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C r e a t i v e  I m p r e s s i o n s

The Long Beginning
by Rowan Clarke, Wales

"Come on Liz, Hurry up!"
   The voice of Mrs. Barker followed Liz up the stairs. They were supposedly going to meet Mr. Barker at his office, and then go off on their family holiday. Well, their holiday anyway. To anyone else, they would have looked like a happy family sitting in a restaurant in town. But they werenít. They werenít really a happy family. What with Dan off training in the army, and Mel spending all her time with her new ëattachmentsí the rare times the family were actually together, they had not enough time or money to go off on a real holiday. So they had to put up with sharing a meal-for-three between five, at one of the shabbiest restaurants you could possibly find.
But none the less, it was a holiday, and no matter how much Liz didnít want to go, it was her duty, as she was part of this family, to go upstairs now and find something the least bit suitable to wear in public. Although, it would be hard to find something all black which didnít make her look gothic. After a long while of pulling clothes out of her wardrobe and drawers, Liz decided maybe it was best if she didnít wear all black, so settled on jeans and a t-shirt. She ran downstairs, almost crashing into Dan on his way up.
"Watch where youíre going!" he barked at her.
"Youíre not in the army now you know, and Iím still youíre older sister!" she yelled as Dan ran up the stairs. Just because he was in the army, he thought it gave him permission to boss her about. Even though he was younger than her. Dan was sixteen, and going through the phase ëIím-better-than-all-of-you-you-donít-know-anythingí phase. And it was pissing everybody off.
And then there was Mel. Poor naÔve Mel, who couldnít find a guy who treated her nicely to save her life. She was always attracted to bastards, who screwed her around, and then usually left her. And they werenít that good-looking anyway, the only reason they went with Mel was because of her looks. Right now, she had landed herself with the new bowling worker, Jason Biggs. Mel had pleaded with her mum if she could bring her new date, but as always, Mrs. Barker had insisted that this was a family meal, and only family members were allowed. Mel had grumbled something about what if they got married secretly in time, but seeing the look in her motherís eyes, left it. Liz wasnít quite sure why Mel was still asking her mum for money to go out, considering that she was 20 and lived in a flat of her own with her flat mate (who lived up to the name ëditzy blondeí).
   So here they were, the entire family (almost) squashed into their maroon ford fiesta and driving along the road. They got a lot of funny looks as they drove past, and all Liz was thinking was ëPlease, donít let anybody I know see meí. But of course, sodís law, they did. Mrs. Barker was just pulling out of a junction, when three kids ran across the road in front of her. She slammed the brakes on, just in time, and then sped off down the road. But not before Liz could here "Did you see that car? How horrible was that?" followed by a burst of laughter and "Did you see it was Lizís family in there? I knew they were poor, but...." and then the girls\' voices were out of earshot. Liz turned around in the back seat, to see who had spoken. It would have to be the three most popular girls in school, Tiffany, Tracy and Tamsin (The three Tís (Or townies according to Liz)). Possibly the largest tarts in the world, but none the less, popular. Liz groaned and put her head in her hands, as she realised this would be spread around school faster than a wild fire, although it wouldnít end half as quickly.
   "You alright honey?" asked Mrs. Barker
"What? Oh, yes Iím fine," sighed Liz, not really wanting to start up a conversation about what had just happened.
   It was a quick lunch, with little conversation. For Liz it was one of the most awkward places she had been in. Dan would refuse to even say a word, thinking that the army disallowed him for conversations with the very people who had brought him up. Mel sat staring at her portion of chicken soup, probably wondering what the earliest she could get away would be, so that her and Jason could finally get some time alone. Mr And Mrs Barker had had a row in the car, and were now refusing to speak to each other, so all that was left was Liz, who tried her best to make a conversation start, but got nowhere. So when they had finished, Mr Barker asked for the bill.
   "Amy, whereís my wallet." He said gruffly to his wife.
"I donít know Mike, maybe in the car?" Mr Barker got up, but in ten minutes hurried in again, with a worried expression on his face.
"Not there." He panted
"Did you look on the...?" started Mrs Barker.
"Yes Amy, I look on the dashboard, and under the seats. Do you kids have any money or anything?" This must be serious, Liz thought, he never asked the kids for money. But all of them shook their heads. There was only one thing to do. They couldnít run, too risky. They would have to be honest. But what was going to happen? Would they be thrown in jail, or maybe fined, or worse? That wouldnít look good on Danís Permanent Record, Liz thought. Oh no, the waiter was coming over. Mike looked flustered, as well he should. Amy had her head in her hands, and Dan and Mel were talking intently. Liz sighed. So this was it. This was the family who had reared her, been with her through bad times and good. These were the people who she was supposed to look to for help when she needed it. But look at them. They were so caught up in their own little worlds, that they had no idea of what Liz had been going through. Luckily, she had had afew good friends to help her out. But was this it for them, was this where her life ended?
   "Are you ready to pay sir?" asked the waiter.
"Um, no, you see, there has been a problem..." he took the waiter to one side, to explain what had happened. Then Amy started walking over to them. The waiter was looking very annoyed.
"Mike." She whispered
"Not now Amy," he replied, and carried on talking to the waiter.
"No, but Mike..."
"Not now Amy."
"Mike!" she half shouted. Mike stopped, and looked at her.
"What." He said impatiently. Then he looked at what she was holding.
"My wallet! Where did you find it?"
"In your coat pocket, you daft man."
"Oh." He looked embarrassingly at the waiter.
"Listen," he said, "Sorry for the inconvenience, hereís what we owe you."
"That is ok." Answered the waiter. "Be sure careful next time." And he walked off. Mike turned to his wife, and looked at the floor, feeling very much like a naughty schoolboy standing in front of the principle.
"Well...." he began.
"Leave it, I want to go home." Answered Amy, smiling.
"Right." They walked back to the table. There was more awkwardness in the air now than there had ever been between the family before. Something bright caught Lizís eye in the window.
"Mum?" she said.
"You weíre...short of money?"
"Yes..." At this Mike turned around to listen.
"Well, could I get a job?"
"Of course honey, whatever you want." Replied Amy. Liz sighed a sigh of relief. Usually, her mother didnít let her get a job when there was school around still, but todayís antics had shown that it would be useful to have someone around with some extra money. They were just getting into the car, when Liz called out, "Be right back!" and started running back to the restaurant. She was thinking of the poster she had seen in the window, and the two happiest words ever seen in her life. "Help Wanted."

