Beyond Caring: Chapter 7

Beyond Caring is the story of Aaron. On admission to Templewood, a children’s home, he met Rebecca, his keyworker, but he did not settle, and on Christmas Day he tried to run home to his mother. Since returning he has struggled with his keyworker, met his mother again,  lost his pet and had a brilliant holiday. If you would like to read the earlier chapters first, please click here: Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Mum’s got lots of necklaces because she likes wearing them.  At a stall in town, I pick out a gold cross on a chain for her.  Mum’s going to visit me at Templewood.  She’s never been on a train before but I’ve told her it’s not difficult and she’ll have my social worker with her.  She’s coming for my review, I can’t believe I’ve been here a year already.  Rebecca says that mum’ll hear good things about me.

I look at the cross in my hand, it might be right for mum because it’s even more shiny and big than the one she used to have.

“Have I got enough money, Rebecca?”

“Let’s see … yes, enough, but it is a lot to spend on this necklace.”

“It’s for mum.”

“You don’t have to get her an expensive present.”

“You can’t stop me.”

“No, but I can guide you.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll buy these earrings for you with any leftover money.”

“Oh no, Aaron, don’t do that, save your money!”

“You don’t like what I want to get you?”

“It’s not that …”

“I’ll have both of these,” I say to the man stood smoking his cigarette behind the stall.

“Generous boy he is,” the man says to Rebecca.

His hand reaches forward and takes my money before Rebecca can stop us.  I give her the earrings straight away and she does smile. I carefully fold the paper bag around mum’s cross and put it into my shirt pocket.  And then suddenly panic travels through me.  What have I done?  I have to say something.

“Rebecca … I mean … don’t tell mum that I also bought you those earrings, it’s just …”

“It’s okay, I really like them but I shan’t wear them tomorrow or mention them to your mother.”

Her eyes fall softly onto me.

“I do understand, Aaron … And thanks for buying them for me.”

” … Can you help me do a cake for mum when we get back to group?”

“Yes, I don’t see why not.  What type of cake do you want to make?”

“You tell me; what shall I make?”

“I don’t know what your mum likes.  We could do chocolate?  Jam, lemon, ginger?”

“Chocolate might be best … or it might be the worst.”

“What’s that?”

“Sometimes mum’ll eat two bars of chocolate together and still want more.  Other times, she’ll say she hates the fucking stuff.”

“Don’t swear.”

“I’m just telling you what … nothing.”

Back in group, we end up making two plain sponges – perfect rounds that rise just right.  We stick them together with a layer of jam.  I ask Rebecca to spread the icing and then I take some sugary red cherries from a plastic pot and arrange them into the word ‘MUM’ on top of the cake.

I get my room ready for mum, after all this time she’s finally going to see where I’ve been staying.  I hide Twiggy at the back of my top shelf, I don’t want to tell mum how the stick insect her money paid for died.  Or that this stick insect was bought for me by Rebecca and is bigger.

I put all my dirty clothes in my laundry bag.  The stuff left on the floor I shove into my drawer but then I remember how mum will want to look through all my things and she might open my drawers so I can’t leave a mess hiding in there.  Everything’s got to be right.  Piece by piece I sort out the muddle of games, CDs, tapes and books.  I bin all the ripped bits of paper, the broken games, the odd socks.  Finally I ask our cleaner to finish off my room.

“Your room’s brilliant,” she shouts at me above the din of her vacuum.  “I can really get round it today.”

Now, even the air in my room feels clearer.  I choose the clothes I’m going to wear for the visit and put them out on my chair.  I put the gold cross and chain for mum on my chest of drawers and beside it the letter I’ve written her.

mum is cute

mum is smart

I mum

with all my heart

forever yours Aaron xxx


I hardly sleep all night because I’m thinking of mum coming tomorrow.  What shall I show mum first?  My room or school or the main house?  I try to picture mum walking up towards Templewood; she looks small in the middle of the vast stairs.  I see her thin pale mouth that has a slight tremble to it.  Or should that be a bright red lipsticked mouth?  Will her hair be dark and straight, or maybe back to blonde again?  I think she’ll dress smart for coming here; maybe she’ll wear black.

I hear the house waking up – doors creak; adults speak softly as they meet up together; light comes under my door; Shelby’s voice whines about something.  I get up and dress.

When Rebecca walks into my room; I leap up to show her how I’m ready for today.  Her face is not smiling; she stops in the doorway looking out across the room with no focus; the door slips shut behind her.  My voice rushes into the uncomfortable space between us.

“Look at my room; mum’s going to be well impressed; I’m wearing these clothes. Do you think …”

“Sit down, Aaron, difficult news I’m afraid.”


Suddenly in her words and her mood, I lose everything; I know the truth but I speak my dying hope.

“Mum is coming.”

“No, Aaron.”

“She can’t not come.”

“Aaron, she is not on the train.”

I turn my radio on, put the volume up.

