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.