“Look what I’ve got!”
Daisy’s face was triumphant. She waved the postcard in front of Katrina’s face.
“It’s from Mick!”
No way on this earth would Katrina ever take that postcard from her hand. Even though she wanted to. Daisy knew this, which was why she dangled the card, wafting it in front of Katrina, that annoying half-smile on her face. Theirs was a relationship that depended on the to and fro of power. Postcard drifts up to Katrina’s nose, the advantage. Away, the ball back in Daisy’s court.
Debbie had come into the kitchen. She snatched the postcard from Daisy and handed it over to Katrina.
“Here, you go. Take no notice of my cow of a daughter.”
Debbie and Daisy’s relationship never ceased to surprise Katrina. Her own mother was a mystery to her, a weird, unknown quantity who smoked, watched TV, spoke seldom and rarely expressed an opinion. Since she’d moved down south and in with Daisy, her mother Debbie and brother Toby, Katrina’s mum had been in touch twice.
Aye, Mum. Full of loving concern, right?
I do not care. She said this over and over.
Mick’s postcard was something else. He wrote me a postcard! She hugged the thought to herself, skipping up the stairs to her room. The Walkers lived in a big house. They kept telling her it wasn’t, but for fuck’s sakes, this place had four bedrooms! And a dining room. A kitchen with a table in it, so they could all sit around it and eat! It smelled permanently of lavender, thanks to the potpourri Debbie littered in every room.
Aye, posh. Right enough.
“Catty, I’m coming to London!”
When she’d got to the age of thirteen, Katrina had hit upon the idea of people calling her Kit-Kat. Why not? Mick never listened. He’d called her Catty from the first time he’d met her when she was twelve, and he was fifteen.
His mum, Morag, was an old schoolfriend of her mum’s who ran the local hotel, the Star Tavern. When they’d left Katrina’s dad, Morag had taken them in for a while, giving them a free room in the hotel. Katrina’s first sight of Mick came the day after they moved in.
She heard voices downstairs, a whispered conversation where one party sounded aggrieved.
“They’ve nowhere else tae go, Mick. Think of it as a good deed. Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, aye?” At that, Morag laughed, the sound of it dark and dirty. Her words made Katrina uncomfortable. She and her mum were or had been, Jehovah’s witnesses. Morag’s words held a mocking edge to them.
Katrina made her way slowly downstairs, treading heavily so that they heard her coming. Stood in the doorway to the lounge bar, Morag grinned at her.
“Wee Katrina! D’ye want some chips, or are you down here on the scrounge for vodka?”
That deep, dirty laugh again. Morag had said a few things along those lines since Katrina and her ma had moved in.
“No thanks, Morag, but your vodka needs replaced. The bottle’s just aboot empty.”
Morag started at that, ducking back behind the archway and checking the optics behind her. When she came back, she looked at Katrina differently, appraisingly. She hadn’t expected a smart mouth or the bossiness.
But any thoughts of Morag vanished. A second figure had materialised, taking up space beside Morag. Katrina fell in love. It had to be love, right? Her stomach flipped over, the blood rushed to her face warming it uncomfortably, and her legs appeared to be glued to the spot.
Mick was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. He was taller than Morag, though he shared her blonde hair and blue eyes. His hair was a lighter blonde than his mother’s, and the ends of it touched his shoulders.
Katrina hadn’t known many men with long hair—Jehovah’s Witnesses tended to favour conservative hairstyles—but this was the best hairstyle she’d ever seen, she decided. A little mousse and some scrunch drying would make it perfect. The thought of being allowed to run her hands through that hair made her shiver.
“I’ll order him to let me do it,” the thought leapt into her mind. “I’ll just go into his room with my mousse and tell him he has to let me style his hair.”
Two days later, she did as she’d promised herself. Mick had returned from catering college, his beautiful blonde hair greasy and messy after having spent its day covered by a bandana.
Katrina knocked on his door. Her hand shook as she held it out, so she knocked extra hard. There was no answer. She knocked again.
