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Forever On The Streets - Chapter Two
I sliced through the icy air as I ran. I didn’t know where I was going – but then I didn’t care. I was getting away from that care home, that’s all that mattered to me. I turned a corner, went across a road, down a slope, round another corner, across a field, up another slope, and into a bus shelter. That’s where I spent the night. It was cold, even in my sleeping bag, but it was better than over at the care home. As morning came and went, I imagined Robinson waking up and seeing my bed empty and telling everyone I was missing, and then imagined her and her gang going to their secret stash and finding it empty. I laughed aloud as I thought of the look of mingled shock, dismay and anger upon their faces. A woman passing by gave me the dirtiest of looks before quickly trotting off on her way. This just made me laugh harder.
I packed my things up and headed out onto the streets. First thing’s first: I needed to find out where I was – if where I was, was a place I knew fairly well from my past experience on the streets with my parents, I would be able to find the best shelters to sleep in easily. I saw a sign on the other side of the road. As I crossed, a police car came screaming past. I got ready to run, only to find it wasn’t after me - it didn’t stop. It just kept on going, as sighed with relief. I was so not going back to that dump of a care home, nor was I going to be captured by any police like my mom and dad. I was going to be safer, slyer, and swifter. Mark my words.
I looked at the sign. Tilly had taught me to read, but I still got stuck on words. Hmm. D...E...L...A...W...A...R...E. Del-awar-eh? Del... del... Hang on – Delaware! I was in Delaware City. I remembered some of the films Tilly and I had watched based in cities like Delaware. It seemed perfect. There was one film about a guy who had been really poor, went to a huge city and became a very wealthy and successful man. Delaware was a huge city; I was going to be like that man in the movie…well…at least I thought I was…
I walked past the towering buildings, intimidating me but also leaving me in breathless awe at the size of them. It was amazing for me…at first…and I loved it. I watched as people laughed and joked. I watched as the shops were filled to the rim with shoppers. I watched as the train strolled to a halt at the station, and tourists and Londoners who had been on holiday rushed out. I watched as the shabby looking guy appeared from behind a dustbin. I went over to him.
“What ya want?” he grunted at me with a strange accent that I could hardly understand. He began to rummage through the bin bags.
“Well…I was wondering if you were hungry…” I began.
“Well duh ’cause I am!” he snapped. “Why d’ya fink I’m lookin’ through trash y’ stupid mare!” I was taken aback by his attitude but quickly recovered and shot one back at him.
“Well I grew up on the streets so I know what it’s like. And I was gonna help you out – I’ve got some candy, and other stuff to share – but you can get lost now.” And with that I turned to leave.
“Wait!” he called out to me. I spun on him, eyes blazing.
“What?” I spat with such venom it shocked him.
“Please,” he begged. “I bin on the same ol’ streets for like three years, livin’ on this crap.” He kicked over the bin. “I’m sick of it. I need summit proppa – proppa food. Please.” He was on his filfthy knees now. “Please.”
I eyed him for a couple of minutes as he knelt there, silently pleading me. “Oh all right then.” I sighed. He stood up and kissed me on the cheek. “Y’ an angel” he said. And with that we walked over to a quiet corner of the city.
“M’ name’s Eel by the way,” the guy said as I shared out the sweets on the wall we were perched on.
“Kia,” I returned.
“That your real name?”
“Well y’ can’t exactly use your real name can ya? I mean wha’ if whoever you’ve run away from recognises the name cos someone’s grassed on a Kia? Y’ did run away, di’n’t ya? Anyways, as I was sayin’, ain’t a common one is it, eh? Kia I mean. Try a diff name… say… Lark… or… er…”
“Tink?” I suggested. Eel roared with laughter.
“Ooh yeah!” he sniggered. “Tinkerbell! Ha!” I looked at him blankly. “What? Did y’ never watch Peter Pan when y’ was like five, six?”
“I was on the streets, wasn’t I?”
“Oh yeah… um… well…” There was a long pause.
“Tilly,” I said.
“What?” Eel grunted.
“That’s what I’ll call myself – Tilly.”
“Hey tha’s a goodun, tha’ name… yeah… Tilly… nice… Tilly…”
“So how old are you?” I asked, trying to change the subject about my new name.
“Cool…” he winked at me, causing me to feel a little bit uncomfortable. “Oh my God! Y’ got cigs!” He pointed to a cigarette sticking out of my rucksack. I took it out and gave it him. “Cheers,” he thanked me, taking it. “Y’know, these lil babies are great – y’ hungry an’ can’t get any food? Have a ciggy. Trust me it works.” He put it in his mouth and leaned forward towards me. I understood what I was supposed to do – I’d seen it with Robertson and her gang. I flicked a lighter, and a flame blazed into life. I lit his cigarette, and he nodded me a thanks before puffing away at it. “Y’ wanna share of it?” he asked, offering me it half-smoked. I stared at it for a couple of seconds before taking it, and stared at it a bit more before taking a puff. Smoke filled my lungs and caused me to burst into a little coughing fit. “Y’ gettin’ there,” Eel laughed. “Y’ gettin’ there.”
