Emma’s fingers curled around the mug of coffee, her knuckles white despite its heat. The Ikea kitchen clock hanging on the wall opposite ticked loudly, almost accusingly. She raised the mug to her lips and sipped. The pain of the hot liquid on her mouth was a welcome distraction from the knot in her stomach.
The door opened and her daughter, Hannah, flew into the room, all hair and gadgetry. She saw Emma’s face and froze.
“Sit down,” said Emma, quietly.
“Do. It.” The words were like gunshots.
Hannah dropped her school bag and sat at the scrubbed pine table, her posture alert.
“Would you like to tell me,” said her mother, “what this is?” She picked a small, plastic packet full of something fluffy and green up from the table, and held it between finger and thumb.
“Oh, crap.” Her daughter’s face instantly dropped two shades paler. “Look, Mum, it’s not what it looks like, I swear!”
“Really? Because it looks like I found skunk in your bedroom, Hannah. I can’t believe how many times I’ve talked to you about this sort of thing!”
“I know, I know, Mum! But, honestly, it’s not mine!”
Emma snorted and raised her eyebrows.
“It’s not! I swear! I took it for N–, um, a friend. Look, you know that trip I went on today? To the power station? For physics?”
“What on earth has that got to do with anything?”
“They’re taking the whole year group, only they split us in half, on separate days, so’s it wouldn’t be too many at once. My friend’s group went yesterday, but, like, in form time their tutor told everyone that the security guys might search them.” She gulped a breath.
“Are you telling me, Hannah, that one of your friends had cannabis at school?”
“Um, yeah, but, like, not to use.”
“That’s all right then,” said Emma, dripping acid. “I’ve half a mind to call the Head.”
“Nononononono! No, Mum, don’t do that!”
Emma shook her head despairingly. Of course she would never do such a thing. That would be madness. She sighed. “And where do you come into this?”
“Well, she couldn’t leave it in her locker ‘cos she shares it with someone else and she could hardly leave it lying around and she didn’t dare risk it so…”
“She asked you to look after it, and you said yes? Hannah, what were you thinking?” Emma’s voice became momentarily shrill. She coughed and took a deep breath.
“I know I know I know, I’m sorry, Mum, I know it was stupid. But she was stuck and I felt sorry for her and it was only meant to be until the end of the school day.”
“What if a teacher had found this?”
“Oh, they wouldn’t. I put it at the bottom of my bag. They can’t go in my bag without your permission. Um, I think.”
Emma put her face in her hands. “I’m reassured by your in-depth knowledge of school policy. So why did I find this in your bedroom?”
“Yeah, well, her coach was delayed on the way back so I missed her, and I was going on the trip today so, so, yeah, I hid it in my pillowcase.”
Emma picked up the plastic packet again and waved it at her daughter like a referee with a red card. “Hannah, this is a class B drug. It’s illegal to possess it! I do not want to see the police at the door.”
“It’s just cannabis, Mum, they just give you a fine–”
“That is not the point!”
Her daughter stopped talking, chewed her bottom lip and looked at Emma. For a long moment they stared at each other. She had grey eyes. Exactly like her father’s.
“Do you understand what a stupid risk this was?” asked Emma, eventually.
“You’re grounded for a week. And I changed the wi-fi passcode,” said Emma, expecting protest. Given a choice between losing a toe and losing internet access, she would not be at all surprised to find her daughter removing her sock and shoe.
Emma’s eyes widened.
“I’ll go and put my bag upstairs,” said Hannah, meekly.
“You haven’t got a router up there I don’t know about, have you?”
“You’d better not have. Tidy up while you’re up there, it’s a pigsty.”
After her daughter had left the kitchen, Emma stared at the packet again. Even through the sealed plastic she thought she could smell the distinctive, green scent. She took a mouthful of her coffee, letting the now-cooler liquid sit on her tongue for a moment, and considered.
The sun was sinking by the time Emma reached the house, its light painting the whitewashed walls in shades of red and gold. She stood on the pavement and looked up at the building. The house was detached, with a neat driveway bordered by carefully-tended delphiniums and hostas. Its back garden overlooked some fields. Quiet, but not too far from a train station. A decent school nearby. House prices rising steadily. A good investment, she’d thought. But then the first lot of tenants had trashed the place. Thousands, it had cost.
She rummaged in her Radley handbag. Lips pressed together, she strode up the front path and slid the key she was holding into the lock.
Emma waited for her breathing to slow again after climbing the two flights of stairs to the large, converted attic. She pushed open the door. The air inside was thick with scent, catching in her throat.
She closed the door firmly behind her.
“Oh, hello, Mrs Davison! I wasn’t expecting you today, was I?” asked Jas, turning towards the sound. His crisp vowels and polite tone contrasted oddly with his ripped jeans and greasy hair.
“I thought I’d drop by,” replied Emma, curtly.
“Ah, well, everything’s fine, as you can see. Should have a new batch ready to go by Thursday.” He sounded calm. “Is there something you particularly wanted?”
“Yes, Jas.” Emma’s eyes scanned the rows and shelves of plants lit by purple light. She forced herself to take a deep breath of the pungent air, trying to relax the knot which persisted in her gut, a thrill of fear twisted up tight with strands of guilt.
Emma reached into her handbag again. “I want to know how my sixteen year-old daughter came to have a packet of my own product hidden in her bedroom.”
Another thriller-type story, with a twist. It perhaps has the feeling of the start of something, rather than a complete work, but I think it just about stands on its own.