5,002 words/ 3 Parts
Bridgette walked through the narrow, vapid alleyways of forever and fucking always, and spied him under the meagre appeal emanating from the street light’s lousy lumen; rain water dripped incongruously from its helmet – the monotone, monotonous rhythm made her want to thread her eyebrows with copper wire.
Instead, she scraped one heel over the cigarette she’d devoured. Its tawdry red lipstick had momentarily beautified her nicotine yellow stained fingertips. The sudden tiny blackboard screech made her teeth scream with the reminder that she still needed her heels repaired – another on the long fucking list of to dos and problematic questions of how? These were all noises that accompanied her grumbling stomach. Who would take care of those? Maybe another week without credit for her gas meter?
Bridgette decided to sit in contemplation on the damp, artsy bench dedicated to someone time forgot. It probably cost enough to feed the homeless around here, her included – pretentious pricks.
Still with money on her mind, she was subconsciously eyeing his bulge when she folded her arms across the cheap blouse that screamed on deaf ears for cover. As he leant over to pick something up from the grimy, wet floor, he obtruded even more until finally something flipped over the edge of his pants and onto the pavement. He seemed stuck in an unforgiving position due to the obvious hazards of an unhealthy BMI currently showing him a thing or two. Fucking BMI was not something Bridgette ever had to worry much about; food to her was like a long lost pen pal. Cigarettes were her new friend, and on good days, or bad, a little of the other.
Her lethargic and resentful scrape across a few of the disjointed paving stones echoed badly at the opening of the hollow tunnel she’d come from. The archaic ballast in this dingy part of the city ground on her and her teeth, again. Shit hole.
The city was always in a confused state with its backdrop to anarchy displayed in the garish bad taste of graffiti alongside the pert, metal alloy, meaningless artwhatever style benches – too Banksy to sit on with their antagonistic curled lip pushing through the concrete – Yeah right. Like we all fucking do that, she often thought. Sometimes the statement was a fair one, but the bench was way too hard to sit on, and totally impractical, always draining her of body heat – acceptable for those who liked to mull their ideas on a busy Saturday afternoon eating their McDonalds or fish and chips. Lucky bastards. Selfish, modern imperialism.
In the normal scheme of things, Bridgette could care less about isms and artists, or if she got them right. She cared that she was starving and cold and smelt like an ashtray. Ciggies or food? Ciggies or food? Or maybe some nice person could get her what she really needed? In my fucking dreams. She often thought that, too.
They knocked heads as they both reached for his brash, leather, embossed wallet.
He pulled back slightly as her cigarette breath nearly killed the hard wired circuitry in his brain, temporarily throbbing beneath the electrified buzzing grey steel of a retro lamppost adorned with the claw carved etchings, ‘Banjo loves death’. The sentiment made Bridgette’s eyes roll. Arseholes.
His body, which was lagging way behind his sweaty, bulging eyes, caught up and rose stiffly as she handed him the wallet. He mindlessly flipped its clasp, then tapped it a few times, rocking back and forth in his shiny shoes. Bet they have a sole on them…fecking idiot.
Bridgette’s mind wandered to the possibilities of battered cod and whether they would still have any at this time of night at Munro’s, and whether the sodding bus would be late again.
She heard an awkward “thank you” as she shivered in her ill considered
clothing. The rain, waiting in the seething clouds, would get her for sure, for her choices later.
Bridgette thought a lot in those terms and was wondering again about the warmth of the chip shop. She remembered the man.
No problem, you clumsy bastard, she thought, no problem.
Physically, she simply nodded, while mentally she was attuned to a finer, more important facet of her existence: if she didn’t get any curry sauce or even fish, and stuck with the crappy chips that always had eyes as big as the spores of black mould in her dingy bedsit, she might be able to take the number 43 from Kings Cross.
Avoid the drunks.
She’d been felt up too many times before, and the smell of stale alcohol always left her colder than she was now as she attempted to move past the weird looking bloke still visible, still expecting something – what that was, Bridgette wasn’t at all sure about.
