.

"Can he get me back home Alec?" she asked him.

"If you went home, I'd lose a friend," Alec replied.

"You have Jamie," she reminded him.

"He doesn't need help like you do.  John keeps telling me to practice being a detective, you could help me and I could help you, if you want?"

The bell was going so they got up, Alec still waiting for an answer.  Did she want his help?  If she did, what could he do about it except get advice from his dad and his cousin?  There was only one more class, Rose sitting next to Sandra but still not talking.  She expected by the time school was out, the word would have gone around that not only was there an English sounding teacher, who was really Scottish but a real live English pupil and she was going to be out of her depth so the tough act it was going to have to be.

She just didn't want to drag Alec into it.

Chapter 13 A different side

Alec was grabbing his things as he saw Rose talking to Sandra.

"So where do you live then Rose?" Sandra was asking her.

"On the number nine bus route," was all Rose was prepared to say.

Sandra laughed.  "Good one Rose, I don't say where I live either but I bet it's somewhere near your new friend?"

"It might be," Rose replied as Alec passed her.  "How did you get a locker?"

"Just went to the secretary's office, got an application form for a bus pass too, you should go get one."

"Well Alec and Jamie didn't have one, we can't qualify for one then?" Rose asked.

"Well you should try, unless both your parents work," Sandra told her.

"I've only got my mum but she works," Rose admitted as they went out into the corridor.  "Wanna hang in the girls room and listen to Kristy and Moira again?" she grinned.

Sandra grinned back and nodded to where Alec and Jamie were talking.

"Rose, you are going to be more trouble than those two girls put together and I think someone is waiting for you."

"I think he's just looking out for me but I don't wanna stop them being friends," Rose replied.

"That's down to him Rose.  See you tomorrow," Sandra told her.

Rose was about to catch up with Alec and Jamie when she felt two hands on her shoulders and a look of alarm on Alec's face.

"Leave her Alec," Jamie was telling him and grabbing his arm.  "She has to fight her own battles and from what I've seen, she's more than ready for those two."

"Get off Jamie, we can't throw her to the wolves," Alec replied.

"Well, look who's finally talking?" Moira asked Rose.

"Get lost you two or do ya wanna know how I grew up on a tough London estate where we ate girls like you for breakfast?" Rose asked them.

Kristy didn't seem so sure.  "Leave her Moira, we have better things to do."

"Speak for yourself Kristy, I want to know why she's suddenly found her voice," Moira replied.

"Well you're gonna be in for a long wait then, luv," Rose told her, unaware Alec was just behind her as she'd turned around.

"Come on Rose, we'll miss the bus," Alec urged her.  "They are not worth it.  You two, back off, before the new teacher sees you again, he warned you last night."

Rose was wondering what they had been warned about, from whom she now knew was Alec's cousin.  She would never give the game away though.

"Keep out of this," Moira warned him.  "This is between us and her."

"Not where my friend is concerned," Alec replied, knowing he'd regret this if John caught him.

He'd seen the two of them go up behind Rose and on the spur of the moment decided now was the time to really practice being a detective.  Now though, he wasn't so sure Rose needed any help, she was doing fairly well on her own, a different story to yesterday.

"It's okay Alec, thanks," Rose told him, ready to back off but not before she sent those two packing.  "Just back off you two, Alec's my friend so go pick on someone else.  You have no idea who I am."

"Someone who thinks she can come up here and boss everyone around," Moira laughed, Kristy tugging at her arm before this got ugly.

"What's going on here then?" John asked them, none of them noticing him creep up on them from his classroom door.  "Haven't you two had enough?" he asked Kristy and Moira.

"She started it Sir," Kristy defended herself.

"Alec?" John started to ask him.

"They came up behind Rose and started talking to her, she just defended herself, Doctor," Alec replied, finding it difficult to call his cousin that but it was better than calling him sir.

"Thanks a bunch, Alec," Moira complained.

"Go catch your bus, all of you and you two, stay away from them," John warned the two troublemakers.

"But Sir," Moira protested, not wanting the new girl to walk all over them.

"What?" John asked her, knowing at this rate, Alec and Rose would miss their bus.

Moira thought better of it  - for now.

"Nothing, Sir.  Come on Kristy, this isn't over, Rose," she added as she walked off, followed by her friend.

"Moira Campbell," John called after her.  "It had better be over, understand?  I will not allow bullying of any kind or you'll find yourself in the office.  Do I make myself clear?"

John waited until they had walked away and indicated Rose and Alec should also leave.

"Need a ride home?" he asked Alec.

"No thanks, we'll still catch the bus.  Come on Rose."

"Sir, how do I get a bus pass?" Rose wanted to ask him.

"See the office in the morning.  Go on, you have to get home," John replied, trying not to let on he knew where she was going.

Luckily as they hurried outside, the buses were still loading and Rose ran after Alec to keep up with him to their stop, seeing Billy and the others get on.  Once upstairs, Rose didn't expect Alec to join her, after her little display and after she'd told him he didn't know what his cousin had started by getting her to talk.  She sat halfway down the bus, a good few rows from Jamie and the others and was surprised Alec sat next to her, not caring what Jamie may be saying about them.

"So what was all that about?" Alec asked as he put his bag on the floor.

"Nothing.  Ya wanted me to start talking, you got it.  Now I don't suppose we're friends any more?" she asked him.

"Don't say that Rose," he replied.  "I'm still your friend and yes, I thought you needed help yesterday but I can tell that's no longer true.  No-one stood up to those two last term, that's all and you've changed that.  Now, word will get round and you'll have more friends than you can deal with.  They intimidate everyone who won't join them and those that do leave them in a few weeks." 

"I'm not starting a fan club Alec," she smiled.  "I just want a quiet life Alec, I may act tough but I still don't want to be here.  Back home, my friend would have flattened those two."

"I'd like to see that," Alec replied.  "Come on Rose, you stuck up for me back there and you said you thought I was protecting you," he teased her.

Rose nudged him, making him smile.

"Still friends?" he asked.

"Yeah though I'm not used to having a boy as a friend, all the boys at my old school were a waste of space.  You’re not though," she added as he looked worried all of a sudden.

"Thanks, I think.  Jamie's okay but watch out for Billy and his mates though," he warned her.  "We can get off at the same stop again or stay on, it's not much different or are you going home?" he asked.

"I was thinking about it but if I do that, I'll just have to go home and back again so am I still invited?" she asked him.

"Yes, I've not checked what Jamie's doing yet though, I had to go break up a fight," he grinned.

"I never meant for you to get involved Alec, honestly," Rose tried to assure him.

"I know but word will get round you stood up to them, they'll be pretty mad tomorrow when no-one bothers with them," he warned her.

"Let them, I don't care as long as they stay away from us.  Alec, I know you were trying to protect me, thanks."

"That's okay Rose, you don't need protecting, well not at school but what about home?  We should go round and see John, he'll know what to do."

"No-one can help Alec, my mum won't hear anything bad about her boyfriend, I've tried and she won't take kindly to me telling anyone either.  She thinks she got us a better life by leaving the estate but I felt safer there than I do now."

"In what way Rose, it's a nice area where you live," Alec told her.

Rose didn't mean outside but didn't want to worry her new friend.

"It's nothing Alec, I just don't like my mother's boyfriend, Bob gives me the creeps.  Me and mum used the chatter away when I got home from school, then we'd have tea and I'd go find my friends but she never talks much now."

"Well if she goes out to work, maybe she talks all day?" Alec wondered.

"Yeah, maybe?  Anyway, maybe she's still trying to settle in as well, she's not used to being out all day but she's okay when he gets home."

"Then what don't you like about him?" he asked her as they were two stops away from getting off.

"Everything.  He wormed his way in Alec, my mum had been on her own and he came along, she just took to him.  It's not like she didn't have any more male friends."

"She was maybe thinking of you?" Alec suggested as Rose's stop was coming up and he picked up his school bag.

Rose thought he was just letting her out but he went to the steps first, waving to an astonished Jamie, who had been complaining to the others.

"I did warn you," Billy was telling Jamie.  "Maybe he just leaves her on the corner of her street?"

Jamie was wondering if he should admit Rose had walked to Alec's street and she'd called round with Alec later on.

"Who knows?" Jamie asked, not willing to say any more but feeling left out.  

He thought maybe he'd just walk round and see if Rose really was going to Alec's house.  As they got off the bus, Rose wasn't sure if she should go home or not but what was there?  She could do the tidying up later and she wanted to hear more of Alec's story.  Just how many had he written?  

They walked to the corner of Rose's street and Alec looked disappointed she was going to go home.

"Okay then, we'll go to your house," Rose relented.  "You have no idea what me and my friends used to do on our way home."

Alec thought she would be bound to tell him.

"So you grew up tough then?" he asked, since she'd told those two girls she was from a rough council estate.

"Yeah but I might have laid it on a bit, we weren't the violent type.  We had more fun winding poor Mickey from the garage up on the way home.  He lived on the estate, I've known him since I was little.  Wanna know what he told me when I was leaving?" she asked Alec as they carried on walking.

Alec could see Jamie wasn't waiting on the corner for him tonight, despite him saying he was okay with Rose.  Rose was looking at him.

"What did he say Rose?" Alec wanted to know.

"That he was gonna ask me out when I reached sixteen," she replied.

"Really?  Were you going to agree?" he asked, wondering why he felt jealous all of a sudden.

Rose started laughing.  "No way!  He's okay for a friend but I don't think I'd go out with him.  It's a long way off yet anyway and I'm here, aren't I?" she asked as they reached his street.

Alec just let them in the kitchen door again and Rose took her blazer off, hating wearing the thing and her mother had complained about paying for it.

"Best get our homework out of the way?" Rose suggested.  "Your cousin's was a trick question though."

"Was it?  So you know the answer then?"

"Yeah, I used to love science, any chance to blow something up," she joked.

Well Alec hoped she was joking.  He was thinking she was completely different from yesterday but he thought she was maybe putting on an act at school.  If she was unhappy at home, he felt he had to do all he could to help her, if she'd let him.  Maybe when she'd gone home he would call and see John but would she thank him for it?

They got their homework out of the way and Alec had time to read a bit more of his story before his dad got home.

"You’re really good at it," Rose told him as they moved to the living room.

"It was just something to do at first.  John was always travelling around, that programme was on TV so I just mixed them both together I guess?"

"So when did he have time to train as a teacher?" Rose wanted to know.

"I have no idea, no-one knew.  He kept it all quiet but I wonder what made him decide to give up writing?"

"Maybe to keep an eye on you?" Rose suggested.  "Alec, ya gonna have to be careful."

"I know, I've been warned.  He'll probably get away with it, with that accent but everyone will know about you now, you stuck up to Moira."

"Yeah, well I learned that ya don't just sit there and take it Alec, you stand up for yourself and if other people do the same, then good.  No-one will bother anyway, they'll be glad those two got what they deserved.  I thought John was gonna offer us a ride home," she laughed.

So did Alec.  Rose had agreed to a sandwich again but insisted sitting at the kitchen table with Alec and his dad.

"So how are you getting on at school now Rose?" Alec's dad asked her.

"Fine, some teacher gave the game away and got me to talk," she grinned, looking at Alec.

"Does Rose know about your cousin, Alec?" his dad asked him, since he'd not mentioned it last night.

"Yes Dad and he tricked Rose in the science class but everyone was okay with it, so far.  He had everyone guessing where she came from.  He also set us some homework and Rose knows the answer, don't you Rose?"

Rose wondered how she was going to get out of that one?  Science had only been fun doing the experiments, not the swotting.

"Well I wouldn't want everyone to think I'm the class swot," Rose grinned.

She excused herself to find the bathroom and Alec was helping his dad clear up.

"Seems like Rose has come out her shell eh Alec?" his dad asked.

"Yes Dad, you should have seen her stand up to Moira, until John stepped in."

"It's his job Alec, he can't allow confrontation in the school.  What happened?"

"I think Moira heard Rose talking to Sandra and decided to pick a fight but Rose held her own."

"Good for her, it's time someone took those two down but I thought Kristy was the leader?" his dad asked.

"So does everyone else but Rose heard them talking last night, Moira's in charge."

"Well it sounds like she has no-one to be in charge of to me Alec," his dad told him.  "How's Jamie taking it, that you're friends with Rose?"

"He said he was okay but I don't think he likes it.  We have the weekend though, Rose will probably be busy."

When Rose got back downstairs they both went to see if Jamie wanted to join them in the park, since Rose had a bit more time but he still refused to go with them.  Rose started walking off but Alec asked what was wrong.

"You know what it is Alec, it's one thing me teasing you about her in the library but now she's friends with you?" Jamie asked, now wishing he'd never tried to get Alec to go talk to Rose when they'd seen her but it was just a bit of fun.

It seemed Alec had taken it seriously.  Jamie nodded to Rose, who was sitting on the wall.

"Well are you staying or going off with Rose?  You can't do both Alec."

"Why are you making me choose Jamie?  We can all be friends," Alec replied, not wanting to choose but he had this strange feeling Rose was important to him, that she needed his help.

"Not now Alec, okay?" Jamie asked, hoping his older brother wasn't listening and tease him Alec could get a girlfriend and he couldn't because Connor had got out of him that he'd teased Alec in the library.

Alec went off to join Rose and they walked towards the park, passing the bench they'd sat on last night and walking towards the pond, sitting on the low wall around it.

"Jamie's mad at me," Rose stated.

"He's not mad at you Rose, he's mad at me but I told him not to make me choose, he'll come round.  Rose, you really should talk to my dad, or John about home, if you're not happy."

"I can't Alec, maybe it's just me who doesn't fit in, not Bob.  What am I gonna do though if my mum marries him or he wants me to call him dad?"

Alec knew she was still worried but she wasn't willing to get some help.

"Talk to your mum about it, before he gets home then," he suggested.

"I can't Alec, she can't see it, how it worries me.  Just leave it, maybe it's just me?"

Alec somehow doubted that and what was the point of him joining the police if he couldn't help his friend?  He walked her to the end of her street and said he'd see her in the morning but Rose said to walk her to the apartment block.

"I wasn't tryin' to hide where I live Alec," she smiled.  "It was just if any of the neighbours saw us and told my mum but I told her I'd made a friend.  Hey, you'll make up with Jamie, mum will expect me to go shopping on Saturday or I might go to the library." 

Alec wondered if that was a hint but it wouldn't do him any good if he went with Jamie and she was trying to distract him.  Rose knew she wouldn't be going shopping unless Bob wasn't going, which she doubted but she may sneak out on Sunday afternoon and wondered what Alec would be doing.

She set about hurriedly getting tea ready and getting the vacuum cleaner out and was just finishing when her mother got in, having not bothered with the extra time out.

"So how was school?" her mother asked her.

"Okay but I got tricked into talking by this new teacher, he's such a smart ass," she replied, not wanting to let on she knew who he was.  "Mum, I don't think I can get a bus pass, some of the others haven't got one but I'll go ask in the morning.  Did I tell ya about those two school bullies?"

"I don't remember Rose," her mother replied.

"Well I showed them up today, guess they'll lose their hold over everyone?"

"You and Shareen would have sorted them out sooner," she reminded Rose.

After John had got home, his mother had asked him how Alec was coping.

"Ah don't worry about my little cousin mum, he's got a girl to stick up for him, well after he tried to stick up for her.  It's the girl from the library, did I tell you?" he asked her.

"Jamie won't like that," she remarked.

John already knew there was going to be a rift called Rose Tyler between Alec and his other friend.  He went to the phone and was just talking to his uncle as Alec walked in.

"John wants to talk to you," he told Alec as he passed the receiver.

"Well that was something earlier," John told Alec.  "Seen Rose in a different light have you?"

"She was speaking up for herself John," Alec reminded him.  "Promise not to say anything?"

"Alec, you know me," John reminded him.

Alec thought of course he did, he'd told Rose to take her time then showed her up in front of the class – very responsible of him.

"I think she's troubled at home John but I promised I wouldn't say anything," Alec told him, hoping his dad wasn't listening.

"I see.  You're worried about your new friend little Cous?"

Alec wished John wouldn't call him that, especially if Rose was around.

"So what's she even doing up here Alec?" John continued.

"Her mother moved her up here so she could follow someone from the town who was working on their estate," Alec tried to explain.  "She doesn't get on with him and John, I think she is scared of him."

"That's serious Alec, don't you think you should ask Rose if she wants to talk about it with me or your dad?" John asked him.

"I don't think she believes anyone can help her.  I have to prove someone can John, if I want to join the police."

"Why don't you come round with her, see if she'll talk to me?" John suggested.

"I can try but she may not agree, you could meet us at the park maybe?" Alec thought was a better idea.

"Yeah, it might be a bit daunting, meeting your aunt," John joked.

"Thanks John, I hope she agrees," Alec admitted.

"Just go easy on her Alec, mind you, she wasn't going easy on those two girls," John laughed.

"I warned her she may have more friends than she can deal with," Alec replied.  "Now someone has stood up to those two, others will follow and they won't like it.  See you tomorrow then and why did you trick Rose into talking?"

"Sorry but it was for the best before someone started on her.  Anyway, you joined in.  Have you got the answer to that question?" John asked him.

"Not yet but Rose says she knows it," Alec replied.

John didn't have the heart to tell Alec that he'd looked up Rose's not so brilliant past and she had barely been accepted but that was up to her to tell him.  He just hoped if Alec did find out, he'd still accept her.

Bob had got back, sitting at the table and being waited on, Rose hating it and wondered if she should carry out her threat of making her mother cook.

"This looks good Jackie," Bob said in a broad Scottish accent, Rose thinking he may not originate from the town.

"Yeah?  I just prepared it before I left this morning," Jackie bragged, trying not to look at Rose.

"So Rose, how's school, made any girl friends?" he asked Rose.  "You should invite them round, I'd love to meet them."  Then he added, "Wouldn't we Jackie," for good measure.

Rose thought there was no way even if she did know any girls around here that she would ever bring them back here when he was around.

Chapter 14: Starting to worry
Starting to worry

Alec had been concerned as he had talked to his cousin.  Was he getting too deep into this and maybe seeing something that wasn't even there?  John was right on one thing, his suspicious nature was beginning to show itself, the makings of a good detective, he hoped.

His dad asked what he'd been talking to his cousin about.

"Was that about your new friend Alec?  I thought maybe you'd not told her about John?"

"I was undecided last night if it was him or not, before I spoke with him but he may have upset Rose," Alec admitted.  "She wasn't ready to talk in front of everyone Dad.  John told her to take her time, then he tricked her."

"I'm sure he did it for her own good Alec.  Are you bringing Rose back every day after school?"

"I don't know yet Dad, she wasn't going to come round tonight but she has to go back to an empty apartment.  We can't blame her for not wanting to, can we?" he asked.

"No Son but surely she will make more friends?"

"Only Sandra, she doesn't get our bus and the girls that do aren't in our class.  Jamie's a bit off with her but he used to tease me about her in the library when I didn't know who she was."

"Maybe he never expected anything to come of it eh?" his dad smiled.  "It's your choice Alec but if Rose is coming round every night, no going to your room with her, I've already warned you about that.  Like I said, maybe when it gets dark early you can spend a bit of time."

"She may not want to Dad.  She told her mum she made some friends but not that I was one of them.  She came from an estate in London, her mum probably thinks all boys are like the ones Rose used to know.  I'm worried about her though."

"Alec, she will settle in, it just takes time," his dad tried to assure him.  "So her mother lives with someone?"

"Yes and she doesn't like him.  All she will say is that she wishes she'd never been brought here.  I think she's scared of him Dad."

"You don't know that for sure Alec.  If she is, it's up to her to get help about it but she should talk to her mother first."

"She says her mother won't listen to her and that she won't hear anything against him.  Now you know why I want to join the police."

His dad smiled at him, feeling sorry for him.

"You have to admit it Alec, you're starting to prefer Rose to Jamie, Jamie's not going to like it."

"I know Dad but Rose needs my help and she could also use another friend but Jamie won't hang out with us.  Now, Rose has to worry about school tomorrow and what everyone will be saying."

"From what you said, everyone will be pleased she finally put those two girls in their place."

"Yes but they won't like it Dad.  She even stuck up for me and I was the one sticking up for her yesterday."

"How does that make you feel Alec?"

"I should be mad at her, she thought I would be but I don't think I am.  Should I be mad at her?"

"No.  Maybe she was repaying you for yesterday eh?" his dad suggested.

Rose had gone to her room to escape watching her mother with Bob and there was nothing they were watching on TV that she wanted to see, even though there were now four channels to watch, Bob seemed to favour the one with all the boring programmes.  She was just going to bed when there was a tap on the door and she saw the handle turn.  She prayed it wasn't Bob.

"Rose," her mother called out as the door opened, Rose letting out her breath.  "Are you okay only you left early."

"I'm fine Mum, I just didn't like what you were watching."

"We should start doing more together, the three of us.  Watcha think?"

Rose would rather say no.

"Why don't ya come shopping with us on Saturday morning, to start with?" her mother asked.

"I wanted to go to the library, the big one in town.  Maybe I can meet ya somewhere?" she dared to ask.

"Rose, do ya need to catch up on school work?"

"Yeah, the new science teacher gave us a question, I bet I can't find the answer in the local library," Rose replied, thinking Alec and Jamie may be there anyway and Jamie was bad enough towards her.

"I thought ya didn't like science?" she was asked.

"I don't but he makes it interesting, he gets everyone to join in.  Mum, can ya ask Bob to put a lock on my door?"

"Rose, why do ya want a lock?" her mother wanted to know.

"I just think I should be allowed one, that's all.  When Bob's friends come over, well I don't know them, do I?"

"Well I'll ask him, I dunno what he'll say though.  Rose, you won't stop coming back early and getting tea ready, will ya?  I mean if ya made a friend.  Who is it anyway, someone who lives nearby?"

Rose wanted to say it was Sandra but her mother was bound to see her with Alec sooner or later.

"His name's Alec, he lives two streets away.  He figured out I hadn't lost my voice.  Mum, we're both on our own until you and his dad get home, that's all.  His dad makes me a sandwich while they're eating but he invited me to have tea with them.  I said I had to come back and make it for you and Bob so I never bothered."

"Rose, I'm sorry Bob thinks I do the cooking but ya know what I'm like?" her mother asked her.  "He'll ask questions if ya don't eat with us."

Rose thought it was non of his business where she ate.  She also thought now her mother knew her friend was a boy, she'd impose some sneaky restrictions.

"Mum, I don't mind but I would prefer to eat earlier, I mean I have a sandwich and I can still eat later, it's a bit late for me, that's all and after tea, well there's no time to go out again."

"To hang around with your new friend?" her mother asked.

Rose thought this was the longest conversation they'd had since they moved, well when Bob was there and wondered how her mother had escaped from his grip.  If he was the one stopping herself and her mother talking, what chance did she have of convincing her mother she hated Bob?

Her mother left and Rose hoped Bob wouldn't be next to check on her, though why, she had no idea.  She just had this feeling in her stomach that he might make a start.  Maybe she should talk to Alec's dad or his cousin after all.

