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Lunch Money

An entry for the Just a Minute Challenge

By Rachel DeemingPublished about a month ago 6 min read
11
Lunch Money
Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

"I don't have any money! Leave me alone!"

Tasha was having none of it.

"You fucking liar!"

She pushed the small, geeky kid into the wall, with force.

Tasha needed that money. She had left the house that morning, starving. There was nothing to eat in the cupboards or the fridge. Unless mould counted.

She knew that there'd be nothing there for her when she got back. She got herself up for school, the only constant in her life, leaving her mother there. She wasn't sure where. In her bed? Surrounded by the empty bottles with whom she chose to share her space? Lying in her own detritus?

She'd never had friends to her home; she never would.

She thought the homes on adverts were fantasies and for her, they were.

That was why she hated this speccy kid. And she did. She hated him. With his clean skin and his branded rucksack and his glasses and his warm coat. Dropped off every day by "Mummy", smiling and waving.

"I don't have any money! I told you!" and he went to duck under where Tasha had him up against the wall, her arm outstretched to keep him in position.

She lifted her hand and slapped him. He was already cowering, like a cornered mouse.

Why was he making it so hard?

Tasha was not an inherently bad person. She'd known little love and everything that she'd seen her mother gain had been through coercion, theft or beating it away from someone. Sometimes that someone was her. She had learnt to adapt in order to survive.

The only time her mother showed her any kindness was when she wanted something herself.

"Tash, love, go get me some cigs, will you?"

The only time she heard the word "love". The only time she spoke to her without snapping, with something like maternal regard. This was usually when she was in the early stages of topping up the drink - the soft stage.

A constant alcoholic loop. That was why there was never any food in the house - no need. Need was elsewhere.

She'd always spend what her mother gave her but sleight of hand meant she'd always steal twice as much. She liked Mr Baines too, the shop's owner but this was about survival.

She'd rather pay for things. She didn't want to be like her mother. She hated her.

She was all she had.

She decided to give "Speccy" a chance.

"Open your bag!"

She was in his face, mouth snarling, her fist entwined around his tie. He was bleating, whimpering. Why didn't he just give in? Give her the fiver and be done with it? She was going to have to ramp it up soon. There was no way that she was leaving there without getting what she wanted. And if there was no money, he'd know about it.

Tasha had to make compromises in other areas of her existence all the time. The only place that she felt in control was at school but not in the classroom. She found it difficult to concentrate and she'd never really learnt to read properly. She'd had a teaching assistant and she'd helped her a lot - Mrs Crowley - but because of budget cuts, she'd had to be with someone else as well so no more one-to-one and the other person was an annoying fucker called Fez or something like that and Tasha hated them, hated the fact that the time that she'd had with Mrs Crowley was shared and she had to wait and this Fez was thick as shit and it was so fucking boring and Mrs Crowley was different when there was the two of them and Tasha hated it, hated the fact that it had changed when it had been one thing, one thing that she had liked in her life.

Mrs Crowley brought biscuits to their dedicated sessions. And juice. She didn't do that when Fez joined. Tasha didn't like to ask why not. But Tasha was secretly relieved that her need for charity was not put on show. Maybe that was why. Maybe Mrs Crowley could sense that.

Outside of the classroom was where she was queen. She felt the fear from others wherever she was. She liked it but she knew that it set her apart. She wasn't part of anything. Even the people who went round with her were only there for the ride. Okay, Danny's brother was a druggy and Steph's dad was on remand and she knew that Mikey was poor but their parents were trying at least. They were misfits, all of them but none of them had Tasha's rage.

The kid, she couldn't even remember his name, was starting to look like he was going to blub. Part of her felt satisfied, part of her disgusted. She almost wanted him to hit her so that she could have more respect for him.

"Open your fucking bag!"

She grabbed his hair now, pulling sharply. It hurt. She knew. It would sting long after. He deserved it too, the cunt, for taking so fucking long.

He was crying fully now as he opened his bag.

"Tip it out!"

He did as he was told, her hand still gripping his hair.

"Where's the money, you little shit?"

The boy managed to say, "I don't have any."

He took a gulp and said, "She's stopped it! Says I'm spending too much!"

Tasha wanted to roar with rage but she wasn't convinced.

"You're fucking lying. I saw her give it to you."

"That was a note for P.E.. I've hurt my ankle."

She hadn't seen what note had been exchanged, just assumed it was money. Her reasoning would not allow her to be fair, because her anger ruled, alongside her needs.

She stepped back in disbelief. The surge was coming; a combination of desperation, rage, hunger and the frustration of being thwarted, all being stirred up by the bleatings of a small boy.

Deadly.

She glared at him and he, still sniffling, went to put his things back in his bag.

It was that attempt at order that caused the chaos to rain down.

She leant over him again, anger ripe.

"Did I fucking say you could do that? DID I?"

It was unleashed. She went for the weak spot, his ankle. Never share weak spots because they'll be exploited. She heard the crunch and the cry that only excruciating pain can induce and he collapsed to the floor. There, her foot continued its work, kicking soft tissue, awkward elbows, hard round skull.

So satisfying. Get that rage out. He deserved it.

And it was at the point, less than a minute having gone by that there were running footsteps, shouting and she was being pulled off and restrained. She screamed in rage and tried to get away but their hold was strong. It must be a man. But the voice that had shouted, that hadn't been.

The red mist was dissipating, the reality of the scene around her coming into view.

"Damien? Damien? Can you hear me?"

Tasha was thrashing out at being thwarted again. Who was Damien?

"Have you got her, Ian? Good. Keep hold of her." A strict business-like tone and then, a shift to concern and worry. "Damien? Can you hear me, love? I'm going to have to call an ambulance. Oh God."

Tasha was still kicking out but whoever it was, was a man mountain. Ian, she'd said. Mr Roberts, the P.E. teacher?

She looked down and saw red flecks, as Mrs Crowley crouched over Damien calling an ambulance first, then the headteacher.

She was feeling for a pulse. Tasha thought, I haven't killed him, have I? and simultaneously experienced a feeling of prideful power, followed by a cold wave of fear.

This fear was strange: something she had eradicated from her personality. Fear was weakness; weakness got you hurt. It crashed over her like white surf, compounded by the pitiful expression on Mrs Crowley's face, now turned to her.

"Oh, Tash."

Her old teaching assistant. Looking at her with a mixture of concern, seriousness, sympathy, pity, disbelief, disappointment. It was making Tasha squirm and her automatic reaction to anything that reminded her of her conscience was to attack it.

"There'll be no coming back from this."

Tasha tried to wriggle again. Her mind wanted to say something to this. She wished there wasn't warmth in Mrs Crowley's eyes.

"What have you done?"

Tasha felt a rush of shame and an urge to say how sorry she was but the words wouldn't come, even though she desperately wanted Mrs Crowley to think better of her, like she'd used to, when they chatted and laughed and shared biscuits.

And so, she said something which did much to cement her future, as the sirens started up in the background and the headteacher came running from the school and the police car pulled up outside the gates.

"The fucker deserved it."

Short StoryCONTENT WARNING
11

About the Creator

Rachel Deeming

Storyteller. Poet. Reviewer. Traveller.

I love to write. Check me out in the many places where I pop up:

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Comments (11)

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  • Cathy holmes29 days ago

    My God, that was disturbing. How is it that I'm feeling sorry for the bully. You did such a great job at portraying how a messed up parent can affect the child. We really products of our environment. I know it's not granted the every neglected will turn out this way, but they definitely would be more prone than more, I think l. This is excellent writing, Rachel. Good luck in the challenge.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    What I feel for Tasha is what I felt for Lisa Montgomery. Poor Damien 🥺 I hope he's not dead. Tasha needs to get the help that she needs. Her mom needs to be put in prison.

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    Incredible writing, Rachel. Simply incredible. Compassion all around for a girl in an impossible situation and for a boy to coddled to defend himself. If this story doesn't at least place in the challenge, I will be stunned.

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Bloody hell. This was absolutely awful but so brilliantly written. God I felt devastated for all the characters in this one. Epic Rachel.

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    This was very well done, Rachel. And sadly, so realistic. I think I had a dozen or more students come to mind while reading it.

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Wonderful job of allowing us to peer inside of Tasha and see her core fears and frustrations and longings. Excellent writing and character building.

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a month ago

    Very sad. I feel for Tasha as her upbringing left her without a conscience. Good story development.

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    This is damn fine work, and quite utterly horrible to read, even as someone who has heard these kind of stories often.

  • Francis Connorabout a month ago

    There but for fortune. . . Thought provoking story about someone who is both victim and perpetrator of a really bad act.

  • Mariann Carrollabout a month ago

    This a very sad story but I was very captivated by this bully

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    Incorrigible. No going back for Tasha. The brain can be rewired into even sociopathy. Very disturbing story. She was so close to redemption.

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