Mick opened the door and peered around it. “What d’ye want?” He glared at her.
“I’m gonnae do your hair,” she announced, pushing past him into the room so he couldn’t shut the door on her.
His room was covered in posters, film posters in the main and the odd band she didn’t recognise, though given her upbringing that was no surprise. It smelled different too, antiperspirant layered over sweat and something else, something sharp and salty.
Mick ran a hand through his hair. He looked flustered and irritated.
“What’s wrong wi’ ma hair?”
“I can make you look like a film star,” she said and watched various emotions chase their way across his face: irritation, calculation, want…
Who didnae fancy the thought of resembling a film star?
“Aye, alright then.”
The postcard she held now showed the statue Greyfriars Bobby, the wee dog that had sat next to his master’s grave in Edinburgh for years. Flipping it over, Katrina read the words again.
“Catty, I’m coming to London!”
The next bit said words that were surprising and at the same time, not so. “I might be going on the telly!”
Hadn’t she told him years ago that she’d make him look like a star? Here was the proof she was right. Wee Katrina Allan, forecaster of people’s careers and fortunes.
This being Mick, your typical lad, the postcard lacked any further detail. Like, when he was coming. All it said was, “Maybe I can come and stay with you? Mick x’.”
Katrina hadn’t written anything much to Mick over the years, the odd birthday card, and a good luck card when he moved to Edinburgh to take up that sous chef position at the fancy-pants restaurant. She never put a kiss, too frightened he’d see it and think she was coming on too strong.
Of their own accord, her fingers moved to the cross after his name, tracing the tiny lines of it.
There was a soft knock on her door. “Can I come in?”
To be honest, Katrina was astonished Daisy had managed to hold off barging her way into Katrina’s room this long.
“Aye. If you must.”
Daisy’s eyes sparkled, and she clapped her hands a few times as she came in, like some kind of demented clown.
“Mick’s coming to London! My mum says he can stay here, by the way!”
She sat down on the bed beside Katrina. The Walkers had given Katrina their spare room and told her to do with it as she wanted. Katrina had bought herself some cushions and posters, and a noticeboard. Mick’s postcard was about to have pride of place there.
Daisy’s offer on behalf of Debbie irritated and gratified Katrina at the same time. They’d read the postcard and discussed it! On the other hand, the thrill of Mick coming to London and being able to stay here…
And then on the other, other hand… bloody Daisy, knowing that Mick meant so much to her when she’d never so much as admitted anything.
“Who says I want him to?” she said. “He’ll be a bad influence on Toby.”
Toby was Daisy’s little brother, and Katrina was very fond of him.
Daisy rolled her eyes. “What, and you’re not?”
It was a fair point. Only the other week, Katrina had brought the thirteen-year-old Toby a porn mag, saying his boys-only school kept the boys in ignorance of what women looked like. Possession of the said magazine increased Toby’s popularity at school ten-fold.
“You can tell me,” Daisy wheedled now. “Dead exciting, isn’t it? Mick coming here? What do you think he’s going to do on TV? Be a presenter, or maybe he’s an actor and has been one all along. How exciting!”
She didn’t need answers, Katrina reckoned. This stream of consciousness questions thing was something Daisy did all the time. Mick was yet another of those distractions the Walker family loved.
Something that took their mind off the fact that their husband/father was in prison.
Katrina leant back, letting her elbow support her. Daisy was still sat upright, and she turned her face so that she could look directly at her.
“Say thanks to your ma.”
“For what?” Daisy smiled. The to and fro of power.
“For saying Mick can stay here. That’s awfy nice of her. I’ll write to him and say that it’s okay.” Sometimes, you just had to give in to Daisy.
Daisy beamed, triumphant. “Good-o!”
Her face changed, comedic acting at its finest as something appeared to dawn on her.
“But we don’t have any other spare rooms! Where’s Mick going to sleep?”
©Emma Baird 2017