This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 860 words.
On the way to Perth the next morning, Steve managed to get Gabby to increase his share to twenty-five percent. But when she looked out of the window and smiled, he had the feeling he had only got what she had intended to give him from the start.
The solicitor was good at his job. He created a front company, with Gabby shown as holding three-quarters controlling interest, and Steve the rest. Gabby named it Parker Productions, and registered the name separately. It was all registered in Scotland, so nobody snooping around in London or Norwich would get wind of anything. They both signed in front of witnesses, and received their own copies in large brown envelopes. Steve paid the bill in cash, including the company registration fee.
On the way back to Crieff, they stopped at a supermarket to stock up for the rest of the week, and Steve bought some casual clothes and that underwear Gabby had mentioned.
After an early dinner, Gabby lit a cigarette and sat back on the only comfortable chair in the cabin. “Right then. Fire up your recorder, and let’s get started”. Steve switched on the digital voice recorder, opened an A4 notebook he had bought, and grabbed a pen to make notes as she started talking.
“So try to imagine. You don’t know your dad, and your mum doesn’t even remember who he is. Your brother is fourteen years older than you, and has a different dad. Your mum is drunk all the time. I have never seen her sober. Not once. I am more or less brought up by my brother. He does the washing, the shopping, and gives me my meals. When I am old enough, he takes me to school, and I have to wait at a strange woman’s house until he collects me. The electric and gas keep getting cut off because mum don’t pay the bills on time. So I mostly eat sandwiches, and sleep in my brother’s bed to keep warm.”
Steve is scribbling away, and she waits until he stops.
“Then I am seven years old. My brother is twenty-one, and has been working as a carpenter since he was sixteen. He’s had enough. He wants to get out, to get away. He is sick of having to look after me, sick of the men who mum lets into the flat every night, and sick of not getting a decent night’s sleep. He tells me he is leaving. He has met a girl, and they are going to move out of London. He’s found a job, and I have to look after myself from now on. He tells me how to get the money for food from her purse when she is drunk, and shows me how to take the key meters to the shop so I don’t run out of gas and electric. I should also keep money hidden to buy food for myself on the way home from school. The next day, he’s gone”.
She stopped to light a cigarette, and pour herself a good shot of vodka.
“Three months off my eighth birthday, and I am supposed to be the lady of the house. Use the washing machine, iron my clothes that need it, get myself up for school, and eat something on the way home so I’m not left hungry later. When I feel ill, no point telling mum. She’s drunk, or nasty ’cause she ain’t got no booze in. She’s waiting for one of her blokes to bring the drink, then I have to go and hide in my room or she will shag the geezer in front of me. Not exactly a normal life so far, eh? But it gets much worse, you wait and see”.
Over the years, Steve had heard so many similar sob-stories, this was nothing new to him. But he could tell from Gabby’s tone of voice that this back story was important to her, so he just nodded and carried on making notes.
“The one saving grace for me was that I was actually clever. I found school easy, and got good reports. Not that mum ever went to a parent’s evening of course, she would always say she was ill, or having to work. And she never worked, as long as I knew her. The first time one of her blokes came into my room, I was petrified. I think I was ten, it was definitely before I went to secondary school, I know that. I didn’t scream or fight him when he started touching me, I knew mum wouldn’t help me if I did. Afterwards, he gave me a ten-pound note and said I was a good girl. But then mum came into the room and took the tenner off me, heading out to the shop to buy booze with it”.
For a while, she stopped talking and stared into space, like she was remembering something.
“Then there was a bloke in my room most nights. Sometimes, mum was too drunk to steal the money so I kept it. That was how I paid for my uniform when I went to the big school”.