This is a fictional short story, in 920 words.
Once upon a time in the run-down outskirts of a once prosperous industrial city, lived Donna and her two children, twins Leah and Josh.
Donna was on her way home from dropping her eight year-olds off at school. This morning had been a rush, as usual. By the time she got back from her early-morning cleaning job, she didn’t even have time for a cup of tea before the twenty-minute walk to school. Leaving home at three-thirty in the morning meant the kids had to sort themselves out, and get their own breakfast of Coco Pops, but they were good kids, and never complained. She hated leaving them like that, but what else could she do? The office cleaning was all she could find, and they needed the money.
It wasn’t how she thought life would work out. Gregg had married her when she was pregnant, something not many blokes would do these days. But once he had a couple of screaming babies in the house, he wasn’t up to it. One day, he didn’t come home from work, and she hadn’t been able to find out where he had gone. Donna did her best, she really did. Part-time jobs once they could go to nursery, then the early morning cleaning that gave her time to get home to take them to school.
Pulling at the blush pink hoody, she was wishing she could get something warmer. She saw the way the other mums looked at her outside the school, her always wearing the same thing since they had started there three years earlier. But kids needed shoes all the time, and better they should have shoes than her spend the money on a puffa jacket. She pulled out her phone to check the time. It was such an old phone, people grinned when they saw her holding it. She had kept the same three quid credit on it for over a year now. As long as she had it handy for emergencies and to tell the time, that was good enough.
Nigel should be there by now. Nasty Nigel, who always stood outside the pub on the corner, watched over by his two scary-looking minders. Except in bad weather, when he sat in his van and spoke to you through the window. Donna picked up the pace, walking faster would keep her warm.
Leah and Josh never asked for anything. They knew how things were. No money for the Internet, never been on a holiday, not even a day out when the funfair came. Sitting under blankets in the winter when money was tight at the end of the month and the gas bill was due. At least they had the telly to watch, though Donna hadn’t paid the licence fee for over two years. She had to trust to luck that no detector vans were out anymore. Donna suddenly stopped, and reached into her shoulder bag to check her purse. Less than four quid to last her the rest of the week, and it was only Wednesday. Still, there was a full bag of oven chips in the freezer, and she had seven eggs left from that ten-box. The kids would be happy with egg and chips for dinner, and she would make do with a fried egg sandwich again.
When the kids couldn’t stop talking about the Jubilee, Donna had made up her mind to do something. There was a party in their street on Saturday afternoon, and so far theirs was the only house with no bunting or flags. And every house was supplying some food. Cakes, sandwiches, sausage rolls and pork pies, plus fizzy pop for the children. And it was fancy dress, with people wearing king and queen outfits, or red, white, and blue clothes. Seemed a shame that her two should miss out. After all, they would never see another Platinum Jubilee in their lifetime.
Up ahead, she saw Nigel leaning against the railings outside the pub. People called him Nasty Nigel for a reason, but Donna had never seen him being anything but friendly.
“What can I do for you, little Donna?” He smiled as he said that.
“How much for fifty, Nige?”
“Three quid a week for 50 weeks, you get the first two weeks free. So that’s one-fifty back to me over a year, and you get the fifty in cash now, okay?”
When she nodded, Nigel produced five new ten-pound notes from inside his overcoat, like he already knew how much she wanted to borrow.
“See you in two weeks then, Donna love. On Wednesday. And don’t make me come looking for you, I do know where you live”.
Poundland seemed to be the best bet for bunting and stuff. They had some masks in there too, ones that looked like you were wearing a crown. Then up to Aldi, where she could get all the food and drink cheap. Donna could feel the notes in her pocket, making her feel stupidly rich. By the time she got home from the shops there wouldn’t be much change from the fifty, but at least the kids would be the same as all the others, and they would feel like they fitted in for once in their life. She might get some sausages while she was in there, and a large tin of baked beans. Make a better dinner for tonight.
Then on Sunday, it would all be over. And they would live happily ever after…