Alley Kid Twelve.

I don’t normally post warnings on my posts. Especially not Alley Kid, but I think the contents of this I should. If you have read my books, you’ll know what to expect, except. this isn’t so graphic, but there are details of abuse.

 

I don’t know how much time has passed. It feels like hours. My head is heavy inside, and it’s still daylight. I’m laid on a makeshift bed on the floor with my mattress from my room. Maz is laid with me. She is asleep. I don’t know what woke me. I look around and try not to wake her too. The place seems quiet. It takes me a moment to realise he is still here.

I can see the door. He’s waiting. Hiding.  I see shadows and darkness; it’s where he likes to hide. I see his eyes in my mind. The wide open discoloured whites of them. The way his skin wrinkles underneath. The dark spots on his cheeks. I can see them like he is right in front of me.

Something touches my foot. It’s soft, like a feather.  I don’t know what it is, I have a cover on me. I lift it and look down, but there is nothing there. I put my foot back down, but it’s there again and I move my foot, reach down and brush off whatever invisible thing it is. I close my eyes and then open them again. I can’t keep them closed. He’s going to come at any moment. Maz is asleep, she won’t know and no one will hear me, no one will help, just like always.

Maybe it’s his hand on my foot. Maybe he’s about to grab me. I can feel it. Next will be his nails in my legs like when I was little and he would drag me down and claw at me. I try to move and get away. I can’t. Inside I feel dead and heavy. My mouth is dry and I can’t take in enough air. My throat feels constricted; my lungs won’t go deep enough. I start to gasp and Maz wakes and sits.

“What’s wrong?” she asks me.

I try to talk. I say the words. I hear them perfectly, but Maz doesn’t understand. She asks me to repeat them and I do, but still she doesn’t know what I am saying.

“You’re slurring,” she tells me.

I try to speak clear. I try and tell her that he’s there. I try and move back and get away. I’m shaking and crying because I can’t tell her, all I can do is make sounds that aren’t even words. I try and push myself back, but just hit the front of the sofa. I am trapped.

“There’s nothing there,” she says to me. “It’s just the phet, you took too much.”

Joanne comes into the room. She must have heard me. She has a bag and Froggy is with her.

“Is he okay?” She asks Maz.

Maz nods. “He needs to sleep it off, but he won’t.”

Joanne has cans in her bag. She pulls one out and passes it to Maz, Maz offers it to me, but I don’t want it. Maz tries to put it to my mouth and I try and push it away.

“You need to drink,” says Joanne. “It’s been days you haven’t eaten or drunk at all.”

“If you don’t drink something your body is going to shut down,” says Maz.

I take the can from Maz, but she holds it with me. My hands are unsteady. I put it to my mouth and as the drink hits my mouth I realise how thirsty I am. I don’t waste time. I don’t sip it. One gulp becomes another and another, each one is not enough. I can’t take enough to make the thirst go away and within seconds, the can is empty. I need more. I hold my hand out and try and say the words, but I can’t. Joanne knows what I want though and she reaches in her bag for another. She passes it to Maz and Maz opens it, but my stomach flips over. I feel the heat of it inside as it sloshes the juice I have just ingested. I retch but nothing comes out.  Maz gets off the mattress fast and I try to move.

She tries to help me get up, but in her position she can’t. Joanne tries to help, but its Froggy that gets me to my feet and I know that any moment the drink is going to come right out. I can hardly move. I try and steady myself on all of them and in a rush, they manage to get me to the bathroom. I vomit in the sink and collapse on the floor. My body hasn’t finished though, but I don’t have the energy to get up and vomit in the sink or the toilet. It’s down my clothes. I can smell it.

Joanne runs out of the bathroom and comes back seconds later with a bowl. I ask her for a cigarette, only managing to get the word smoke out. She reaches in her pocket for her pack and gives me one, but I can’t even light it. Maybe this is death.

My mind wants to sleep. It wants to shut down. I feel it pressing on the inside making my skull ache. My eyes try to close but I fight them. I smoke my cigarette and sit forwards to wake myself up, but then he is there. I see his shadow out in the hallway. I lean back and he moves too. I lean forward and so does his shadow. I do it over and over.

“What are you doing?” asks Maz.

I try to talk but say nothing.

“You’re rocking.”

