Read Outside In Online

Authors: Chrissie Keighery

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Outside In

outside IN

outside IN

Chrissie Keighery

Outside In
published in 2009 by
Hardie Grant Egmont
85 High Street
Prahran, Victoria 3181, Australia

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers and copyright holders.

A CiP record for this title is available from the National Library of Australia

Text copyright © 2009 Chrissie Keighery
Cover and text design copyright © 2009 Hardie Grant Egmont

Cover illustration by Sarah Hankinson
Cover design by Sonia Dixon
Text design by Ektavo

Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

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Author dedication:

To Johnno. Our friend.












Jordan was back at school. After her

She lay down,
, feeling the spikes of grass through her school dress. Orange Sunny Boy drops watered the ground from her uplifted hand. The slope overlooking the basketball court was dry and brittle, other than the dripping Sunny Boy drops. The bright sun promised more of the same.

Wednesday. Which still came after Tuesday and before Thursday, as though everything was right with the world.

As though the sound of her mum tossing and turning in the king-sized bed, alone, didn't matter one bit. As though the pieces of Jordan's life could be picked up by a breeze and that was just the way it went.


Jordan sat up slightly, leaning back on her elbows. The boys were bouncing and tossing and running and sweating. Jordan didn't get it. Why bounce and toss when you could just lie back and watch the clouds making pictures in the sky? Why run and sweat when you could just sip the melting juices of a sweet Sunny Boy?

‘Jack just got another goal!' Lee's voice, as was usual when she talked about Jack, was way over the top. The pitch always went an octave higher. Talking
him, she kind of sounded like a duck.

‘Hooray for Jack, then,' Jordan said out of the side of her mouth. She moved her wrists to dance invisible pompoms. ‘Rah, rah, rah.'

Lee tucked a wild blonde curl behind her ear and blinked three times. She was ready to take offence. To wonder if Jordan was hanging it on her.

Lee, how she
about everything. Exhausting.

‘Come on, Jordy. Let's have a game with the boys?' Lee was quick to hurt. Quick to forgive. ‘If you feel like it, that is.' Her head loomed over Jordan.

‘Yeah, let's. We've only got twenty-two minutes of lunchtime left,' agreed Cecilia, straight mousy bob leaning into Lee's big blonde mop. ‘I think it would be good for you. Unless you don't want to, Jords? It's up to you, really.'

‘Australia has voted,' Meredith joined in, amping up the volume. Her arms waved frantically, blocking out the last patch of blue sky.

Jordan rolled back. She played dead. Her friends were all so fricking …
. So pumped up.

She glanced up the slope at a chunky silhouette between sun and shade. A girl, sitting alone. Not bothered. For the first time, Jordan wondered what it would be like to be one of the anonymous kids. One who didn't get hassled like this. Peaceful, perhaps? It was a thought she would have liked to continue.

To float in.

To drown in.

But her friends were too annoying to let her be. Within seconds, there were three of them pulling at her arms. Very unbalanced it was, too. Meredith and Lee on the right, and tiny Cecilia trying to take the burden of her left side.

‘All right already,' Jordan groaned. ‘Do you reckon I can have my arms back, though? I might need them for the game, you know.'

‘You think that would really make a difference, Miss Unco?' Meredith stirred.

Jordan rolled her eyes. There was a little pang as she walked down the slope to the basketball court. A sort of reprieve that still happened sometimes. When, for a moment, she forgot what had happened. What punishment
had doled out. While Jordan and her mum tried to figure out their crime.

Wednesday. From now on, Wednesday would be the day to toss her life into an overnight bag and lug it over to his new flat. She hadn't packed Zebra. The toy she'd taken to every camp, every sleepover. The one that sat on her pillow at her real house, one eye falling out of its socket and barely any stripes on its worn-out fur.

What was the point in pretending? Soft toys and beddy-byes were completely over.