She shifted from foot to foot, twisting slightly as she peered into the distance – a small experiment to see if indifference and the lighting up of another cigarette would be any sort of clue or turn off. She blew smoke right where it might catch him downwind.
Normally, Bridgette was a chimney and would toss her head back as if she might be protecting one and all from the innocuous but delicious chemicals that she spewed on a regular basis – at the same time feeling like a film star of old. But if she was honest and brutal with it, she only felt old with each cigarette; wet cigarettes only served to increase the morbidity that clung to the analyses of her situation these days.
He hung on in there making Bridgette feel uncomfortable, and Bridgette was feeling enough of a lot of things today. She didn’t need it. Arsehole.
Her reflexes and hunger had got the better of her, and all too late she noticed that she had been standing quite near to the taxi rank while deliberating over starvation or survival, and she was now getting wet. Had it only been 15 minutes since she had parted company with her “friend”? Christ! And, ‘the wallet’ was, after all, well justified in standing there.
Her arm began to itch and throb. Fuck! She’d forgotten the healing wounds of ice picked veins under the miserable excuse for camouflage. Bridgette bit her lip and coughed a damp cough; its warmth turning to steam in the dismal air.
Her shoulder flinched at the tap from a chubby finger that led all the way to the bulging eyes. Oh, fuck. “Yes?” Bridgette stepped away to make clear that her space was her space.
“I couldn’t help but notice some distress.” He gestured to the entirety of the scruffy, flimsy clothing, the black spidery mascara and her shivering wreck of a life. An unfamiliar accent came across the bitter night air.
I have plenty of that, just that, and nothing much else to give… so move along. “Er, thank you. I’m fine. A wee bit cold, but otherwise, fine. I’m waiting for my bloke. He should be here soon.”
His reply of ‘Oh‘ was as rounded as his eyes and belly, and Bridgette tried to shrink into her clothing a bit more.
He came at her again.
Oh, go away, or give me your fucking jacket, or your shoes, or your life! “Look,” said Bridgette, her tightly knitted brows aching. “I don’t mean to be rude, but can I help you?” And whatever it is you want, I haven’t got. I am cold that’s all, and tired and hungry. I don’t have a fella, and I need something, it’s starting to fucking hurt…
“I am sorry, Miss, it’s just that, I er… I am lost here – on a flying visit and I got lost.”
Yeah right, and you have all this money and a spare half an hour… He was still fumbling with the wallet.
“I was about to call dinner. It has been a strange day, and a long one. Since you were kind enough to help me earlier, I wondered if I might repay that kindness with some hospitality.”
Are you fucking joking me? Bridgette was stunned. Trust was a torturous issue. Like religion, she didn’t have any and, again like religion, she deemed it unsafe and insane, especially today.
He continued, keeping his distance, “I have a daughter your age.”
And what age would that be, weirdo?
He lifted the flap of his jacket and tried to wedge the wallet back in. “She came here years ago on a whim and in a temper. She never contacted us again. That’s why I am here, I need to find her. I need to see if my little girl is okay. I guess your family worry about you too, Miss? So I hope you can understand my intrusion a little bit.”
He stepped back a few paces more as if to acknowledge Bridgette’s notable concerns.
And, I look like the Embassy’s advisor? What do you fucking want?
The exhaled frosty air streaming out of her was reminiscent of smoke, any smoke at this point. Fuck! She remembered that she’d smoked her last cigarette trying to thwart this no good letch off.
Bridgette grappled with her faux leather pouch bag to hide her discomfort, and what else, she wasn’t sure. She felt heavy, tired, hungry and weak; dragging around baggage like her life behind her on a rope was tiring, and the rope never seemed to wear any or become frayed enough to set her free.
Oh dear God!
Rumbles from Bridgette’s stomach turned her small, face red, and she gritted her teeth. Her jaw clenched with embarrassment and resignation. Maybe a bite to eat in full view would put an end to this. Maybe I’ll die either way. Maybe the earth will swallow me up and this perv will take a hint and leave me be. A wave of genuine maybes hit her like a tsunami. She didn’t actually want to be let be; left inside where it hurt and where the pain echoed in her extremities, numb from the cold.
