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The Best Thing by Margo Lanagan

At odds with both her parents and her secondary school mates, the young protagonist Mel is looking for permanent and genuine friendship and mistakes sexual attraction for a deeper interest within her.
This radio play is based on a novel by the Australian writer Margo Lanagan.

Kvinne som går alene

Mel, the young girl in this radio play, finds it difficult to come to grips with her own life. At odds with both her parents and her secondary school mates, she is looking for permanent and genuine friendship and mistakes sexual attraction for a deeper interest within her. Insecure and wayward, she falls prey to her own confusion and the moral indifference of her parents. However, when she meets Dino, who is very different from her, and feels loved and respected, her life takes on another dimension.

The Best Thing

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The Best Thing

"The Best Thing" as plain text

The Best Thing

Laura Lanagan


Mel: What’s this? WHAT?! I don’t believe it!


Mel (as narrator): My locker. At school. And someone’s put a condom in it. With a jelly baby inside. A baby. I should have stuck with Natalie. She was a real friend; not like Lisa and that lot. Mel mate, a year ago you made a real mistake.


Lisa: Hey Mel, you wanna come an’ sit with us?


Mel: Oh, okay. Thanks.


Donna: Mel, why do you go around with Natalie?


Mel: We’ve been friends for years.


Donna: She’s stupid.


Mel: She’s a good mate.


Lisa: Lay off, Donna. You should really be in our group. You’re so clever. Compared to most of the shitheads in this place, eh? I mean, you don’t say much but you get good marks and that, don’t you?


Mel: I do okay.


Lisa: Yeah, you could look really great with a bit of work. Don’t you reckon, Amber.


–Amber, give James and his gang a miss for once, will you?

Donna: Yeah, Mel, you could look really cool.

Lisa: I reckon so – and I should know. I’m going to be a beautician. What you need to do is cut your hair so the curls spring up, you know.

Mel: Aargh, lay off.

Lisa: It wouldn’t take much. Come round to my place and I’ll give you a going over. You’ll look really good.


Mel (as narrator): And that’s how I screwed up. As simple as that. One day, clever, quiet, hard-working Melanie Dow, friends with that “nice” Natalie Begley. Next day, one of Lisa’s gang. Lisa the beautiful, Lisa the model, Lisa the leader. And Mel the biggest tearaway in the school.


Lisa: There you are, Mel, that’s what you need.

Mel: A Wonderbra! But it’s twenty quid. I haven’t got that.

Lisa: You don’t have to. Not if you’re quick.

Mel: What?

Lisa: Get real, Mel. I’ll look after the old woman. You slip it in your bag. See you outside.

Woman: Can I help you, madam?

Lisa: Yeah…These skirts….

Mel: Shit, I can’t do this…I’ve done it.

Lisa: They’re not my size. Thanks anyway.


Okay, Mel, let’s go. – Did you get it?

Mel: Yeah, but…I could have died.

Lisa: So? Anyway, wear it tonight.

Mel: What’s happening?

Lisa: Mum’s out with her boyfriend, so I’ve asked some of the lads round. It’s your lucky day. Brenner Wesley fancies you.


Mel (as narrator): And then I’m back home, and Mum wants me to go to the supermarket with her. The double life of Melanie Dow! Dad used to come shopping with us.. It was like a family ritual. But since his promotion, it’s just mum and me. Dad stays at home to work on the company laptop.


Supermarket

Mum: Okay, Mel, check out, put petrol in, and get back.

Mel (as narrator): But when we get back, Dad has a visitor.


Dad: Hi, look who’s here.

Rikki: Hi Jan!

Mum: Rikki! Good to see you. God these are heavy. Aren't you out shopping too?

Rikki: I’m having it delivered, these days.

Mum: I must try that. Anyway, how’re you doing?

Rikki: Good. I just called around on the off-chance. Dave, I thought you were getting me a beer!


Mum: That husband of mine! Work, work, work. He can’t think of anything else.

Rikki: They’re all the same!


