Tommy salvaged what he could, gently sitting Jerry on top of a bin liner, full of clothes, the only one Margaret had left, after the contents of the shopping trolley had spilled into the street. Jerry quickly curled up and started to close his eyes, he was tired after his ordeal. Tommy sat diligently on the side of the curb, waiting for Marg to return, he didn’t have long to wait, the doors on the back of the ambulance opened and she carefully walked out, guided by one of the Paramedics. She was glad to be in the fresh air, fearing a trip to the Hospital had been inevitable.
The ambulance left and Margaret and Tommy were alone, Marg sitting down next to the young boy. She looked tired and rather despondent, trying to hide her pain from him. He knew there was something on her mind, but didn’t know what, an almost childlike coyness, avoiding the truth. You could see her thinking and rethinking, over and over again, mulling over what to say.
“I’ve been around a long time youngen and yes I grew up next door to Annie, your neighbour. We were really close friends, playing with each other everyday. I suppose you could say we were inseparable; nothing lasts forever as they say,” Margaret explained.
Looking confused, Tommy moved closer. Margaret was quietly spoken, the harsh conditions she had experienced living on the streets had left her a shadow of her former self, her voice had gradually deteriorated over the years; today she hardly spoke a word, especially to people she didn’t know.
“What changed,” asked Tommy eagerly, wanting to hear the rest of her story.
“Annie met a new group of friends. They were a year older than both of us and were not the nicest people in the World youngen. All of a sudden, we had gone from friends living next door, to enemies in the playground. Annie changed; she became distant, angry and worst of all a bully.’ she continued.
“Did she hurt you Lady?” Said Tommy.
“Cuts and bruises heal youngen; the mental scars run deep!” She replied.
Margaret became the victim of bullying often, after suffering as a young girl. Even when she and her Mother moved away from Dockside Mews, she found herself in the same situation, time after time. As she grew up, she hoped the bullying would stop, if anything it got worse. Her traumatic experiences haunted her, following her around, like a great weight upon her shoulders. She just couldn’t shake off the spectre of abuse; even her own Mother couldn’t help her; the memories ran too deep! When her Mum died twenty years ago, Margaret was left alone, unable to cope with the daily rigours of life. Mum had always tried to protect her from these harsh realities; consequently she had very little concept of the real World. In the end, she preferred to walk away.
Tommy sat there, listening earnestly, as Margaret opened her heart. This was the first time she had ever done that, but today was the right time; it’s what she needed to do. He looked sad, but finally understood why she didn’t want to see Annie. Even at her advanced age, the agony of what had happened was still etched on her face. She had forgiven Annie for what transpired in her life, but she just couldn’t forget what had happened in the past.
“Will I see you again Lady; will you keep walking up the road?” asked Tommy, not wanting to lose touch with his new friend.
“I will from time to time, youngen. I wont forget you and who knows one day, I may even knock on Annie’s door; just not today,” she explained.
Tommy nodded his head, lifted his arms and put them securely round Margaret’s neck, hugging her tightly. That was the first time she had received such a gesture of affection, since her Mother had died. She barely knew how to respond, briefly lifting an arm, patting the young lad on the back.
Tommy lifted himself up, standing on tip toe, stroking Jerry, who was now fast asleep, before he went. From his pocket, he took out a crisp five pound note, his Mum had given him for refreshments, handing it to Margaret. “For Jerry Lady!” he said, knowing she wouldn’t take it otherwise. Margaret thanked Tommy, grasping his hand one last time; smiling, she said goodbye. She knew this would be the last time they saw each other, it was time she moved on, uptown away from her old stomping ground. She felt happy to have met the young boy, he had shown her, that not everyone is bad, there are good people out there and bullies are few and far between. After years of running away from the difficulties of the past, she had began a process of healing. At least now she would finally begin to trust people again.
