Sherry is a single-parent streetwise kid, upset at being dumped on her father, his pregnant second wife and her twin half-brothers for the holidays. Sherry’s continued efforts to try to be helpful end as disasters.
Then her stepmother suddenly goes into labour at home, and Sherry is the only one around to help her…
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“I‘m not going to be disposed of like an unwanted piece of garbage,” Sherry stormed. She pointed her mobile phone accusingly at her mother. “The arrangement was that I spend these holidays with you.”
“Not this time! Your father is picking you up,” her mother said. “Now try and put a pleasant look on your face.”
Sherry scowled at her reflection in the mirror. She was eleven, but already as tall as her mother. She had the long thin legs of a stork with malnutrition, and her long angular arms ended in clumsy long hands. Her skin was sallow; her eyes, surrounded by generous lashings of black eye shadow were small and brown. A long nose spread down her thin face to stop just above her wide mouth, now turned down in fury and disappointment.
Sherry’s mother was glamorous and exciting, and rushed around going to interesting places. She didn’t look at all like Sherry’s mother. In fact she didn’t even look like a mother.
Sherry’s father was just plain dull, and had remarried a lady as dull as himself, and almost as plain as Sherry. He had twin sons, and according to her mother, was not interested in Sherry any more.
Sherry’s scowl deepened at the timid knock. She opened the door. Her father was tall and thin, with a receding hairline that made his nose beakier than ever. He tried to twitch his mouth in a nervous smile, but the rest of his face stayed long and mournful. He looked like a stork, Sherry decided, a nervous dithering stork.
“No,” Sherry snapped.
Her father looked relieved. Sherry’s mother placed a hand on his arm.
“Now George,” she purred. “Sherry’s case is all packed, and I’m leaving.” She pulled the case out from under the table and slid it through the open door. Her voice sharpened. “Go with your father, Sherry.”
Sherry’s father picked up the case, his unhappy brown eyes watching Sherry. Sherry walked slowly towards him.
“Drop her back after the holidays.” The flat door was slammed in their faces.
Sherry followed her father down the stairs and across the garbage-strewn concreted yard towards his old car. She slid into the front seat and fastened the seat belt. The car smelt of tobacco, leather upholstery cleaner and chocolate. They were a comforting combination of smells, reminding Sherry of an earlier period when life was more pleasant.
The car streaked into the freeway, and accelerated like a hunted animal away from the crowded town.
Sherry shut her eyes tight and brooded about her messed-up school holidays. Desma Lexton, her best friend, who skated with all the grace of a ballerina had promised to teach her to skate backwards, and loan her spare skates as well.
“I don’t mind. My mother doesn’t mind. My brothers don’t mind,” Desma had laughed. “This family has roller blades coming out their ears. Of course, you’re welcome to use a pair.”
Could she find her way back to Desman’s place every day by public transport? Sherry dismissed the idea. Her father’s house was a long way from anywhere, and the bus service infrequent.
She sneaked a look at her father. He had seemed less than pleased to see her. She hadn’t seen him since the Easter holidays when her mother had unexpectedly gone interstate with her friends.
“Have I stopped you going away or something?”
“I’ll be home all the holidays…annual leave.” He swung the car into the side road that led off the freeway. “It’s just that I wasn’t expecting to have you these holidays.”
“Will I be in the way?” Sherry asked, her face flushing at the reminder that she was unwanted.
“Old Fred is staying with us as well, and it makes extra work for Marion.”
Sherry wished she could think up something nasty to say. Although it was boring at her father’s place, she always tried to be helpful. She minded the twins, hung out washing, and cleaned up the kitchen. Even Marion had admitted she wasn’t much trouble, and sometimes even helpful. Why was her father carrying on?
The car sped down the quiet road that led to where her father’s small house crouched among other identical houses set in the curving roads and courts. They turned into the driveway.
Bruno, the large friendly St Bernard bounded up to the car. He remembered Sherry, and his tail wagged excitement and welcome when she opened the car door.
“Hi, Bruno. I’m back again.” She threw her arms around his warm solid shoulders, and his pink tongue slobbered its welcome over her face.
For a few seconds, as she brushed her hot face and stinging eyes against the comfort of his solid shoulders she felt better. At least one creature in the world liked her even if her mother, her father and her stepmother didn’t.
She pushed Bruno away. “Come on Dad. Let’s break the news to your out-of-touch typist that you’re stuck with me for the holidays.”
“Marion’s expecting you,” her father said shortly.
He picked up her case and trudged into the house. Sherry knew that her last remark had stung. She gave Bruno one last pat, and followed her father.