"What were you and Rose talking about?" Bob was asking Jackie as he was drying his hair.

"Just about her new school, that's all.  She made a new friend but not around here," Jackie lied.  "Rose was asking if she could have a lock on her door."

"What for?" Bob wanted to know as he combed his hair.  "Does she not trust me?" he laughed.

"I don't think it's that Bob, she had one at our old place, well a small catch.  She might be worried about when friends come over they might think it's the bathroom."

Jackie was hating the fact she was having to tell white lies but she had Rose to think about despite the arrangements they had made about her.

"Jackie, you are not backing out are you?" Bob asked her.

"No, of course not.  She's a teenager Bob, ya know what they're like?" she tried to joke.

"Aye, we get enough of them causing trouble when we're still trying to work.  At least she's not one of them but I'll think about it and you think about what we agreed.  You want me to put it back, don't you?"

"I'm not saying that Bob.  She'll do as ya say, I'll make sure but she may not be in much the rest of the summer, if she made new friends?"

"Well as long as there are no boys Jackie?  Maybe she does need a bit more time though?"

"Yeah, maybe?  She may not tell me though if she makes friends with any boys, she was one for flirting back home before she was even thirteen."

Jackie wondered if that was a factor in her new relationship with Bob?  She shook the thought off, he was just being a father-figure to her daughter, Rose having grown up without one and now, she could use one.

Rose was getting ready for school the next morning, trying to avoid her mother's boyfriend who kept smiling at her.

"Have ya found out about a bus pass yet?" Bob asked as her mother got her purse out.

"No but the others around here don't seem to have one, I might not qualify but I asked a teacher, he said to go to the office," Rose replied, trying to cram her lunch into her bag and wishing he'd go to work.

Then her mother wondered why she'd spent so much time out at weekends.  She wondered what Alec would be doing but it wasn't fair to impose herself on him when there was no school.  She was faced with what she could do the next holiday, though that was a few weeks away yet she supposed and she'd managed before.

Alec had set off to walk over to meet Rose, having set off a few minutes early but then he had second thoughts in case her mother went out at the same time so he waited on the corner for her.  He saw a man walking out and getting into a car but it drove off in the other direction, then he saw a blonde-haired woman and Rose was following her.

He stayed back, hoping Rose wouldn't wave to him but why was he acting like that?

"Bye Mum, see ya tonight," Rose was saying, trying not to look to see if Alec was waiting for her again.

Alec hadn't seen them both yesterday morning but he was a little early, not having any particular reason for doing so but he thought it would do no harm.  Would Rose think anything of it?

Rose saw him on the corner and quickened her step to reach him.

"Hi Rose, was that your mum?" he asked as they looked to cross the road.

"Yeah, giving me another lecture not to be late back.  She's terrified of doing the cooking though what she'd do if I weren't there?" Rose smiled.  "Alec, why don't you have a bus pass?"

"My dad never bothered, I suppose I could get one though?  Are you going to apply for one?" he asked as they got to the bus shelter and two boys were hogging the opening so Rose walked to the other one and pulled a face at them. 

Thankfully they were first years and she wouldn't have to deal with them.  She saw them whispering to each other and Alec turned around, Rose telling him not to bother, she'd had worse back in London.  They got on the bus, avoiding Jamie and the others but Jamie went to sit behind them.

"You never bother any more Alec," Jamie reminded him.

"Hello to you too," Rose huffed.

"Leave it Rose.  What do you want Jamie?  You never wanted to hang around with us last night," Alec reminded him.

"I told you why Alec.  So are we doing our homework together tonight?" Jamie asked him.

"Do ya homework with him Alec, I can go home," Rose told him.

"There's no reason we can't all do it together," Alec replied.  "Jamie, I asked Rose round because she's on her own when she need not be, okay?"

"Fine, count me out then," Jamie huffed and went back to his original seat.

"He'll come round Alec, he was your best friend until I arrived," Rose told him.

"He wants me to chose Rose and I can't, I don't want to.  He'll come round," Alec tried to convince himself.  "I'll call for him on Saturday, he'll be okay by then.  What will you be doing?"

Rose thought he'd already asked her once.

"Oh, ya know, me and mum shopping, it's what us girls like to do," she joked, wishing that was true but Bob would be there.

Still, she could get a ride into the town and meet them later, at least Bob had a car.

While they were laughing about it, Alec could almost feel the eyes on them from behind.  Since when had it become a crime to make friends with a girl, he wondered.  Jamie was not going to make him choose between his friends, he'd just have to talk to Jamie and say they could hang out at weekends and school holidays, if he wouldn't join himself and Rose.

Rose was thinking that Jamie shouldn't have been teasing Alec about her in the library if he didn't expect something to come out of it.  Maybe he wasn't expecting Alec to take the bait?   Could she step back so Alec and Jamie could be friends again?  Judging by the laughing coming from behind them, it didn't seem like Jamie was that bothered and if Alec backed off, both herself and Alec would be on their own.

"Take no notice Rose," Alec told her, trying to ignore the others.

"I'm used to it Alec but I never meant for you and Jamie to fall out."

"I know.  He'll be fine at the weekend," Alec tried to reassure himself.

When they got off the bus, Rose said she was going to the office to get a locker key, since some were open and no keys in them and to get a form for a bus pass.

"You should try too Alec or don't ya bother 'cos the others don't?"

"I never wanted to be the odd one out Rose but it looks like I already am?" Alec replied as he followed her inside.

Getting two locker keys was easy enough and being given two forms for bus passes and told to get their parents to sign and bring a passport size photo in at the same time was going to be difficult, well for Rose anyway.  If it saved her mother some money, she'd be all for paying for photos.

"Hey Alec, we could go get the photos done together and save some money," Rose suggested as they went to find their lockers, the secretary thinking it was amusing to give them one next to each other.

Now Alec thought they would be seen together more often, he could expect more treatment like Jamie and Billy were already dishing out but funnily, he wasn't really bothered what they thought.  As predicted though, Rose was already getting pointed to as the bell was going and they were going upstairs.

"Hey, you're the English girl, right?" someone asked Rose on the stairs.

"Leave her alone," Alec defended her.

"Geez Alec, are you her minder?" the girl wanted to know.  "I was gonna say well done for standing up to Moira, no-one's ever done that before.  Now we know it can be done, they won't be very popular."

Rose heard mumblings of agreement as they got to the top of the stairs.

"See, now you are not the odd one out, it seems Moira is," Alec smiled as he saw Kristy follow her friend instead of them both talking and everyone else avoiding them.

"Well she's not Queen Bee around here any more is she?" Rose asked as they entered the classroom, looking for Sandra but seeing she was sat next to Marie and Jamie had taken up next to Billy, leaving two spaces for Alec and Rose.

"I thought we had regular places?" Rose asked him.

"Seems not," he replied, sitting next to her.

"Class," the teacher addressed them.  "This is the third day back, I hope you are going to settle in your regular places?"

So did Rose.  It seemed though every classroom they went in, everyone was purposely sticking together and Rose wondered why Sandra had chosen to sit next to a girl who seemed more shy than she had been.  She caught up with Sandra in the girls room at break time.

"What's going on Rose?" Sandra called from the next cubicle.

"Nothing, why?" Rose called back and hoping her two now enemies weren't hanging around.

"I saw Jamie go sit next to Billy, I assumed there was a reason?" Sandra laughed.

Rose opened the door and went to wash her hands, Sandra joining her.

"Come on Rose, have Alec and Jamie fallen out?"  

"Not exactly, Jamie was being a bit funny this morning but he'll come round.  Alec said they'd been friends for years."

"Maybe so Rose but what about now you've come along?  Anyway, we can still be friends, I'm not the jealous type and Marie talks less then you did the last two days.  See ya later."

Rose went back outside into the sunlight, shading her eyes and spying Alec talking to Jamie and Billy, thinking she should leave them to it but they weren't giving Alec an easy time and Alec didn't want to depend on Rose to get him out of it after Billy had marched him over to where they were all sitting at a bench and on top of it.

"So come on out with it Alec," Billy was telling him.

"What are you talking about?" Alec wanted to know.

"Don't act all innocent Alec, Jamie told us you've been calling for him with that new girl following you," Billy told him.

"Thanks Jamie," Alec told his old friend.  "She has got a name you know?  She's called Rose and she's new to the area, in case you were asleep in the science class yesterday?" Alec asked them.

"We know and she stood up to Moira, guess she's the school's new hero?" Billy laughed.

"Did any of you stand up to them?" Alec turned the tables.  He saw them suddenly finding the grass or the table were more interesting.  "No, no-one dared until Rose came along.  Do you prefer those two get away with bullying everyone into joining them?"

"She's not bothered with the boys Alec," Jamie chipped in.

"Well she was yesterday, I saw her but they had the sense to walk away.  It was going to happen when she'd run out of girls," Alec replied.

"Yeah and you making friends with Rose was going to happen, wasn't it?" Jamie asked him.

"Yes Alec, you don't spend time with us now and you even sat with her in the classrooms," Billy reminded him, getting agreement from the others.

"Well you went to sit with Billy," Alec told Jamie, wondering where the cause of all this was and hoping she'd stay out of it but did Rose ever stay out of anything, he wondered.  "So what do you want?"

"Why should you care Alec?" Jamie asked him, looking at the floor.

"We can all hang around at weekends and I'm not stopping you hanging around when Rose is there either.  That was your choice Jamie," Alec reminded him, Billy looking at him.

"That's not what you told us Jamie," Billy reminded him.

"Are we done?" Alec asked, since there wasn't a lot of time left.

He knew Jamie had some explaining to do now but just to show him he was disappointed in his friend, he decided he'd still sit with Rose, unless she was going back to sitting with Sandra.

They had history after the break, John trying not to grin that Rose and Alec had sat next to each other and he surmised Jamie felt he'd had his nose pushed out or it was self-imposed in protest?

"Right class.  Who can tell me about the Highland clearances?  Someone other than Alec," he added with a grin.

In the dining hall, John was watching from a distance as Alec went to join Rose and they were talking.  He hoped his young cousin would get the bottom of why Rose was worried but if anyone could, it would be him since he wanted to join the police.

"Do ya think it was wise to sit next to me all morning?" Rose grinned.

"We can sit where we like within reason for the first few days.  What about at your old school?" he asked, opening his lunch box after they'd been to their lockers.

He thought at least now they didn't have to wear their blazers all day and they'd both put their jumpers on.

"Oh, we just flitted around, the teacher didn't really care as long as we showed up and were weren't pushing each other," she teased him.

Alec saw she was joking.

"Not asking what I was talking about earlier?" he asked.

"It's nothing to do with me who you talk to Alec.  Sandra's still friends with me but she's keeping her distance.  See, not everyone's like Jamie who goes off in a huff, you can still be friends with him."

"I know.  I'll call for him on Saturday morning, while you go shopping with your mum.  He'll come round, don't worry about it.  You are still coming round to do your homework?" he asked to make sure.  

"Yeah but we'd best not call at Jamie's," she teased him, considering the alternative of Bob getting home early for a change and he'd find out she did all the cooking.

She wondered how her mother explained the weekends, when she insisted Rose went in to help her and that if he was really as clever as he made himself out to be, he'd have worked it out by now?  Maybe he didn't want to?

John watched the two of them from where he was sitting and resisted the urge to cross over and talk to them but doing that too often would surely arouse suspicion or that they were the teacher's pet pupils.  As everyone wandered outside though, he noticed the pair of them go sit in the same spot and everyone else seemed oblivious to the fact this was the third day in a row they had done so.  Maybe no-one was bothered and he'd heard no incidents involving the two former troublemakers but maybe that was the calm before the storm and the storm was called Rose Tyler.

Chapter 15: True colours
Kristy was following behind her so-called friend who had on the first day shown her true colours and declared she was now the leader.  Maybe she had been planning this right from the beginning of last term when they had both agreed those not of their standard should be excluded from their little club after being asked if they wanted to join and Alec Hardy had been one of them.

Since then though, Moira had declared girls only but now it seemed she had changed her tune since they'd tried most of the girls in their year and the year below and even Moira wouldn't dare try any of the classes above them.  She stopped dead behind Moira, who turned to her.

"Tell me what's wrong with this picture Kristy?" Moira asked her.

"How am I supposed to know, you took charge," Kristy huffed, looking around to see if anyone was taking any notice.

"Don't tell me you're surprised?" Moira teased her.

"Well I say we did better on that score before you took over, we have no-one yet and it's the third day of term.  Are you really going to try the boys?"

"Have you got a better idea then?  That English new girl already has Alec on her side, this is war Kristy, she can't just waltz in here and get him on her side.  If he joined us, the other boys would follow."

"We've no chance, they're as thick as thieves those two but we could try Jamie, he doesn't look too happy about it."

"Well come on then, if he joins us, that Rose Tyler will have a fight on her hands because Jamie was Alec's best friend until she arrived, Jamie must be really annoyed about that," Moira told her.

"Wonder what those two are up to?" Rose asked Alec as he was looking to see where Jamie was.  "Alec, go join your friends if ya want?"

"What?  No, it's fine, they don't seem that bothered.  You could make more friends if you wanted to you know?"

"Like those two?" Rose laughed as Kristy and Moira were stood talking.  "I wonder where Sandra disappeared to?"

"Go find her then?" Alec suggested.

"Why, do ya wanna add some more to your new story?" Rose wondered.

"Not here, I sometimes used to go around the other side to be on my own, Jamie used to keep me company sometimes."

"Well if I go round with ya, everyone will be talking more than they already are," Rose laughed.

Alec smiled at the thought.

"I thought you would have a crowd around you when the word got round?"

"Me?  Alec, I acted all tough at my last school just to survive, it wasn't what I wanted.  Looks like I may not have a choice here either?"

"Yes you do Rose, you can choose to stay out of the way and not make a fuss you upset those two," Alec replied.

"I can't let them just walk over everyone Alec.  You have to stand up to them."

"I already do," Alec reminded her.  "Let's just try to stay out of their way?"

"Yeah, long as they stay out of mine?  Alec, I asked my mum if she'd get Bob to put a lock on my room door."

"That's good Rose.  Do you think he will agree?"

"I don't know but if his friends keep calling, I don't want any of them wandering in, do I?" Rose asked him.

"Are you sure it's to keep his friends out?" Alec wanted to know.  "Rose, you seem really scared of him."

"He just gives me the creeps that's all.  I've no idea what my mother agreed to when she dragged us up here.  I think I'm right Alec, they mean to get married or at least engaged and he'll want to adopt me.  I don't want him to."

"Why are you scared of that Rose?"

"I just get these feelings Alec, like if he's watching TV that he's got one eye on me if I'm not paying much interest."

"That may be just you Rose," Alec smiled.  "So do you go to your room then?"

"Yeah.  Last night my mum came in and my heart pounded 'cos I thought it was him.  What do I do about it Alec?"

"Speak to my dad or I can get John to meet us somewhere?"

"I don't know about that?  John tricked me yesterday, remember?"

"Yes, I know Rose.  You need someone to talk to though."

"I know, I've got you," Rose replied, wondering why no-one was taking any notice of them.  "I'm keeping you from your other friends though."

"Forget them Rose, they'll get used to it.  Why don't we both go over and talk to them?" he suggested.

"After the bus ride this morning?" Rose asked.  "I think it'll take a while."

"Well we sometimes get together on Saturdays, can you get out?"

"Yeah but I was thinking of going into town this Saturday and visit the big library, the history teacher got me with the subject this morning, we didn't learn much of Scottish history at my old school."

"I can't imagine why," Alec teased her.

Rose nudged his elbow and they both started laughing.

"Just look at those two over there," Billy was pointing out.

"Don't make me look," Jamie told him, making the others laugh.

"Are you going to do something about it?" one of the others asked him.

"Yeah, ignore him the next time he calls for me and she's with him," Jamie replied.

"We've not let you off the hook yet for not telling us Alec gave you a choice last night," Billy reminded him.

"Would you have gone with them?" Jamie asked him.  "Thought not.  Even if he calls on Saturday on his own, I still might not bother."

"Well what else do you have to spend your time on?" Billy wanted to know.  "Watch out, here come Kristy and Moira."

"Hey you lot, wanna let us join you?" Moira asked.  "We could join forces and show that new English girl who's in charge around here."

"We don't need your help Moira," Billy hissed at her.  "You two have no chance now, have they?" he asked the others, who began shaking their heads.

"That new girl has a lot to answer to," Moira huffed as they walked away and seeing Rose and Alec laughing about something.

"We have to do something then," Kristy agreed, forgetting she was annoyed Moira had taken over.

"I'm open to suggestions," Moira replied as everyone began making their way to the entrance.

It seemed everyone was still determined to keep Rose and Alec sat together during the afternoon lessons until the final bell went and they called at their lockers.

"Matching lockers as well?" Jamie teased Alec.

"Stop if Jamie, what's wrong with you?" Alec wanted to know.

Rose stopped as she was putting her blazer on.

"What do ya want Jamie?" she asked him.

"My friend back," Jamie replied as he walked off.

"Forget it Rose, he'll soon come round.  Let's get to the bus early tonight?" Alec suggested.

They were about to leave when John caught up with them.

"Don't need rescuing tonight then?" he grinned.

Rose thought he was in the habit of catching them, did he want everyone to know who he was?

"No Sir, thanks though," Rose replied.

"That's okay Rose, maybe it wasn't so bad starting to talk after all?" he asked.

Rose thought that was his fault.  She had been happy to stay as she was a bit longer.

They got back to Alec's house, getting off at the next stop but Jamie just continued to ignore them.

"I'm going to call round later and see if he will talk to me," Alec told Rose as he let them in.

Rose agreed he should and they set about their homework.

"What you were saying, about the history subject.  I can tell you most of it," Alec told her.

"It gives me an excuse not to spend time with Bob, thanks though."

"I thought you were going shopping with your mum?"

"Yeah but he'll be there and I don't know if he'll go off on his own or not," Rose replied.

"Why don't I call John and get him to come round?" Alec suggested.

Rose shook her head, Alec wondering why she was so against it.  After accepting a sandwich again, Rose and Alec went in the opposite direction to the park and wandered down to the river.

"Tell me what else bothers you?" Alec asked her.

"How long have ya got?" Rose joked.

"I know you don't want to be here Rose but you are, there's nothing you can do about it but try and make it better.  My dad can help, he'll tell you how to feel safe, talk to him."

"Okay but not tonight, maybe tomorrow?"

"Then can I tell him?" he asked.  "I told him you don't like being in on your own."

"Yeah, then he'll tell me to just put up with it."

"No he won't Rose, give him a chance?  He helped me when my mum died.  Did I tell you about our last holiday, before we knew there was something wrong with her?"

"No.  I've never really had a holiday, except in one of mum's friend's caravans in Southend.  I thought the thing was gonna tipple over, the floor moved every time we moved around."

Alec had to smile.

"We went all the way down to the south coast on the train, it took hours.  We stayed in a caravan on a cliff top for a week though it was late when we got there.  We had a long walk down this narrow lane to get to the camp site, then so we didn't have to climb back up it every day, we walked along a path and down onto the beach.  Mum and dad were arguing about it because she thought the camp was right on the harbour but that was another one."

"Was it okay though, apart from that?" Rose asked as they threw pebbles in the water.

"It was okay, there wasn't a lot to do though.  What was Southend like?"

"Busy and loads of seagulls trying to steal your food."

Alec let out a laugh and Rose nudged him.  He thought she was making a habit of that.  They walked back to where Rose was living, Alec being careful to walk off before her mother got home.

"She'll want to meet ya," Rose warned him before he left.  "Stay around a bit longer?"

"I have to go see if Jamie will talk to me," he replied.

"I'm sure he will Alec, it's just me that puts him off," Rose told him.

"It would have happened no matter whoever it had been I made friends with.  Promise not to laugh?" he asked her.  Rose nodded.  "Jamie's brother has a girlfriend and Jamie said he'd never get one in a million years but Connor said it happens to all boys eventually."

"Yeah but it happens to girls as well.  Did I tell ya Mickey from the garage was gonna ask me out when I was old enough?"

"I think you did Rose.  I think you said the same as Jamie."

Rose started laughing.

"Yeah, I think I may have done?  See ya tomorrow and I hope Jamie talks to you."

Alec had just left but Rose's mother saw him leaving the driveway from a distance and asked Rose, who had got upstairs a few minutes earlier having stayed out a bit longer.

"Was a boy just leaving?" she asked Rose.

"Yeah, Alec walked back with me Mum, I told ya about him.  Did ya ask Bob about that lock on my door?"

"He said he'll think about it.  What do ya think's gonna happen?" she asked Rose, not wanting to say she'd covered for her last night.

"I told ya Mum, I don't want any of his friends wandering it, do I?  What if I'm out and they decide to use it for more than putting their coats on my bed?"

"Rose, don't ask such questions.  Bob trusts them enough to invite them so should you.  I'll ask him if he's decided, it's up to him."

Rose thought that was all she was going to get.

Alec had gone back to Jamie's but his mother had gone to the door to say he was in his room and didn't want to go out.

"Have you fallen out?" she asked Alec.

"We may have done Mrs Stevens, Jamie's a bit mad with me because I made a new friend."

"Don't worry about it Alec but why doesn't Jamie also want to be friends?"

"He just doesn't," Alec replied, not wanting to say because it was a girl.

"Oh, it's not that girl you kept seeing in the library?" she asked him.  "Jamie mentioned it to his brother.  Does she go to your school?"

"Yes, she just moved here but Jamie was okay until I stuck up for her the first day.  Now he hardly talks to me."

"I'm sure he will get over it Alec.  Maybe he's a little jealous?"

"He wanted me to go over and talk to her in the library," Alec admitted.

Then it hit him, Jamie had wanted him to go talk to Rose because he was afraid to and was annoyed it had worked.  Was this what it was like, to be interested in girls?  If it was, Jamie would never come round now, since his older brother Connor had a girlfriend and Jamie had been denying he wanted anything to do with girls and his slightly older brother Alan always teased him.

So that's what it had all been about, the nudging Rose was giving him, the hints Jamie had been dropping in the library to go talk to Rose and then Rose not objecting to him helping her the first few days of the new term?  Then there was John teasing him and trying to give him advice.  They were only thirteen, weren't they too young to be thinking in the terms of boyfriends and girlfriends?

Rose had told him of someone who had she stayed in London was going to ask her out and now, she wasn't shy towards him, just everyone else.  Had he just begun thinking of Rose as a future girlfriend?  Well John had seemed to think so, it was a good thing Peter wasn't around then.  If he'd had time he would have called to see John so it would have to wait until he and his dad went round on Sunday but could he admit to his older cousin that he'd been right?

Bob had got home and as usual paid compliments to what he thought was Jackie's cooking but Rose thought he already knew it wasn't.

"So Rose, your mum thinks I should agree to put a lock on your room door?  Any reason?" he asked her, Rose thinking this was it.

"Well yeah, I'm old enough to be on my own, mum got a friend to put me a catch on my old room door," Rose replied, since her mother had admitted she'd had to cover the fact to Bob why one should be fitted.