I still don’t say anything. I stop rocking, but I don’t take my eyes off the shadow. Maz has the shower running. For me I guess. I just keep my eyes focused on him, but they keep closing. They close for minutes at a time and I don’t realise. I don’t want to sleep. Maz and Joanne are there. They take my top off and I don’t stop them. Joanne tells me to stand and I have to lean on them and she tries to unfasten my jeans, but I don’t want her to, not with him out there.drug

Somehow I am in the shower and I don’t know how I got there. I’m leaning against the wall and sat in the base. Time slips in and out and I don’t see it. I try to ask, but they don’t understand and my words won’t come out. I keep still as they clean me up, get me out of the shower and put me back in bed.

I try to protest at being in just my underwear. I am cold. But Maz gets in with me again. They throw more covers over me and I can’t fight it. Sleep takes me away and I am gone.

I see flashes of moments. I open my eyes and people are in different places. Joanne on the chair watching the television. Maz on the chair. Froggy sat playing my games console. I don’t speak, just reach for a drink each time. The bowl is next to me just in case, but I don’t drink so much.

Someone is shaking me. I feel them and tell them to stop it.

“Wake up,” he says and I realise it’s my father. I didn’t know he is here, I didn’t remember. Did I let him in? I don’t know. No one else is there.

“Do you have the money you owe me?” he asks.

“In my wallet,” I try and say, but my words don’t come out.

“What?” he asks me to repeat and I try. “I can’t understand what you’re saying,” he tells me.

He kneels down to me and I try and tell him again. He grabs my hair in his fist, pulls my head up to him, I can’t move. I try and get out of his grip but I can’t.

“You’re such a waste of space,” he tells me. He clutches tighter, pulling my hair and I can’t fight him off. “You’re nothing to me.”

There isn’t anything I can do. It all goes dark and I fall asleep again. I forget my father is there and when I open my eyes he is gone. It is dark again and Joanne is watching the television with Angela and Colin.

I need the bathroom. Something feels wrong. It feels like I got turned off for a few hours as though I were a machine. I didn’t dream. Just darkness. I ask Joanne what time it is, she tells me. It’s been hours and I don’t remember them.

I try to stand, but my legs are shaky. They haven’t stood for I don’t know how long. My underwear feels wet. I look at Joanne and Angela and Colin, but they aren’t looking at me. They have a film on and I wonder if somehow I managed to wet myself. I don’t want them to know I slept so much I wet the bed.

I pick up a towel that’s laid on the arm of the sofa and wrap it around my waist so I can go to the bathroom.

In the bathroom I take the towel off and then my underwear. I just stare at it. My mind expected just to see wet clothes, but the red glares at me and I stare at it as though I have never seen blood before.

I feel nothing. No pain, no bruises. I don’t know why it’s there. I don’t feel ill. I feel panic inside. Fear. I don’t want Joanne to see. I don’t want to know where it came from.  I get in the shower instead. I don’t care that it isn’t heated yet. I want to hide from my blood soaked shorts. Maybe I’m dreaming. Maybe they aren’t there. Maybe it’s from the phet. I shower, but I can see them through the door. I have to get rid of them.

They are still there when I finish showering. Part of me wonders why. Why didn’t they just vanish? I can’t sneak them out. I’m sure that Joanne will see them. She’ll come out of the lounge the moment I come out of the bathroom with them in my hand. I get the envelope that holds my needles instead. I tip those into Joanne’s makeup bag and then I put my shorts in the envelope.

The blood is wet, it marks my hands and I just stare at it. I don’t know where it’s from. I don’t understand why I am bleeding.

 

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Alley Kid 10

I follow the police into my lounge, the anxiety in my chest feels almost too much. I’m sure the moment they walk in they will see the phet like and hone in on it. I promise myself no more. Just this last one and if they don’t see it, no more. I’ll be done with the drugs. I realise what I’ll lose if they find them. I think about Will and him at his mothers, I can’t give him up for the drugs; I’d have nothing left at all. I think about Maz’s words, what I promised her. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it to my son and let him suffer for my choices. That would make me no better than my own parents.BaseballBat

I look down and the phet is gone. I’m relieved but I’m afraid Joanne has it on her and they will search us. The police look everywhere. They lift up the cushions off the sofa, take out drawers, I have no real clue what they thing they are going to find, but it isn’t anything I have that they would want. The police finish, but they don’t clean up and the flat is a mess.

