Julie took another swig of cider and passed the bottle to her friend Lizie.
“How’d you get it Jules?” Lizie asked taking a gulp of the dark liquid.
“How you think I got it. Bought it didn’t I” Julie replied taking another swig from the bottle which her friend had just handed back.
“But you aint old enough to drink Jules”.
Julie threw back her head and snorted with laughter.
“So fucking what. You aint old enough either but I could swear you’re drinking with me. Got it in that offie on Duke Street. Owner doesn’t give a stuff about how old you are, just cares about cash”.
“Its bloody good stuff Jules” Lizie said taking another mouthful.
“Its your turn next time Liz. I aint taking the risk every time. It aint fair. I got it last time as well”.
“But you look older than me Jules. You look all mature, I look like a little kid. I’ll never get served”.
“Chicken. Course you will. Borrow some of your mum’s make-up and those glittery heels your sister wears and nobody will have a bleeding clue that your 14”.
“Mum will fucking murder me if she finds out” Lizie said.
“Who’s going to tell her? I aint no grass. Just wait till she goes to work and nick a bit. She won’t notice” Julie said flicking a strand of long blonde hair out of her eyes.
“Angela’s mum went ape shit when the cops brought her home” Lizie said drumming her fingers nervously on the wooden bench.
“That stupid cow tried to buy cider in Sainsburys. Fucking idiot. Supermarkets are red hot on, oh what do you call it?” Julie asked.
“Age verification I think” her friend replied.
“Yeah, that’s it. Age verification. Why do you think I always go to the offie? Cause Mr Patel doesn’t give a shit. He’ll sell to anyone so long as they have the cash”. Julie said.
“Mum’s a teacher. She’ll kill me if I get caught. In fact it will be much worse. She’ll give me that I’m so disappointed in you Liz, how could you bring shame on me look. I can’t stand it when she does that. It makes me feel so small” Lizie said holding her hands six inches above the ground.
“I get it. Its fine for bimbo Julie to stick out her neck and maybe have it cut off but that little angel Elizabeth Cox won’t buy cider cause she doesn’t want to disappoint mummy. Well I’m pissed off. Go and find someone else to hang out with because I’ve had enough Lizie” Julie said jumping to her feet.
“Don’t go Jules” Lizie said taking hold of her friend’s sleeve.
“I want a friend not a fucking chicken” Julie said wrenching free from Lizie’s grasp.
“OK I’ll get it next time, promise” Lizie said running after Julie as she headed towards the park gates.
“You promise?” Julie asked turning towards her friend.
“Yeah I promise Jules” Lizie replied.
Lizie looked up and down the street for the third time. At 8:45 on a wind swept and rainlashed Monday evening Cobden street was deserted with the exception of an elderly man fighting a losing battle with his umbrella. As Lizie watched the wind caught the umbrella and carried it away with the elderly gentleman in hot pursuit. Taking a deep breath Lizie pushed open the door to the off licence. The sound of the bell caused her to start guilterly. Funny that. She haden’t felt guilty while drinking Julie’s cider in the park but somehow the prospect of purchasing alcohol herself made Lizie feel sick.
“Can I help you?” Mr Patel said looking through the wire grill which acted as a safety barrier between those serving and the customers.
“I’ll have this please” she said placing a bottle of Woodpecker cider on the counter.
£3.75” Mr Patel said.
Lizie reached into her pocket for the money. Shit she could have sworn that she had £10 in her purse. It wasn’t there now, she must have left it on the chest of drawers in her bedroom.
“Sorry I’ve forgotten my money. Can I pay you tomorrow?” Lizie asked.
“Its only £3.75. Forget about it” Mr Patel said placing the cider in a plastic carrier bag, “but you could do me a small favour if you have a moment” he continued.
“What kind of favour?” Lizie asked.
Mr Patel grimaced with pain and massaged his back.
“I’ve hurt my back. The doctor says that I shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting but in this job I have to carry heavy boxes. I’ve a box of wine out the back. Could you carry it in here for me?” Mr Patel asked.
“I’m meeting a friend” Lizie said glancing at the time on her mobile.
“It will only take a minute. I can unpack the box, I just need your help to carry it into the shop”.
“OK, where do I need to go?” Lizie enquired.
Mr Patel gestured towards a door at the back of the shop which stood slightly ajar.
“The box is just inside, straight ahead as you go through the door. Don’t trip over it” he said laughing.
Lizie entered the stock room. The box was straight ahead of her just as Mr Patel had said it would be. Lizie bent down to pick it up. As she bent forward to pick up the case of wine Lizie heard the click of a latch followed by a burst of bright light as Mr Patel flicked a switch. Lizie blinked dazzled by the flurescent lights. A hand was clamped over her mouth.
“Lets have some fun. I won’t hurt you if you are a good girl and don’t struggle” Mr Patel said.
Lizie could feel bile rising in her throat. The smell of Mr Patel’s sweat mixed with the scent of his garlicky breath made her wretch. She threw up all over his shirt. Mr Patel released Lizie and began dabbing at his shirt with a tissue.
“You fucking bitch. I’ll kill you” he screamed at Lizie.
Lizie made a dash for the stock room door. Fuck the bastard had locked it. She turned to see that Mr Patel was almost on her. Lizie had no option accept to run. She dashed to the opposite end of the room and stood with her back against a stack of boxes. Desperately she looked around for a means of escape. There was none and Mr Patel was almost on her. Lizie squeezed into the tiny gap between the boxes and the wall. What a crazy thing to have done Lizie thought. She was well and truly trapped. Mr Patel reached the boxes.
“Come out bitch or I’ll drag you out”.
Lizie could feel her heart banging like a sledge hammer in her chest. She took deep breaths attempting to calm herself. She needed to think.
“Right I’m coming in” Mr Patel said attempting to force himself into the small gap between the boxes and the wall. Unlike Lizie Mr Patel was overweight and he struggled to force an entrance. Lizie tried to think of a way out. She was about to be raped and there wasn’t a thing she could do to prevent it. Her gaze alighted on one of the boxes. It had split open and several cans of Heinz baked beans, the ones with the ring pulls protruded from the box. Lizie grabbed a can. She pulled back the lid and with a jerk of her hand detached it from the tin. Mr Patel had managed to force his way in.
“Don’t struggle and it will be over quicker” he said grabbing for the girl.
Lizie drove the serrated edge of the lid into Mr Patel’s face ripping open his left cheek. He bellowed in pain his hands protectively clutching at the wound. Lizie drove her foot into his groin. With a pearcing scream Mr patel doubled over. He lay rithing on the floor animal noises coming from his mouth. Lizie bent down and felt in Mr Patel’s pockets. There it was. With a feeling of relief she retrieved the key and pausing only to kick the prostrate man in the face she walked to the door and unlocked it. The shop was empty. Lizie gazed out onto the deserted street. With a final glance up and down the empty pavement she stepped out into the rain swept evening.