"Well I will consider it one weekend but don't you trust us?"

Rose trusted Mickey more than her mother's boyfriend.

"Well like I told my mum, what if you have friends over?  Can't I have one just for that reason?" she asked, hoping he'd go for it.

"Rose, what kind of friends do you think I have?"

Rose wanted to say the type who would either be nosy or want to use her room for something else and worst still while she was in it.

"I've not met many of them but they know I'm here," Rose replied.

"Bob, Rose just wants to feel safe when your friends have had a few drinks, ain't that right Rose?" her mother finally stuck up for her.

"Yeah, like my mum said, they might think my room is the bathroom," Rose replied, hoping that would work.

"Well I'm not planning on any of them coming round and drinking just yet," Bob told her.  "I'll consider it, if I am inviting anyone around."

Rose knew that was all she was going to get out of him and just hoped he'd keep his promise.   She went off to her room, thinking of jamming a chair under the handle just to prove a point and got one of her books out from the library.  She'd not asked for a ride into town yet, maybe Bob would be annoyed enough to tell her to go to the local library but Alec and his friends may be there.

Why had Jamie got so hostile the last few days when she seen him nudge Alec from the other side of the library?  Another question was though why had she told Alec twice that Mickey had been going to ask her out when she was old enough?  Yeah, that was a great idea, she told herself.

"Jackie, you should talk to Rose," Bob was telling her.

"I've tried Bob but she's growing up.  She'll soon be old enough to agree to what we talked about, ya said we'd wait."

"Yes Jackie but now you are asking me to put it off again and put a lock on her door?  You are going to have to be very persuasive then I may consider the lock on her door but only a catch, she will have to be satisfied with that, if she had one before?"

"Yeah, whatever you say Bob.  She grew up without a dad, she needs someone to guide her, I know that."

"Then I'm glad you agree Jackie.  A lot of girls her age are not as shy, she seems reluctant to bring her friends home."

Jackie nodded, not wanting to say Rose had a friend who was a boy called Alec, whom she'd seen the back of as he'd neared the corner of the street.  Maybe she shouldn't stand talking on her way out and catch him before he left?  She already knew had they stayed where they were that Mickey would have made a play for Rose when she got older.  Was what Bob wanted for her any different, to want to take responsibility for her?  She thought he had good intentions towards her daughter, when she started 'dating' to have some rules that she herself wouldn't be able to impose and Rose needed that.

Then there was the fact Bob was already paying attention to Rose, unlike some of the men she had dated on their old estate.  Yes, Rose definitely needed someone like Bob to set her straight for when she got older but him objecting they put it off until Rose was fifteen instead of next year was a bit unusual though.  Then now, there was a new friend Rose had made, would that spoil things?

Thursday seemed to pass quickly for Rose, who had tried to tell Alec she didn't mind if he spent the breaks with his old friends but by Friday, they weren't even trying to get him to join them, unlike a few lunchtimes ago.  They were sat on their bench when John joined them.

"Okay you two?" he asked them both, since Moira and Kristy had been lurking around.

Alec just nodded.

"Yes, thanks."

"Why don't I give you two a ride home tonight?  It seems daft you going on the bus when I can drop you off."

"That's not a good idea," Alec replied, hoping no-one was paying any attention.  "We'd be missed on the bus."

"Yeah, Alec's right, even though we get ignored," Rose agreed.

"Then all the more reason for not using it.  You could always pretend to miss it," John suggested.  "Think about it.  Rose, anything you want to talk to me about?  Alec said you had a bit of a problem at home."

Alec had told her earlier that he'd talked to his dad and he'd suggested Rose may confide more in John than himself.  When Rose had gone home the night before, Alec had mentioned it to him.

"I know she's having a hard time Alec," his dad had told him.  "Why don't you talk to John?  He knows how she is at school, he sees more of her than I do.  Any news on Jamie making up with you?"

"No Dad, he's not really talking to me but I think I know why.  His mum thinks he's jealous and that getting me to talk to Rose in the library was really an excuse he wanted to.  How can I explain it to him?"

His dad got up and sat on the sofa with Alec.

"Do you really need it explaining Alec?  Unless you stop being friends with Rose and back off and let Jamie try to make friends with her, he's still going to be like that.  You said his brother had a girlfriend?"  Alec nodded.  "Well it seems Jamie intended you to talk to Rose and then he got to know her when you backed off because you weren't interested in girls."

"Neither was Jamie, so he said," Alec replied.

"It seems the green-eyed monster has taken hold of him Alec.  While you are friends with Rose, it will keep rearing its ugly head.  Only you can decide, backing away from Rose may do the trick but it may affect her as well, if Jamie has been hostile towards her?  What I'm trying to say Alec is that like it or not, Rose may consider you more favourably than Jamie and he's still not going to like it if she won't have anything to do with him, you can't win Alec, there's no easy answer."

Alec thought he already knew that.  Even if he spent less time with Rose, the damage had been done.  He'd taken Rose away from Jamie's grasp, despite his protest about girls and making it out he'd wanted him to go talk to Rose in the first place, then Jamie would have wormed his way in so why wasn't that the case?  

Then he started to get it – Jamie didn't want to share Rose, he wanted her to himself but there was no way he was going to let that happen.  Maybe they weren't too young to fall out over a girl after all, it seemed they had already done so but what would Rose think about it?

Chapter 16: Sneaking out
Alec decided the next day he would get Jamie at break time and ask him what was going on before jumping to any conclusions they were fighting over a girl – namely Rose.  That hadn't been his intention when he'd made friends with her on the first day of the new term but it had turned out differently to what he had expected.  

He set off to meet Rose, he couldn't change that or she may think he'd gone off the idea of them being friends but Rose was worried about something she had overheard her mother and Bob talking about, they seemed to be making some kind of plan and she feared the worse.  Maybe she should talk to John or Alec's dad because she knew for certain her mother wouldn't listen, since she had mentioned that Bob should be the one to offer guidance to her.

Alec waited on the corner as Rose came out with her mother.

"So is that him?" her mother nodded in his direction, seeing a tall boy with mousy hair and wearing a blue blazer.

"Yeah, that's Alec.  He's just a friend Mum," Rose insisted.

"Well he might be but he's still a boy, a teenage boy so just you watch out Rose.  I think Bob wants to talk to you, about a few rules so maybe he'll mention boys to ya?"

Rose hoped not.  "What do ya mean Mum?  Alec's not my boyfriend," she insisted.

"Well not yet but ya spending a lot of time with him," her mother replied.

"Can't I have any friends that aren't girls?" Rose huffed, thinking she would miss the bus and Alec would go without her.  "I have to go."

She started to walk off, leaving her mother to watch as she greeted Alec.

"Mum decided to talk," Rose was telling him.  "All of a sudden she's realised I'm friends with a boy."

"Is that so bad?" he asked as they crossed the road.  "Rose, I think I know what's wrong with Jamie.  My dad pointed out a few things last night so I have to talk to him later, okay?"

"Yeah, ya should talk to him Alec.  We can all be friends if he wants, I'm not stopping him."

"I know you are not Rose, it's him, dad says he knows why.  I'll tell you later, when I talk to Jamie.  When I do though, you might not like it."

"Watcha mean by that?" Rose asked as the bus approached.

"You'll see when we go upstairs," Alec replied, paying his bus fare after Rose did and following her up the steps.

Jamie didn't turn around when they sat down a few seats away but Alec knew he was talking about them.

"He had the nerve to come round last night," Jamie was telling the others.

"Well he's trying to make up for going off with a girl," Billy replied.

"Well he's not getting off so easily," Jamie insisted.  "I told my mum I didn't want to see him but not why."

"She'll find out," Billy told him.  "All mums do."

"Yeah and brothers," one of the others laughed.

"Take no notice of them Rose," Alec was telling her.

"Ya think it bothers me?" Rose replied.  "I never bothered about boys at my old school, why should I start now?"

Alec wondered if she meant him until she nudged him.

"Present company not included," she grinned.  "Though I don't know about your friends back there."

Alec thought he should have known she didn't mean him, he'd become her friend.

"Jamie's just jealous," he whispered to her.

Rose burst out laughing, getting her a frown.

"Shush Rose," Alec tried to warn her.

"Of what?" Rose tried to recover, still grinning and Alec frowning at her.

"I called for Jamie last night and his mother said he didn't want to see me.  I think he's jealous that we are friends."

"He doesn't have to be," Rose replied, tempted to turn around.

Jamie had heard Rose laughing.

"See, she knows she stopped me and Alec being friends and she's laughing," Jamie tried to convince the others.

"That's rubbish Jamie, you're letting her get to you.  Do something about it if it bothers you," Billy told him.

"Yeah, tell him Jamie," the others joined in, making Jamie turn away.

Billy tapped him on his shoulder as they approached the school.

"Get him on his own and tell him."

"Why, he won't listen," Jamie replied, seeing Rose and Alec get up.

Once off the bus, Alec waited for Jamie, who was hanging back.

"See ya inside," Rose told him, to give him chance.

Alec took the chance but as Jamie caught up, John was getting out of his car.  Seeing his younger cousin look towards the other boy, he decided to leave them but caught up with Rose.

"Giving them chance to talk?" John asked her.

"It's my fault Jamie won't talk to him," Rose admitted.

"No, it's Jamie's choice, don't blame yourself Rose.  If it hadn't been you, it would have been anyone Alec made friends with and besides, it sounds like you need Alec as a friend just as much?"

"What did he tell ya Sir?" Rose asked him, remembering he was hiding who he was.

"Enough.  Why don't I come round to his house tonight and talk to you or you can both meet me in the park?" he suggested.

"It doesn't matter.  Alec needs to make up with Jamie, I'll probably go straight home," Rose replied.

"That's very good of you Rose but it won't solve anything," John told her.  "Jamie is jealous of you."

Rose already knew that.

"Then I'll just stay out of the way," Rose replied.

"Then it will be Alec who suffers, not Jamie.  I have to go but think about what I said eh?"

Rose was already getting the message that Jamie didn't want herself and Alec to be friends, that he wanted things they way they had been before her arrival.  If that were so, why encourage Alec to talk to her in the library then?

"Go back to Rose," Jamie was telling Alec as they stopped just inside the school playground.

"She sent me to see what was wrong with you.  Why can't we all be friends?" Alec wanted to know.

"You know why, you spend more time with her, she was out to stop us being friends from her first day here," Jamie told him.

"No, how could she be?" Alec asked him.

"The way she kept looking across the library.  Ring any bells Alec?"

Alec shook his head.  So his dad was right then.

"I get it Jamie.  You were the one who was too shy to talk to her so you made it out that she was looking at me?"

"What?" Jamie asked him.  "No, she was looking at you Alec."

"So that's what this is about?" Alec wanted to know.

"You know it is, why did you want to keep going back and pretending you were waiting for a book to be returned?"

"Jamie, I was waiting for a book to be returned and you kept suggesting we hang around the library.  You are just mad Rose was there and wanted me to talk to her because you never thought she would talk to you," Alec told him.

"Go away Alec, that's not true," Jamie protested.

Alec knew differently.

"So you want me to stop being friends with her so you can talk to her?  Admit it Jamie.  Rose wants to friends with both of us but if you act like that, she won't want to talk to either of us.  Is that what you want, for her to go off and make friends with someone else?  Jamie, she's on her own in a strange town and her mother's boyfriend scares her.  Someone has to help her."

"What are you talking about?" Jamie asked him as they walked towards the entrance.

"She's scared of him Jamie and she needs our help.  Think what you like but don't ask me to choose between her and you Jamie, I can't just leave her.  If you make me choose then you decide to be friends with her she won't be any different."

"How would you know?" Jamie asked him, seeing Rose going up the steps.

Jamie rushed past him and going into the classroom, went to sit next to Billy again so Alec saw Rose sitting down and remembered what the class teacher had told them the day before, going to sit next to Rose.

"Any luck?" she asked him.

Alec just shook his head.  All through the day and at break times, Jamie avoided the pair of them, John seeing them but not wanting to interfere until the last five minutes of the afternoon break.

"How's things?" John asked Alec as he and Rose sat on what had become their bench.  "Want a lift home?"

"That reminds me,  I forgot about the form for the buss pass," Rose remembered.  

"Come on, I can drop you both off," John reminded them.  

"Why not?" Alec shrugged his shoulders.  "Jamie won't listen to me any more."

Rose felt sorry for him and it was all her fault but backing off now wouldn't make any difference.  John told them to let everyone get on the bus and he'd wait for them a bit further down and no-one would notice they didn't get on, well so he hoped so agreeing, they went off to their last lesson.

"Sure you won't get into trouble John?" Alec asked as he sat in the front when Rose got in the back of his mini, wondering how John managed to drive it with his long legs.

Alec let them in the house, John assuming Alec wanted him to talk to Rose.

"So Rose, want to tell me what's wrong?" he asked her as she got her homework out.

"Ya mean apart from gettin' dragged up to Scotland to live with my mother's boyfriend?" Rose tried to joke.

"I know about that Rose," John smiled.  "So, come on then, why are you scared of your mother's boyfriend?"

"Where do I start?  I hear them talking and I think they plan on getting married or something 'cos my mum said I need someone to put me right.  I just don't like the way he asks me things as well."

"What sort of things Rose?" John asked her.  "Look, I'll help you if I can but you have to tell me."

"I don’t know what else, they keep quiet most of the time but he wanted to know why I don't invite my friends round.  I mean he doesn't get home until late anyway but I told my mum I'd made friends with Alec and she didn't sound so keen.   Then she asked me about him this morning.  Sorry Alec but she told me to watch out."

"What do you mean Rose?" Alec asked her.

His cousin started to laugh.

"I think we already talked about that Alec."

"Watcha mean?" Rose asked.

"Nothing Rose," Alec tried to tell her.

"Come on, you're both teenagers," John reminded them.  "It's the time you start noticing things.  Do I have to draw you two a picture?"

"Ya mean why Jamie's so mad with Alec, that he wanted to make friends with me and Alec did instead?" Rose asked him.

"I'm afraid so Rose.  Jamie's mad Alec beat him to it and it won't be forgotten easily.  He may get over it at some point I suppose but back to your problem Rose.  What else have you heard eh?"

"The way he glances over at me then moves closer to my mum.  I asked him for a lock on my door, he said he'd think about it."

"Blimey, you are worried," John told her.  "Rose, just keep reminding him then but I hope I'm wrong about where you're going with this."

"What do you mean John?" Alec asked, seeing Rose's reaction.

"It may be nothing but he's concerned about you but if they're planning on marrying?  He'll be your step-dad whether he adopts you or not."

"I heard something about putting something off or back, I didn't hear it all," Rose admitted.

"Maybe you're worrying over nothing eh?  If you feel like they are talking about you, ask them.  You can always talk to me or Alec's dad, okay?"

"Yeah, thanks John.  Oh, should I still call ya 'Sir'?" she tried to joke.

"I'll let you off outside school.  I should be going, you two finish your homework eh?  Alec, have you shown Rose your stories?"

"Just the first one John.  So what should I do about Jamie?"

"Blimey Alec, well, maybe let him see you want to include him in things?  Best not call for him with Rose tagging along, see how it goes?  Want me to pick you both up in the morning?  Rose, you should hand that form in for a bus pass eh?"

"Yeah, I forgot.  I got in the same time as mum last night, I have to tidy up and start making tea."

"Really?" John asked her.

"Yeah, she passes my cooking off as her own and she thinks he doesn't know but I bet he does?"

John tried to stifle a laugh.

"Sorry.  Right, I'm off, see you both tomorrow and if you let the bus go, I'll watch out for you."

John left and they went into the living room.

"Did that help?" Alec asked her.

"A bit I suppose?  Alec, do ya think it's my imagination?"

"No, I believe you Rose.  I don't want us to stop being friends, do you?"

"What?  No, I don't want to stop being friends Alec.  It's up to Jamie what he wants to do.  Was John being serious though?" 

"About what?" Alec asked, wanting to tell her the rest of his first story.

"That we're teenagers and noticing things," she reminded him.  "Alec, I am sorry that Jamie doesn't want to be friends with you."

"I know you are, it would have been over something else Rose if it hadn't been you."

After Alec's dad got home, they walked to the park and sat on the swings, surprised it wasn't busy.  When Rose got home though, Alec was going to try to talk to Jamie again but thought he'd leave it a day or two but what was he going to do on Saturday now?  Maybe he'd try going to the library and see if Jamie was there and if he was, show him he didn't hang around with Rose at weekends.

Rose had been hoping her mother wouldn't mention Alec to Bob, she didn't want to answer a load of questions but as they were both in the kitchen, mainly so Bob would think Jackie had been doing all the work, Rose was in for a surprise.

"Rose, it's not a good idea to spend all your time with one friend.  Why don't ya make some more?"

"There's no-one around here Mum and I do have more friends," Rose replied.

"Well invite them over," her mother suggested.

Rose thought no chance.

"I could invite Alec around one night, if ya want?" she told her mother instead.

"Well, maybe?  Rose, I don't want ya hanging around with him at weekends, Bob thinks we should be doing stuff together, like you coming shopping with us."

"I need to go to the library in town this week Mum, I have to find out the answer to a science question."

"Since when were you interested in science?" 

Rose thought of saying since the teacher was Alec's cousin but she couldn't say that.

"Do I have to stay with ya?  Can't I just meet ya after going to the library?"

"Well I suppose so?  Rose, it's not a good idea to keep going on about you having made friends with a boy though, Bob won't think it's a good idea, he's only concerned about ya."

Rose thought yeah, too much by the sound of it.  Alec was having no luck trying to talk to Jamie but at least he'd come when his mother told him to.

"Can't we be friends Jamie?" Alec had asked him.  "What about weekends?"

"Won't you be meeting Rose?" Jamie asked him, not wanting this conversation.

"She'll be with her mum.  Come on Jamie, think about it?"

"I'll let you know but I may just hang around with my brothers or go find Billy," Jamie replied.

"Well if you are at the park or somewhere with Billy and the others, we can meet up?" Alec suggested.

The next day was pretty much the same, Alec getting no response from his former friend and by home time, he wasn't holding his breath that Jamie would agree to meet over the weekend.

"So are you going shopping with your mum then?" Alec asked Rose on the last break.

"She wants me to tag along but I still plan on going to the library.  What are you gonna be doing?"

"Trying to get Jamie to talk to me?" he replied.

"Alec, mum said Bob wanted us all to spend the weekend together but by Sunday afternoon, I'll be climbing the wall.  Wanna sneak out and meet in the park?" she grinned.

"Rose, you are asking for trouble, do you know that?" Alec replied.

"Was that a yes then?" she asked as the bell went.

Alec supposed it was.  After Rose got home though, Bob told her he expected her to join them on their outing into the town centre but when Jackie told him Rose had to get some information for a test, he relented and told her she had to meet them later.  Rose did not enjoy the time she spent with her mother and Bob after she met them in the agreed place, she would have preferred he'd not insisted or just left her and her mum to shop on their own and wondered why he just happened to pick this week to start.

Alec had gone to the library but there was no sign of Jamie so he went by the park but ended up at his aunt's house.

"So how are you getting on with your new friend Alec?" his aunt asked him in the afternoon while he waited for John coming back from whatever he was doing.

"Fine but did John tell you about Jamie?" Alec replied.

"I'm sorry about him falling out with you Alec but it would have happened sooner or later, even if it hadn't been her."

"John tried to tell me that.  What do I do about it though?"

"Alec, it's up to Jamie to see he made a mistake, you've done all you can.  So, not seeing her over the weekend?"

"She was going to sneak out tomorrow but she never said what time," Alec told her.

"Well you and your dad will be here though, she's going to be disappointed if you're not in," his aunt pointed out.

He'd not thought of that, had he?  What was he going to do, hang around on the corner of the street and wait to see if she could get out?  Now he wished he had a phone number for her but he didn't think he would need it.  She wouldn't wait around the park on her own for more than a few minutes, if only she'd given him a clue as to what time?

Then he thought maybe they had lunch the same time as his aunt made it so by the time they'd finished it was around three so he planned on saying he was going to see if she was there, there was no point in saying he was going to see Jamie, was there?

Rose survived the shopping trip and the Sunday morning, her mother making a show of looking busy in the kitchen as usual.

"Mum, I'm going out for a while after lunch, I get bored watching TV all afternoon."

"What do you wanna go out for?" she was asked.

"I was gonna meet a friend," Rose replied, since Bob came in.

"That's good Rose, maybe you can bring her around then?" he asked, Rose not liking the way he said it.

Rose looked at her mother, hoping she wouldn't give the game away.

"So does this friend have a name?" Bob continued, pretending to be interested.

"Yeah, it's Sandra," Rose lied, hoping her mother wouldn't remember she'd told her Sandra didn't live around here but her mother hardly remembered Alec's name so she was pretty safe for now.

She went out and hoped Alec would be home but he had mentioned to her they went to his aunts on Sundays but she didn't know where it was, just the street.  Maybe she should look for John's car?  She was about to try when Alec came out of the driveway.

"Hi, I wasn't sure where you would be," she told him.

"You could have looked for John's car," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah, I thought of that.  Wanna go to the park or down by the river?"

John had followed his cousin out when he'd seemed all jumpy while his dad was talking and had to smile to himself when he saw the two of them walking off.  He shook his head and went back inside, there was something else to those two being friends and it seemed neither of them knew it – well not yet anyway.

Chapter 17: The dreaded meeting
Rose was too shy to go meet Alec's aunt and uncle and his older cousin, who was at college so she'd not met him at school.  A few weeks went by, Rose always tagging along with Alec and getting a ride from John in the afternoons but not telling her mother, who was now giving her some pocket money after Rose said it wasn't fair she was coming home every night and doing the cooking.

Alec had never had that problem but his dad still insisted Rose ate something with them every teatime and had been relieved that Rose had told him she'd got Bob to put a catch on her room door.

"I'm glad to hear that Rose," he told her a week before the next school holiday was coming up.  "Does that make you feel better?"

Rose looked at Alec.

"Yeah, thanks.  I'd like to start help clearing up, for making me something to eat."

"You have enough to do when you get back," came the reply.  "Alec and I can manage Rose.  So what do you have planned for the school holiday you two?"

Alec was at something of a loss, he'd always spent them with Jamie and Jamie was barely talking to him, the last few Saturdays he'd gone to the library on his own as Rose had been dragged out to go shopping but she was still managing to sneak out on Sunday afternoons and she knew her mother would go crazy if she found out she was meeting Alec and not Sandra.

Fortunately, her mother seemed to have forgotten what Rose had told her but Alec still hadn't been to Rose's apartment with her and they decided to talk about it when they left his house and went down by the river.

"So what do you think your mum would say?" Alec asked as they threw some pebbles into the river.

"Well she's seen ya most mornings, why don't ya come down one morning and say hello?" Rose suggested.

Alec was getting more nervous about it though he wasn't sure why and he'd mentioned it to John the previous Sunday before Rose had called for him, who had tried to be sympathetic.