They leave but don’t really say anything to me and I sigh at yet another invasion from them. Its beginning to get to the point that I fear each time I open the door it will be them, many times it is, mostly they are looking for Mark, and usually they have just missed him. I am glad of that, but I know if he is there and he is caught, I’ll hand him over, maybe that makes me a coward. But I don’t care. I put my child before Mark and if that means I become a grass I don’t care.

I asked Joanne where she put the phet and she gives me a smile like she knew I was worried. She reaches down into the box that holds Wills toys and pulls out one of his bears, such a classic place for drugs but the police didn’t look there. I guessed they weren’t looking for those.

We all clean up when the police leave and in a way the place looks better than it did before. Maz comes back with the phet and my earlier promise is soon out of the window. I have every intention of not taking more, but it’s just this time, while I have the money. I have to be ready to quit I tell myself. A fake promise I know, but I still believe it. I have to quit, but not today.

I take the phet to the bedroom. Maz comes too. It’s not a big room; it fits the double bed and a single bedside table, that’s it. The window has a large crack through it, but it has tape across it, not that its much use, it still lets in a draft. We don’t have curtains, we can’t afford them. Joanne has tacked an old towel across the window to keep the privacy, but it doesn’t bother me. I feel better when the window is open and the curtains aren’t back. I don’t feel trapped when it’s like that, but she likes it dark.

Maz sits on the bed, but she doesn’t say anything as I prepare the phet and inject it. She does the same with her own concoction of things. She gets onto the bed properly and leans against the wall, crossing her legs at the ankle. I put the things away, light a cigarette and give it to her and then light one for myself. She doesn’t say anything when I climb on the bed with her and lay my head down on her legs.

She runs her fingers through my hair and sometimes I think I could stay there forever when she does that. We talk about the baby, about Froggy, about me working for Lorraine and a million other things that I can hardly remember, but we just talk. Putting the world to rights in our own little ways, with dreams of what we could do if we were able. And when it reaches midnight I wonder where the time has gone, me and Maz have hardly moved and save for a few disturbances from the others mostly we were alone.

I tell Maz I have to go out.

“Karla?” she asks.

I nod my head and smile.

“I’m surprised Joanne hasn’t caught you yet,” she says.

“I’m sure she doesn’t give a shit.”

“If you were mine I’d kick your arse,” she tells me and I laugh.

“If I was yours, I’d be dead.”  I sit up properly and lean to her and kiss her. It’s what we do. We don’t even hide it. Froggy and Joanne never seem to complain, they do similar. I wouldn’t care what Joanne did with Froggy.

“I love you, you little shit,” she says to me and I grin and put my arms around her to say goodbye.

“I love you too,” I tell her. She’s the only one I can say it too and feel happy about it. I hold onto her for just a second. “I’ll be back soon.”

I don’t tell Joanne as I leave the flat and race down the steps, I’m not even sure she is in herself. Colin is in bed I noticed though.

Karla is already finished when I get there. She’s sat on the counter with her small black coat on, hair done and a smile on her face. She jumps down and wave’s goodnight to her colleagues. She comes outside and flings her arms around my neck.

I take her hand and lace my fingers through hers. “Where are we going?” she asks me.

“I have something to take care of,” I tell her and then she starts to tell me about her day. I’m not listening so much, my mind is racing and alive. Most people bore me, Karla is one of them, but for some reason I keep her in my life. I’d say it was for the sex, but I can get that anywhere and most of the time, I’m on the phet, it makes the sex part hard.

I walk us all the way to Phil’s house. Not where he lives with Sarah, but where he keeps his car. Silly idiot keeps it at his other place in case Becci ever drives passed. I know where he keeps his bat too. I give Karla and cigarette and tell her to wait there.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“You’ll see,” I tell her, then I duck down the side of the building that Phil pretends to live at, go into his shed and pull out his baseball bat. I’m hardly thinking as I do it, it’s been cooking in my mind since the moment I realised who had called the police.

I don’t feel bad as I charge back to where his car is and launch the bat into the driver’s side window.

“What the hell are you doing?” asks Karla, startled at my attack on his car, but he deserves it.

“Pay back,” I tell her and then I knock out the back window on the same side.

Karla comes at me; she grabs my wrists of the hand that holds the bat. “Someone’s going to come and hear you,” she says.