Jerry came bounding across the road, barking loudly, jumping up into Margaret’s arms, licking her face, scratching her coat with his paws. After a few minutes of affection, he jumped on to the pavement, devouring what was left of the dog biscuits, the majority of which were strewn across the busy road. Not wanting Jerry to run further than he should, Margaret called him back, to where she was sitting. Jerry settled eagerly on her lap, burying his head into the lining of her jacket, trying to get comfortable. He was the most important thing in her life; gently a tear spilt from her eye as she squeezed her friend tightly, not wanting to let go. ‘Just you and me against the World Jerry. We’ll live to fight another day,’ she murmured in his ear!
Margaret could see Tommy as he reappeared from the top of Dockside Mews. Lifting her head as high as she could, trying to look through the group of onlookers, she could just make out his waving hands, followed by a thumbs up. Tommy turned his back, this time waving in the opposite direction; finally he turned, facing Margaret once again, running around the corner of Tesco and across the road, still waving as he went. ‘It’s OK, it’s OK, Mrs Marsh is OK,’ he bellowed, shouting louder and louder, as he ran towards her.
At that moment an ambulance turned into the road. The lights were flashing, but there was no sound, as the paramedics parked along side Margaret and her upturned trolley. With a sigh, she looked down, not wanting to make eye contact with the crew, as they alighted the vehicle.
“Hello Marg, how are you?’ Said the driver, as he hopped out of the cab.
“I’m fine thank you, just a bit of bother, you know how it is. A quick spruce up and I’ll be on me way,’ she replied, still looking at the pavement floor. If she caught his eye, he’d know she was worse than she claimed. Margaret was well known in the local area and had been picked up by the emergency services before; all of them knew her by name. Marg kind of liked the attention, especially as she had very little contact with people throughout the day. Fiercely independent, she always refused to go ‘inside,’ as she called it. At her age, she may never get out again; the streets were her domain, it’s all she knew!
“Let me be the judge of that Marg; this is Mary, she’s new on the job today, she’ll clean you up, while I just run a few tests. Lets get you in the back of the ambulance,’ the Paramedic instructed.
Retorting defensively, Margaret argued her corner. As a proud Eastender, it’s what she did best “What about Jerry, I can’t leave him out here on his own. I wont go unless he can sit with me,” she demanded!
Winding his way through the crowd, Tommy reached the back of the Ambulance. "Shift, get out of my way, I need to make sure my friend is OK." he cried pushing his way to where Margaret was perched. "I look after ya dog Lady; just let them check you over; I have some news for ya." he continued.
Marg gingerly moved her head towards Tommy, looking up towards his face. They both smiled at one another, instantly she knew it would be alright. She had no idea who this young boy was, but despite his age, she felt she could trust him. He had looked out for her, not something she was used too. The younger generation of today would have walked on by, but not Tommy!
She picked up Jerry, ever so gently and handed him to the young lad. "You be good, you hear. Hold him tight youngen, he’s a feisty one." she warned.
"OK, OK I will, just do as the Ambulance man wants. Jerry will be safe with me, then we can go and see Annie." Tommy replied, grinning from side to side. Margaret shook her head as she was escorted into the back of the van.
"We’ll see youngen, we’ll see. Don’t move, stand just where you are, so I can see you," Marg said. The doors closed and the group of onlookers began to disperse. Finally just Tommy was left at the side of the road, holding Jerry close, trying to pick up the contents of Margaret’s cart. With Jerry under one arm, he used his other hand to retrieve what he could, piece by piece, placing each item neatly into the back of the trolley; Tommy just wanted to help. Margaret was his new friend and he was hers; it’s what mates do for one another! Both of them felt close, brought together through circumstances: a bond formed through adversity, another story to tell!
Margaret began to regain consciousness. Surrounded by a group of onlookers, she started to blink back to life. A well dressed gentleman, wearing an Italian suit and grey trilby, had removed the trolley from her legs, repositioning her in a more comfortable position. Kneeling down, in front of her, he made sure she was OK, using a handkerchief to wipe her forehead. A young lad, who was part of the growing crowd, pushed his way through, ducking under the man's legs, producing a bottle of still water he had purchased from Tesco Express, over the other side of the road. ‘Here lady, take a drink, you’ll feel better alright!’ he said.
