Home      Back to previous page - Frames - No Frames


by Kathleen Potter


Debbie groaned as she awoke. Whinging again, that's all he could do. That and eat. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she glanced out of the window. No sign today, over the terraced and semi-detached roofs, of the tops of cranes in the river beyond, stretching like deformed fingers to the sky.

It was raining cats and dogs. The rain seemed to be billowing before the wind. The debris from last night's Take-Away suppers was twirling and flying, to end up in piles caught against the walls.

She felt an overwhelming desire to crawl back to bed and stay there. But he wasn't about to shut up and so she might as wen feed him. Padding though to the kitchen she took a bottle of formula from the fridge. Lighting the gas under the kettle, she used the same match to light a cigarette. A couple of deep draws and she felt more awake.

Making herself a cup of black coffee she poured the remaining water into a jug and stood the bottle to warm. She went through to get Danny out of his cot, cigarette still smouldering in her hand. Lifting him up she rubbed his tear stained face on the oversized T-shirt, which she slept in, as he cuddled into her for comfort. Putting him in his bouncer she popped the bottle into his mouth then pulled him in front of her so she could rock it, holding the bottle with one hand, drinking her coffee with the other.

It wasn't Giro day but she must get out of the flat or she'd go mad. When they were both finished she rummaged around for clothing and a clean nappy. His little face lit up as she lifted him into her arms and she felt a sudden rush of tenderness at his smile. Sometimes she felt he hated her, the way he cried and she couldn't make him stop.

When he was dressed and in his buggy she pulled on her tight jeans, a baggy sweater and pushed her feet into a pair of black plastic high heels. Running a brush through hair which was blonde from a bottle with roots showing through, she shrugged herself into her only jacket. It was denim and would soon be soaked but that was the least of her worries. She operated by a sequence of actions that were necessary at the moment in time she carried them out.

Leaving the jumble of wet nappy and clothing where she'd dropped them she picked up her purse and opened it. Four pounds and some small change. She needed cigarettes so she'd go down the supermarket then get his milk from the clinic. The token was in her pocket.

Opening the door she didn't give a second glance to the dingy flat, with its minimum of furniture supplied free on the scheme to help young people get started. One day she'd have a beautiful big home like on the telly. They'd both have loads of clothes and Danny would be happy. How she would achieve that she had no idea. Right now she felt nothing, just a big empty hole which was going to suck her down inside until she disappeared.

The lift when it arrived smelled like a public toilet and there were the wrappings of a fish supper in the corner. Maybe she'd see some of her mates if they were up yet. None of them had kids so it might be dinnertime before they were down the precinct. She could go to the pork shop and get a savaloy dip and share it with Danny. He was always quieter when they were out of the flat.

She wished someone would torch the flats. That lot down housing wouldn't live in them, she'd like to bet. Seven storeys up and no idea who was through the wall from you, since one flat went up the stairs to the living quarters, while next door went down. Her mates only came to see her if they had some booze and wanted somewhere to hang out.

As the lift descended she wished she was still close friends with Jill -they'd been mates since school and could always have a good giggle. When Danny was born Jill still came round and together they looked after him, but soon Jill got sick of the crying and came less and less. Well she wasn't the only one, sometimes he really did her head in as well, but she was stuck with him!

Why didn't he love her as the telly always told you kids did? She couldn't remember when anyone had loved her like that. Nobody made a fuss of her. Four different foster homes then she was back in care till she was sixteen, to end up in the high rise with Danny. She did love him, but it wasn't easy and she got frightened when he wouldn't shut up. She felt as grey inside as the day was out there!

Going into the supermarket she dropped the buggy hood so Danny could watch the people, he seemed to like that. She'd have a wander round to fill in time. Getting bored with picking things up and Putting then back, she was just thinking this wasn't a good idea when she spotted a display of chocolates. There were cartons of Roses and Quality Street and box of Maltesers, but next to them was a box called 'Inspirations.' It was the shape of the box which caught her attention for it had four little drawers which pulled out. She found herself daydreaming that someone was giving her these chocolates as a present. She didn't think who the giver might be, but if someone bought her a box like that it would surely mean that they loved her!

Moving on she went to the cash point and paid for the bar of chocolate which Danny was busy sinearing all over his face, and the pack of ten cigarettes which she'd have to make last till tomorrow when it was Giro day. As she stooped to pull the hood up on the buggy a hand took a firm hold of her arm.

'A word, young woman, you haven't paid for those chocolates!' Then she was in the care of the store detectives.

The detective was getting exasperated. They'd had this kid in the office for ages and were getting nowhere. She'd clammed up. Not unusual, but this one didn't seem to understand, or hear, what was being said to her. She was like a Barbie doll that had got grubby, with the skinny little body and blond hair hanging like rats tails down either side of her white face. Momentarily the pupils had dilated as fear registered, to be replaced by a vacant stare.

The infant with her was screaming and all attempts by the two detectives to placate him were proving fruitless. Dot had picked him up but that didn't work either, plus she shouldn't have done it in case the kid brought charges later. Anyway he was wet and his face was awash with a mixture of snot and tears. And still no response from 'Barbie'. Probably half the shop had been emptied while they wasted time over a cheap box of chocolates. She wasn't one of their regulars. Dot beckoned to Lil outside.

'That one is either stoned out of her mind or she's off her marbles. I'll give WPC Collins a buzz and hope it's her that comes.'

Lil agreed she would stay until Sue Collins came so Dot could go back into the store. Lil watched the cameras for a while, then turned to look at the pair in the room with her. The infant was dozing now, head bent forward in an awkward position, while the lass was just sitting staring into space.

She'd never said a word since they picked her up, unusual in Lil's experience. Some were truculent and verbal with it, others (Iess of them to be sure) would offer to pay to avoid the police involvement. Somehow this one touched a spot in Lil's tough heart. She couldn't say why. 'Barbie' as she was now referring to her in her mind, looked about fourteen going on forty. She needed mothering, but it looked as though she might be the mother of the infant on the buggy. Poor bairn.

Sue Collins walked into the office, her usual placid, matter of fact self. Lil was glad because Sue was great handling these shoplifters and both Lil and Dot found things went much smoother than when one of the lads came. That wasn't to say they couldn't do their job, but the kids that came through here were worldly wise and altered their approach for the PCs. Sue nodded to Lil then looked at the two in front of her. 'Barbie' didn't alter her fixed stare, didn't appear to realise someone had entered the room. Beckoning Lil outside the door, she got a brief summary of events so far.

'Ring Doctor McIntosh, Lil, he's on call today, ask him to get round here quickly. I'll ring Social Services and get hold of the duty officer. It's not the station this one wants.'

In a reasonably short time WPC Collins was ready to take the pathetic little pair away. The buggy was folded and the baby was in her arms. Her male partner would drive and there was no fear of this girl trying to do a bunk. Once again the child was grizzling.

'What's going to happen, Sue?'

'They're arranging for them both to be admitted to the Mother and Baby Unit. Doc. thinks it's Postnatal Depression. The social worker is busy trying to identify them. Don't worry. They'll be taken care of It's a pity it had to get to this stage before she came to people's attention.'

As the motley little procession turned to leave the room Lil grabbed up the box of 'Inspirations' which had brought Debbie to this stage and wrapped the small cold hands tightly around the box. Sue lifted one eyebrow at behaviour unusual for tough old Lil.

' I'll pay for them, don't worry. Just see that she's taken care of OK! And let me know how she gets on.'

After all, thought Lil, it could have been one of my granddaughters. All she needs is a bit of mothering.



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