I have decided to use the prompts from Search Engine Stories to flesh out my NaNoWriMo novel.
This is an excerpt from the novel using the prompt Because Of You.
The novel is about a homeless girl, Chook (Aussie for chicken) and her friend, Ceece, and how they cope with life on the streets.
I would be very grateful if you would let me know what you think….
‘It’s because of you I can stand it,’ Ceece told me this morning. ‘This life. Without you I don’t know what I’d do.’
Ceece is eating the warm bread rolls I beg from the Lebanese baker, Mahmoud, every morning. I am teaching him to read and write properly in English. He wants to become a citizen so he can bring his family out here but he is afraid he won’t be able to read the citizenship test. I am helping him in exchange for rolls and sometimes a little jam. Ceece thinks he is getting the better end of the deal but she doesn’t know that he sometimes slips me some cash too. So far I have $132. It’s funny, because that was the amount of money my Mum gave me when she told me to escape. It was all she had. I begged her to come with me but she was afraid we wouldn’t both get away.
I can’t think about my Mum. Not today. I left her all alone. But I suppose we are even because she thrust me out into the world alone. Out on the streets.
I feel bad not telling Ceece about the money but I am keeping it for emergencies and she has a big mouth. I don’t want anyone to know we have it. I swear, Ceece cannot keep her mouth shut. It’s as if she’s simple or something, even though I know she isn’t. We’ll meet some other kids who we’ll hang with for a while and the first thing she’ll say is ‘We have money.’ I just can’t risk it.
I was touched when Ceece told me she can stand this life because of me. I also felt like someone had just put a noose around my neck and was pulling it tighter bit by bit. Ceece might think so but as far as I’m concerned this is not a life. It is existing in the shadows, like bugs under pots. It is subsistence. Meagre beyond belief.
Ceece almost prefers it to her old life. Almost. She came from a family with three mansions. Three. I have never heard of that. At first I thought she was lying to impress me but when I first met her she was wearing a real Rolex. I looked it up online. It had the proper mark of authentication and everything. We could have been sitting pretty with that watch but good old Ceece and her big mouth blew it. She told a gang of thugs she had it and they practically severed her arm wresting it from her. I heard they sold it down the pub for two hundred bucks. Losers.
Ceece’s old life wasn’t all good. No one who lives on the streets has come from a great life. In a way our stories are all the same. There is usually drugs, booze or abuse of some kind involved. We are a predictable lot.
Ceece’s father made her have sex with him. Her own father. She used to cry about it every night but now her face just goes blank instead. She says she has blocked it out but sometimes I see her hands shaking and I know she is remembering.
When she feels really down I pep her up with my bad jokes and chicken impressions. I think I have chicken genes because I can cluck just like the real thing. Nothing cracks Ceece up more than me acting like a chicken. My Mum used to crack up too. She said I used to cluck like a chicken before I could even talk, that’s why she called me Chook.
When Ceece starts to cheer up I get her to sing. She was going to be an opera singer. She went to the Conservatorium and everything. She says she is getting rusty but when I hear her sing I believe there are angels or gods or something watching over us. It gives me hope just for a second.
I’m hoping to get enough money from Mahmoud to rent a flat. I want Ceece to go back to the Conservatorium but she has to have a nice warm bed to sleep in if she’s going to sing again. An opera singer’s throat is as valuable as gold and it must be kept free from chills.
I suppose I couldn’t stand life on the streets either if it wasn’t for Ceece. She has given me a purpose and it helps to have someone to look after. It stops me from feeling everything is destroyed.
When I can’t sleep because the ground is too cold or the enormity of the sky threatens to crush me, I write poetry in my head. I love haiku but I am bad at it. I am trying to learn but I have no books.
I wrote one for Ceece in the old notebook I carry, but when I read it back I couldn’t decide if it was for Ceece or my Mum.
Because of you
I wake to grey morning
Tears coursing silently.
It’s bad, I know. I am still learning.