I submitted a very much shorter version of this story for the ‘ginger’ prompt in the Ad Hoc Flash Fiction competition recently and felt I wanted to extend it. I’m trying to improve my use of dialogue too, and also use less adverbs! All comments gratefully received.
Robbie’s Mum was going out. Robbie always knew when she going somewhere because she had makeup on and the bathroom smelled of hairspray. She had also been nagging Robbie about picking up his lego from the living room carpet and she never usually bothered. Alicia Johnson from the next street was coming to babysit. Alicia was seventeen and had a perm and a boyfriend. She smelled of cigarettes. She was supposed to arrive at eight but was always late. Robbie knew her younger brother Sam; he was in the year above at school and sometimes tried to steal Robbie’s crisps at playtime.
‘Now Robbie, listen to me. I don’t want any playing up for Alicia. You are to be on your best behaviour, do you understand me?’ Robbie squirmed in his seat, trying his best to evade Mum’s eye contact. ‘You are to be in bed by nine o’clock at the latest, the very latest alright?’ Now she was pinning him down by his shoulders into the sofa, shouting at him like he was a little child. ‘I don’t want to hear that you’ve been playing up again or there’ll be no pocket money this week, d’you hear?’
‘Alright, alright! I know. Can I watch my Star Wars video now?’
‘Yes, just keep quiet while I get ready.’ Robbie’s Mum began dabbing at her eyeshadow in the fireplace mirror with a long-handled brush.
Robbie raced upstairs and got into his striped pyjamas before settling down on the rug with his video. He had just fast-forwarded it to his favourite bit when when the doorbell rang.
‘Oh God, he’s here already. Where’s Alicia?’ said Mum, her eyes darting around the room before she located her handbag beside the telephone seat.
Andrew had a thick ginger beard and bushy hair. Robbie thought he looked like a Viking or a troll and couldn’t imagine why Mum would want to go out with him. He seemed alright otherwise though.
‘Alright there kiddo?’ he said, ruffling Robbie’s hair with his large hand. His hands were hard and rough, with oil in the deep cracks. He was a mechanic at the garage where Mum took her car from time to time. Seeing him here in the living room, standing on the worn brown carpet, seemed strange somehow to Robbie. He looked awkward, out of place. Maybe it was because he wasn’t wearing greasy overalls or carrying a spanner. He looked like he’d made a bit more of an effort, which was nice Robbie supposed. He didn’t acknowledge the greeting and turned straight back to Luke Skywalker. His Mum was faffing around in the kitchen, putting food down for Smokey.
‘The babysitter isn’t here yet. Sorry.’ Mum paused, glancing at the kitchen clock, ‘Do you want a drink?’
‘I’ll have one!’
‘Not you Robbie!’
‘Well, the table’s booked for half eight and it’ll take half an hour to walk, unless you want to jog there!’ Andrew joked. Mum didn’t seem to see the funny side.
‘Ooh, where are you going?’ Robbie asked.
‘None of your business, that’s where!’ Mum snapped. ‘Look, she’s always a bit late, let’s just get going. She’ll be here soon anyway I’m sure. Robbie, if she isn’t here in fifteen minutes, ring Mrs. Johnson, okay?’
Robbie wasn’t sure he liked that idea but knew that disagreeing at this stage would not be a good move. ‘Okay’ he said, pressing play on the video remote.
Mum and Andrew hurried each other out of the door, banging the door behind them.
Alicia never did turn up that night. They never found any trace of her. The police came round to talk to Robbie’s Mum but she couldn’t tell them anything. Robbie could tell she felt bad about leaving him on his own, she had been especially nice to him the next few days and didn’t even tell him off about not phoning Mrs. Johnson. Robbie didn’t mind; he had stayed up until ten thirty and eaten three slices of bread and honey.