On a side street not far from the beach, me and Lorna are having breakfast. I’m not in a talkative mood. I’m feeling guilty. It was a selfish act I committed. Even though I failed, someone like me shouldn’t think about that, let alone do it.
However useless I feel, Milly needs me after what she’s been through. I was a mother to her for most of her life. I should be there for her now. I might only be her older sister but she needs more than that from me. So do Enda and Susie. They’re all used to getting more than that from me. I was a better mother to them when I was seven years old than I have been recently. How did I do it back then? Where did I find the strength? I need to get that part of me back.
I pick at my toast. I feel full up. I’ve managed to eat two fried eggs and that’s good for me. That’s a day’s worth of food. More than a day’s worth really. Most days I don’t eat this much. Not that I want to be as thin as I am, I’m just not hungry.
Lorna’s a strange type of heroin addict – not that I know many. Like me, Shelley didn’t eat much either. But Lorna’s been shovelling her fry up into her mouth as if the waitress is about to return and whisk her plate back to the kitchen. Two fried eggs, two rashers of bacon, two sausages, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, chips and toast. I feel sick watching her.
“How are you feeling? Lorna speaks with her mouth full.
“Okay.” I nibble a slice of toast. I don’t want to talk about me. “What was it like working in a brothel?” I ask. That’s one kind of working I’ve never done. I went from streetwalker at fifteen to call girl within a two-year period and without stopping off at any other level in between.
“I don’t know really. I only did it for a couple of months.” Lorna talks to the table. It looks like she’s directing her words to a dirty napkin.
I thought she said she worked there for a couple of years the other night. I take a sip of tea. “Is it safer? Were you ever raped?”
“I’ll be back in minute.” Lorna slides across the bench. She walks to the other side of the cafe, towards the toilets.
She’s as thin as I am. I don’t know if other people can tell that we’re junkies. Perhaps only other junkies can tell that. Lorna doesn’t look clean. She looks dirty. I wonder if I look as much of a dirty junky as she does. I shower every day and put make up on. I try to hide it. But my skin gives it away, to other junkies I’m sure – the spots all over my face and the red marks on my arms where the abscesses were lanced.
I consider what to do with the other hit when I get back to the Radisson. Part of me knows I’m going to end up taking the shot. The needle might be used, but then again, it might not. I could have used Lorna’s syringe last night. Who am I fooling? I know I’m going to take the hit. The more I think about it, the more I know it. There’s no way I can dispose of heroin anywhere else other than my veins. Whatever I do, I’ll need to get tested at a clinic anyway.
I think of the times I’ve waited three months for an HIV test after being raped. All those times. When I was a streetwalker, being raped was a regular occurrence. It’s only happened a handful of times since I’ve been a call girl. There’s never any point in reporting it to the police. On the streets, you don’t know who’s raped you. And as a call girl, the police would never take a hooker’s word over the word of a barrister, a premier league footballer, a film director or any other client. It’s a harsh fact but it’s the truth.
It’s a miracle I don’t already have HIV, even before I started working. But then I guess paedophiles are less likely to have it. The sick fucks. At least they’re in jail. At least I got justice. It wasn’t as much as I wanted, but it was more than Shelley got. Her stepdad wasn’t convicted. If I catch something now, it’ll be my own fault. Using Lorna’s needle was my choice, my action. Maybe I could throw out the other syringe when I get back to the hotel. Maybe not.
“Sorry I was so long. I’m constipated from the gear. Do you get that?” Lorna sits back down on the bench opposite me. Her breath smells of vomit.
I pick up my mug of tea. “Yes, I do,” I reply. Then I pick up our previous conversation. “So is it safer working in a brothel?”
“I told you, I don’t know. I only worked there for two months.”
“The other night, you said you worked there for two years.”
“No, I didn’t. You don’t listen properly.” Lorna shuffles across the bench. She stands up. “Are you done? I need a drink. Let’s get some vodka on the way to the beach.”