"Well Alec, you knew it was coming," John had told him.  "It's only polite you should introduce yourself as Rose's friend.  Does her mother still think Rose is meeting Sandra?"

"I think so John.  What if she stops Rose being my friend?" Alec wondered.

"Alec, you're worrying over nothing," John laughed.  "Don't forget she leaves Rose on her own, how can she stop you two being friends?"

Alec had supposed his older, wiser cousin was right.  His other cousin though had been quiet about it, since he admitted that at seventeen he already had a girlfriend at college.  Alec thought he had enough advice from John though John had not admitted he was currently seeing anyone.  Alec remembered his last one and that had been a disaster, which should have put him off being friends with Rose.

So now, they were sat silently, each waiting for the other one to say something.

"So do you want me to say hello to your mum?" Alec asked, hoping to put it off.

"Well yeah, she won't bite ya," Rose smiled.  "Let her think I've been meeting Sandra, she's not gonna know, is she?"

"You had best hope not," Alec replied.  "That's only on weekends though?  Maybe you could get out on Saturdays?"

"Don't ya see enough of me?" Rose laughed, nudging him.  "Try and make up with Jamie."

"Is there no chance you could actually meet Sandra then?" he asked.

"We're not that close Alec, we just talk at school.  Maybe I should admit it though, just in case?"

"That's maybe a good idea?" Alec agreed.  "So what about the school holiday, will you be on your own?"

"Yeah but don't worry about me Alec."

"I do worry about you and I'm glad you got that catch put on your door.  You've been quiet lately about that."

"Yeah?  I just ignore him now, unless he speaks to me and he's been careful what he's said in front of me."

"What has he been saying Rose?"

"Being a detective again?" Rose teased him.  "I sometimes think mum wants to tell me, then she changes her mind about it."

"About what he's said?" Alec wondered.

"I just get bits of it Alec, I already told ya.  He'll whisper something to her and they both look at me.  Why can't they just say anything?"

"I wish we knew," Alec replied, seeing it upset her.  "You should talk to John again, or maybe my dad?"

"I bet John's getting tired of listening to me?"

"No he's not, he wants to help you, we all do.  So about the holidays?  I was staying in then meeting Jamie the last time but I went to my aunt's for lunch.  John wasn't there though."

"Is he planning on staying around?" Rose asked.

"He may get a travelling job for the holidays, unless he's given it up?  How are you liking my second story?"

"It's good so far Alec, those green bog monsters sound good, have they been in the TV show?"

"I don't remember, these are different though.  They explode when you throw vinegar at them."

"Yuck, imagine cleaning it off the kitchen wall," Rose giggled into his arm.

"Thanks Rose, I won't get that picture out of my head now," Alec laughed.

"Hey, it would be even funnier if whoever threw the vinegar got covered as well," Rose continued to laugh.  "It would be good if it was my friend Mickey from back home.  We were always winding him up on our way home from school."

"You told me Rose.  You said he was going to ask you to be his girlfriend if you'd not left."

Rose looked at him, was he getting jealous?  She nudged him again.

"Well I'm not there, am I?" she reminded him.

Alec nudged her back.  "So during the holidays, do you want to hang out with me?"

"Alec, ya should try going to see Jamie," she reminded him.

"He won't bother Rose.  He does not want us to be friends, I tried to talk to him, remember?  He wants me to stop being your friend."

"That's up to you Alec."

"I don't want to have to choose Rose.  John said Jamie would get me to stop being your friend then he would try to make friends with you."

"I know what ya mean Alec, we've been through this before ya know?  Why is he making us choose who we are friends with?  He was the one teasing you in the library."

"I don't need reminding of that Rose.  So what do we do about it?"

"Nothing, we stay friends unless ya wanna stop being my friend?" Rose replied.

"No, do you want to stop being my friend?" he asked, thinking Rose should be getting home.

"No, it's bad enough Bob's trying to find out who my friends are.  I don't think mum even told him you call for me every morning yet."

"Has she not?  Rose, you should stop saying you are meeting Sandra."

"Why?  Let him think what he wants?  I know why mum's denying she wasn't told Sandra doesn't live around here, she doesn’t want Bob to know."

"This is getting serious Rose.  Okay, I will be early tomorrow for when you come out and I will say hello to your mum."

"Aw, ya don't have to Alec," Rose smiled as he got up and he held his hand out to help her.

Neither of them knew Billy and his friends were on the other side of the river a bit further down but had seen the two of them.

"Wait until we tell Jamie tomorrow," Billy laughed.  "He's already mad with Alec."

"That should be fun," one of them laughed.  "Look, he's even helping her up."

"This is too good," Billy laughed as he saw the two of them walk off.  "Just wait until we tell Jamie tomorrow."

"He's gonna be upset," one of the others told Billy.  "If you ask me, Jamie was too slow and Alec beat him to it."

"Yeah, it's getting stale," another agreed.  "It's Jamie who has the problem, not us."

"Come on, leave it then," Billy replied.  "If Jamie won't admit he's bothered Alec beat him to Rose, why should we?"

"So we don't have to listen to Jamie any more," one of them laughed.

As Alec walked Rose home, she asked if he meant it about arriving early the next morning.

"I meant it Rose.  So why don't we hang out during the holidays?  My aunt won't mind if you have lunch with us."

"I don't know Alec?  I'd feel I was intruding."

"Rose, she knows all about you, she won't take no for an answer."

"Well okay then?" she gave in.

"Come round on Sunday and meet everyone?" Alec suggested.

"Wow, that's a bit more than you meeting my mum Alec."

He thought she was being serious until she started laughing as they reached the corner of her street and she nudged him, something she was getting good at.

"See ya in the morning," Rose grinned as he hesitated.  "Don't forget where I live, will ya?"

He had seen her come out with her mother for the last few weeks, how could he?

"So are you going to mention me to your mum's boyfriend?" Alec wondered.

"Mum might do that for me," Rose replied.  "Alec, I couldn't just come out and admit it to him you were my friend."

"What are you scared of Rose?"

"Him, watcha think?  Geez Alec, he gives me the creeps sometimes, I don't know what he'd say.  If my mum tells him, it might not be so bad."

Alec wanted to pat her shoulder but he wasn't sure what time her mother would get home or if the neighbours were watching, since he didn't normally stay so long.

"Well maybe not then?  See you in the morning Rose, I can set off a few minutes earlier."

"Yeah, thanks Alec, see ya tomorrow."

Rose went inside, still with time to spare before her mother got back.  She knew she had to get up the courage to say Alec was her friend who lived nearby, not Sandra but how would her mother react?  She supposed there was only one way to find out.

"Hi Mum," Rose greeted her as she came through the door.  "You know Alec, who waits on the corner in the mornings?"

"What about him Rose?" her mother asked as she made some tea, checking what was on the stove top.

"Well don’t ya think you should say hello to him?" Rose asked.

"He never leaves the corner Rose, why now?" she was asked.  "He's been there the last couple of weeks now.  When you said you go to his house, does he walk back with ya?"

"Yeah, why?" Rose wanted to know.

"I was just making sure Rose, it'll be getting dark early soon, watcha gonna do then?"

"Stay until it's time to come back, what ya think Mum?  His dad's there anyway, he said I could stay.  I asked Alec to come and say hello in the morning."

Her mother didn't reply at first.

"Why did ya let Bob think your friend was a girl?" 

"Why do ya think Mum?  You said he'd talk to me about boys, remember?  I don't need him to, have ya known me to make friends with any boys before?" Rose asked.

"Well ya have now.  Why him though?"

"He looked out for me on my first day against two bullies.  I would have said something to them but I wasn't talking 'cos I thought everyone would pick up on my accent but the teacher tricked me into talking and everyone was okay about it."

"So ya let him think you'd lost your voice?"

"It was your idea Mum," Rose reminded her.  "It went too far and by the end of the day, it was easier to go on with it.  Alec was really nice, he made sure I got the right bus and invited me to his house and I decided to talk just to him.  I did make friends with Sandra though, I just didn't want a lecture from Bob, he's not my dad."

Rose saw the look on her mother's face.

"Mum, are you two getting married?" Rose dared ask.

"What?  No, we've not talked about it yet and when we do, so what?  You need someone to take responsibility for you Rose."

Rose knew that but she would rather it not be him.

"Mum, Alec lost his best friend because of me and even if I stopped talking to him, Jamie wouldn't just make up with him.  Jamie's jealous because when they saw me in the library, he tried to get Alec to talk to me but we think it was only 'cos it was Jamie who really wanted to talk to me."

"You're teenagers Rose, all boys get jealous over girls," her mother replied.  "Either that or they want nothing to do with girls.  Okay, I won't tell Bob for now but no more sneaking off under false pretenses on Sunday afternoons 'cos sooner or later, Bob will expect you to come back with this Sandra.  Then watcha gonna do?"

Rose wondered the same.  "Would Bob get mad if I brought Alec back?"

Her mother seemed to be thinking about it, confirming Rose's suspicions.

"Maybe?  Rose, I'm trying my best for ya, now you're a teenager, you need a father figure to guide you, to keep the boys away or at least make sure you're not bothered by them.  I wanted that to be Bob's responsibility, I'm doing this for your own good."

"By trying to stop me seeing Alec at weekends?" Rose asked defiantly.

"You see him all week Rose, you need to make more friends."

"I don't need other friends Mum.  So am I grounded at weekends?"

"I'm not saying that Rose but I don't want ya seeing Alec."

"Mum, what about holidays?  Ya can't expect me to stay in all the time."

"Well I can't stop ya, can I?" her mother pointed out.  "From now on, Bob will expect you to introduce your other friends to him."

That was what Rose was dreading and not in a million years would she invite any girls from her class to meet him.

"Well during the holiday, we'll be going round to his aunts," Rose told her mother as she turned the stove down.

"Is that a good idea?" her mother wondered.

Rose wanted to say she already knew his cousin but that would give the game away.

"He's already mentioned it Mum.  I was gonna go meet her this Sunday."

"Rose, I told ya not to hang around with him on Sundays," her mother reminded her.

"Well I ain't stopping in watching soppy films all afternoon and Alec's got no-one since Jamie won't talk to him.  Just don't tell Bob."

"Rose, he'll find out, trust me," her mother replied.

  "How will he?" Rose wanted to know, checking the time and seeing he'd be back soon, then it would start all over again.

"He was mad over putting that catch on your door Rose, it took some twisting his arm to get him to agree."

"Geez Mum, it wasn't much to ask," Rose replied as she heard the outer door open.

Before she knew it, Bob was making a fuss over her mother and asking Jackie how her day had been, never bothering to ask her how school had been.  Now she needed to talk to Alec over something else and he wouldn't like it so how was she going to get away with sneaking out at weekends after she got dragged around the shops on Saturday morning?

The last few weekends had been more bearable because she'd been meeting Alec and now her mother wanted her to stop.  She had to plan something without her mother finding out.  Maybe when she'd met Alec the following morning her mother may relent?

Alec had been quiet when he got home and his dad asked what was wrong.

"Rose wants me to say hello to her mother in the morning," Alec admitted.

His dad put his book down and smiled.

"It had to happen eventually Alec, don't worry about it eh?" his dad told him.  

Alec thought that was easy for him to say.  Did all boys have to say hello to the mother of a friend who happened to be a girl?  Well he already knew most of his friends mothers, having all grown up together but Rose was new.  Why was he getting butterflies in his stomach at the thought?

"So was that her idea?" his dad continued.

"She said I should.  I have to ask aunt Mary if Rose can go round for lunch with me during the holidays."

"Do you now?  Your aunt will want to meet Rose and since you go outside to meet Rose on Sundays now, how are you going to manage that?"

"Rose is going to knock on the door for me and introduce herself," Alec replied.

"She's okay with that?" his dad smiled.  "It seems to me like she is keener than you are to meet her mother then?  What about her mother's boyfriend?"

Alec didn't want to be reminded of that.

"Rose tells him she's meeting Sandra from school.  She dare not tell him, she's scared of him Dad, remember?"

"Yes, I know she is Alec.  We are all trying to help her where we can.  Does Rose know what will happen if she is asked to introduce Sandra to him?"

"She could ask Sandra, she might agree.  John's been bringing us home so Rose has saved the bus fare up, she could offer it to give Sandra the fare to get here and back to where she lives."

"She is getting too deep into this Alec, Rose can't keep up the pretence forever.  Maybe once you have met her mother, it may make things easier?"

"I hope so Dad.  When we were out earlier, I thought I saw Billy and the others on the other side of the river.  Only Jamie knew Rose and I hang around together after school."

"So you are worried they will tell everyone?" his dad wondered.

"Maybe?  They were on Jamie's side though."

His dad shook his head.

"Never mind Alec, they can't choose your friends for you and don't go letting them either."

"I know Dad, Rose is the only real friend I have unless I can talk Jamie into being friends with both of us."

"We already talked about that Alec," his dad reminded him.  "If he sees you and Rose together all the time, he may take some persuading.  So, you are introducing Rose to your aunt and uncle eh?"

Alec wondered what they would think of her but she got on with John okay though he hoped his other cousin would be out and his aunt wouldn't make a lot of fuss.

When Rose had gone to her room, Bob and Jackie were talking.

"So have you asked Rose to bring her friend round?" Bob was asking Jackie.

"I'm tryin' Bob, give her time," Jackie was trying to tell him.

"Well it's time we were meeting who Rose seems to spend all her time with.  Does she come straight home from school?"

Jackie had been hoping he wouldn't ask her that.

"She never says Bob.  It'll start getting dark earlier soon anyway, where else is she gonna go?"

"Well when it does start getting dark early, that does not mean I get to finish early love," Bob tried to joke, putting his arm around her.  "Well maybe I can see if I can get home the same time as you though, unless you and Rose enjoy your mother and daughter chats?"

"Yeah but I won't object if ya get home a bit earlier Bob," Jackie moved closer to him.

That would mean Rose would have to get home earlier or she'd have to start cooking herself.  Then she had an idea.

"Well I've been teaching Rose to cook, she's gettin' good at it as well.  You wanted her to get more involved looking after the apartment?"

"That's good Jackie, mothers should pass their cooking skills onto their daughters.  Maybe she can take over from you and you have a rest when you get back eh?  What time does she stay out until, with her friend?"

"Oh, I'm not sure Bob but she's always just tidying up when I get back.  Maybe she can put tea on then tidy up?" she suggested, knowing that was exactly what Rose did every night and now, she had to pay her for it.

"Then we'll see how well she does eh?  If Rose starts doing the cooking every night, maybe she can show off to her friend and invite her round?  I still don't want her bringing any friends here when no-one is in though."

"Yeah, I know Bob, you'd never believe how many of her old mates used to just call for her all the time.  I think she said she'd be spending the holiday with her friend though, when she's not studying or going to the library.  I did tell her she should start to stay in more with us at weekends."

"Good, she just takes off Jackie, that's not a good idea," Bob told her.  "She'll maybe not want to once it starts getting cold and when it's dark early?"

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Jackie admitted, thinking if she could keep fooling him, he wouldn't find out her daughter had a possible boyfriend.

She decided she'd meet this Alec in the morning and lay down the law before Bob did that but weekends were now out, well maybe with the exception of this Sunday and if someone else wanted to feed Rose during the holiday, it would save her buying extra.  She would make her mind up if she liked this Alec or not and if she didn't, she'd tell him to stay away from Rose in no uncertain terms before Bob really did find out, that would spoil Bob's plans he had for her well and truly and he'd get really annoyed about it, as if he already wasn't having got him to agree to put it off for a while.

Chapter 18: Becoming something more

Alec had told himself he had to set off even earlier the next morning and his dad had noticed he look nervous.

"Just be yourself Alec, Rose is your friend, she's on your side," Alec was reminded.

"I know Dad but what if Mrs Tyler takes a dislike to me and stops Rose being friends with me?"

"Alec, how can she do that when she gets home late?" his dad wanted to know.

"Well what about Sundays?  I want Rose to meet everyone this Sunday."

"I know you do Alec, they want to meet her as well you know, since you talk about her all the time.  I can't promise your other cousin will be in though."

So Alec was leaving the house and he walked towards Rose's street, unaware that Jamie was out and was watching him and wondering why Alec was out so early when he and Rose had been getting on the bus at the next stop.  Jamie had been annoyed over Alec choosing Rose over himself and it was no longer a case he was jealous because if Rose had wanted, she could have made friends first before she made friends with Alec or not bothered with him.

Why had Alec gone out of his way to defend Rose on the first day back at school anyway, just because they'd been having a bit of fun in the library but after Alec wouldn't go talk to her, he'd been thinking of doing it.  Now he was watching who had been his friend and guessed he did go meet Rose every morning and not just at the bus stop.

Alec got to the corner and hesitated for a few moments.  Should he go through with meeting Rose's mother, surely it was no different from meeting mothers of his other friends?  He made himself carry on and had just got to the end of the short driveway as Rose came out, followed by her mother.

Rose waved to him.  "Hi Alec, come and say hello to my mum."

Alec still wasn't sure it was a good idea, her mother would probably find faults with him.

"Hello Mrs Tyler, I'm Rose's friend, Alec.  It's nice to meet you."

"Is it now?" her mother tried to object.  "Why have ya been standing on the corner every morning then?"

"I was waiting for Rose to ask me to meet you," was all Alec could think of, apart from saying he was nervous about it.

"Yeah Mum, I wasn't sure if it was a good idea," Rose replied.  "Come on Alec, we'll miss the bus.  See ya tonight Mum."

Alec stood back to let Rose's mother past.

"Don't be late back tonight Rose," her mother called to her.

Rose wondered what was meant by that but hoped it didn't involve that creep Bob coming home early like she'd heard him mention, she would barely make it home if he did and she'd have to leave Alec earlier.  She didn't like the thought of that as she watched her mother walk off.

"The bus Rose," Alec reminded her.

"What?  Oh, yeah, sorry.  Come on then," she tried to laugh, grabbing his arm and starting to run, Alec trying to keep up with her.

As they got to the road, seeing the bus down at the next stop and crossed the road, Alec let go of Rose's arm as they'd got to the corner.  Rose noticed and thought maybe he didn't want anyone to say anything but those that were waiting weren't even in their class but they may know some who were.

They waited outside the bus shelter and Alec just said sorry to her.  When they got on the bus, she asked what for.

"It doesn't matter," Alec told her, thinking she'd not noticed anyway.

"Yeah, it does matter.  Was it 'cos I grabbed your arm?"

"Forget it Rose.  Do I have to meet her every morning?"

Rose wondered if she should let him stew.

"No, maybe not every morning," she decided to tease him, giving him a nudge.

Alec saw her smiling and knew she was having him on.

"Why don't ya come back with me tonight for a few minutes until my mum gets home?" she suggested.

"Will she be mad?" Alec wondered, not wanting to get on her mother's bad side.

"No, why should she?  She said she wouldn't let on to Bob that you're my friend, not Sandra but he still might find out though.  You'll have to leave as soon as she gets in though, he said something about trying to get home early and mum had the nerve to suggest I started doing the cooking – cheek."

"Sorry, when you do all the hard work and she gets the compliments," he replied, trying to ignore the fact Jamie would be staring at them.

Why was Jamie still acting like that?  Was it what his dad had told him, that Jamie wanted Rose to be his friend?  They made it through the morning, one being John's science class and they all thought he'd forgotten the question he'd asked when he had tricked Rose into talking.

"Right, so who can answer that question from the other week, bet ya thought I'd forgotten about it?" John asked five minutes before the end of the lesson.  "Anyone?  Rose?"

Rose wondered why he'd had to pick on her again, just because she came from London.

"I tried to find the answer, Sir," she replied.  "I went to the big library as well."

"Well at least you tried I suppose?" John replied, about to give in and tell them.  "So did your last teacher not conduct that experiment with you?"

"No Sir," Jamie decided to speak up.

"Well, we'll have to see about a demonstration next lesson along with this question.  I coil up a thin piece of microwire and place it in a glass of water.  Then I turn on the electricity and measure to see if the water's temperature is affected.  My question is this. How do I measure the electrical power going into the coil?"

Everyone stared at him, Rose wondering if Alec's cousin thought he was teaching the sixth form not the third.  Alec was also wondering how his cousin expected a third year student to answer that and where had he got his questions from while he'd be travelling?

They got outside for a break and Alec could see Jamie sitting on his own, wondering what was wrong.

"Go talk to him Alec," Rose tried to encourage him.

"He won't talk to me Rose."

"Well ya don't know unless ya try," she replied, giving him a nudge, something Alec thought she liked to do.

Billy had caught up with Jamie before the start of school, thinking he'd have some fun at Jamie's expense.

"Want to know what we all saw last night?" Billy had asked him.

"I expect you'll tell me," Jamie had replied, seeing Rose and Alec talking.

"Me and the others were on the riverbank and those two were sat talking."

"Tell me something new Billy, they are always talking," Jamie told him.

"Alec got up and held his hand out to help Rose up, bet you didn't know that Jamie?" Billy laughed, walking off.

"Did you tell him?" one of Billy's friends asked him.

"What do you think?" Billy grinned as Jamie was looking daggers at Rose and Alec, Alec sitting on the back of the bench just behind Rose and Rose was laughing at something.

Jamie bet anything they were talking about him, that they'd seen Billy and the others and Alec had done it on purpose.  No wonder Alec was out early, he was probably meeting Rose so they could hold hands on the walk to the bus stop.  So Jamie was stood on his own when Alec walked up behind him.

"Will you talk to me Jamie?" Alec asked from behind.

"Go away Alec, I know Rose is your girlfriend," Jamie replied angrily.

"What?  No she's not, she's just my friend," Alec replied.

"Don't deny it Alec, you were seen last night, Rose was taking your hand," Jamie replied, trying to keep his temper.

"I was just helping her up off the grass Jamie," Alec tried to tell him.

"So what were the two of you doing sitting on the riverbank then?" Jamie wanted to know.

"We go down there or sometimes to the park, you don't want to come with us," Alec reminded him.

"Why would I?  You wouldn't talk to her at the library Alec, I thought you weren't interested in girls," Jamie turned to him.

"Jamie, Rose was lost on her first day, I just thought if she'd seen us in the library, she would more likely feel better.  We know now why she was so reluctant to talk."

"That's no excuse Alec, go back to her then."

John could see the two of them talking but kept his distance, going up to Rose instead.

"Trouble?" John asked her.

"No Sir, I told Alec to try to make up with Jamie but I don't think Jamie wants to," Rose replied as Alec walked back.

"He'll come round.  So, Alec said he's invited you to meet his aunt and uncle on Sunday eh?" John grinned.

Rose wondered if he should be talking about that in the school playground.

"Well?" Rose asked Alec as he climbed on the back of the bench as John walked off.

"He won't listen Rose.  Billy saw us last night and told him we were sat on the riverbank and I was helping you up."

"What?  So you were helping me up, big deal," Rose replied as the bell rang.

"My dad and John were right, Jamie's jealous."

