I’d love to be their sister, bread-scented, bag stuffed with baked goods. Unlike the twins, though, I like spending time in the bakery. I help their mother clean after school, when the last of the day’s rolls have gone into the shop. Not that rolls make me smell like them – rolls aren’t real bread.
But it’s okay, I’m used to making do with second best.
The Christmas wish list keeps growing. You are still waiting for an item you might be able to afford to make an appearance.
In the meantime, you check the charity shops several times a day. You find a few acceptable branded clothes in excellent nick; they cost more than you should spend, but it is Christmas. Some of them are even on the list. But you don’t have high hopes for Star Wars toys or the electronics which make up the bulk of the list.
It’ll be the usual for Christmas Day – chicken with a side order of massive disappointment.
She’s poorly but she acts like nothing’s happened. But they see her bloodied lip, the bruise on her arm. They heard the fight last night. Mummy tells them they mustn’t mention any of it to anyone. If they do, it will only get worse and they don’t want that, do they? No, they don’t.
They mustn’t tell. But when they draw pictures of Mummy, there’s blood gashing from her mouth and she has a black eye and bruises.
Miss asks about the pictures. They say they mustn’t tell or it will only get worse.
She dislikes the hassle. How does one take a decent picture? Hers are either too dark or overexposed. She lives in terror of getting postage wrong. And once those bloodsuckers take their fees, the money isn’t that great, either.
Well, it is some money. On a good week, it takes the shop from Sainsbury’s Basics to Taste the Difference. When she finds treasures on the charity shop run, she’ll buy them and live on cheap toast and butter for a week until the item sells.
eBay is a pain. But it’s better than the alternatives.
There was a hush. There was a crack. Birds burst into the air, shrieking; water burst the dam, sweeping.
Nobody had told the poor to evacuate. Their kids wondered why no cars sped down the roads but they didn’t care – they’d never seen so much space to play. There was a hush, followed by children’ shrieks and sweeping water.
Given the distance to the disaster, the sunbathers thought themselves safe. Imagine their surprise when they found themselves trapped between ocean and onrushing water. They barely had time to scream and panic before they got swept away. There was a hush.
The doll’s eyes judge me. Whenever I see a customer out – I refer to them as gentlemen callers but it’s a euphemism, most aren’t at all gentle – it shakes its head in disapproval. It mimics the expression on Grandpa’s face when he came to pick me up from the A&E and found me wearing provocative nothing and slutty make-up.
He gave me the doll for being such a good girl while Mum was dying of cancer. I was too old for it even then.
I should bin it. But I need a reminder of my good girl days.
Francie peels off the plastic gloves, washes the fat that finds its way into them off her hands and changes into a t-shirt that doesn’t mark her as a burger flipper. This routine takes five minutes out of her thirty-minute break. Instead of eating the lunch provided, she goes to the deli around the corner.
It’s 22:44, the first time all weekend I’ve had time to sit and think. I should go to bed. I’m on the early shift this week, my alarm will go off in six hours.
Was last night worth it? Yes, Jeremy introduced me to his university friends at last. I cooked, they spent all evening ignoring me. Like being at work. Only worse, nobody at the hospital switches to Latin to make a joke. Jeremy said it didn’t mean anything. They’ve always done it, old habits et cetera.
But I know exactly what it meant: Know your place, pleb.