Katie's Box Chapter 6. Puffing Millie.
By J A Evans
Millie pulled her sister Penny down the dark stairs and stood her beside the boiler room door. Pulling out the gold packet from her pocket, she handed it to Penny and bent down to retrieve the lighter from the bottom of her bag.
"Get one out then. whispered Millie, as the area around them lit up from the flame of the lighter.
Penny handed the cigarette to Millie who promptly lit it and held it out to her.
"No, you know mum can smell the smoke from a cigarette a mile off and she'll kill me if I started¦ and anyway I don't want to. said Penny quickly.
"Go on it's good, go on just take a puff, mum will never know, look, said Millie, pulling out a small plastic bag and holding it open for her to see. "I've brought some soap we can wash off the smell and here look, I've brought some of those strong mints to cover up the smell on our breath. It worked for me loads of times. Go on Penny just one puff or are you really just a scardy cat?
"No I'm not! said Penny indignantly; taking the cigarette from Millie and holding it awkwardly between her fingers, she put it to her lips. Smoke curled up her nose and screwing up her face, she took a deep breath. The smoke filled her lungs and looking wide-eyed at her sister, her eyes began to weep and suddenly she began to cough and splutter uncontrollably.
"Go on take another, said her sister insistently, after the coughing had calmed down, "it gets better.
Penny puffed on the cigarette again, but this time she made sure that she didn't breathe any of it into her lungs, immediately blowing it out of her mouth and into her sister's face.
Half of the cigarette was gone when Millie took the remainder off Penny and leaning against the dirty boiler room door; she finished the rest off like an old trooper. Drawing on the cigarette and taking it deep into her lungs, holding her breath and then letting a long stream of grey smoke out of her mouth and blowing it into Penny's face.
Penny coughed and waved the smoke away with her hand.
"Don't do that Mum will smell it on me. she said tetchily.
"Just tell her you stood next to someone who was smoking at the bus stop. She believes me when I tell her that. said Millie smugly.
Penny always looked up to her older sister, as she always took her side whenever their mum had a go at her.
She looked at her sister holding the white stick in-between her fingers, how could she think that this was cool, she thought as her stomach began to churn and her head swim.
"I don't feel well Millie. said Penny weakly.
Millie laughed, "That's alright I felt sick when I first started, she said as she threw the rest of the cigarette onto the floor and stamped on it with her foot, "come on you'll be alright once You're out in the fresh air.
Pulling her sister up the stairs, she was shocked to see Mr Brown standing at the top of the staircase with his arms folded.
"And what have you two been up to? he asked.
"Nothing sir, said Millie innocently, "just showing my sister where the bad children go to smoke Sir and to warn her not to go in there as it's very bad to smoke, isn't it Penny.
Penny nodded her head in agreement.
"Mmm. murmured the teacher unbelievingly, "I don't want to find you anywhere near here in future Millie, or your sister is that understood. he said seriously.
"Yes sir. said Millie as she pulled her sister towards the main building.
"Silly old goat, now I'll have to use the shed behind the car park, but Suzy and her cronies go there, maybe I can find another place, yes, maybe around by the oak tree in the playground.
Penny listened as her sister worked out where she would go for her next cigarette. She hadn't realised how addicted she had become and she'd only been smoking for three weeks and here she was panicking over where she could have her next smoke.
The bell rang in the distance and Millie ran towards the gym.
"See you later sis, same place as usual.
Penny waved as her sister ran off, she still felt a little queasy, but at least she had Science, her favourite lesson next.
But Penny couldn't concentrate on the lesson she kept staring up at the large poster on the wall about: Diseases connected with Smoking.
It was a long list: Lung cancer, cancer of the mouth and throat, cancer of the bladder, strokes, bronchitis, stomach ulcers, gum infections and tooth loss.
Small pictures of each disease inside the body of a small girl, really pushed home the point, but the pictures showing cancer of the mouth, made her stomach turn, it was horrible.
"How could people do that to themselves. she thought, as she tried to draw the diagram of a flower from the book.
From that moment on she was determined that she would never smoke again.
In the canteen, Millie came to fetch her.
"Come on slow coach haven't you finished yet, sitting beside her she whispered in her ear excitedly, "I've found the perfect spot, there's a broom cupboard down next to the boiler room it's perfect, it's got a light and a couple of buckets. Nobody will find us in there.
