Short fiction.

I’ve learned a trick that lets me get in the house and straight to my room so Pete doesn’t hear me. If I put the tip of my foot just at the right place under the door, it doesn’t squeak and he; sitting there at the kitchen table with his bottle, won’t not know that I’m back from school. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough and he’ll stay in there until Mom comes home from work.

Before Pete came to stay with us, me and Mom used to eat our supper on our laps in front of the TV. A lot of times we were still hungry afterwards, but we sure did laugh a lot those times. Since Pete came, things are different; there’s more food for one thing, and we have to sit at the table to eat. Mom doesn’t laugh so much anymore, but she says every cloud has a silver lining and I must be more tolerant of Pete because she doesn’t have to worry where the next rent money is coming from and that sure makes her sleep a little easier at night. I didn’t say it’s not her sleeping that’s my biggest worry, especially those days that Pete spends the afternoon passed out and crawls around the flat all night.

Pete never tries to come into my room when Mom is in the flat, and I lock the door other times. I know that, if he bangs on it and makes a noise, old Missus Botha next door will come knocking to find out what the fuss is about. That one time Pete hit Mom and the glasses all fell off the table, Missus Botha straightaway phoned her son who’s a cop and he came over like a flash and told Pete to watch himself or there would be trouble and make no mistake about it. He meant business, that Kevin Botha. And he tore off a bit of his cigarette packet and wrote his cellphone number on it and gave it to me. “Phone me anytime Princess, anytime you feel something’s not right, you see?”

I put the piece of paper in my jewellery box, because you never know, do you?



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