“I can’t leave you home alone.”
“I’m sixteen. You can leave me.”
“A boy got stabbed at the end of the street last week. I’m not leaving you alone.”
“Well, ask for maintenance from Dad then. The other kids at school get it from their dads. If you asked him, he’d pay. Then we could move away from this crappy area and I could go back to St Josephine’s…”
Her mum visibly deflated. “I’ve tried hard to make this house our home. I earn enough to keep a roof over our heads and we have each other. That’s all that matters. I don’t need your father’s money. I don’t need anything from him.”
Sammy stared into the bowl of half-eaten porridge.
“Things will get better. I promise. Let him have his new life with Tracy and Ryan.”
“It’d be nice for me to be a part of his life too.”
Her mum was silent a moment, then brightened up. “I saw Chantelle’s mum outside Roy’s Fried Chicken the other day. She asked if you…”
“I’m not going to Chantelle’s house. We’re not friends.”
“Doesn’t she like you? You’re…”
“Relax, Mum. She doesn’t dislike me. She just doesn’t really know me.”
“You’ll make friends, sweetheart. I know it’s been difficult to adjust since we moved.”
“I’ve got nothing in common with the girls at Pitscrapes. They don’t watch kung fu movies or read comics. And when I come out with movie quotes they look at me like I’m on drugs. All they do is read pink magazines full of celebrity gossip and clothes.”
Mama put her hands on her hips. “Don’t be dissing clothes,” she said with a smirk.
Sammy didn’t react.
“You’ll make friends. Just keep smiling. Boys like girls that smile.”
“I’m not interested in any boys at Pitscrapes. Trust me.”
“You may think so now but…”
“Can we do something else today? Instead of shopping?”
“Sammy Ellis!” Her mother put the back of her hand to her forehead in a mock faint.
“We always go shopping.” Sammy rested her head on her hands and stared into space. “I just thought…” She trailed off. She was looking at nothing in particular when her eyes came to rest on her coat hanging by the door. Still poking out from the corner of her pocket was the crumpled envelope the old woman had slipped into the policeman’s wallet.
“Mum?” she asked.
“You aren’t going to ask me to play football again are you? You know how my heels get stuck in the mud.”
“How about the market?”
“The market?” Her mum frowned. “It’s quite skanky, but I suppose we are on a budget.” She sighed. “Fine. The market it is. Tomorrow we’ll do something fun. Okay?”
Not exactly time with her dad, but at least they weren’t going to the shopping centre. And perhaps the day would turn out to be an interesting one after all.