Chapter 5 (To read all six chapters in an e-book format please clink on this link ... Storage [so far])
Rosie sat down heavily. It was as if the bench morphed around her and became part of her. She sank back and sighed. It was the same every time. Whenever she needed to get away from ... anything, she came here. To see Ryan. But Ryan never saw her. She felt as lonely as before she met him, but at the same time she felt like she was more at home than anywhere she had every been since she left Crown Wood. That’s where her other family lived, the one that didn’t want her any more. She knew more about them than they knew about her. That’s the way it had always been she felt.
Another sigh escaped from her soul and this time she felt tears running down her face. She hated to cry. The tiredness that accompanied her on the way to the bench prevented her from even raising her hand to wipe the tears away. So they ran, unhindered, down onto her pink uniform. It was a colour she hated because it reminded her of her bedroom, but she didn’t have a choice. It was a uniform, after all.
Conforming was not something that Rosie had dreamt of ten years ago when she had first made her escape. The short time with Ryan had confirmed that she wanted to be a free spirit, like him. Rosie looked over at the spot where Ryan lay still beneath the ground and remembered his laugh, his smile and them being together. After that first day they just seemed to follow each other around. Neither of them ever said anything that constituted an agreement to be together, it was just accepted. Sometimes there is no need for words.
Their days together were similar, but so different. The day after Ryan told Rosie his story they woke up and untangled themselves from each other and then packed their sleeping things together to go and sit in their usual spot. They didn’t talk about it. The only difference was that they looked at each other more, but only when they thought they were undetected.
Rosie sat on the bench and was filled with the same desperation to know answers that she had felt the morning after Ryan’s revelations. The drugs had worn off and she was shaking. Feeling irritable as usual she decided to use her mood as a reason to question him.
“I could pretend I’m still sleepy,” she mused as she opened her mouth around the question in her head. It never made it out of her mouth. Fear of changing the status quo drove the words back into her heart and now they sat heavily there, alongside questions about this new man that had just died at the hospital. Ryan had been the first person that she saw die, this man was just another patient that didn’t make it. Rosie couldn’t understand why he was now lodged in her brain next to Ryan. Ryan was special. John Doe was nobody to her.
Yet she wanted to know more about both of them. Ryan would have the answers, she had thought that’s why she was sat on the bench near him. Later, as usual, she would speak aloud. She would ask the questions that twisted her insides, that was the only way she could rest.
Rosie was beyond tired. She was exhausted but not just because of the long night shift. The unanswered questions were heavy.
It was the same as when Ryan had shared, but different. She loved Ryan. Not that she ever told him that. They didn’t need to say love, they showed it. This man, with the odd coloured-eyes, had shared something and thrown so many questions at her in the process. All the questions of life. With no answers.
Rosie was frustrated.
When she had desperately wanted to ask Ryan some questions she hadn’t done it because she didn’t have any information that she was willing to trade. So she kept quiet. Once, a week or so later, she was just about to tell him about the birthday party when she saw an unfamiliar look in his eyes and she closed in on herself again.
She was laughing to herself when he looked at her again.
“What’s the joke then?”
“You’re strange sometimes, Rosie. Did you know that?”
“Yes.” She smiled at her private joke. “Yeah, I know I’m strange ... but you like me!” Then she laughed again, a bit more nervously than before. Inside she swore to herself for making that mistake and then she promised to be more careful again. She knew she couldn’t afford to go down that road again – not even with this man.
“After all,” she thought, “I’ve only known you for about eight weeks, what was I thinking?” she continued to smile at him, but it wasn’t a real smile.
Ryan just looked at her for a long moment, he started to say something then changed his mind, shrugged and turned away. When he was no longer looking at her she let the smile drop completely. And she remembered – all of it.
The blank looks to the left and the right returned and she knew she was in danger again.
Ryan knew what was happening but he pretended he wasn’t interested.
