top of page


Second Chance School #1


I didn’t come to Cornwall to give dating advice to a lost lamb, but here I am, trapped on a cliffside ledge with a frantic, woolly armful that only calms when I talk directly to it, and I’m running out of topics.

We’ve discussed politics and religion. That took all of a minute. Discussing music lasted for a little longer, but it’s always been my passion. Dating tips also seem to hold its fleeting interest, which is a shame as I don’t have many. Got to say, I never expected to share my limited knowledge with a baby sheep while the ocean roars below us, but here’s my number one rule: “Never trust a man who tells you that you’re prettier without your glasses. They only want to take photos of your privates to post online without you seeing.”

Trust me, it happens.


Once was more than enough to keep me single and not ready to mingle. Now, years after the whole world got to see a close-up of my rear end, here I am, an almost-virgin who’s about to die due to a lamb with a death wish.

“I know what you’re thinking.” I hug the lamb closer. “How can I be an almost-virgin, right?”

The lamb bleats, but at least it doesn’t try to hurl itself off this ledge again, so I keep talking.

“Because the aftermath of my bottom going viral meant going into hiding, and all for a night I can barely remember. Believe me, it wasn’t worth it. I only had to stand in my headmaster’s study once, explaining why I ran away to enter a TV singing contest but ruined his school’s reputation over a tattoo somewhere cheeky, to learn that.” The seventeen-year-old version of me had no clue what he was in for. “If my stepdad hadn’t taken legal action to stop the kiss-and-tell story that went with that photo, it would have been so much worse. It was bad enough he read it. Do you know how well that went down with him?”

The lamb bleats again, so I tell it.

“Like a cup of cold sick.” Frankly, remembering that moment still makes me queasy. I mentally skitter away from recalling that much disappointment. Stones also skitter down this cliff face, and my heart stutters. So does the voice that I thought would be my golden ticket when I was too young to know what I was doing. “Y-you’d do whatever you were told after a shit show like that, believe me. And you’d hide out in rural Ireland with a dating pool of zero if that’s where your stepdad sent you.”

I’m not a disgraced stepson or runaway boarding-school student these days. I’m a different person—a twenty-three-year-old trainee teacher who should be in front of another headmaster right now, interviewing for my dream job. Instead, I clutch a lamb, hoping against hope this ledge doesn’t keep disintegrating.

So much for hope or for manifesting a last-minute rescue. More stones slip as I hug this bleating baby tighter.

The lamb only cries because it’s panicked about losing its mummy. So am I. Panicking, I mean, not pointlessly bleating for my own mum, and not because of my almost certain death by cliff fall. My heart really pounds at losing my one and only opportunity to rise like an actual phoenix from the ashes of my public fuckups.

“All because of you,” I tell this lamb, who hasn’t quit struggling for what feels like forever. If I let it go, the hundred-foot drop will probably kill it. Missing this second-chance interview feels as devastating.

Help bruised kids find their inner music?  I could do that. Me. Rowan Byrn. Member of a manufactured boy band the whole UK remembers for the worst of reasons.

Help silent children find their stolen voices?  Who better than someone who didn’t only show his arse in public but also lost his voice in front of TV viewers worldwide?

That shame is old now, and yet still fresh. So is the memory of the aftermath—the one and only time I was glad Mum wasn’t still here to witness.

Save another kid from feeling as isolated as I did? It’s why I’m here in Cornwall, but if I can’t get to Glynn Harber school on time, my fresh start will be over. And for what? For a lamb who wiggled through a gap in a fence, bounced in front of my car, and then took a clifftop tumble?

This lamb doesn’t care about tanking my second try at building a career before it’s even started, nor does it care about my number one dating tip. All it cares about is wriggling out of my hold.

“Perhaps I should let you.”

I don’t mean that.

I don’t sound like myself either. This rasp is different to the soaring voice that scored me a place in a line up I thought would be an escape route from a school I hated. Today’s hoarseness is down to my chest constricting—I can’t even take a deep breath, let alone yell for the help we’ll both need to survive this. All I can do is wheeze, “Stay still, won’t you?”

The lamb won’t. If anything it wriggles harder, so maybe it’s good that I won’t get to be a teacher anytime soon. Or ever. If I can’t control one youngster, how will I ever manage a class full of children?