I shrug. “What are they going to do?”

“Call the police.”

I raise the bat to take out the rear window, slipping my wrist from her reach; she folds her arms and stares at me, waiting for me to make my decision.  I pause with the bat ready to strike. A light comes on in a house over the road. “Fine,” I say and then I throw the bat into the car through one of the already smashed windows. “We’ll go.”

 

 

 

Alley Kid Part Nine

 

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.

Alley Kid Part 7

It’s just after dawn, Saturday has begun, and the world is getting busy again. I like this time of day. Just before everything starts, when it’s quiet and peaceful. The air is still fresh and clean and save for a few birds, there are almost no sounds at all. It’s like getting to the new day before everyone else.

Colin is sleeping. I checked on him before going outside to smoke. He gave up just after midnight, but he was determined to stay up as long as us. Of course his wasn’t drug induced wakefulness and although he fought, his eyes had given up on him and he had fallen asleep on the floor. He hadn’t even woken when I picked him up and put him in Will’s bed.

The night has gone fast, or at least it seems so. I still feel the sting a little of Maz’s harsh words. She wasn’t happy with my new high, but I had got Colin food and even some for Mikey. Their bellies were filled with pizza and coke. They had eaten until they couldn’t take another piece in and after, laid down together to play Nintendo, while enjoying the childish freedom and amusement of belching at each other. They were happy.

Colin hadn’t heard Maz’s dissatisfaction with me, just more evidence of my failure. Of course I had lied about how I got the pizza; even Froggy had given me a suspicious glance when I had said that I had bought it. I did in a way, maybe not with cash. Joanne had asked if my dad had given me some money and I gave a noncommittal nod of my head and then went to do something else to avoid the question of how much.

Maz knew something wasn’t right. She always knew, she had been mad at me, but I don’t think she really knew why. I had no doubt some of her shouting had been fuelled by the pain of taking Mikey back to his foster parents and knowing that at night, when he went to bed, when he got bathed and hugged and a bed time story, that another women would be in her place. Even giving him that night time kiss and watching as he went to sleep. I had let her shout at me. I let her say all the things she wanted to get out in her frustration and then I had put my arms around her and she had cried. I didn’t ask why and she didn’t say, but I knew.

My own pangs of guilt at my actions didn’t last long. They didn’t need to. Everything was good. Everything was great. Now. Now that I had had my fixed. Everything was perfect.

Joanne didn’t bother to ask how much. With the phet and the pizza, she no doubt came to an assumption in her head. She doesn’t really care about the girl that works in the take away. Karla she is called. She likes me, Joanne knows that much, but I don’t think she realises how much, not that it matters. Isn’t the saying, what they don’t know won’t hurt them? Even if Joanne does know, she doesn’t care anyway. She doesn’t seem to care so much, as long as she gets her fixes too and I ask no questions of her, all is good. She is no different to everyone else. She doesn’t care for me.

Maz is different. I’m not really sure where she places herself in my life. A motherly sister perhaps, but even that doesn’t fit right. I’ve slept with her once, nothing serious. Fun one night between Joanne, Maz, Froggy and I.

I guess that’s what I’m made for. It seems so at least. Everything always comes back to sex and what people will do if I give it to them. People see something that says it is okay and so they take it. It was there as a child and it’s here now. Maybe I will never figure out what it is and how to turn it off.  Maybe it’s all I have to offer.

Even the backwards events of my childhood seem to confirm it. I wasn’t able to tie my own shoe laces; I couldn’t reach things in the top cupboard. I had a bed time and I wasn’t allowed to cross the main roads by myself, yet I knew how to have sex. I knew how to give people what they wanted.

It’s my purpose.

I look at Colin sometimes. He’s seven, the same age I was my first time with a girl. I can’t imagine him reaching beyond his years into such adult activities.  He might not have much, but he has his innocence. I never did, maybe that’s what people see.

Karla, sex for food. It’s nothing to me. Karla is just another taker hidden behind a sweet smile. A smile that gets her exactly what she wants from whoever she wants it.  I wanted food.

I put my cigarette out and I try not sigh. I know that sigh, I’ll let it go and my next intake of breath will pull in the darkness of my day. I can feel the weight of everything beginning to build up again. Like the ruckus as the day begins, cars moving, more and more people outside. My mind feels as congested as the world. I want to sleep before it becomes more than I can bear.

