Mo was sitting cross-legged on the red-carpeted floor of his sparsely-furnished bedroom, surrounded by bits of sellotape and a large black bin-bag full to the brim with plastic bottles, cardboard ready-meal sleeves and discarded cellophane packets. He was happily building a space rocket. Naturally.
He was nothing like the others. They all thought he was a sad loon. So did everyone at school. He was eleven, just, and tried to go nowhere near phones, iPads, iPods or computers. No-one understood him. He didn't mind.
He was contentedly trying to stack two empty water bottles on top of a shoebox when the door came crashing open, and Carmen strutted in.
"Hi, weirdo!" she said cheerily. She always called him 'weirdo'. "Where's my top? Don't pretend you haven't got it, Faith saw you take it."
"I'm using it," said Mo nervously.
"I'm using it."
"Uh…" stammered Mo, agitated.
"Where's. My. Top?"
"On the floor next to my bed," Mo closed his eyes, prepared, as Carmen walked over to his bed and examined the floor next to it. Her pink sparkly top – one of her favourites – was in small strips, wound round an old toilet roll.
Mo winced, got up and ran from the room, crying "I didn't know you wanted to keep it!"
"MO MICHAELS!" screeched Carmen as she tore out of the bedroom, pursuing Mo down the corridors-
-Mo scrabbled down the stairs, and Carmen followed-
-Mo ran along a corridor, and Carmen followed-
-Both of them careered into Tracy Beaker, who stood there solemnly looking at them with one of her piercing 'okay, what's going on here?' stares.
Carmen lunged at Mo, catching him off-guard and knocking his glasses askew. "He cut up one of my favourite tops!"
"Mo…" warned Tracy. It was going to be another one of those days.
THE DUMPING GROUND: LOVE AND WAR
#1.1: War of Homophobia (Part One)
"Lovely grub time!" shouted Mike. "Come on, you lot, wake up, get dressed or whatever!"
Monday morning is never a good time and at five to seven or thereabouts all of the Dumping Ground kids, some wearing school uniform and some still in their pyjamas, traipsed into the kitchen of Elm Tree House, even though most of them weren't yet awake.
Mike presented everyone with two big plates of toast, glasses of orange juice and a big box of Coco Pops. "Eat," he said, plainly.
"Double Drama and RS…" sighed Saskia.
Breakfast finished about twenty minutes later, with what remained a scene of devastation – a few toast crumbs and the dregs of a cappuccino. Everyone got up from the table and left, all going to their rooms or to the bathroom to brush their teeth.
But as they passed the door to the lounge they were stopped in their tracks as they noticed a large simple yellow sign on the door. It read, in big black Impact text:
SAY NO TO GAYS
They're disgusting and there's probably one or two here
Demon opened his mouth in shock, whilst Elektra simply muttered "Oh, that's sick."
"MIKE!" cried Tyler. Mike came quickly up the corridor. "LOOK!" Tyler pointed at the sign.
"Oh, well that is coming down, right away," Mike said sternly, taking the sign off the door. "That's entirely unappropriate. Go on then, get ready for school, and please, whoever it was, don't do it again."
Mike turned round and was walking down the corridor when Elektra asked, "Is that it? That's all you're going to do about it?"
"Elektra, the sign's going in the bin and I've given a severe warning. What more can I do?"
Elektra found herself getting hotter and angrier as she took a step towards Mike. "You can try to find out who did it. You can punish them. You can make sure everyone knows it was them. You can do something that's not just taking the sign down and forgetting all about it!"
She stormed up the stairs, but turned round as she was halfway up. "This is serious stuff and it affects people, and people in here are going to feel bad or awkward or whatever because of that, and you're not doing anything!"
"Hi!" smiled Mark as he entered Elm Tree House at three o'clock that afternoon. "Anyone in?" he made his way through to the office. Mike was staring intently at his computer screen.
"Mike?" said Mark.
"Oh yes, oh, sorry, hi Mark," murmured Mike, still looking at the computer screen. "Sorry, it's accounts and stuff. You okay?"
"Yeah. Well, I mean, I've got all my course stuff done."
"Great!" smiled Mike.
