The dealer’s daughter
Ella is my best hatch. I plait her white blonde hair in junior assembly, and morning break she whispers in my ear. I love her best for her PowerGirl play castle and her pink fluffy Google pen. And when she says ‘I love you, bee’, and I reply,‘I love you bee hatch.’
Ella’s also my girlfriend, but whatever you do, don’t tell my mum. After all, you have to have some secrets when you’re nearly in double figures. It’s not like we’re doing sex or anything. Bobby asked me if we were the other day. But I don’t care about him, because he picks his nose and eats it, and he always needs help in his Web Usage tests.
‘So we’ve got little Eleanor tonight?’ Mum asks as we reach the school gate. She’s looking at Ella but talking to me.
‘Yep’ I tell mum. ‘Say hello, Ella.’
Ella says, ‘hello Ella.’ She can be such a smartie pants sometimes.
Mum smiles – a lazy half smile that makes her head tilt to one side. Then she looks past us at Damien’s mum, who is walking over in her fuzzy brown coat that makes her look like a bear from the back. Mum opens her bag and gets out an oblong-shaped present. I know it contains cigarettes, because I saw her
wrapping them last night. She hands it over as Damien’s mum reaches us. ‘Here you go. 200.’
‘Thanks Sylv,’ she replies, ‘how many is it now?’
‘Whack it on my tab, eh?’
‘Will do. Well, I better get this lot home,’ Mum nods at Ella and me.
As we start walking, Mum asks, ‘What would you girls like for dinner then?’
‘Hamburgers!’ we shout.
‘How about… marrow stir fry?’ Mum says.
‘Urgh. ‘ Ella wrinkles her nose in a way that makes her look like a cute tortoise.
‘We’re vegetarian,’ I explain to Ella.
‘We keep an LSGI kitchen,’ mum adds, fiddling with her phone. ‘I’ll text the food unit to start defrosting the tofu.’
We pass McDonald’s snack-’n'-gym, reach the corner of Downhills Park and turn onto our road. Mum says we’re very lucky to live in Tottenham. We’ve really gone up in the world since she married Simon, that’s for sure. I heard her describing our house to Grandma, ‘one of those Elizabethan jobs,’ she said,
‘from the regeneration.’ Regeneration means when something transforms into something better than before – like when Lady Di turns into Superlady in the cartoon.
As we get to the house, mum’s phone starts ringing, and we get in just in time to answer it on the TV. Mr Stavos appears on the telly. It’s Thursday.
‘Alright Ted?’ Mum asks.
‘Alright, Sylv? How’ve you been this week?’
‘Clean as a whistle.’
‘Well, I’ll see you in a ten.’
‘See you soon.’ Mum turns off the telly and looks at me, ‘Right. Do you need a wee, Zadie?’
I don’t really, but I probably could. ‘Ok.’ Mum hands me a narrow jar that I take to the toilet, fill up and give back to her.
Then as Ella and I run up the stairs, she gives me a funny look. ‘Why does your mum take your wee?’
‘It’s to check my calcium levels.’
‘No it’s not.’
We get into my room and I turn on the wendy house. Once it’s inflated, we sit inside. The wendy house has pictures of ladybirds and frogs and butterflies on it, and when you sit inside the light comes through in funny, inside-out insect patterns. ‘Let’s play the wedding game,’ Ella says.
‘Ok.’ The wedding game is our favourite. ‘Let’s do dresses. Mine is going to be a pink ballgown with a train as long as a mile, so all the guests can stand on it.’
‘Ok. Mine is going to be silver silk, with pink flowers – real ones not pretend flowers.’ Ella beats me. I’d forgotten about silver.
‘Have you ever eaten chocolate?’
‘No! We’re too young!’
She looks at me carefully, narrowing her eyes. ‘You can’t tell anyone.’
Ella reaches into her pocket. I think she’s going to get out some pretend chocolate, and am already fake chewing and saying ‘num num num’ when she shows me a real chocolate bar.
