You know exactly where you stand with him. You never smell deceit or slyness upon him unless, of course, he is in trouble with someone. It is a rare quality in ‘normal’ human beings, let alone a young man whose life has been shattered because of someone else’s alcohol problem. Of late, we have been arguing a lot about money. He’s for it, I’m against. I think there is much more to life than chasing cash. He thinks I’m a fool. What’s more, I am the worst kind of fool. I am a fool with a brain.

‘What more is there to life?’ he demands of me.

‘I don’t know.’

‘There ain’t nothing else. Believe me.’ ‘There’s got to be more than just money.’ ‘Why?’

‘Because there has to be.’ ‘You know your trouble?’ ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. What?’

‘You listen to those teachers too much. You think reading all those books is going to get you somewhere. It won’t. You’ll die poor. You’ll die in the gutter with not a penny to your name.’

‘I won’t.’

‘You will if you carry on like you do.’

A thought flashes towards me and I catch it. ‘You know what we should do? How we should settle this?’

‘How?’ he asks.

‘Okay. This is what we’ll do. When we leave here, you go your way and I go mine. But in twenty years’ time – no, better, when we’re forty years old – we both have to meet up on a set date and compare our lives. We have to go to a pub, sit down and see who was right and who was wrong.’

‘I’ll do that with pleasure,’ he replies.

‘Then we’ll sit and see who’s got the most and who is the happiest.’ ‘I’ll meet you in my Rolls Royce. It’s a date.’

‘A date?’ I say. ‘Oooh, you are awful – but I like you.’

At the end of such arguments, a brief silence will descend upon us and we lie in the dark of the room, contemplating ourselves, contemplating the future to come.

Taken from The Looked After Kid: My Life in a Children’s Home by Paolo Hewitt, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers on 21 October 2014. Find out more or order your copy here.