Gradually Marg lifted herself up, sitting cross legged on the side of the road, rubbing her bruised, battered and bleeding legs. “It’s OK, an ambulance will be here in a minute, they’ll take care of you, “ whispered the young boy in her ear. This wasn’t the news, Margaret wanted to hear. The last thing she needed, was a stay in Hospital and all the questions that came with it. Surrounded by people, it would be difficult for her to get away, especially with her legs throbbing. She decided to wait it out, hopefully they would just clean her up and let her go about her business. Looking downwards, the wounds looked rather superficial, nothing she hadn’t dealt with before. Breathing a sigh of relief, she took a gulp from the water bottle, so kindly given to her by her new friend.
“What’s your name youngen?” enquired Margaret, taking another sip of water.
“It’s Tom, Tommy Finch; I was just on my way to the park, to play football with my mates. I wanted to make sure you were OK?” he replied. Tommy had seen Marg walking up and down the road often, living in Dockside Mews, just round the corner from Tesco.
“I’ve seen you before Tommy,’ murmured Marg, “You live down the Mews don’t ya? The same house me and my old Ma used to live in, Ooo sixty or so years ago!” she continued
“That’s right Lady, number 64, next to Mrs Marsh; she’s been there a long time herself. Mum takes her in a bit of shopping now and again” answered Tommy, smiling at Margaret, wanting to help as best he could.
Mrs Marsh or rather Annie Marsh was about the same age as Margaret, they had grown up together as children, going to the same school, playing in the street and enjoying an idyllic if rather challenging childhood. Life was difficult sixty years ago; Margaret was an only child, looked after solely by her Mother, her Dad had passed away suddenly from a heart attack, when she was only four years old. Margaret's Dad was a drinker, who used to work in the Docks at the end of the Mews; when he could get work that is. She often went to bed hungry; Dad spending what little he had down the Queens Head, long since gone, turned into a block of exclusive apartments, a World away from Margaret's childhood.
“I remember Annie youngen; she was my friend, we used to play together as little girls. Her Mum used to look after us both, after school; me old Ma was working down the Co op laundry at the time, just after Da died. We needed the money youngen, things were very different back then,’ she explained.
Margaret winced, as pain shot up her right leg. “Just a little discomfort Tommy, it will soon pass.” she said, smiling sweetly at the boy. “You should get off, and play your game of footie, you don’t want to miss that do you?”
“Don’t worry about that Lady, I can play any old time. I’m going to run over to Mrs Marsh’s house and tell her you’re here. She’ll help, I know she will, shouted Tommy, as he turned his back, running over the other side of the road.
Before Margaret could speak, Tommy was gone shouting ‘I’ll be back,’ in his wake. Margaret wasn’t entirely comfortable seeing Annie again. Despite their past together, there was history there, difficult times, buried deep for many years. These were not recollections she wanted to face, especially now; she had to get away quickly, Annie would not be happy to see her, this was not a time for a reunion.
My back was in pain, eased briefly propped up against the side of Burger King; Margaret one side, Geoff the other. The three of us tended to stay close these days; safety in numbers was important, especially after Marg was attacked. We were always the targets of abuse; living on the streets wasn’t easy, but things were getting steadily worse. At times we felt almost hunted, like animals, driven from where we sat, day after day, trying to survive.
Marg was walking past a group of lads, early one Sunday morning. They were all heavily intoxicated, jostling each other; goading, shouting, gesturing; throwing beer cans and debris from the side of the road, towards anyone who passed by. Most people simply crossed over to the other side of the road, avoiding confrontation, keeping their heads down, not making eye contact. Marg was pulling a large shopping trolley, full of the last vestiges of her life, not ideal for retreating; she would have to make the best of a bad situation. Clothes, a sleeping bag, suitcase, a few old photographs and sitting right on the top, Jerry her little Yorkshire Terrier, who had been with her for ten years, through good times and bad; these were her most prized possessions. In the back of the rusting, old cart, was a bag of dog food, a large sack, far too heavy for Margaret to carry on her own. She had managed to save enough small change, begging outside Embankment, her usual patch, making sure Jerry was alright. She could fend for herself, Jerry couldn’t!