“It’s better this way, anyway,” he thought, “I can’t really take her crap on right now.” His arm was sore again and he needed to get the dressing changed but that would mean more questions that he didn’t want to answer so he scratched at it to soothe the pain.
It’s bleeding.” Rosie spoke casually to him as she looked over. She had been watching him as well. They were like distant chess players.
“You’d best stop that or it’ll get ...”
“Shut up, Rosie! Who the hell d’ya think you are? My doctor?”
“I was only trying to say ...”
“Well, for Christ’s sake stop trying. It’s boring and it’s none of you damn business anyway.”
“Suit yourself you ignorant sonofab...”
“I will! Now butt out will ya?”
Ryan had turned away from her by now and was scratching his arm vigorously.
“Fine, I will!”
“Fine! Do that!”
Ryan moved the now bloodied and dirty bandage down his left forearm. I really hurt and he didn’t know what to do. It was a different kind of a pain, not the nice pain that he wanted, this pain was jagged and bitter. His scratching had opened up the wounds again and there was a yellow pus as well as the blood soaking into the grimy crepe bandage that was wrapped around the cuts. There was a time when that bandage had been white. Now it was difficult to remember as the crusted dried brown blood and dirt mixed together.
Trying to reposition it back over the open wounds he unwound it slightly and tried to retie it more neatly. Holding a piece in his left hand he rewound the bandage but it wasn’t doing any good. The blood came right through the loose layers.
Rosie just looked at him. She wanted to help but refused to budge until he apologised. She practised the words in her head, “Here, let me help,” they sounded right. She watched as Ryan grimaced when he the shredded pieces of bandage together.
“Nearly there,” he thought, “I’ll show her.” Then without warning he started to cry.
They were both shocked.
Laughing was just about OK but crying was definitely not expected or accepted according to their unwritten rules.
Ryan tried to stop but he couldn’t. Dropping the tattered ends of the bandage – and all pretext of trying to fix it up – he let his left arm drop heavily onto his thigh. The pain jerked through him but he didn’t do anything different. He just cried. Like a hungry baby. Rosie stared at him. She did not move.
When his tears stopped he got up, packed up his bags and started to walk away. She watched him as he walked further and further from where she sat. He never looked back.
Ryan waited in the accident and emergency room of the hospital for his name to be called. It was an unusually busy week night. He hadn’t been there for a long time. He hated it there but there was nothing else he could do this time. He’d opened up an old would before it’d healed properly and now it wouldn’t stop bleeding. He knew what they would say and how they would look at him.
He was right.
“Yeah,” he mumbled as he got up and walked to the nurse’s office for triage.
“Hello Ryan," he knew this nurse but he wasn’t sure that she remembered him. He was good with faces and people. That was something he had learned quickly when he was sober.
“I haven’t seen you for ages, Ryan.” She did remember him after all. His heart dropped. He preferred to be anonymous.
She went through the patient identification routine quickly as she glanced up at him from the computer screen in front of her. Leaning across the table she beckoned to him.
“Let’s have a look at your arm,” she said as she wheeled around the end of the table towards him on her low stool. She was not one of the rough ones so he lifted his eyes to look at her for a brief moment.
Staff Nurse Stanton her badge said. He said the name over and over to himself like a chant while she used her gloved hands to peel back the bloodied bandage. He’d try to remember her name but he didn’t really want to see any of them again. Rosie. That’s who he really wanted to see. He didn’t know why she had to be so nosey.
“They’d been getting on fine before she ...” he paused mid-thought as he tried to remember exactly what she had done that had made him so mad. It must have been something. It was always something.
Nurse Stanton gently peeled back the dirty bandages and threw them into the bin. She didn’t show any of the usual signs of disgust some of them wore when he was here.
“Ah. Let’s clean this up a bit,” she said.
“Sorry, but I have to see what’s going on in here. Hold on a minutes and I can tell you what we can do for you.”
“It hurts,” he mumbled, almost to himself.
“I know it must but I’ve nearly finished here, just a few more seconds and we’ll be done.”