Mel (as narrator): When Dad appeared, he looked as though he’d been tearing his hair out. Odd – he’s usually pretty neat. But you should have seen Rikki Lewis – Amber Lewis’s mum, and my Mum’s best friend. Rikki’s the same age, forty. But boy, those shorts she was wearing! Short! And one of these thin tee-shirts that shows every detail. Lisa’s party just couldn’t come soon enough for me.


At the party

Brenner: Hey, d’you know that Tracey Andrews?


Donna: That slag?


Brenner: She isn’t a slag.


Josh: She is! I had her when I was fourteen.


Donna: You didn’t!


Josh: Yeah, behind the bike sheds in afternoon break. (All laugh)


Donna: It’s funny, Mel.


Mel: Right.


Brenner: Hi, I’m Brenner.


Mel: Yeah, I know.


Brenner: I guess most people at school know me. I like the way you’ve got your hair. Was that Lisa?


Mel: Yeah.


Brenner: She’s good. It suits you.


Mel: Thanks.


Brenner: You got a licence?

Brenner: Who cares about a licence? You coming or what?

Mel: Now?

Brenner: Things haven’t got going here. We’ll come back later.

Mel: Okay…..


Mel (as narrator): So I had a boyfriend. The first. As easy as that. And something else, as easy as that.


Mum: Mel, don’t just stand there, help me put some of this away.

Mel: Mum, I’ve missed two periods.

Mum: Does this mean what I think it means?

Mel: I think so.


Mum: Brenner?


Mel:: Yeh.


Mum: Well, at least you know that. Have you decided what you’ll do?


Mel: Decided? I thought you were going to be mad at me.


Mum: These things happen. And I’m glad you’ve told me…So…keep? Get rid of?


Mel: As in, like, kill?


Mum: It’s an option. These days. There’s no getting away from it. Oh look, Mel, I mustn’t be seen to….


Mel: …to care one way or the other?


Mum: Oh, sweetheart, care! Oh, my baby girl. For God’s sake! Of course I care. You’ve just got to think all the options through.


Lisa: There! You should aim to have perfectly oval nails. Then when the varnish goes on…

Mel: Lees, do you ever look at your hands and wonder if they belong to you?

Lisa: Oh no, Mel, can’t say I do.

Mel: Like, do you ever wonder how they got to be these hands from being little fat baby’s hands?

Lisa: You feeling okay, Mel?

Mel: I don’t know how to say it….I….I’m pregnant.


Mel (as narrator): As soon as I said it, I knew I’d made a mistake.

Lisa: Oh. Oh, that’s a problem, isn’t it?


Mel: Sure is. I guess I’ve got to work out what to do.


Lisa: Is there anything to work out?


Mel: What do you mean?


Lisa: Well, you’re not going to have it -?


Mel: I’m thinking it over. I mean, it is alive, isn’t it?


Lisa: Didn’t you use….well, some kind of contraception?


Mel: I…he said you didn’t. Not when you loved someone.


Lisa: Was this Brenner? Brenner’s always careful.


Mel: Oh, look, Lees, does it matter who it was?


Lisa: I thought you were steady with Brenner.


Mel: I am. Was. I don’t know.


Lisa: Were there other boys then?


Mel: No!

Lisa: So it must have been Brenner.

Mel: It doesn’t matter who it was.

Lisa: Of course it matters!

Mel: Lees, I have something growing inside of me – I have to decide what I’m going to do!

Lisa: Mel, I don’t know what to believe.


Mel (as narrator): I hate that girl. All I could think about was this – this living thing inside me. And all Lees wanted to know was the scandal. So she could blab it around all our mates.


Lisa: Well, hello Melanie.

Mel: Bitch.


Donna: Oh, don’t mind us! Goodbye Melanie.

Josh: Stacking on the weight a bit, aren’t you, Mel?

Lisa: Oh Josh, don’t be so cruel!


Mel (as narrator): The worst day of my life. And then it turned out the best. Not that I knew it at the time. There were these four guys in front of me.


Ed: Hi, gorgeous! Here, where you goin’?

Mel: Get out of my way.

Ed: Can’t take a compliment, this one. Loosen up, darling. What’s yer name, eh?

Mel: Get away! Don’t you touch me!

Ed: Look me in the face, love. Ask me nicely.

Dino: Lay off, Ed.