Margaret pulled the hood of her grey duffle coat over her head, closing the nape tightly around her neck, holding the opening shut with her hand. The jacket, frayed, adorned with holes, no longer had any buttons, the zip had long since broken and she had lost the piece of string, that usually held it together. Confronted by a gang of young lads, unable to drag her haul across the busy road, she just hoped to avoid an altercation. Just one of the daily hazards, living on the streets!
Panting with fear, perspiring from her brow, she started to speed up, walking faster as she approached the drunken group. One of the wheels on the carriage, was playing up, it had a life of its own, rotating, wobbling uncontrollably in circles, pulling it to one side, making her journey even harder. The more it pushed her into the curb, the harder she fought, pulling it back towards the pavement. Her anxiety was beginning to get the better of her; starting to panic, she slipped on the side walk as the cart veered off course. Knocking her hip, she stumbled, her knee giving way; Marg only just managed to save the contents from spilling into the road.
As Margaret buckled, Jerry jumped off his vantage point, running around her legs, barking, trying to help, but making things worse. The group of lads pushed aggressively past, each one kicking the trolley in turn. Staggering at the rear, a short young man stopped in his tracks, swaying from side to side, pointing his finger at Margaret; laughing loudly, grinding his teeth. Spitting into her face, he poured an open can of beer over the top of her coat. All the while, she faced downwards, not looking up; she had been here before and knew just what to do. he grabbed her hood, roughly pulling her head backwards, exposing her traumatised face, Jerry barking, growling around his feet. Without a second thought he finished emptying the contents of the can over Margaret’s hair, crushing it into her forehead. Then he turned his attention to Jerry, snarling back at the scared dog, kicking him into the middle of the busy thoroughfare, right in the path of oncoming traffic. Limping and yelping, the little Yorkie managed to scramble over to the other side of the road, narrowly missing vehicle after vehicle, leaving Margaret, kneeling on the floor.
Covered in stale beer, Margaret fell forwards, unable to see where she was going; with a thud the trolley collapsed on top of her legs. Stunned, she laid there, in shock and pain, kicked in the head and spat on, one last time. She could hear Jerry calling for her, from the other side of the street; agonised, she tried to get up, only to fall back down under the weight of the cart. Everything went black as her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Jerry’s bark began to dwindle away; the sound of a Royal Mail delivery truck, breaking heavily, as it approached the scene, barely audible; the light of the morning faded to dark as Margaret closed her eyes!
I didn’t feel the raw, frosty breeze that night; I knew it was chilly, I could see Megan's hot breath, hitting the cold air. As ever I stayed awake, keeping watch over the girl I loved. The pain in my head, had all but gone, abated, disappeared. I felt alive again, as I did all those months ago, before tragedy struck. Laying at the entrance to the underground, we were unnoticeable, faceless, blending in to the city streets, as never before. For the first time since we ended up homeless, sleeping in door ways, Megan slept, perfectly; undisturbed, without confrontation. I sat there, as Megan hibernated, curled up against my side, imagining our life together, in our own place; a warm fire burning, clean clothes, food in the cupboards; holding each other tightly, sleeping in a comfy bed. My eyes closed, I was there, away from the streets, far from the life I was used to. I was living again!
Dawn broke, on a crisp winters morning. I couldn’t feel the chill; I felt warm, at peace and finally happy. I could see Magan, still asleep, still that sparkle in her eyes, still as beautiful as she ever was. I looked at her face from above; looking down at us both. For the first time, I saw the truth, in front of me. I wasn’t with Magan any more, not in the literal sense; I had left her side that night. I couldn’t feel her cheek next to mine, the touch of her hand on my leg and her hair on my face; I was wide awake, like never before. Magan was laying in a green field of flowers, pulsating with energy, vivid technicolour; abstract. I pointed my finger, towards the love of my life, sleeping soundly. The picture in view, rippled, obscured, as a stone falls into water. I reached out to touch Megan's arm, I felt nothing. I was there, as an observer, looking in at what once was. My heart felt deeper, my touch, more distant.