‘It’s seventy percent cocoa,’ Ella says and breaks off two squares.
‘Wow. Seventy percent.’ I take a square and put it in my mouth. It’s bitter and not very tasty. We chew seriously until the front door beeps, and we hear Mr Stavos come in downstairs. Ella giggles, which gets me started.
‘Let’s dance!’ I run out of the wendy house and start jumping on the bed, which is a new dance move I made up. Ella jumps on the floor.
‘You’ve got ants in your pants!’ Mrs Lawrence sometimes says this and we both think it’s really funny, so we giggle even more. Then Ella asks, ‘is that why your mum checks your wee? Because of the ants in your pants?!’ She’s cracking up now, but I stop laughing.
‘No! That’s not funny Ella.’
‘Yes it is! I’m going to tell everybody your wee gets checked for ants. Hey, everybody!’ and then she’s running down the stairs and I’m running after her but I’m out of breath from all the jumping so she gets to the kitchen ahead of me, where mum and Mr Stavos are drinking tea.
‘Shut up, Ella!’ But she won’t shut up. She looks directly at Mr Stavos.
‘Zadie gets her wee checked for ants!’
Mr Stavos’ usually kind face suddenly puffs up like two storm clouds coming together, and he looks at me and then at mum, and then back at me.
‘Yours?‘ he asks me, and I know I’m going red.
‘My mummy checks it for calcium.’
He looks back at mum and sighs. ‘Clean as a whistle, eh Sylv?’ He speaks into the voice badge on his chest, saying lots of numbers which remind me of times tables, and then, ‘I need a search warrant for 52 Downhills Park Road. Sylvia Harvey.
She’s a 341… yeah… counterfeit samples… her daughter’s… ok, cheers Alan.’ The smile drops off his face as he turns back to mum. I think about the words ’search warrant’. I’ve heard them before somewhere, maybe on TV.
‘Look Ted,’ mum says, ‘I had a bad week. I didn’t want it to show up because I’ve been doing so well. There’s no need to search the house.’
Search the house! I grab Ella’s hand and run out of the kitchen, all the way to my room. I kick the wendy house over and grab the chocolate and foil wrapping.
‘We need to hide it! Quick!’
‘Under the bed?’
‘They’ll definitely look there.’
We hear a knock from downstairs and the front door open to barking voices.
‘We can put it in my shoe!’ Ella says. ‘They won’t search me – I don’t even live here.’
‘Ok, but quick.’ I help Ella undo her laces and slip the chocolate under her foot.
We creep out into the empty hallway. The door to mum and Simon’s room is open a crack, and voices come from inside. I tiptoe up to the crack, and see navy shapes of adults clonking about. Then I see mum’s slipper on the floor. It’s attached to her foot, and then I see her – sitting on the floor in front of the wardrobe, although I can’t see her face. A navy shape blocks her and a female voice says, ‘Can you move, please?’ I hear mum pleading, and then moving. As the wardrobe door opens I suddenly know what’s going to happen, and piles of cigarette boxes come pouring out. White boxes like paper aeroplanes, nosediving headfirst to the ground. Killing all the passengers. I hear a strange noise; Mum is
Someone kicks the door shut. I pound on it. ‘Let me in! Let me in!’
A second later it opens, and two police officers come out with my mum between them. Mum’s eyes are red and she’s wearing handcuffs. Mr Stavos is behind, looking sad. They all stop when they see us.
‘It’s ok,’ says Mr Stavos, ‘I’ll stay till Mr Harvey arrives.’
And then they carry on down the stairs. I try to crawl between their legs to mum, but there are two many feet in the way, so I just watch as they leave. Mum calls back, ‘I’ll be back soon, Zadie. Be good for Simon.’
And then she’s gone. Ella sits down next to me on the stairs, crying and stroking my hand. ‘Bee.’
‘Yes hatch,’ I whisper.
‘I think I’d like to go home now.’