Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Casual Vacancy, Page 43

J. K. Rowling

Part Five Chapter V



  Krystal was walking along Foley Road in the early morning sunlight, eating a banana. It was an unfamiliar taste and texture, and she could not make up her mind whether she liked it or not. Terri and Krystal never bought fruit.

  Nikki's mother had just turfed her unceremoniously out of the house.

  'We got things to do, Krystal,' she had said. 'We're going to Nikki's gran's for dinner. '

  As an afterthought, she had handed Krystal the banana to eat for breakfast. Krystal had left without protest. There was barely enough room for Nikki's family around the kitchen table.

  The Fields were not improved by sunshine, which merely showed up the dirt and the damage, the cracks in the concrete walls, the boarded windows and the litter.

  The Square in Pagford looked freshly painted whenever the sun shone. Twice a year, the primary school children had walked through the middle of town, crocodile fashion, on their way to church for Christmas and Easter services. (Nobody had ever wanted to hold Krystal's hand. Fats had told them all that she had fleas. She wondered whether he remembered. ) There had been hanging baskets full of flowers; splashes of purple, pink and green, and every time Krystal had passed one of the planted troughs outside the Black Canon, she had pulled off a petal. Each one had been cool and slippery in her fingers, swiftly becoming slimy and brown as she clutched it, and she usually wiped it off on the underside of a warm wooden pew in St Michael's.

  She let herself into her house and saw at once, through the open door to her left, that Terri had not gone to bed. She was sitting in her armchair with her eyes closed and her mouth open. Krystal closed the door with a snap, but Terri did not stir.

  Krystal was at Terri's side in four strides, shaking her thin arm. Terri's head fell forwards onto her shrunken chest. She snored.

  Krystal let go of her. The vision of a dead man in the bathroom swam back into her subconscious.

  'Silly bitch,' she said.

  Then it occurred to her that Robbie was not there. She pounded up the stairs, shouting for him.

  ''M'ere,' she heard him say, from behind her own closed bedroom door.

  When she shouldered it open, she saw Robbie standing there, naked. Behind him, scratching his bare chest, lying on her own mattress, was Obbo.

  'All righ', Krys?' he said, grinning.

  She seized Robbie and pulled him into his own room. Her hands trembled so badly that it took her ages to dress him.

  'Did 'e do somethin' to yer?' she whispered to Robbie.

  ''M'ungry,' said Robbie.

  When he was dressed, she picked him up and ran downstairs. She could hear Obbo moving around in her bedroom.

  'Why's 'e 'ere?' she shouted at Terri, who was drowsily awake in her chair. 'Why's 'e with Robbie?'

  Robbie fought to get out of her arms; he hated shouting.

  'An' wha' the fuck's that?' screamed Krystal, spotting, for the first time, two black holdalls lying beside Terri's armchair.

  'S'nuthin',' said Terri vaguely.

  But Krystal had already forced one of the zips open.

  'S'nuthin'!' shouted Terri.

  Big, brick-like blocks of hashish wrapped neatly in sheets of polythene: Krystal, who could barely read, who could not have identified half the vegetables in a supermarket, who could not have named the Prime Minister, knew that the contents of the bag, if discovered on the premises, meant prison for her mother. Then she saw the tin, with the coachman and horses on the lid, half-protruding from the chair on which Terri was sitting.

  'Yeh've used,' said Krystal breathlessly, as disaster rained invisibly around her and everything collapsed. 'Yeh've fuckin' - '

  She heard Obbo on the stairs and she snatched up Robbie again. He wailed and struggled in her arms, frightened by her anger, but Krystal's grip was unbreakable.

  'Fuckin' lerrim go,' called Terri fruitlessly. Krystal had opened the front door and was running as fast as she could, encumbered by Robbie who was resisting and moaning, back along the road.