I’m thankful for the light at least. The fears of my mind aren’t so bad in the day. The flashbacks of a monster long since gone in reality, but ever present in my mind are dulled by the daylight. His grinning face doesn’t plague me as much. His smile, his eyes, the intent in them. With daylight I can fight the bad man.

 

***

I don’t sleep so long. Less than four hours. Between Colin and his ever quiet elephant feet as he tries to walk quietly back and forth through the flat so not to wake me and Phil.

Phil calls to make sure that everything is still on for the day. I hear his voice on the phone and the anxiety spikes in my stomach at perhaps he is cancelling. As he asks me if I am still good for the job, I relax a little, but I still feel the echo of the apprehension inside. I mumble a half asleep yes as I get out of bed and Phil talks, but I’m not really listening as I venture to the bathroom and set the bath off running before I go to the kitchen to find my cigarettes. The content has depleted a little; my foolish over tired mind forgot and left them on the kitchen counter and Colin has been in them. I don’t like him smoking. I guess I see the child he still is and he sees the grown up he wants to be.

I shout Colin’s name, he has my lighter. Everyone else is asleep, but I glance at the clock, it’s nearly 11am.  Phil tells me that he’ll be there in an hour, and then we’ll go and get the television.

“I’ll be ready,” I say to him and then I hang up without saying goodbye. Colin comes in and puts my lighter in my hand without me asking for it.

“Bath time,” I say to him.

“I had one,” he replies. I know he hasn’t. I curse his mother in my mind for making him my problem.

“Bath, now,” I say. “I don’t care if you had one, another won’t kill you. Go, and leave the water in for me.”

He goes to bathroom muttering to himself and I make coffee. Maz, Joanne and Froggy all wake and get up like a conveyer or people, by the time Colin is done and it’s my turn, the flat is filled with noise.

I take my mug and go to the bathroom myself. I only just get undressed and sit in the water, and Maz comes into the bathroom. She isn’t bothered. She does this often and we chat. She pulls out my envelope of needles and takes on for herself. I don’t stare as she pulls the toilet lid down and sits on it to make her hit up. I feel the jab of envy burn inside as she shoots up.

“Are you really going to do this with Phil?” She asks me.

“Yes.”

“I don’t trust him.”

“You don’t like him,” I say and Maz clears everything away and rinses her spoon under the tap. I watch as the last evidence of her drugs go with it, like watching food being washed away and starving enough to taste it.

Maz sits on the edge of the bath and takes the shampoo bottle from my hand. I don’t say anything as she washes my hair. In a way I like it. It feels calming as her nails scrape along my scalp. “There’s other ways of making money.”

“Not fast like this. I’ll have £500 in my pocket tonight. Where else can I make that?”

“Lorraine,” she says. “She just has two guys on her books, they make a fortune.”

Lorraine. Maz’s ‘friend’ as she calls her, a woman that runs an escort agency. Maz works for her, or she did until she got pregnant. Not much call for an overly pregnant woman to spend some quality paid for time with.

I tell her I’ll think about it then I finish off my bath and get out and dress ready for Phil.

“It’ll be fine,” I tell Maz as she stares at me. “It’s just some easy money.”

Alley Kid Six

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I can see Froggy in the distance, stood waiting for me where we agreed. He leans against the wall, cigarette in his mouth, as he watches the world like he has no cares. I wish I was like that. I wish I could just stand and watch and not feel anything.

The dull heaviness I feel inside is a constant battle. Life seems like one long sigh and getting to tomorrow feels impossible. I wish there was a way to induce the simplicity that some people seem to have. That zest for life, like they can’t wait for a new day, yet I wonder why they don’t see the truth like I do. Why are they happy? I don’t really understand it let alone know how to feel it.

Maybe they are fortunate enough to experience the highs without medicated help, or perhaps, they take the health service’s offer of wonderful happy pills. Perhaps that’s it; prescribed happiness.

I drop the piece of metal from my father’s garage over a wall, and into someone’s front garden. The evidence of my shame is discarded and hidden behind the picket fence of someone else’s happy life. I push everything aside the same way I pull the sleeve of my coat down over my physical self-inflicted wound. I pull the inside sleeve down as well and cover everything with a smile.

