(In response to Donna’s ‘It’s my birthday and I’ll suggest a Ramones themed anthology if I want to’ challenge.)
Mum’s face is white. “I know you didn’t, Tracey. I’m sure this has all been a misunderstanding.”
The shop manager snorts. “We found this in her bag. The alarm went off when she tried to leave the store.”
Mum looks at the gold chain dangling from the manager’s podgy fingers. The quivering crystal drop deposits flecks of light on the desk. Colour rises in her cheeks. Only ten minutes earlier I had shown her that necklace and asked her to give me the money for it.
I know it’s looking bad for me. Mum does too. “What are you going to do?” she asks the manager.
“We can end the matter here, as long as Tracey agrees not to enter the store again. We have the necklace back and I think she’s learned a valuable lesson.” He smiles condescendingly at me. I wish I had a baseball bat so that I could smash his fucking teeth in.
“I didn’t do it, all right?”
The manager presses his fingertips together. “If you’re going to kick up a fuss we could always review the CCTV footage. I’m warning you, though, that if we see evidence of you stealing on camera I’ll have no choice but to prosecute.”
“Come on Tracey, let’s go,” Mum says.
I’m staring at the manager, hating him so much that he should dissolve into a greasy spot in front of my eyes. But he doesn’t. He stares right back at me, so I call his bluff. “Go ahead. Watch the footage.”
The black and white screen is divided into four. My stomach turns cold as I walk into view in the top right frame. Mum’s fingers wrap round my arm. “It’s not too late. Let’s just stop this now and go home.”
“Your mum’s right, Tracey. Why risk getting a criminal record when you’ve got your whole life ahead of you?” The manager is sweating. He knows as well as I do that the cameras may show nothing. I can’t back down now.
Together we watch the black and white me on the screen lifts the necklace from its peg on the wall. I remember looking at it. I remember thinking, Mum would really like this. I remember how expensive it was.
Mum appears on screen beside me. There’s no sound, but our conversation is still fresh in my head. “Wow,” she said, when I showed her the necklace. I wanted her to have it but she said she couldn’t afford it. She’d just had to pay for my new school uniform and besides, when would she wear it now that Mike had dumped her? “If you give me my next three month’s pocket money in advance, I’ll get it for you,” I said. And she smiled and said that was very sweet, but I shouldn’t spend my pocket money on her.
Mum walks off screen. I’m still holding the necklace. I remember feeling the weight of it in my hand and thinking how easy it would be to just drop it. It would slither straight into the carrier bag over my arm. I glance round the shop to see if anyone is watching, then… I hang the necklace back up on the peg.
“See! I told you I didn’t do it!”
The shop manager has been perched on the edge of his seat, so sure that he’s got me. Now his mouth opens. For a moment he just stares, then he cries, “Wait a minute! Between this point and you leaving the store that necklace somehow got into your bag and I’m going to find out how you did it.”
He fast forwards, then stops when I appear in the bottom left frame. There I am, fingering some silk scarves when Mum comes up behind me. She’s telling me that she is going to Boots and I can meet her there when I’m done. Then, while I’m still studying the scarves, her hand reaches out, cupped like half of an oyster shell. She tips it downwards and the necklace flows into my bag.
The manager and I both turn to look at her. Her face is pressed into her cupped hands.