by Lady H
‘What do I wear? What do I say to him? Is this a date? Do I kiss him?’ Received 4.56pm
His Kiss - Part Ten
“Not so fast, Henrietta Morgan!” Henry freezes on the stairs at the sound of her mum’s voice from the kitchen. “Can you come in here please?”
Her mum sits across the kitchen table, hands clasped neatly in front of her, looking like she is about to interview Henry for a job. Only where her face should have been warm and welcoming, her mum’s cheeks are flushed angry red and her mouth is set in a firm grimace.
“The school rang didn’t they?” Henry already knows the answer as she dumps her school bag at her feet and slumps into the chair opposite.
“Mrs Boston, yes.” Henry waits for her mum to go on. “After school detention next Friday, Henrietta, really? What were you thinking, messing up a teacher’s classroom like that?”
“Well, we didn’t know there were cameras/” Even as she says it Henry knows it is entirely the wrong thing to say.
“Didn’t know there were cameras?! Henrietta, you shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place!” Her mum has unclasped her hands now, and her palms are flat against the table.
“No ‘but’s, Henrietta! You can’t be messing around at school now! You need to think about your future! What would Oxford think about you behaving like a ten-year-old?!” It is a rhetorical question, Henry knew, but she can’t help arguing back.
“Mum you don’t understand…”
“There is nothing to understand! Your behaviour is not at all appropriate! You should be focusing on your school work.”
“Obviously not enough! You shall spend the rest of the weekend cramming for your mock results next week.”
“You’re grounding me?!” Henry is angry now; she was always perfectly behaved, couldn’t her mum let this one slide? No one was hurt after all.
“You’re damn well right! Grounded the whole weekend. You can forget about that party Saturday night!”
Henry had forgotten about the party until now. Parties weren’t usually her scene, but she’d never been banned from going to one before. It wasn’t fair! “Mum you can’t do that!” Henry stands up abruptly, her chair screeching in protest against the laminate floor as it is pushed back.
“I’m your mother, of course I can!” Her mum stands up too, eyebrows bent into the middle of her forehead, cheeks aflame. “No daughter of mine can behave like this and get away with it!”
Henry’s phone chooses that moment to ring out, no doubt a text from Darcy about the stupid party. “And I’ll have your phone as well!”
Henry’s eyes widen incredulously “Not my phone!”
“Yes, your phone!” Her mum snatches it out of her hands. “Now go to your room!”
Henry doesn’t need telling twice. Grabbing her bag off the floor she marches out of the room and storms upstairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her. She lets out a deep breath and collapses onto her bed, letting out a cry into her pillow.
Then she realises how ‘teenage drama queen’ she is behaving and quickly sits up, squaring her pillow and straightening out her bed sheets. She goes to reach for her phone to update Emma and Darcy on the drama, then remembers her mum had taken it, and collapses back onto the bed with an angry growl.
Two hours later Henry is sitting cross-legged in the middle of her bedroom floor, Physics revision spread all around her with post-its and highlighters among text books and revision guides, when there is a gentle knock on the door.
When Henry doesn’t respond, the door is pushed open and her mum pops her head around, holding out a cup of tea like a peace offering.
Henry receives the mug wordlessly and takes a reluctant sip.
“Henry I’m sorry. I over-reacted. I should have at least heard your side the story first.” Her mum gives her an apologetic smile as she settles herself on Henry’s bed, looking down at her daughter on the floor.
Henry lets her shoulders drop, and relaxes out of her defensive pose. “You’ll listen this time?” Her mum nods. “Okay. So I did mess up a teacher’s room. And I know it was the wrong way to go about things, but Mr Brawn is really sexist and always picks on the girls, and people have complained but there’s never any proof so nothing gets done, and someone put the idea in my head and at the time it just seemed like a good idea. I’m sorry.” She ends breathlessly, studying her mum for her reaction.
Her mum takes a moment to let the rushed explanation sink in. “So this teacher is sexist?”
“Yes – people have reported it as well but he’s clever about it – he does it when no one else is around. No-one believes student’s over teachers.”
“Okay. Well, it seems like you realise you handled it in the wrong way. And I know you won’t do anything like this again?” She raises her eyebrows and Henry nods quickly. “Then I will call up the school and tell Mrs Boston about this Mr Brawn. And you can have your phone back.” She slides Henry’s mobile out of her pocket and places it on the bedside table.