   Scott awoke early Saturday morning. The sun was shining; it was a lovely be working in a restaurant with the worst pay going. But in this town, it was the only place around which made money and gave it out again. And it wasnít that bad. He made a living didnít he? Enough to pay the rent, keep his dog happy, and enough to feed himself. Although, he often found himself shelling out his own money for his flat mate Kevin. They had fun together, him and Kev, although it would be better if Mark didnít spend quite so much time on money on booze, and started to try and get off his lazy ass and into the working stage. Even a little income would be enough the pay rent now and again.
   Scott stretched, and sat up, blurry-eyed. Had he really slept ten hours? His alarmed clock confirmed it. He looked around the room. It was decent enough. Scott got up and went to the kitchen. Should he knock on Kevin\'s door and get him up? Scott thought better of it. Nobody went into Kevin\'s room, whatever the reason, except if you were a hot girl. But the chances of Kevin having a \'hot girl\' in his room are slim to none, considering that his bad habits. Besides, even if you wanted to go in there, you would spend so much time avoiding all the mouldy cups and saucers and bits of old food, that by the time you anywhere near Kevin, he would be awake anyway. So there would be no point in brining him a cup of tea in the morning. Scott checked his phone. Nope, no new messages. He wasn\'t surprised, he didn\'t have many people in his phone that would want to bother texting him. Maybe he would give Alex a ring, he had only met him afew days ago. He was alright, as a one-night-stand maybe, but Scott couldn\'t see himself in a long-term relationship with this guy. He was still getting over his last boyfriend, they had been together for three years, when Scott was seventeen, but just last month, it had all ended in tears, with Derek walking out of Scott\'s life for good.
   But there wasn\'t time to dwell upon the past now. Scott had to get ready for work. It was already ten am, with his afternoon job starting at eleven. Time for a shower, and breakfast and the like. Had he filled up his car with petrol last week? Scott couldnít remember, he hoped so; otherwise there would be no way of seeing Alex. Not soon anyway. Perhaps he could phone in sick for work. But he needed the money. And didnít really want to be stuck in the house waiting for a phone call which might no even come.
   After he got dressed, and had his breakfast, Scott grabbed his jacket and left the house. The restaurant wasnít that far to walk, only about five minutes away. It was no good, no matter what he did Scott could not take his mind off Alex. He was always there. Which in a way was nice. But Scott had never liked anybody this much anymore. Not even Derek. Could this really be the ëoneí? Was there a ëoneí for homosexuals? Scott thought it most likely there was, after all, there are ëoneís for heterosexuals (supposedly). Maybe this was the guy he was supposed to be with for the rest of his life. Whenever Scott was down, the thought of Alex always brought him right back up again. There was something between them which Scott had never felt so strong before. Something powerful. Scott wasnít sure if he was ready to explore it.
"Oi, dreamy head!" Someone was shouting to him. Scott had been so involved with his thoughts that he had not been thinking about where he was going. He had walked into the Rest (the restaurant where he worked) and started towards the back, not even thinking what he was doing. He turned to see who had called to him. It was the manager, Paul. Him and Paul were very close friends, which was good when heís your manager. They always got on, and there were never any arguments between them, not even when Scott had done something wrong. No awkwardness in the air. Yet. Scott was very fond of Paul, and probably would have seen him as a potential boyfriend, had he not been so involved with Alex. Weather Paul was gay or not, Scott could not tell. He doubted if Paul even knew if he was gay, let alone himself. Scott hoped that Paul was not gay, because then nothing would happen between them, and he would have no fear of hurting Alex.
"Sorry, I wasnít thinking. Well, I was, but not about where I was going." Scott grinned.
"Well, you still work here, so get back to work!" Paul aimed a playful punch at Scott. He dodged, and ran round the other side of the counter. Was Paul gay?? If he wasnít, he was certainly acting like it.
"Has anyone asked about that job application?" asked Scott. Paul sighed.
"No, and I doubt they will. And if we donít get more people eating here, there wonít be a job to give out in the first place." Scott felt sorry for him. It had been Paulís dream to work when he was older, now here he was, running his own business. But his dream was being shattered. They were losing out on customers, fast. And it was getting to Paul like crazy. Scott wanted to do something for him, but couldnít think of anything for the moment. He decided to change the subject.
"Iím going into the back. You mind the counter." Scott laughed.
"Hey, watch it buddy, Iím your boss remember." Paul answered winking. Scott smiled, as he walked into the back and left Paul at the front. He had no idea that his best friend had just walked through the door.

