I was feeling really low the morning I found out. I looked into my fag packet to see if I missed a bit of weed from last night. Jack sat down on the bench, next to me.
“Alright mate.” He passed me a fag, “you look like shit.”
“Where’s Craig?” He said.
“Sold his phone.”
“Do you fancy a pint?”
“Only if you’re buying,” I said. ”I’m skint.”
“Well, Mum’s buying. Borrowed some money from the tin.”
The Duke was Stanhope Estates old pair of slippers, everyone loved it. You could go on your own and know there’d be someone to talk to, even if it was only the local homeless guy, Cow Boy Bill. I’d killed a few afternoons with that old bastard. The pub had everything you could need on a night out, pool table, Juke Box and a dealer in the toilet.
“You speak to Stace?” Jack said.
“All true mate.” Chewing gum stuck me and the 1970s carpet together.
“God, what you gunna do?”
“Get a job,” I said.
“Get a job! What with your qualifications?”
“Ste’s mum said she will get me in at the factory.”
“I gotta get something, can’t pay for a kid on Jobseekers.”
“Woah mate. Before you start dishing out money to that slag, check the kids yours.”
The barmaid ignored Jack tapping his tenner on the bar, she was texting. It was alright though because the more time she took the longer we could stare at her tits. They were begging to get out. She flicked her eyes behind her black rooted, blonde hair. “Yeah?” She said, chewing gum with her mouth open. She looked fierce, her eyes were too close together.
“You new?” Jack asked.
“Fosters please, what you having Dan?”
“Same.” The new barmaid bent over to get two glasses. She had on those denim leggings which made girls arses look tip top. I turned to Jack who was ripping up a beer mat. “She promised it mine.”
“Come on mate, she’s had half of Banbury and the other half are women.”
“She’s had some of those too.”
“Exactly, get the test.” Jack said. “Cheers love. There you go.”
“Cheers. Baby or no baby, I got to get a job.”
“Can’t drink beer in the afternoon when you’ve a job mate.”
“Dads on my case, wants me to pay rent or move out.”
When I first told Dad about the baby he actually looked happy about it. He smiled like he had a coat hanger in his mouth. “Why are you smiling?” I said.
“You can get out of my hair now.”
“If you mean I can get a flat, I can’t.”
“You can, Sue’s boy got a right nice flat behind the chippy.”
“Yeah but me and Stace aren’t together. Can’t stand the girl.”
“Why’d you shag ‘er then?”
She had bleached blonde hair and blue eyes. She was a little too orange from fake tan but I dealt with it, we did it in the dark. Skinny waist and a pair of double D’s. It was only a onetime thing. A drunken fumble at Darren’s twentieth birthday. I didn’t want to stay with her for a whole list of reasons. One being that I knew what pregnancy would do to her body. I didn’t want to get stuck with someone like Craig’s Mrs. She used to be a babe. Now she was left with corned beef thighs and scribbles all over her belly. I don’t think she knew there had been a change though. She still squeezed her muffin top into tiny jeans. No way was I going to get lumbered with that.
Every Thursday I went to my mother’s for Book Club. We would drink tea from china cups and discuss the hidden meanings in Romeo and Juliette and other classics. It was only a small book club. Jill, Pam, Sue and Leah as well as mum and I. We started it when my father died. Mother used to get lonely, that was why I moved back to town. Prior to my father’s death I worked in the City. Since his death my mother had aged dramatically and when she became unwell, I had no choice but to move back.
At the Book Club that day we were discussing the separation of the social classes in Victorian society and how it was presented in the literature of the time. Everyone presented some interesting theories about whether a class system exists today. The sessions were usually only two hours, however we often over ran into the early hours of evening. I noticed my mother looking tired so I made sure that we finished on time, I didn’t like her to exhaust herself.
I prepared a light tea for the two of us while my mother sat at the dining table reading the novel we were set to discuss the in the following weeks.
“It’s really good you know,” she said. I laid her tea out in front of her.
“No, the Book Club. I manage to forget about your father for a whole afternoon and all it costs me is a pack of biscuits and the loan of my good china.” I remained silent. “You know what worries me though Grace, what happens when I can’t do it anymore.”
“You will always be able to do it, I help don’t I?”
“I know, that’s not what I mean Grace. I mean what happens when I’m too weak or the chemo has made me sick. What then?”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“What will I do, lay in bed and think of your father? Drive myself sicker with grief?”
“You know I’m here.” After dinner I cleared up and changed her bed linen.
“Are you comfortable?” I said and patted her cushions. “Did you want another pillow?”
“No dear, you’ve done more than enough, go home now.”
“I’ll just make you a sandwich encase you get peckish later on.”
“You don’t want to be fussing around an old lady in the evenings. Have you not got any friends to be seeing?”
“Are you sure you will be okay.”
“Go home Grace.”
I took the short cut through Stanhope Estate with my doors locked, I had heard stories. I didn’t see him cross, my eyes were glazed over with tiredness.
One beer turned into one too many. I knew I’d get it in the neck from my dad. “Spending rent money on getting pissed. Blah, blah, blah.” I’d heard that speech so many times and still, it didn’t stop me. I knew I’d be out on my arse before long anyway. He gave me until I was 21 and I was getting close.
I’d been having a great time at the pub with Jack until Stacy’s hooker heeled mates came in. “Dan, you know it’s true right.” The tall one with the hook nose said.