"Yeah, seems so to me," Rose replied as they got in line and ignoring Moira and Kristy in the next line, Moira blowing bubbles with her bubble gum and Rose pulling a face.

"What's wrong with you Rose Tyler?" Moira goaded her.  "Don't you have bubble gum in London then?"

"Yeah but we don't look stupid with it," Rose replied, getting her a scowl from John for talking in line.

Some of the others heard and started laughing, the one behind Moira giving her a shove.

"Not so clever now, are you Moira?"

"Shut up Amy," Moira replied as they got inside.

"You lot, get to class," John reminded Moira and the other girl.

"Sir, Rose Tyler started it," Moira replied.

"Stop blaming someone else," John replied, trying not to take sides but he was already sort of doing that though he didn't want to be seen, which was why he kept any talk in the playground to a minimum.

"I'll get that Rose Tyler back," Moira huffed to Kristy, who was wondering if she was now on the wrong side, since Rose had got more followers than Moira had and didn't make a fuss about it.

Kristy had heard everyone talking in the playground and the dining room that Rose was now the one to get friendly with.

"Are you coming Kristy?" Moira shouted as they headed to their next class.

Kristy was trying to get up the courage to say no.

Now Rose and Alec were getting a ride home, hoping no-one had noticed, Rose had time to talk to Sandra for a few minutes and caught her on the way out.

"Sandra, I have something I should tell ya," Rose stopped.

"What's that Rose, getting tired of poor Alec?" Sandra smiled as Alec was talking to someone.

"What?  Oh, no.  It's just, well my mum thinks you're the friend I see after school, or rather my mum's boyfriend thinks that, mum just remembered I told her about Alec.  Sorry but he'll go crazy if I say Alec's my friend and we hang around after school.  Are ya mad at me?"

Sandra just laughed.

"Well you asked for that Rose, so what do you want?"

"I just wanted to warn ya, if ya get asked.  Maybe you can come and visit sometimes?"

"I live in the opposite direction Rose.  Does he think I live nearby?" Sandra asked as they walked towards Alec and trying to ignore Moira staring at them.

"Yeah sorry.  I hang around with Alec until my mum gets home.  She knows about him but she's not told her boyfriend yet, he's a bit strict."

"Poor you.  No, it's okay Rose but I don't think I can come round, sorry."

"Never mind then?  See ya."

"Everything okay Rose?" Alec asked her as she got to him and they walked outside.

"Yeah, I was just asking Sandra to call round but she can't.  I'll have to put Bob off for a while longer."

"Just tell him Rose," Alec suggested.

"Are you kidding Alec?  Want to come with me when I do?"

"Sorry.  Come on, let's go find John."

When John had dropped them off, Rose sat in Alec's kitchen, her head on her hands and resting on the table.

"Sorry for earlier Alec."

"I know Rose, don't worry about it.  I know it's not easy for you."

"Mum's banned me from going out on Sundays."

"You were coming to meet everyone," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah, I can get away with this Sunday but I can't get out of shopping with them on Saturday.  Maybe I can sneak out in the afternoon but I was starting to like meeting on Sundays."

"So was I," he admitted.  "So what did Sandra say?"

"She thought it was funny, lucky for me.  Best get our homework out of the way and what's with John, asking questions like that?"

"I've no idea, honestly, that last one though, does he think we covered the subjects before?"

"I think he's got the lessons mixed up and he's asking the sixth form questions we should be getting," she laughed.

Alec agreed as they sat opposite to get their homework done.  After tea, they went to the park.

"Rose, sorry about Billy and his friends seeing us."

"Alec, it's not your fault, you were just helping me up, what's wrong with that?"

"Jamie thinks I want you to be my girlfriend," Alec admitted, sitting on the back of the bench.

"Seriously?  That's what's wrong with him, he was the one who wanted to talk to me in the library, to ask me to go out with him?"

"Seems like it, sorry.  Rose, if you want to be friends with just him, I don't mind."

"What?  With Jamie, who's been acting like a two year old because you're friends with me?  No thanks.  Anyway, we're only thirteen Alec, we're too young to be thinking of boyfriends and girlfriends, aren't we?"

"Maybe in London?" Alec grinned.

"Shut up," Rose told him, knocking his leg.  "Well come on, get that story with the green bog monsters then?"

Alec got the notebook out of his jacket pocket, since he'd brought it with him when they got stuck on their homework and it took a bit longer than normal.  He walked her back to the apartment and Rose indicated for him to follow her.

"I'd best not Rose."

"Aw, come on Alec, ya can leave when my mum gets back."

"What if he comes back at the same time?  You said he might start finishing early, what if he starts tonight?"

"He won't, come on up, I'll show ya what a good cook I am," Rose laughed as she put the code in the door.

Once in the apartment, Rose went to get everything ready then put a record on.

"Come and dance with me Alec.  Why don't we ever dance at your house?"

"Maybe because you don't like my music Rose," he grinned as she held her hand out.

"I don't mind it but ya can't dance to it," Rose teased him.  "Do ya think we're too young to be more than friends then?"

Alec held her at arms length, not used to dancing.

"You do.  I don't know Rose, are we?  Let's just be friends and we can do more dancing if you want but you normally listen to my story."

"Yeah but ya can read it at the park or by the river."

"Well I suppose so then?  Would you have been friends with Jamie if he'd been the one to help you on your first day at school?"

"Well he didn't, did he?  Shall I tell ya something?" she asked as the music stopped.  "When I saw you both in the library, I was hoping you might come over, not Jamie.  I had an idea you were wanting that book I'd borrowed."

"I didn't want to go over in case you told me to go away and stop staring at you," Alec admitted.

Rose nudged him again then went to put the record away.

"Alec, ya can go before my mum gets back, if ya want?"

"She's already met me now Rose.  Don't let me stop you doing what you should be.  Maybe I should go?"

"If ya want?  See ya tomorrow then?"

"Yes Rose, see you tomorrow and maybe we will dance instead of me reading you my stories?"

"What?  Alec, I still want to hear them, I can't wait to see what happens next.  Does one of them explode on the kitchen wall?" Rose smiled.

"You will have to wait and see Rose," he teased her.

"Bye then, hope ya don't bump into my mum on the way down but she takes the lift, you'll be safe on the stairs."

"Thanks for the warning.  Are you mad at me for saying you should have made friends with Jamie instead of me?"

"No Alec, I'm not mad at you.  You were the one who helped me, not him."

"Yeah, I suppose so?  I'd best go before your mother gets here, she might tell her boyfriend."

"Alec, I'm not tryin' to hide ya from him, it's just I'm scared of what he'll say.  I told ya, I might not be able to get out on Sundays after this week and I hate the idea."

"Me too Rose and I am sorry what I said about Jamie."

"I know Alec, it's okay but you'd been friends a long time, he must be a bit annoyed about it."

"If he was really my friend, he wouldn't be," Alec replied.  "See you in the morning Rose.  Are you allowed to use the phone?" he asked, seeing one on the hallstand.

"I've not asked.  Maybe I could call ya on Sundays if I can't get out?"

"Maybe?  Bye Rose."

"Yeah, bye Alec."

When Alec had gone, him thankfully not bumping into Rose's mother but he thought he'd had a narrow escape as the lift door was just closing as he emerged on the ground floor, Rose was checking the stove and hoping Bob wouldn't beat her mother home.

When her mother was making a drink as she always did, Rose tried to plead her case against being stopped seeing Alec on weekends.

"Rose, I told ya, it's Bob," her mother tried to tell her.  "He doesn't think ya should be missing all weekend, we hardly see ya Rose."

Rose wondered if that meant her mother or Bob? 

"Mum, ya never bothered when we were back home," Rose reminded her.

"Well this is your home now Rose, you know that and I have to go by what Bob says but I'll try and get a bit of leeway but for now, after this Sunday, no sneaking out."

"That's not fair Mum, I'm in every night, I don't get chance to go back out like Alec does."

"Rose, you know what time I get home," her mother reminded her.

"Well I could have my tea at Alec's house and stay out later," Rose replied.

"When it starts getting dark early?" her mother asked.  "Who's gonna do the cooking then?"

"Mum, I could have it all ready for ya to just put on.  Why don't I teach ya?"

"You know what I'm like Rose, I don't want Bob to think I can't cook," her mother replied.

"Well if I have it ready, he won't know, will he?" Rose asked.  "You did okay feeding me."

"I know but men are different Rose, you'll find out one day," her mother replied.  "Maybe in a while but not now, I still want ya back for tea."

Neither Rose or Alec enjoyed Saturday, Rose getting dragged around the supermarket that was newly extended and various other shops and trying to avoid walking next to Bob whenever she could.  Alec didn't feel like doing much so he went to see if John was at home, he knew Peter was never there and had thought he was at university but his aunt had reminded him he was only away at college.

"So, little Cous, what's wrong with you?" John greeted him as he opened the kitchen door.  "Trouble with Jamie still?"

"Yeah, how did you guess?  Is this what it's like to fall out over a girl?" Alec asked him.

"Yeah, we all find out the hard way sooner or later Alec," John replied, ruffling Alec's spiky hair which Alec was beginning to hate.

"I asked Rose if she wanted to stop being my friend and be Jamie's," Alec admitted as he sat down at the kitchen table.

"How did that go?" John grinned, sitting opposite.

"She didn't like the idea.  Billy and some of the others saw us by the riverbank the other night and Billy told Jamie."

John tried his best not to laugh but still spluttered.

"Sorry.  So what was it they told him?"

"It's not funny John.  I was only helping Rose up of the grass."

"So let me get this right.  You held your hand out to help Rose up and you were seen?  You'd best get used to it Alec, she'll be finding all kinds of excuses now."

Alec went all quiet.  Rose already had.  She had grabbed his arm the morning after when she had insisted he said hello to her mother, she had done it after they went out the night before then even worse, she kept nudging him every time he sat on the top of the bench either at school or in the park.

"Alec, if you don't want her to, you have to tell her."

"No, I don't mind, she probably doesn't realise and thinks I'm one of her girl friends.  She probably did it all the time with them."

"Alec, she's trying to tell you something," John grinned.

Chapter 19: Making more of it
Alec looked at his older and obviously wiser than he'd thought cousin.  Why had John been hiding the fact he'd become a teacher and why decide now to put it into practice?  It seemed though that John was the one to go to for advice about girls, since until he'd met Rose he didn't want anything to do with them and he didn't even have Jamie to talk to.

"Well?" John reminded him.  "Do you want her to stop or not?  If you do, you'll have to do it tactfully or she may fall out with you and go on to someone else."

"Well it's not going to be Jamie," Alec insisted, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden.

He heard the room door opening and his aunt came in, probably to make some tea during a programme break.

"Hello Alec.  How are things with you?  Are you still expecting Rose to call round on Sunday?  If so, we'll have lunch a bit earlier then she can have a bit of afternoon tea with us.  Your uncle and I are looking forward to meeting her now."

That was something Alec was dreading.  He'd met Rose's mother, at her insistence and had narrowly escaped after Rose had made him follow her earlier.  John was looking at him with a grin on his face.

"Oh, no need to worry Mum, I'm sure Alec can't wait to introduce her to us, can you Cous?"

Alec wished his older cousin would stop teasing him about being friends with Rose but didn't really expect him to ease up.

"Yes, I hope she'll be able to come and see you Auntie Mary.  Her mum's getting a bit strict though, Rose is going to try to talk to her."

"Well what else has she to do after school and weekends?" his aunt asked as she made some cups of tea.

John wanted to say the both of them sitting by the river but managed to stop himself.

"I think she wants Rose to stay in.  The thing is though that Rose doesn't like staying in, her mother's boyfriend is a bit funny with her."

"Well I expect he's just trying to be a father to her?  If Rose was brought up by her mother, it will be hard for her at first I expect?"

"Mum, Rose is really having trouble at home, isn't she Alec?" John asked him.  "She was very shy at first but she feels more comfortable when she's out."

"Is that so?" John's mother asked him.  "Time you should be going home Alec."

"Come on, I'll walk you home," John insisted, so they could continue their conversation.

"I'm fine John," Alec insisted, knowing what John was up to.

"We didn't finish," John reminded him with a grin.

Alec knew he wasn't going to get out of it.  John would surely continue some other time.  Alec followed his cousin out and they walked to the end of the street.

"Alec, there's no easy way out you know?" John asked him.  "Rose is showing all the classic signs she wants to only be your friend and no-one else's.  Is that what you want?  Do you want her to be friends with anyone else?"

"I don't know John, I've never had a friend like Rose before, have I?  Does she want to be my girlfriend then?"  

John let out a laugh as they crossed the road.

"I think it's heading that way Alec.  Sorry but all the signs are there and you can both ignore them for the time being but they won't go away until you both do something about it.  Want my advice?"

Alec nodded, since he didn't have much choice.

"Just ask her what she wants but try to convince her to maybe wait a while?  You're both only just turned thirteen yet, just be friends for now and you'll both know when the time is right, maybe when you're both approaching fourteen?"

"Yeah?  Maybe, if Rose says anything but should I say anything to her?" Alec wanted to know as they reached the end of his street.

"Oh, I don't think so Alec, Rose will make it clear all by herself but be careful you don't scare her off, yeah?  What's happening at home with her?" John asked, sounding concerned.

"It's her mother's boyfriend, Rose is really scared of him.  She got dragged up here John, she didn't want to move.  She managed to get him to agree to putting a lock on her room door, her mother told him she had one at their old flat.  I get scared for her sometimes."

They had reached Alec's house and John patted his cousin's shoulder.

"Have you talked to your dad about her?"

Alec nodded.  "Yes, I think he's also worried about her.  John, what if something bad happens to her though?"

"You may be worrying over nothing Alec.  If she says anything to you, you should tell me or your dad, we can help her but only if we know about it.  What has she said exactly?"

"I can't say John, I promised her but I'll talk to her.  So what should I do the next time she wants me to help her up or hits my leg in fun?"

John let out a laugh.  "Really Alec?  Help her up and if she nudges you, nudge her back.  How are you both going to manage all next week eh?  Have you been to her place yet?"

"Yes, earlier, she got me to go back with her.  She wanted to dance."

John almost spluttered.   "Alec, Alec, Alec.  You just don't get it, do you?  If I were you, I'd start paying more attention to her."

"I already do but she'd never suggested dancing before, maybe because she doesn't like my music?"

"Then let her bring some of her music round eh?  Are you still reading her your stories?"

"We're leaving it until we go out but we won't be able to soon, when it starts getting dark early.  I'm going to ask my dad if she can go up to my room for a while, he said before about it."

"Well I expect he can trust the both of you?  Really Alec, don't push her into anything, just suggest it eh?  Then see how she takes it.  What about going to her place?"

"I just got out before her mother got back," Alec had to admit.

John had to laugh at the thought.

"I thought you'd met her mother?" he asked.

"Well yes but only to introduce myself and Rose said I didn't have to wait, if I didn't want to."

"Well next time, don't be in such a hurry to leave eh?  Let her mother know you're not trying to hide from her.  Maybe then, she won't stop Rose going out at weekends?  Did Rose say anything to you?"

Alec shook his head.  "No but Rose thinks her mother will ban her seeing me at weekends.  I bet it's not her mother, it's him."

"Maybe so, if he wants to lay down the law?  Just be on her side Alec, that's all you can so, she needs you to be her friend even more now and don't worry, you'll know when things change."

"Thanks John.  So do I carry on letting her get me to help her up and whack my leg?" Alec smiled.

"Oh yes Alec, you just keep doing that and maybe give her one back eh?" John replied.

Alec let out a nervous laugh, as if Rose would let him get away with it?

"Thanks John, see you tomorrow?" he said instead.

"No problemo Cous, see you tomorrow.  Look, why don't you wait at the end of my street and get a ride in?"

"We already get talked about for not getting the bus home, thanks anyway."

"I probably follow the bus you know?" John reminded him.  "Does Jamie still talk about the two of you?"

"We try not to listen to him.  The thing is though, he'd think we were ignoring him even more if we didn't get the bus every morning."

"Alec, face it mate, Jamie's not going to come round that easily, he's in denial that he's jealous of your friendship with Rose.  I'd say right now, it may teach him that you're not playing his game.  Every morning, you and Rose sit near him and every morning, you're both a reminder to him.  Maybe not seeing you will make him realise you're not going to play along?  I'll watch out for you in the morning then?  See what Rose thinks?" 

"Okay, I'll ask her when I call for her," Alec replied.  "Thanks John."

"See you tomorrow and don't worry so much about her eh?  I'm sure Rose's mother won't let anything happen to her."

"I hope not but it doesn't make it right Rose has to live like that."

"I know Alec, she's very lucky to have you as her friend.  Jamie may not be so understanding and Rose may not realise."

"You mean, never mind," Alec stopped.

"Don't worry mate, she won't even think of Jamie being her friend, the way he's acting," John tried to assure him.  "Are you going to let us in?"

"Yeah, sorry.  Don't tell my dad you think Rose might want to be my girlfriend," Alec grinned as he put his key in the door.

"Aw don't worry little Cous, that's up to you to tell him, not me," John joked.

Alec's dad looked up when they went into the living room.

"Hello John.  So that's where you got to Alec?"

"Sorry Dad, I wanted to ask John something.  I think I'll go catch up with my new story."

John had to smile as his younger cousin went off.  Rose had obviously taken over a big part of Alec's life to the point that his stories were no longer more important than anything else, especially since his mother had died.  He thought Alec had sought some kind of comfort in them, an escape from dealing with his mother no longer being there when he got home from school.

He was glad though that he'd taken up his teaching studies again, at least Alec had two friends at school now.   He was sure now Rose had come out of her shell, she would defend him against one and all.  No-one now bothered about Moira and Kristy, they had faded into the background and Kristy wasn't bothering that much.  Rose was the one to be seen talking to, when she wasn't sat on the bench or the grass with Alec.

"So John, anything to tell me about Alec?" his uncle asked him.

"No Sir, I'll leave that to him, he'll tell you, when he's ready.  I'm just glad I could get a job at his school but Rose seems to have cheered him up.  Only a few months ago, he didn't seem to be coping very well over his mother's loss."

"I know John and I was worried about him but I'm less worried now you're back in the picture, he looks up to you.  As for Rose, I know he's now worried about her, at home but I don't know how he's dealing with it but knowing him, if he was bottling it up, he'll maybe talk to you or Rose about it.  She's a very nice girl and once it's dark early and they can't go far, well there will have to be a few rules imposed."

"I know, I remember them well," John laughed.  "Can't say about my brother though, maybe that's why he never comes home?"

"Have you not heard from him?"

"Not recently unless he phones mum.  Right, best be off, see you both on Sunday and I hope Rose will be able to join us, Alec said something earlier.  I think her mother's objecting to Rose spending all her time with Alec.  I joked with him earlier he'd better watch out."

"Yes, I think he'd better," his uncle agreed.  "That's what the rules will be about but I did warn him the first time Rose was here when I got home.  Still, they're a bit young to be worrying about that yet."

"We'd best hope so," John had to agree.

The next morning, Alec suggested to Rose they walked to the corner of John's street and get a ride in and Rose had to agree.

"Yeah, I'm getting a bit tired of Jamie staring at our backs.  Won't it make him worse though?"

"I don't think so Rose, John thinks it will stop Jamie thinking we are playing his game."

"Well I hope so.  I thought we only just got away with sneaking into your cousin's car on the way home," Rose joked.

John stopped to let them in, Alec going in the front and making John smile.

"So Rose, how's things at home?" John asked her.

"About the same.  Mum's trying to stop me going out at weekends except shopping with them but I think it's Bob's idea.  I'm old enough now to decide what I want to do with my spare time."

"Yes you are Rose," John had to agree.  "Maybe there's a reason for it though?"

"Yeah, as if I don't think Bob's creepy enough, she's tryin' to make me spend time with him at weekends.  I can't do it though so I'll have to get mum to try to make him understand I'm not a little kid."

John could already see where this was going and Alec was right to be concerned about her.

"Rose, you can talk to me just as you can to Alec, you know that, right?" John asked her as they neared the school and seeing all the buses.  "Right, you two sneak out while everyone's busy."

"Yeah, thanks John.  Come on Alec, let's sneak to the shop, I have some spare money now."

"Rose Tyler, are you still getting bus fare from your mother?" John tried to sound shocked.

"Well, I have to get home if you're not there or your car breaks down," Rose defended herself but John saw her smiling.

"That's very sensible Rose.  See you both later then?" he called after them as they headed for the shop but not being able to get in right away as the sensible shopkeeper only allowed four pupils in at a time, then only if they were buying.

Rose handed Alec some change.

"Might as well get yourself something for break time," she suggested.

"Rose, I don't need your money today.  I can't do the same as you though, I told dad I was getting a ride home because John or my aunt would have said something to him."

"Well I can't tell my mum, she'd go mad.  Well no-one seemed to notice us getting out of John's car."

Alec agreed, it had been better than trying to guess if Jamie was complaining to Billy and the others that they were ignoring him but hadn't the others got tired of him by now?  How long was his former friend going to hold a grudge?  If it was until Rose stopped being friends, Jamie was in for a long wait as Rose grabbed his arm and pulled him inside as two boys came out.

"Well if it's not Alec Hardy?" one of the boys sneered, Rose trying to get past them.  "Missing your mum?"

"You oaf, leave him alone," Rose defended him, Alec trying to get past her.

"Need your friend from London to defend you?"

"Shut up Campbell," Alec replied.  "You don't want to mess with her, didn't you hear what happened to Moira and Kristy?"

"It's okay Alec, maybe word's not got around to the first years yet?"

"We're not in the first year's," the boy replied as his friends watched.

"Oh, my mistake, you act like you're in the first year," Rose replied, trying not to laugh but his friends were dying to.  "Sure you should be out on our own?"

The rest of them did start laughing, getting them a scowl.

"Come on Alec, we don't have time for the wee babies around here," Rose mocked, pushing past the offender.

"Shut up you lot," the boy complained as they all laughed as Alec pulled Rose into the shop as she was about to start again.

Rose went to the counter and got a bar of chocolate for later and Alec got a can of soda, figuring they could share.

"You're asking for trouble with them Rose, they are a year above us," Alec reminded her as they paid for their things.

"So?  I've dealt with worse than them before and I'd say I have the advantage."

"What's that?" Alec dared ask as they left the shop but wouldn't have time to sit and talk like they usually did.

"I grew up on a tough London council estate," Rose grinned.

"Well they seem to have gone and even his friends thought it was funny, him being shown up by a girl.  Even Moira wouldn't have gone up against anyone older, she liked to pick on the younger ones."

"Well I don't pick on anyone for the fun of it," Rose replied, putting the chocolate in her bag.  "I just stand up for myself and my friends Alec, I don't let anyone walk all over me."

"Neither do I Rose and I don't go around making trouble either, I just stuck up for you," Alec replied.  "Thanks anyway, no-one else has brought that up about my mum."

"Yeah, well that was low even for a bully, there was no need for that.  It was different with me, I never knew my dad and no-one bothered, there were plenty single parent kids at my old school.  Did he upset ya?"  Alec shook his head.  "Good, 'cos it's not worth get upset about, he's a big coward.  Is Campbell his first or second name?"

