Marion Fossey opened her eyes and peered around the tiny bedroom, her eyes alighted on the clock and she jumped up. They were going to be late for school! Why the Hell hadn't the alarm gone off? The door creaked open and small feet padded across the carpet, a hand tugged at her night shirt.
"Mummy, I threw up" said Addy. Marion's panic subsided as she scooped the six year old into her arms and placed a kiss on her hot little forehead.
"Well, it is the last day of school. I don't suppose they had anything awesome planned anyway." Marion lay back down and pulled the duvet up over them, Addy snuggled into her mother's embrace and slipped back to sleep.
"Happy birthday, mummy" she murmured. Marion smiled, she was eighteen today and didn't feel in the least bit grown up.
At 10.30, the Fossey family began their day. The child with a bowl of cereal and the mother with a pile of bills. No birthday cards again but that wasn't really all that surprising. Getting pregnant at twelve years old had lost her all her family and most of her friends. She had moved to Brighton, got herself a job at the local supermarket and looked after Addy. Sometimes Addy's father came down to visit too, he had started bringing the new girlfriend around but Marion didn't care. She had her own girl to worry about.
The doorbell rang as they were clearing the table; Marion flicked the dish towel over her shoulder and hurried out to answer it. There was a familiar shape framed in the glass of the door, Marion smiled and braced herself for the hurricane. She pulled open the door and a blur of hairspray and perfume rushed past her.
"There she is! Come give me a kissy!" cried Cleo Moore; she swung Addy up into the air. Marion grimaced as Addy promptly threw up down Cleo's shirt; the woman merely laughed and carried Addy to the bathroom to get cleaned up. Sandy Bowker stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind him; he followed Marion to the living room and dropped into a rather threadbare armchair.
Sandy and Cleo worked at the same supermarket as Marion; they had become friends quickly when they had discovered that Marion was all alone with a six year old child. They were always popping round with leftovers that lasted them a month and hand me downs with the labels still in them, Marion didn't want them to be offended so she accepted it all. But it still felt like charity to her.
Sandy looked up from his seat and smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. Marion threw the dish cloth into the kitchen and turned to him.
"What's up?" she asked. Sandy huffed and dropped his head onto his hand.
"We've just come from the doctor. Cleo can't have kids because of that infection she had a few months back. We're starting the adoption process tomorrow but I'm worried about her. She says she's okay but it more like psychotically chipper. I wish she'd just talk to me." Marion clasped his hand in hers and squeezed, part of her wanted to offer her services as a surrogate but she was actually terrified to giving birth again. Addy's birth had been a nightmare from start to finish; she'd lost so much blood and had almost died. She didn't want to go through all that again.
"I was thinking about going away with her for a bit, you know? Get away from it all but she decided she'd like to do something nice for you and Addy. So, would you be interested in a trip to Disneyland? Call it an early birthday present from us to you. I've asked the others too and everyone's up for it. Say you'll come, please?" said Sandy. His face was full of such longing that Marion couldn't bear to say no and Addy would love it. She smiled and said they'd love to go.
Addy was in the bathroom but she wanted her mummy. Auntie Cleo was acting a bit weird. She kept saying that if Addy was her baby then they wouldn't live in a dirty flat in Brighton, would Addy like to run away and live with her? Addy didn't want to live with Auntie Cleo, she liked their little flat and she didn't want to leave her mummy.
"Who wants tea?" Addy suddenly wrenched herself from Cleo's grip and dashed out of the bathroom and towards her mummy's voice.
Marion gasped as a pair of arms wrapped around her waist, the tea tray almost slid from her grasp. Sandy deftly stepped in and took it from her while Marion smiled a thank you and scooped Addy into her arms. The child was shaking and close to tears, Marion looked across to Cleo and the words dried on her lips. There was a look of such hatred and jealousy etched on Cleo's face that Marion dropped into a chair before her legs could give way. Addy sniffed and tightened her grip on her mother and Marion clung to her daughter and refused to let go.
When the doorbell rang again, Marion stood to answer it with Addy still hanging from her neck. On the doorstep were the only two friends that had remained by her side through her pregnancy and her move to Brighton. Aerial Clifton and Flick Banks smiled at her and moved slightly so the third person on the step could come forward. Marion stifled a sigh and shifted Addy onto her right hip.
This is Charming Frost, he's a mate of ours and really wanted to meet you" said Aerial. Marion managed a smile but she was beyond fed up of blind dates, she would be polite and that was it.
"Nice to meet you. Come on through." She turned and headed back to the living room before offering more tea and hurrying to the kitchen with the tray. The little group were chattering amongst themselves when she got back. Marion was a little dismayed to find that Charming Frost (what a stupid name!) had been invited to Disneyland too. Addy nuzzled into her neck and refused Aerial's offer of a cuddle.
"She's been ill this morning. It's nothing personal, promise" said Marion with a wink.