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Скачать книгу Groomed: Danger lies closer than you think

Groomed: Danger lies closer than you think

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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‘Consider it yours,’ John said.

‘Thanks. But we have to move quickly because Keeley is so adamant that, no matter what, she doesn’t want us interfering in her life beyond sixteen. And with what’s just happened, I don’t doubt she means it, too. Of course, we’d rather she stay in foster care for a bit longer –’ He glanced at John. ‘At least till she has some sort of plan in place. Some idea of what she might do for a job. Or, once she’s old enough, a college place. But her mind is pretty set. If we don’t work with her, she could literally just disappear, couldn’t she?’ I nodded. She certainly could. ‘No, we just have to sell the idea well enough that she accepts that if she works with us she can still have her freedom, but with the security of us lot lingering in the not too far background.’

‘And you’d like Mike and me to be integral in selling that proposition?’ I asked. Both men nodded. And it was certainly different, I had to admit. I’d never been in quite this kind of position before. This was a teenager – a pretty smart one – who believed that she didn’t need help. She didn’t want to be fostered. She didn’t want anyone telling her how to live her life any more. And, though she didn’t know it, what she’d get, as a result of what she wanted, would be to become just another dispiriting statistic – a child from the care system, lost first in it and then to it. And her outlook as a child who’d been in care was already pretty bleak. There were more than enough stats to bear that out.

And our job in this process was apparently clear. It seemed that rather than our usual job – of loving and nurturing her with a view to her staying in a family setting – ours, even – we were essentially just being asked to keep things calm and contain her. To keep her out of trouble for as long as possible, until she had a ‘release date’, as if our home was just a half-way house for rehabilitating prisoners.

I didn’t need to think hard to know there were two ways this could go. It could either be extremely easy, or the complete opposite – and how it played out would be largely up to Mike and me. We could take Danny at his word – feed Keeley, clothe her, provide bed and board and a reasonable amount of boundaries for her – and, all the while, without paying too close attention to whatever else her life consisted of, including her charming little phone-sex business. After all, that was all we were being asked to do.

Or, to use Mike’s words, I could instead ‘do a Casey’ – try my level best to help change her mind about rejecting the system, and the attendant depressing outlook that might lead to. To do what I could to stop her becoming another component that made up those same statistics – the ones that proved a childhood in the care system meant a life of, at best, chronic under-achievement, unemployment (without GCSEs she had little to offer an employer) and, at worst, a life of criminality, drugs or worse; one destined to follow the path set by her mother, and so ensuring that the cycle continued.

A path which could so easily start from a bedroom in some grotty flat and a mobile phone. With no Casey snooping outside to curtail her paying hobby, what was to stop her, after all? As she unpacked her possessions upstairs, oblivious, I made my choice. Whether she liked it or not (and if Danny was right, she definitely wouldn’t like it) I decided I was going to do a Casey.

Keeley didn’t need calling down in the end. She appeared in the dining room half an hour or so into the meeting, red in the face from her unpacking exertions, and, having first visited the kitchen, holding a glass of water. I pulled out the chair between Danny and me. ‘We’ve pretty much done all the boring stuff now,’ he told her. ‘Just need to hear your thoughts now, about staying here – if you have any? Is there anything you need to ask me while I’m here, Keels?’

Keeley glanced around the table. ‘So I am going to be staying here, then, am I? I mean, that’s fine by me,’ she said, gracing me with a smile. ‘Anywhere so long as I don’t have to go back there. And it’s only till I’m sixteen, anyways, so it’s all good,’ she finished.

I resisted the urge to pitch in with ‘you’re welcome’, and catching my eye – and perhaps my thought process – Danny grinned.

‘Don’t worry, we hear you loud and clear, Keels,’ he said. ‘And yes, Casey has very kindly agreed that you can stay here for a while. But like anywhere,’ he went on, leaning forward for emphasis, ‘the Watsons have rules, and I expect you to heed them, okay? If you’re expecting me to go out on a limb and sort you out some accommodation for after your birthday, then you have to do your bit, too, okay? Following the rules, as I’ve told you before, is a normal part of life. We all have to do it and you’re no exception.’

It was obviously a conversation they’d had several times before. ‘Yeah, yeah, I know,’ Keeley replied, nodding, ‘I get it. I have to behave myself. And I have been.’

Danny’s gaze became stern, which put years on him. Which was good. ‘Well, from what I hear,’ he went on, ‘you don’t quite “get it”, Keeley. Last time I checked, having phone sex, or whatever it is you call it, isn’t
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