"Sounds cosy, but I can't go I have to go to¦ to¦ the library, I have to finish my geography map. she stuttered.
"But you finished that last night. snapped Millie.
"I have to complete a word search to go with it.
"Oh all right, I'll get someone else to go with me, said Millie sulkily as she walked off towards the door.
"Hey Millie, shouted Fay as she ran over from the water fountain, "what you up to?
"Nothing much I was just going for a fag, do you want to come.
Fay nodded enthusiastically.
Fay had no real friends and the friends she did make, she lost quickly due to her silly gossiping, she was not loyal and she couldn't keep a secret. When she fell out with Susan, she told everyone about her mother's new boyfriend, who was half her age. Then when Margaret confided in her about how she fancied the blonde haired boy in the butchers shop, down in the high street, she went and not only told the girls at school about it, but she also went and told him.
However, Millie didn't know her that well, as she was not in her class and so they walked off towards the boiler room, arm in arm and laughing loudly at the sight of Jennifer, who had just fallen over whilst trying to skip.
Creeping down the stairs Fay held onto her mouth as she giggled.
"Shush, whispered Millie, as she tried to see if there was anyone hiding at the bottom of the stairs in the dark. Flicking the lighter, the yellow flame lit up the dirty passageway. Cigarette butts and empty crisp packets lay strewn across the floor.
The smell was awful.
"Err it smells of wee. said Fay as she held her nose with one hand and held onto Millie's arm with the other.
"Come on it's down here. said Millie pulling Fay with her.
Opening up the cupboard door, Millie walked in first, closed the door behind them and switched on the light. The dim yellow light lit up the small store cupboard. It had three shelves in the back, which were filled with bottles of bleach and cleaning fluid. Millie took two buckets from the corner and turned them upside down.
"You're throne madam. she said jokingly, as she invited Fay to sit down.
Millie got out her cigarettes and lighter and after lighting up a cigarette, she offered it to Fay.
"No thanks I don't. said Fay weakly.
Millie shrugged her shoulders and continued smoking.
"Any juicy gossip then. asked Millie as she put the cigarette out on the wall.
"No nothing much, Mary's mother wont let her have a brace, oh and Sally Ann's going out with Jim Bean, but Pam doesn't know about it.
"That's old news. said Millie as she hid the lighter and cigarettes behind the bottles on the bottom shelve.
Just then, Millie hearing a noise outside held onto Fay's arm and put her finger up to her mouth. Opening the door slightly she saw the caretaker, Mr Bracknell, sweeping up the mess at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh lawks it's old tatty sweeping up the rubbish, hissed Millie quietly.
"We're going to get in so much trouble, said Fay worriedly as she looked anxiously around the room, "what can we do, he's bound to catch us in here.
"Not if were quick, listen he's going into the boiler room.
Millie switched off the light and the pair sneaked out along the passageway and towards the stairs.
Fay's eyes, filled with dread, darted to the end of the passageway and back to Millie who was now biting her bottom lip nervously, as she tip toed quietly in front of her. Suddenly a loud booming voice from inside the boiler room shouted, "Oi you what do you think your playing at, you know you're not meant to be down here.
Millie ran for the stairs and ran up the small steps two at a time. Fay fell flat on her face as she tripped up the stairs, but she almost instantaneously leapt back up when the door behind her flew open.
"Here, I know you. You wait I'm going to tell Miss Craig, I know what you've been up to. he said waving his broom at her and running up the stairs .
"Oi you Fay Briggin, come back here NOW! he screamed as Fay ran towards the gym, "if you don't stop your going to be in even bigger trouble. he bellowed across the playground.
Fay stopped dead in her tracks and heaved a great sigh, it was no good, there was no use running any more.
Running across the playground Mr Bracknell caught up with Fay and leaning on his broom, I saw you, you were smoking in the cupboard, he said breathlessly as he got out his notebook from his pocket, "I'm going to get Miss Craig to deal with you.
"But I wasn't smoking it was¦Fay hesitated, clamping her lips tightly together.
"It doesn't matter I saw the other girl. I'll take a look at her on the video tape from the security cameras; we'll be able to identify her from that.
"But I wasn't smoking, I don't smoke. said Fay sincerely.
"I think you should go and sit outside your head of year's office and wait. I'm going to find her that is after I've searched that cupboard.
With that, he walked back towards the boiler room.
Fay didn't go straight to Miss Craig's office she ran off and found Millie in the gym changing room.
