- Chapter One -

As soon as the letter was slammed in front of me, Mum’s long black nails digging dangerously into it like a bird of prey’s talons, I knew I was in for it. And this time I didn’t think I was going to be able to talk my way out of it.

“Read it,” she said, venomously.

Attempting to look as nonchalant as possible, I picked up the letter and tried to look as though I was reading it, a single eyebrow raised as though it was the most tiresome task I could have been given.

“Aloud,” she instructed.

“Dear Mrs. Conway,” I read, knowing immediately what was coming. “This is to inform you that, after much consideration, I have decided to expel your daughter, Amelia Conway, from Eastford High School effective immediately. Please contact me within the next ten days during which I will work in consultation with you and regional office staff to arrange an appropriate alternative education setting... blah, blah, blah… If you consider that correct procedures have not been followed in this case or an unfair decision has been made, you may appear in accordance with the Department of Education and Training’s procedures. You may wish to contact the regional office on… blah, blah, blah.” I tossed the sheet of paper back on the table and looked Mum in the eyes. “Bit of a pointless exercise that, wasn’t it?”

Mum’s eyes opened wide. She’d never looked so lethal in all the years I had been born – or at least, not that I could recall. A vein had even appeared in her forehead, pounding so fast that it looked as if it were threatening to burst.

“This,” she snatched up the letter and waved it beside her face, “is not a pointless anything, Amelia Rose!” I winced – no one ever used my full name. “This is the third school you’ve been kicked out of in three years!”

I watched as she collapsed onto one of the dining room chairs, her head in her hands. She looked as if she had been completely and utterly defeated. She looked up at me, her eyes red as if she had just spent the last few hours crying.

“What have I done?” she asked, looking up at me.

“Huh?”

“I must have done something, otherwise this wouldn’t have happened,” she explained, sitting up straight. “The first time was about your father, I know that,” again, I winced. “The second was because of plagiarism -”

“I did not plagiarize!” I yelled.

“You still got kicked out for it,” Mum yelled right back. “So this time… this time it must have been my fault, right? I’m due the blame for something.”

It hurt that Mum thought she could ever be to blame for anything I did. I wasn’t exactly the greatest child in the world, nor the most grateful, but she wasn’t the reason I acted out. She was the only one that ever seemed to be on my side. I just wish I could have said it more often. But before I could say it this time, my phone rang and the sounds of Britney Spears’ Work Bitch filled the air.

Mum snapped straight back into angry mother mode. She snatched the mobile straight from my hands as I took it out of my pocket.

“Oh surprise, surprise,” she said, looking at the caller ID. Shooting me a quick look, she answered the phone. “Devon, this is Mrs. Conway. Yes, Amy’s mum. I suggest you stop wasting your credit calling this number – it’s being disconnected.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and, by the sound of it, neither could Devon. “Yes, way! Amy’s leaving London. She won’t be speaking to you again. Goodbye.”

My eyes opened wide. I couldn’t possibly have heard her right. Disconnected phone? Leaving London? She couldn’t be serious.

“I am 100% serious,” she said, reading my mind. “I can’t do this anymore, Amelia. You’ve been spoilt by this London lifestyle,” she shook her head, not even looking at me. “Your friends are bad influences, you’ve been kicked out of school one too many times… You’re leaving.”

“I got kicked out of school and you’re gonna, what? Send me off to boarding school or something?”

Mum shook her head. “No, not boarding school,” she said. “You’ve left me no choice, Amelia. I can’t deal with this anymore. I can’t cope. The only choice I have left is to send you to your grandmother. She’ll snap whatever this is right out of you.”

“You want to send me to Nana Phyllis?” I jumped off my seat. She was out of her mind, surely.

She nodded. “I’ve already spoken to the school board. As you’re on your final year, it doesn’t make very much sense for you to start a new school. Despite their decision to expel you, they’ve agreed to set up a program where you can finish your assignments via the mail.”

Oh my God, I thought to myself. She’s thought this through. She’s put a lot of thought into this; into what she’ll actually need to do to ship me off to the middle of nowhere.

“I’ll put you on a train at this end and Nan will have someone pick you up on the other end – it’s quite a trek from the station to her village, but it’ll be good for you.”

“So you’re washing your hands off me,” I said, tears of anger suddenly filling my eyes. I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.

“You’ve left me no choice.”

* * *

Mum wasn’t joking when she told Devon that my phone number was being disconnected. Not long after I was told I was moving, I had tried to access my iPhone messages from my MacBook Pro but an error message kept coming up.

“Oh good,” Mum said, walking into my room. “I had hoped you were on your laptop.”

I looked up at her suspiciously. She was in far too good a mood considering she had just discovered me sitting on my laptop instead of packing for my trip. She sat down on the bed opposite me and turned the screen to face he and typed an address into the bar at the top of the Internet page. Then she waited for it to load.

Facebook.

No!

It was logged in – all my social media accounts were. No one knew the password to my MacBook so I had never thought to log out of them. There was no doubt in my mind of what she was planning on doing. I wanted to stop her, to rip the laptop out of her reach, but I was too shocked to do anything.

Without making a single sound, I watched her click the account settings tab and then, seconds later, the deactivate account button. As soon as it had finished deleting, she began to type another website into the bar.

Twitter.

Instagram.

Tumblr.

Pinterest.

Every social media network I was a member of, whether I used it or not, was being deactivated. She was completely cutting me off.

“I can always just get another one, you know,” I said, attempting to act unimpressed by her actions.

“Not without Internet access you can’t.”

My eyes opened wide. “What?”

“Did I forget to mention that your grandmother doesn’t have Internet access?” she asked. “There’s a little Internet café with three or four computers you might like to try getting access to, but you have to pay to use their network and it’s all still dial up. Should be quite an experience for you.”

She disconnected the Wi-Fi from my laptop so I wouldn’t be able to use it while I was still at home and smiled sweetly at me.

“You really ought to be packing now, Amelia. You’ll be going soon.”