The Teenage runaway girl living rough on the streets of London
This is a continuation of a story: To go to the start of the story or another chapter
Friday 8 January 2016
It wasn’t life it was three years, Joe was sentenced. Lauren had learnt to live without her dad. She never visited him in prison. Her mum always said it wasn’t good for her to go to that place. It was probably true, but what was probably equally true was that her mum didn’t want anything more to do with her dad after she found out he had another woman visiting him. She was welcome to him, best of luck to her, she would say Lauren. It hurt Lauren to hear those words and the anger her mum felt but after a while her mum found other interests. Other men. And, with that distraction she stopped her ranting and moaning about her dad. Lauren cried a lot, her home life was a mess and she had no friends at school.
The first few months were unbearable and Lauren could think of nothing but her dad. After several months it got easier and Lauren didn’t think about her dad so much. Out of sight, out of mind and her mum never spoke of him. It made things easier but she still hated life at home. She would hear the kids at school moan about their parents and she would tell herself that it was normal. But it wasn’t. They may complain about their parents but they didn’t have a dad who had been to prison and a mum who was sleeping with half the guys from the pub. They may complain, but their mums and dads loved them, a big contrast to Lauren’s life.
Her dad had been released after eighteen months of his sentence but he never came home. Her mum had told her he was coming out and each day she made her way from school hoping he would be there when she got home. Sitting in the armchair she remembered him, drinking a can of beer. Each day she opened the hallway door to the living room and she would see the armchair empty, her heart would sink. Her heart broken again. After a time she accepted she would never see her dad again. She found out from her mum that he was now living with Donna, the woman who had been visiting him in prison, and they had moved out of the area. They moved north, she couldn’t remember the name of the place but it was a small village near Newcastle. That was the last time she heard anything of her dad and she never saw him again.
The bench was in much need of maintenance and splinters of wood jutted out in random places. It was Lauren’s place, a place she took comfort in during school breaks where she sat alone. A large holm oak provided shelter from the elements and screening for privacy. From there she looked out to the school field where she watched the other kids play. The maths lesson that had just finished was incredibly boring. Maths lessons were always incredibly boring and she longed for it to finish so she could go and lose herself in a book. That was her normal break time quotidian. She always picked the same spot each day. The school was on a hill, and the field where she sat was at the highest point of the school grounds, where Lauren could observe the world. Something she loved to do when not reading. She watched the other kids. The boys mostly played football and the girls stayed in their little cliquey groups. There were the nerdy clique, the dumb chums and the pop squad, she didn’t belong to any of them, and definitely not the pop squad, but she had got used to that. Beyond the school she could see rows of houses in her suburban town that was about fifteen miles south of Birmingham. She often wondered about all the people in those houses. What they did each day and night. Behind those walls were families living happily, sitting around the dining room table at night talking about their day and sharing funny stories and laughing and joking. Were they? Of course, not every house was but surely some were and why shouldn’t they. They had to be, otherwise what was the point of it all, she hoped they were at least for that was all she had was hope that one day she would have her own family. She looked back to the group of girls, the nerdy clique. One of the girls was talking to the others in the group. Lauren couldn’t hear what she was saying but from the faces of the others she knew it must have been something interesting and exciting. Then all together they started to giggle with embarrassed looks on their flushed faces. She felt a pang of sadness; most of the time she felt fine but there were moments, suddenly and without warning, an emptiness would creep spreading itself slowly to possess her body and leaving her completely alone in this world.
She was distracted when a cheer went up from the boys playing football. Someone had scored a goal and the boy who’d scored was now running around the pitch with his shirt hooked over head in his celebration goal ritual. Lauren smiled to herself and looked back to the groups of girls. The pop squad were closer to Lauren than the nerds but still too far away to hear the conversation that was taking place. Sophie Wright, the tall blond girl was the centre of attention, as she always was. Sophie was an attractive girl and physically matured for her age and she knew it. She made sure everybody else knew it and would walk around the school with that look at me walk she had worked on at home in front of the bedroom mirror. The other girls in the group looked on. Sophie’s movements were exaggerated and theatrical as she threw her hands around and head back that made her hair fly through the air like she was in the shampoo adverts. Sophie stopped as she saw Lauren looking in her direction and threw a glare of hatred and slowly raised her middle finger. Lauren quickly looked to the ground and she heard an eruption of laughter from the pop squad. She didn’t look back but she knew the laughter was directed at her. She felt it bury its way inside her and then she so wanted to be somewhere else, or even somebody else.
Another goal and another cheer went up. Toby Redman had scored. His goal celebration was more sophisticated than the other boys and he carried it with an air of confidence than that of the previous dance. It was only to be expected as Toby was the boy in school all the girls wanted to go out with. Even Sophie Wright, who seemed to have her pick of the boys, had not managed to hook Toby. He was handsome, tall, blonde haired, blue eyed and a body that was toned from all the sports he played. He was not the archetypical sportsman, the handsome good looking one who always won every sports competition in school and then be the thicko in class. Not so with Toby, not only did he win every sports competition but was top of the class in most subjects. Not English, Lauren held that honour, the only lesson she excelled in, but he still topped all the boys. He was the only person, although he and Lauren spoke very little, she knew who read more books and knew more authors than her.
A lot of the girls had boyfriends, especially the pop squad, the relationships didn’t last long, in most cases, but it was the thing to do. Sophie Wright had just finished with Arthur Ward, they had been going out for about three weeks but Sophie had decided that Arthur was not up to the standard she required. Everybody knew that her crush was Toby. She had made a play for him but he had been oblivious to her advances. Toby was too wrapped up in his sports and had shown little interest in girls.