Looking anxiously at Fay, Millie asked in a low voice, "What did he say, did he see me, did you tell on me.
"He said he saw us smoking in the cupboard. she said quietly so that the other girls in the changing room couldn't hear her.
"Ooo what a liar, he didn't see us, the door was closed and he didn't see me did he?
"No, but he said he's going to look at the video tape from the security camera, he's bound to recognise you from that.
Millie grimaced as she bit her lip, "But he's only seen you.
"Yes, but you can't let me take all the blame.
"But it would be silly if I gave my self up now, I mean¦ if you take the blame then I'll owe you one, won't I.
"No that's not fair I haven't done anything, you were the one smoking they were you're fags and lighter not mine.
Millie screwed her face up and as her eyes narrowed, she snarled, "You just try and prove it.
Fay's mouth opened aghast, "What you'll make me take the blame. she said breathlessly.
"Yes and there's nothing you can do about it and if you tell anyone I'll bash your head in, so you'd better keep quiet. she said ferociously.
Fay walked out of the gym in tears, her mum would kill her if she thought she had started smoking, the family had just lost Uncle Billy to lung cancer.
There was no way that Millie was going to get away with it Fay thought, as she walked resolutely towards the main building. Finding Miss Craig in her office Fay told her the whole story, swearing on her mother's life, that Millie had been smoking and not her.
The Australian woman at the reception desk, with ginger hair and a wide smile, grinned as Miss Craig gave her an exasperated look and said weakly.
"Can you find Millie for me Pat and ask her to come to my office please?
"Problems again, you know I blame the Head of Year. said Pat smirking at her.
"Yeah, yeah I know, but I didn't give birth to them. she said as she gave a huge sigh.
Millie looked at Miss Craig with innocent eyes as she walked into her office.
Miss Craig sitting behind the large desk got up and invited Millie to sit down on one of the red armchairs next to the window.
Sitting opposite her, she asked her outright, "Millie, have you been smoking.
"No miss, I don't smoke. said Millie innocently.
"Are you sure, I've looked at the video tape with Mr Bracknell and the figure running away from the boiler room is remarkably like you.
"No miss, I wasn't near the boiler room at lunchtime.
"That's funny because three girls in your form told me that you were.
"Well their lying. said Millie forcefully.
"But these girls are supposed to be your friends, so why do you think they would say that? she paused and looked to the girl for a reaction; Millie screwed up her face, but said nothing, "I think you'd better think about it. Sit outside please.
Outside on one of the orange plastic chairs sat Fay, red eyed and nervously twisting a tissue around her finger.
Looking at Millie, she asked her anxiously, "Did you tell her.
"I told her that I didn't smoke, what did you expect me to tell her?
"The truth. she said bluntly, "if you don't then I'll get all the blame.
"So what. said Millie fiercely.
"But that's not fair.
"Life isn't fair. said Millie matter of factly.
Miss Craig watched the pair through a slit in the door, she had no doubt about who was in the wrong, Fay was always in trouble and Millie hadn't put a foot wrong since joining the school.
Miss Craig called the girls into her office and asked them again, but both told her again that they hadn't been smoking.
"Well if I can't prove, which one of you were smoking then I'll tell your parents that it was both of you. said Miss Craig.
Millie started to cry, "But Miss it wasn't me. It was her, honest miss on my mothers life, I wouldn't smoke honest I wouldn't.
"How can you say such a wicked thing. said Fay stunned at what Millie had just said, "She's lying miss it was her cigarettes and her lighter.
"Well. said Miss Craig looking intently at Millie.
"They were hers Miss. said Millie forcefully, as she stared unblinkingly at Fay.
"I'm going to get my lunch, you can both sit here and think about it, but by the time I get back I want the truth, no more lies, is that clear. said Miss Craig turning and striding off towards the staff room.
Millie smirked at Fay.
Fay turned her back on Millie, searched her bag for her teen magazine and began to flick through it.
"Go on Fay, tell her it was you¦go on . said Millie, but Fay ignored her, "It will be so much easier if you said that you did it, you know god will love you even more if you do this for me.
Millie knew that Fay, although being naughty at times, had deep religious beliefs and decided to try to use it in her favour.
There was silence as she watched Fay turn back towards her.
"Alright. she said quietly, "but you have to promise to god, that you'll never smoke again.
"Of course I promise and if you do this for me I'll never touch another cigarette.