“OK.” He winched as she pressed his arm. He had experienced much more pain than she was causing so he couldn’t understand why any of this was bothering him.
Two hours later he had ten stitches in his arm and a new dressing on it. The nursing staff had also managed to make him promise to visit the outpatient’s department in a week’s time to have it checked - because he didn’t have a GP. He had no intention of going but he said yes just to get them to stop talking, to give him some pain killers and to let him go.
He was thinking about Rosie all the time he was in there. He thought she would have liked the chance to sit with him on those seats as the hours drained away slowly. She may even have slept like she did the last time they were there. He needed to see her, but he couldn’t go and find her. He wasn’t weak. He had to prove it.
After agreeing with the nurses to return Ryan picked up his dirty bag from the clean hospital floor and headed to the doors that led into the ambulance bay and the car park. He knew he was wasting his time being in there. He had money to get because he needed to get high – quickly.
Rosie ducked down behind a car as Ryan scurried out of the A & E department. In her hurry to drop out of sight the lighter that she was always playing with fell from her hands. Frantically she reached beneath the car to retrieve it. When she looked up again he was further away from her than she had planned. Her move wouldn’t work now. Rosie sighed. She had practised her lines. They stayed in her throat as she watched him leave. She was getting used to watching him leave. Ryan never saw her as he hurried out of the door with his head down. He looked as if he was searching for something on the ground. He acted like he was in a play, like Hansel and Gretel, but he was on his own, searching for an invisible trail. And his Gretel was hiding behind the car – watching him go.
Keeping hidden she followed him back to the squat and waited for him to make his way in. Pulling the temporary boarding away he burrowed through the opened window on the ground floor and replaced the board behind him.
Shivering, across the road, Rosie hunched down by a hedge and waited.
A dim, unsteady shaft of light appeared in the gloom – he had lit the last piece of the candle that they had kept. The batteries for the torch had run out weeks ago. They hadn’t been able to either steal or buy any in the time since. They had been busy getting high.
As a slice of wind hit her Rosie realised that she was shivering and hungry but she didn’t move. She had to see what he would do. When he went to sleep she would crawl in and go to sleep next to him. Then, in the morning, they’d carry on as if nothing had happened. That was the way they always did things. But it had never been this bad before. Nervously Rosie talked herself into waiting a while longer. She couldn’t feel her feet anymore because they were cramping, but she stubbornly refused to move. She deserved to suffer, that’s what she thought. That was just one of an avalanche of thoughts that came at her as she sat there. Thoughts about pink bedrooms, birthday parties, a place in Crown Wood and the lighter, they all tumbled around her head as she stared at the space where Ryan had crawled into the squat.
Eventually the light went out. She’d estimated that they had about an hour’s worth of light left and he’d put it out after about thirty minutes.
“Good,” she thought, “he’s gone to sleep.” She was wrong.
As she started to straighten herself out to walk across the road she saw the board moving. Rosie threw herself behind another parked car and grazed her knee in the process. She prevented herself from calling out in pain.
Questions filled her head and made it heavy.
“Where’s he going? What’s he doing now? What the ...”
Ryan climbed back out of the window. He put his bag on the ground. Then he reached back in and pulled out another bag. Rosie had never seen that one before.
“Where was that hiding?” she thought as she looked at the Burberry patterned holdall on the ground next to the dirty rucksack. It was packed to the brim. It was clean. She got angry in a second.
“What’s that?” she said to herself. Then, as she saw him lift both bags up and lope off down the road she whispered, “Who the hell are you?” Sat behind the car Rosie felt more alone than ever before. She tried to stop breathing but it only hurt her lungs and her head. It had been months since she’d slept alone and the night fear returned to grip her throat.
“He lied.” She said it over and over again to herself. “He lied to me.”
“I’ve got to get a hit,” she thought and standing up she defiantly walked in the opposite direction to Ryan. At the corner of the road she looked around but he had already gone.