“Thank you.” Henry thinks this is the end of the conversation, but her mum stays on the bed and lets out a big sigh. “What is it, Mum?”
“The pre-school are closing down – I’ve been made redundant.”
“Oh no, Mum…” Henry scrambles to her feet and jumps over her work, seating herself next to her mum on her bed.
“They just don’t have enough children in the catchment area since St John’s was built. It’s clearly the better school – the parents pay a fortune to send their children there.”
“I’m sorry.” Henry rests her head on her mum’s shoulder, and her mum puts her arm around Henry.
“I didn’t mean to yell so much earlier. I’m just worked up about all of this. I need to start looking for a new job right away, and we need to find Zoe a new school…”
“Oh, God.” Henry can see why her mum is stressed out. The pre-school wage makes up the bulk of the incomings – without it, significant changes would have to be made. And it would mean finding the funds to send Zoe to St John’s for her last year, or finding the time in their busy schedule to transport Zoe to the pre-school the next village over. “Don’t worry, Mum. We’ll work it out; we always have.”
“I know sweetie.” She pats Henry’s arm then stands. “Don’t worry about all of this, Henry. It’s not for you to worry about.” Saying that to Henry is like saying ‘don’t worry, oxygen is good’ to a beached fish. Henry is already thinking about what she can do to help and where she’d seen that ‘help wanted’ sign the other day while she was in town.
“I won’t, Mum,” she lies.
“Oh, and even though you get your phone back, you’re still not going to that party.” Her mum turns to face her when she reaches the door.
“What? But Mum…”
“No ‘but’s, Henrietta! You need to be punished in some way, otherwise you’ll do it again.”
“I’m already being punished! I have detention!” She shouts at the closed door. There is no reply.
Four texts from Emma, each more frantic than the last, and one from Darcy asking what Henry was thinking of wearing to Saturday night’s party.
‘S.o.s. Hen George asked if I’m going to the party tomorrow night, what do I say? xxx’ Received from Em Mills at 3.58pm.
‘I said yeah I am, and he asked if I wanted him to pick me up!!! xxx’ Received from Em Mills at 4.12pm.
‘Hen what are you thinking of wearing to the party? You should wear that red dress we bought the other day XX’ Received from Darcy Moore at 4.37pm.
‘What do I wear? What do I say to him? Is this like a date? Will he expect me to kiss him?’ Received from Em Mills at 4.56pm.
‘HENRIETTA JANE MORGAN I NEED YOUR HELP! Plz reply soon! X’ Received from Em Mills at 5.17pm.
Henry quickly sets about replying.
‘Em calm down! Everything is fine it’s just a casual date you don’t have to spend all night together, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Wear that dark green dress you’ve had for ages but never worn xxx’ Sent to Em Mills at 5.53pm
‘Mum freaked out about me getting into trouble so I’m grounded XX’ Sent to Darcy Moore at 5.54pm.
‘WHAT?! You’ve never been grounded before!’ Received from Darcy Moore at 5.55pm.
‘Okay thanks Hen I’ve calmed down now. What are you going to wear? Xxx’ Received from Em Mills at 5.57pm.
‘I know, it sucks XX’ Sent to Darcy Moore at 5.56pm.
‘What even happened? X’ Received from Darcy Moore at 5.56pm.
‘It’s a long story, I’ll explain when I see you XX’ Sent to Darcy Moore at 5.57pm.
‘I’m grounded I can’t go xxx’ Sent to Em Mills at 5.58pm.
‘Oh no! Henry I really need you there to help me with George! And you need to come to this party for you too! Xxx’ Received from Em Mills at 6.01pm.
Henry doesn’t bother responding to Emma’s last text, and leaving her phone on her bedside table she slides off of her bed back onto the floor to carry on with her revision.
It was a good job Henry had got started on her work the night before, because she spent most of Saturday entertaining her sisters while her mum went into their nearest town searching for job vacancies.
When she could, Henry was dotting about doing the list of jobs her mum had left her to do, like hanging the washing out and sticking a new load in, washing the inside of the windows, and sorting out the cupboard under the stairs. She was also trying to juggle her school workload and keep in touch with Darcy and Emma, who were both chattering on about the house party.
