Hello again lovely readers! Today, I’m the last person on the blog tour for That Asian Kid by Savita Kalhan. The book was released on August 29th, and there have been a whole host of fantastic blog posts about the book so far.
To finish off the tour, I’m excited to bring you an extract of the book – the very first chapter! Huge thanks to Troika Books for supplying me with this. Read on for the first chapter of That Asian Kid!
I’m taking my shortcut through the woods, all innocent and minding my own business, when I hear the sound of laughter coming from somewhere behind me. I slow down. I’d know that laugh anywhere. It’s like a boom: loud and deep, a guffawing that emanates from the ground beneath his boots, and rumbles through the belly before erupting out of his mouth, Father Christmas- style, but raised to the power of ten. It can only be Mr Green, my History teacher. I glance back. It is Green. He’s with a woman, but I can’t make out her face. I grind my half-smoked cigarette under my heel, silently cursing my one-every-other-day habit (yeah, I know, I’m such a rebel), and Mr Green and his companion for invading my space.
Did he see me smoking? Cos if he did he won’t let me off with a simple lecture or a look of disdain. He’ll be massively disappointed – and he’ll make sure I know about it on a daily basis.
They’re coming my way. Damn. The smell of smoke is sticking in the air like an accusatory finger pointing directly at me. They’re still some way off, so I could easily make a break for it, but I hesitate, curious about who the woman is. It could be Mr Green’s wife, but I’ve never seen his wife and there’s something oddly familiar about this woman. I duck behind some bushes. As they approach, they slow down, and I get a good look at the woman walking beside him. What a shocker! It’s Mrs Greaves, my English Lit teacher.
I use this shortcut every day – the bus drops me off on one side of the woods and I cut through the woods to get home, shaving fifteen minutes off my journey. I’ve never once seen any teachers from school down here, and as for these two particular teachers, well, I’ve never even seen them speak to each other at school. Any thoughts I might have had about surreptitiously creeping away are fast disappearing as I wonder what the hell my favourite teacher and my least favourite teacher are doing skulking round the woods on a freeze-your-nose-off January day. Whatever they’re here for, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not for an innocent chat – you’d choose a warmer venue than these damp, cold woods for that. I hunker down further. There is a distinct possibility this could end in trouble – especially if they come any closer to the monster holly bush I’m currently being pricked to bits in.
I can hear them clearly now.
‘This will make you laugh – I asked one of the boys
how his Christmas was and this is what he said,’ Mr Green is saying. ‘His cat climbed up the Christmas tree and toppled it over. The tree hit the dining table, and scattered pine needles all over the roast potatoes and veg. Then the cat landed on the platter of sliced turkey breast, his mum screamed, his grandmother grabbed the cat, and the cat clung on to the turkey for dear life and took half of it with him. So his family ended up eating all the trimmings minus the turkey for their lunch, which his grandmother was ecstatic about because she’s a vegetarian and she said it served them right for forgetting to make her a special vegetarian dish.’
That’s my story!
Mrs Greaves laughs. ‘Shame he didn’t record it – it would have gone viral if it really happened. Cat videos get the most hits, apparently.’
‘I agree.’ Mr Green chuckles. ‘He’s got a way of putting things, that Jeevan.’
What? Mrs Greaves is laughing? Apart from the fact that I’ve never in the eighteen months she’s been my teacher seen her smile (it would put a serious crack in her face), much less laugh, the real surprise is that she’s laughing about my story.
‘I suspect he probably made the whole thing up.’ Mr Green shrugs. ‘He had the whole class in stitches –
‘There’s a class clown in every form.’
That’s when an idea explodes into my brain and my
phone’s in my hand before I’ve given it another thought. You’d think I’d think before I acted – I mean, I get straight As in everything.
But I don’t stop to think.
The idea has me on autopilot – I’ve accessed the camera, flicked to Video and pressed Record faster than most people can blink.
‘Anyhow, good to see the smile back on your face,’ Mr Green says. ‘You sounded so upset earlier. Are you going to tell me what’s happened?’
‘It’s horrible, Daniel. I don’t really know where to start.’
Mr Green pats her arm. ‘It can’t be that bad.’
‘I wish you were right. The Head called me in for a meeting. He wouldn’t tell me much except that he’s concerned.’
‘Concerned about what?’
Greaves looks away. ‘Someone’s sent in an anonymous letter.’
‘What do you mean?’ says Mr Green. ‘Never mind. It doesn’t matter.’
‘It obviously does matter. Isn’t that why you asked me to meet you here? You said you needed to talk.’
‘On reflection I think I would rather put all that out of my head – it’s very distressing.’
‘Hang on – distressing? What was in the letter?’ ‘Someone has made certain – allegations, in the note, which the Head says he feels bound to look into.’
‘Allegations? Christ. That sounds serious.’