"I don't exactly know Rose, I don't care either, I just remember him when he picked on Jamie once."

"Alec, I'm sorry I came between you and Jamie," Rose apologized, touching his arm as they went inside the school.

"It's okay Rose, if he'd not fallen out with me over you, it would have been someone else and it could have been me falling out with him, if he'd made friends with you or someone else."

Rose had to smile as they walked up the steps.

"So ya'd have got jealous if I'd made friends with Jamie?" Rose laughed.

"I know what you're doing Rose," he whispered, seeing her smile as they took their seats.

After school, Rose suggested they went to her place first and get some records.

"Are you trying to tell me you don't like mine?" Alec wondered as he followed her upstairs.  "Anyway, maybe after the holidays, it will be getting dark early, you can leave them in my room, if you want?"

"Yeah, good idea.  So I'll just bring a few for now or we won't get our homework done.  Maybe your dad will let us go to your room when we have to stay in?"

"My dad was going to talk to me about that but we can still go out for now.  I'll have to see what he has to say about it."

Rose already had an idea what that was going to be about, getting warned that his dad wouldn't stand any nonsense once they started staying in and she had figured Bob was trying the same with this not going off at weekends lark, which she was going to defy anyway, one way or another.

On their way to Alec's a bit later than usual, Rose decided not to say anything but Alec brought the subject up.

"So can't you come round any more on Sundays?"

"Bob thinks he's gonna stop me but I'm sure mum will talk him round.  He can't force me to stay in but I think he's just trying to lay down the law.  Anyway, we have all next week."

"Yes, we do, which is why you need to meet my aunt but we could have gone round one evening," Alec reminded her.

"Yeah but we wouldn't be able to go out then.  Alec, the other evening by the river, was someone across the other side?"

"Billy and his mates, don't worry about them."

"They saw ya helping me up and made something out of it?"

"It was nothing Rose, really, they'll get over it."

"They didn't think it was nothing though, did they?" Rose asked him.

"I was only helping you up Rose, no big deal.  Come on, we'll have to rush our homework now."

"Well maybe we should start doing it at my place?" she suggested.

"What if your mum or Bob get home early?  Are you still using Sandra as an excuse?"

"It's not come up lately," Rose grinned as they reached his house.

Rose had been thinking about him helping her up from the grass and earlier, when they'd shared the chocolate and soda on their afternoon break.  No-one had been taking any notice of them but she thought Jamie would have been, it was adding more fuel to the fire.  Was she making more of it than Alec was though?

Chapter 20: Becoming more than friends

After Alec walked her home again, having gone to the park, Rose was waiting to talk to her mother.  Jackie though didn’t seem in the mood for talking, especially about Bob’s rules.

“Leave it a few weeks Rose will ya?” her mother asked her.

“Mum, I’m going to meet his family on Sunday, it’s all been arranged.  I’ve already met his cousin,” Rose told her, not wanting to reveal John was a teacher.

“Well there’s no way I can stop ya this weekend I suppose?”

“Mum, you and Bob never get any time alone,” Rose tried to suggest.  “I thought I was doing ya a favour by going out?”

Her mother let out a laugh.

“Well that might work with me but not him.  He wants us to be a family Rose, what’s wrong with that?”

Rose thought nothing, it depended on what his idea of a family was.

“Mum, just tell me, does he want to adopt me, are ya getting married?”

“Rose, we’ve not even talked about it yet,” her mother insisted.

“But ya will, sooner or later,” Rose insisted, stirring the contents in the saucepan.

“Not just yet Rose and if we do, you have no say in it, it’s between me and Bob.  If we do, we’re doing it partly for you, so you have a proper home.”

“We managed all that time Mum,” Rose reminded her.  “Alec’s mum died recently, he’s gettin’ over it and I think I’m partly responsible.  He had another friend but since Alec made friends with me, he backed off so if ya stop me seeing Alec at weekends, you’re taking me away from him.  Please Mum, talk to Bob about it but don’t tell him about Alec, not yet.”

Rose heard the door opening and went quiet, hoping her mother wouldn’t repeat what had just been said.

“Jackie love, something smells good.  Are you teaching Rose here a thing or two?” Bob laughed.

Rose was not happy, since she did all the hard work and her mother got the praise.  Of course, Jackie took the praise as usual.

“Yeah Bob, she’s not doing bad,” she agreed.

“See Rose, we’ll make a cook out of you yet.  Maybe on Sunday afternoons, you can take a few more lessons eh?”

Rose wondered what happened to spending time as a family. 

“Actually Bob, Rose already had plans this Sunday with her friend,” Jackie replied.

“Has she now?  Does that include bringing your friend to meet us Rose?” Bob asked her.

“She’s a bit shy,” Rose tried to bluff.  “That’s why I’m going over to meet the rest of her family.  Maybe if I spend a few Sunday afternoons with them, she might wonder what all the fuss is about?”

“Maybe so but remember what I told you?  This week only Rose, then spend some time with me and your mum eh?” Bob replied, Rose thinking it wasn’t a request.

“Well can’t I go out later then?”

“Don’t push your luck Rose,” Bob warned her, putting his arm around her mother.

“Aw, go easy on her Bob,” Jackie encouraged him.

“We’ll see love, that depends on what we talked about,” Bob replied.

Rose dreaded to think what that was but it had to involve her.  She’d not said anything to Alec about it but she was getting awful feelings every time Bob looked at her and staying in every Sunday would make things even worse.  Maybe she should talk to Alec’s dad or John about it?  She didn’t like where this was going one bit.

Before Rose or Alec knew it, the weekend came around and as Alec took her home on Friday evening, he asked if she could sneak out to the library when she returned from shopping.

“Alec, I’m barely getting away with meeting your aunt on Sunday,” she grinned as they stood outside.  “Not coming upstairs?”

“Your mum might catch me Rose, I barely got away with it the last time.”

Rose took his arm and began running her other hand up and down it and Alec knew what she was trying to do.  

“We have a while before she comes home and what if she does catch ya?”

“She might stop you meeting me altogether,” Alec replied, trying to get out of it.

“No she won’t, I’m off all next week and she’s at work.  Besides, I’m tryin’ to get her to get Bob to not put a ban on going out on Sundays.  Let me see how it goes, yeah?” she grinned at him and not bothering to move her hand from his arm.

Alec thought maybe John was right after all, she was starting to do things without even thinking about it.

“Okay, I’ll come up for a few minutes but if she catches me, you can do the explaining,” he relented as Rose finally let go to put the code in the door.

Luckily for Alec, Rose let him go with a few minutes to spare after she made an excuse to put yet another record on and he knew if she kept doing that, she’d keep all the slow ones here on purpose.  He dreaded to think later on in the year when they had the school disco that she’d drag him along though he had escaped last year since Jamie hadn’t wanted to go.

Saturday morning, Alec had gone to the local shops with his dad and Rose had been dragged into the town centre, then when they got back and made some lunch, Rose tried to excuse herself to the library.

“You have all next week,” Bob reminded her as he found the football on TV.

“Well I’m off to my room then, it was bad enough that Mickey used to come round to the old flat and watch the match.”

Once she had gone, Bob turned to Jackie.

“So this Mickey she talks about?” 

“They grew up together Bob, he’s older and used to watch out for her, until she was twelve and she started tormenting him,” Jackie had to laugh.

“Has she made any friends other than this Sandra at school?” Bob wanted to know.  “You’d tell me if there were any boys she’s made friends with, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, ‘course I would Bob, she’s not mentioned anyone in particular though,” she tried to bluff.  “She’s mentioned some she gets on the bus with.” 

“Well it’s time we met some of them, especially this Sandra, I hope Rose isn’t making her up?”

“She’s had imaginary friends before Bob but when she was younger.  She just misses her old friends she used to hang around with, that’s all.”

“Well if she mentions a boy, you had better tell me Jackie, don’t forget what we talked about eh?”

“I know Bob, you only want what’s best for Rose, she’ll see you’re right when the time comes.  She asked me again if ya want to adopt her, she seems keen,” Jackie tried to bluff, leaving out the getting married bit, since they’d never discussed it.

“Good, I want her to be keen on what I’ve got planned,” Bob replied, going quiet as the second half of the match began.

Jackie sat back, she didn’t particularly like football but since Bob did, she had little choice.  She knew Bob was still a bit annoyed at putting his plans back but what else could she do but to agree when the time came that Rose would go along with what she suggested was best for her regarding Bob.  The only reason she’d put it off so far was for Rose to get used to having a father-figure around.

Little did Jackie know that Rose had two more far reliable men around to try to guide her in the form of Alec’s dad and his cousin John.

Rose was annoyed she couldn’t sneak out and was also annoyed that she used to get away with everything until Bob had come along and he was spoiling it.  Now she had Alec as a friend, she wanted to spend more time with him and when going out on Sunday afternoons had worked, that was more time they got to go to the river or the park though Alec hadn’t said he was getting bored with the two places they stuck to.

Alec’s dad was keeping an eye on him as he sat at the dining table and pretending to think about his latest story.

“Stuck?” his dad laughed as he watched the sports news programme.

“A bit, I want to bring something Rose mentioned into this one, it’s sort of a re-telling of one of my old ones but she thought it would be funny and she was a bit disappointed it didn’t happen when I read the other one to her,” Alec tried to explain.

His dad had to smile.  He’d been talking with John again and knew Alec spent all his time at school with Rose and he was no nearer making up with Jamie.

So Alec set about with his green ‘bog monsters’ as Rose called them and altered his original story but now had the idea to introduce a new companion for his main character and call her Rose, it would please her no end and maybe bring her old friend Mickey into it as the one who got covered with green slime.  He did wonder if he should have her mother there for some reason and she got some of it but would Rose laugh or slap him?  Maybe he’d make it that her mother thought Rose had got kidnapped and her mother wasn’t happy when she found out Rose had gone off with a time-traveller?

He wished though that Rose was calling round today but his time for writing was getting less and less, since they stayed out longer now she’d got him going up to her flat as well.  He was thankful they’d not run into Billy and his mates, they were bad enough at school though they seemed to tease Jamie more than they did himself and Rose.

Sunday morning, Rose went to start lunch early, wanting to get away to catch Alec before he left for his aunts but since he’d said they ate there, she thought maybe she’d best leave it until around four as Alec had mentioned his aunt was inviting her to have tea with them.

“So, you can cook without being asked?” Bob mused as Rose headed for the kitchen.  “You’ve taught her well Jackie.”

“Well she’s old enough now, aren’t you Rose?” her mother asked.

Rose thought her mother had a bit of a cheek really but answering back would only get her grounded for the afternoon and yesterday had been bad enough.  She wondered if Alec had started his new story yet but he wouldn’t read it to her until he’d finished it, unless she did a sway in front of him or rubbed his arm like the other night, he seemed to have given in easily when she’d done that and meant to keep using it.

She had wondered why it had worked though and if she kept doing it he’d either tell her to stop of just let her carry on.  She hadn’t told him that Sandra had given her some advice in the girls room as they had time now John was taking herself and Alec home.  As she tended what was in the oven, she thought about what Sandra had said.

“Trust me Rose, my older cousin gave me some tips about boys,” Sandra had laughed as they stared into the mirror.  “You can get Alec to do anything you want, did you try swaying at him yet?”

Rose had felt herself blushing at the thought of the effect it had on him the night before.

“See, told you,” Sandra had laughed.  “Well don’t keep him waiting then.  You’re not getting the bus, are you?”

“What makes ya think that?” Rose had replied, thinking they’d been found out.

“I heard Billy saying,” Sandra replied.

“Alec’s cousin works nearby and gets out at the same time, that’s all,” Rose admitted, hoping her friend wouldn’t work it out.

Alec was getting nervous though of introducing Rose to his aunt and uncle and if his other cousin had decided to pay a rare visit home, he’d never hear the end of it.

“Alec, don’t look so worried,” his dad was telling him as they set off.

“I’m only worried she won’t be allowed out Dad.  She said she’s being made to stay in after today on Sundays.”

“I know you worry about her Alec, we all do but we can’t interfere unless it’s something serious.  If she was really in trouble, John and I will talk to her about it but such as being made to stay in?  Her mother must have a reason?”

“Rose said it’s not her mother who’s stopping her,” Alec replied as they crossed the road, him glancing in the direction Rose would come from.

His dad noticed.  “It’s a bit early for Rose,” he smiled.  “So how many times have you met her mother eh?”

“Only once Dad, I leave before she gets home, I don’t want to cause any more trouble for Rose,” Alec replied.

“That’s very considerate of you Alec but her mother has to get used to you, maybe if she does, she’ll let Rose out at weekends, I mean if she feels she can trust you."

“Maybe then?” Alec wondered as they reached his aunt’s house.  “Next time she asks me, I’ll think about it.”

“Aye, you do that Alec,” his dad smiled as he knocked on the door.

It was John who answered, letting them in and stopping Alec.

“I’m surprised Rose isn’t early little Cous,” John laughed as he went to ruffle Alec’s hair and Alec wishing he’d stop doing that since he half expected Rose to start doing it, along with rubbing his arm and swaying in front of him.

Why was he even letting her do things like that anyway?  John had mentioned Rose would show some signs but it was like she just did them suddenly, giving him no warning as to what to expect.  He recovered slightly to answer John.

“She’s coming round later John, remember?”

“Take no notice Alec,” his aunt smiled as she checked lunch was almost ready.  “You could have invited her for lunch I suppose?”

“I don’t think she would have been able to get away for lunch,” Alec replied.  “Her mum said she can’t go out any more on Sundays after today.”

“Oh, that’s a shame then,” his aunt replied.  “Maybe you should try calling for her, she might be able to go out then?”

“Good idea Mum,” John agreed, standing opposite Alec.  “What do you think Alec?”

Alec thought it was bad enough calling when just her mother was there, let alone her mother’s boyfriend.

“I don’t think Rose wants her mother’s boyfriend to know about me yet,” Alec replied.

“That’s a shame Alec,” his aunt replied.  “Still, the time will come, eventually.

“I don’t know about that Auntie Mary, he’s a bit off with her, Rose doesn’t feel comfortable with him.”

“I’m sure your aunt doesn’t want to hear Rose’s problems,” his dad reminded him.

“Well if she’s coming round with you next week Alec, I expect I’ll hear some of them,” his aunt disagreed.

“Rose is very unsure at the moment Mary,” Alec’s dad tried to explain.  “She’s making the best of a difficult situation, John’s keeping an eye on her at school, thankfully and if he has any concerns, then we should try to help her.”

“You can count on our help,” Alec’s aunt replied.  “Well come on then, Alec, set the table will you?”

John went to help him.

“Nervous little Cous?” John nudged him, which didn’t feel the same as when Rose did it.  “So, anything to tell me yet?” he winked.  “Did you nudge her back yet maybe?”

“Stop teasing me John.  What you said, about her showing signs?”

“Well, has she, started showing signs I mean?” John tried not to laugh.

“I think she may be doing, like when she wants me to agree to something,” Alec had to admit.

“Really?  Such as?” John wanted to know as they set the places on the dining table in the lounge, Alec wondering where his uncle was.

“She wanted me to go up to her flat on Friday evening and when I hesitated, she took my arm and started rubbing her hand on it.”

John almost dropped the remaining knives and forks as he spluttered.

“Alec, mate, I think she is definitely trying to tell you something,” he laughed.

“Then tell me what she’s trying to say?  I followed her and she insisted we danced again, even though she took some records to my house.”

John tried to keep a straight face but was failing.

“Sorry Alec, you’ll just have to find out for yourself mate but let me tell you one thing though.  Just go along with her but don’t give in too easily eh?  If you give in too easily, it may put her off.  So let her nudge you now and then and nudge her back and when she drags you by the arm or hand, try keeping up.  She’ll start to tell you Alec, when she’s ready.”

“So I just wait then?” Alec asked him.

“Seems so Cous,” John smiled as the others came in.

Alec’s aunt had been wanting to know what to expect when Rose called for Alec and his dad had tried to explain the situation with Rose’s mother’s boyfriend, since Alec’s uncle also wanted to know.

“We’ll help all we can,” Alec’s aunt had assured his dad.

“Well she doesn’t feel safe where her mother’s boyfriend is concerned, she managed to get a lock on her room door at least but it’s the way she says he watches her and wants her around. It could be nothing.”

“Well if she tells me anything, I’ll let you or John know,” Alec’s aunt replied.  “Best get lunch or we’ll be eating when she arrives.”

“Seems like our young nephew is pretty keen on her meeting us,” Alec’s uncle joined in.

“I think he feels better knowing someone else cares about what happens to her,” Alec’s dad told him.

“Aye, I think our Alec’s about to find himself being her boyfriend,” his uncle laughed.

Alec’s dad and his aunt joined in, it seemed so indeed the way Alec was seeking advice from his older cousin and his dad was just relieved Alec hadn’t found out yet because when he did, the fun would start.

Rose was also getting nervous, going to her room after clearing the dishes from lunch and watching the time.  She was about to leave when Bob called her back.

“So, meeting your friend?” he asked her, Rose thinking it was a bit of a stupid question.

“Yeah, gotta go meet her, I don’t know how long I’ll be.”

“What about teatime?” her mother asked her.

“I told ya mum, I’ve been invited out for tea so don’t wait for me,” Rose replied.

“Rose, ask your friend to come back with you?” Bob suggested.

“I don’t know, she’s a bit shy,” Rose tried to bluff.

“Rose, you’re not trying to hide anything, like you are seeing a boy?” Bob asked her.

“I said I was meeting my friend, Sandra,” Rose sighed, thinking now, she’d have to rush but they wouldn’t expect her on time, would they?

Maybe Alec would get anxious and set off to meet her?  She’d noticed a change in him the last few days when she had been trying to get him to do things.  Was he playing at being shy or just the prospect of meeting her mother and Bob?  Well with Bob, he was right to be worried.

She finally got out and rushed around to where Alec’s aunt and uncle lived, at least she already knew John but if Alec’s other cousin was paying a visit home, she’d also have to meet him.  Alec was sitting in the kitchen, making everyone smile at his keenness to greet Rose.

“I already told you,” John was bragging as he glanced through the open kitchen door.  “He’ll have to admit it sooner or later, since Rose is just the same when he’s around.”

“Well you have the advantage,” John’s dad told him.  “You see them at school.”

“They’ll realise, eventually,” Alec’s dad agreed.  “I’ll have to remind Alec of a few things, since she’ll be spending more time with him.”

“Surely they’re a bit young to be serious?” Alec’s aunt wondered.

“You can never tell these days Mary,” her husband replied as he came out from behind his Sunday newspaper.

“Well from what I’ve seen, I think Rose has already begun to realise,” John told them.  

Alec was up like a shot when there was a tap on the kitchen door, more so than when she’d called for him before and he’d gone out.  This time, he had to let her in and introduce her and he hoped he’d do it better than she had done introducing him to her mother.

“Hi Rose,” he greeted her, seeing her step back as he opened the door.

“Hi, am I a bit late?  Bob decided to say something as I was leaving," Rose told him.

“No, you’re not late Rose, come in.”

It all went better than Rose or Alec expected as his aunt made a fuss over Rose and wanted to know all about where Rose came from and when she was growing up, which got her all flustered since Alec didn’t know some of it.

“So it was difficult when you were told you were moving?” Alec’s aunt asked her as Rose offered to help her make some sandwiches.

“Yeah, a bit, I miss my old friends.  Did Alec tell ya we used to see each other in the library?” Rose smiled.

“Yes, I wondered why he was finding excuses to go,” his aunt laughed.

“I know his mum died recently Mrs Smith, I know that’s why he looked all sad when I used to see him.  I grew up with just my mum, I know what he’s going through.”

“I know you do dearie, he’s been better since he made friends with you but it’s sad Jamie fell out with him over it."

“I told Alec I was sorry that happened,” Rose replied.  “I wish I could get Jamie to see he shouldn’t make Alec choose between his friends.”

“Take my advice Rose, Alec chose to be friends with you, he thought you were all on your own like he was and Jamie could have remained his friend if he’d wanted to.  Just carry on being his friend, that’s all you can do and Jamie will come round, if he wants to."

“Yeah, I suppose so?  I just feel like if I’d not come here, they’d still be friends,” Rose told her.

“Well it seems to me Alec’s glad you came here,” his aunt smiled, picking up a plate of sandwiches.  “What about now Rose, are you glad you came here and made friends with Alec?”

Rose wasn’t sure what she was getting at, first Sandra had given her some advice and now Alec’s aunt was smiling at the thought of her and Alec being friends.  Was everyone suddenly getting the idea she wanted Alec to be her boyfriend?  If so, what did Alec think about it and were they ready for that?

Chapter 21: More worries
Rose wasn't so anxious as she set off to meet Alec the next morning.  They had agreed to meet on the corner, since her mother would already be out but she was planning on getting back reasonably early so he would be there when her mother got home, since they'd talked about it on the way back the night before.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Alec complained as they stood outside.

"She's not gonna bite Alec," Rose had grinned.  "Ya don't have to wait for Bob coming home."

Alec had shuddered at the thought.  So now, he was waiting for her on the corner when he saw Jamie and his mother going to the bus stop, the one he and Rose used to use.  Jamie's mother was nudging him.

"Why aren't you talking to Alec?" she wanted to know.

"Because he made friends with a girl called Rose," Jamie admitted, making his mother smile.

Alec was glad to be avoided but felt himself smiling when Rose came around the corner.  What was she doing to him?  Now, he wasn't that bothered Jamie was ignoring him and maybe Rose was right, he should at least stop and say hello to her mother.  He still missed his own but Rose was beginning to fill the gap.

As the week went on, Rose had found it easy to get along with Alec's aunt, offering to help with lunch and then they would go venture further than the park and down the riverbank.  By the end of the week, Rose had somehow got him to hold her hand when no-one was around and even if they'd been spotted, Alec didn't think Rose would bother too much.

It was Friday afternoon and they were walking back to Alec's house and he was trying to find out if the ban was still enforced on them meeting at the weekend.

"I'm working on it Alec," Rose tried to assure him.  "I hinted to Bob that if he wanted to meet my friends, I had to work on it."

"So what did he say?" Alec wanted to know.

"He's still arguing I should spend time with them.  I'll have to stay in tomorrow but I'm gonna try to get out on Sunday.  The thing is though, I'll still have to say it's Sandra."

"I don't like you having to cover up who you're meeting Rose," Alec told her.

"Then I'll have to tell him and see how it goes, are ya ready for that?" she asked him as they reached his house.  "Maybe we should talk to your dad or John about it?  So, am I allowed in your room again?"

"Dad says we had better be downstairs when he gets home," Alec reminded her.

Rose just grinned as she took her jacket off once in the house.

"Well we can always dance down here?" she suggested, doing her sway in front of him.

"So we dance again and I read my story later?  I have a surprise for you, it'll be ready soon."

"A new story!  Why didn't ya say?" she asked flinging her arms around his neck.  "Wow, that's great.  So why not tell me?"

