Union Candy (part 17 of 19)
Union Candy (part 17 of 19) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Jankers... And Queen Bee.

Union Candy (part 17 of 19)

The following evening, Finny was scrubbing the back stairs. She had two flights to go before she could have a rest and scoot off up to the dining room to eat.

What would be left would be cold and probably unappetising, but, Jankers can't be choosers.

In the dining room, Casper was eating and waiting for Onetooth to join him and Worms. He looked over his shoulder to see what was keeping Onetooth and frowned.

Boys aren't the only ones who can be bullies. Girls are quite good at it too, very good in fact.

Some would say probably even better than boys because girls can also get inside your head in a way that boys don't seem to be able to do.

A single remark from an accomplished girl bully can ruin your day in a way that all the dead arms and swirlies just can't. In short, girls can be really mean.

So, the girl currently talking to Onetooth, and backed up by her two ladies in waiting, gave Casper cause for concern. The girl was Bethany Ambrose, or 'Queen Bee' as she liked to style herself.

Sweet sixteen was only half right, although she was very pretty.

Casper looked around for the dining hall staff lady, but it was apparent that the ladies in waiting had expertly positioned themselves to block her view of anything that might be going on.

Casper was just about to create some kind of distraction to attract the staff lady's attention when he saw that he didn't have too after all.

Onetooth was coming towards the table and Queen Bee and her entourage were already leaving the room.

When Onetooth elbowed his way onto the bench, Casper leaned over the table.

"What did Queen Bee want?"

Onetooth shrugged.

"Nothing."

"What did she say then?"

"Nothing. She just wanted to know where Finny was."

"Hey! I've just scrubbed..."

Finny looked up and stopped. Queen Bee, Bethany Ambrose, stood two steps up, smiling down.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Finny."

Finny climbed to her knees, taking note of Queen Bee's two companions as they descended the stairs, one on each side, to stand behind her. There was no one around.

Even if it hadn't been a mealtime, this was the back stairs and much less travelled than the main staircase that led directly up from the front door.

"What do you want Bethany?" Finny asked, cautiously.

"Nothing much. It's just that, well, see. I've been doing very well making a teeny, tiny profit from lending chips to those poor people who want things they can't really afford.

" Queen Bethany started to tap Finny's bucket with the side of her shoe. She and Finny both watched the ripples it made in the dirty water. "So," Bethany continued.

"I'd really appreciate it if you stopped that little game you've been playing with the Union Candy."

Finny watched the rippling water in her bucket become more and more agitated as the sixteen-year-old teenager tapped the bucket harder. She could guess what was going to happen next.

It looked like she wasn't going to even have time to get any cold leftovers once she had finished mopping up the mess that was likely coming.

She also doubted that anything she could say to the older girl was going to make much difference. Finny's expression set. No point even trying then.

Casper stood up slowly, dreading the answer to his next question.

"Did you tell her?"

Onetooth's expression, as he watched Casper rising from his seat, changed to one of apprehension that he might have done something wrong.

"Um, yeah. She said she wanted to talk to Finny about Union Candy so I..."

But Casper was already gone, heading for the door.

As one, Onetooth and the other three orphans at the table looked at the still pretty much full tray of food Casper had left behind.

Not giving a second thought to his meal currently being fought over upstairs, Casper arrived at the top flight of the back stairs just in time to hear Finny's response to Queen Bee.

He knelt down to listen, his head as far through the old cast iron railings as he could get it.

Finny tilted her head to one side and forced a smile through the growing anger building in her chest.

"But I like the game... An' I'm winning."

The kick in the back she got for her disrespect from one of the Queen Bee's ladies-in-waiting, not only hurt like hell,

but it catapulted Finny forward so that she had to use her hands to stop her head from smacking into the corner of the step Bethany was standing on.

Queen Bee grinned at the opportunity this presented and the foot that had been about to kick the bucket over stamped down hard on Finny's left hand.

Finny screamed and rolled over onto her side. The two teenagers behind her laughed and Queen Bee, hands-on-hips, bent forward.

"It's gonna be hard playing a game with a smashed-up hand Finny. Good job you've got another one." She stood up and lifted her foot off Finny's fingers. "For now, anyway."

The royal entourage stepped past Finny again to join their leader, where they all turned to leave through the door that led to the second-floor corridor. Queen Bee stopped and turned back.

"Oh, I almost forgot." She said, then pushed over the large, three-quarters full, bucket to send a sudsy waterfall cascading down the stairs and soaking Finny in the process.

Finny, clutching her hand, struggled into a sitting position, ignoring the exit of the three teens through the double doors. Casper joined her.

"Finny. I'm sorry."

Finny looked up at him, grinning through her pain.

"What for? You couldn't have done anything. There was three of them an' bigger than both of us."

Casper seethed inside. Maybe he couldn't have done anything, not while they were hurting Finny. But he knew how he could make them sorry that they had.

He was temporarily distracted by his thoughts of revenge by Finny's sharp intake of breath. He turned to see her paler than normal face staring at him.

"I think she broke my finger."

Casper helped Finny to her feet.

"Come on, we'll go an' find someone."

While Finny was taken away to the Union Medical Centre to have her 'accident' seen to, Casper quietly slipped away from the orphanage.

The only one good thing about having a broken finger, Finny thought,

the following morning as she held up her hand to display her splinted middle finger to the gaggle of under tens who came to stare. Was that it brought an immediate end to her jankers.

True, the sentence could have been resumed once her finger had healed, but the staff weren't naive enough to think that Finny's accident had been in any way accidental.

They understood institutional politics.

Of course, the real story of what had happened had spread like wildfire among the inmates and had not only enhanced Queen Bee's reputation for being a bully,

but also went some way to restoring Finny's for standing up to them.

Having a broken finger didn't usually stop you from working in the ammunition factory either.

Even if you couldn't operate a press or manhandle the full boxes of ammunition, work would always be found that you could do. In Finny's case, however, Joe made an exception.

Partly because of the minute amount of barely acknowledged guilt he was feeling, but mainly because of the conversation he had listened to from Kirsten about how putting Finny in danger,

as he had, wasn't good for her well-being... or his.

A broken finger, though, certainly didn't excuse Finny from the reading group.

So, after breakfast then, Finny, Casper, Onetooth and Worms chatted happily together in the fresh morning sun as they ambled to the factory.

To Finny, however, it seemed that Casper wasn't paying much attention to the discussion. He seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, even more so than usual. She felt a pang of sympathy for him.

She knew he would have rescued her from Queen Bee if he could, but if he had even tried, then it wouldn't have gone well and might even have made things worser.

She'd explained all this to him yesterday but it seemed, from his sad and worried expression, that he still felt bad about it.

Finny was wrong.

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