Ed: No, she needs to learn some manners.


Mel: Get out of my way, shithead!


Ed: Eh darling, that’s not very polite, is it now?


Dino: E-ed.


Mel: Did I ask for your stupid whistling, your “compliments”? You guys all think you’re God’s bloody gift, don’t you? I couldn’t give a stuff about a jerk like you!


Dino: Okay. It’s okay. Ed, lay off now, hey?


Ed: What’s she getting so upset about? She’s not so great looking. No tits, nothing.


Mel: Who cares, you moron. Better than having no brain.


Dino: Geez, Ed, you’re a dickhead.


Ed: And you’re a muppet, Dino.


Dino: Hey, look, hey – it’s okay.


Mel: You can bugger off, too.


Dino: I don’t want to hassle you. I just don’t want that idiot to get to you.


Mel: You’re the idiot, hanging out with such a jerk.


Dino: Really, he’s okay. He just goes stupid when there’s a girl around.


Mel: Oh, go away.


Dino: Hey, sit down for a minute, eh? There’s a bench, come on. You don’t want to take any notice of Ed.


Mel: It’s just that I wasn’t expecting it. You know, some days you can’t cope with things like that.


Dino: I dunno, you coped okay. I reckon!


Mel: He didn’t get out of my way, did he?


Dino: I thought you were gunna take a swipe at ‘im.

Mel: I should’ve. Mind you, he’d’ve only hi me back harder.

Dino: Nah, ‘e’d’ve been too schocked. Anyway, he wouldn’t hit a girl. Even Ed’s not that much of an arsehole.

Mel: I’d better get on home. I guess.

Dino: I was hoping you’d let me buy you a coffee or some.

Mel: What, to help me get over the shock?

Dino: Nah, we could talk some more. Like, you could tell me your name. I’m Dino.


Mel (as narrator): As easy as that. And for a while we had just a causal kind of relationship. I was still distracted by a certain problem, but I made my mind up.


Maybe in the future I’d have a baby – but not now. And then, a couple of days before I was booked into the clinic, Mother Nature took things into her own hands and I had a miscarriage. Maybe Mother Nature thought like I did. Brenner is a shithead, not someone you’d want as a father of your very own baby. Dino, now…But Dino gave me worries of another kind. He was training to be a boxer, and wanted me to go along and see him at the gym.


Trainer: Under his guard, son, an’ in! Right!


Mel (as a narrator): I felt like it was my brain being pummelled, the punishment those punchbags take. And then all the imaginary opponents, dodging, jabbing, copping body blows. And then Dino’s beside me on the bench.

Dino: A’right?

Mel: Yeh.


Mel (as a narrator): His guard still up, not smiling. I get the real Dino back at his place.


In bed

Dino: Okay?

Mel: Yeah. You know, I can fit both my hands into one of yours.

Dino: Gotta have big mits, a boxer.

Mel: Why d’you do it?

Dino: Jimmy says I could go professional. Anytime I want.


Mel: Do you want?


Dino: Can’t think of anything else to do. It’d be a job.


Mel: You’d lose the dole.


Dino: I’d make okay money. Besides, too much hassle on the dole. All them training schemes, ‘n’ that.


Mel: “Those”.


Dino: Uh?


Mel: All those training schemes.


Dino: Yeah – those training schemes. See, I’m thick. You’re educated, but me…


Mel: So you’ll probably do it?


Dino: Probably. Yeah.


Mel: Oh well…Try not to get knocked out too often, hey? I’ve heard it’s really bad for your brain.


Dino: Does fuck – all for the ego, too. So I’ve heard. I’ve been lucky so far.

Mel: I hope you stay lucky…

Dino: Yeah, like, I haven’t got much brains to spare?

Mel: That’s not what I meant!

Dino: No?

Mel: NO! I don’t want your face spoilt.


Mel (as narrator): Afterwards, walking home, I feel so confident and….and beautiful. He makes me feel that way. I go there to be polished and brushed until I shine, and walk back shining.


Brenner: Mel? Mel, you’re looking good. Hold on.


Mel: Piss off, Brenner.


Brenner: Give me half-a-chance – I just wanna know something. Mel, why’ve we broken up?