   Liz ran back up the pavement. She wasnít quite sure what she was doing, or why was doing it, but she was doing it. It would be good to apply for that job, right? More cash coming in, and more fun. A good social life as well. She just hoped that no one else had taken the job already. But if they had, they wouldnít keep the poster in the window, would they? She didnít think so. Liz opened the door. The little bell tinkled as she walked over to the counter. She cleared her throat. The guy at the desk looked like the manager.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Hi, um, Iíve come about the job. Is it still open?" Liz asked hopefully. The managerís face brightened. He looked so much nicer when he smiled, almost handsome, Liz thought.
"Why, yes, it is." He smiled, and looked happy.
"Well, when do I apply?"
"You already have. Congratulations, start on Monday." Liz looked shocked. He handed her her apron, and it was done. They must be pretty desperate for the job if they hired me on the spot, Liz thought. She thanked the manager, and then ran off to catch the others in the car.
   They were delighted when she told them she got the job. Well, Mike and Amy were anyway. Dan muttered a very quiet "Congratulations", while Mel just looked and smiled weakly. Liz sighed. Even when she did well, they did little but nod, smile and say "well done" with no enthusiasm whatsoever. So she sat in the back, between Dan and Mel, and they began their journey home.
   Liz rushed into the house first. It was great to finally get to her room and sit down in front of the laptop. It had been a birthday present from her grandparents, and it came with Internet and everything. She signed onto msn messenger. There was a yell form downstairs.
"Liz, are you on that bloody internet again?" It was Mark.
"Yes, but you can use the phone. Iím on broadband!" She yelled back. She hated it that her parents werenít high-tech at all. It was really embarrassing. Liz wondered how they would survive!
"Whatís that again?" the stairs replied.
"It means you can use the phone and Internet at the same time!" Liz waited for a reply. There was none, which made her happy. She waited to see if she had new mail. She did. It was from:
"Tom Cole?" she said aloud. "Whoís that?" She opened it. The message read:

"Subject: Hi


Hey there. My name is Tom. I donít usually do this, but I read your profile on msn. I think youíre great . I just thought that I would message you, because as you said, "what have you got to lose." You probably think Iím a complete loser, but there we go. Hugs and Kisses, Tom Cole xx P.S. my e-mail address is"

Liz read the e-mail again. And again. Trying to make sense of it. Should she reply? He seemed alright. She would.

"Subject: Re: Hi


Hi Tom, no I donít think you are a loser at all . My name is Liz Barker. I have added you to my contact list on msn youíll be pleased to hear, so now we can talk on there. Hope to speak to you soon, Liz xx."

Liz clicked the ësendí button on the screen. Oh, what am I doing? Liz thought. After the mail was sent, she signed onto Msn Messenger. Who was this mail stranger? Was he safe? She thought probably so. She watched, waiting, wishing it would sign in quicker. Almost there...yes! She was signed in. She checked her list, to see if there was any evidence of this Tom person around. She found his e-mail address on her contact list. He was offline.

   Liz awoke Monday morning. She would have been rushing off to school, were it not for the Summer Holidays. Dan would be going back to the Army soon. But she did have work to get ready for. Her morning shift started at half past midday. And it was already half past eleven. She sighed. It was going to be a nervous day today. But fun. Maybe. Depending on what sort of people she met. Liz sat up and got of bed. Her room was a mess; she would have to clean it later. Nobody else in the house was up. Liz opened her door. It creaked on its old rusty hinges. She had not thought about the e-mail in two days. Too busy being excited about her new job. By the time Liz had woken everybody up, and had breakfast and made tea, it was almost time for her to leave. She sighed. It wouldnít be long now before she started her first day of the new job. The ëRestí seemed a good place to work, and she hoped that it would have good pay. Would she meet new friends there? Or maybe an enemy? She hoped not. And now, for the first time in two days, she started to think about Tom. Where was he? How old was he? Would they become friends? It was a very strange situation to be in. But there wasnít time to think about that now. It was almost a quarter past. Liz said goodbye to everyone, grabbed her coat, and left the house. It was a pleasant day outside, with not many clouds. Liz listened. There were cars going by, and birds somewhere in the distance. The sky was a summer-blue, and it was one of the best June days they had had in years.
   As she walked, Liz thought. About her home life, about her past. And about her present. Things had been so bad for her when she was younger. Liz couldnít bring herself to think of those terrible things now. The days when her father had hit her so hard that she grew sick with fear and anger. Thatís what led her to do it. That and the bully at school. She had been so stuck, with no one to turn to, and nowhere to go, except for afew distant friends. But it was ok now. Her dad had been put behind bars, and her stepfather was a lot nicer. He understood (as much as he could) what Liz had been through. But nobody really talked about it these days. Because nobody could know exactly what Liz had felt, the fear, which had streamed through her blood every day when she came home from school, and every morning when she awoke. Not even Liz understood the magnitude of the pain and fear she must have gone through. But they had moved, new house, new school, new dad and everything seemed to be shaping up for the better.
"Hey, watch where youíre going!" someone in the street yelled to her.
While she had been daydreaming, Liz had walked into someone else. They hurried off, looking very annoyed. It suddenly struck Liz that she had no idea who this person was. What their past was, their present, their name, their attitude or anything. She had no idea of his mistakes, or of his achievements. From the few seconds he had talked to her, she would have thought him a nasty snappy man. She considered her judgment. It had only been afew seconds. He was probably having an off day. But he must have had friends. Everybody has friends, to be with, to share things with, even if itís not ërealí as such. Liz wondered what life would be like to be that man. To live his life, even for one day. But she knew nothing about him, nor him of her. These thoughts drifted out of her mind, as she became aware of where she was; at the doors of the Rest.

Sharon Snir, Australia
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