She could feel her knees buckling and head swim before the whole dizzy, dank street went black.
Bridgette came to. Her bulging eyelids flickered, opening and closing to the steady rhythm of heavy rain dancing on a mass of uncollected, black plastic bin bags. She recognised them as a by-product of underfunded local councils. People’s lives were like leftovers, left to rot inside insipid cartons of bacteria, the discarded minutia of rubbish or traysh.
Bridgette liked to quibble, to annoy as many people as she could. Right now, she was too removed to really care.
Death oozed from the black plastic; its pungent aroma soon arrived at her swollen and crusted nostrils. Bridgette could hardly breathe and gagged slightly until she spluttered blood. It fell in a globular stream into small puddles between the cobbles. She knew where she was. In the low morning light, she watched her blood be cradled for a short time before she began to cough. She was forced to spit.
Oh my god! No, no, no! Fuck, no! Bridgette was in pain, half-numb, but was remembering.
The pain was unreal. She suspected, at the very least, that her ribs were broken due to a bad experience one night when she was so broke, she went down on a stranger. He became very reluctant to give her the much promised and much needed money for food… or something else. She spat at him, and he kicked her ribs in.
She spent the night in A&E, but she consoled herself with the hope she might at least be fed. It was long overdue; the subject of her habit paled for roughly three hours before she was back out there with that neon sign on her forehead, which said,
*Kick me. No, really, I deserve it.*
Bridgette was soaked to the skin in the alley. A thick rat’s tail of hair partially covered her eyes; she couldn’t move a muscle to remove it.
Pain shot through her body bringing her to full consciousness. She stared at her cold hand. Its pallid colour was the background to black and blue splotches and deep grazes full of blood. An elegant butterfly tattoo was practically indistinguishable. It was her last tattoo, and very symbolic to Bridgette. She hoped one day it would inspire her to fly far away from her battered hope and dreams, and make the life she craved for herself.
Please fly. You won’t ever fly again.
Bridgette was delirious and still staring at her hand, which lay beside her face. It felt to her like every bone had been shattered. Soon, the horrible memory of it being trodden on hit her.
His sweat had dripped as he looked down on her. His lips twisted and his eyes were filled with rage. He had just come.
What the fuck do you want? Bridgette screamed. Inside, she cried for her life.
Meanwhile, he had stood to belt his pants, stopping once as he yanked the leather strap tight, before he spat at her. His shoulders bounced, accompanying his perverted laughter. Without a second thought, he brought his foot down hard on her pleading hand, smashing it back to the ground where he thought she deserved to stay, forever.
I could be your daughter. You’re a fucking monster. I hate you. I hate you… I still hate you.
Bridgette’s memories were becoming confused and black again.
With peripheral vision, Bridgette could see her torn pants strewn on top of one bulbous, bin bag. And a shoe, which had been her only weapon, she remembered, had also been cast adrift. It was the only chance she had had in the violent struggle.
Her flesh, especially on her heels, felt raw from being dragged and scraped from where she had dropped, perhaps a few hours ago. The rain continued to fall. Its unkind prickles left Bridgette ready and willing to die.
Breaking the monotonous sound of rain came a gentle crawl and crackle of tyre on the gritty, dank lane. Music emanated from a car, cruising for an early score. It was barely daylight.
Please see me, please, look down here. You waste of skin. Please do something good… Please!
Bridgette coughed up more blood. She soon found that was all she could do – she could move nothing. Her pitiful cough was not going to help her. Using her bruised eyes behind the heavy, rain and blood soaked hair, she tried to follow the car as it passed. But in the end, all she could do was listen. No! Christ!
The car left a trail of a familiar song, slowly dissipating as Bridgette lost consciousness again…
* * * * *
Bridgette had run home from school with a rejuvenated conviction, having been thrown out for the last time for sleeping in class and causing trouble. Expelled for fucking defending myself.
In her bedroom, her radio defiantly blared out, ‘Leave this Shithole’ by The Wranglers – very apt, she thought, as she grabbed at clothes and shoved items into a rucksack, not really thinking, only wanting to run, to once and for all leave hell.
