I lick my lips from the sweet, sweet porridge and bang my hands on the table.

"Mom! I'm going to school now!" I call to her. She's asleep on the sofa, little Rusey in the cot beside her. I just ignore this, pick up my school bag and walk out the door.

I walk down the dirty, blackened street a little way before my friend Copper stops me.

"Yo, Bryn! How's things?" He smiles optimistically and gives me a high five.

"Things could be better. Mr. Avery sacked Mom, saying he could get workers without the baggages of being a single mother of two. Now we're living on the State Annuality. Things can't get any worse, especially since both Mom and Rusey have buttercup cough. Doctor Maliday's coming over tomorrow to see us." I sigh and groan.

"Well, at least you have no chance of dying. That State Annuality money is a lot. $450 a month is sweet. How does your mother manage to waste it all?" Copper is still being optimistic now. I give him a scowl, just to prove my displeasure of him this morning.

"That money is for the people like the Mayor who get it. We only get $110 a month, and most of that goes on food or Rusey. Poor baby, nobody knows if she'll survive that buttercup cough. Now, let's get to school." I growl, walking forward to get away from that ginger-haired loony. He scoots up to me, trying to make polite small talk, but I just bat him away. I don't really want to speak to him today. I don't want to speak to anybody today. Well, I might say hello to crippled Tim, the shy little boy in the juniors at school. He is mute, so he can't make any cruel wisecracks or ask me how my day is. He can't. That's why he's a good friend of mine.

I walk through the iron gates of the schoolyard, stepping right into class. I'm five minutes late. Fingers crossed that Mrs. Perkins, my teacher, doesn't notice. Her head is by the blackboard and her black beehive is covered in white chalk dust, making her look about ten years older than she already is. I watch her twist around and put my pencil to my paper, for fear that she has noticed I'm late. But she hasn't. I wipe a few beads of sweat from my forehead. It's going to be ok. I have to keep reassuring myself, but I know it will be ok. It has to be.