"How are the kids?" Mark asked as he took his coat off and draped it over the back of his chair.
"Yeah, they're fine, but just watch out for Elektra, she's in one of her really grumpy moods. You know, the moods that we all love."
"What was it this time?"
Mike showed Mark the yellow sign. Mark's face wrinkled up as he read it. "That's disgusting. Well, I can see why she's being a bit stroppy. Who did it?"
"We don't know. Elektra had a rant at me for not trying to find out."
"Right, well I'll put the kettle on," said Mark.
Elektra's Monday had gone, as predicted, absolutely abysmally. Double Science went right over her head, Maths made her actually go to sleep on her desk, and she found herself realising during History that she didn't give a toss about the Battle of Trafalgar.
But worst of all, the people. They kept yapping at her, asking her stuff, all "Do we have homework for next lesson?" and "I went out with Harry on Saturday" and Elektra couldn't care less. All she could focus on was that stupid sign. 'Say no to gays'. How was that ever fair? And Mike had done nothing, as per usual.
She was going to have to do something.
4:05. About ten minutes earlier all of the kids who were at high school – Demon, Jody, Elektra, Saskia, Carmen, Faith, Tee and Johnny – had returned home, Elektra in particular looking very annoyed. Now Elektra, wearing her own clothes instead of her school uniform, was in Mike's office.
"Hi, Mike!" she cried, oddly happily. "I've just decided that I want to be a careworker when I'm older. You know, helping people and stuff. Could you just say 'House meeting in the lounge now!' really loudly so I know how it's done? Thanks."
"Nice try," Mike smiled. "If you want to get everyone in the lounge, just ask them."
"Yeah, but it's easier if you do it."
"Oh fine. HOUSE MEETING IN THE LOUNGE NOW! Happy, Elektra?"
Elektra was in front of the TV and all of the other kids were on the two sofas looking at her expectantly.
"Let's look at the facts," she announced. "One of you in this room is a massive dirty homophobic idiot. And we need to find out who it is, because if we don't I'm going to explode, freak out and kill all of you."
"Ooh, I'd quite like to see that," Mo mused.
"Shut up, Mo!" squawked Tee.
"Look, whoever did it, all you need to do is come forward, say it was you and then tell us why. It'll be easier for everyone if you just admit it now, and then I only need to hurt you a little bit, not loads.
"Look, 'say no to gays' is like, the worst message you could give out ever. It's bad. And anyway, what's it going to even do? There are probably thousands of gay people in the world.
"Do you think you're going to sound cool by saying that? Do you think you're going to impress everybody? Because guess what, it hasn't worked? You've got everybody either upset or angry. Well done!
"So whoever it is, come forward now."
There was silence suddenly. An awkward silence where nobody spoke or moved, or did or said anything. And then-
"It was me," said a voice, quite quietly. Everybody's heads turned.
"You?" said Elektra. "Oh. I might have known."
Hey, welcome back!
As usual: credit goes to indigosky17 for creating Skye, Olivia1995 for creating Saskia, and Elly Brewer & Ben Ward for creating everyone else, apart from Demon. Thanks to everybody who reviewed the introduction chapter thing. Sorry I took so long – I was working on three chapters at the same time and things got a bit awkward.
Two quick notes – NOTE NUMBER ONE: The kids in the Dumping Ground are, at the moment: Harry, Skye, Mo, Tyler, Jody, Demon, Tee, Carmen, Johnny, Saskia, Elektra and Faith. 5 boys and 7 girls. The careworkers are Mark, Tracy and Mike.
NOTE NUMBER TWO – At the moment the story is still set at Elm Tree House, but that will change in a couple of chapters' time, where they'll move to Ashdene Ridge. Bailey, Zakia, Chip, Jesse, Neil, whoever – they WON'T be featuring in this series unless I can come up with a really good reason for them to be in it. However, May-Li WILL be in the story when the kids move to Ashdene Ridge (because May-Li is awesome, end of).
Now, click that button that says Review. Review the chapter! Ask me questions about the story! Complain! Criticise! Say the story's rubbish and I took ages to update! Say it was brilliant! Just do something! Unless you just want to go away and have a cup of tea and a biscuit. Nobody's stopping you.