Just get out of this shithole. Don’t worry. Get a job, see life and meet people. Good people. All that jazz.
As Bridgette grabbed and stuffed, hard footsteps pounded up the stairs; even on carpet her mother could make a fuss. Fucking drama queen. She pushed open the door, flinging it so hard that it hit the bedside drawers. She stomped to the radio and switched it off.
Bridgette didn’t bat an eyelid and continued to grab things while her mother paced, wringing her hands when she finally began to speak; not harshly as her demeanour might have implied, but she was stammering and clumsily spitting words.
You’re pathetic! You’re wasting your time anyway.
All Bridgette ever saw was the same old bleary head of viper tongues hissing and stabbing at her – another horrible person backing her into another dark corner until she feared her ears would bleed or head implode.
At the age of 14, Bridgette tried so hard to believe in God. She did for a short while, but only so that, if there was a god, it might see her life and strike her mother down and evacuate her father to the bowels of hell. Sorted! she thought.
Bridgette was well used to these tirades and didn’t give a rat’s arse anymore. Her mother was still bemoaning to Bridgette that her skirts were like belts holding up her legs with ‘…more leg then skirt’ and ‘what is with those stupid, tarty, black raccoon eyes?’ There were no questions about school, her rucksack or why she was leaving.
I don’t give a rat’s arse anymore, Gloria.
She continued to prattle on and on… about how Bridgette was ‘a big girl now’ but pranced about half dressed, half of the time, ‘and in my house…’ And then, ‘no wonder he…’ The snarling mother bit her lip, hard.
Bridgette stood rigid, like a red-hot poker. The over-gorged rucksack fell to the floor, and useless items fell from every available nook and cranny.
Yes, bitch, bite the fucker off, and bleed to death. Bite that lip like you have always done. Bite it hard!
Bridgette always suspected, deep down in her aching heart, that her pathetic excuse for a mother knew, and that her mother knew she knew about the abuse Bridgette suffered.
Even more perverse, when Bridgette grew older, she’d more or less gathered that her mother didn’t see Bridgette as a vulnerable child who needed her mother to fight for her – to slay the sleazy, twisted dragon, or, rip his fucking head off and take her the hell away. No. She saw Bridgette as a threat.
Bridgette repacked the rucksack. She coldly looked at her mother and hoisted it onto her shoulders before turning to stand inches away from her – the pathetic woman was now visibly trembling; her cheeks twitched and the dark circles were damp.
‘When I leave, I won’t be that fuck’s ‘sweet little girl’ anymore. This shithole will be a bad dream. Maisie down the street will have him all to herself. Did you know about that Gloria?’
No? Well, you know it now, ‘mummy’.
Bridgette leant over and picked up a tatty bathroom towel from her bed and rammed it into Gloria’s hands, after prizing them apart.
From the age of nine, Bridgette had tried various ways to booby trap her door, in case, god forbid, she might have fallen asleep before the boozy fire-breathing dragon came. The rub of the wet towel wedged up in a roll on carpet at the foot of her door, together with the soft shoulder force against her door from her father would almost certainly wake her, or so she hoped.
She hardly ever slept from that age. She couldn’t stay awake at school. Teachers and kids bullied her for being quiet, tired, or for falling asleep… She couldn’t tell anyone why, ever.
Is it my fault? It’s all my fault. I love my daddy, but…sometimes… I hate him.
Wet knuckles gripped tear stained sheets. Her sheets were useless armour. She would sob and cry, ‘mummy, mummy’, only to find out years later, that clearly the wicked, heartless bitch of a monster mother could actually hear her, but chose not to hear.
You’re going to hell, lady, if I have to drive you myself!
For as long as Bridgette could remember, she’d called her mother ‘Gloria’ since it was hard for Bridgette to see the woman as a ‘mother’. She wondered if Gloria had always been that way or if the torment in their lives had changed them both irrevocably. She doubted she could remember good times now, even if there had been any.