Miss Craig came back and stood in front of the pair, "Well. she asked.
"It was me. said Fay timidly.
"I thought it was . said Miss Craig confidently , pulling Millie up out of her seat and giving her a hug, " I know you're a good girl Millie, now off you go and have your lunch and think no more about it dear.
Millie went through the doors and looking back through the small window in the door, she put her thumb up triumphantly to Fay.
Miss Craig sat down beside Fay.
"Why did you lie Fay, if there is one thing I hate, more than anything else then it must be a person who lies.
"But it was for the best miss.
"What do you mean for the best?
"You must promise that you won't tell Millie first, Miss Craig said nothing.
"In our religion we believe that it is good to take the blame on ourselves, if it keeps another person out of trouble. I didn't smoke it was Millie, but it doesn't matter I know that god will be pleased with me.
Miss Craig was flabbergasted; did she really have the wrong girl? What was she to do now?
Millie knocked softly on the caretaker's office door tentatively. The gruff irritated voice of Mr Bracknell echoed from behind the door and Millie smiled wickedly, but as she turned to run away, she crashed into Katie and nearly knocked her over. Millie gave Katie a dirty look and without even a word of apology, she ran out of the building, across the playground towards the boiler room and disappeared down the stairs.
Millie met Suzy at the bottom of the stairs just finishing her cigarette and putting it out on the wall. After a few words, Millie crept along the dark corridor and into the cupboard. She searched and found her cigarettes and lighter in the box full of bottles of bleach.
Sitting on the upturned bucket, she pulled out a cigarette and just as she lit her lighter, a pair of disembodied red eyes popped up in front of her face and blinked twice at her. Bolts of lightening shot out of the eyes and blew up the tiny lighter in her hand. Flames flew everywhere as she flung the flaming plastic lighter into a box at the back of the cupboard. Suddenly, flames shot up behind the shelving and up and over the ceiling as Millie headed for the door, but the eyes stopped her as they floated in mid air in front of her face. She tried to hit the eyes with one of her hands, as she stretched towards the door with her other hand and swung the door open. Dodging the eyes, she ran out of the door and up the stairs screaming hysterically, "FIRE¦ FIRE... as the shrill alarm system suddenly sounded out throughout the school.
Mr Bracknell came running with a red fire extinguisher and ran down the stairs.
To Millie's horror, the red eyes were still with her, floating just above her left shoulder. She ran towards the toilets and running into a cubicle, she slammed the door shut behind her and locked it. Looking around anxiously she was relieved to see that the eyes had gone. Creeping out she washed her blackened hand under the tap and looking into the mirror, to straighten up her hair; she was shocked to see the red eyes squinting back at her just above her head. Running back into the cubicle and locking the door she sat down on the toilet. She could definitely do with a cigarette now she thought, but as the thought passed through her mind the eyes appeared in front of her face and shot out a bolt of lightening, which left a tiny red cut down the side of her left cheek.
Holding onto her face and screaming hysterically, she fumbled with the lock and finally slammed the door open, ducked under the eyes and ran out of the toilets.
Miss Strand was shocked to see the state of Millie's face by the time she arrived at her art lesson. Six bright red slits on her face were dripping with blood as she went to sit in her seat at the back of the classroom.
"What have you been doing. said the teacher looking at the wounds anxiously, "who did this to you?
"Nobody. said Millie as she took the tissue offered her by the teacher and dabbed the blood off her face.
"Don't be so silly of course somebody did this to you, then looking at her suspiciously, she whispered in her ear, "Millie, did you do this to yourself.
"Of course not. said Millie fiercely as she dabbed the tissue on the newest cut, "I¦ I, fell over on the grass next to the car park and there was a broken bottle in there. she stuttered.
"That sounds nasty, I think you'd better go to the nurse; you may have some glass in one of them. Although I can't see any. said the teacher as she peered at each of the cuts in turn.
The whole class by now were surrounding the pair and listening carefully to the conversation.
"Come on girls get back to your places Millie's all right, come on Millie off you go, here's a note get yourself up to the nurse, Jenny can you take her.
Jenny walked with Millie towards the main building.
Suddenly the eyes cut Millie on the forehead as she had another thought about a cigarette. Falling to her knees, she started to cry bitterly.
"But it's too hard. she blurted out.
"What are you talking about? asked Jenny anxiously, helping Millie back onto her feet.
