Her long, red nails scratched my hand as I tried to yank my pony tail free. Her face was screwed up in anger. She was shouting but I was not hearing. I was stunned, confused, scared, but very aware that my baby sister was crying. A cry full of fear. She should not be crying like that. She’s a baby. She shouldn’t be seeing this. I need to get out. Of here. Now. My mind was racing but I managed to free my hair from her talon adorned hands. In a split second it seemed I was outside the house, barefoot, holding my shoes, keys, bag, and hairbrush. HAIRBRUSH? I stood there, breathing heavily, looking at my hairbrush and it all of a sudden became funny. “Is this hysteria?” my mind asked. I could still hear the baby crying, this brought me back to the problem in hand.
An hour earlier things were fine. Sally didn’t know if she needed me to babysit instead of going to the local youth club so we hatched a plan.
“How about I get ready, just in case you don’t need me? But if you do, it’s fine!” Sally agreed. We were both happy. OK I would have loved to be going to the youth club for sure. It was the only thing I got to go to, but I loved my sister Hannah and was used to spending days and nights with her alone. We were a mini team. So, after getting dressed to go out ‘just in case’, I headed downstairs. Sally was clearly on the phone to my Dad. This was where I would find out what’s going on. I smiled as I entered the lounge. I tried not to notice the whisky bottle and three fingers full glass on the coffee table. I kept half an ear on the conversation whilst waving toys at Hannah who was camped out on a rug on the floor, looking adorable in a baby gro. The phone conversation went on for some 10 minutes, then I heard “Well, Carly has tarted herself up to go out now, so I won’t be able to come..”
“We had agreed that I would get ready” I interrupted “If you want to go, I’m happy to babysit. You know that!” I said. From there it all went pear shaped. The phone was put down and the empty hand was quickly filled with my hair..
“What do I do?” I thought as I scanned the street for signs of life. There were none. I dropped my shoes on the floor and put them on, then put the stupid hairbrush, and my keys in my bag. I mentally crossed my fingers that my purse was where it should be as I rooted around. It was, so I just started walking. The adrenalin dropped, and I cried. Not enough to stop me walking, but enough to blur my vision for a while. I wiped tears from my cheeks and decided the best thing would be to ring my friend Laura, because along with Laura came her amazing parents. They would know what I should do. The nearest phone box was at the shopping centre so I changed course slightly, feeling a little brighter with a plan.
The small shopping centre was quite busy, and the solitary phone box was being used. I sat on the seat nearby and waited. My head still full of “what just happened?” I stood as the phone box became free, saying thanks to the guy who held the door for me. My hands shook just a little as I retrieved a coin from my purse and rang Laura’s house. Laura’s mum answered. Of course! Laura would be on her way to the youth club. So as concisely as I could I explained the situation. I didn’t need to ask for help, she just said “Wait there. I’ll come and get you.”
Ten minutes later I had had a hug, and was sitting in Laura’s mum’s car, trying to answer questions that I didn’t know the answer to. I knew ‘what’ had happened, but I didn’t know ‘why’. At Laura’s, Michelle and Bob bustled around plying me with warm drinks and food, occasionally talking quietly so I couldn’t hear. At some point it was decided that we should give it a while for things to calm down then Michelle would drop me back home. This said, we talked about everything and nothing and an hour or so flew by. “This is what a normal family does” I thought. This is nice. All too soon I was standing back at my front door with Michelle. As I said thanks she stayed put. “I’ll see you in and have a word with Sally. OK?”
“Yes” I replied. Knowing it wasn’t really a question.
I put the key in the lock and turned, but the door wouldn’t open. “She’s locked it from the inside” I whispered. Michelle didn’t respond, as if in thought, then she raised her hand and started loudly knocking on the door. She even raised the letter box and called out, but nothing. The door remained closed. After ten minutes the knocking stopped.
“Right. You can stay with us tonight. I will try ringing once we get home though” Michelle said as she guided me back towards the car.
“I don’t have my uniform” I replied, thinking about school.
“I’ll come in with you and have a word with the Head. It’ll be fine..” I could tell from her voice though that she had at least some doubts.
Back in the bubble of Laura’s house it was warm, and friendly. When Laura appeared she looked at me with surprise “Ooh! What are you doing here? And where were you tonight?” The questions kept coming as I relayed the events of the evening. Eventually she just sat for a while at the kitchen table, as if digesting all she had been told. She reached over and hugged my shoulder, stood and went over to her mum and gave her a hug. “Thanks mum. Love you.”
“You too sweetie!” Replied Michelle with a smile.
My bed for the night was in Laura’s room. A typically girly room. Lots of pink, and fluffy stuff. Clothes hanging over a chair, drawers slightly open from the evening’s getting ready. I loved this room, we often used to sprawl on the floor, listening to music and chattering away, before Sally had Hannah anyway. It had been a while. Tucked up in bed Laura’s voice came from the darkness “Are you OK Carly?”
“Yes, I suppose” I replied.
