"Well, that was a complete waste of time." Lauren said loudly, stomping into the house and flinging her jacket onto the dining table. "We went all that way, for nothing." She grumbled, but didn't look all that disappointed at their luck.
"Yes. I know." Jack replied, sitting down at the table. He waved a hand at her, while rubbing the spot between his eyes with the other. "Make me some tea."
Lauren began slamming around opening cupboards and assembling the necessary items to make tea. "So…" She prompted, yanking open the fridge door, "What are we supposed to do now, Mr. I-Know-Everything?"
Jack leaned forward until his forehead was touching the table, and dug his fingers into his hair. "I don't know, Lauren." He did know he was getting tired of hearing her voice. Stress was making his head hurt again. He closed his eyes, and after several minutes, heard a soft thunk near his head as a mug was set on the table. He sat up.
"Any ideas yet?" Lauren chirped irritatingly. She was perched on a stool at the counter, eating a plate of what looked and smelt like reheated beef stew and dumplings.
Rather than answer the question, Jack wrinkled his nose and nodded at the plate. "What the hell is that?"
"Stew." Lauren said with her mouth full, as though it were perfectly obvious.
Jack frowned suspiciously. "Tell me it's not the leftover stew your mother brought round for you."
"I could tell you that. But I'd be lying."
"Oh, that's disgusting. That stuff's like a week old!"
"It's four days old." Lauren said, looking at him like he was the stupid one.
"Oh, that's so much better." Jack said sarcastically. "It's still old enough for you to get food poisoning and die."
She rolled her eyes and shoveled in another forkful.
Jack picked up his mug of tea and stared at her over the rim. "I really don't see why you can't make your own food instead of eating your parents' leftovers all the time."
Lauren shrugged. "I like the leftovers."
"That's disgusting." Jack mumbled again, pulling himself out of his chair with some effort, and carrying his tea into the hallway. "Come on."
Once they were sitting back in the office, an uncomfortable silence descended over them.
Lauren sat at her desk, glancing around the room and tapping things on the desk, while Jack read through some files and drank his tea.
"Today," Jack announced suddenly, sitting up and folding his arms, "is Tuesday."
"Uh-huh." Lauren said, tilting her head curiously.
"Which means we have until next Tuesday to get the money we need. So we better think of something fairly soon."
There was another long pause, during which both of them stared vaguely into space, before Lauren spoke.
"How about a website where we pretend to be a shop or something, and steal money from people's bank accounts?"
Jack shook his head. "Too time consuming. Besides, we don't have the computer expertise to set it up."
"Oh, yeah. Good point."
"Yes. We'll have to think of something else." Jack was becoming more depressed by the second.
"We could always go on the run…" Lauren said slowly.
Jack looked up at her. She was getting to her feet, eyes bright with excitement. "What?" He said dully, hardly believing what he was hearing.
"No, no!" She defended quickly, understanding his doubtfulness. "We really could! Think about it. No one would know where we'd gone. Big Eddie would never find us, it would be great. We could drive off and stay in hotels, and just travel and stuff. We could get by, we really could!" She paced back and forward across the room, gesturing animatedly.
Jack watched her, his chin resting in his palm, elbow on the desk. He raised an eyebrow. "And I suppose you could get by without your own bed? And the Foxtel? And those twice-weekly three-hour phone calls to your mother?"
Lauren stopped and thought about it. "Maybe…" She said thoughtfully, looking a little less convinced now.
"Somehow, I doubt it."
"I still say it could work. I mean, just think about it…"
I don't want to think about it, it's a ridiculous idea and it will never work. What's the point in thinking about it?
"We've got a little bit saved in bank accounts and in the safe and stuff. And I could borrow some money from my parents."
Today is Tuesday. One week. Seven days to come up with a plan to save ourselves and so far we have nothing.
"And we have the car, which is really all we need. We could just get in and drive off."
Why is everyone so hopeless? Why do I always have to think of everything for myself? Why do I even bother with these people?
"It'd be like…like a really long holiday. And we could go anywhere we wanted."
We couldn't go anywhere. We'd never survive. And there isn't anywhere we could go that Big Eddie wouldn't find us eventually.
"China, England, Germany, that place with the big statue of Jesus, you know the one with his arms out wide? Or we could go to India…"
Rio de Janeiro. That's where the statue she's thinking of is. God, shut up, Lauren. Concentrate on something that might help us instead of ranting aimlessly.
"Or maybe Jamaica."
The thing is, what if Eddie decides just putting us in hospital isn't punishment enough? What if he decides on something more…permanent?
"I've always wanted to go to Jamaica."
I'm too young to die.
"I mean, I realise we're not actually going to do it, but it's nice to dream."
God, my head hurts.
"My parents went there once, before I was born, and they said it was really nice."
I think I'm going to be sick.
"I like the palm trees. And the name. Jamaica…it's so pretty."
She's still talking about holidays. I'm having a nervous breakdown over here, and she's still raving about going to the Caribbean.
"And I -" Lauren stopped abruptly and looked round in surprise as she heard Jack's fist slam down on his desk.
"SHUT UP!" Jack got to his feet, his expression dark with anger. "Don't you think we have more important things to focus on than where you'd like to go on holiday? I'm trying to figure out a way to stop us from being killed, you stupid girl, and you're sitting over there babbling on and on and on about shit!"
Lauren's eyes were wide and she glanced briefly towards the door, looking frightened. Jack had yelled at her before during the course of her employment, many times, but never like this. "I'm sorry, I was just -"
"Being a massive pain in the ass? Like usual? Yes, you were." Jack shouted, crossing the room towards her. "And I don't care if you're sorry. It seems like that's all I ever hear from people these days!"
"Yes, but -"
"But nothing! I'm sick of hearing your voice. You just go on and on all the time and you never shut up, and quite frankly, I'm sick of listening to you." He was right up close to her now, though she had been trying to back away.
Now Lauren stopped moving backward, and glared defiantly at him. She drew herself up to her full height, which even on tiptoe left her more than half a head shorter than him, and shouted right back at him. "I was only trying to help!"
"You call that helping? Your help is not worth shit, Lauren. I don't need your help! I don't need you at all." Jack took a step back, breathing heavily. He appeared to calm down a little, then pointed at the door. "You know what? Get out. Just leave, now."
Lauren stayed where she was, staring at him. Jack would recall later that the she could not have looked more hurt if he had physically hit her, but at that moment, he couldn't have cared less.
"I said get out!" He shouted again, and turned his back on her.
He heard a sharp intake of breath, then footsteps down the carpeted hallway, and the quiet closing of her bedroom door.