Mel: Cos we have.


Brenner: Why can’t we be friends?


Mel: Oh, you tell me.


Brenner: We didn’t have a fight or anything, did we?


Mel: No, you just disappeared off the face of the earth at the first stupid rumour, that’s all.


Brenner: What rumour?


Mel: Huh.


Brenner: I didn’t hear anything, honest.


Mel: Bullshit, you didn’t.


Brenner: Hold on, Mel. I saw Lisa today, and she’s being such a ratbag about you.


Mel: Thank you for this sudden concern.


Brenner: Mel, don’t be like this.


Mel: Don’t be like this? Three months ago you drop me like a hot potato and now you want to pick it all up again!


Brenner: I didn’t know who to believe, Mel!


Mel: And what was wrong with coming to me, for my side of the story?


Brenner: I felt uncomfortable. You know? The thing people were saying…


Mel: Like what?


Brenner: Well, Lisa said you were – that you were pregnant, and everything.


Mel: What do you mean, and everything?


Brenner: She said from what you told her, she figured it couldn’t have been me.


Mel: “She said, she figured…”You two have been having a good old chat together, haven’t you?


Brenner: Well?


Mel: Well, what?


Brenner: How much of it’s true?


Mel: Of all the brass-plated cheek! I could ask the same. Or have you been a virgin for three months?


Brenner: Mel….


Mel: Get your hand off.


Brenner: It’s true, isn’t it?


Mel: Get stuffed, Brenner. I don’t need shits like you in my life.


Brenner: You did have an abortion! You’re just a slag. You were sleeping with that guy alle the time, I’ve seen you with him. Slag. You’d sleep with anyone. Slag!


Mel (as narrator): I get home without a major heart attack. Under the shower, I feel like I’m washing Brenner, Lisa, the rest of them, out of my hair. I used to think Brenner was the sort of guy to go for. Blonde, sporty, cool. But next to Dino, he’s a dud. Even when Dino’s not there, it’s like his arms are round me, protecting me. It’s not just physical strength – though he could make mincemeat of Brenner – Dino cares for me. On my way to Dino’s flat, I admit it, I care for him. In a big way. So I’m not prepared when this sexy chick opens the door.


Oriana: Hi!


Mel: Oh.


Oriana: It’s okay. I’m Dino’s sister, Oriana. You gotta be Mel.


Mel: Yeah.


Oriana: Mmmmm…


Mel: Oh-


Oriana: Don’t be afraid! We always kiss. It’s being Italian. Sit down. Dino’s in the shower. How ya doin?


Mel: Oh, not bad.


Oriana: You’re doing sixth form, Dino says.


Mel: Yeah.


Oriana: What ya hangin’ out with him for then? Nah, just joking. He’s about the smartest one in our family. Though that’s not saying much.


Dino: Hi, Mel.


Oriana: I’m going. Leave you two in peace.


Dino: Yeah, okay.


Oriana: Ciao.


Dino: Ciao.


Oriana: See you, Mel.


Mel: Boy, what a pong. That is some perfume!


Dino: She overdoes everything, my sister.


Mel: She’s friendly enough.


Dino: Yeah, but careful what you say to her. She’s a real motor-mouth. She’s probably already on the mobile to tell Mum she’s just met you. Look, I’ve been meaning to say this. I’d like you to meet my family.


Mel: Oh man, does this mean we’re engaged, like!


Dino: I just wanna show you off.


Mel: I’m too scared.


Dino: Look, I’ve got my first pro fight coming up. They’ll be there. And I want you to be, too. You gotta see what it’s all about.

Mel: I have?

Dino: Come on, Mel. It’d really make a difference if you came. Will you?


Front door opens

Dad: D – Don’t come in.


Mel (as narrator): I come in. Dad is at it on the couch with Rikki Lewis. She’s looking at me over his shoulder. My Dad’s shoulder. And the look on her face. Megadoses of guilt and fear.


Dad: Is she gone?

Rikki: No. Melanie, get out, darling.


Mel (as narrator): I should stay. Watch them dress. It’s my living room. But I go upstairs.


Rikki: Melanie. We should talk.