“Stop,” I wheeze more sternly. The lamb responds with a headbutt almost dislodging my glasses. To be fair, that headbutt was accidental, like this little lamb’s headfirst plunge towards disaster. After all, I didn’t plan on hurling myself out of my car to catch it, did I? We both took a tumble we didn’t ask for, so I guess neither of us chose how this day is going.

Here’s what I originally manifested: I’d get to my interview over an hour early with my flute at the ready. I also manifested no one at the school recognising me from my first massive failure. It’s been six years. The kids are likely all too young, but that doesn’t mean old news can’t resurface. I crashed and burned in public, remember? Type the words BritPop! contest loser into any browser to see my last performance or that phoenix photo. And yes, I looked more wary than overtly sexual in it, but I’m also minus enough clothing for it to tell its own sorry story.

I won’t escape that loser label or image, especially now a contest reboot is rumoured. There’s plenty of proof of that in my email. The request after request to sing in a Where Are They Now? segment will have to wait for hell to freeze over before I’d ever answer. Besides, I’m too busy clinging to a lamb and to what else I manifested last night while staring at a hotel bedroom ceiling.

I do it again now, only with seagulls and my lamb watching instead of the phoenix I pictured with its wings spread. “I am going to score a fresh start.” That’s what the school I was on my way to promises all of its students and staff. A clean slate. A do-over. “Because fucking up once or twice doesn’t have to define a whole lifetime.” Excepting my bad language, I’m paraphrasing the school ethos, even if its website is headed with a photo of a stern headmaster that initially made me pause. The wording underneath it had convinced me to risk making an application.

Welcome to Your Second Chance School.

The only second chance I need right now will take a miracle. Or a hero. But like the first time I fell with the whole world watching, there’s no one here to catch me. All I can do is hug my squirming armful, because even if someone does spot my car above us in a coast road lay-by, the odds are they’ll assume it belongs to a tourist enjoying Cornwall in springtime.

“Or they’ll think I’m down on that beach.”

I don’t know why I speak to the lamb. I’d be better off talking to the Coast Guard or Cliff Rescue Service, and I would if my phone wasn’t still in the holder on my dashboard. Now I push my glasses higher to study rock pools between patches of sand and jagged boulders at the base of the cliff.

Would we survive if I jumped for one of those pools?

“Not without me hitting those rocks on the way down and bashing my brains out.”

This little lamb’s brains too. And it is little. Tiny. Newborn, maybe. It can’t be more than days old, yet its life is already as good as over.

I can’t let that happen.

The lamb struggles again as I feel with my free hand for something—anything—that might stop that outcome. The ledge only crumbles some more, and my heart lurches again like it used to whenever I stood in front of contest judges. Apart from the lamb, my only audience today are those seagulls and two surfers in wetsuits who paddle far below us.

My chest locks before I can shout for help. That’s so familiar. I’m voiceless all over again for a second time while in trouble, which is on-brand for me, but I’m not the only one in trouble, am I?

This little lamb means I find the strength to risk everything by waving one arm wildly at those surfers.

Neither of them spots that I’m in trouble.

That’s all too familiar as well, and time stands still like it used to between each performance on a stage I thought would set me free but turned into a prison.

I’m frozen while waves still crash and seagulls still cry, and I’d join them by wailing like a baby if I wasn’t so sick of letting life happen at me. Or sick of doing what I’m ordered, especially when it feels wrong. My inner phoenix won’t let me give up. It has ashes to rise from, dammit, so I wave again while the lamb struggles like it knows I’m a fool for even trying.

One of the surfers must notice.

He points in my direction, and I almost can’t believe it, but he paddles for shore, water foaming with each strong kick until he pops upright on his board and a wave carries him out of my field of vision.

The other surfer doesn’t follow. He paddles closer to the base of the cliff where he sits on his board with his hands cupped around his mouth. Shouting at me, I guess. I can’t hear him over the crash of the waves and this lamb’s panicked bleating, or over the hitch of my breathing. My chest locks. My voice too. I fight those feelings, struggling to overcome them. I have to because I’ll be damned if I’ll be silent like the last time I was helpless.

Let the worst happen to this wriggling, woolly baby?

