He's After Me - By Chris Higgins


Upstairs, my father opens the door to us, beaming from ear to ear, a large glass of wine in his hand.

‘Welcome! Welcome!’ he says, his arms wide, sweeping us in like it’s a party. ‘What a night! What can I get you?’

‘What are we celebrating?’

‘The weekend? Spending it together? You both making it here at last?’

I ignore the last comment and cast a critical eye around. It’s the first time I’ve been here. The apartment, basically the top floor of a Docklands warehouse, is bright and overheated after the murky dampness outside. Open-plan, with high brick walls and solid oak floors, the windows stretched from floor to ceiling. It must have cost a bomb.

So this is where Dad lives. With Jude, his new girlfriend. Or The Bitch, as Livi prefers to call her. Dad broke Mum’s heart when he left her for a younger woman. Much younger. At twenty-six Jude was only nine years older than me.

The Bitch is away for the weekend, which is the reason we are here. Livi’s been dying to come for ages, only she won’t if Jude is around. She misses Dad dreadfully.

I didn’t want to come, only I couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to. After all, I’ve got nothing better to do, now that I’ve dumped Ben.

‘I thought we might order in pizza,’ he says. ‘Unless you’d rather go out for dinner?’

‘Whatever.’ I sound about twelve so I add quickly, ‘Pizza’s fine. It’s pissing down outside.’

I sit down on the expensive leather sofa, automatically turning a photograph of Jude, perched proudly on the coffee table beside me, down on its smug, smiling face. Livi ignores him. She’s busy scrolling through her text messages with one hand and with the other flicking through the channels on the gigantic TV screen that takes up nearly the whole of one wall.

‘Good.’ My father pulls his tie off in relief and pours himself another glass of red.

‘Can I have one?’ asks Livi, without looking up. Dad stares at her uncertainly.

‘She’s joking,’ I say.

‘No, I’m not.’

He looks embarrassed, caught out, like for a moment he’s forgotten just how old Livi actually is. I’m not surprised – she looks way older than fourteen. She could pass for my age easily.

My sister is impulsive, an exhibitionist. A dizzy blonde, true to type. She makes out she doesn’t give a stuff about anything but it’s mostly an act. Actually, I care less about what people think than she does, though I’m pretty quiet on the whole.

Still waters run deep, says Mum.

Yeah, right. No one’s ever waded round in mine long enough to find out. I wish I had more luck with men. I seem to attract them all right. I’m just not that good at keeping them.

Like that boy on the bus. I mean, it was Livi who caught his eye in the first place, singing out loud, but I know for a fact it was me he fancied.

Not everyone was impressed when Livi started singing. She got some black looks which made her sing even louder, and that’s when he turned around and grinned at us.

Well, Livi loves an audience, so when we got up to get off at our stop, she practically danced her way down the aisle, just to attract his attention. It worked. As we passed, he looked up and I rolled my eyes at him and he laughed out loud.

But then his smile faded and our eyes held and that’s when it happened. A charge passed through me, like an electric shock.

I’ve never felt anything like it before in my life. It was intense.

I’ve never been in love.

All the boys I’ve ever been out with could see that. Some dumped me because I wouldn’t put out. Some I dumped because I got bored. Like Ben.

No hard feelings, I said. Let’s stay friends.

And I meant it. Heart still intact. I never once thought he was The One. Just a nice, kind, safe, unexceptional boy.

But the boy on the bus was different.

‘What do you want, Anna?’ Dad’s studying the pizza menu, his phone in his hand.



Livi’s phone bleeps and she scrolls through to read her text. Her face lights up.

‘Nothing for me, Dad, I’m going out.’


‘There’s a party on. I won’t be late.’ She jumps to her feet and grabs her bag.

‘You are not going anywhere.’

Livi looks at him askance. ‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s pitch dark and pouring with rain. You are not going out in this.’

‘I’ll get a taxi.’

‘I said no. End of.’

Here we go.