“Aaron …” Rebecca shouts above the music.  “Turn that down.”

I punch my music station off my chest of drawers; it thuds to the floor then a fuzzing noise burbles out of it.  I kick it into silence.

“Jean is coming.”

“Fuck that!”

“She went to your mum’s house; she waited for her; no one was in.”

“What the fuck time did she go?” I say with another kick.

“Early, because of the long train ride here.”

“Fuck that; mum doesn’t do mornings; she’d have been in bed.  My social worker should have woken her, helped her to get ready.”

“Getting your mum ready is not her job; your mum knew and agreed to the early departure.”

“My social worker tricked us with that; she set it up so mum couldn’t come … Well she will.”

I cross my fingers behind my back.  Please make her come; she’s surprised us all before.  She might be on later trains; it’s not that hard taking a train.

Downstairs, Liam’s sat with a new adult called Emma who’s come to work here.  She’s pale with thin blonde hair.  She’s the sort of person who doesn’t seem to take up much space in a room, almost like she’s isn’t quite solid.  Her and Liam are eating and not talking.  I go and sit down with them.  I’ve got to keep going; mum has to come.  I pour some orange juice, slurp it and then give a throaty burp.

“Aaron …” Emma says shifting forwards to sit right at the front of her chair.

Liam chuckles and replies with an even deeper burp.

“Very funny; come on you two.”

“I’ve got my mum coming today,” I announce.

“Oh … What? … No,” Emma says all of a dither.

“I have.  Now get me some decent cereal.”

“Aaron, perhaps you should wait before having your breakfast.”

“I’m hungry now.”

Liam gets up and comes back with some cereal for us both.  I tip the box up and cereal fills my bowl and then overflows all over the table.

“Stop, Aaron.”

I empty the box then put it down with a laugh.  I pour milk and it spreads across the top of the cereal and splashes onto the table; Liam and I jerk our chairs back but Emma’s too slow and the milk drips down over her lap; she rushes to the kitchen sink.

“Hey, Liam,” I whisper.  “You want to go out tonight?”

“Fuck,” he says and his voice is too loud.  “You get your mum coming and then you want to mess up!”

“Aaron, I don’t think you should be here at this table,” Emma says as she returns with a cloth.  “Go!”

“Fuck off!”

“Aaron, you’re not sitting here.”

She grabs my bowl and starts to march off with it; I punch into her arm; the bowl spills.  She turns to me; her nostrils are all large; she’s getting angry.

“What is going on?” Ben says as he walks in.  “Aaron?”

“I’m not doing anything.”

I make my way towards the front door, Ben pulls me back in and marches me to the office settee.

“Sit, Aaron.”

“Leave your dirty hands off me!”


“Shut your dirty mouth!”

I kick the settee then grab a cushion and hurl it at Ben.  I land a kick and he pushes me down on the settee.

“Get off!”

“Trying to make Emma angry, and now me, to deal with your own upset about your mum not coming?” Ben says.

“She is coming!” I thump my hand down on the settee.

“No, Aaron.”

The room falls quiet and I’m just sat alone on a big settee, the fool hoping for a mum.

My social worker turns up all official in a black skirt and jacket.

“Where’s mum?” I demand.

She looks at Rebecca.

“You know your mum is not coming,” Rebecca answers for her.

“I’m sorry, Aaron, I went to her house, I waited for a while in case she returned and then I had to catch my train.”

“She was asleep; you should have woken her.”

“No, Aaron, another woman came to the door. She said your mum wasn’t in. She told me to come in if I didn’t believe her.  I called out your mum’s name through the hall; your mum was not home.  I tried calling her on her mobile but the number isn’t working.”

“Something’s happened to her.”

“No, Aaron, a colleague of mine popped round to where your mum’s living about an hour ago. Your mum was there; she was not ill.”

So why the hell hasn’t mum come?  It’s not a question I want to ask my social worker.  I sigh inside; it’s not the first time mum’s missed a visit.

I refuse to go to my review.  I hate meetings.  People will be chatting about me and trying to make me talk about things like my feelings.  Alone in the kitchen, I take the cake I made for mum out of the tin.  The cherries have bled across the icing; it looks bad; mum wouldn’t have wanted it.  I’m about to throw it in the bin but then I rush to the bathroom with it.  I shove it into my mouth gobbling up the whole thing in minutes.

A loud hiccup comes out of me as I leave the bathroom and head upstairs to my room.  My perfect, tidy room.  I rip up my letter to mum and let the pieces fall down; I throw the box with the cross in it behind my bed; I pull out a drawer and tip it up so everything in it tumbles onto the floor.  Then I see my special envelope.

I open the envelope. There’s mum’s hair.  It’s curled up, looking old and dirty and so very small.  And beside it, there’s the rotten old sweet.  I screw up the envelope and throw it to the floor, then I open my door and kick it out into the corridor.  The door slams shut between me and the envelope.