Me and Eel worked together to survive on the harsh streets of Delaware. It was harder to find food and shelter where we wouldn’t be interrupted because there weren’t any farms to steal crops from, nor any abandoned garden sheds. Nor were there my parents to help me out. I still remember my first night spent on those Delaware streets as if it were yesterday:
We were in a small café, drinking hot chocolate and nibbling the biscuits we got with the drinks. The waitress - a large lady with long, curly brown hair worn down to her shoulders - was forever giving us dirty looks, mostly at Eel with his shabby appearance. She was probably wondering what on earth I was doing with a ‘hobo, dosser, tramp sort of guy’. But Eel was helping me out, and I was helping him out and that was all that mattered to me.
We were in the café for hours, until the waitress kicked us out saying it was time to close down, and then we were out in the cold night. The icy air hit us so harshly as if it was a solid wall. It almost knocked the wind out of me. I looked down at my watch. It was nine o’clock.
“Jus’ need t’ find a doorway,” Eel muttered, whether it was to me or to himself I haven’t a clue but nearly every one we saw was accompanied by a person in the same situation as us. The cold night air was soon blowing droplets of liquid ice into our faces, until the rain just poured down. Before I knew it we were soaked to the skin, and still looking for shelter. But finally we found a shop, where there was a huge sheltered area, with no one there. We hurriedly unrolled our sleeping bags but while Eel clambered into his I didn’t.
“Wassup?” he grunted. “Get in y’ sack before y’ catch a cold.”
“Get out of your sleeping bag.” I said.
“Wha’?” He looked at me as if I was stupid.
“Trust me,” I told him. “Get out of the sleeping bag.” Muttering under his breath, Eel got out of his sleeping bag. I then unzipped the two sleeping bags, taking the bed clothes from the care home out of mine, and placed them on the floor next to one another. Then I straightened out the pillow and gave it to Eel.
“Wha’m’I suppose’ t’ do with this?” he grunted.
“Rest your head on it,” I replied. “Now lie on your sleeping bag.”
He did as he was told. I then straightened the bed clothes out before lying down and throwing them over us.
“Ah…” Eel smiled as he finally realised what I was doing. We curled up together tightly to get warm and finally drifted into a half-pleasant sleep.
We woke to bright lights being shone in our faces. There were three police officers looking at us, obviously trying to rid the streets of any homeless people kipping in the doorways. Their Macs were shiny and dripping with rain, and beneath their hoods I could sense them grinning cruelly at us.
“C’mon you two – move on.”
They watched us as we packed our belongings up and start walking before leaving to find other kippers. We slowed down to a halt and waited until we were absolutely sure they were gone before going back to the shop doorway and setting up for the night again.
We were woken again at about ten to nine by a small fat man gabbling at us angrily about how he doesn’t want “my customers finding a pair of dossers at my shop doorway”. We left as quickly as we could so not to cause any more bother as the man huffed about there being “too many dossers”.
We walked around randomly for about half an hour, roaming the streets as the cool Winter’s air wafted round us. We huddled together, Eel wrapping his shabby coat around the two of us. We then found a busy supermarket and sat outside it, begging. I hated every minute of it. It seemed wrong, asking strangers to give us money. We ended up getting £2.48 after begging for nearly three hours. It was a really disappointing outcome. We could only afford one coffee from the cafe.
“What if I try to get a job?” I finally said as I sipped the warm drink through my straw. Eel spluttered suddenly.
“A job?” he eventually asked, continuing to slurp through his straw.
“Yeah, a job,” I said. “Then maybe we can get a bit more money, and not have to share drinks.”
“ Tilly, this here is Delaware, and we here’s dossers. We ain’t gettin’ no jobs in this city. I’ve tried.”
“Yeah, but maybe –”
“Maybe nothin’. No people like dossers, we’re jus’ scum to them.” He took his straw out of the cup, and leaned back in his seat, chewing it. “We can’t do nothin’ with them with roofs over their heads. No jobs, no nothin’. We just beg, that’s all we can do.” I scowled at him, but I knew he was right. We would have needed a good scrub up if we were to get jobs, but even then, Eel’s ripped and scruffy clothes would have degraded him. We had no choice but to carry on as we were.
“There’s one thin’ we could do, y’know.” Eel said as I finished the last of the coffee. “We could have fastin’ days.
“What?” I asked, puzzled.
“Where y’ fast, y’know, go a day or so where y’ don’ eat. We could save a bit of dosh that way.”
“That sounds good to me,” I smiled. “Then maybe we could have at least one half-decent meal a week.”
“Yeah,” Eel smiled back. “Exactly. Now, let’s go get some kip, eh?”