Mel: Get out of this house.


Doorbell. Door opens.

Dino: Mel? Mel, what’s up?

Mel: Hold me, Dino.


Part Two


Mel (as narrator): It was only six months – and a lifetime – since I met Brenner at a party. Blonde, handsome…and the biggest rat ever. I’d got pregnant. All my so-called friends had turned on me. I had a miscarriage, and then, on top of all that, I came home one day, and there was my dad having it off with Rikki, my Mum’s best friend! Luckily for me, I had Dino. Warm loving Dino. The best. But…he was a boxer. And his first pro fight coming up. I was scared stiff. I didn’t want his beautiful body to be hurt. And I definitely couldn’t face the fact that the more a boxer boxes, the more it does his brain in.


Boxing match

Mel (as narrator): It’s the night of the fight. I’ve just met Dino’s family – the way they carry on! – and now I’m sitting next to Oriana, his sister.

Oriana: Go on, dino, go for it!

Voice: Work’im, Magnum, work I’m.

Oriana/others: Dino! Dino!


Oriana: How d’you like it, Mel?


Mel: It sucks. Anyway I’m keeping my eyes closed next round.


Oriana: Don’t faint, willya? He’s doing all right.


Mel: Yeah, but there’s blood down his face.


Oriana: It’s only a little cut. Anyway, Magnum’s bleeding more. Dino’s got his eye – ‘ere we go.


Voice: Onyer, Dino! Don’t wait for ‘im.


Oriana: Dino! – Oh nice one!


Mel: Ooh! NO!


Oriana: One-two, one-two, go for it, Dino. Yeeeeesssss!


Mel: I can’t look.


Referee: One…..


Oriana: It’s Magnum down, not Dino, git!


Referee: Two…Three….

Voice: Come on, Magnum!

Oriana: He’s a tough one, Magnum – Yeesss!

Referee: Ladies and Gentleman, the winner in the fourth round, Dino Magnini –

Oriana: Brilliant, Dino, you mashed ‘im! Mashed ‘im good.

Dino: Yeah – Mel!

Mel: Dino, oh Dino!

Dino: So what d’you think of me new job?

Mel: I don’t know. I think I hate it.


Mel (as narrator): And I did. I hadn’t felt like eating for days before the fight. And then the fight was over, and I still couldn’t face food. The smell of cooking made me gag. Then it dawned…..


Assistant: They’ve very reliable. If a little blue line shows in the window, it’s definite.

Mel: You’re pregnant.

Assistant: That’s right.


Mel (as narrator): Too bloody right. I thought my body calendar had got mixed up after the miscarriage. But no. Blue line in the window, just like the lady said.


Dino: Anything wrong, Mel?

Mel: Every bloody thing’s wrong?

Dino: Shit, what’d I do?

Mel: Not you, you idiot.

Dino: Don’t do that to me.

Mel: I didn’t do anything.

Dino: Who is it, then? Who’s messing you about?


Mel: My parents. My dad specifically. Everyone at school.


Dino: Hang on. What about your Dad?


Mel: I skipped school one afternoon. Got home and there he was – between the legs of my Mum’s best friend.


Dino: You’re joking!


Mel: If only.


Dino: So what does your Mum say?


Mel: She doesn’t. I haven’t told her.


Dino: Yeah…?


Mel: I will.


Dino: That’s bad news. And what about school?


Mel: Oh, usual hassles. No one I get on with.


Dino: That bloke you told me about, is he still giving ya a hard time?


Mel: Oh yeah, that too. Feel like I’m down the bottom of a black hole with slippery sides and just can’t get out. Everything’s wrong.


Dino: We’re okay, aren’t we?


Mel: If I didn’t have you, I’d ‘ve shot myself by now.


Dino: Nah. You wouldn’t cop out like that.


Mel: Wouldn’t I? Seems to me I’ve been doing that for months on end.


Dino: Nah, you know what’s going for yer. Anyway, six months, isn’t it? And you’re out of school, kiss’em all goodbye.


Mel: And do what?


Dino: Whatever you want.


Mel: And you’ll be there to see it, will you?