“I know.” I said and tried to carry on my conversation with Jack.
“What you doing in ‘ere then?” Said another one, I ignored them.
“Shouldn’t you be spending money on nappies or somethin’?”
“Yeah Dan, you need to get your act together,” said Hook Nose. “No one fucks and chucks our girl.” I left when they started talking about what shits men are. Jack said he was staying out because he had seen someone who owed him money. Fine, I wanted to go home.
I was stumbling over to my street talking to myself. I had my beer coat on so it didn’t really hurt when the car hit me. I threw up then it all went black. I’m not sure how long I was out for but when I woke up there was a lady crouching down next to me, wiping a hanky on my head.
“Oh thank heavens!” She said. She was pretty. That’s how I knew she came from off the Estate. She had light blonde hair to her shoulders and it was tucked behind one ear. She bent over me I could see down her shirt. I reckoned she was a B cup.
“We need to get you to hospital, should I ring an ambulance?” She started dialling on her mobile.
“No.” I put my hand on her phone to stop her and she snatched it away. “I don’t need an ambulance.”
“You need stitches, you’re bleeding. Do you have any one to take you to hospital?”
“Just dad but he won’t.” She paused and took a deep breath.
“I’ll take you.” She put out her hand to help me up. I was still dizzy from the beer. She sat me in the passenger’s seat and even did up my belt. I could have done it myself but I liked the feel of her long fingers around my waist. She didn’t talk much and sat rigid on her chair. I kept seeing her look at me out the corner of her eye.
“I’m not going to rob you,” I said.
“Keep the pressure on your head, I do not want blood on my seats.”
“Nice car this. Audi is it?”
“TT is it?”
“So you not from Stanhope, no hope?”
“Jeeze. Not much of a conversationalist are you Darlin’.” She stiffened her arms on the steering wheel. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be rude.”
“I’m still in shock from running you over,” she said, finally.
“You only scratched me, I’ve had worse.”
“Yeah, I had three guys on me once, kicked the shit out of me. What you did was nothing.”
“Do you want to call your mother?”
“Don’t have one.” She had nothing to say to that. I liked it when she spoke, she had a soft voice. “Well I’ve got one, somewhere. She had it off with Mr Sykes from the laundrette. They’ve done one up North.”
When I first hit him I thought that maybe it was one of those tricks to get you out the car and then a whole gang of them rob you. I’d seen it on the News. So I stayed in the car for a few minutes until I started to panic that maybe I had killed him. He was bleeding from the head, unconscious. He woke up when I applied pressure to his head wound. The devil was on his breath, as my mum would say.
He was a young man, about twenty. He was sporting a little bit of stubble, he had panther black hair and thick dark eye lashes to match. I had heard about people from Stanhope, most of them jobless, living off taxes. I guessed this applied to him because he was drunk on a Thursday.
“What’s your name anyway?” He said
“I’m Dan. Danny. Daniel, whatever.”
“I like Daniel.”
“Well I’m Daniel then.”
“Tell me if you feel dizzy or sick again.”
“Yes boss.” He scared me at first. His voice was too loud, too common. I winced every time he dropped a T. “So where is it you’re from?” He saw me hesitate. “I’m not going to come round and steal your pearls.”
“I live in Great Chart.”
“Well I guess you know where I’m from.”
“Born and bred.” He turned in his seat. His stare pierced through me.
“Stop staring at me please,” I said.
“You’re worth staring at.”
“You’re distracting me.”
“With my good looks and charm?”
“No, because you are staring at me. It makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Don’t get to distracted darlin’, wouldn’t want you knocking anybody else down. I can’t be sharing my hanky, or you neither.”
“How much did you have to drink?” I said ignoring his comment. “The doctor will ask you know.”
“You smell like you have had more.”
“Drowning my sorrows.”
“Don’t matter. You want to come in and watch me get stitched?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve got an early start.”
“What do you do anyway, you know for a job?”
“I’m a carer.”
“Not very caring, a hit and run is it?”
“Hit and run? I am taking you to the hospital.”
“I could press charges you know.”
“Are you blackmailing me?”
“Not blackmailing, not in a kill your cat and post it to you kind of way. Just want you to come in.”
“I think you’re big enough, you don’t need me to hold your hand.”
“It would be great though, if you would.” He said. “We could drink coffee, that bin juice stuff.”
“Sounds like my perfect evening,” I said.
“While we are in there we could see about getting that stick removed from your arse.” I looked at him with wide eyes and let out a little gasp.
“I do not have a stick up my arse, thank you very much.”
“You could just do with a good time I reckon. I could be the one to give it to you.”
“Bin juice coffee isn’t really my idea of a great time thanks.”
“Come over to the dark side for the night. I’ll look like I’ve won the lottery with a bird like you on my arm.” I felt bad for him, he appeared desperate not to be alone.
“Okay,” I said. “I will come in, only because it is my fault you here. And only on one condition.”
“Name your terms.”
“You don’t call me Bird.”
“Deal.” We pulled up outside the hospital. I caught a glimpse of my tired reflection in the rear view mirror, suitcases hung under my eyes and my hair needed a comb through.
“You get out,” I said. “I’ll see you inside.” I thought it would buy me some time to apply a little make up, not so much that he would notice just cover up the bags. I didn’t want him thinking that I was making an effort for him, of course I wasn’t.