The gate closed behind them.

'And stay out!' shouted the old man. He sneered and spat on the ground.

Billy spat back at him through the heavy iron uprights of the gate. A bubble of saliva struck his tie, but he didn't even flinch.

'Stupid old goat,' snapped Billy as Dan stepped backward shaking his head. Old Man Barnes might be a stupid old goat, but even Dan knew that kids like them shouldn't talk to men like him that way. Dan's dad always going on about how Old Man Barnes had fought in all the big wars and was...

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"Flash mob. 12 PM. Be there or be LAAAAAAAAAAAME."

I put my phone back in my pocket and smiled. This was it, I thought. This was my chance to be part of the group, for good. I wouldn't let them down this time. Not when they had finally started to accept me. I rushed to my computer and opened the video Jayna had sent me. It was time to learn this dance.

Jayna had never been the most popular girl at school, but she had always been the coolest. With her blue hair and her ever-present messenger bag, the other...

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The beam swept across the water. The waves glistened in the darkness, tiny bumps of light in front of the tall tower. Her eyes had been scanning the glistening waters ever since the sun had set and she had realised his boat was not moored at the jetty with the others. Guy and Tom had walked along its wooden boards, dropped their eyes and tugged their caps when they'd seen her, but they'd made no mention of him. She'd almost called out after them, asked them where he was, but stopped herself before the his name could push itself from...

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The moon hung low in the sky, big and fat it was, looking down at us with an air of disapproval. As well it might given what we were up to. Burglary. Nasty business really, but needs must an all that. It had been Jack's idea, as were they all. He was the brains of the organisation, and what with him being the biggest and all, it would have taken a braver man than any of us to stand up to him and say no. That's how we come to be crouching in the bushes outside Millie's house.

'Ready, lads?'...

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It was because he was different, not like everyone else. That's what he told himself. That's what the mirror told him. Whenever he looked in it he was confronted by just how different he was. Whenever someone looked at him, he could see his difference in their eyes, in the way their eyes flickered away from him then back again. Unable to look at him. Unable to look away. Once he'd daydreamed about meeting a girl who couldn't see him, a blind girl. She'd fall in love with him because of his who he was, not because of what he...

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She'd always come running when I called. At first I only called her when I really needed her, but after a while whether I needed her or not didn't matter; I started to call her just because I could. I didn't realise I was doing it until she called me on it one morning. I'd woken up at 5am and the first thought in my mind had been her, the smell of her, the taste of her, the feel of her. It hadn't occurred to me that she might still be asleep and that she might not appreciate me calling...

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Peasants. Every last one of them, with their cheap hairspray and horrid distaste in bowties.

I stood at the edge of the sixty second annual GreatVac vacuum door-to-door salesmen conference in a state of disbelief. These people were my peers? My coworkers? My confidantes? Not a civilized, educated human being appeared to be in the room.

Barbarians. You would think that GreatVac, a company founded in 1904 on good American values would have a bit more poised and elegant populace.

And clearly the organizers of this event had very poor catering skills, as the punch was repugnant and the finger...

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Smell of moss, picked up by wind and lifted by trees. Flash of fire-rimmed eyes, toss of disdainful hair, gold-threaded-with-crimson. Derisive eyes and a tight little mouth, quick to contempt and slow to praise. Slender hands and slender frame roped the man in as easy as you please, and for what seemed like a thousand years promises of glittering gold kept her tethered to him like a

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The tiny clockwork bird danced (for want of a better term) in a circle, twirling, singing out its jaunty song.

She sat, watching it sing out its tune, listening to the unique tinny sound of the music box - there was something about that music, that paticular brand, which brought her back to childhood. As a child she had watched the bird, watched it in her mother's palm.

Her mother had, briefly, convinced her that this was a real bird, that this was what happened to them when they were caught, tamed. That you could teach them these songs,...

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So, at some point she had apparently managed to get married.

She stared at the occasional table and thought about that. She'd found a wonderful man, she'd collaborated with him, she'd fucked him, she'd had a wonderful time, they'd made a wonderful home together, and a wonderful baby together, and, really, what did it matter that she'd never finished her degree? She had a husband she loved and a son she loved and a life she always envied, until she shook herself a bit and remembered that it was hers.

There were thousands of other ways to do important work...

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