‘Yes, it must be for Rawson to give it any credence.’ ‘So what are they alleging?’ And then it’s like the penny has dropped, because Mr Green’s tone changes. ‘You haven’t told anyone about what happened, have you? Because it was only the once, so—’
‘Of course I haven’t. Give me some credit. My reputation would be at stake too, you know.’
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. So what is the note alleging?’ ‘I’m pretty sure that one of the boys is playing the race card because he doesn’t like his grades. It’s utterly preposterous. What kind of person does that? Clearly one with very little going on up here,’ she taps her head, ‘or otherwise they wouldn’t be resorting to devious, underhand and frankly ludicrous tactics.’
Mr Green’s mouth opens so wide it almost hits the floor. ‘No!’ he says. ‘Seriously? I’ve never heard such a thing. I’m surprised Rawson’s bothering to look into it at all.’
‘I know. Unbelievable, isn’t it?’
‘What else did he say? What’s he going to do about it?’
‘Rawson said it’s a serious allegation and it doesn’t matter if there’s no truth to it, he has to look into it regardless. He said he wasn’t overly concerned, but I’m not sure what to think.’
‘Christ! I can see why you’re so worried. Something like that can get blown out of all proportion. Remember that case in the papers last year? You have to be careful. Things like that can stick – even when there’s absolutely no truth to them.’
‘I know. It’s so good to know you care, Daniel. It’s a real worry. I don’t even know exactly what the note said. Rawson wouldn’t show it to me. I wish he had – I’m sure I would have recognized the handwriting.’
‘Whoever wrote it would have disguised their writing, Nic.’
‘Yes, you’re right. Of course they would have. It’s such a cowardly act. If they really felt unfairly treated, they should have gone straight to the Headmaster instead of sending a backstabbing, slanderous note. I’ve never been accused of – of anything like this.’ She sobs. ‘It’s a total shock! I’ve been a teacher all my working life. I love the kids, and I love my job. It’s all I ever wanted. It’s all I know,’ she says, sniffing and wiping the tears away with her hands.
Mr Green rummages for a hanky and hands it to her. Greaves has put her hand on his arm, drawing him in. She lets her head rest on his chest as she cries. Mr Green pats her on the back, saying soothing words.
‘It’ll be all right. Don’t let it get to you. You have nothing to fear. Rawson won’t believe an anonymous note.’
‘I know, but still, as you said, lies can stick.’ She’s really sobbing now. ‘What should I do?’ Green puts his arms around her, hugging her.
I hear kissing noises, which would make me puke if I wasn’t so shocked.
They’re an item?
Greaves and Green couldn’t have picked a more romantic spot for their assignation.
I squat down, resigned to being stuck here a bit longer. It’s only half past four, so I’ve still got half an hour before I have to give Maji, my gran, her insulin shot. Besides, this conversation might get even more interesting.
Mr Green’s married. He’s always talking about how his wife prosecutes criminals for a living: ‘So you’d better watch your step, sonny Jim,’ he threatens us on a regular basis. No one pays his threats any attention, though, because Mr Green’s one of those all-right teachers. Unlike Mrs Greaves, who just doesn’t get us. Well, she doesn’t get me, that’s for sure.
What I cannot get my head round is how he can fancy her. Some of the boys at school think she’s all right, pretty attractive even. I’ve told them there’s a two-for-one offer on at Specsavers and they should get themselves down there sharpish. Greaves has long frizzy blonde hair and watery blue bug eyes that would win a staring competition hands down, and she wears dangerously low-cut, close-fitting tops to show off her ample cleavage. On no planet would that be considered professional when you’re teaching a bunch of hormonal teenage boys, imho.
‘Oh, Daniel!’ Mrs Greaves exclaims breathlessly. ‘It’s been too long.’
‘Too long? Hang on a minute, Nicola, please don’t misunderstand—’
‘I know I’m not misunderstanding this,’ Greaves replies, her voice suddenly low and husky.
Uh oh! I don’t want to know what’s happening – but at the same time, it’s way more interesting than EastEnders, which Maji insists on watching even though she can’t understand half of what the cast are saying. That’s why I have to watch it with her, so I can translate for her. It’s surprising how much of it she gets, though, just from the actors’ expressions and the way they say stuff. Not bad for a woman who’s never been to school in her life. What’s unfolding before my eyes is in a totally different league – it’s car-crash reality TV, and I’m hooked.
‘Look, Nicola. Stop, please.’ Mr Green seems reluctant. ‘We came here to talk.’
Mrs Greaves is leading him the few steps towards the large oak tree almost directly in front of the bushes I’m hiding in, and he’s allowing her to lead him.
What’s wrong with him?
My heart is thudding so loudly, I’m surprised they can’t hear it.
Sticking around for the show was not my best idea, I think.
And the camera is still recording.