Detailed plot summary - Part three

Chapters 33 - 36

Marcus finds the train journey very difficult and Ellie exhausts him. She keeps threatening to press the emergency button or to do things to anyone who looks at her. They sit in silence, and when the train stops at Royston station, Ellie gets off suddenly. Marcus does not know what to do and he just follows her. They walk into the town where they see a music shop with a big cardboard cut-out of Kurt Cobain in the window. Ellie swears and says that the owner is trying to make money out of his death already. She breaks the glass with her boot and takes the cut-out from the window. Some people approach them and eventually they are taken to the police station.

The police are very kind. They laugh at Ellie’s explanation about breaking the window, and this makes her accuse them of being patronising. Marcus explains about going to see his father, and Ellie tells the police to let Marcus go as he did nothing wrong. His dad and Lindsey arrive first, and his dad is grumpy because he is in pain. They wait for Will, Fiona and Ellie’s mother to arrive. Ellie’s mother, Katrina, phones and they arrange to collect her and drive to Royston. Will compares this day to Dead Duck Day, when Fiona tried to kill herself. He thinks that he enjoyed that day – not because of her attempted suicide – more than this day, because before he was not involved with any of them but now he cares deeply about Marcus and Fiona.

The journey is enjoyable, like a road trip. Will is amazed that because of his relationship with Marcus, he has come into contact with all these people and he is actually enjoying himself. In the police station, Will watches the scene; Clive and Lindsey are looking angrily at Marcus, and Ellie is glaring at anybody who dares to look at her. They wait for the shop owner to arrive, and Ellie announces that she is going to give him a piece of her mind. A young woman is shown in, and Will thinks that she could be Ellie’s older sister. She is wearing a Kurt Cobain sweatshirt and a lot of black eye make-up. Ellie demands to know whether the police told her to look like that. Her confidence seems to lessen as the young woman, Ruth, tells her that she loves Nirvana and that today is the saddest day of her life. She adds that the cardboard cut-out has always been in the window. Ellie is ashamed and whispers that she is sorry, and Ruth gives her a hug. Fiona gets up and hugs Marcus, confessing in front of everyone that she has not been a good mother, and has let things slide. Will watches all these people hugging one another and tries to make sense of it. He cannot remember having been involved in such a web of people before, and feels that he has been offered a glimpse of what it means to be human.

When Will asks why Ellie was on the train with him, Marcus says that he cannot remember, but that she is not right for him. He needs somebody less different from himself. Katrina jokes that Ellie is not right for anybody! She wishes Marcus luck in finding somebody not too different from himself, saying that a lot of people have spent half their lives searching for someone less different and have not found them yet. Will wonders whether people are single because they are all looking for somebody less different. He thinks of Rachel and considers that the whole point of her is that she is not him. He concludes that people only look for somebody similar to themselves if they are happy with who they are. For most people who are not so happy with themselves, it makes sense to find somebody completely different.

Marcus ends up going to stay with his father and Lindsey. Clive confesses that he realises now that he should not have left Marcus and Fiona, but Marcus tells him that it is not important any more, and that he can always contact his dad if things get too bad. He tells himself that he can cope now, and is even stronger than his mother and Ellie are. He will always make sure that he has a network of people to rely on. They talk a bit more, and Clive asks if Marcus would mind if Lindsey and he had a baby. Marcus answers that he would like it.

Will worries all the time that he loves Rachel so much that she might finish with him. This is when he realises that loving another person is not risk-free. Will now takes Marcus and Ali out on Saturdays. He actually enjoys taking the boys out, and they have a routine; first they have lunch in a burger bar, then they go to watch a film and finish with a milkshake at a different burger bar. He also takes them to watch Arsenal sometimes. Ali is still a bit nasty to Marcus now and then, but Will notices that Marcus is far more mature than Ali. He dresses better now and has his hair cut regularly, and surprisingly, he is friendlier than ever with Ellie and Zoe.

Fiona tells Will one day that Marcus seems so much older now, and that she feels she is losing him. When she says that she thinks he has been smoking, Will laughs but Fiona sees nothing funny. Will tells her that he thinks she seems better recently, and she replies that she thinks she is, even though she cannot explain it. Will does not tell her what he thinks the reason is – that Marcus is now much easier to cope with. He now has friends and has come out of himself, exactly as Will has done. Will considers how he, Marcus and Fiona have all had to lose things so that they can gain other things. Will has lost the barrier he used to keep between himself and other people, but he now has Rachel; Fiona has lost the dependence of Marcus, but is now much better mentally; and Marcus has lost himself but is no longer a target for bullies. The novel ends on a funny note, as Marcus announces that he is bored. Will tells Fiona to take out her piano music so they can all sing a song called Both Sides Now. She joins in the joke and agrees, but Marcus begs Fiona not to and shouts out that he bloody hates Joni Mitchell. At that moment, Will knows that Marcus will be alright.

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