Dino: Mel! Yeah. If I’m lucky. Here. (kiss)

Dino: Shit, I just seen the time. Gotta session at the gym. Mel, you stay here, huh? When I get back, tell me about school and everything, yeah?

Mel (as narrator): And everything…I lay there on Dino’s bed in Dino’s flat. Safe. Somewhere out there Lisa, Amber, Brenner are all sitting in classrooms…Mum and dad are at work – or maybe, oh shit, maybe Dad is not at work, maybe Dad is doing with Rikke Lewis….And there’s Mum? And somewhere, down inside me, something’s growing. A person. I can’t cope. I don’t want to grow up so fast!


Dino: Hi.

Mel (as narrator): Dino’ s back, and I’m still in bed. I haven’t moved.


Mel: I’ve gotta go.


Dino: You feeling okay?


Mel: Yeah, I’m fine.


Dino: You going home?


Mel: Yeah.


Dino: I’ll come with you.


Mel: No! I mean, I’ll be fine. I’ve got some thinking to do. You’d be – I’ve got to work out what to say to mum.


Dino: Mel!


Mel: What?


Dino: You tell me what. When you coming back?


Mel: I don’t know. I have to see what happens at home.

Dino: What’s up?

Mel: Nothing’s up.

Dino: Why you running then? Why are you looking like that?

Mel: Will you let me past, please?

Dino: You comin’ back?

Mel (as narrator): I couldn’t tell him. I had to get out. I pushed this big heavy boxer away like he was paper. I knew what I had to do. But like always, life moved faster than I did.


Mum: Mel?

Mel: Mum, I’ve got something to –

Mum: I have to tell you, Mel….Dad’s left.


Mel: Dad? Like, gone?

Mum: Like, not coming back.

Mel: Oh, mum….Where is he gone?

Mum: To Rickie’s place. She rang me at work, to explain. I still can’t believe she’s done this, my best friend.

Mel: I’ve got something to say too, Mum.

Mum: What?

Mel: I did a pregnancy test…

Mel: Oh Mel…! I might have guessed – your eating habits have been so odd.

Mel: I’ll make a cup of tea.

Mum: Kettle’s boiled.


Mum: I thought you’d given up Brenner, Wesley.

Mel: I have.


Mum: So not Brenner?


Mel: A boy I met. Five, six months ago.


Mum: You still seeing him?


Mel: Yeah….


Mum: It’s why you’re hardly ever here?


Mel: M-hmm.


Mum: How far along are you?


Mel: I don’t know. Maybe four months. I only did the test yesterday.


Mum: Four months? It’s a bit late to…


Mel: Yeah.


Mum: This secret boyfriend. Have you told him?


Mel: Dino. I don’t want to tell him.


Mum: “Dino” Why not?


Mel: I just don’t.


Mum: Would he get angry?


Mel: No, mum! He thinks I’m the best thing since sliced bread.


Mum: Why keep him in the dark, then?


Mel: Because, okay.


Mum: No! Not okay. It took two to make this happen, so don’t go taking the full burden on yourself.


Mel: Look, I’m the one who kept forgetting the pill, right? And forgetting to tell im.


Mum: So?


Mel: Well, it’s my fault, then, isn’t it?


Mum: So?


Mel: Stop saying that, Mum!


Mum: Mel, accidents happen all the time. Pills fail, condoms split, diaphragms get holes in them. The fact is, you get a baby from a mother and a father, and the father usually, unless he’s a complete ratbag, takes some kind of responsibility. Helps. Supports. Money, if nothing else.


Mel: I don’t want his help and support.


Mum: Mel, can I just check with you? We’re talking single parenthood here, are we? We’re talking Melanie Dow having a child and bringing it up on her own?


Mel: There are other people. You, people I’d meet –


Mum: Me? I’ve got to sort out a new future. You think I want to go back to changing nappies?


Mel: Oh shit, sorry for spoiling your life, Mother!


Mum: Oh, clam down, Mel. It’s not my life, it’s the child’s. Is there a rock-solid reason why you don’t want this baby to have a father?


Mel: Who needs fathers?


Mum: Children do. When I look back over seventeen years of marriage….


Mel: Yeah, and how long was Dad having it off with Rikki Lewis?


