“Ooh, Black Jacks.”
“Candy necklaces! Yay, I love these.”
“No, look, gobstoppers!”
The wide-eyed children turned as one to the sudden celebrity who’d located the ultimate lolly. A scramble in the aisles became a traffic jam at the retro shelves, and the owner of the new Lucky Sweet Emporium on Main simultaneously winced and smiled. Word had spread quickly through the local schools. 3:30pm was Boom Time.
In the shadow of the entranceway, Sophie held on tightly to her big sister’s hand. Her copper hair had come loose from its frizzy ponytail, her shirt was rumpled, and blue paint was smeared across her left cheek where Aurélie had attacked her in Art last period. She was supposed to be her friend, but friends didn’t snatch the beads you were using and then hit you with wet brushes when you complained. Sophie squeezed Tammy’s hand tighter.
“Hey,” her sister warned, turning back to flirt with some boy. Sophie shrank down a little further. If only she hadn’t fought back, pouring glue onto Aurélie’s perfect golden sun collage so that bits of everything stuck to it. Which Mrs Hannigan loved, of course. She fumed silently.
The door buzzed, announcing a new clique of students, Aurélie herself in the centre like a preening butterfly. She deliberately ignored Sophie on her way to the herd at the retro area, and Sophie glanced away angrily. She disengaged from Tammy, searching for better protection from the circle of abandonment and hostility.
The soft afternoon light filtered in through a side window, brushing gently against a section all but hidden from the rest of the shop. She stepped quickly around the corner, and was surprised to find a homely setup of low red couches, a chequered table, an old-fashioned tea trolley with dainty painted teacups, and a pretty jug with iced mint tea. She glanced around, but nobody else was nearby. It seemed the perfect escape. She huddled on a couch with a cup, the tea fragrant and calming. The warm afternoon sun and uplifting drink comforted her, so that soon her worries about Aurélie, Tammy and Mrs Hannigan faded away.
She leaned over, helping herself to a sherbet lemon from the little dish on the black-and-white table. The sharp, tangy citrus and sweet sherbet filled her mouth happily, reminding her of summer holidays with Gran and Gramps, who always listened and never yelled.
When Gramps came around the corner she naturally waved, but then sat up guiltily as she realised it wasn’t him but the shop owner, portly and jolly with swinging jowls and a friendly face.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m glad you found my Cosy Corner. Not many use it, yet.” She watched him warily. “Enjoy the tea and sweets?” She nodded. “Good, good.”
“Sophie?” Her sister was calling. She sounded annoyed.
“Go on,” he gestured. “But come again, any time you need.” He held out another sherbet.
She accepted tentatively and then, for the first time in hours, Sophie smiled.
This was my entry to AWC’s Furious Fiction competition for September.
Hope you enjoyed! And as always, subscribe for more updates below.