I died that night, quietly in my sleep, there was no family surrounding my bed, no pain from the bruises that adorned my body; no hospital machines, no noise, no drama, just me drifting away, holding the person I loved close. The torture and torment I felt in life had gone; in death it had dissipated into the memories of the past; agonising reminiscences, that had all but gone. I never imagined my passing to be like this: always believing my ending would be more arduous than life itself. I couldn’t hold Megan any more, but I knew now, she would also finally be at peace. Losing someone close is harrowing and daunting, but in time, the disquiet will pass, and life will go on; new experiences ahead, more memories to share and stories to tell.
I remained with Megan, as she fought back the tears, trying to shake my body back into life. Uncontrollably, inconsolable despair, as my body was removed. I saw myself placed in a cold morgue, a funeral paid for by the state; just Megan mourning my passing. I stayed with her, day after day; no longer on the streets, cared for in the shelter we rejected together, a short time before. Somewhere warm she could finally lay her head. Still broken with grief, but getting stronger each day.
I was with the person I loved, for a very long time, I watched her grow and with determination, strength of mind and willpower, achieve all her dreams. She went to college, studied harder each day, got a job, in the hospital, we had both run from, on that cold November afternoon. She cared for others, as she cared for me, devoting her life to those in need. Megan held their hand, as she held mine, gave them hope, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Her life on the streets had taught her much. She was a survivor in a harsh world. Megan lived because I died, one life for the aspirations, and achievements of another, willingly given to see her grow.
This is my final day with Megan, the day I had been waiting for, the day we got our own flat together; finally Magan achieved what we both had wanted. I shared the day she moved into her new home; the reason I stuck around, to see her finally happy, sanguine away from the streets. During that first night in her new home, she slept with the lamp on, street lights illuminating the dark. Magan still had to overcome the demons that haunted her, the nightmares that still languished, but on this, our first and last night together, she knew I was there, watching over her, as she slept soundly in her bed, making sure she was safe from the night ahead.
It was a busy night at St Mary’s A&E, as Megan and I left, walking sheepishly past the ward desk. Everyone was so busy dealing with the excesses of a Saturday night, they didn’t notice us creep past. My head was banging harder than ever. The nurse had put six staples in the top, near the crown, where the bottle had caused the worst damage. I still felt dizzy, from the throbbing and a little disorientated from the pain killers they had given me. Megan looked worried, trying her best to keep me up right, stumbling as she went. She was only small, quite petite really, just over five foot in height. I on the other hand was just over six foot, an odd combination, at first sight, but two people very much in love, having suffered tremendously during our short time together. The more we lived through, the closer we became. Jointly we felt invincible, apart nothing but!
Finally we reached the entrance; the woman at the desk, in the foyer, glanced over, lowering her glasses to the tip of her nose. She was stern, dead pan face, emotionless, the official face of the hospital.
‘Are you OK, can I help you!’ she enquired firmly, as we turned away from her gaze, looking directly at the glass doors.
‘We’re alright, thank you!’ Magan shouted back, her voice crumbling, as she stopped me falling, on the step of the vestibule, grabbing my waist, holding me as upright as she could!
‘We were, um just er, er, visiting a friend; we, er have to go, no time to talk’ Magan continued, leaning me up against a wall, gently guiding me through the revolving doors, into the outside.
By now, Magan was practically dragging me along, down a steep slope, used by wheelchairs and out into the afternoon hustle and bustle, along the high street, stopping every few yards, taking a look over her back, making sure we weren’t being followed. Of course we weren’t, but clouded judgement, fear of the unknown and the need to stay together, bought many anxieties to the surface. Megan’s adrenaline was working on over drive at least; it felt like we were running for ages. I was shattered, debilitated and just needed a moment to rest. Eventually we reached the relative safety of Sussex Gardens, far enough away from the hospital, where we took a breather. Neither of us, had a clue why we were running? Or what we were running from? We just needed to get away from that place; they would tear us apart and we wouldn’t see each other again.
