Chapter 1: Saffyre 1 Saffyre
MY NAME IS Saffyre Maddox. I am seventeen years old.
I am mostly Welsh on my dad’s side and partly Trinidadian, partly Malaysian, and a tiny bit French from my mum. Sometimes people try to guess my heritage, but they always end up getting it wrong. If anyone asks I just say that I am a mixed bag and leave it at that. No reason for anyone to know who slept with who, you know. It’s my business really, isn’t it?
I’m in my first year of sixth form at a school in Chalk Farm, where I’m doing maths, physics, and biology because I’m a bit of a nerd. I don’t really know what I want to do when I leave school; everyone expects me to go to university, but sometimes I think I’d just like to go and work in a zoo, maybe, or a dog groomer’s.
I live in a two-bedroom flat on the eighth floor of a tower on Alfred Road, right opposite a school I don’t go to, because they hadn’t actually built it when I started secondary.
My grandma died shortly before I was born, my mum died shortly afterward, my dad didn’t want to know, and my granddad died a few months ago. So I live alone with my uncle.
He’s only ten years older than me, and his name is Aaron. He looks after me like a father. He works at a betting shop, nine to five, and does people’s gardens on the weekends. He’s probably the best human being in the world. I have another uncle, Lee, who lives in Essex with his wife and two tiny daughters. So there are finally some girls in the family, but it’s a bit late for me now.
I grew up with two men, and, as a result, I’m not that great with girls. Or, more accurately, I’m better with boys. I used to hang out with the boys when I was a kid and got called a tomboy, which I don’t think I ever was. But then I started to change and became “pretty” (and I do not think I’m pretty; I just know that everyone I meet tells me that I am), and boys stopped wanting to hang out as a mate and got all weird around me, and I could tell that I’d be better off if I could harvest some girls. So I harvested some girls, and we’re not close—don’t reckon I’ll ever see any of them again once I’ve left school—but we get on OK just as something to do. We’ve all known each other a long, long time now. It’s easy.
So that’s the bare outline of me. I’m not a happy, happy kind of person. I don’t have a big laugh, and I don’t do that hugging thing that the other girls like to do. I have boring hobbies: I like to read, and I like to cook. I’m not big on going out. I like a bit of rum with my uncle on a Friday night while we’re watching TV, but I don’t smoke weed or take drugs or anything like that. It’s amazing how boring you can get away with being when you’re pretty. No one seems to notice. When you’re pretty everyone just assumes you must have a great life. People are so short-sighted, sometimes. People are so stupid.
I have a dark past, and I have dark thoughts. I do dark things, and I scare myself sometimes. I wake in the middle of the night, and I’ve twisted myself into my bedsheets. Before I go to sleep, I tuck my bedsheet under the mattress, really hard, really firm, so the sheet is taut enough to bounce a coin off. The next morning all four corners are free; my sheet and I are entwined. I don’t remember what happened. I don’t remember my dreams. I don’t feel rested.
When I was ten years old something really, really bad happened to me. Let’s maybe not get into that too deep. But yes, I was a little girl, and it was a big bad thing that no little girl should have to experience, and it changed me. I started to hurt myself, on my ankles, inside my ankle socks, so no one would see the scratches. I knew what self-harming was—everyone knows these days—but I didn’t know why I was doing it. I just knew that it stopped me thinking too hard about other things in my life.
Then when I was about twelve my uncle Aaron saw the scratches and the scars, put two and two together, and took me to my GP, who referred me to the Portman Children’s Centre for therapy.
I was sent to a man called Roan Fours.