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Tash was familiar with the sinking feeling that lodged itself in the pit of her stomach. Mrs. Sinclair was an intelligent woman and Tash knew it wouldn’t take a whole lot for the principal to figure out what was going on. It was time to come up with a better plan. Something foolproof. Only she didn’t know what that was.
The end of the school day couldn’t come fast enough. Tash still had a six-hour shift to work at the dry cleaners, but Jim didn’t work on Mondays so she’d be safe from his watchful eyes. He was like a kind uncle who always looked out for her, but sometimes Jim was a little too curious about her life and Tash had been forced to invent fictitious circumstances to keep him from asking so many questions. She suspected that he knew she wasn’t being completely truthful, but that was that.
During the slow time that evening, Tash did her homework. She was an A student and she had to study hard to keep it that way. She wasn’t one of those naturally smart kids who could sail through high school without cracking a book. But she was smart enough to know that she would be nothing in life without a good education and in order to get that education, she would have to pull off stellar marks and earn a scholarship. There was no other way.
Yer not like me. Tash could hear her mother’s voice. Sometimes I think you’d be better off without the likes of me holdin’ you back. How many times had Barbie said those words? And how many times had Tash told her mom that she shouldn’t talk that way; that kids were always better off with their mothers.
Tash was just closing up the dry-cleaners for the night when the familiar jingle of the bell on the door caused her to turn.
It was Ginger.
“What are you doing here? It’s past your curfew.” Tash went about her tasks but she was glad – very glad – that her friend had come.
“I was at the library and I wanted to see you.” Ginger set her books down. “I think you’re in big trouble with Mrs. Sinclair.”
“You think?” Tash chuckled. “I don’t think. I know.”
“What happened? She was asking us all where you were after school.”
“I had to work.”
“I know that, but you don’t usually take off right away like you did today. You didn’t even wait for me.”
“Sorry. I was in a hurry.”
“You’re avoiding, Tash. I know when you’re avoiding. What’s going on?”
Tash looked at her friend. The best friend she had in the whole world. How could she lie to this girl who had stood by her and drawn her in and expected nothing in return?
“I think you better sit down.”
Ginger’s concern was evident in her expression. “Oh man, I don’t know if I want to hear this. I have a bad feeling.”
“Yeah, me too.”
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