The Knicker Drawer and The Second Hand Dog
October 14, 2013 § 6 Comments
I found out the truth last week: they’re not my real parents. I know because I found the adoption papers in the top drawer of Mum’s dressing table stuffed behind her underwear. I found Alice and Jane’s too. They had our names on – the papers not the pants – so I know it’s true. It means my real mother gave me away. Strolled into hospital with me all excited about being born, then cool as cucumber, walked out without me. Stranded. Motherless.
I told my best friend Belinda about it, and she said I should be thankful I’m not an orphan. That’s when you don’t have any parents. ‘You’re one of the lucky ones,’ she said. ‘You’re just second hand.’
I knew what that was because we had a second hand car, and I wore the clothes Jane had grown out of. Hand me downs. Faded and darned. Even my shoes had the shape of someone else’s feet. Jane got her clothes from Alice – who’s the eldest and doesn’t have a job – so that makes my clothes second hand twice over. Belinda said second hand was what you had when you couldn’t get anything better, then she decided she didn’t want to be my best friend anymore. I didn’t care.
‘Dad. What’s second hand?’
‘Something used, sweetheart.’
‘It’s when you want something more than someone else, so you buy it from them.’
‘Like our car,’ he said handing me a duster. ‘Let’s polish.’ We rubbed until our faces shone hot and pink.
‘So is second hand good then, I mean for the person who has it?’
‘Yup,’ Dad smiled, running his hand over the shiny black bonnet. Then he stroked my cheek as if it was a soft, furry animal purring on his lap. ‘I take extra special care of my second hand purchases.’
‘Dad. Can you buy second hand children too?’
‘No sweetie. Just things.’
‘Hurry up and get in the car!’ bossed Alice, pulling my hair.
‘Ow! Ow! Alice is killing me.’
‘I’ll tell you a secret if you shut up,’ she whispered, twisting my ear until it hurt. I pressed my lips into a thin red line, opened my eyes wide and waited. ‘It’s rude to stare,’ she said. I pressed them even tighter together because what I really wanted to do was stick out my tongue. ‘We’re going to the dog rescue place.’
‘Are we agreed then?’ said Dad.
We nodded like the plastic dog on our parcel shelf. ‘We’d like that one.’
We piled into the car and Mum handed Alice the black and white collie. It sat neatly on her lap and started licking her face. Alice wasn’t being nasty any more. All the sharp edges on her face had turned into a soppy, wet smile.
‘Ten minutes is up,’ announced Dad.
‘Your turn,’ said Alice. ‘Do you want to hold her?’
‘No,’ I replied, sucking my thumb. ‘Give her to Jane.
‘Who’s next after Jane?’ smiled Dad, looking at me.
‘Your turn Flora,’ said Jane, mopping her face with a sleeve. ‘She’s our own second hand dog. Hasn’t run out of lick yet.’
‘Shan’t. Don’t want to.’
Dad stopped the car and looked at me through the rear view mirror. ‘Don’t you like our new dog?’
‘She isn’t new, she’s used,’ I grumbled, spreading the word long on my tongue. ‘Belinda said you only had second hand when you can’t have new. Used is bad.’
Mum leaned across and planted a noisy kiss on Dad’s cheek. His face turned red like a strawberry, and he tried not to smile. The collie put a paw on my arm like a question. Then she crawled onto my lap, curled up and closed her eyes. ‘Must have run out of lick,’ I said.