"Well it's a surprise, since you gave me the idea?"

"I did?  Really?  Is it about those green bog monsters, what was their name?"

"The Slitheen?  I can't tell you Rose but you'll like it.  I made up a new companion as well."

"Wow, you really kept that quiet," she teased him, ruffling his hair and Alec wondering when she'd started doing that.

He knew what she'd been doing all week – exactly what John had predicted and last night, her mother had actually not bothered he was in the kitchen as Rose started preparing the food.  She'd asked him why he'd not stayed before.

"So, Alec, I hope you're not just gonna stay once?"

"No Mrs Tyler, Rose just wanted me to say hello to you the first few times.  Is there any chance she can come to tea at my aunt's again on Sunday?"

"I'll have to ask but she was supposed to be staying in."

"It won't be until late afternoon," Alec had tried to tell her.

"We'll have to see how it goes then," Jackie had told him.

So when Alec had reminded Rose, she was still waiting for an answer after her mother had mentioned it to Bob, hoping her mother wouldn't slip up and say it wasn't with Sandra.  She'd been talking to Rose in the kitchen and Rose had pleaded with her to go along it was Sandra she was going to see.

"I know that Rose but he'll find out," her mother had insisted.  "How much longer can ya hold off not bringing her around?"

Rose had thought that was never going to happen, well not with Sandra anyway, Alec might stand more of a chance but Bob would probably scare him away, then she would lose him as a friend.

So now, they were in Alec's room, Rose dancing around him to a catchy tune and him watching her while holding her hand.

"Aw come on Alec, ya don't have to just stand there," she teased him.

"Well you are making all the moves," Alec had to laugh.

"Want me to slow down?"

"I never said that," Alec replied, knowing she was teasing him.  "Don't forget to ask your mum tonight, about Sunday."

"I said I'd try Alec.  You've no idea how things would be if she told him my friend wasn't a girl.  So are ya gonna go see John then?"

"About staying more than five minutes when your mum gets home?  It was bad enough last night Rose."

"Aw, ya survived," Rose reminded him.

"Yes, just.  I think Bob may have been going up in the lift as I used the stairs."

"Ya had a narrow escape then?" Rose laughed.

"What would he do, if he found out?"

"I dread to think," Rose replied, letting go and sitting on the chair.

Alec sat on the edge of his bed.

"Don't think about it Rose.  What has he been saying?"

"Nothing, it doesn't matter.  We'd better go downstairs."

Alec got up suddenly, standing in front of her.

"Tell me Rose, I want to help you."

"I know you do Alec but you can't."

"Don't say that Rose.  You've not said anything about him for a while."

"I didn't want to bother ya.  I'll try and go to your aunt's on Sunday, honestly."

Alec still stood in her way.  "Tell me what's wrong Rose."

"Nothing."  She saw the look on his face.  "Bob wanted me to bring Sandra round, which I'd never do."

"Why are you so scared of him?  Is he so bad?"

"I got him to put a lock on my door Alec, remember?  You want to know?  I hate being there and the thought of my mum leaving me with him, okay?"

Alec put his hand on her shoulder.

"Rose, you need to speak to my dad.  What if she were to leave you?"

"I don't know Alec, maybe it's just me?"

"Maybe it's not?  Would he object to me being your friend?"

"Ya can bet on it Alec," Rose replied, trying to get up.

"I'm just worried at meeting him, maybe I should try?"

"Then let me talk to my mum first, she's trying to still make him think I'm meeting Sandra."

Alec saw she was trying to smile at the thought.  They went downstairs and waited for Alec's dad coming home, then Alec told him.

"Alec, you should wait and introduce yourself to him, prove that Rose really does have a friend.  Rose, can you not get your friend Sandra to visit?"

"No, she lives at the other side of town.  Now Bob will know I lied about it."

"Well, why not ask John to pick her up and bring her over?" Alec's dad suggested.

"She'd know John was Alec's cousin then, no-one knows.  I don't want either of them to get into trouble over it."

"Then I will go with you, maybe next Sunday, what do you think Alec?"

Alec would do anything to help his friend.

"Rose, that would be a good idea," Alec agreed.

"No, I have to tell him the truth or say we fell out.  She won't be keen on the idea."

"That's very brave of you Rose," Alec's dad told her.  "What will he say if Alec introduces himself?"

"I don't know, let me tell him first before Alec meets him."

After they had eaten, they went for a walk even though it was almost dark.

"We should start staying in now," Alec suggested.

"Yeah or go to my place?  Want to go now?"

"How many records do you have left?" Alec teased her.

"This is your chance Alec, to talk to my mum."

Alec wished she wouldn't remind him.  Jackie seemed better around him so before he left, Rose tried to explain to her she was going to admit Alec was her friend, not Sandra.

"Do ya think he'll be mad?" Rose dared asked her as Alec was about to leave.

"Well, ya can try, I dunno what he'll say.  Let me talk to him tonight, yeah?  You should stay in this Sunday Rose, the week after, he might let ya go out a bit later, if ya tell him where ya really going."

"That sounds like a good idea," Alec agreed.  "I'd best go now, see you on Monday?"

Rose didn't like the idea of that, having to put up with Bob all weekend.  Alec knew she was worried.  His dad noticed when he got home.

"Did you talk to Rose's mum?"

"Yes Dad but I don't think Rose can go out this Sunday.  Her mother thinks if Rose leaves it this week, she might be able to the week after."

"That's good then.  Alec, try not to worry too much eh?  It could be nothing but Rose getting used to having someone around who wants to act like her dad."

Alec hoped that's all it was but it had got Rose worried.  If Rose was worried, then so was he.  While Rose, her mother and Bob were eating, Rose decided to test the waters, so to speak.

"I wanted to ask ya if ya'd changed ya mind about me going out on Sunday," Rose spoke up.

"Leave it Rose," her mother asked her.

"It's okay Jackie, let her speak.  I'm doing for your own good Rose."

"All my other friends go out when they want and I spend all evening with the both of ya."

"She has a point Bob," her mother agreed.

"Well her friends should have more respect for their parents.  I told you Rose, you can invite your friends over here."

Rose thought that was rather defeating the object.

"Well I don't think Sandra will want to but I've got another friend who's already met mum, haven't I Mum?"

Jackie thought she was supposed to be keeping that quiet.

"So, who's this friend, another girl?" Bob wanted to know.

"No, he's called Alec, he helped me settle in my new school."

"What are you doing hanging around with a boy?" Bob asked angrily.  "Jackie, did you know about this?"

"Well yeah, I met him but Rose didn't say much," Jackie defended herself.

"Well I don't want you hanging around with a boy, understand?  Jackie, I want you to make sure.  Is that where you intend going this week?"

Rose started to get up.

"Answer me Rose.  Was this Sandra just an excuse?"

"No, I do have a friend called Sandra.  What's wrong with having a boy as a friend?"

"I don't want to hear any more Rose and no sneaking out at weekends."

Now Rose knew it was him and not her mother who had her grounded.  She had hoped it was just her mother but the look on Bob's face told her differently.

"Jackie, we need to talk.  Rose, go to your room if you don't want to hear," Bob advised her.

Rose was glad of the choice, she didn't want to hear their discussion.

"So Jackie, you knew about this boy?" Bob asked her.

"Well he had the manners to introduce himself," Jackie replied, not wanting to say exactly when.  "She had friends at her old school, she just misses them."

"That's no excuse Jackie, we talked about Rose and boys," he reminded her.  "You know I only agreed for one reason, why we waited."

Jackie didn't want to be reminded but she had gone along to a certain extent, having thought that at last, she'd found a man who was interested in her daughter's welfare but some of what they had discussed seemed a little odd.  She had no idea what things would have turned out like if Pete hadn't been knocked down by a car that day at a friends' wedding.

None of the other men she'd dated wanted to take responsibility for Rose, not that she had wanted them to anyway but Bob was so different and Rose would just have to accept it.  She had wondered if he was ever going to get around to mentioning marriage but it hadn't been that long really, maybe it was a bit soon?  She had to still pretend Rose was keen on the idea, even though she'd just shown otherwise.

All she could do was try to keep Rose away from Alec outside school and weekends, she could do nothing about after school though and holidays, since it had saved her some money Rose going out for lunch every day.  At least Alec had made the effort to introduce himself though but she couldn't be seen agreeing Rose could spend time with him.

"Yeah Bob, I know I agreed and I still do but she needs time and friends."

"I know she needs friends but she can see them at school and you talk to her, I want to hear no more about this boy, understood?"

"I'll try talking to her Bob, she didn't want anything to do with boys before, maybe she doesn't even realize?"

"I hope that's the case Jackie or I may have to have a re-think about what we talked about, you don't want that, do you?"

Jackie shook her head.  She'd had no choice, Bob was giving them a new life away from the rough council estate Rose had grown up on.  Rose had got into a better school, well barely and it would look better on her records than the comprehensive school she was already at, that didn't exactly hold any awards.  No, life here was definitely an improvement and she had gained employment although it was hard work.

Jackie shook her head.  "There's no need Bob, honestly.  Rose will see we're doing it for her own good.  So we still agree we wait until she turns fourteen?"

She saw the smile on his face. 

"If that's what you think love and no excuses, right?" he asked her, going up to her.

Rose knew she'd made the right choice going to her room, Bob was far too smug for her liking and it showed when she emerged to go to the bathroom as she heard him saying her mother had agreed to something, though she dreaded to think what that actually was.

Now, she regretted admitting to Alec she was still worried because he wouldn't let it go and probably tell John over the weekend and he'd say something on Monday morning.  Maybe if she told her mother she didn't need the bus fare, she might get Bob to go easy on her but if John failed to turn up or they somehow missed him, it was a long way to walk home.

Sandra was catching on though that they were getting a ride and it wouldn't take much for the others to do the same, especially Billy or Jamie and Jamie was in that frame of mind he may even report it.  Things wouldn't have gone so well had John not got the job there, he was the best teacher in the school and she'd never paid much attention at her last one.

The weekend seemed endless to both of them, Alec going to the library and hoping to see Rose or even Jamie but saw neither and he'd sat in his aunt's kitchen all Sunday afternoon hoping Rose would knock on the door.

John saw how his young cousin was acting and went to join him.

"Want some company?"

"Not really, thanks.  She might still call."

"Aw, come on Alec, why don't you call for her?" John suggested.

"I don't think so John.  She was going to try telling him about me, I don't know how it went.  It could make things even worse for her."

"Alec, it could also help her, if you're willing to show your face, think about it.  Look, I know you're worried about her so instead of always going straight to your house, maybe call in at her apartment a few times?"

"I sometimes do John, she still kept some records, she likes to dance," Alec admitted.

John gave him a big grin.  "Find out what else she likes doing Alec, it'll be getting dark early soon."

"I know that.  I stayed behind the other night to meet her mother again."

"Really?  Good for you.  She didn't bite your head off then?" John teased him.

"I didn't stay long enough," Alec tried to smile, wishing Rose would knock on the door.  "I'm still worried about her."

"We know you are and you're a good friend to her," John told him.  "So, more dancing after school eh or are you both going to find some other after school activities to replace going to the park?"

"Join the chess club?" Alec tried to joke.

John just let out a loud laugh, his mother noticing.

"I'm glad John finally stopped travelling around," she told Alec's dad.

"He's been a big help to Alec and to Rose.  I wonder what made him do so?"

"I don't think we'll ever know," John's dad replied.

"Well he's made a big difference to the both of them.  So, what's happened to my other nephew?" Alec's dad wanted to know.

Rose had spent the afternoon watching yet another boring film and trying to stay out of Bob's glare, not daring to mention going out and hoping if she didn't, he may relent for an hour or so next Sunday.  Back in London, she would have defied him and made him look a fool in front of her friends but she was hundreds of miles away and if he threw them out, her mother would never forgive her and where would they go?

Her mother had taken a big risk coming here, she wouldn't thank her for spoiling it all, would she?  Rose made her excuses and went to her room, wishing she could sneak out but he'd hear then how would she get back in?  Even if she wanted to go to the local shop, it wouldn't take her that long and how would she let Alec know?  Maybe she should save some of her bus fare and get his aunt's number next week?

If she was only out half an hour, Bob wouldn't suspect anything but what would she say she was going for?  Maybe she could purposely forget something next Saturday in the supermarket when her mother asked if there was anything else they needed?  It may work once but what then?  She could always say she fancied something different for her packed lunches she supposed.

She had wondered why Bob had never offered her any pocket money, what with helping keep the place clean and tidy plus cook all his meals that he didn't have a clue about.  She heard her mother in the kitchen and went to join her.

"Mum, can ya ask Bob why I get nothing for helping around the place?"

"You never bothered before," her mother replied.

"Well yeah but I wasn't doing as much then.  Do ya think he'll agree?" Rose asked hopefully.

"Agree to what?" Bob overheard.

"That Rose gets paid for helping me with the housework," her mother replied, Rose thinking she had a cheek.

"Planning on spending it on what?" Bob asked her.

"Well I can get some snacks for school," Rose replied, not that she didn't already.  "Maybe I can save some for Christmas and birthdays, then I can get some presents?"

That was something, she thought.  She had to start planning to get at least Alec something and his aunt for being so nice to her last week and accepting her.

"Yeah, I can give her some," her mother offered.

"Well that's up to you," Bob told Jackie.  "You know she takes some keeping with her bus fares and school lunches."

"Yeah, I know that.  Rose, I'll give ya extra money every Friday then?"

"Thanks Mum, I'll make sure I earn it," Rose replied, trying to hint she already deserved it, stopping her mother being found out she couldn't cook fancy meals to save her life. 

Goodness knew what her mother would make of the ingredients she and Bob chose in the new larger supermarket in town.  If only he knew or did he and chose not to say anything?  Now she had that to look forward to, she would hide the money away and make sure her mother didn't find out she wasn't getting the bus to and from school but she was sure that wouldn't be a problem with Alec still calling for her every morning.

Once Bob left the kitchen, Rose turned to her mother.

"I was thinking of coming straight back here every night, with Alec now it's getting dark early.  I mean I'd still go to his house later."

"Well you'd best not let Bob find out Rose, you heard him.  I dread to think how he'll react if he finds out," her mother warned her.

So did Rose.
Chapter 22: What if he finds out?
Alec had gone home with his dad, disappointed Rose hadn't been able to call round.  John had tried his best to persuade him to call round for her but Alec hadn't thought it such a good idea.

"You won't find out unless you do," John nudged him a bit later.  "I'll go with you, if you want?"

"No, thanks John, if I go round, I have to do it on my own.  Rose is worried Bob will find out her friend is a boy."

"Alec, that's the least of your worries mate.  All boys have to meet their friend's mothers, especially if that friend's a girl.  You're halfway there though, you've already met her.  Stay a bit longer next time eh?"

"I can't John, I got out just in time the other night, before her mother's boyfriend got home."

"Alec, he can't be that bad, can he?"

"I don't know but Rose is scared of him finding out though.  I'll let her talk to her mother about it, maybe it's not her mother saying she can't meet me at weekends?"

Alec couldn't remember if Rose had said so or not, there was so much going on at present.

"She was so happy to meet my aunt and uncle last Sunday," Alec recalled.

"Yeah, I know she was, it was a big step.  They seemed to get on well last week, so mum said.  Alec, you have to face it, Rose is becoming your girlfriend, you do know that?"

"Yeah, I sort of worked it out," Alec had to admit.  "She started doing what you said she would, she takes my hand for no reason, when no-one's around and I bet it won't be long before she does it where there are others around."

"Yeah, I did try to warn you," John smiled.  "Does it bother you?"

"No, not really.  Should I ask her, I mean if she wants to be my girlfriend?"

"Leave it Alec, she'll work it out.  Just maybe drop a few hints," John suggested, trying to remember being his cousin's age and having a crush on a girl called Sophia, who wouldn't give him the time of day.  

That was until he'd got up the courage to talk to her.  That had been at another school though, thankfully or he'd have been embarrassed teaching at his old school.

"Maybe she'd run away if I suggested it?" Alec wondered, leaning on the table.

"Nah, Rose wouldn't do that.  You're all she has Alec.  So this Bob thinks Sandra is the one Rose is friends with?" John asked him after he'd talked with Alec's dad.

"Yeah and she said she'll have to admit it sooner or later but I don't want her to get into trouble over it.  My dad offered to go get Sandra to Rose's place, if it would help but Rose didn't want to.  I hope Bob doesn't get mad at her when he finds out."

"Maybe she's worried for nothing?" John mused.  "Seriously Alec, just why is Rose so scared of Bob?  Would he actually do anything to her?"

"I don't know John.  From what she told me, he gives the creeps.  Maybe it's just his way?  I mean Rose had no dad when she was growing up, maybe it's her not being used to it.  I have to believe her though, that she's scared of him."

"I know you do Alec.  From what she says, we're all worried as well but maybe it's not that bad?  Couldn't you go round and at least see?"

"I'd best not John, it may make it worse for her.  I really want to help her."

"Yeah, we all do Alec but until she accepts it, we can't do anything but be there for her.  Promise you'll tell me if things get worse for her, okay?"

"I will, thanks John.  I'll see if dad's ready to leave," Alec replied.

"Tell you what, why don't you and Rose find a way for her to sneak out next Sunday?  Maybe she's already come up with something eh and all you have to do is go along with it?  She's sneaky enough at school."

Alec had got to know how sneaky Rose really was, slipping her arm or her hand in his when no-one was around and it was only a matter of time now before she did it in front of everyone.  She'd only started it the past week, once they got back to school, would she back off though?  He doubted it really but Billy and his mates were bad enough already and it would make Jamie even worse.

It had still bothered him Jamie had crossed the road the other day and not even waved when he'd been with his mother, she must surely be wondering what was going on.  He just hoped Jamie hadn't told her Rose was his girlfriend and that Jamie would love to take his place.  He knew that was part of the reason, he'd already worked that out.

Jamie had wanted Rose to himself despite all that in the library and was a sore loser but how come he'd not just admitted it?  Had Jamie been embarrassed that he'd realized he liked Rose and didn't want to actually admit it?  Maybe Jamie was right to ignore himself and Rose, would he himself want to be friends if Rose did actually like Jamie more than she did him?

Well hopefully, he wouldn't have to find out or make Rose choose between them, Rose had thought Jamie was being childish about it but had she realized that was the problem?  As Alec and his dad walked home, his dad hoped with Alec spending more time with his older cousin, it would make him feel better.

"Disappointed about Rose not calling then?" his dad asked when they got in.

"John said we should find a way for Rose to sneak out," Alec admitted.

"It's that bad then?" his dad had to smile.  "Alec, you spend all week together you know, maybe you both need some space?  Has Rose said why she's not allowed out?"

"She said her mother wants them all to spend more time together but maybe it's Bob who’s stopping her?"

"Sorry Alec, is she lives with him though, she has to go by what he says.  If Bob is trying to make them a family, her mother will go by what he says as well.  They are leading a very different life now Alec, remember that.  I meant to say something else as well.  I've been thinking and I know we didn't go away this year but with your mother being fresh in our minds, I didn't think it was such a good idea."

"I know dad, it wouldn't have been the same," Alec assured him.

"Why don’t I see about next year eh?  Would you mind being in a caravan again, would it bring back too many memories?"

"Maybe a little?  You mean during the long holiday?"

"Well I'll have to put in for leave early but yes, if you want to?  If it helps, Rose can come with us, if she's allowed but maybe you should see how things go?  She has to tell Bob you're her friend first."

"Maybe that would encourage her?" Alec asked hopefully.  "I'd best get on with my latest story, she was excited about it the other day and I want to get it finished."

His dad ruffled his hair and let him get on with it.  As Alec sat down to write another chapter, he thought how it would please Rose she was going to be in it, she'd get a real surprise.  Then, if things went well, she could gradually tell Bob about him and he'd tell her about the possible holiday.

Rose had been bored in her room and ventured out at teatime and watched some TV but couldn't help notice despite Bob having his arm around her mother, he was sort of watching her as well.  Then Alec wondered why Bob gave her the creeps when he'd asked her, how could she describe it?

It was back to school for them both the next morning.  Alec decided to set off a few minutes earlier and say good morning to Rose's mother in an effort to help Rose to get her to talk to Bob and he hoped it would pay off.  He also hoped Rose wouldn't go around the school playground grabbing his hand or his arm and that worked until Friday morning when she nudged him at break time as they sat down, putting her arm in his.

They had stayed in most of the week, it was no fun getting to the park and it was just about dark.  They had called at Rose's apartment a few times but Alec had still gone back with her later and since he was in the kitchen, her mother had just looked in and left them.  Alec thought he was at least making the effort and her mother would just have to get used to him being there.

Rose hadn't so far managed to persuade her mother to talk to Bob about Sundays so sneaking out it was going to have to be.  Before her mother had got home on the Friday night, Rose told Alec her plan.

"You think you will get away with it?" Alec had asked her.

"I hope so, yeah.  It won't work every week though but maybe mum will have talked to Bob by then?  Anyway, you said your latest story will be ready on Monday, I can't wait."

"You are changing the subject Rose," Alec reminded her.  "So, you go to the shop down the road that's open and I will be outside around four?  How long will you get away with being out?"

"Ah, when I come back, I'll just say I bumped into Sandra and we were talking.  What do ya think?"

"That's all well and good Rose but we can't stay outside the shop for half an hour, can we?  Beside, if you are a long time, it may get you grounded even more."

He knew she'd not thought of that.

"Well have you got a better plan?  I thought ya'd be pleased?"

"I am Rose but you have to think about it.  I don't want you to get into any more trouble."

Rose took his arm and did that thing he was getting to like – that of stroking it with her other hand.

"Yeah, I know you don't Alec.  Let's risk it this week, see how it goes?"

"Well okay then, I'll set off and meet you there, okay?"

"Yeah.  So, tomorrow, you finish that story?  What's taking ya so long?"

"I want to get it right Rose, I told you it was for you, I don't want to get anything wrong."

That was true, he thought, he didn't want to offend her but he also wanted to make her laugh by bringing her mother into it as he'd planned.  He was having her mother go running to her friend Mickey when one of the green bog monsters was trying to get to Rose and Mickey would throw vinegar at it and it would explode over his kitchen wall.  That would surely make her laugh? 

The only thing holding him up was how Rose had begun travelling with the main character and that had suddenly come to him.  He just hoped she would be pleased and appreciate all his hard work, that was when she wasn't delaying him finishing it by asking him all the time and mentioning things that he'd had to change.

So as her mother left them for ten minutes in the kitchen, they had agreed that if she couldn't sneak out on Sunday, he would just go back to his aunts and she would try again the following week until her mother got Bob to give in.  She knew if she'd been back home she wouldn't be having this problem but then, she wouldn't have met Alec.

As he was leaving, she decided to tease him.

"Don't go bumping into Bob on the way down."

"Very funny Rose," Alec replied as he waited for her to move her hand and didn't like reminding her.  "Maybe if I did and he didn't know who I was?" Alec wondered.