* * * * *
Time had inched enough that it had stopped raining. The sudden brightness of light hurt Bridgette’s eyes, as she slowly tried to open them. It was well into morning. She was so much colder now, and she saw that her hand was now completely black.
There was the intermittent beeping of heavy lorries backing up… they were not far away.
Please collect the bin bags. Clean up this shithole. Help me. Somebody see me, please! Mummy…
Soft groans escaped Bridgette’s battered and blood-caked mouth. The immense pain had become more than she could bear. Colder and a lot weaker, Bridgette still could not move. Her mind inevitably stirred as she came out of the blackness: roaming, looking over her shoulder, fighting, cowering, desperately wanting to run and hide, wanting to bury herself under her sheets again.
The world’s full of fucking monsters.
She could hear distant words in her head: ‘I have a daughter your age…’
‘And what age would that be, weirdo…’
I hope not. Christ! You useless freak. You couldn’t even kill me properly. Why didn’t you kill me? Somebody, please kill me.
It wasn’t my fault! Help me. Please, help me… Anybody!
Bridgette couldn’t physically cry as she stared out into the bleak lane through gaps in the bin bags. Sometimes cars cruised by. Her eyes were on alert, even though they stung like red-hot pokers. More random people passed on occasion, but they were too busy with their phones or briskly walking into their daily fucking lives.
Go on, eyes down, sucked into your mindless plates of processors. Please, look over here! Oh, god…
Bridgette could never afford a phone… or decent food. She sold her soul twice a week for cigarettes, amphetamines (or whatever was going to help her ‘escape’) along with her chips. The sordid ritual was easy since her dad constantly took from her, from the age of 7. It left Bridgette with little regard for herself, her body or people. She had apologised her way through life, taking beatings for it. She’d always be fucked, she reckoned, in life and in death.
Bridgette was more alone and vulnerable than she had ever been. In her delirium, she fought with fleeting feelings of forgiveness.
No! No way! NO! Not you, and not my dad. If I ever find you again, I will kill you… Both.
Yet again, she found herself fighting to stay awake in piles of filth, like when she was younger… and for over half of her life. Piles of filth had become her life. The filth had now consumed her.
Stay awake, Bridgette! Don’t you fucking fall asleep. Stay with me. Stay here!
Bridgette’s cheek was pressed hard onto bleak, quilt-like cobbles – the indentations on her flesh were swollen and blackened. She was beginning to die.
* * * * *
Streetwise Bridgette was like a cowering rescue dog that would typically bite before anything. Loneliness stuck out of her, just as much as her ribs these days.
On cold, desperate, hungry days, or just days with daylight in them, she would try to remember things – I just love to punish myself. I must be that stupid.
She often sighed for the halcyon days of homemade, roast dinners with green vegetables, potatoes and gravy coming with warm, kitchen smells and mock slaps on the ear for her pierced nose and tattoos, both obtained once she’d finally snapped.
She had become fed up with restraints, constraints, and conditional rice puddings. Fluffy smiles turned to frowns as soon as she entered a room on Sunday afternoons, especially if she had nothing to report of her life as she trod the hamster wheel of limitations she had set herself on, all just to appease them.
Was it ever like that though? Fuck knows.
Even here, cold, bloody and alone, the black tar of memories struck like the bully it was. It was all a lie. Fluffiness only happened when relatives visited. Only then would those delicious smells permeate the air. Hiding behind all of that was the thick black squelch of her putrid life.
Don’t go to sleep in the dark – there be dragons.
Sure enough, monsters came in that darkness. They helped shape Bridgette into the ‘lost and found’ person she had become.
Some of her more tired and faded tattoos would ache from needle marks; they were the same unfriendly and often crude figures that used to give her the feeling of freedom. Only one tattoo said it all. It was the main drive of her existence, but bruises and blood now blotted out the majestic butterfly. She had starved a good while to have it done, passed out while having it done and, from then on, began to believe she could someday fly above her fucking mess. Sadly, deep down, Bridgette knew she could never really fly… or for very far.
You will get me out of here. I know you will. Even though it will be a fucking long way to go, to go nowhere, Bridgette often thought.
