The slap hit her, skin and air sounding, Sam flinched as the pain travelled across her face.
"Don't lie to me. Tell me what that face is for" Sue repeated.
Sam tried really hard not to cry. Soon she was disappointed in herself as she could feel the tears, stinging, as they slid down her cheeks. Her brown eyes darted from side to side. She tried desperately to gauge what Sue wanted to hear. She knew she needed to do better. Come up with something that was reasonable.
Although only eleven years old Sam had learnt to try and circumnavigate her step mother's temper with humility and flattery.
When Sam spoke she remembered to raise her head, she hated looking into her step mother's eyes but she risked getting another slap if she spoke whilst looking away.
"I'm just missing home." She said. " It's been such a nice weekend. I hate boarding school. It's horrible being away from you. I'm sorry I had that face on."
Her voice was shaky but she felt the words had been delivered with enough honesty to be believed. In reality, Edinburgh school was the only safe environment she knew, the weekend trips home were emotional torture often accompanied by violence. Sam concentrated her efforts on staring at the tiny red veins running along the surface of the whites, on Sue's watery eyes.
"Oh well, that is good. It's good that you know, that you are better off with us." Sue paused briefly, before handing her step daughter a killer emotional blow.
"So, you wouldn't be interested in your biological mother? I'm not saying she wants to see you. She hasn't bothered with you for all of your life so why would she contact you now? I'm just asking, if she did happen to come along how would you feel about it?"
Sam looked away from Sue. Had her step mother just mentioned her real mother? Sam fantasied about her real mother secretly. Usually a taboo subject, there were so many questions she wanted to ask.
The resemblance between Sam's sister, Lisa and step mother was very strong. Their friends and neighbours always commented how much they were alike. Sam longed to know if somewhere in the world there was someone who looked like her.
However, Sam's flattery had triggered something in Sue's memory and unguarded, said "I remember Lisa's father begging me to marry him."
Wow thought Sam as she continued to keep her face downwards as her step mom told her about her sister's heritage.
"Nana and I had a huge row when I fell pregnant. Nana threw me out on the street as I didn't want to marry the father. He begged me. I said no. I knew he wasn't the right daddy for my Lisa. Things were different back then. I was expected to marry him."
Sue was most certainly proud of herself, but Sam, after mention of her real mum, was only half listening. And although the words coming out of her step mother's mouth would be remembered forever, Sam was incapable of full comprehension at that moment. So, she responded where she should, her head spinning, attempting to adjust to the deluge of information she was receiving. Sue continued, totally unaware her step-daughter was in shock at the confessional boast.
"When I met your Father that was real, you know?" Nodding at Sam, who smiling through tears, was still sitting, listening from the floor, concentrating her facial expression into one her tormentor would like, and nodded back.
"Your Dad didn't have that choice with you. He had to take you because there was no one else. He chose to love Lisa and take her on as his own. He's a good man. Lisa doesn't need to know. It's good you know how lucky you are. If I catch you pulling faces at me again I will tell your father. And Samantha, don't lie."