Punch

The world swayed sideways. Cake stumbled towards the bin near the classroom door and coughed up the hamburger she’d had for breakfast. Sweat soaked out her skin and her mouth tasted like river slime.

‘Jesus,’ Skeg boy said, perched on his chair, as far away from her as possible.

Cake wiped her lips across her school blazer sleeve. ‘Bloody Maccas.’

In her bedroom, Cake switched on the telly and tilted her head sideways. Her lazy eye made her look as if she’d been in a fight. A rush of warm air from the central heating vent flowed from the ceiling. Cake flopped onto a beanbag and dragged out a tray from beneath her bed. She’d been seasick all day. On the tray was a thumb size roll of foil and a clay pipe. She lit up and waited for the world to straighten out.

Her phone chimed. It was a text from Skeg boy. You coming, slut.

The falls gushed below in the darkness. On the cliff above, kids were sprawled out on the cold dirt in parkas and blankets. Cake sought out Skeg boy in his usual spot at the abandoned bluestone mill. A banana moon hung in the sky. Cake stretched out her fingers, trying to touch it.

‘Brush your teeth?’ Skeg boy asked, offering her the bong he’d made in metalwork.

Cake inhaled the bitter smoke, holding it deep inside her. Skeg boy undid his jeans.

Cake’s ears popped. Cars headed into town, screeching wheelies against the gravel. She waited until all the headlights had disappeared and no one else was around. She glared at Skeg boy as he zipped up his fly.

‘You got me pregnant.’

‘Huh. How?’

‘I need money.’

‘I’m not giving you any. Could be anyone’s.’

Cake reached behind Skeg boy, grabbing for his wallet. She clung to his jeans and dug her fingernails into his hip, trying to anchor him. He jumped and backed away.

‘Crazy bitch.’ He clenched his fist. ‘Think you’re so tough.’

‘See how tough I am when I have it and hand it to your mum.’

‘She won’t believe you.’

‘I’ll get the test.’

‘Like that proves anything.’

‘Give me the money.’

‘How about a punch in the guts.’

Cake stilled, the wind slowed and her seasickness made the rocky ground turn into a sinking mush.

Cake woke at 3am and itemised her options. Her sinuses ached. The alien inside her wasn’t going anywhere. Cake swiped on her phone and shone the light around her bedroom. She pulled on a woollen beanie and threw off the warm doona.

Barefoot, she shuffled along the chilled floorboards toward her parents’ room. The room reeked of whisky sweat. She waited for them to breath differently. When they didn’t, she crept over to the jewellery box. She opened the pewter lid and reached in for her mother’s eternity ring. Her hands were slippery and the lid clunked shut.

Her dad roared. ‘What the—.’

Cake’s heart lit up. She dropped the ring and bolted.

In the morning frost, Cake waited outside the chemist. School kids and mums with prams knocked past her. Her ears hadn’t popped and everything sounded as if it were trapped under clouds of water. The footpath beneath her unbuckled t-bars lurched like a floating pier. A woman in a floral shirt unlocked the chemist door.

At the counter Cake said, ‘I need the morning-after pill.’

The woman eyed Cake. ‘Do you have a parental consent letter?’

‘No.’

‘Go get one, then come back.’

Cake swung her school bag over her shoulder and bit back glassy tears. Her throat was so tight hardly any sound could squeeze through. ‘Too bloody late anyway.’

Skeg boy wasn’t at school. Cake waded through first period. The room swayed so severely she was unable to focus on the whiteboard. She peeled away her fingernail tips and scratched the crescent shaped spikes across her palm. The mid morning bell shrilled her awake. Cake stumbled out of the school gate and texted Skeg boy. Meet me at the mill.

On the crisp walk to the falls, Cake’s ears popped. She broke off a eucalyptus leaf and inhaled its sharp-sweet scent. Skeg boy was at the mill, pacing and swinging his lanky arms about in the winter glare. When Cake reached him, she shoved him, hard, in the chest.

‘Hey. I was only joking,’ he said, palms upturned.

‘Where’s the money.’

‘I can’t get … that much.’ Skeg boy’s voice cracked.

A magpie cawed. Cake was out of options. She tied her hair into a ponytail and loosened her school kilt. She braced her feet on the dirt, and for the first time in weeks, the ground was solid, unwavering.

‘Then punch me.’

 

Published in Writing to the Edge by Spineless Wonders

Edited by Linda Godfrey & Ali Jane Smith

 

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