Our Secrets

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead. -
Benjamin Franklin


4. Victoria's Secret

I have a secret.

I thought about those words as I made my way down the street. It was cold. Freezing, actually. I stuffed my hands into my coat pocket, trying to banish the growing numbness curling up my fingers. I should have been at home, with a two-for-one Coke can in my hand, watching one of the soaps on the TV. Instead I was on my way to my sister's bloody work-place. She must have forgotten to leave the key under the broken potted plant again. Not that I enjoyed going near that thing, I had seen enough of the thugs in my neighbourhood peeing into it.

I spotted Joshua Pike tearing down the path as usual. Nothing interesting there, just another sports-mad, burger-eating womaniser that walked the halls of Addlington. I remember trying to flirt with him once, and he told me a why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-road joke. That ended the tempestuous relationship of Joshua Pike and Victoria Spelling.

I continued down the street, keeping my head down. These parts were shifty, and it was best to keep to yourself as much as possible. Of course I'd been mugged twice, and I got jumped in an alley coming home from karate class once. Thank god my mother had made me go to karate classes when I was three, and I continued even after she died. It was an escape for me, karate. It was like for once, I was in control. I had the power to move the way I wanted to. I loved the discipline karate gave me, structure and security. Something I'd never really had.

I was nearly there when I saw a group of boys hanging outside a shop. They were all wearing hoodies pulled over their faces. I kept walking, slightly quickening my pace. I was nearly out of reach when one of them called to me.

"Hey, Victoria, ain't it?"
I breathed a sigh of relief. It was just Jammy Dodger and his crew. Despite the sugary sounding name, Jammy Dodger was the most notorious, feared teenage gangster in the area. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him. We were both around the same age, but we both grew up in different environments. He had to attend the nearest community school, which was basically just a meeting ground for drug-selling and various other business dealings. Fortunately I wasn't as thick as everyone thought, and I had won a scholarship to Addlington.

"Ooh, posh kid, ain't ya?" One of them said, coming closer to me. I backed away gently, but I knew they wouldn't do anything.

"Yeah, you go to school with those posh kids, don't ya?"

They all started sneering at the mention of my classmates. I made an attempt at a laugh.

"So, you got a boyfriend, Victoria?"

The skinny one put on a mocking tone at my name, pronouncing it like I was the queen or something.  

"Look, I really have to go"

I made a slight movement away, but they just followed. I was starting to panic. Were they really as harmless as I thought? 

"Well, do ya or don't ya?"
The skinny one rubbed my shoulder. I took a sharp breath in. I had to get out of here fast. He leaned in and cupped my face in his hands. I knew I had to run, but there was six big burly boys against me. 

"You're really very pretty, Victoria" His breath on my face felt like flames igniting my skin. I smelt the familiar stench of alcohol and cigarettes. 

"Get the hell off me" I said, wrenching my face out off his grasp. The group jeered and the skinny one's eyes lit up with anger.

"Don't tell me what to do, sweetheart"

"Don't call me sweetheart" I hissed at him. The skinny was obviously stoned out of his mind because insanity was written all over his face. He wasn't in his right state of mind.

"Come on, Vic. You and me, we could be real good friends" His friends jeered and started making very rude remarks. I was getting seriously freaked out. He came in closer, this time wrapping his arm around my waist. Suddenly, I felt an anger surge within me. I brought my knee up to his groin, and a groan of pain rang out through the empty street. 

"You little..."
And then he whipped out a knife. The other boys' laughter diminished. They finally saw what I saw. A crazed psychopath.

"Here, no leave her go, Darrell"

But he couldn't hear. His ears were blocked with the words of an abusive father, an institutionalized mother and the cries of his little sister when she was taken by the social worker. I looked into his eyes as he brought the knife forward and all I could see was hatred. He didn't want to kill me. He wanted to kill himself. I couldn't think of anything to do now that there was a knife involved. I ran through the options in my head but none seemed rational, practical or useful. I was going to die. This was it.

And maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. What had life ever given me? A broken home, a terrorised neighbourhood, a life of violence, fear, alcohol, drugs, abuse, eviction notices and unpaid bills. How much longer could I have gone on anyway? The death rate in my parts were higher than anywhere else. Maybe this way I could spare Emma college fees.

College. I had plans to go to university, get a scholarship  Although I had given up on that a while ago when my grades starting slipping. I didn't mean to stop studying, life just got in the way. I wanted to become a doctor. Crazy, right? But yeah, a girl raised in the roughest part of London wanted to study medicine. People kept telling me I was mad, and told me off for thinking so stupidly. Emma was the only one that ever told me that I could do it. She used to hide the bills under the couch so I wouldn't have to see them. She always had cereal in the cupboard, and never left the door without a lock, no matter how many times it broke. Emma was the one who picked up the pieces after Mum died, even though she was only a kid herself. Emma made my birthday feel like the best day of the year, even if we didn't have a penny to spare. Emma. She would miss me. 

Would anyone else miss me? Sure, the girls in school would miss me a little, but they wouldn't die over it. And I didn't have a special someone so I can just rule that out. Not that I haven't tried, I didn't get my reputation for nothing. But the truth is I just wanted someone decent and sweet and smart and wonderful. Someone who, for once, could tell me that I was beautiful. 

Yes maybe this was best.

No. No, I didn't want to die. Yeah, I had a crappy childhood. And I still have a pretty crappy life. But I can't stop fighting. Just like karate, you have to keep fighting till you're on the mat. I want to go to college, I want to become something that Emma could be proud of. I wanted more than this. Please God, I know I don't go to church or pray very often, but if you hear me, please help me.

And, whoever was up there, did help me. Because Jammy Dodger was suddenly blessed with courage, and knocked the knife out of the boy's hand. It fell to the dirty pavement with a deafening screech. I looked at Jammy Dodger, and he nodded. I slammed my fist into the skinny guy's stomach. He doubled over with a shriek of pain. I brought my leg across his hip, knocking his sideways. He was nearly on the ground. Jeez, what did it take to knock this guy out? I swung my leg under his feet, and he came crashing down like a doll propped up on a shelf. He lay on the ground, groaning and moaning, clutching his side.

"Get out of here, Victoria. We'll handle this"

So I ran. And ran. And ran. But that wasn't my secret. It was only part of it. The biggest secret I had was the burden the weighed on my shoulders every-time I stepped into school. I flirted with boys because that's the only thing I've ever been good at, or been respected for. When you have come from like a place like I did, there isn't much else going for you than being popular at school. But I was done. All I could think of was my daughter walking these streets in years to come, and being held a knife-point because she had the nerve to stand up to thugs. I wanted a better life for my future family. I wanted a better life for Emma. I wanted a better life for myself. That was my secret.





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