‘Jordan, could you hang back after class? Just for a chat?' called Mr Moulton, cowboy/English teacher, over the sound of the bell. He had retro sideburns and slicked-back hair.

Jordan shrugged. Kept her head down so she couldn't see the others as they left the classroom. The door slammed closed. Looking up she could see the backs of three heads through the glass pane. Her friends were hanging around. Staying close.

Mr Moulton sat next to her on a plastic chair. Stroked his sideburns while her stomach constricted, tensed. She wondered if everyone had guessed what he was going to talk to her about.

‘Jordan? Here are the worksheets you missed out on,' he said. ‘You've been away a bit lately, hey? How was your –'

Jordan finished for him. ‘It was very
, thanks. Very chilled.'

She thought about her week in limbo land. The days they'd given her off to recover from the shock had revolved around Dr Phil. She could get the show three times a day on Foxtel. BBQ Shapes and Fanta and the catchcry of the TV psychologist. ‘
I want you to get excited about your life!'

With a supply in front of her, she could just veg out on the leather couch. She could reach out to the coffee table for sustenance while they walked out their pathetic little lives on screen for the world to see. Shoplifters and alcoholics. Wife-beaters.

Dr Phil would tell them what to do.
‘You're not an evil man. What's happening here is that this family needs a hero!'

She had fantasised about parading her parents on Dr Phil's stage. Making them sort out their crap in the neat space of an hour. Including ad breaks.

he would say to Jordan's dad,
‘need to work out what's important here. If you have to quit your job so you have more time for the family, that's what you need to do!'

Her dad would nod in agreement. He would mentally write his resignation letter. He would look lovingly at Jordan's mum on the stool beside him. He would glance out into the audience, at Jordan in the front row, and give her a wave. And it would all be OK again.

Except it wasn't going to happen.

‘This family needs a hero!'

But this family wouldn't get one. Must have got lost in the post.

‘Jordan, I heard you've been having some problems at home,' Mr Moulton continued, bringing her back.

‘Is that a euphemism, Mr M? I'm getting pretty good at them,' Jordan said, gathering strength, using the word he'd taught them. ‘Are you talking about my parents splitting?'

‘I guess it is a
,' he said slowly, and she thought he might back off. But he didn't.

‘Jordan, it's natural to feel confused and sad when your parents
,' he said, and he was reinforcing her words. As though they meant something. ‘I just want you to know that I'm here if you need to talk. And I can also give you a referral to Ms Spicer. She's good, you know.'

Ms Spicer was the school counsellor. She was trained to talk. To draw out words.

Her parents had
to Jordan. Her dad particularly. How kind of him to inform her, now, when he'd already made his decision. He talked about how they'd both tried. But they hadn't been happy for a long time. And everyone deserved to be happy, didn't they? It wasn't her fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. They would both continue loving her, and being her parents and blah, blah, blah.

He probably got the whole speech from a handbook.
The Idiot's Guide to Divorce

It had looked like a massive effort for her mum to lift her head from her hands. Her mum had looked different as she nodded and smiled a pale, fake smile.

‘I'm right, Mr M. I'm good,' Jordan told him.

She could see her friends were still waiting for her. She pointed. He nodded. She escaped.

‘Are you OK, Jordy?' Lee fussed, her blue eyes full of almond-shaped concern. ‘Because you can talk about it, you know. It can help. When you let it go.'

‘It's a bit more complicated than that,' Jordan said, brushing away Lee's consoling hand. She wasn't about to parade her shit. Not to Mr M. Not to the school counsellor.

Not even to her friends.

‘Let me guess. Mr Moulton wanted you to see the school shrink cos you've been such a retard lately,' said Meredith, doing hand claps that didn't connect. Her crossed eyes and lips-in-a-cat's-bum shape were signature Meredith style.

It brought a slow smile to Jordan's face.

Maybe everything was a joke, in the end? Nothing really seemed to matter.


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