Having hung out the washing and reloaded the machine, and fed her sisters lunch and placed them in front of a Disney film on the TV, she is now tackling the cupboard below the stairs.
Opening the door and grappling around to the left for the light switch, Henry stares into the tiny space packed full to bursting with all manors of memorabilia. It seemed that anything her mum couldn’t find a conventional place for she stacked in this cupboard, and over the years it had all piled up to be forgotten about and never sorted. This was going to take all afternoon.
With a heavy sigh, Henry begins pulling stuff out of the cupboard and spreading it about the kitchen. The organisational genes that she clearly didn’t inherit from her mum kicked in, and she quickly developed a system; each pile had a different destination. One for junk to be thrown out, including an old radio that looked like it had stopped working in the 1960’s and had never been fixed; two large photo frames missing glass and pictures; and an old vacuum. Another for things that belonged in different locations in the house, such as three untouched notebooks; a glass tumbler that was by some miracle unbroken; and two clean (maybe a bit dusty) blue towels. The last pile was for those items that did actually belong in the cupboard under the stairs. This pile generally consisted of a few old baby things that held too many memories to be thrown out, old photo albums spanning the last forty odd years, and her mum’s odd collection of teapots and teacups.
It was the photo albums and boxes of odd photos that fascinated Henry. She quickly tires of sorting through all the other junk and places herself cross-legged on a chair, with all the photos stacked up on the kitchen table. There are a few albums filled with pictures of her mum’s childhood, and a whole one dedicated to her parents wedding eighteen years ago, but most of the photos are of Henry, who had nearly a ten-year head start on Catherine, and an even bigger one on little Zoe.
There were some school class photos, but most were of Henry doing everyday things. Polaroids she guessed were taken on her dad’s Polaroid camera, then thousands of other pictures of different sizes, all photographing Henry’s life.
Before Henry can look any further, there is a cry for help from the sitting room. “Henryyyy the telly’s gone off!” Came Catherine’s shrill cry.
“What?” Henry mutters to herself, slowly getting out of her seat. With her attention finally off of the photos, she notices how dark the kitchen has grown, and glancing out of the window she realises dark storm clouds have rolled in. Henry hated storms.
Walking into the sitting room, she sees Catherine crouched in front of the TV, pushing the power button again and again. Zoe is sitting wide-eyed on her beanbag. “Catherine don’t do that, it’s obviously not going to work.” Catherine stops and sits back down, while Henry flicks the light switch on. Nothing happens.
“I think we’ve had a power cut.” Zoe starts to cry. “No Zoe don’t cry! It’s okay, the electrical things won’t work for a while, that’s all!” The cries subside to the occasional sob.
Catherine stands up again. “What do we do, Henry?”
Henry looks at her sister, who’s standing with her hands on her hips. “That’s a good question.” Her phone rings out from where she’s abandoned it earlier by the cupboard under the stairs, and she quickly runs to answer it.
“Hi Henry! Just thought I’d give you an update! The first two interviews went okay I think, and I’ve got one more at 5 o’clock so in between now and then I’m going to walk around town and see if there’s anywhere else that’s hiring. The last interview shouldn’t take long, so shall I pick up fish and chips on the way home? I should be back no later than 6.30 I would’ve thought.”
“Okay, Mum, that sounds great!” Her mum sounds so positive that she doesn’t want to worry her about the electric – Henry is sure she can sort it out on her own.
“Alright, sweetie! Is everything okay at home? The girls behaving?” Henry grimaces, surveying the mess she’s created in the dimming light. Zoe’s starting to sob louder from the living room, and Catherine appears to be chanting some kind of voodoo at the TV to try and will it to turn back on.
“Yeah, Mum, everything is fine! You just worry about yourself and we’ll be here waiting for fish and chips.”
“Okay then, if everything is good I’d better go. See you later!”
“Yeah see you later! Good luck this afternoon!” She almost bursts out laughing, hoping her mum can’t hear the “We want the show. TV needs to go. The telly can’t say no.” in the background.
“Thank you, Henry, bye bye!”
If you enjoyed the next part of Henry's story, I'd love it if you can take a few moments to write me a review, let me know how you feel about the characters, if you think the story is developing well, and you could even have a guess at which boy Henry will end up with!