Lucy pushed her finger into the tear in Blue Bear’s stomach and pulled the cotton out. It was nasty to make a slit with her Biro, but she needed a place to hide her mums ring. The ring had a green stone in the centre, her mum said it reminded her of Lucy’s eyes. Lucy put the ring on every finger and thumb. It slid off every time. Why couldn’t she have fat fingers like Jenny? She gathered the cotton and stuffed the ring back into Blue’s stomach, kissed his navy blue nose and put him back under the bed.
Jenny’s shoes echoed in the hallway. She poked her head around the corner.
‘What are you doing up here?’
‘I wanted to get my certificate to show Mum.’
‘That’s a really nice idea.’
Lucy pulled the yellow gymnastics certificate out of her bedside table and handed it to Jenny.
‘Don’t crease it.’ Lucy said.
Lucy sat in the back seat of the car. Jenny sat in the front with a man who didn’t need to be there. He had a beard, wore a cap and smelled of gone off milk.
‘This is Dave. He’ll be supervising the visit with me.’ Jenny said.
They drove away from The Grange. Lucy pretended she was running alongside, pole vaulting the hedges, side stepping the telephone masts, leaping over cars. Back at the gym, a real gymnast, light and graceful sinking into the safety of the blue mats.
They were getting closer. England flags hung out of windows, people huddled in their yards by broken motorcycles and white plastic chairs. A stupid boy with a red face, eating a orange lolly ice stared at Lucy. She stuck her tongue out at him.
The car stopped. Jenny let Lucy out and walked up the yard to the front door. Lucy’s mum opened the door. She scooped Lucy up in her arms, kissed her mouth and forehead.
‘My beautiful girl, I’ve missed you so much.’
Jenny cleared her throat.
‘Oh I’m sorry.’
‘That’s fine, Miss Henderson.’ Jenny said.
‘Call me Jackie. Come in. Do you want a cup of tea?’ she asked.
‘I’m fine, thank you,’
Lucy grabbed her mum’s hand and held her fingers, thin and damp.
‘Are you sure you don’t want a drink? We’ve got orange juice, coffee-’
‘I’ll have a coffee please, Jackie. But first, is it okay if we sit down and have a little chat?’
‘Of course. Lucy go and see your brother in the back room.’
The back room had changed. The crinkly wallpaper was lemon yellow, blobs of paint had fallen onto the skirting board. Connor’s pen was at the far end.
‘Why are you so fat?’ Lucy said.
He didn’t hear her. He put a yellow and red block together, smiled and took it apart again. Lucy leant into the pen and pinched him as hard as she could.
‘I hate you.’ she said.
He looked down at his arm confused for a moment then screamed. His face wrinkled up and he screamed. Jackie ran in and picked him up.
‘What’s wrong, little man?’
Lucy stood beside the play pen digging the tip of her shoe into the carpet.
‘He must be hungry. Don’t cry, Connor, your sister’s come to see you.’
Jackie put a bottle into Connor’s mouth. She passed Lucy a cup of juice, too watery.
‘Here you go, baby, take your juice into the front room.’
Jackie grinned showing her two missing bottom teeth, still pretty. She kissed Lucy on the end of her nose. She smelt like her medicine.
Jackie carried the tray of drinks back to the lounge. The adults sat on the couches, Lucy the floor.
‘Just before we get started Jackie-’ Jenny said.
‘Wait, I haven’t shown you my certificates,’ Jackie said.
‘That won’t be necessary.’
Jackie stumbled out of the room. She came back in, placed sheets of paper on the floor. ‘This is my I.T one, says I’ve improved my employability-’
‘Jackie, this isn’t necessary. We have all of this on our records.’ Jenny said.
‘Can I show mum my certificate?’ Lucy asked.
‘ In a while Lucy, me and your mum need to talk for a few minutes. Go and sit in the back room with Dave and Connor?’
Connor had stopped crying and was building with his blocks again. Dave passed Lucy a colouring book and crayons and lowered himself opposite her. Lucy coloured a nutcracker’s uniform in red.
‘What are you colouring in?’ said Dave.
‘That’s not a soldier, that’s a nutcracker.’
Lucy concentrated on colouring inside the lines.
‘I know you like gymnastics. Jenny told me about the competition.’
Lucy looked up, about to talk, but he wouldn’t understand. Dave sighed and looked at Connor.
‘Lucy, was that bruise on Connor’s arm there when you saw him before?’
He hoisted himself up and went into the front room. There was muffled shout next door. Jenny burst into the room and pulled Lucy up.
‘Come on, Lucy, we have to go.’
Jackie stood in the door frame. ‘You don’t think?’
‘Connor’s a matter for child services, Jackie. It has nothing to do with me now.’
‘But why are you taking Lucy? You can’t take her away from me, you keep promising her to me and now you’re taking her away again.’
Jenny barged past Jackie dragging Lucy with her. Lucy’s wrists were burning. She was bundled into the car. Jackie sprinted out and banged on the car window.
‘You can’t take my girl away from me, not again.’
Jackie fists bounced off the glass. The car drove off. Lucy peered over the back seat. Her mum was on her knees in the middle of the road, she was sick again.