I hold up my twenty pound note and nod at Froggy to show him my victory. He smiles back as I pocket it again and offers me a cigarette.

We walk back to my place and Froggy tells me about the phet he just scored. It’s like music to my insides that I can’t quite hear, but the desperation of it has me straining my ears until, not only can I hear the words, but I can feel them, too.

“Do you want some?” He asks me.
Every part of me screams yes. Yes, I want some but, I can’t even bring myself to turn him down. I can’t make the words come out. I force my head to shake from side to side and that’s about all I can manage. Pathetic, but it’s one of the hardest things I ever had to communicate to anyone.

“I can’t afford it,” I say.

“You’ve got that twenty,” he says, and nods in the direction of my pocket.

I’m grasping for breath on the edge of what’s right and what I want to do. Colin isn’t my child. Why should I care? Why is it my problem to feed him? I want to reach into my own mind and break up the war that reigns within. I can’t make either side shut up. I want what Froggy offers. I want it so bad; perhaps even more than I want to be able to live in happiness. Its right here being offered right in front of me and all I have to do is say yes. Just three letters and its mine, but I can’t. I can’t do it. My guilt worms its way through me. Torturing me.

“What’ll I tell Joanne and Maz?” I ask him.

I’m not really asking, I’m just saying my thoughts out loud. I can see their faces. Maz’s in particular with the look of disappointment on her face when I tell her.

“F**k ‘em,” he says. “They don’t have to know. Tell you what. Split that twenty with me and I’ll sub you the phet. Some for Joanne too, then she won’t moan about it.”

It’s possible. My mind gets excited at the thought of it.

Yes, yes. I can. I tell Froggy okay. I’m getting the television tomorrow. Easy money. I can pay him back then.

I smoke a cigarette and drink a coffee while I wait for Froggy to cut the phet. He does it with heroin, not glucose, but I don’t care. He can cut it with mud and I’d still want it. My mind can’t say no now, not now that it has a way. That would be worse than anything.

It takes everything I have not to snap Froggy’s hand off as he offers me the wraps for Joanne and I. I give him the twenty to change.

“I’m just going over the road to buy cigs, you want some?”

I nod and he leaves.

I light another cigarette and grab the envelope of needles from my bathroom. I sit with my back against the door in my bedroom and roll my sleeve up. I stop and look at the wound on my arm. I guess it’s my own fault. Its scabbed over, but the blood that was there is dry and smeared along my arm. I look at it and remember the disgust at myself, hours before. I pick at it, reciting each word my father said, in my mind; one at a time, spitting them with my thoughts as I pick and make it bleed once again.
Failure. That’s what it amounts to. That’s what I am and always will be. I prove it each time.

I grind my teeth. My breathing is harsh as I look at the phet and my needles.
I am nothing. I know this. I am useless and worthless. I can’t even put a child’s needs before my own. No better than my own father, I am sure.

I get the cigarette from my mouth and the urge to run the hot end along my skin is almost too great. I could take the phet and do it wrong. If there’s air in a syringe, won’t it cause a heart attack? I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere. I wonder if it’s fast; If it hurts. Do I even deserve such merciless things as time and pain free?

I’d be gone in an hour. That’s it. Sixty minutes and it would all be over. No one would know.

But I can’t. I think about Will alone without me. What would he do? Would he end up like Colin? Or like me even. I can’t do anything. I can’t leave.

I cry at the unfairness of it. I want to hold it in but tears of frustration roll down my face and I clutch my head to try and make them go away.

I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to exist. I wish someone would just kill me and get it over with. I curl up in the corner. The pain in my head bangs with my heartbeat. I wish it would all just go away.

I close my eyes, pick up the needle, and plunge it into my arm. I don’t care. I don’t pull it out when the contents are gone. What’s the point? I open my eyes and stare at it. This is me. All I have to offer. Colin needs better than me. Will needs better. I spent their food money on my hit, again.

As each thought of pitiful self-hatred begins to fall away, the euphoric release of adrenaline rises up my spine and I can breathe again.

I stand. The person I was, moments before, is gone; nothing but a laughable memory as I clean everything away before leaving the house to acquire food for Colin.

Once again, I am happy.

Alley Kid Five

I walk away. I don’t have an argument. She’s right. There isn’t anything I can say. I’m a mess, they’re a mess. Everything is a mess and I’m sliding down a slope with no clue how to stop or how to get off before I crash at the bottom.