"Yeah, great idea Alec, he might either think you live in the block or you're just hanging around.  Actually though, if he asks if I know who you are?"

"Forget it Rose, it was just an idea.  I have to go now, I'll maybe see you on Sunday and don't worry if you can't get out."

"I'll try not to.  See ya Monday if not and let's think about what we just said?"

Alec had just gone through the door to the stairs as Bob got out of the lift, seeing it closing and not thinking anything of it.  Jackie had just gone into the kitchen to make it look like she was supervising what Rose was doing.

"Jackie love, I'm home," Bob called from the entryway.

"In the kitchen," Jackie called back, Rose hoping she wouldn't tell him Alec had just left and was praying Bob hadn't seen him yet, well not until they decided what to do.

"Still keeping an eye on the cooking?" Bob laughed.  "Watch out love, Rose will be taking it over."

Rose thought if only he knew?  Maybe if he did he'd throw them out but her mother wouldn't be happy.  She'd thought a few times what would happen were he to find out but none of them would end happily.  Now, she had to devise a way to sneak out and meet Alec on Sunday and gradually bring him into the conversation about her friends.

Maybe if Alec were to say he was just walking her home, he might get away with it but why would he be doing that?  As far as she knew, Bob thought she went home after school or went to Sandra's but maybe she could pretend he was Sandra's brother?  No, if he got caught out, it would just make things worse.

The only thing she could do was keep trying to find out why Bob was so against her making friends with a boy but did she want to know?  Was it something creepy or something simple like he was just watching out for her?  She had nothing to go by, her old friends didn't all have dads and those who did, they hadn't then been old enough to worry about such things.

Was this what it was like though and she was worrying over nothing?  Maybe she should talk to Sandra about it, if she had an older sister or whatever.  Over tea, Rose thought about bringing up the subject of Alec being her friend but Bob had said nothing all week, would it make things worse?

Her mother had said no more either despite Alec being there when she'd got home and he'd suddenly started calling for her every morning, though that had amused her and they'd walked arm in arm until they'd got to the street corner, then she had chickened out at the last minute.

She wondered if Alec had actually noticed though or if he'd just got used to it.  They missed going to the park or the riverside though Alec hadn't been sure about dancing inside after their homework and after tea, Rose had been allowed in Alec's room for half an hour so he could read her his stories and he was running out of them.

Rose decided to find out where she stood this weekend.

"So can I go out this Sunday?" she dared asked when she had cleared up.

"Nothing has changed from last week Rose, why ask?" Bob wanted to know.

"Bob, why don't ya compromise?" Jackie suddenly suggested.  "Why don't ya let her out for an hour, if she's back for tea?"

Rose wondered why her mother had suddenly come up with that idea.  Maybe Alec calling round twice a day most days had made her realize he really was her friend?

"I'll think about it then, maybe next week but where will you go, it's getting cold now.  Will you be going to this Sandra's house?  Tell you what, why don't you take it in turns?"

Rose wondered how she was going to get out of that?  

"She's still a bit shy, maybe if I go round more often, she won't be?" was all Rose could think of.

How was she going to bring Alec up now?  She was getting too deep into this, she'd come unstuck and he'd find out and stop her.  If she got to go to Alec's aunt's then it stopped, she was going to be disappointed.

"You’re not hiding anything from me are you Rose?" Bob asked her.  "Jackie, have you met this Sandra?"

"No, I don't have time, I leave before Rose does, remember?" Jackie replied, trying not to let on Rose's other friend was a boy and was starting to call for her every morning.

"So Rose is on her own when you get back then?" Bob asked her.  "Where do you get to after school then Rose?"

"Sometimes to my friend's or I come back.  Sandra has to leave to get back for her tea before her mum gets home."

This was getting too complicated but also too easy to cover, Rose thought.

"Is that right?" Bob wanted to know.  "Maybe you could invite her to stay one night?"

Rose thought there was no chance, even if Sandra lived nearer.

"I told ya, she's shy.  I'll have to give her chance.  I do have other friends but ya told me not to mention them."

"Don't be cheeky Rose," her mother warned her. 

"Hold on Jackie, I thought you said you had met this boy Rose was on about?"

"Only for a minute or two Bob.  Anyway, ya told her to forget about it and I've not seen him since."

Rose wondered how long they could keep this up before Bob found out.  One thing she knew, if he did, it was a sure way of getting thrown out and they could go back to London but she didn't want to leave Alec behind now and didn't think he'd want her to go either.  She just hoped Bob would come round and accept Alec as her friend.  If he didn't, why was he so dead-set against the idea?

Then she had an awful thought but had to dismiss it.  Why was her mother always on Bob's side and only half on hers?  Why was she trying to keep the peace between them?  Did Bob have some sort of hold over her or not or was her mother going along with it willingly?  She hoped not or Alec would never be accepted by Bob but going by her mother actually not throwing Alec out every night, it had to be Bob had something on her or she was completely wrong.

Was Bob going to suggest they got married and adopt her, was that what this was all about?  She hoped not.  Bob snapped her out of her thoughts.

"I don't want to hear any more Jackie, I don't want him hanging around here, understand?  Was he here tonight by any chance?  The stairs door was closing as I got out of the lift.  Well?" he asked both of them.

Rose decided to own up, at least she could get Alec out of it and explain where her records were disappearing to, if he'd actually noticed.

"He just came to borrow some records, that's all," Rose told him.

"Thought you'd not seen him Jackie?" Bob asked her.

"I was in the bedroom, he can't have stayed long," Jackie replied, also thinking this was getting way out of hand.

"That had better be all Rose," Bob warned her.  "I'm doing this for your own good, you're too young to be thinking about having boys as friends."

Rose thought he could keep his opinions to himself.

"So how long do I have to wait then?" Rose dared ask.

"When I say so," came Bob's reply.  "Next time, tell him to come later, when I'm here, understand?"

Rose knew it couldn't be that easy, could it?  Would Bob want Alec coming round just to warn him off and if so, would that be the end?  Would it put Alec off, especially since for a while now she'd got him to hold her hand and not bother when she stroked his arm when she wanted something.

"So if ya meet him, are ya gonna tell him off?" Rose wondered, thinking she may as well find out and why he'd suddenly changed his tune about her forgetting about Alec.

"I didn't say I approved Rose," Bob reminded her.  "If you've made friends with him, you can do so at school but if he is going to come round, don't do it behind my back, understand?  I still want to meet your other friend though, you are not making her up are you?"

"No, I'm not making her up but she really can't come round, she's the really nervous type," Rose tried to bluff.

"Well that may be so but don't think this boy can come around whenever he wants.  No sneaking off to meet him and no having him round before I get home, understand?  If I catch him going down the stairs, I will ban you seeing him even at school."

Rose wondered how he was going to do that but he may even go to the school to enforce it.  That meant Alec had to either stop coming around or face Bob.  Either that or go before her mother got home again so she may as well just stay at his house a bit longer, she'd still have plenty of time.

Was it really going to be that easy though?  She somehow doubted it but it didn't solve her problem of going out on Sundays.

"So can I go out for an hour on Sunday then?" Rose dared ask.

"I told you, not this week so forget it and when I say you can, no meeting this boy.  What's his name anyway?"

Rose thought she'd already told him once.

"It's Alec.  He lost his mum a few months ago, we made friends on my first day because he thought I was lost."

"Well that's no excuse to spend time with him outside school.  Jackie, make sure he's not here when you get home he'll have to come back when I'm here.  Don't think it's going to be that easy Rose," he warned her.

Rose knew it couldn't be, could it?  Still, it was something at least and Bob didn't know she went to Alec's every night and as long as she didn't admit it to her mother, he wasn't likely to find out either.  Now she had something to tell Alec if she could get away on Sunday, if not she could tell him when he called for her on Monday morning.

Rose was quite pleased as she went to her room but she wouldn't have been if she'd heard the conversation between her mother and Bob.

Chapter 23: Plans

Bob had waited for Rose to leave.

"We have to talk about this Jackie."

"Yeah, I know Bob but I've hardly seen this boy she's on about.  I had no idea."

"So she never talked about him to ya?  I find that hard to believe Jackie.  This is not going to spoil my plans, so don't think it will."

"Yeah, I know that Bob but keeping Rose in at weekends will make her more determined to get ya to change ya mind.  Why not let her out for an hour or two?"

"I told you, I'll think about it.  She has to understand the importance of family.  You know what my plans are, don't you?"

Jackie did know what his plans were.  She had nothing to go by, her friends back home not being prime examples as most of them were the same as her, a single mother.  She had to go by what Bob thought best, Rose needed someone to set her straight.  Still, would Rose having a boy for a friend really spoil Bob's plans for them being a family?

Rose was disappointed the next day, offering to go get something extra for tea but not being allowed.  Her mother had tried to argue what harm it would do but it got Rose nowhere.  Alec set off, John saying he hoped Rose would turn up but he was back after waiting for her and getting some funny looks.

"Never mind Alec, I'm sure she'd have been there," John tried to console his younger cousin.

"Yeah, she would have been.  Maybe next week?"

"Alec, have you thought of just going and calling for her?  You can only be told no when you use the intercom.  Go back and see, it's not too late."

"Well maybe after tea, before we go home then?" Alec replied.

So as Rose was clearing up later, annoyed her plan to meet Alec hadn't worked, she jumped as the intercom went.  Had Alec dared to come round and see why she'd not turned up earlier or was it one of Bob's annoying friends?  She'd not met many of them, except when they were out they'd sat outside a pub with a few of them during the summer and some of them had worse accents than Bob had.

"I'll go see who it is," Jackie offered, wondering if Rose's friend had got up the nerve to call for her.

"No matter, I'll go," Bob insisted. 

He pressed the answer button asking who it was.

"It's a friend of Rose," Alec replied, thinking no-one was going to answer and he was about to leave.

"Rose is not coming out today, I'll tell her you called," Bob replied.

"Can I talk to her?" Alec asked hopefully.

"This is not a telephone young man.  If you call back next Sunday, I may let you in and you can introduce yourself."

Alec supposed he had to make do with that, it wasn't like the man knew he and Rose saw each other all week.  Rose had heard and tried to hide her disappointment.  Her mother went into the kitchen and put her hand on Rose's shoulder.

"Rose, I can't keep covering for ya."

"Yeah, I know Mum.  I wanted to slip out and meet Alec, he must've realized and decided to come round.  Do ya think Bob will let him in next week?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," her mother replied.

Rose could only hope so and now she had to say sorry to Alec that Bob wouldn't let her out or him come inside.  Alec went back to his aunt's house, John letting him in.

"No luck?" he asked Alec.  "Never mind, you'll see her tomorrow.  I noticed the other day she slyly slipped her arm in yours.  What I don't get is why no-one else noticed."

Alec shrugged his shoulders.  "Maybe because you were looking for it?" Alec grinned.

"Your friends weren't?  After they saw you on the riverbank that time?"

Alec would rather not remember that.

"Maybe they got used to seeing us?"

"You mean like Jamie?  You'd best hope so."

John was right the next day.  Alec called for Rose as usual, she grabbed his arm before her mother could protest.

"Hey, I'm really sorry about yesterday.  What did Bob say to you?"

"To call for you next Sunday and introduce myself.  What did he think I was trying to do yesterday?" Alec complained, hoping Rose would rub his arm in sympathy. 

He knew he was getting to like it too much.  When they got dropped off at Alec's house, Rose told him they'd best not go to her place too early.  She had told him why she couldn't get out and he'd told her not to worry.  She was though.  By the time Friday came around, Alec had said he would call around three and hope Bob would let him in.

So Rose had suffered shopping on Saturday, still having to follow her mother and Bob into the pub and Rose being surprised she was allowed in but other younger children were in a corner room.  One man she hated the most decided to talk to her.

"So, how old are you now Rose?" the man known as Angus asked her.

"She's thirteen now, aren't ya Rose?" her mother answered for her.

"She looks older," Angus replied.

Rose thought he could keep his opinions to himself.  She was looking forward to Alec calling around the next day and hoped Bob would let him in.  Bob though had something to say to Jackie when they got back.

"Why did your mate ask my Rose's age?" Jackie asked when Rose went to her room on their return.

"Just interested, they have kids of their own," Bob tried to explain.

Jackie had no reason to think otherwise.

"So, have you seen this boy again?" Bob asked her.

"He waits for Rose sometimes, he doesn't live far away, so she said," Jackie replied.

"Maybe I should have a few words with him, if he bothers to call for her tomorrow?" Bob replied.

"What sort of words?" Jackie wanted to know, hoping the boy wouldn't admit he'd been there most nights when she herself had got home and she'd left them to it.

Why would he though?  More importantly, why were they wanting to meet on Sundays all of a sudden when they saw each other all week?  Rose had shown no interest in boys before she'd met this one, had she?  Well maybe except tormenting poor Mickey on her way home from school every night before they'd moved.

"Come on Jackie, you know what words?" Bob reminded her.  "She's that age now, taking an interest in boys and I'm sure the one who called for her knows that?  I told you, I'll not have my plans spoiled."

"I'm sure they won't spoil them," Jackie replied, wishing she understood what they actually were, since he'd been a bit on the vague side about them.

She'd agreed that Rose would do as he said and what he said was final, after he'd persuaded her Rose needed a father figure in her life after so long.  He'd tried to tell her Rose would benefit by it when she got older but had insisted that she didn't interfere, if she trusted him.  Jackie had been somewhat out of her depth and had said before she'd moved herself and Rose to live with him that she did trust him.

After all, who on the estate would be willing to take them on like Bob had come along and done?  Certainly not Howard or one of the other men she used the frequent the local pubs with when Rose had a sleepover at Shareen's or some other friend for the night.

"So are ya gonna let this boy in tomorrow then?" Jackie asked him.

"If he calls but Rose stays away while I talk to him," Bob replied, going to put the remainder of the football on the TV.

Rose was in her room, hoping if Alec did actually call back tomorrow, he wouldn't blurt out he was there most evenings as her mother got home.  How Bob would react to that, she had no idea.  Why did it have to be such a secret though?  What was Bob planning, keeping her in at weekends apart from when they went out, which was never on a Sunday, for some reason, even during the summer.

She had always thought it was her mother who had imposed her restrictions but she was already doubting that.  Why did Bob have to come along and her mother drag them all the way up to Scotland?  The only good thing to come out of it was meeting Alec.  Now, if Bob didn't like him after they finally met, Alec could easily go off her and stay away even at school and she hated the thought of it.

Surely he wouldn't let Bob put him off though, not after so long?  They would just continue as they were and have to accept Bob's reluctance of changing his mind to allow her out but surely after her next birthday, she'd be old enough to get out of it?  That though depended entirely what plans Bob had long term and if her mother agreed with them.  She wished now her mother had more influence though, why was she giving in to Bob's wishes?  Had her mother thought she'd gone too easy on her when they'd been on their own?

The next day, Rose was nervous if Alec did actually call and see Bob.  They'd talked about it on the Friday afternoon and Alec had told her not to worry.

"I won't let him put me off," he'd tried to assure her.

"Ya say that now," Rose teased him as they sat at his kitchen table before his dad had got home.

"I told my dad, he said just be myself and be polite," Alec had told her.  "I'll be ready to read my new story on Monday."

"Great, I can't wait to see what happens," Rose had cheered up.

So now, Alec was nervous about two things and he didn't know which was worse – Rose not liking his new story which he'd altered so many times or meeting the man who thought Rose staying in at weekends was more important than her going out.

His dad had asked him on the way to his aunts how he felt about it.

"So are you nervous?" Alec was asked.

"I don't know, I should be.  I just hope Rose's mother doesn't tell him I've been there most nights when she's come home, it wouldn't look good.  Rose said her mother told him she's not seen that much of me."

"Well if it's only for five minutes, I suppose that's true?" his dad asked as they approached his aunt's house.  "Just answer any questions he asks and just say you see each other at school.  You don't want to get her into trouble if she's been saying she spends her time with someone else.  That's up to her though."

"She only says that because she didn't want to get into trouble Dad," Alec reminded him.

"I know Alec, I know it's awkward for her and I can understand why she does it.  It's just a shame she's had to."

Rose had done most of the Sunday lunch, her mother fussing around making a show of doing something, as usual and Bob saying it all smelled good then saying it tasted good as they ate.  Rose had got to the stage where she knew her mother was never going to admit she couldn't cook anything fancy to save her life, even if it was only putting a joint of meat or a chicken in the oven and it not coming out like a burnt offering.

"So are ya learning from ya mother how to cook properly?" Bob asked her.

"She's eager to learn, aren't ya Rose?" her mother answered for her.

"Yeah, dead keen," Rose tried to sound enthusiastically.

"Well that's how it should be on Sundays, never mind going off with your mates.  So is this boy, what's his name calling to see me?" Bob asked her.

Rose hoped so, if Alec hadn't gone completely off the idea or John hadn't told him he was wasting his time.

"His name's Alec," Rose corrected him, gathering the plates.  "He lives with just his dad, his mum died a few months ago.  I know how he feels, that's why we get on."

"Well you're not just with your mum now, are you?" Bob had to remind her.  "You have me now and I have to make sure this Alec is a suitable friend.  So what about this Sandra you say you spend time with?"

Rose was wishing she'd never dragged Sandra into it now but she couldn't have said it was Alec, not at first.

"Actually, I think she's got a new friend," Rose tried to bluff.

"Why's that then?" her mother had to go asking her.

Rose sometimes wished her mother would keep up with the fact she was covering Alec was her real friend, not Sandra.  Maybe things had got too complicated for her, Mickey had tried in vain to show her how to work the video recorder and failed.

"I don't really know Mum," Rose tried to get out of it.  "She never said but the last few nights, she seemed a bit off.  If she has a new friend, I don't know what I'm gonna do, who else do I have to talk to about girl things?"

"Your mother," Bob replied, going to finish reading his Sunday paper that Rose thought he took all day about so why did she have to be there while he did?

Rose was already talking to Sandra at school, especially over personal things she didn't think she could talk to her mother about except the bare essentials and getting some extra money from her the last few months after getting her to go to the shop with her the first time while Bob was in the pub.  Alec had been wondering what was wrong with her for a few days, until he'd confided in his aunt he was worried about Rose and his aunt had tried to explain to him it was what teenage girls went through and he'd better get used to it.

Luckily, the last time, he'd not thought she was being grumpy with him when she'd not wanted to do anything but sit and listen to some music the week before but he'd never said anything to her about it.  It was a big change for both of them.

Rose went off to the kitchen, at least this week she didn't have to think of a reason to sneak out but she was getting worried Alec would back out, especially when she'd sprung it on him on Monday evening she was feel a bit 'off' again and not really wanted to do much.  Even at school, she'd been excused from gym class, along with one or two other girls who like her, were only just getting used to the fact it was going to be a regular occurrence.

After his lunch, Alec was counting how long it was before he dared go call the intercom to Rose's apartment and get a gruff voice asking what he wanted again.  Rose had giggled a bit to him when they'd got to school the next morning but when she'd felt some pain later, he'd just assumed she'd be worried he wouldn't try again the next Sunday.

He had thought about it but sooner or later, he had to face up to it if he wanted Rose to be his friend outside school even if she was going to be grumpy with him every few weeks.  That was why he had been determined to get his latest story finished for her.  John saw him watching the clock in the kitchen.

"Nearly time to go then?" John asked him.

"Yeah.  John, you know about girls, right?"

"Ah, well, that depends.  Boys and men can't always work them out you know," John laughed.  "Is this about Rose being a bit off?"  Alec nodded.  "Face it Alec, you'd really better get used to it, it won't get any better."

Alec had no reason to doubt what his cousin was telling him so maybe next time, he'd try to be more sympathetic towards her and hope she didn't keep hitting his arm all the time, well unless she rubbed it afterwards.  Then he didn't mind as much.  Just after three, he set off, John wishing him good luck.  He walked the short distance and got up the courage to call Rose's number on the intercom.

Rose jumped when she heard it and thought maybe Alec hadn't backed out after all.  It was doubtful it would be any of Bob's friends at this time and her mother hardly had any, unlike back in London.  Bob got up to answer it.  He told Alec to come up and answered the door when Alec rang the separate doorbell.

"So, you're a friend of Rose?" Bob asked him, Alec wishing he'd been wearing something else instead of his jeans and jumper.

"Yes Sir," Alec spoke up, not sure what to call the man, since Rose had never mentioned his surname.

"Well you had better come in then."

Twenty minutes later, Alec was about to leave.

"So can I call for Rose next Sunday?" Alec asked hopefully.

"Will you be taking her to your aunt's house?" Bob asked him, since Alec had explained that was where he and his dad went on Sunday.

"My aunt invited her for tea.  I'll make sure I walk her back home."

"You do that then but make sure she's back by six.  Do you just see each other at school normally?" Bob then asked him.

What could he reply with, Alec wondered.

"We come home together and I walk her back sometimes," Alec replied, trying to stick to near the truth, omitting the part she spent time at his house and until recently, the riverbank and the park.

"Well if you walk her back, she's not allowed to let you in unless her mother is here, understand?" Bob asked him.

Alec just nodded.  "My aunt invited her today, if she can go out?"

"Make sure she's back on time then.  Jackie, call Rose and tell her she can go out but she's to be back by six."

All that time, Alec thought it had been Rose's mother insisting she never went out.  Now he knew that wasn't the case.  As Rose came out of her room, she had to resist greeting Alec until they got outside but once they were away from the building, Rose took his hand.

"Thanks for rescuing me."

"He's something else Rose," Alec had to admit.  "How does your mother put up with him?"

"I've got no idea.  Does your aunt know I'm coming round today?"

"Not really but she won't mind.  Rose, I know why you were a bit off earlier in the week, my aunt sort of explained it to me.  I thought it was just that once, a few weeks ago."

"Geez Alec, I wish it was, you think us girls actually enjoy it?" Rose teased him.

"How am I supposed to know?" Alec replied, thinking she was being serious, until she nudged him.

"So, all this time, you thought it was my mum keeping me in?" Rose asked him as they walked along.

"So did you," Alec reminded her.  "You were right, he is a bit creepy."

"Tell me about it," Rose replied.  "So are his mates and I'm dreading it when it gets to the party season they'll all be coming around.  One even asked how old I was yesterday.  I heard mum and Bob saying something about his plans, what the hell does that even mean?"

Alec didn't think he wanted to know. Whatever these plans were, he didn't think they were going to be good, well not for Rose anyway.  Now he was getting even more worried and would have to talk to his dad or John again, they were just as concerned about Rose as he was.  They walked arm in arm and Alec just hoped if Jamie was around, he'd see that despite them falling out, Rose wasn't interested in him.  Was this what it was always going to be like?

Rose was made welcome again, thankful now she didn't have to say she was going to Sandra's house any more and hoped Bob would drop the subject.  She was back on time, Alec walking with her and he asked if she was okay.

"Why are you worried about Bob's friends?" Alec wanted to know.

"Just the way they are, maybe it's just me?"

Alec was beginning to wonder if it was her or not.  Maybe it wasn't?

Continued here due to Blogger not allowing for updates