Day 2 of my five day challenge courtesy of Scillagrace. A short story this time. I’m afraid it’s another one that’s emerged from my dark imagination – sorry mum! To be honest, I’ve no idea where this came from, I’ve never taken drugs or even smoked. I did a bit of research to check for accuracy, but if I’ve misunderstood any of the details please forgive me.
Once again, I’ve arrived home to find my one and only child in a drug induced sleep. I know its drug induced, the empty syringe is on the coffee table, next to the brown stained coffee cup with its dregs of dark, almost black brew. The tv is on, some reality programme or other, prattling away in the corner. Giggling to itself while my daughter shoots up.
I found out about her habit about seven months ago. One of her friends had practically carried her home to tell me that Jade had ‘taken something’. I took her in and sat by her side all night afraid she might go deeper and not return from that unnatural sleep. But she did, and in the morning I made her drink the strong coffee she is now so fond of, and we had ‘a talk’.
‘Have you gone completely mad? You’ll kill yourself taking this stuff.’
‘Oh for goodness sake mum, it’s only the odd tablet, it’s not like I’m a druggy or anything.’
She said she was sorry, she wouldn’t do it again. She said the words loudly and clearly, but she didn’t mean them. The following week, I found a plastic packet of coloured pills in her room.
I’d never taken drugs. Never smoked, had always been afraid of the consequences. But Jade hadn’t seemed to have had consequences. After that morning, she was bright as a button. And chirpy. So chirpy and happy it made me almost glad that she’d taken something. Recently she had been miserable and difficult. But apparently now she had met a boy.
‘He’s gorgeous mum, really cool.’ Cool was her favourite word, she used it to describe anything she’d taken a fancy to from a new dress, to chocolate ice cream, and apparently, good looks.
When he turned up at the door, I couldn’t quite see the attraction though. OK, he had a nice head of dyed blond hair, but he was scrawny and his eyes were dull, and when he politely shook my hand, his skin felt damp and cold.
‘lo missus Payne’ he drawled, bearing his less than white, less than even teeth.
It’s fair to say I took a dislike to him. The thought of him and my little Jade in any sort of embrace made me feel nauseous. But nonetheless I drew him into the house, and welcomed him as Jade’s friend, like all good mothers would.
It was him, that Darren, that had introduced my baby to his dirty, smoky world.
It was a couple of days after that first meeting that on opening our front door, I was whisked back in time to my uni days. The pungent smell of what my mother always referred to as ‘wacky backy’, was thick in the house. The two of them were sitting wrapped around each other on the sofa ostensibly watching Pointless. Darren held a still smoking spliff between his first finger and thumb and acknowledged me with an almost imperceptible wave of it.
‘hi mum’ Jade slurred and gurned a sloppy grin towards me.
‘For god’s sake, what do you think you’re doing’ I’d had a hard old day at the office, and didn’t have the energy to ask in anything other than a resigned voice.
‘blimey missus Payne, you’se lookin’ right frazzled, you should have a pull’ and he thrust the damp papered roll-up towards me.
For some reason my eyes started welling with tears. Recently work had been getting me down. There was what HR referred to as a ‘personality clash’ between me and the new manager, and I had been working all the hours god sends to try to meet her ridiculously over-optimistic deadlines.
And all the while, I’d been worrying about Jade. The arguments with her had escalated and she wasn’t eating properly. I knew she hadn’t been turning up at school. Her GCSE’s were fast approaching and she needed to get herself clean and sorted out. Anything I said was ineffectual and usually only led to the slamming of doors and that sickly smell.
I felt alone and lonely.
And here she was, out of it again, with this boy, Darren, offering me a way, albeit brief, of escaping from the black tunnel of my life.
I took it from him, and took a deep drag like I’d seen them do. I coughed and spluttered, felt like I was going to choke.
Then I laughed. A big full throttle laugh. Darren and Jade were sitting up, grinning at me, while I laughed, and laughed. All the tension, all the hate and misery, was released with that laugh.
Another drag, and a warm glow came over me, the sort I hadn’t felt in years. I plonked myself down on the armchair and just sat. Sat and watched them wrapped together. His hand was propping up his heavy head and squishing his face in a babylike way. A swatch of hair had fallen over his left eye and I had the urge to get up and gently move it away. Suddenly I wanted to kiss him, this boy, this boyfriend of my daughter’s. I imagined a dry, soft, lingering lip kiss. My addled mind started playing erotic games.
Jade had nodded off. Her thick black mascara was smudged over her face from her tears of laughter. Her dyed black hair looked matted and dry and nothing like the ‘ginger biscuit’ curls I remember her having as a child.
She was a pretty baby. Not beautiful, pretty. Quite petite, scrawny even, but with huge green eyes, which a nurse once told me she needed to ‘grow into’. And as she got older and her face grew more character, I began to understand what that nurse had meant. Before all this, before the drugs, she had been what might have been termed ‘interesting’ to look at. She still had those green eyes, but her full lips and wide nose balanced them out. At five foot five, she looked heavier than she should for her weight, but not really fat, more ‘big boned’.
It was her father’s build. He was a huge man. Shiny smooth skin, black as a moonless night, and big hands that held me in their clutch for just a few short nights. I’d lost him before I even knew I was pregnant. I’ve been on my own ever since.
I’ve not really needed anyone. I had a good job that fitted around school ok, and Jade and I were always a bit of a two-man team. She was always able to bolster me up whenever I might feel in need of solace. I had one or two ‘friends’ but nothing that came to much. I was always too busy, too involved in Jade and her life.
Now, here I was, taking a full leap into her life. Her seedy downtrodden life, that I have so spurned and railed against.