Joanne answers the door. It is Froggy and I’m relieved.

“What are you going to do?” Maz asks. “Colin needs feeding, if anything.”

I shrug. I don’t have any answers.

“It’s just until tomorrow night,” I say. When Phil and I get the television. I don’t tell Maz that part, but I can anticipate her reaction and lecture.

“You can’t all last until tomorrow with nothing to eat.”

“You can ask your dad,” Joanne says. “He’ll lend you twenty quid if you ask him.”

I know he will. If I ask, he’ll do it. It’s about the only thing he does do for me. Course, I’ll pay for it one way or another and not just in handing him the cash back over. I dread the thought of it. The look in his eyes as I confirm I am nothing, like he has told me all my life.

“He’ll probably say no,” I say in a vain hope that they will believe there isn’t a point.

“He won’t,” says Maz. “Tell him it’s for the electric or some crap like that.”

I have a million answers why I don’t want to ask. Each one of them formed over years, yet I know none of my friends will understand. Each ‘yes, but’ will be rebuked with one of their own. I keep my thoughts to myself as I nod and agree to ask him.

Maz takes Colin with her and Mikey, Joanne goes too. Froggy and I walk along the promenade and I don’t really think about going to my father as we talk about nothing and everything. Froggy wanders off in his own direction a few blocks before I reach my father’s work place. It doesn’t take long to get there, but I feel the heaviness inside as I get to the entrance of the alley way where he works.

I hear his music as I get to the door. I walk through the first small garage to the part my father works in. The scent car filler, like antiseptic hits my nose. My father is working. Blue and white sparks fly and crackle around him like electricity, as he welds.

I wait. I know better than to interrupt him or talk until he has finished and I have permission.

He turns and nods at me, but doesn’t say anything. My illogical fear begins to eat away inside as I stand there.

“How much?” He asks.

“How do you know I want to borrow money?”

“That’s all you ever want,” he says to me. “Same as when you were a child.”

“I never asked for money.”

“No, but you always wanted something.”

I sigh. “It doesn’t matter,” I tell him and turn to leave, but he tells me to stop. He reaches into the top pocket of his overalls and pulls out a wad of notes. “Twenty enough?”

I nod.

“I’ll add that to the bill.”

“Bill?”

“Raising a child doesn’t come cheap you know. Ten grand I shelled out to raise you. Someone’s got to pay me back. “

I don’t have words. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. He has never thought I was worth something in his life; just an object to use and throw away time and again. I wonder if he classed his abuse as a complimentary service.

I take the note from his hand and thank him.

“No one you could f**k to get this?” he asks. “Probably could have made more than twenty. Isn’t that how you always do everything? Course, when you were younger you were a nice little boy,” he says, and winks at me.

I feel my face flush with shame; it burns hot under my skin and through my cheeks. It clouds my vision to the point that the real world feels hazy. I don’t even know what to say. I want to hide. I want it to go away. I’m sorry for those things I did. I know they were my fault. I would take them back if I could.

I don’t say anything to my father. I just nod and leave. He doesn’t say anything to me either. On my way out, I grab a piece of discarded metal off his sheet cutter and take it with me. I don’t plan to do it. I can’t help it; what I feel inside has nowhere to go. No tears. No shouting. No target.

I put the metal against my skin. I stomp my feet hard on the pavement as I walk. Both forces equalling each other. I dig in with the jagged edge. Dig in deep and make it all go away with the welcome burn as my flesh splits open.

 

Alley Kid Part Four

The days crawl by; each breath I take feels laboured. Each minute is unbearable. The thought of another twenty four hours like this one, has me chomping at the bit in desperation to make it go faster. I’m not sure how I’m going to last. I take a breath and let it out slow; something to calm me, but it does little except to give me something to do for a couple of seconds.

There isn’t any food in the house.  My stomach growls. Even that cannot wait until the next day. But that’s just a false promise. Food will not be the first thing I reach for.

Cigarettes are about all I have and those are on a limited supply; each one like a check point for another hour passing, signalling that it’s time to smoke my next one.

