Two pounds, twelve shillings and sixpence

by Jenny

That was it. They had gone too far. Eyes filling with tears Barbara flew up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door, ignoring the shrill cries of her mother catching at her heels, trying to pull her back down and apologise this instant, young lady.

She wouldn’t stay. She couldn’t, it was as simple as that. Without thinking Barbara pulled out her old suitcase and began absently filling it with clothes. Underthings, jumpers. The shoes that had been the cause of all this fuss.

She had two pounds and twelve shillings and sixpence saved. It wasn’t much but it would have to do. She wrapped the money in a scarf and shoved it to the bottom of the case.

Outside the wind had a bite to it and Barbara wished she’d thought to get her coat. Never mind, she would have to buy one when she got to - but where would she go? London? That’s where people went, wasn’t it?

Number 47's curtains twitched as she passed. Good. Let them stare. Let them all see what she’d been driven to.

The smell of bonfires and raked leaves and crisp winter-spiced air wrapped itself around her as she walked towards the subway and the world began to settle itself. It really was silly to have left without her coat, but that couldn’t be helped now.

In London there’d be no-one to make her come home early, no-one to say her skirt was too

short or her heels too high. She could stay out till midnight if she chose, with writers and artists!

The bus station was loud and cold. A group of men stared as she passed and pointed, nudging each other, but they didn’t say anything. The London bus was in an hour, so she sat down to wait for it.

Her fingers began to ache from the cold. With the slowing of her heart came the cooling of her blood; maybe she had been wrong to shout at Mam like that? She hoped that wherever she ended up would have a bath. As she imagined hot water thawing the chill that seeped into her bones, Barbara began to shiver.

The bench shifted. A man had sat beside her. Barbara didn’t look. What should she do? She’d heard stories about men taking advantage of girls alone in the city, whatever that meant, and suddenly Barbara was afraid. What if someone tried to take advantage of her? How would she know?

When the man reached out and touched her shoulder, she whirled around and saw in that instant that it was Dad.

For a moment they didn’t speak. Then:

“London is it?”

Barbara nodded.

“What’ll you do when you get there?”

Barbara shrugged.

“It’s bangers and mash for tea tonight. Sure you’d not prefer to come back for a bit of something to eat before you go? It’s chilly and you can always catch a later bus?”

Barbara looked up at him. It was cold. One last meal at home would mean she could keep back a little more of that two pounds, twelve shillings and sixpence. She could fetch her coat too, and maybe have that bath before she left, to take the chill off.

“Come on” said Dad, picking up her suitcase. They walked back through the station towards home.