“No fucking way,” I croak out. Not even when it craps all over my interview suit. I’d crap myself too if I wasn’t busy finding more of my voice, which kicks in the moment I hear a vehicle that, unlike all the others, doesn’t pass by without stopping. It screeches to a halt, thank fuck, followed by the slam of a door. A shout carries a Yorkshire accent to me along with a gruff order.

“Stay still.”

I don’t mean to yelp, “No shit, Sherlock.” My brand of fear is an unhelpful dick right when help is what I need the most. My mouth dries as soon as help actually does appear—a rope dangles just out of reach. I struggle to hold the lamb and grab for it only to hear another order.


I do.

“Throw the lamb.”

I don’t.

“What?” Here’s an example of what else fear always gifts me—I’m an actual fuck-wit like the kids at my last school called me. A space cadet. Away with the fucking fairies, like now for blurting, “This lamb?”

“Yes.” He’s come to the same fuck-wit conclusion. I hear it. “Of course, that lamb. Throw it as far as you can.”


How? The overhang of the cliff means I can barely see who is yelling. And what if hurling the lamb up sets off another mini landslip like the one that dumped us on this ledge in the first place?

The lamb looks up at me, all huge dark eyes and baby Yoda ears, and I don’t want to slip any further but I also can’t let that happen to it. “Okay, okay, I’ll do it.” Fuck me, that comes out as another hoarse whisper. I clear my throat so this comes out shakily but louder. “Get ready to catch it.”

“Catch it? No! Don’t throw it up here.” The wind blows a quieter, “Fuck sake,” in my direction followed by a clearer yet unbelievable instruction. “Throw it down.”

I still can’t clearly see who shouts at me. I can only dodge a shower of debris, which sets off another. The next fall of stones comes from below, more of the ledge dropping away, and for a second time in my life, I whimper aloud in public.

The last time a microphone broadcast my fear which led to more of the kind of online fame I never asked for, but what’s that saying? Play stupid games, win stupid prizes?

I whimper again, and this time someone who I still can’t see must hear it.

“Fucking throw it,” he yells. “What are you waiting for? A hero?” He doesn’t laugh exactly. If anything, the rest is gritty. “I’m the wrong man for that.” He must do something with the rope, which swings closer. “The only person who can save your life right now is you. You. That means you have to grab the rope with both hands and hold tight so I can winch you up to me.”

The only thing I hold tight is the lamb. Maybe too tight—its next bleats reach a shrill and sharp soprano. “Sorry, sorry.” I kiss its fluffy forehead, and that’s not as sweet as it sounds. If anything, it’s oily, and so is this next wave of panic when the lamb’s head makes contact, and my glasses don’t only slip. They’re gone, knocked straight off my face, and the world blurs.

“Grab the rope,” the surfer yells again from high above me.

Grab it? I can’t even see it. “I can’t.” I really can’t. “My glasses. They fell…” I peer down, and that’s a mistake. Even if I can’t see where they landed, I know the drop is lethal. Closing my eyes against that outcome is instinctive. It’s also pointless. “I can’t see anything.”

More cursing rings out, and something happens. Don’t ask me what. I don’t see a thing until I’m shoved against the cliff face by someone big and burly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to being chest to chest with someone pushy, only the first time that came with a warning in a soundproofed recording studio, and with being told I owed them—that if I wanted to keep the TV cameras trained on me, I better start acting a lot more grateful.

Was that why I froze that last time on stage?

Did I stay silent instead of singing to make that debt stop escalating?

I’ll never see that production company dickhead again so it doesn’t matter. Besides, today the big difference is that I react so much faster—I struggle, or at least I try to until a different powerful person whispers, “Hey,” and my eyes pop open.

I meet a steel gaze but hear a soft voice, and my lungs unlock all because a stranger doesn’t yell an order at me.

He only makes a quiet promise.

“Stop. You’re safe. I’ve got you.”



I can't wait for you to met Rowan and Liam on May 8th.

Be the first to read Second Song by pre-ordering today!

SECOND SONG at Amazon 



This story is a lovely, long standalone novel kicking off a spin-off series set at Glynn Harber School in the UK's beautiful county of Cornwall.

You can catch up with the first series here: 

Learning to Love complete series


bottom of page