The Writing Quarter January Competition Winner

Posted 2 years ago under Uncategorised,

Pot Luck

by Colette Coen

Colette Coen has been published most recently in Postbox, Pushing out the Boat and Crannog. Her novel All the Places I’ve Ever Been and short story collections are available on Amazon. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland with her husband and their two teenagers. She is also Mum to a university student who has flown the nest and whose bedroom now doubles as Colette’s office where she writes and runs her proofreading business – Beech Editorial Services. Follow http://colettecoen.wordpress.com for posts of new fiction.

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‘Come on, come on,’ Gina said planting a little kiss on the scratch card she’d found in the back pocket of her denims when she was sorting the washing. One pound would give her another go, a tenner meant a couple of drinks in the pub on Friday, a hundred and she could get Aaron that jacket he wanted without paying it up.

‘Please, please,’ she whispered as she took a 2p coin and started to scratch. £100,000. She hated it when she got them – they reduced your chances of a more realistic win – but made her feel greedy. £1.00, £5.00, £5.00. ‘Okay,’ £10.00, not to worry, £500, £2.00. ‘Mmm,’ two more to go. £500, ‘looking good for a fiver,’ and right enough, a five was revealed.

‘I’ve won,’ she squealed, jumping a little before she re-checked. The last scratch had brought her not just a five, but two zeros after it, £500. She checked again, three £500s – a winner. She put it down on the work-surface, picked it up, checked again. That was Christmas well sorted, and a new dress and shoes for the work night out. ‘Aaron, I’ve won on the scratch. I’m just popping to the shops. Get up or you’ll be late for school again.’

The weather was dull, grey, and Gina had forgotten her umbrella. ‘Stay dry,’ she muttered to herself all the way to the newsagent, only pausing to do three dry spits over her shoulder when she saw a magpie.

‘Lucky for some,’ Dev said, with a little snide look when she handed over her scratchcard. Gina didn’t care, he never had a problem taking her money and it wasn’t as if she was in here every day looking for winnings. Must be months since she’d won even a tenner on the Thunderball. No, he was the lucky one, raking it in with the e-cigs and legal highs; making the old women’s days with his close to the bone flattery; then closing up early on Sundays for a round of golf. She used one of the notes to buy ten lucky dips for the weekend and another ten scratch cards, which she scratched in front of him, making him repay her with £10 before she’d even left the shop.

When she got home, Gina bundled the twenties into a sock and hid it at the back of her underwear drawer. She didn’t trust those boys Aaron was hanging about with these days, although it was better than him sitting in his room all night. She was just thinking she should phone her mum when her mobile rang. ‘You have won…’ She hung up, these cold calls were driving her nuts.

She picked up her tablet, and start to browse for a new dress, even though she didn’t really have time. Kevin from Accounts had started taking his breaks on her floor, gently flirting. He was good looking too, not like the usual losers who couldn’t take a hint. The Christmas Do might just be the time for her to let him make his move.

She shouted on Aaron again, did her make-up quickly and scanned her emails. In among the voucher codes was the message she was looking for: Application for Payroll Officer. Her hand hovered over the subject line, she counted to three, then clicked. We are pleased to invite you for an interview… Fantastic. A new job would clear the way for Kevin, no awkward work place romance. It paid better too and was closer to home so she could have a bit more time with Aaron. All she needed now was her college results to come in before the interview, and she could prove she was the ideal candidate.

She fired off a reply, accepting the invitation, making her late for her bus. Thankfully, the bus was also late, so she didn’t have to worry about thinking up any excuses for Molly in the cash office.

The day passed quickly, the fifty pounds Molly thought they’d lost even reappeared, and by the time she left at six, Gina had decided that she would treat herself and Aaron to a chippie. She had phoned to check what he wanted while she was on the bus, but wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer, and texting, he said, was too retro. She could always swap if he didn’t want his sausage supper.

The mail was lying behind she door — menus for the local takeaway, free coasters from the Red Cross, and a brown envelope from HMRC. Her hands shook as she opened it, surely they hadn’t screwed up her tax credits again, but instead, enclosed was a cheque for £263 – it had been worth filling out that stupid form after all.

‘Aaron. That’s your dinner,’ she shouted as she threw down her keys. ‘Aaron.’

‘Aaron.’ That bloody music, he could never hear a thing when he plugged himself in.

She knocked on his bedroom door and waited. ‘Aaron, your chips are getting cold.’ She knocked again. Then again. She kill him if he’d gone out without locking the front door. ‘I’m coming in,’ she said loudly.

Aaron lay on top of his duvet, his Beats over his ears, his feet dangling off the end of the bed— she didn’t know where all that height had come from, average-guy genes were about all his father gave him. His chest rose slowly. ‘Aaron, wake up, I’ve bought you chips.’

But Aaron didn’t stir.

‘Aaron,’ she said, walking further into his room than she was allowed. She put out her hand tentatively, expecting his eyes to snap open, and for him to snarl, but he didn’t move. She took his Beats off. Shook him gently. Shook him with more force. ‘Aaron, don’t be so bloody stupid, wake up.’ Slapped his face. Hit his chest.

‘Please, please come quickly,’ Gina pleaded down the phone. ‘My boy’s ill. Please, please come.’

The operator soothed her until the ambulance arrived. The paramedics worked while she mouthed silent prayers. The doctors ordered tests and told her to stay positive. ‘Just as well you found him when you did.’

Gina sat by the window watching cars on the motorway below, the red tail lights going nowhere while white lights sped to their destinations.

She wasn’t going anywhere, not with Aaron lying there with tubes up his nose, into his hands, out of his groin. She couldn’t bear to look at him. Couldn’t bear to think how long he had lain unconscious.

‘Pot luck parties,’ the nurse said as she checked his vitals, ‘that’s what the kids are calling them. They’re a blooming curse these legal highs.’

‘Pot luck,’ Gina thought, and she crossed her fingers and waited.

 

 

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