Millie looked at Jenny, at that moment the eyes were above the girl's heads and looking down at the two of them, but Jenny was unaware of their presence.
"Up there look. said Millie pointing at the eyes.
Jenny swung around and looked into the air, but saw nothing. Looking back at the sad face of Millie Jenny didn't know what to think, maybe she had gone mad or something she thought to herself and taking her firmly by the arm, she walked her quickly up the stairs and handed her over to the school nurse.
The following three days Millie had to spend in hospital for extensive tests. The doctors filled up several phials of her blood and sent them off to the laboratory for tropical infectious diseases. They scraped off small pieces of her flesh around the cuts on her face. They took pieces of her hair, pulling several of them out by the roots and they stuck odd pieces of fabric, food and animal hair on her back and arms to see if anything had given her an allergic reaction. The doctors put her on a course of penicillin for a week and injected it into her bottom three times a day for maximum effect.
Nobody saw the eyes as they followed her around wherever she went, always ready to strike. The fresh cuts to her face began to lessen as the week went by and by the second week, she found that the eyes cut her face only once or maybe twice in a day.
Her face was a mess with open cuts, at all angles, weeping with yellow and green slime and the pain was excruciating.
Sitting in front of her dressing table mirror and dabbing the ointment onto her face, she decided that smoking was not as cool as she first thought and as she thought this, the eyes glowed a cold blue and one of the cuts miraculously healed over.
She said it again to herself, but nothing happened. Then she said it aloud and with passion, "Smoking is definitely not cool. and a whole row of nasty cuts vanished.
By the time Monday came around again, there were only a couple of cuts on her face, but they were long deep nasty ones.
Seeing Fay down at the other end of the corridor Millie ran up to her.
Millie stopped several meters away from her and bit her lip, as she always did when she was nervous, "Hi there. she said shyly to Fay as her face went red.
Fay wasn't in a good mood. Her mother believed Miss Craig when she told her that her daughter had been smoking and had made her spend her weekend in her bedroom, with no radio, television or computer and it was all Millie's fault.
"I'm really sorry Fay, honestly. said Millie earnestly.
"Oh yeah I believe that. said Fay sceptically, turning her back on Millie.
"But I am, I'm going to go to tell Miss Craig that I was smoking and not you. she said sincerely.
Just then, one of the large cuts healed up and Fay saw it.
"That's amazing. she said pointing to the healed skin, "it's gone.
Millie smiled and put her hand on Fay's arm and to her relief Fay didn't pull it away, "I'll go and tell her now. she said calmly.
Miss Craig answered the knock on the office door and Millie went in. Standing in front of the large desk with her head down not wanting to look the woman in the eye, she waited for Miss Craig to finish writing.
"Yes Millie, how can I help you.
Taking a big breath she blurted out, "I lied miss, about Fay smoking.
"What? snapped Miss Craig.
"I lied about the smoking it was me. The cigarettes and the lighter they belonged to me, not Fay. I'm so sorry. she said quickly and sincerely.
Miss Craig stood up and put both her hands on the desk in front of her.
"How could you lie to me? Have I ever lied to you, No, she said without letting Millie answer, "and poor Fay and her mother they were both so upset, do you realise what you have done and how selfish you've been.
"Yes miss I think I do. said Millie as feelings of guilt rose into her chest.
Putting her hand to her face, she was astonished to feel the last cut on the side of her cheek heal up.
However, Miss Craig didn't notice it, she was busy calling up Millie's telephone number on her computer, "I'm calling your parents and telling them everything. I don't know how you could do it Millie, I'm so disappointed with you, I think you'll find that you're going to be in double trouble now. she said picking up the telephone.
Millie gazed around the room while Miss Craig dialled the number. She was thrilled to see that the eyes had finally disappeared and as a great smile spread across her face, she said brightly, "Yes miss I know, very deep trouble, but it's not as bad as it has been.
Miss Craig gave her a puzzled look as Katie came running in through the door.
"Jenny's fallen down the stairs Miss; you're wanted up in the medical room.
Miss Craig told Millie to wait outside her office and not to move until she came back and ran out of her office heading towards the medical room on the first floor.
Katie smiled at Millie as they walked towards the door.
"You're looking well Millie. said Katie cheerfully as she skipped off down the corridor.
"Yes, very well. said Millie as she rubbed the smooth skin on her cheeks and sat down on the orange chair outside the office, to wait for Miss Craig to come back.