The weather was starting to get cold. It was November; we had lost everything and would find it difficult keeping warm, without some form of protection, so we set off towards Paddington Station, to find shelter for the night. You really don’t know how difficult it is, finding a spot to sleep in London. London is of course a vast city, with many back streets and lanes, most of which are unsafe for the likes of us at night. We always preferred to stay in the more noticeable areas, just in case anything happened. When Megan and I first found ourselves sleeping rough, we quite quickly became victims. I may be nursing a broken head today, but we encountered far worse in the past.
Within a couple of days, of being homeless, drifting, deperate, in the early hours of a Tuesday morning, both Magan and myself were held at knife point, after sleeping in the service entrance of a well known hotel. The back street of the establishment was narrow, poorly lit and difficult to run away from. I stood there up against the back doors, of this prestigious hotel, in front of Magan, shaking with fear, all the while shielding her from this knife carrying attacker. With the blade up against my throat, he used his hands to search my pockets, for the little change I had left. He demanded Magan, stand up and show herself. Keeping the knife, firmly near my neck, he again searched Magan, taking the one item she had left, from her life, living with her Mother, long since dead, A silver locket, a picture and a lock of hair, viciously removed from her collar.
Magan knew there was nothing she could do; I could see the tears welling up in her eyes, yet couldn't do anything to help her. We had spoken before about what to do, should anything like this happen. It was our ‘emergency procedure’ if you like. Stay still, motionless, not making a sound and give the aggressor whatever they wanted. When you end up on the streets, in the manner we did, you know very well, just how precious life is. Things, items, are worthless when you spend every day trying to survive. Never again would we sleep down a back alley, away from the public gaze, that was our mistake and we had learned from it.
Padding Station wasn’t too bad, compared to some of the places we had stayed in the past. I knew from previous experience that some members of the local church, would come by, regularly, offering soup and a bun, to the homeless that frequented the station at night. In reality it didn’t matter where I rested; I was in severe pain and couldn’t go on for much longer. A doorway is a doorway in the end, and as long as I could lean against something, anything, just to ease the pain, I would be happy.
Still supporting my body weight, Magan finally got us both to Paddington. We found a spot next to the tube entrance, which offered some shelter, from the cold. An old cardboard box, left, tucked up behind the ticket machine, would accord us both some warmth and maybe we could find something to eat. It was an ideal spot; commuters running for their train, would generally discard food, a half eaten sandwich, a packet of crisps, anything edible. Both Megan and I hadn’t eaten for two days, we just needed something to keep us going, to help us sleep. Like most things in our life recently, it would be another night of anguish, as the pain in my head got worse. This was no normal head wound, this was something serious. Tomorrow the urgency of my situation would become clear!
It was our first flat together; up until now we had been sleeping in shop doorways, a derelict caravan and even a tent in ‘Old Tally Woods’. This had gone on for six months. We had shivered in the winter snow, showered no more and battled against officials, trying to find somewhere to live. We didn’t want a mansion, we just wanted a place to call our own, a roof over our heads and to wake up one day, not feeling damp and wet from the elements outside.
We walked the streets during the day, trying to keep warm, until the sunlight faded and we could find a quiet doorway to lay our heads for the night. The bright lights of the city, were always on high beam. A dark corner in the capital was never dark for long. By the time we closed our eyes, the sun came up; we blinked painfully into another day, no different from the one that had gone before. Stumbling through the streets of London was a journey we made with circadian familiarity; like the commuter, travelling to work, headphones tightly pushed into his ear, blocking out the unwanted noise of the morning traffic; scarf pulled firmly around his neck, unaware, oblivious to everything going on around him; we also trudged, beleaguered, tired, warn, marching the same route day in and day out. There was no warm office at the end of our course, our trek would never end: We remained stoical in the face of adversity, fighting to remain together, despite what was thrown our way. It couldn’t get much harder.