Mum: One year, he says. Since we all went on holiday together. And I think I believe him.


Mel: That long?


Mum: Don’t get me started. We’re talking about a different father here. I’d like to meet Dino.


Mel: We’ve sort of broken it off.


Mum: I thought you’d just been seeing him.


Mel: I have. I’ve just broken it off.


Mum: Did you give him any reasons? Or did you just say because to him as well?

Mel: (doesn’t answer)

Mum: I thought so.

Mel: And another thing, I’m not going back to that school.

Mum: You didn’t have to get pregnant to get out of it!


Mel (as narrator): The weekend is murder. Mum keeps coming at me, dropping explosive questions like “Where do you plan to have this baby?” or “What will you do for money?” and listening while I flail around trying to think up answers.


Mum: And what about Dino? What about his feelings? You can’t just pick up people’s lives, turn them upside down and walk away. One day you’ll understand the damage you’re doing, and you’ll look back and be mortally ashamed!


Telephone rings

Mum: If it’s your Dino, I’m taking a shower.

Dino: Mel? It’s Dino.

Mel: I know.

Dino: I got your number out the book. Mel, is this an okay time to ring?

Mel: Yeah, well….

Dino: Haven’t seen you for a while, that’s all.

Mel: Well, I’m kind of ….grounded.

Dino: They found out, did they?

Mel: Yeah, for missing school and all that.

Dino: For how long?


Mel: My dad says…indefinitely.


Dino: Do you want me to come round and talk to them?


Mel: Um, I don’t think that’d be a good idea.


Dino: They’re pissed off, yeah?


Mel: Yeah.


Dino: Cause, man, I’m going a bit crazy here, you know?


Mel: Feel a bit that way myself.


Dino: Yeah? Oh, this sucks. So much. As soon as you get a break, Mel, come round, willya?


Mel: As soon as I can.


Dino: Promise me?


Mel: Promise. I’d better go.


Mum: Who was that?


Mel: Nobody.


Mum: Your young man?


Mel: Mm-hmmm..


Mum: Any progress?


Mel: Uh –uh.


Mum: What?


Mel: No. No progress! Just leave me alone.


Mum: Your Dad was round, and we’ve sorted out a few decisions.


Mel: Yeah? Like I go to Rikki’s place every second weekend?


Mum: No way! No, about the house.


Mel: You’re going to chalk a line down the middle.


Mum: Very big on black humour today, darling. It’s a good time, Mel. The house paid off, the child flying the nest –


Mel: I haven’t flown yet.


Mum: Officially you have, not being at school any more.


Mel: Have I?


Mum: Officially. Anyway we’re going to sell the house and split the proceeds.


Mel: Oh. When?


Mum: A couple of estate agents are coming to value it tomorrow.


Mel: And what are you going to do with the proceeds? Fly off to Spain?


Mum: Buy a place of my own.


Mel: What if it’s only got one bedroom?


Mum: What if it has?


Mel: But what about –


Mum: That’s why I need to know. About you and Dino. Or you on your own. Or whether you’re staying with your Mum.


Mel (as narrator): I have to get out of the house. For the next few days I walk the neighbourhood. Parks I’ve known since I was a kid. Shops I’ve been in. Walking….so as not to think. I come home when Mum’s back from work, filling the emptiness in the house.


Mum: Your young man came by.


Mel: Dino?


Mum: Could there be another one?


Mel: What for?


Mum: To see how you were. To find out why you’re suddenly incommunicado.


Mel: So what did you think of him?


Mum: I thought he was a really nice person.


Mel: You did?


Mum: He wasn’t at all what I expected.


Mel: No?


Mum: Sometimes you talk about him as he were…well, mentally challenged, shall we say.


Mel: He isn’t Einstein or anything.


Mum: There are other ways of using your brain. And he’s earning a living.


Mel: He told you.


Mum: About boxing? Yes. I thought he was very together. Mature.


Mel: Mature?


Mum: He was also very upet.


Mel: You didn’t tell him, did you, about the baby?


Mum: I’m not doing your dirty work for you, Mel.


Mel: It’s not dirty work! You think I want you to? Well, I don’t.


