Dirty Daddies

Page 10

“Do you not have a key?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “They don’t want me to have one.”
Don’t trust her with one, more likely. I shouldn’t blame them, knowing her, but I can’t help but feel hurt on her behalf.
It’s Bill who comes to the front door. He looks drawn and grey as he answers, his face a grimace until he sees me standing alongside his ward.
“Michael,” he says, ignoring her completely.
I shake the offered hand. “Carrie needed a ride home.”
He doesn’t even look at her. “Up to no good, no doubt. Drinking. Drugs, probably.”
I don’t think Carrie does drugs. Call me naive, but I’ve seen plenty of youngsters who do. She’s never struck me as one of them. Especially not given the way she so poorly handles her alcohol.
He steps aside to let her pass and she brushes by with her arms folded tight.
“Say thanks to Michael,” he barks and she throws him the finger on her way upstairs.
“Already did, asshole.”
I cringe as a door slams after her.
“She’s… got some challenges…” I begin, but Bill waves me silent.
“She’s got more than some challenges, Michael. The girl’s a devil woman. We can’t take it anymore, Rosie’s nerves are shot.”
I take a breath, trying to find words, but he’s shaking his head.
“Don’t even try, Mike. I’ve already told the agency no. We can’t do it anymore. It’s not fair on any of us. I’ll have her here until her birthday, but after that she’s on her own. The housing will have to find her somewhere, emergency accommodation or something. Maybe she could go to one of those drugs hostels.”
“She’s not on drugs,” I say. Not yet, anyway. “And she won’t let me help her, not with the agencies. If you throw her out, Bill, she’ll be on the streets. Nobody will take her in, not unless she goes through the proper channels.”
He steps out onto the porch and pulls the door closed behind him, shunting his dog inside with his boot.
“She’s not our problem,” he tells me. “And she’s not yours, either. Believe me, Michael, the girl’s bad news. We’ve had nearly fifty kids here over the years, some of them good, some of them with issues. She’s the worst. She steals, she lies, she smashes things. She has no respect. She throws everything back in our faces. She spat in Rosie’s stew last Sunday. Spat in it and laughed.”
I feel a lurch in my stomach as he rubs his temples.
“She’s got some issues,” I say again and he sighs.
“We’re out,” he says.
“Bill, maybe if I could speak with Rosie, maybe we could…”
“We’re OUT,” he repeats, and he’s serious. Deadly serious. “The girl is a vicious little bitch. She’s a fucking nightmare. A disgusting, vindictive little shit.”
His hate knocks me sideways. Hate and disgust, and something else.
He wanted her, I can see it in his eyes, just like Carrie said. But whatever was there is done and gone. He’s at the end with her, that much is obvious.
“Bill, please,” I begin, but he holds his hand up.
“Thanks for bringing her back out here,” he says. “You’re a good man. A better man than me.” He slaps a big hand onto my arm and grips hard, and for a moment I wonder about Carrie’s bruises. Her allegations.
He smiles his usual, kindly smile, and I realise I’m not even vaguely objective, not anymore. She’s suckered me in and I’m reeling. Lost on this crazy fantasy of the wild girl with her drunk whispers.
“Be careful,” he tells me. “She’s…”
“She’s what?”
“She’s spiteful, difficult. She’s nasty. But she’ll hook you into her shit if you’re not careful. She knows how to play a game, that one.”
I’ve no doubt she’s all of those things, and I’ve no doubt Bill got caught up in the allure of the girl, but saying anymore would be wasting my breath. These people are done. Nothing I say here will make any difference, I know when a battle’s been lost – and Rosie and Bill are definitely done with this one.
As I say my goodbyes and walk back to my car, I assure myself that I’m just a guy doing my job, just as I do for all those on my books. Just as I would care for any other kid who needed a ride home after a stupid drinking session.
I assure myself that Carrie is just a girl who’s off my caseload now. That maybe Bill and Rosie will sort her out somewhere to go before they really do throw her out onto the streets. I tell myself Bill is just having an off day, that they’re frustrated and probably worried.
But none of this is true, and I know it the moment I look back and see Carrie’s face at the upstairs window.
It’s her eyes. So sad.
Her smile, melancholic and broken – a rare sliver of honesty under her bravado.