Sherry sat down on the bench and spread her short fingers over her plump knees. The sun was going down and she started to shiver.
She looked up towards the bridge. There was still time to go home. Mum wouldn’t be there, she was in Brighton with her new fellow. Sherry didn’t know when she’d be back.
Stale bread and marge was all she'd eaten for two days. Mum had only left her ten pounds. The first day she’d had a Big Mac and the next day some fish and chips. Then the next day she’d spent four quid on Mars bars and a big bottle of Coke. Now it was all gone.
She’d said that for the whole night she wanted a hundred pounds. She’d seen a film on TV where someone had asked for a hundred pounds for a whole night. That’d keep her in food and whatnot till whenever Mum got back.
She looked towards the bridge nervously to see if he was coming. Every time she thought about him and his clammy hands inside her clothes she started trembling. But most of all she hated his crooked yellow teeth and the smell that came from them.
Then she saw him hurrying down the steps. Sherry got up heavily and slouched towards him, her hands in her pockets.
He stared at her. “Where’s your bag then?”
“Haven’t got a bag.” Sherry pushed her hands further into her pockets. “What would I want a bag for?”
He frowned. “But we agreed you was staying the night, didn’t we? Don’t you have a nightdress or something?”
“I don’t have no nightdress, do I?" Sherry opened one side of her anorak to reveal a toothbrush sticking out of a pocket intended for a mobile phone. "I got this."
He nodded. “OK then. I’ll go first and open the door of the van, then you come quick and jump in. OK?”
When she heard him shout she lumbered up the steps and crawled into the back of the grey van. The door slammed and she was alone with a pile of tools.
“You OK?” he called through the wire grille. “It’s not far.”
“It’s black as pitch in here!” Sherry’s voice rose to a husky squeak. “I hate the dark. I can’t stand the dark!!”
“It’s only for a few minutes,” he called over his shoulder.
When the van stopped she heard him walking round to open the doors. I could still make a run for it, she thought.
“Come on, be quick.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her out. “Come with me and keep your head down.”
She followed him past a couple of overflowing kitchen containers into a dimly lit halal butcher’s. The man behind the counter was putting on his coat, getting ready to shut the shop.
Without looking at them he opened a door behind the counter and they went inside. The only light was a yellowish glow from a small window at the top of the stairs.
“Up there and on the right,” he said, pushing Sherry from behind.
When he switched on the fizzing light bulb she saw the stained mattress with a grimy sheet half pulled over it. He shoved her towards the mattress so hard she tripped and fell.
Almost at once he lunged after her and began pulling at her coat, forcing it off so he could “fondle her breasts” as he called it. Then his hand was up her skirt and into her tights and knickers, tweaking and pummelling around in there. He leant on her so hard her face was squashed into the piss and sick smell of the sheet.
Sherry tolerated his nuzzling and slurping, remembering to keep her face well turned away in case she got a noseful of those teeth, all the time thinking what she'd buy with the hundred pounds.
Hours seemed to go by and still he hadn’t had enough. Several times he grunted and heaved so much she thought that would be it, but then he started grabbing at her again, snorting and slavering. His money’s worth, that’s what he wants, she told herself. A hundred nicker’s worth.
Suddenly there was a loud banging from downstairs and a lot of shouting in a foreign language. A piercing shriek seemed to come from right under them and the bare bulb fizzled and went out.
He rushed to the door, shouting and pulling on his clothes. “Put that ruddy light back on! I paid you enough, didn’t I?”
Sherry heard him running down the stairs and a door banging in the distance. Then silence.
She waited a few minutes before getting dressed. Just as she was going to open the door someone came rushing up the stairs and pulled it shut. Sherry froze in panic as she heard it being locked from the outside.
“Help!” she called. “Let me out!” The footsteps went further up the stairs and then she heard them walking across the roof above her head.
She pounded on the door. "I'll do anything you want!,” she sobbed, pulling at the door handle. “Just don't leave me here in the dark all alone! Please let me out!!"
Several days later two ambulance men were lifting Sherry gently onto a stretcher.
“You’re alright now, love,” one of the men said as he covered her with a blanket. “No one knew you were here. Not till they started demolishing the building. The crane driver saw you and called us.”
His companion nodded as he attached the drip to Sherry’s arm. “We thought you was a gonner, but you’ll be fine now.”
Sherry stared up at him. “Pitch black it was,” she whispered through cracked lips, her eyes hollow with terror. “Pitch black!”