by Gill James
The rain was cascading down the windows. The drip from the hole in the roof was becoming more frequent. The wind was howling through the chimney and the fire spluttered. It wasn't all that warm inside. It never was. But it was better than being outside.
Then someone started knocking urgently on the door.
"Open it!" shouted Freddo.
"Why don't you?" You never knew who might be there after dark around here.
"I can't take my eyes off these pots." As usual he had to get our dinner. Ma and Pa were both late from work again. They must have been finding it difficult getting home in this weather.
Reluctantly I moved away from the fire and made my way to the front door. As I opened it I was almost swept off my feet. The rain started coming into the house.
It was Viola, the tramp who was our neighbour. What did she want? She was shivering and her hair was plastered to her head.
"Can I come in? They've locked me out."
She looked terrible and I thought I should do something but what was it Ma always said? "Don't you go mixing with that white trash from next door? They ain't got no manners and they'm lazy bitches. You stick to your own folk. Self-respecting, hard-working people of colour."
She was staring at me now, pleading with her eyes.
"What's going on? What's that door open for?" Freddo rushed into the hallway from the kitchen. "Viola? You'd better come on in."
"But Ma says," I started to protest.
"Well, Ma, ain't here, is she? You can't let the poor girl die of hypothermia." He showed her into the lounge.
"You go and get her a towel, now. And I'll make her a hot drink."
"But Ma says they don't work hard and they ain't got no respect."
Freddo slapped me round the head. "Idiot. Her Ma and Pa are stuck getting home just like ours. Which means they're self-respecting enough to work hard. Ma don't always understand everything right."
I got her the towel and Freddo brought her a hot drink. He even found her some of Ma's clothes to get changed into and suggested she could eat with us.
"You're really kind," she said. When she smiled she was really pretty - for a white girl.
About the author
Gill James is published by, amongst others, Tabby Cat Press,
The Red Telephone, Butterfly, The Professional and Higher Partnership and
Continuum. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Salford University. She edits CafeLit.She has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative
and Critical Writing