“Keep the Faith” – a short story, less than 1000 words.

School Report. May 2012
Head teacher’s comments

Sara is clearly ready for the world of work. Her exam results should show, as we have long suspected, that when offered challenging targets she is capable. A suitable employer will find her energies very useful and a disciplined day would give her focus. Her cello playing will be sorely missed by the school orchestra. Good luck Sara!

(The Connexions office is open through the summer for careers advice.)

6th Form Leavers’ photo.

That’s me, there. They messed about for ages lining us up and in the end they put me between Katie and ‘my-daddy’s-an-actor’ Charlotte. It was sunny that day; too hot. It’s not my fault I’m short, sticking me with them two silly tarts. It’s not like it matters though – I’m tall enough.

Anyhow, the photographer, he said my black hair balanced out the two blond ones. He laughed then and said it again. He was kind of cool; not that old. He’d got these black boots, all buckles up the sides and a three or four centimetre sole. My Dad would never let me spend on something like that. He says I’m too fat to wear anything clumpy. He should talk.

We don’t usually bother buying the school photos. He says he knows what I look like, sees more than enough of me. Last night he came in from his shift, dug out his leavers’ photo. Even the school field looked the same; he was the short one in the middle too. He hugged me and got all soppy. Said he was proud of me and all that stuff. I went to bed and he pinged his supper.

My Dad thinks I should have gone to uni to do maths but he won’t say it. There is, like, no way. It’s the money. I can’t put my life on hold and borrow all that. We can’t afford it. What happens if I don’t like it? Anyway maths isn’t a job, unless you’re a teacher. And again, there is no way that is ever going to happen.

I’ll miss Andy; he’s a good mate. He’ll struggle though, I don’t think he realises how hard it is going to be. There’ll be no more Horrors gigs for us for a while. No weekend job or no money; no time or no mates. Being a grown up sucks.

Andy

And she said to me she couldn’t hack it. There was no way she was ever getting in to that much debt. All banks are fascists she said. She cracks me up, she does, when she gets serious like that but she scowled when I laughed at her. We got into a baby fight, all slapping and giggling. Her eyeliner made panda eyes. We hadn’t been drinking long but when she fell off the wall she was still laughing.

The chippy wall never seemed that high before. She’d black and white stripy leggings on, real Beetlejuice jobs. They must have been knitted somehow though. All around where the rubble had cut her was laddered, kind of lacy. The hole in her leg was deep. Bits of road grit stuck to the part in the middle, I could see a blue vein and her blood as it thumped out, heart beat fast. She pushed me away and wouldn’t let me help.

Back at her Dad’s she cleaned it up while I stayed in the kitchen. I stuck the kettle on, waited. Her maths folder was still on the dresser from when we’d finished our revision. She’s quicker than me and I wouldn’t have got through it without her.

For old times’ sake I had a nosey. Inside there was this brown envelope. I know I shouldn’t have but I looked. She’d have told me; sooner or later. I’ll worry when I watch the news in future; looking for her.

Pete

I put the results letter on the kitchen table and took her a cup of tea. We got back from the airport late and she likes that, if I’m about. That’s what we’d said; she didn’t speak. She knows it’s today. I can’t hear the water yet.

The cat’s chasing a windfall. It nearly battered the poor animal when it fell. I’ll have to clear them once I’ve washed the car; before the wasps get in them. I’m back in work today early again.

Not often I think it, but I wish her mother were here. Silly cow never did know what was good for her; bloody fantasist. No doubt Andy will be round later for better or worse, bless him.

When they first hooked up I couldn’t stand him. Skinny runt; big gob on him too. I thought they were seeing one another even if they said not. He’s my mate she said.

She’s a good looking girl my Sara. A bit weird in all that black stuff but that’ll all end now, I figure. She used to battle with the cat, tying ribbons round it when it was a kitten; playing princesses together.

Andy’s alright though. I wish they were an item. She might have carried on with her maths then. I still can’t believe it. She’ll get the points she needs. She’s done all their tests as well, done good in them too. God only knows where she got the idea from.

She wrote back and accepted it; her commissioning course starts in September.

That cat’s getting skinny. I wish it was eating better. It knew she was up, even before she opened the back door. It struggles now to get its balance when it gets down from my knee.

She loves that stupid onesie, even in this weather; bloody pink rabbit. The feet’ll get filthy if she comes down the garden in it.

Sara’s not saying anything. Not smiling, nothing. I can’t believe it. My girl’s in the army.

© Rebecca Sowray 20th May 2013

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