Part Seven

If you missed Part Six, click here.

“Did you finish that history assignment?” Ginger asked. “I started it, but I’m going to have to do some internet research before I work on it more because there is no way I have that kind of information in my head. I just wish Mr. Tanner would pick easier topics, don’t you? I heard Alicia and Chelsea stayed up all night on Friday and got the whole thing done, but I bet Chelsea’s sister helped them like she always does. Remember her? She graduated last year.”

Tash didn’t have the heart to interrupt Ginger’s chatter. If there was one thing Ginger was good at, it was talking. And Tash was an expert listener. All she had to do was nod or mutter a one-word response and Ginger was none the wiser.

An hour passed before Tash picked up her backpack. “I have to go.”

“But I just got here,” Ginger frowned.

“I know, but I have some errands to run.”

“For your mom?”

Tash didn’t want to lie to her friend. “Sort of.” It was partly true, after all. The things she had to do were because of her mother. With a promise to meet Ginger at the appointed place at school the next day, Tash walked away.

She made the long hike to the Wal-Mart store on the edge of town and shopped for a few necessities. Her pay would have to stretch like never before. A few non-perishable groceries, some personal items, and she was on her way home. At least what she would call home for the time being.

Tash spent the rest of the day in the old house cleaning the little room she had claimed for her own. She’d also managed to dispose of a significant amount of garbage in the rest of the house, adding to the pile of trash in the backyard. She didn’t know how long she’d be here, but she couldn’t stay at all if she wasn’t able to get to her room without stumbling over the junk. As evening approached, Tash surveyed her work. She smiled and nodded to herself; the place looked better already.

She was at school early the next morning, thankful for the showers in the girls’ locker room. When she’d finished, she twisted her long wet hair into a thick braid and rushed out the door to find Ginger before the bell rang. She was not expecting to see Mrs. Sinclair, the principal, standing there.

“Natasha?” The forty-ish woman raised her eyebrows.

“Morning, Mrs. Sinclair.” Tash blurted, already moving toward the stairwell leading up to the main hallway.

“Wait a minute. What are you doing down here?”

Tash hesitated.

“Your hair is wet,” the teacher observed.

Nothing like stating the obvious, Tash thought. “Yeah, I washed it this morning. Didn’t have time to dry.” She saw the suspicion in Mrs. Sinclair’s eyes. “Um – can I go? The bell is going to ring any minute.”

Katherine Sinclair nodded, but watched the girl as she ran up the stairs two at a time. Something was not right there.

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