The weekends were always the worst. The city that never slept, became more vibrant and dangerous than usual. It was Saturday; we had found a place under the arches near Waterloo Bridge, right at the end, on the corner. A street lamp shone unabated into the space, a little over two meters long; it was late, we were both exhausted and the rain was beginning to fall. Megan cleared away the debris from the day and we laid down the single sleeping bag we both shared. It kept us tightly together, safe and secure; our body heat keeping us as warm as possible throughout the challenging night ahead. We had learned a lot about endurance, over the last few months; survival was important, not for us as individuals, but for us as a couple, sharing what little we had left; dreaming, hoping and preying that this wasn’t our lot. There had to be light at the end of this tunnel!
The street light under which we slept, illuminated the poverty spread out before our eyes! Megan had finally fallen asleep; not wanting to wake her, I moved slightly to one side, so she could at least have a night of undisturbed sleep. For safety, I always made her sleep on the inside, a lesson tragically learned! I lifted my head; societies unfortunate, unseen and forgotten hero’s of the night; huddled together in this frightening place. Safety in numbers was the key to staying alive another day. I sat there, back perched against the Victorian wall behind; shook my head, still not believing how our life together had come to this; angry that Magan had to suffer the indignity of a life on the streets, when she deserved far more, than I could give her. These were the times I thought for us both. Every night, I remained awake and vigilant as Megan slept, keeping watch, protecting the one I loved from the ravages around us. I normally managed to grab an hours rest, just as the sun came up. It wasn’t a lot, I grant you, but it was enough, to ensure Magan slept as soundly as she could.
This had gone on for a few months; Magan and I had suffered the hard way. A few weeks before, we had found somewhere to sleep, near a restaurant, in the city. It wasn’t ideal, people were passing by all night; shouting, screaming, drunk and abusive. We had both just fallen asleep, when I felt an excruciating pain in my stomach; it happened again, and again. I was so tired, I just didn’t want to get up. Suddenly, shattered glass and my head felt like it would explode, as blood started to pour from my brow. Blearily, confused unable to focus directly, I opened my eyes, as best I could, blood trickling into the sockets, stinging, penetrating, burning; before me, a group of young lads, dressed for a night out. Hands punching the air, fists cascading towards my face, another bottle swiped across my head; all the while, I tried to protect Megan from these delinquents out for a fight. She woke up, suddenly, screamed in the middle of a nightmare, startled the bottle wielding hooligans, ran into the night. I collapsed, unaware of what happened next, waking up in a hospital bed, Megan clasping my hand tightly. I saw the outline of a doctor speaking to a nurse, stood in front of my bed; I heard no sound, and gently passed out again.
I had no idea how long I slept. When I awoke, Magan was still there; she had fallen asleep on my chest. I felt the discomfort in my head even more than before, The pain ran from my forehead, down my jaw and across my shoulders. Gently, not wanting to wake up Magan, I lifted my head. The dizziness was overwhelming, as I steadied myself against the back of the bed. It took a while to wake up properly and get my bearings. The curtain was drawn around the cubicle; I could hear voices outside, then the muffled screeching of a radio, a police radio. By now Magan was awake and we both listened to the conversation outside.
They could find somewhere safe for Magan, in a women’s shelter, but nowhere for me. I would have to remain on the streets. We looked at each other; I knew there was no point, even suggesting Megan go into accommodation without me. She could survive on the streets, but not with a broken heart. We had never left each others side and didn’t intend to now. Eventually, the conversation ended and footsteps moved away from the bed. It was our chance to leave. Megan helped me dress in what clothes I had on, when I was brought into St Mary’s; the sleeping bag and belongings, our life left behind as the ambulance arrived to take me to hospital: while nobody was aware and the hospital staff were busy, we hurriedly left.
So here we are today, our first home together. After months braving the city streets, sleepless nights, abuse and lack of direction. Warm and content, in a flat far away from the city. Can we finally begin our life together, knowing that we now have a future? How we got here, was a journey in itself, one for another day. The occasions we spend battling, suffering through no fault of our own and trying to survive in an unforgiving world are the times, we will always look back on, learning the lessons needed to keep pushing us forward. I don’t regret anything; the streets showed me the way to a better life!