“Always thought she was a witch!” with that I heard her laugh.
“Laura!” I exclaimed, though laughing too “But she’s the only witch I have..”
Michelle and I sat outside the Head’s office. The hallway was busy, busy with people taking a sidelong glance at me sitting in a t-shirt dress, and shoes that were clearly not regulation.
“They’ll probably make me wear lost property for lessons” I mused, just as the door opened and Mr Richards popped his head out. “Come on in Carly, Mrs Seer. Take a seat.” Smiling, he sat himself, and listened while Michelle gave him the short details of last night. He didn’t say much during the process, but as she finished he cleared his throat, “I’ll ring Mrs Priest. See if we can sort this whole thing out eh? You stay here, I’ll go into the admin office” He pushed back his chair, stood, and left the room.
Rob Richards pulled his office door shut and hurried over to the admin office. After a hushed update of the situation he changed the subject. “Will you get me Mrs Priest on the ‘phone please Jan? The blonde woman moved the file from the edge of the table, read from within then reached for the ‘phone to dial the number.. After a short pause she began to speak, quickly passing the receiver over to the Headmaster.
“Mrs Priest. I felt I needed to talk with you with regards to Carly. It appears she stayed with friends last night because there was a problem with her house keys?” he listened while the person at the other end spoke. His expression becoming quizzical, and ending with annoyance. “She’s put the bloody ‘phone down on me!” he stared at the receiver for a second, then slowly replaced it on the cradle.
“Maybe you just got cut off?” questioned Jan
“No, she clearly wasn’t up for talking… What to do.. What to do..”
“It’s definitely a volatile household” Jan spoke “I mean, the dad leaving, then Mrs Priest spending so much time away from home with him. Crazy! And when you think about how much school Carly missed looking after her sister, when she’s only a child herself..”
The head thought for a while longer “Right, well, we’ve kept social services out of it so far, but I feel we need to include them now. Mrs Priest obviously locked that door on purpose. We need to get Carly a place to sleep.. Poor kid. Any chance we can get hold of the dad?” Jan looked in the file again “There’s a number here, updated 6 months ago, that must be it” she dialled again, listened, then put her hand over the mouthpiece “It’s his work number” she said quietly “Yes! Hello. Can I speak with Mr Bell?” after a short pause she continued “I have the Headmaster here from Vale High School” she listened again “Thank you” Again she passed the phone over to the Head. Who again went over the details and listened for quite some time. Occasionally uttering “I see” or “Ok” and jotting down notes, ending with “goodbye”. Jan looked up “Well you didn’t have much input there! What did he say?” Rob shook his head slowly “He’s saying that Carly ran away, so they need time to figure things out. They are sending her to stay with a family friend for three weeks.” When Jan opened her mouth to question he continued “Apparently he was about to call us with this information. Her clothes and necessary things are already at..” he looked at his notepad “.. Mary Blake, her number and address is here for the records” he pushed the note over to Jan “I better go and tell her what’s going on.. Poor kid. Oh.. Can you ring social services and explain?”
I moved my foot nervously as Michelle & I waited for the Head. It seemed to be taking an age. “It’s gonna be lunch time soon” I half joked, inwardly wishing he wouldn’t come back at all. I feel my life is going to change forever today. Michelle patted my shoulder “He’ll be back..” she cut off as the door reopened.
“Right! I’ve spoken with both Mrs Priest, & your dad..”
My mind did somersaults as I listened to him.. “RAN AWAY!” I suppose technically I did, but it was necessary for my safety AND Hannah’s peace of mind. At some point I said out loud “I went straight to Laura’s.. And I tried to go back..” I heard Michelle asking questions as I pondered my new home for the next three weeks. At some point the phone rang and he talked for a minute, just answering with “yes” or “Fine”.
Mary.. I like Mary but there isn’t going to be any room. Single mum with 10 year old boy in a two bedroom house. .. Couch for me then.. Very kind of her.. I was brought back to the conversation by the Head “Carly, are you ok?”
“Yes” I replied, making sure my upper lip was nice and stiff.
“We’ve rung Social Services so they can liaise with you, and your dad and Mrs Priest. Can I just ask why you didn’t call your dad yourself?”
I sighed “Because I don’t have it. I only have his work number. They would ring me..”
“Even with Mrs Priest spending so much time there..? I see… Right…” He shuffled some papers and continued. “As I was saying.. You don’t have to worry about lessons today, wait in the outer office until the Social Worker gets here and she’ll take you to Mrs Blake’s. Get settled in and we’ll see you tomorrow, yes?
I agreed and stood with Michelle to go outside, but this time to the admin office, where only one person would give me sidelong glances..
All too quickly Michelle was hugging me goodbye and I was left with a complete stranger. She seemed nice, but still a stranger. Karen Shelton, my Social worker would be in my life for the next three weeks, or more. Who knows? I certainly didn’t. I questioned to myself this ‘three weeks’. Decide what? What’s to decide? I knew one thing though, in three weeks my life could very well change..
To Be continued..