She knew that when it came time to count the money she’d be found out. The afternoon had wound on interminably and the first crime had been followed by the next and the next and the next. Now she was so heavily committed to the misdeed that there was no way out.
Of course, as with so many of these things, it wasn’t her fault. If you really thought about it the one to blame, the one who should be standing here now on the brink of disaster, his stomach churning and heart flip-flopping was Mr Stevens. Her old boss, Stinky Stevens, he of the underarm white stains and the halitosis from hell. If he hadn’t been such a stupid, incompetent business man then his little caravan re-fitting business wouldn’t have folded. If the firm hadn’t folded then she, Lorraine, would still have a job as book-keeper, a proper job with a wage, a coffee mug and a finishing time.
It wouldn’t wash. It wasn’t the sort of thing that the ladies of the Neville Chamberlain Primary School Fund Raising Committee would be interested in. Why was her mother on the stupid committee anyway? It was three years since her sister Marylee had left and here was mother hanging on to her position on the committee like an Arab dictator.
Lorraine sighed, a huge expiration of air. As the breath left her body then her great breasts heaved and flopped a little against her bulging stomach. She leaned against the table. It wobbled alarmingly causing her to step back and clout her left calf painfully against the stupid folding chair that had proved far too flimsy to take her substantial weight. She’d seen them, the Yummy Mummies turning away hiding the grins behind the French manicured fingers. It was alright for them, they had husbands and brats at the school and gym membership, skinny bitches. She heaved another sigh.
“Come on Lorraine,” her mother had admonished. “You have to get out and about, sitting on the settee all day is just making things worse. Come up to the fete with me, we need help on the stalls and you never know you might meet someone useful, networking, that’s what it’s all about these days, get yourself out there. What would she know? The only networking Mother had ever done was with hairnets and curlers in The Curl Cabin where she’d worked until Dad had whisked her away to the dizzy heights of the Nibs Wood Executive Housing Development and motherhood.
There she was now, at the other side of the room smarming all over Mrs Rowney, the Head. Ah yes, and that was the other side of the problem wasn’t it, that was the nub. Mrs Rowney and her bloody computer. Her graphics, her notices and her never-ending, cursed spreadsheets. They’d been all over the dining room table for weeks, the plan of the hall, the layout of the tables, lists of helpers and the complicated, many columned Excel print outs. The donations expected in green, requested in yellow and then, just in the last few days a whole new batch with the donations received or confirmed in red. That’s where the trouble would come from. Every pot of home-made preserve, every cross-stitched pot holder and every single, solitary home-baked offering for the sodding cake stall. All recorded costed and priced with the projected profit margin for Pete’s sake profit margin; it was a school fete not the International sodding Monetary Fund.
Lorraine wondered idly which of the coiffured, manicured, merino sweatered bitches had been responsible for assigning the stalls to the volunteers. Oh it wasn’t an accident, no, no way. When she had looked at the stall allocation sheet.
Knitwear – green – Mrs Katchup and Mrs Biggs.
Bric-a-brac– yellow – Mrs Jones and another.
Baby Stall – pink – Mrs Ryles and Ms Tempest and so on and then there it was.
Cake Stall – Red – Lorraine.
Oh yes, she could imagine the tittering that had gone on. The sly glances and the pursed lips. Let’s put the pig in charge of the food, torment the glutton with the untouchable feast, torment, tantalize and tease.
Well she’d shown them hadn’t she? She’d pulled on the hideous plastic gloves and laid out the stall, she’d manoeuvred the cake tongs with care and dexterity, not a nut was spilled not a cherry was displaced. Sponge Sandwich, Carrot Cake, Gingerbread, Banana Loaf all the usual suspects lined up and luscious on paper doilies.
“Here’s your float Lorraine, would you like to count it with me?” Mrs Rowney had giggled girlishly. “Just so we all know everything’s above board, of course with your background in bookkeeping this side of it will be easy for you, A piece of cake, eh?” Stupid woman had actually nudged her. “Your mother tells me you’re between contracts at the moment. So good of you to help out.”
Between contracts. Blood and sand, why couldn’t she just be out of work, on the dole, unemployed. Between contracts! She had smiled winningly at the beaming face of the Head Teacher and taken the tin box of coin and the spread sheet. “Now, the float has been included of course and the donations added in this column here and the prospective profit here in light grey. I suppose it looks a little amateurish to you but I’ve done my best.” Another nudge, another snigger.
She served them all. The lecherous old pensioners from the Sunshine Rest Retirement Community, the giggling Yummies and their sticky, smelly kids and the harassed, press ganged fathers. One after the other she had slid the luscious sweetmeats into bags and wrapped the fairy cakes in little tissues so the gruesome children could lick and slurp at them as they made their whinging way around the room. All was well until a strawberry cupcake had tipped slightly on its way into the tissue. A tiny smear of butter cream had lain across her finger. She had licked it. Oh the bliss, the sweet, mouth-watering, delicious drooliness of it. After two weeks of slimmer’s shakes and carrot sticks the pure, unadulterated, evil, scrumptiousness was her undoing.
She had reached across the stall and picked up a French fancy, just a small one. She must be using calories standing here all afternoon so one teeny little cake wouldn’t hurt. It was gorgeous. She tried a cherry delight, lovely. A piece of Bara Brith, lightly buttered, a sultana scone, a sugar biscuit. She looked down at the brown faux leather shoulder bag, her eyes grew round with horror as they witnessed the pile of cake cases scattered across the top. With a hefty push of her size sevens she slid it further under the table. Her throat was dry, she felt sick. She truly did think that she would puke. She had no money, not one measly penny. Her mother wouldn’t help her. The last thing that she had said as she had tripped lightly behind Mrs Temp – refreshments – orange, was “Don’t you forget now Lorraine, it’s Weight Watchers tomorrow night.” Turning to her committee mate she had twittered, “On target for her first five pounds, she’s done so well. I’m so proud.”
She glanced around the room. There they were all totalling and totting, counting, piling and bagging. She had sold all of the cakes. She prised open the tin and knew it was short, it had to be. The illegal delights she had feasted upon were, not to put too fine a point on it, stolen. Her mother would be mortified, the Yummies and the Head well, they would be outraged, smug, self-satisfied, appalled and so on and so on.
There was nothing else for it she’d have to run, she couldn’t face the music. She bent and grabbed her bag, scooped up her coat and turned to the exit. She set off at a fair pace, a scuttling shuffle which progressed to a controlled trot, bum wobbling now with the exertion and bingo wings flapping as her arms began to pump. By the time she reached the main doors she was an unstoppable force, an avalanche of flesh and embarrassment. She ploughed across the school yard, out of the metal gates and off up the road to home. She was panting and sweating already, her great bulk took some shifting. She juggernauted across the garden, stormed the back door and thundered upstairs. She was crying freely now. Of course she would never live it down, her mother would never forgive her. She could never have children, no kids of hers could attend that school not while the Yummies and their offspring were still alive to tell the tale of the pig who ate the pastries.
She threw herself onto her bed and kicked off her Doc Martens. Tears and snot smeared themselves across her reddened face. Her bag was beside her on the duvet, she dragged it towards her, the tiny coloured cake cases confettied the coverlet and spilled onto the carpet, she threw aside the tissues, her phone, her purse. There it was, nestling in the bottom slightly squashed, a little sad. Her quivering fingers drew it out and lifted it to her face, she bent and sank her teeth into it, delectable – a double chocolate brownie, her only friend.