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Breaking Fences

The Kids of Welles Bend 4

Jessi Hammond

Copyright Information

Text and cover copyright © 2017 Jessi Hammond

Cover photo copyright © 2017

YsbrandCosijn / bigstockphoto.com

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, invented as of this year or not, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

About this book

Brad runs because it’s the one thing in his life he can do right. And what makes it better is he can see Beauty, the white pony he’s befriended, every day.

But when Beauty goes missing after a storm, can Brad find her? Or will his past behaviour put the pony’s safety – and her life – in danger?

Breaking Fences

Brad Colson pushed his bike into the bushes by the farm gate and stepped back, eyeing the bushes critically. Yup, his bike was hidden. No one driving along Shore Road, not that anyone did except people who lived there, would see it. He couldn’t afford for it to get stolen. He needed it to get around town. And because it was so old and no one else had one like it, every kid at Welles Bend State High knew it was his.

And he might be stupid, but he was smart enough to know that, if they found it out here, some kids would steal it and probably wreck it just because they hated him.

The dawn wind gusted in cold off the ocean, even though it was supposed to be the tail-end of summer. Three more summers of school. Four more autumns and winters and springs and he would be out of school for good. Dad had already said he wouldn’t be paying the school levy for him to go on to Year Eleven and Twelve, even though it was only fifty dollars. ‘No point,’ he’d said, cracking the tab on another beer. ‘Kid stupid as you’s gonna end up on the dole anyway. Better you bringing money in than me forking it out to school.’

Brad ground his teeth at the memory, then yanked his hood over his head so his face was hidden. The material was thin, the hoodie tight; he’d grown about ten centimetres since Dad had bought it for him two years ago. He was into adult sizes now, which Dad hated; it meant he had to pay more for clothes for him.

Well, stuff him. If Dad worked like everyone else instead of holding up the bar at Paddy’s half the night and existing on welfare, they’d have money for clothes. And food. And a new bike.

Brad turned away from the gate and started to jog along Shore Road. The road was a narrow strip of asphalt barely wide enough for two cars to pass and bordered by wet dirt and soggy grass. Beyond that to the left were fences; most people who lived out here owned acreage and had hobby farms, or else they let the bush take over. To the right was tussocky grass, then rocks and sand, then the sea, the breakers rolling in grey and chilly. The sky was the same. There’d been a storm last night. He’d had to get up and put the tins under the leaks in the roof because no way Dad would bother, even if he wasn’t drunk. His snores had echoed through the house as Brad looked out the kitchen window, seeing lightning stripe the sky and hearing the rumble of thunder and the splat of raindrops on the dirty glass.

Forget Dad. Just run. Feet hitting the asphalt, arms pumping, legs tingling, face freezing off from the wind, breathing steady. Nothing else mattered now. Nothing but the rhythm and the run.

Except for Beauty.

Beauty definitely mattered.

He didn’t know if that was her name or not, but it was definitely what she was. He knew she was a she – with ponies it was kind of easy to tell once you got a look at their backside. She was tiny, her head barely reaching to his stomach, and coloured a beautiful mottled white and grey, with a whitish mane and tail. He’d first seen her four weeks after he’d started running here, chowing down on the thick grass growing beneath the old wooden post-and-rail fence. She’d watched him pass, then watched him run back the other way for three days before he’d dared to approach the fence. It had taken both of them nearly two weeks, but now when she saw him coming she came up to the fence and put her head on the top rail. He stopped and gave her face a rub and talked to her softly. Most times he had half a carrot for her, stolen from the fridge, holding it on his palm and sticking his hand between the horizontal bars of the fence. She would take it gently from him, her big teeth grazing his skin, and crunch contentedly. Brad would wait until she’d finished, then keep running another one and a half kilometres until the road dead-ended at the Grahams’ place and he turned back. Another stop for a quick pat if she was still there, then he would run back to his bike and go home. A shower, a quick breakfast, and off to school.

Though sometimes he wondered why he bothered going to school at all. The teachers didn’t bother with him; whether the primary school teachers had told them about him or they just hadn’t got around to him yet, he didn’t know. But it would make no difference. They’d try and teach him, he’d listen and get bored and fidget and want to be doing something outside, and he wouldn’t even bother to crack open a textbook because there was no point. But there was no way he could tell them why.

If it got out that Brad Colson couldn’t read a thing… there’d be hell to pay.

Especially from Dad. Even Dad, drunken old mongrel that he was, could read. And any fault of Brad’s would be picked up by Dad’s mates, and Dad would get sick of the jokes and sly jabs about how Brad wasn’t as good as their sons, and Brad would pay in ranting and bruises and maybe a broken bone.

It had happened before.

And there was no way Brad was going to let the school lump him in with those disabled idiots in the special unit. Lara with her wheelchair and that stupid seal dance she and Tamsin had done last year at primary school graduation. Dean with his stupid lip-reading and sign language. And Dippy Damien, the Human Brainbox, with his thick glasses and sky-high IQ and A+ average. Brad was nothing like them. He didn’t need to read. He’d learned a lot of stuff off Youtube videos, spending long, frustrating minutes putting in a single word and following links.

At least Youtube showed you what they were talking about. No reading needed. He knew a little bit about a lot of stuff now, all organised in his head.

And since he’d made friends with Beauty, he’d looked up horses too. She was what they called a ‘miniature pony’. Little kids could ride them, but not adults. Sometimes they were used to pull little carts at shows and carnivals, or people kept them as kind of a living lawnmower. Brad grinned at that. He’d rather Beauty eat his lawn than him having to mow it.

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