Colin eats his breakfast as though he hasn’t eaten for a week. I wish Will was with me. I wish I could shower him this way, with food and the things he needs instead of starving, and the deprivation he receives being my son. I chase away the pangs of guilt. I tell myself I am doing my best, but I know I am not. I’m failing him. He just doesn’t know any better and doesn’t complain.
Joanne eats her food, too. I smile at her enthusiasm over the money and what we can do with it. She runs off all her excitements in such fast succession that I am not sure I can keep up. I know her though; these are nothing more than pipe dreams. She, too, has thought about filling the cupboards but, of course, our first thoughts are going to Froggy and scoring for the weekend. What a great time we will have. I agree, I can hardly wait. Anything to take away the inner gloom that plagues me constantly.
The time ticks by and I wait for Phil to come back. I know he will come back. I trust him that much, but not much else. Even so, some part of me is relieved when I see his car approaching and then he pulls onto the forecourt to the café and comes in. the hammering in my chest threatens to break my ribs and I let out my relief.
Phil comes in and his grin is huge. He sits himself down and orders too, for him and Becci. I want to ask for my money. I can feel myself reaching out for it and being able to touch it, but he doesn’t say anything. I am waiting with baited breath for him to put it in my hands and relieve the anxiety I didn’t know existed.
I know he’s teasing me. He knows I want the cash and is waiting for me to ask on purpose. I’m thankful when it’s Joanne who asks him.
“What makes you think I have it?” He tells her, and Joanne doesn’t believe him. She holds her hand out waiting for it.
“You have the money?” I ask him myself, in the end, he keeps grinning as if he is debating on what to say and then he laughs.
“Look at the scared look on both your faces.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out some cash. I take it from him before he has chance to take it back and tease me some more. I can hardly believe it’s there.
We finish our food off and then Phil says he’ll give us a lift back to our flat, but he can’t stay. He is on curfew and wants to be home. Poor Becci thinks he means home to his place, but he means his other girlfriend, Sarah, and I wonder how he keeps up with it. Sarah has a daughter and Becci is pregnant.
Sometimes, I have been with Phil and Sarah and if we go to see Becci, I slip up and Becci scowls at me. Part of me thinks she must know, maybe she just doesn’t want to see it.
We go back to my place and Joanne says she needs to go out and get some smokes. She’s going to get them cheap from her mate. “I’ll be a couple of hours,” she says, “Are you going to Maz’s?”
“Yes,” I say. “I promised her I would do.”
There’s a figure sat on the steps leading up to our door when we get there. Colin recognises him right away and is over everyone and out of the car so fast to go into his older brother’s arms.
“Do they know you are here?” I ask.
Mark smiles and shrugs. That means no, I guess. I don’t say anything, but I wish he would stop it. He’s going to get me caught and I have no desire to end up behind bars.
“I thought I’d take Colin out for something to eat,” he tells me.
“He’s just eaten.”
“No worries, we’ll find something to do.”
“Can I? Asks Colin and there isn’t a way I can say no, not that I think he would listen to me even if I did refuse and I would have no grounds to stop him. I nod my head and Colin forgets himself for a moment and hugs me too. I watch as they walk off down the alley way together.
Joanne leaves too and I tell Phil and Becci thanks and then go to see Froggy and Maz.
Maz is sat on the step in the hallway of the building her flat is in. She’s been crying. She is smoking a cigarette.
She starts rambling and I don’t really know what she is saying. Mikey and Froggy. How she hates the drugs but she took them anyway. She shows me her arm, swears at it, shouts and tells me how bad she is, and that she won’t ever get her son back. Soon, she’s going to lose this baby too. She points to her stomach. There isn’t anything I can say. I put my arms around her and we just stand there for as long as she needs while she cries.
“Promise me something,” she says.
I nod my head.
“Don’t ever let them get Will. Pick him first.”
That’s easy. “I won’t,” I tell her.
She pulls back a little to look up at me. I wipe her face dry and kiss her as she wraps her arms inside my shirt. In that moment I feel at peace.
The door opens and Froggy comes out.
“I thought I heard your voice,” he says to me and tells me to come in.
Maz doesn’t move, but I put my hand round hers and drag her behind me.
Froggy already has my phet ready and good to go. Seems he knows me too well. I take the bag and hand him over, one hundred pounds. Froggy gives me one of his needles and I use their bedroom to take it. Although, it’s only been hours, as the phet takes hold, it feels as though everything gets washed clean away and I can live.
Joanne pops in for a moment to tell me her and her mate are going back to our house. I figure I need to go too. Colin will be back soon and, no doubt, Mark would have to get back to the farms.
Maz comes with us. Joanne has two girls with her. Lauren doesn’t stay so long. Her boyfriend comes and picks her up, but the other girl, Angela, who doesn’t look more than fifteen, I have never met
“Angela needs some where to stay,” Joanne tells me when she takes me into another room.
“We already have Colin,” I say.
“Exactly, so we can have Angela too. She’s fourteen and she won’t be a problem.”
“How come?” I ask.
Joanne tells me Angela’s parents don’t want her. They live the other side of the country and have thrown Angela out. Angela, who has clearly been listening, knocks and comes into the room.
“You can call and ask if you want.”
I look at Joanne and she nods at me. It doesn’t look like I have much of a choice other than to take another in. I can’t exactly turn a young girl out onto the street now can I?
The rest of the night goes fast. Colin comes home and goes straight to bed. His brother stays only long enough to steal a cigarette while Joanne shares her phet with Angela and I sit and talk with Maz.
Daylight creeps in the next day and the phet is almost gone. “Can I get some more from Froggy?” I ask Maz. We haven’t seen him since the day before.
“Sure,” she says. “If not, I’ll ask Woody,” she says before she leaves.
Woody lives next door to them; he deals too.
Joanne has just set Angela up on a spare mattress in Will’s room with Colin, when someone knocks on the door. I think its Maz again, but Joanne answers it and its the familiar sound of the police.
“We have a warrant to search the premises.” It reads.
One of the officers hands me a copy and I hardly have time to read it before they begin to look inside everywhere and turn everything upside down.
I don’t care about the warrant. My mind is at the bag of phet in the lounge and how I will get to it before they see it. Joanne has the same idea. She gets there and removes it before they see it.
The officer says they were told Mark had been here. I deny it of course, but I don’t need to ask who told them. I already know it was Phil. I’ve seen him play these tricks a dozen times, perhaps, this was karma for the times I have laughed when he has called the police out in jest on another friend.