* * * * *
In the dingy, bleak alleyway, Bridgette’s sore eyes twitched rapidly. She kept wondering what had set him off when she fainted. Her head reeled in agony and confusion. She automatically began to blame herself; despite her pious beliefs, she knew she was often unable to resist any chance of hope.
Why didn’t he scoop me up into his arms and carry me to Munro’s? Why didn’t he help me?
No big shock there. Another one thinking with his trousers, scraping me along the grim glassed path to the fucking alleyway – scum! He didn’t know me, but hated me enough to…
Just then, through the clump of frizzy hair partially covering her eyes, Bridgette caught sight of the shop window opposite to where she lay, and vividly recalled the vast mountain of black shadow thrusting into her relentlessly in the rain. All during her ordeal, when she could no longer fight, she went further than the shop window and pretended she was inside and warm, trying on fur hats and sumptuous coats because she was so very cold, while the monster…
There is no god – I made him up. Add another sick overture to my life.
Bridgette’s synapses were on overdrive, though her will was drowning in blood. She could feel her bra, which was halfway down her body, laden with the papier mache rain-soaked notes, which, she remembered, he’d shoved down her blouse after he had tried to brutally shove her shoe down her throat, raped her and then beaten her half to death.
What are you? What made you hate so much? I know I can beat you. You’re not my dad. I beat him… I got away. Fuck! Please, stop hurting me! You sick bastard!
She also recalled frantically smacking her hand on the wet ground searching for her shoe before managing to grab it. She lifted her arm, and when she smiled at him (he seemed to like that), she hit him full force in his eye with its stiletto heel. Her meagre force against his unhealthy BMI was no match. Soon after that, he crushed her hand and much, much more. Bridgette spat at him before his brute fists arrived at her beautiful face.
Stop hurting me! You sick fuck!
Lying half-naked and brutalised, Bridgette moaned. Blood pooled at a faster rate than before in front of her weary eyes. She drifted in and out of consciousness…
I would gladly kill you if I could, but you might have a daughter. I want to kill you because you might have a daughter. You freak!
A short time later, a small cat with ribs like Bridgette, hopped down off the toxic bin bags and wandered over to where she lay. It nestled cosily between Bridgette’s blackened, dead hand and her battered face. Bridgette’s eyes opened slightly. She felt heavenly warmth from the patchwork, black and tan coloured creature.
Inside, Bridgette’s heart was breaking about many things. It broke as it had done daily on the bare, cold, lonely streets of hunger and rain. It also broke for her father’s sick mind and her mother’s weakness. It broke for her sordid childhood, and the irony of all of this, for all the books she couldn’t read and those she did, and only in broad daylight, behind walls – out of school and away from the house.
A thin, bloodied stream ran down Bridgette’s cheek, stinging everything there. A sharp intake of breath made her jerk horribly. The pain was too much. She stared into the small cat’s eyes. It hurt to try and smile.
Don’t count on me to take care of you, little bugger. You’re on your own, like me. I always thought I might die alone too, just like in the books. Well, maybe not now, ay?
I’ll call you Midget. And just maybe, I can get some food for you, soon… I promise…
Bridgette couldn’t keep her eyes open, and more blood began to spill as her chest heaved.
As flashes of her life snatched precious breaths from her, Bridgette recalled a book she’d stolen from school one day.
I actually like poetry. Bridgette’s eyelids flickered.
Stopping the clock of gods,
speaking or praying,
this coldness is chilling –
with a hint of a lone heart –
I think, I will die here.
As the cracking pain on the floor spread – and with the coldness slipping, Bridgette’s last breath stuck to her lips.
* * * * *
Twelve hours had passed, and while in the midst of another row, Bridgette’s parents were interrupted by the teatime news.
“A body was found in a quiet part of the city centre. Police believe it to be that of a homeless woman in her late teens. Local youths discovered the body. Police are treating the death as suspicious.”
A brief description of Bridgette and her various, distinctive tattoos was read out by the newsreader who called on the public for information about the crime.
Down in the street, a couple walking underneath the window of the family house was stopped in their tracks by a loud scream.
‘No! Not Bridgette! No…’