THE STAIN • by Carla J Dow

There was a dark stain on the pavement for ages afterwards. It looked like someone had dropped a juice carton or spilt a pot of paints. But we all knew what it was; it was the boy’s blood. It was well brutal. You could even see the round drops where it splashed out from his guts, like from his intestines or something. I went home that way from school every day just to look at it, see if it had faded. Even the rain never washed it away. It was like it would stay there forever to remind us of him, even after the flowers his mum left had shrivelled up and died, even after the kid from down the Sovereign Estate had nicked the skateboard his brother left there. It was a stupid to leave it there anyway, at least the kid who boosted it can use it; it’s no good to a dead boy is it. Besides, they probably have skateboards for everyone in heaven if that’s where he’s gone. I bet they don’t have skateboards in hell.

There was police tape around the blood for days, even after the cops all went they left the tape there. It said POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS. Then one morning I walked past and it was gone. I don’t even know if someone took it, but I wish I had thought to take it, it would look badass in my room. I would’ve had to hide it though, my mum would’ve never let me keep it.

It was all they yammered on about at school for ages after — what it looked like when he got chooked, how much blood there was. They made up all kinds of stuff that wasn’t even true. I know because I saw the blood and I saw the knife that stabbed in ‘im with my own eyes. It was just a normal knife from the kitchen and the blood wasn’t even anything special, not like in the films. It was sticky and thick and didn’t spray out that much apart from the splash on the pavement.

Most of all, they jabbered about who did it. No one really knows for sure, not even the police. Two po’ men came to speak to the year 11s about it, I don’t think they were suspects or anything, else they would have taken them in. The feds here are crap. If we had CSI they would have figured it out already, they would have taken fingerprints or footprints from the scene, DNA and everything. That’s what they do on TV and it doesn’t take them long to catch the killers. But the police here didn’t examine the bloodstain where there’s sure to be a footprint to match to the perp’s shoes, then they’d find another stain of blood. But by now the person who did it has thrown out his trainers so they won’t find the evidence. CSI isn’t just a TV show, it’s about real cops, you know that cos they don’t always get the murderers and that proves it’s real. In real life people get away with all kinds of stuff if they hide the evidence real well.

I walk past the stain on my way home from school. I don’t need to come this way, it’s quicker to go through the cutway behind the shops, but I want to see if it’s still there. It is. I step off the pavement. I don’t want it going on my new trainers; it could stain forever.

JC is at the corner with some sixth formers, I hope he won’t see me, I even pray it to God. But God’s not listening and JC nods at me which means I have to go over. I stop a bit away from him, I hold my breath in but it makes me feel way too crazy so I suck in some air before I get dizzy and fall over. He nods at me again and the other boys walk off. JC pulls out a ready-made roll up, it’s quite fat and I reckon it’s a spliff. You can tell from the shape and the way the end is all twisted up. I have smoked a straight before but never a reefer. I don’t want him to offer it to me, I don’t want to smoke it the first time in front of them.

JC and the boy who got chooked were enemies. It’s just different gangs see. The boy was always trying to wind him up. But he can’t do that anymore. I wouldn’t ever try to wind JC up, he would flatten me. I know what that feels like. It’s not nice to live always scared. But he won’t flatten me now and no one else will either cos then he would flatten them back.

The police arrested someone the next week. They couldn’t figure out who did it so they just picked someone who wouldn’t argue. Fergus doesn’t even have a mum and dad to stick up for him, he only has his big sister and she’s not really bothered. I used to think it was cool being able to hang out till whatever time you wanted, but Fergus says there’s no point in staying out late cos everyone else has gone in and you’re just there on your own. I reckon he’s just scared. It’s not nice to live always scared. I’m not anymore and if I could stay out all night I would just to see what happens.

They handcuffed Fergus, I even saw it. JC saw it too and he nodded his head at me and I knew I was safe then. Everyone thinks it was Fergus. No one would think it was me just like JC said, I’m too young, I’m just a kid. But I’m not just any kid now, JC has my back forever. It’s like initiation and I passed. I’m not scared anymore.

A published writer of both completely made up stories as well as the gritty and often uncomfortable truth of real life, Carla J Dow has worked as a senior news reporter and health correspondent for local newspapers and magazines in Berkshire and Hampshire. During the past four years, Carla has written regularly for a variety of national and regional charity and public sector publications, including the world’s largest humanitarian organisation the Red Cross. Carla’s current projects include her first novel and a plethora of short stories about people who do not belong.

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