I kick my bedroom wall then throw myself onto the bed.  I feel the sickliness of a whole cake sinking through me.  More hiccups start up; I hold my breath.

I suddenly rush to standing and swing my door open – plain brown carpet, nothing on it.  No envelope!  I search up and down the corridor, look down the stairs, under the settee in the upstairs lounge, behind the telly, in the wastepaper basket.  It’s gone.  Mum’s hair, the sweet.  Where is it?  What have I done?  I was only teasing when I kicked it away.

I run to the office; my hand reaches to knock on the door.  I stop still with my hand lifted up in front of me.  How can I ask if anyone’s seen a scrunched up envelope with an old sweet and one piece of hair in it?  I can’t tell anybody why they’re important and that they’re almost all I have of mum.

I slip quietly back to my room.

I’m sat doing nothing when my social worker comes to my room and starts talking about my review.  I don’t care what was said about me.  I look around my room at all the mess scattered across my floor.

“Can I phone mum?” I interrupt my social worker.

“The mobile number I have for her isn’t working; it leads to a line that’s been cut off.”

“Haven’t you even got the right number for her?”

“It was her number only two days ago.  You mother’s number has often changed; I have the latest one she’s given me.  When my colleague popped in on your mum she forgot to ask if your mum had a new number.”

“Fucking useless.”

“Will you come with Rebecca to drop me off at the station, Aaron?”


“You don’t want to?”


“Listen, Aaron,” my social worker says looking at her watch.  “I’m sorry I’ve got to go.  Good luck with everything.”

She throws an arm around me and my face bumps into her jacket and it feels all scratchy.

“I heard so many positive things about you at your review.  I’m sorry today you have been so let down again by your mum.”

“I haven’t.”

“I’m sorry your mother hasn’t come, that she doesn’t always do as she says she will.”

“She’s got her reasons; you’ll never understand.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t get to see her … Good-bye for now Aaron.”

What does my social worker care?  She’s not sorry.  This mess of me and mum living apart is all social’s doing.

When she’s gone I stand up and stare out of my window.  I look over at school and wish I could just slip into a normal day there with everyone else.

I watch as my social worker steps into the group car and then Rebecca starts to drive her away.  I shout out from inside at my social worker – take me, take me with you.  She’s driving near to mum.  Take me to mum.

Mummy’s hand is moving a stinging nettle out of my way so I can carry on down the little path.  I wanted to take this little path, I argued with mummy until she let me.  I stop by a bramble and she holds it back from my face.  Streaks of sun come through the plants that are over me.  Mummy’s happy again and back to a slow, easy smoking of her cigarette.  I pick up a tiny brown thing and mummy says it’s a pine cone.  I stumble over some stones and mummy’s hand comes down over me from behind to balance me.  The trees and plants begin to open and then we’ve reached a big paved path.  I run along the easy path, mummy calls me back and I giggle as my little legs take me further from her.  She calls my name, tells me that we have to get back now.  I run a few more steps feeling the weight of my head almost sending me somersaulting over.  I look at mum, she tells me it’ll be too late if I don’t come now.  She tells me she’ll give me a biscuit if I come.  She tells me she’ll count to ten and I had better come by ten.  Cigarette smoke drifts around her.  I don’t move.           

Mum shrieks my name and asks me why I never do what I’m told.  She says I’m spoiling the day.  I can see the anger spreading out from her.  She steps towards me; I step away.  She says she gives up; it’s up to me if I don’t want to come.  She turns back to the little path, I watch her legs pushing past each other as she steps over plants.  She disappears behind the shadow of a tree.  I run towards the trace of where she stood, I breathe in her leftover smell of cigarettes.  She suddenly bobs up on the little path up above me.  She looks round at me and I freeze.  She looks away and carries on up.  I try to run to catch up with her but a plant tears into my face.  I call after her but she doesn’t stop.  My hand itches from touching plants.  I want mum with me now, I want her to wait for me to catch up.  The white of her T-shirt flickers from behind the plants way above, sometimes it disappears and then re-appears even further from me.  I hate this little path, I don’t know why I ever made us come down it.  I don’t know why I was so naughty, why I didn’t go back with mum straight away.  Mum shrinks to a few dots of colour and then disappears.  I run a few steps and a bramble slashes against my leg, I trip.  I stand up knowing mummy’s waiting for me.  She has to be waiting.           

Mummy!  My scream carries out into the wood but the only reply is the sound of a passing car.  I push my way through the plants back to the big path.  Mummy!  I run one way and then another.  Mummy!  I stand still trying to hear mummy coming.  Trying to catch the smell her smoke.  Every sound makes me twitch but then suddenly I know that I’ve been waiting too long; she should be here now.  I run and fall, then get up again.  I start up a path but it’s blocked by a tangle of trees.  I take another.  I’m lost without mum and it’s all my fault.  I sit on a fallen trunk; its middle is a huge hole.  The greyness falling around me is not in my eyes; it’s getting dark.  I’m all alone in this huge forest world.


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