I’m thankful I don’t have Will. A slight lie to his mother and grandmother that he wanted to stay over and well, we just didn’t have time to make any breakfast, he wanted to get there so fast. At least he can have food and more warmth than I can offer him here; my failings, once more, as his father.  Course, he’s so easy to agree to those things. I know how his little mind works. It’s simple and limited. Special, I tell him.  Some days, I hate that he has special needs. I curse myself for my part in the fact that he isn’t like other children his age. Other times, his mind is so unique, I love him just the way he is.

I wonder what that says about me as a person. Wishing that my son was normal. Shouldn’t I be happy that he’s alive and that I have him? I wonder if all parents of children with special needs think this way. Maybe it’s one of those things that are unsaid.

Colin, on the other hand, doesn’t have a choice. There isn’t anyone I can fob him off to and get his belly filled. He hasn’t complained yet, but it doesn’t stop me feeling bad about it.

I have no money to turn on the gas meter, nothing to fill the fridge. My last meal was a bowl of frozen peas that I couldn’t afford to cook on the stove. I used boiled water from the kettle. All I had was pepper to flavour them. The boys had eaten of course. Some fish fingers and oven chips I had used up on them with the last of the bread we had. At least they had gone to bed with somewhat full stomach.

It feels like a never ending cycle.

I envy people who can feed their kids and take them out and give them treats. They have no idea how lucky they are.

Neither Colin nor I have eaten since last night. My stomach growls its aggravation at the situation. Colin is sat on the chair watching cartoons. I try not to feel guilty. I tell myself he isn’t my responsibility, but I can’t help it.

Joanne comes home. I’m not sure where she has been and I don’t ask. I don’t care so much. A friend of mine is with her. Maz and her son Mikey. More like a sister than a friend; Maria is her real name, but a long affair with Temazepam earned her the nickname.

She sits next to me and puts her arm around me. Joanne never bothers when we do this. I often wonder if she cares as little as I do. Sometimes it feels like Maz is the only one who understands. She doesn’t have to say a thing. It’s unspoken in a way. I lie here and feel calm.

I playfully poke her rounded belly and tell the baby to move up because it’s in the way and I need to lie down. Maz laughs and jabs me in the arm.

She knows I’m kidding.

Mikey sits with Colin and they get out my old games console. Mikey isn’t much older than Colin, perhaps just a few months. They sit and chat like they have known each other forever and Colin resembles the child he’s supposed to be. Mikey turns and smiles up at me.

“We’re going to the cinema later,” he tells me, and I can hear the unasked question in his voice.

Its Maz’s day to visit with Mikey. Four days a month she gets him. He’s in the system. His foster parents are great and she has that to be thankful for. They seem to care about Mikey and his mother reuniting eventually. Of course, she has to give up the heroin for that to happen. She’s trying, but it’s a cycle that’s hard to break. Tomorrow will be the usual. The sorrow in her eyes as she leaves him  with a family that’s better for him. People that can offer more than she ever can. Just as I know with Will, she knows with Mikey There are people far better equipped to take care of our children than us.

Maybe I’m selfish that I don’t let him go but, his mother can’t take him fulltime. She can’t cope with how he is. She wants him to be normal as much as I do, but for her, a cheap bottle of cider seems easier to deal with than a son with Aspergers.

Maz has already decided that she’s going to have the baby at home. As soon as it comes into the world the authorities will have it, then what does she have to live for?

“Do you want to come with us?” Maz asks me and Colin’s eyes light up for a fraction of a second with hope until reality sets in.

I don’t have to say anything. He gives a sigh and, like me, knows that we can’t.

I shake my head at Max. “I don’t have the money.”

“You’ve necked it all?” She asks me.

“I haven’t had any phet for days.”

. She sits up and forces me to sit up myself. She’s mad at me. I can feel her mood change like the snapping of a band.

“Have you eaten today?”

I don’t answer her and Joanne doesn’t say anything.

“God  damnit James,” she says and gets off the sofa. “You’ve got no food, no money. What about Will and Colin?”

“Will is at his mothers,” I tell her, but I can hear how pathetic I sound.

Someone bangs on the front door and I jump at it. So many visitors and each one  makes me anxious.

“It’ll be Froggy,” Maz says.

Her boyfriend. His real name’s Pete. Tall and lanky with long black hair. I’m not sure why we call him Froggy, but we do.

“It might be the police,” I say. “They’ve been here three times this week looking for Mark.”

“What are you doing James? You’re going to wind up losing these boys.”