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The Casual Vacancy, Page 51

J. K. Rowling

Part Five Chapter VIII



  Sukhvinder had been walking around Pagford longer than Samantha. She had left the Old Vicarage shortly after her mother had told her she must go to work, and since then had been wandering the streets, observing invisible exclusion zones around Church Row, Hope Street and the Square.

  She had nearly fifty pounds in her pocket, which represented her wages from the cafe and the party, and the razor blade. She had wanted to take her building society pass book, which resided in a little filing cabinet in her father's study, but Vikram had been at his desk. She had waited for a while at the bus stop where you could catch a bus into Yarvil, but then she had spotted Shirley and Lexie Mollison coming down the road, and dived out of sight.

  Gaia's betrayal had been brutal and unexpected. Pulling Fats Wall . . . he would drop Krystal now that he had Gaia. Any boy would drop any girl for Gaia, she knew that. But she could not bear to go to work and hear her one ally trying to tell her that Fats was all right, really.

  Her mobile buzzed. Gaia had already texted her twice.

  How pissed was I last nite?

  R u going 2 work?

  Nothing about Fats Wall. Nothing about snogging Sukhvinder's torturer. The new message said, R u OK?

  Sukhvinder put the mobile back into her pocket. She might walk towards Yarvil and catch a bus outside town, where nobody would see her. Her parents would not miss her until five thirty, when they expected her home from the cafe.

  A desperate plan formed as she walked, hot and tired: if she could find a place to stay that cost less than fifty pounds . . . all she wanted was to be alone and ply her razor blade.

  She was on the river road with the Orr flowing beside her. If she crossed the bridge, she would be able to take a back street all the way round to the start of the bypass.

  'Robbie! Robbie! Where are you?'

  It was Krystal Weedon, running up and down the river bank. Fats Wall was smoking, with one hand in his pocket, watching Krystal run.

  Sukhvinder took a sharp right onto the bridge, terrified that one of them might notice her. Krystal's yells were echoing off the rushing water.

  Sukhvinder caught sight of something in the river below.

  Her hands were already on the hot stone ledge before she had thought about what she was doing, and then she had hoisted herself onto the edge of the bridge; she yelled, 'He's in the river, Krys!' and dropped, feet first, into the water. Her leg was sliced open by a broken computer monitor as she was pulled under by the current.