“It’s Slasher Saturday!” Joy squealed as she hugged her big sister.
“Sure kiddo.” Faith beamed back. “I got most of Strangetown Massacre recorded on my phone yesterday. It was a quiet showing too so hopefully not too many heads popping up to obscure the picture – if you think you can handle it?”
Joy puffed out her little chest. “Pfft! Nothing scares me, sis!”
“That’s my girl.”
“Faith, can I have a word?” Her mother’s voice was soft from across the room. “Joy, please go to your room.”
“Oh but mum!” Joy huffed making a big show of stomping off down the hallway and slamming the door.
“Sit with me Faith.”
Faith crossed the room and took a seat across the table from her mother. “I’m sitting mum.”
Her mother turned towards her. Faith wondered which conversation was coming. Joy is too young to watch that kind of movie! or Don’t make pirate copies of movies at work!
Faith took a slow breath. One… two…
“I got a call from the landlord yesterday…”
Oh? Faith stopped counting.
“…He says he’s given us enough time to make the missed payments. We have until Thursday to find the remaining funds or we face eviction.”
“Thursday?” Faith’s eyes were wide, “how much do we owe?”
Her mother lowered her voice. “About fourteen hundred.”
Faith shook her head. “How will we get fourteen hundred simoleons by Thursday?”
“I don’t know Faith. He said if we can get five hundred to him by then, he’ll consider postponing the eviction, again.” She hesitated. “Could you take any extra shifts at the cinema? Or perhaps we can sell something?”
Faith silently fumed. She could work every single shift before Thursday and wouldn’t earn five hundred simoleons. She looked around the sparse room with its bare walls. What did her mother think they could sell? The windows?
“I’ll see what I can do,” she mumbled.
Her mother smiled, her blank gaze settled somewhere to the left of Faith’s actual face.
“Thank you Faith. I hate having to ask you to do this.”
Faith silently mouthed some words that would have earned her a clip around the ear but she responded gently, “It’s OK. I’ll call work, I might be able to get an earlier shift in this evening.”
Adina reached across the table to her daughter. Faith leaned awkwardly over, laying her hand so her mother could find it and pat it softly. “Thank you, my lovely girl.” She rose from her seat and felt around for her stick. “Could you please give me a hand with breakfast?”
“Of course.” Faith got to her feet and followed her mother to the kitchen. She wasn’t smiling but her voice sounded like she was. It was all that really mattered.
Didn’t anyone at the cinema ever answer the phone? She’d tried a dozen times. Then again, Johnny was the manager on shift today. He was such a creep and he’d surely put Zoe on today’s rota. The two of them were probably half-naked in the store room already, far too busy to answer any calls. She’d just have to turn up a few hours early for her shift and hope that he would agree to pay her.
Oh, her stomach was giving her grief today, but April had told her it would. She had expected it to be much worse, based on April’s description. The nausea however was something else entirely. She didn’t know how she was going to take eight hours of watching fat kids stuffing sticky popcorn into their faces. She had only managed to eat her ashtray of a breakfast because she knew how hard she’d had to work to earn it.
Faith wandered back in to the living room. Her sister was watching some age-appropriate television – much to Joy’s disappointment – and her mum was wrestling with the bin, trying to get the bag out.
“Allow me.” Faith intervened.
“I can do it.” Her mother insisted, oblivious to the banana skin that had slipped out of the hole she had made in the bag.
“Please mum. I don’t want you going out there anyway. It’s icy.”
The last thing she needed was for her mother to have a fall and be even more incapable of looking after Joy.
It was cold this morning. A light snowfall, unusual for April, had dusted the run-down houses in her neighbourhood. It sparkled in the sunlight and looked almost magical.
As she took in the sugar-coated scenery she felt her insides flip.
Her knees buckled beneath her as pain rolled through her torso. OK, now this hurt.
She gripped the fence for support, waiting for the sensation to subside. Powerless, she felt her body crumple to the floor, the breath taken from her. She felt so full; felt something swell up inside her like a balloon, filling every cell before it reached her skin and pushed its way through. A heavy void was all that remained. Then, with the ease of drawing in air, she felt something else fill her. Something cold. Something dark. She clamped her teeth around her scream.
Adina was starting lunch when Faith entered the kitchen again. She shivered as her daughter approached her. “Who’s there?”
Faith startled. Her mother hadn’t seen her face for many years, but she always knew when Faith entered the room – or tried to sneak out of it.
“How do you know?” Faith had asked of her mother one time as she was half in and half out of her bedroom window after curfew. “A mother always knows,” Adina had chuckled, “and my ears still work.”
Now her grey eyes narrowed in Faith’s general direction.
“It’s… it’s me mum.”
Adina reached out her fingers. This time, Faith didn’t have to position herself for her mother to find her. She stroked her fingertips gently down Faith’s face, then pulled her hand away, clutched at her chest.
“Faith,” she whispered. “What have you done?”
Faith backed away and felt her phone vibrate at her hip. Shaken and welcome for the distraction, she left her mother unanswered and ran down the hallway to her bedroom to answer it.
“Hey babes, it’s Johnny.”
Faith bit her tongue. She disliked Johnny at the best of times, but even more so when he called her babes.
“Hi Johnny. Thanks for calling back. I was just wondering. Can I get any overtime today?”
Johnny sucked in his breath. “You called me?” She could hear him tapping on his phone. “Oh shoot, you did call me. Ten times! Sorry about that babes, I’m a busy man. Anyway, I was just calling you to let you know that the cinema’s closed, so no need to come in tonight.”
“Yeah, burst water pipe. Whole place is flooded. Looks like it’ll be a good couple of weeks before we’re open for business.”
Faith shook her head, disbelieving. “But I need to work.”
“We all need to work, babes. But hey, if you’re really struggling for something to do tonight, come round to mine later; maybe we can even reach some sort of agreement.”
She couldn’t hang up fast enough.
Faith brought her fingertips to her cheek, still feeling where her mother’s had burned into her. She was staring at her phone wondering if she should call April when a message popped up on the screen.
Ugh, it was probably Johnny sending her his address. She hoped he wasn’t sending her an accompanying image.
She ran her tongue over her teeth and felt a surge through her body.
Maybe she would go round to his tonight. She opened the message.
My place. Urgent.
It wasn’t Johnny.
On the way, she replied.