Mum: Give me a break, Mel.

Mel: No, give me a break.

Mum: Mel, you’re taking a break. And while you’re making up your mind, people are hurting.

Mel: Oh thanks, Mum. That’s so helpful.

Mel (as narrator): I carry on, passing the days walking. Somehow, my feet keep taking me back to where Dino lives.


Dino: Mel?

Mel: Oh!

Dino: How you’ve been?

Mel: Okay.

Dino: You…goin’ out with someone?

Mel: No.


Mel (as a narrator): I can’t bear it. The hurt in him. I know what’s going to happen.


Dino: You on your way somewhere?

Mel: Just walking.

Dino: Come on, Mel.


In Dino’s flat

Dino: Mel, oh Mel, Mel.

Mel: Dino…


Mel (as a narrator): It was like the first time all over again.


Dino: You feel great.

Mel: So do you.

Dino: Truly?

Mel: Of course, idiot!


Mel (as a narrator): And I’m cross with myself. For the way I’ve treated him. And afterwards, we lie there for a long time.


Dino: Y’okay?

Mel: Yeah. Totally.

Dino: We gotta do something about this.

Mel: About what?

Dino: We gotta get married or something. I’m not lettin’ you outa here till we got a place worked out and a date and a time and a promise you’ll be there. I can’t hack you leavin’ and just disappearin’. You get me?

Mel: Yeah, I get you.

Dino: I mean it. You can’t just walk off, right? The way I see it, two people like us, they know when it’s over.


Mel: Over?


Dino: I know it’s not over. And I figure you know too. If you weren’t so worried about what your Dad thinks…


Mel: My Dad? My Dad doesn’t care. He’s left.


Dino: What, did he clear out because of you telling him about us?


Mel: I – I don’t know. I was over here when he left. That day I last saw you.


Dino: So the day I called you…he’d already gone?


Mel: Yeah.


Dino: So what you were saying, about them watching you –


Mel: It was bullshit.


Dino: Right. So what was going on? Your Mum and Dad did know about us? Didn’t know?


Mel: Sort – of knew. I told them it was finished.


Dino: Finished?


Mel: That’s what I wanted.


Dino: Why wouldya-


Mel: I don’t know! When I was there, at home, thinking my life over, it seemed the right thing to do. Now that I’m here with you, I just don’t know.


Dino: I don’t know what’s going on, Mel. But one thing’s for sure. You look different.


Mel: Yeah. Fatter.


Dino: No, not fat! It’s…you don’t look like you’ll blow away in the wind any more.


Mel: Oh, Dino. Yeah, I’m tied down now.


Dino: Uh?


Mel: Someone else is tying me down.


Dino: You said there wasn’t someone else.

Mel: Not like that, you dope, someone else like…


Mel (as a narrator): I catch his hand and push it down onto my solid, slightly curved belly. The baby is swirling against the back of his hand. Can he feel it?


Mel: Like, inside me.

Dino: From..us?

Mel: Yes.

Dino: Mel, you know me. I’ll believe anything you say. Tell me straight.

Mel: It’s yes. There hasn’t been anyone else. It’s yours.

Dino: Aw man, with any other girl, this’d be a fuckin’ disaster!

Mel: You mean to say it’s not?

Dino: It’s great! You’ll never get rid of me now. A kid’s got to have a father, right?

Mel: I guess. I guess it doesn’t hurt to have a father. Well, it can hurt. But it doesn’t necessarily have to.

Dino: I thought you were gone. Now I find out I’ve gotta stick around you for another, what – sixteen, eighteen, years?

Mel: A life sentence, pretty well.

Dino: Yes!


Mel (as a narrator): Not a lot more to tell, really. The house was sold and Mum and I came to live in a much smaller place. Half the time Dino’s with Mum and me. Half the time I’m at his flat, like old times. We’ll get our own place, get married maybe. No, definitely get married, Dino says. He’s got another big fight coming up, and the prize money’s good. But the other day, he said it’s not a career to have when you’re an old man. And me? When the baby’s a bit older, I’m going back to college. I’m going to get a future. For myself. And for Dino and the baby!

Comprehension Task: