She was in the kitchen when he stumbled in noisily, tripping as he went past the shelves and catching the edge of the table to keep himself from falling.
Pretending not to hear the stream of curses that followed, she kept her eyes fixed on the dishes, letting her hand trail in the soapy water. There was a loud scraping of wood against grimy concrete as he drew a chair and collapsed into it. At this she looked up, and after a moment's hesitation, she said, unnecessarily, "You've been drinking."
He clutched his head and said nothing. He hadn't shaved in weeks and stank of sweat and alcohol; he looked much older than his eighteen years.
They sat in silence for a while. Then he announced, loudly, "Fuck."
She didn't bother to tell him off. She just waited. And jumped when he suddenly brought his fist down, hard, onto the table.
"Our lives here are shit, ya know tha'?" he said, breathing very fast.
He raised his head, his bloodshot eyes squinting to focus on her. "N
Nobody likes us, Ma. Ya know tha', r
righ'? Nobody likes us. The
the neighbors don' like us, the coppers don' like us, the fuckin' posh snobs in their big shiny cars don' like us."
She cleared her throat, at a loss of what to say. "Um. Right."
He seemed to be in a very strange mood. " 'Course tha' is so. Ya know very well, Ma. Nobody likes us 'cause we're p
Sometimes I nick stuff. Do ya think those are good enough reasons to hate us, Ma? M
Maybe. But now they've got a very good reason to hate us, and they're hatin' us even more. W
we're screwed now, Ma, do ya know that?" He furrowed his brow, squinting harder at her, or at least in the general direction of her. "I don' blame them, Ma. I don' blame them."
She stared at him fearfully. "What do you mean?
He looked at her, smiling widely, and said simply, "If I were them I'd hate me too."
"I don't understand."
"I'll show you." His hands fumbled at the buttons of his coat. She watched him for a while, and then reached forward to help him. She noticed that her hands were shaking almost as much as his. What has he done this time?
"Ah. There." He reached into his coat and took out a smart leather case that she neither recognized, nor, from the looks of it, could ever afford. A slightly manic gleam crept into his eyes as he slowly undid the golden catch, though the dramatic effect was ruined slightly by his drunken clumsiness. The case opened.
"Oh," she said, disappointed. She'd been expecting to find gold bars, fine jewelry. But all there is inside are two slips of paper. Wait. She shook her head. The boy stole that. It really didn't matter what was in it; it had to be returned, immediately.
"Look, Ma! Look!" His voice rose excitedly.
these are tickets, Ma. Second class
tickets. It says here." He prodded the paper with a long grimy finger. "Steam
Ship. The biggest there ever was. What date is it?"
"So it's leaving t
three days from now. Look, Ma."
"You know I can't read."
"All ya have to know is tha' these are tickets for r
rich people. Now they're ours. Boy are they gonna hate us!"
"Who's 'they'? "
"People, I guess. Them coppers."
"Nicked it, didn't you."
He grinned. "Darn right I did. Saw an open gate and an open window
Saw this and took it." He chuckled. "Ruined their lawn too. Someone shouted, and we ran like the wind."
"Davis and me."
She scowled. "That boy. He's no good for you."
"He's a good mate." He giggled. "Meaning he's s
stupid. There was money in here." He tapped the case. "The idiot took half and went off. Left the t
tickets. Couldn' read either, ya see. Didn' know what they were."
She was too anxious to feel insulted. "You took money too?"
He giggled again. "Loads."
He reached into his coat again and pulled out a wad of money. She gasped and gave a little scream. He grinned and pulled out some more. "That's it, Ma. But just look at the lot. B
bet the owner's having a right little tantrum."
She counted. Fifty pounds in total! Trying to breathe normally, she stretched a hand over her forehead and massaged her temples with her thumb and little finger.
"You're going to get into a load of trouble for this."
"They didn' really see who we were. But bet they called the coppers. We're screwed," he said cheerfully.
"Ma." He leaned forward, his blond hair flopping over one eye such that she could only see the other one shining out at her. "D
don't ya see? We've got this. We're gonna start a new life in
America. We've got money. We
we can do anything we want. I can get a job 'cause they don' know me there. And the f
fuckheads here can only grind their teeth 'cause they can't do a damn thing about it. If we stay here we're screwed. At least I am."
"We're going to America."
Second class tickets
We're not rich. People are bound to ask questions"
"We'll buy some s
"We can't afford the really good kinds"
"Just throw on some decent ones and make some shit up
tell them that we've j
just lost a family fortune or something"
"They'll lap it up."
She stared at him, as if the thought of moving to someplace so faraway had suddenly struck her. "We're really moving?"
"Yes." He glared at her. "We'll s
start packing. Tomorrow. All our things."
A smile slowly spread across her face. "We're really moving."
"And leaving this shit all behind."
"I still feel a little bad."
"That's the friggin' Titanic, and this is goddamn nineteen-twelve, Ma. Times are hard."