Lauren, at times and more so, especially over the last six months, had wondered what it would be like. She had never had a boyfriend; she had not had that many friends, boys or girls, especially since moving to senior school, so a boyfriend was something she dismissed as a fantasy.
The game had resumed and Lauren watched Toby running up and down the field. She did not know who was winning or much care, she just got pleasure from looking at Toby. That moment she let her mind play a game without reeling it in where Toby and she were together. Toby kissed her on the lips, how it felt so good, how they would marry and have children and a family. Stop it, she told herself. Stop. Back in the real world it would never happen, and she controlled her runaway fantasies whenever she could to avoid disappointment.
The ball had been kicked off the pitch and was rolling towards Lauren. She saw Toby running towards her to collect the ball. She got up off the bench and kicked the ball back to Toby. The ball launched in the air and went over Toby’s head. He stopped and laughed in shock of the power that Lauren had kicked the ball.
‘Wow, you should join our team,’ said Toby.
‘Not sure you could afford the transfer fee,’ she joked back and Toby laughed.
‘You’re probably right you should be in a much higher league.’ Lauren was unsure how to take Toby’s last remark. Had he just paid her a compliment or was he even being flirtatious. Lauren was thrown for a second and she scrambled her mind searching for something clever to say, and something to keep the conversation going.
‘I saw your goal,’ the words came out of her mouth without thought and in desperation to keep the conversation going, it was the best she could do. He smiled, and turned his head back towards the pitch as his mates called out to him to come back and join them. ‘Better than Pele,’ she added.
‘You really know your stuff, don’t you,’ he had turned his attention back on Lauren, ‘do you like football?’
‘Of course, love it,’ as soon as she said it, she regretted it. She knew nothing about football. She wasn’t even sure who Pele was, it was a name she pulled from the depths of memory that she had heard or read of at some point. Wasn’t he the guy who scored the goal when England won the World Cup.
‘Who do you support?’ he asked.
‘Manchester United,’ the first team that came to mind, they’re good, aren’t they.
‘They’re crap,’ Toby replied, ‘why’d you support a crap team like that?’
‘I don’t,’ she said trying to rescue herself before she dug a bigger hole.
‘You don’t?’ he said, followed by a confused laugh.
‘I don’t like football.’
‘Why did you say you did?’ He had cornered her, found her out, she would have to confess.
‘I thought I did, but I don’t.’ Toby’s warm smile made Lauren start to melt inside. If only she was someone else, then maybe it could have been different, maybe there could be a chance that they could be together.
‘Lauren, you’re a smart girl. You don’t have to be anyone one else. You have a lot going for you, just be yourself.’ He was like the wise old man, only he was young and handsome and the more he spoke the more Lauren fancied the pants off him. ‘And pretty as well.’ Before the words registered he had turned and run back to his mates on the football pitch. Lauren stood there with a smile stretched across her face. She watched Toby back playing football; there was electrified excitement buzzing all over and she dared risk the thought that life was about to take a turn for the better and good things were on their way.
She looked around the school field self-consciously to see if anybody was looking at her with her cheeks flushed pink. The nerds were wrapped up in their own super intellectual conversation but the pop squad were silent and staring straight at her. Sophie Wright, in the middle of the pack motionless with her stare fixed on Lauren.
Sophie started to walk towards Lauren, her face full of anger. The other girls followed behind. By the time she reached her she was breathing heavy.
‘What was all that about?’ Sophie questioned Lauren.
‘What?’ Lauren said, confused by the question.
‘With Toby, what you doing chatting and flirting with him for.’
‘I wasn’t, I just kicked the ball back to him.’
‘No you didn’t, I saw you fluttering your eyelids at him, you bitch,’ Sophie pushed Lauren on the shoulder. She stumbled but managed to stay on her feet.
‘Piss off, what’re you doing? We were only talking.’
‘What did you say to me!’ Sophie screamed and was now so close, Lauren felt her breath and splatterings of spit on her face as she shouted at her. Lauren tried to back away but Sophie kept moving closer.
She didn’t see it coming, it was too fast but she heard it. The thudding sound as Sophie’s fist connected with Lauren’s cheek bone. Then the pain started to work its way through. By the time it registered she was in a fight, Sophie had hit her again and now had hold of Lauren’s hair pulling her downwards whilst hitting the back of her head with the inside of her fist. Lauren was equal in size to Sophie and managed to grab her round the neck and wrestled her to the ground. Lauren now astride of Sophie punched her directly on the nose. Sophie cried out and blood started to stream out all over her face. Lauren felt someone from behind grab under her arms and started to lift her up off Sophie. She thought at first it was a teacher, or maybe Toby, who had come to break up the fight. But then she felt herself thrown to the ground and realised it was one of pop squad who had pulled her off Sophie and thrown her to the ground. Sophie was now on top of Lauren throwing punches like a wild woman. Lauren could do nothing but try to block them, although most got through.
At last the fight was broken up by some of the boys who had been playing football. Toby was not there. He had left and gone off to class early before the fight had started. If only he had been around he would have broken it up. The crowd that had gathered to watch the fight dispersed, leaving Lauren lying on the grass. Her face was throbbing and stinging with excruciating pain.
Chapter 5 – To Be Published 5 Feb 2018