Flawed (Flawed, #1)(9)

Written By: Cecelia Ahern



As usual, I’m downstairs before my sister. Ewan is at the table eating breakfast. He’s wearing cream linen trousers and a baby-pink T-shirt, and I feel happy we match. A good start to the day.

Mom is staring at the TV, not moving.

“Look what I got last night,” I sing.

No one looks.

“Yoo-hoo.” I circle my ankle in the air, graceful like a ballerina.

Ewan finally looks at me, then down at my ankle, which I’m dangling near his face.

“A bracelet,” he says, bored.

“No. A bracelet is an ornamental band for the wrist, Ewan. This is an anklet.”

“Whatever, Thesaurus.” He rolls his eyes and continues watching TV.

“Art gave it to me,” I sing loudly, floating by Mom to get milk for my cereal from the fridge.

“Wonderful, sweetheart,” she says robotically, as though she hasn’t heard at all.

I stop and stare at her. She is completely engrossed in the TV. I finally pay attention and see it’s News 24, and Pia Wang is reporting live from Highland Castle. Pia Wang is the correspondent for the Guild. She covers every case in extreme detail, providing a profile of the Flawed, during the trial and after. It’s never a favorable profile, either. She does a good job of burying whomever she wants, though, to her credit, she’s covering Flawed cases, people who have made bad decisions, so she’s not exactly trying to glamorize them.

I look out the window. Dad’s car is gone. He must have been alerted to the story and had to take off early. That happens a lot.

“This case has garnered more attention than any other,” Pia says, her face perfect with peach-blush cheeks. She is wearing peach, and she looks like you could eat her, a perfect china doll. Glossy black hair, a fringe framing her innocent-looking, petite face. So perfect. “Even gaining attention around the rest of the world, which is reflected here in the turnout outside the Guild court in Highland Castle, with record numbers of people turning out to support their soccer hero Jimmy Child, Humming City’s best striker, who has led us to victory so many years. And today he is victorious again, as he left the court only moments ago having been deemed by Judge Crevan and his associates not to be Flawed. I repeat, breaking news to those who have just joined us: Jimmy Child is not Flawed.”

I gasp.

“What?” I say. “Has that ever happened before?”

Mom finally breaks her stare from the TV. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I … maybe once,” she says vaguely.

“Not a surprising result when a Crevan owns a share in the soccer team,” Juniper says suddenly from behind us. I turn to her.

Mom’s face looks pained. “Juniper…” she says simply.

“Damon Crevan. Owns a fifty-five percent stake in Humming City, but I suppose everyone will tell me that’s just coincidence. If you ask me, it was his wife they put on trial,” Juniper says. “And that dirty man got away with it.”

Nobody disagrees. Jimmy Child’s glamorous wife had been on the front page of every newspaper for the past few weeks as her lifestyle was thrashed out for all to see. Every aspect of her, every inch of her body, was fodder for gossip sites and even news sites.

“Go to school,” Mom says in a warning tone. “Any more talk like that and they’ll come for you, missy.” She clips Juniper’s nose playfully.

She was almost right.





NINE

WHEN I STEP outside, I see Colleen standing at her family’s car. The front door of her house is open, and she looks like she’s waiting. I guess she won’t be going to school today, probably going to the courthouse to her mom’s trial. My heart beats wildly as I try to figure out what to do. If I say hello, I might get in trouble. Anybody could see me speaking to her from their home, and I could be reported. What if Bosco sees me from one of the windows of his monstrous mansion or as he leaves for work? Saying hi may be seen as disloyalty toward the Guild, as support for Colleen and her mom. Would that be seen as aiding and assisting a Flawed? I don’t want to go to prison. But if I ignore her, it will be rude. It is Colleen’s mother who’s accused of being Flawed, not her. She looks over at me and I can’t do it. I look away quickly.

Behind me I hear Juniper say “Good luck today” to Colleen. It annoys me how easily she says that and then puts on her headphones and ignores everyone.

Art is already at the bus stop waiting for me, as usual, looking delicious, as usual. I leap on him as soon as I get to him.

“Bird.”

“Mouse.”

He kisses me, but I pull away quickly, excited to discuss the news.

“Did you hear about Jimmy Child?” I expect Art to be elated. Jimmy Child is his hero, and up until a year ago he had his posters plastered all over his walls. Most boys did. During the trial, Art had the opportunity to meet him, though a quick meet and greet in a holding cell before court wasn’t what he’d been dreaming of throughout his boyhood, and he hadn’t wanted to discuss it much.

“Yeah,” he says. “Dad left at the crack of dawn this morning. He wanted to push the verdict through first thing, in time for the morning news.”

I think about how I should have said hello to Colleen; I should have known Bosco wasn’t home to have seen me—he was at court early—and what harm would it have done anyway to simply say hello? I’m angry with myself.

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