The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi

Book: The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Trezza Azzopardi
what my Graeme says, and then, as if suddenly remembering him, she shouts Graeme! into the back room. She screws up her face,
    I haven’t told you nothing, she whispers, It’ll only start him off again.
    There’s a noise of rustling newspaper, the flitter of strip-curtain, and Mr Evans, pulling on his pinny. I get a glimpse of the room: an armchair, an upright chair with a
television on it, and behind it, shelves, going all the way up to the ceiling; everything looks brown and old. It’s a strange sensation, seeing things I’m not supposed to – it
makes me want to go in. Mr Evans peers at the note his wife passes to him, wipes his hands down his front, and picks up the roll of Haslet.
    Terrible news, Grae, says Mrs Jackson, ignoring Mrs Evans’ instructions, Eviction! Terrible!
    Eviction my Ar— he goes, then looks at me and smiles.
    My Oh My, he sings. He presses the meat against the wheel and the slices fall into his hand, one by one. He slips them carefully on to a sheet of greaseproof paper.
    Out by New Year, he says, turning the wheel, If we can find new premises.
    Not with what they’ve offered, says his wife, shooting a narrow look at Mrs Jackson. Mrs Jackson fusses with her rain-hat.
    What will you do with all your stock then? she asks lightly, her eyes scouring the shop, Sell it for discount? Mr Evans silently wraps the meat.
    We’ll be calling in our debts, that’s for certain, he says, taking a packet of Park Drive down off the shelf and sliding it across the counter towards me. Mrs Jackson’s neck
flushes rose pink.
    I suppose the fags are for the children too? she says quickly.
    Ah, she’s not well, Mrs J, he says. He writes some figures on my mother’s note, then some more on the parcel of meat, with two quick lines underneath them. I’m busy with the
shopping bag, trying to hook it up my arm, so Mrs Jackson takes the Haslet from him and holds it out to me.
    Here you are, Dolores, she says sweetly, Now – Let’s have a look at that hand of yours.
    ~
    When I get back, my mother’s sitting by the fire. She’s got her face turned away from me. I want to ask her everything – about what will happen to the
Evanses’ shop, and about the picture in True Crime , and why did she have to use my crayoning book, and why does Mrs Jackson always want to see my hand – but I can tell from the
way she’s bent in the chair, with her forehead resting on the corner of the fireplace, that she’s been crying. She stuffs her handkerchief up her sleeve, blinking at Mr Evans’
additions.
    Bloody thieving Bastard, she says screwing up the note and throwing it into the flames.
    ~  ~  ~
    I’m not the only one who isn’t at school: Luca and Fran and Rose all left together this morning, but Fran walked in through the front gates, waved Rose and Luca
goodbye, and ran straight out again across the caretaker’s lawn. She hid behind the wall when Mr Rees came out and rang the bell for Assembly.
    At the back of the school is The Arlies – a sooty curve of railway arches bounding into the distance: they cut across our neighbourhood like a serrated edge. On the north side is our
school; on the south side, the shops, cafes, and row upon row of terraces running down to the docks. We live at the town end, away from the sea, but the houses on the dockside, near the saltings,
are ancient back-to-backs. They have to be knocked down. Each week, another street is crushed to rubble; the grinding of the dumper-trucks gets louder, and overnight, a row of homes where people
used to live becomes a stretch of broken brick and tangled wire. The sky gets wider every day.
    My father wishes they would knock our house down too; he just can’t wait to tell my mother the latest news.
    They do Pomeroy Street this morning, Mary. I see them with the tape. Mr Meckis say he get Five Hundred Pounds! We get Compensation, Mary—
    My mother would put a warning finger up to his face. They’re not demolishing our house, her finger

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