I was still staring at them when the boy turned and winked at me. It was a full-on ‘I know what you’re thinking’ wink that jolted me out of the smokey stupor I had fallen into.
‘tea?’ my legs wobbled slightly as I stood up.
‘ta! Oi, Jay, want tea?’ he shook her shoulder ‘she’ll ‘ave coffee’
In the kitchen, I ran cold water on my wrists, a trick my mother had taught me for when I wanted to freshen up quickly.
‘on your pulse, it cools the blood then, see’ she said holding my nine year old arms under the garden tap. It had been a hot day and I’d fainted. Out cold. She’d not been worried, she’d said
‘runs in the family does swooning. Your nan used to do it all the time. And me, on the tube. So embarrassing. Mind you, gets you a seat’ and she tittered to herself all unconcerned. The water had worked and I’d felt fine in no time, and ever since I had headed for a tap, wrists bared, whenever I was feeling hot, or overcome for any reason.
I dried myself on a grubby tea towel and filled the kettle. I felt quite good. Relaxed. My stomach gave a gurgle to remind me I hadn’t eaten. Thinking it must be time for dinner, I noticed the clock and was stupefied to find out it was past 10:30. Where had the evening gone? Had I slept? Did the other’s realise the time?
Jade was sitting up, pulling her hair back into a loose bun when I took the tea into the living room.
‘Mum, I can’t believe you actually took a pull! After all that nagging and yelling. Bet you feel better now’
I ignored her smug remark
‘Do you know its half past ten? Do you want something to eat?
‘We’re all right. We’re off now. Going to Spangles, could do with a bit of a boogie’ she said wiggling her hips towards Darren, and grinning.
Minutes later they were gone and I was sitting down alone to a flimsy, hastily defrosted, pizza. I nodded off in front of the tv, before deciding to go to bed at around midnight. Jade wasn’t back, and I didn’t really expect her any time soon. She often didn’t get home until the early hours after she’d been to the local nightclub. Spangles shut at two, so I wasn’t quite sure where she went to afterwards, but I guessed it was somewhere pretty unsavoury, and I worried about her. She always said she was with friends. That they were all ‘lovely’ and ‘you’d like them’. But I knew that in her drugged state she couldn’t discriminate between depravity and normality.
I lay awake for some time, tossing and turning, thinking dark thoughts. At around 3:00 I got up and got a tumbler of water and sat in bed sipping and looking at the clock. I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I felt the need to go into her room, touch her things, feel the presence of my little girl.
Her room was next door to mine, and I didn’t turn the hall light on. I knew the way to her bedside instinctively, from all those years of soothing her ever present night terrors. I sat on the side of her bed, just as if she was there, and switched the bed side light on.
The room smelt strongly of incense, and there was a streak of ash from a recently burnt stick on the bedside table. Her room was still girly though, and there were still her old much loved toys on the shelf. Her Barbie dressed in her airhostess outfit, but with crayon-pinked wayward hair, and Gurgle her toy frog that used to go everywhere with her, both looking down disapprovingly from the shelf.
I was crying. I needed to hold someone. I was so alone and needed someone, anyone. I reached up for Gurgle. The soft bright green toy was grubby and the bow around his neck skewed, but I hugged him close to smell the residue of childhood on him.
But he wasn’t as soft as I was expecting. As I hugged him I felt his tummy had a hard patch. I put him under the light and could see that there was a gap in his stitching. I stuck my finger in and sure enough could feel a small package inside. I hardly needed to bother to withdraw it I could tell from the feel that it was more pills. Tipping them into my hand I could see there were about 10 of them, all different colours and sizes with letters imprinted on them.
I sat staring at them. They felt heavy in my hand, as if they were making a permanent mark. I guess I wasn’t entirely surprised, or even shocked. Sighing, I poured them back into the little plastic bag, but doing so managed to drop one on the floor. I picked it up. It was baby blue and had ‘SKY’ imprinted on it. It looked nothing more than a sweet, but despite knowing exactly what it was, I popped it into my mouth. If she could escape to ecstasy then so could I.
I gently placed Gurgle back in his usual position, turned off the light and went back to my own room. It seemed bigger than usual, and I twirled around to experience the space. The air itself seemed golden and I held my hands out to catch it. I longed to touch it, feel its constituents. I knew I was smiling, the spinning turned into swaying and I found myself humming. The sound I produced was wonderful. It filled my body, echoing through my very veins. I could see the walls of the room pulsing in time to my rhythm. I was enchanted by this new feeling, calm and peaceful in this lyrical world.
At some point I must have lay down as I woke late the next morning lying across the bed, holding the duvet haphazardly across me. I felt good. No headachy hangover like I do when I overindulge in wine, no nausea as when I comfort eat a whole tub of ice cream.
That was a while ago. I have stolen from Jade ever since. She steals my money, I steal her drugs. I don’t think she is even aware some go missing. Or that I sometimes leave extra money in my purse especially for her to steal. It won’t be going on much longer though, the money won’t be there. I lost my job today.
My work has suffered apparently. I have been in a bit late a few times, and had a few days off here and there I guess but is that really any reason to turn on me? That pig of a woman actually accused me of ‘letting myself go’?
‘It’s a matter of personal hygiene’ she’s said sniffily ‘Please understand, it’s just that we’re worried about you’ Frankly, I couldn’t even be bothered to respond, so she just carried on ‘Worried about your health, your so…so unkempt these days’ Then she smiled, that tight, thin-lipped, condescending smile of hers.
Well, they could stuff their job. Frankly, I don’t care about their bourgeois opinions. They can keep their small dark corner of the world.
So I come in and find Jade on the sofa. She is unkempt and unwashed. The flat is unkempt and uncleaned. I no longer care. I go to my room and twirl.