Published in Tough Talk Magazine – May 2013
Me and Mickey walk along the road towards the Radisson. I’ve been sweating in my white, Armani dress all day. I want to have a shower and change before he takes me out to dinner. He’s trying to make me eat more, which is sweet of him really, but I’m not hungry. I never am. Apparently, there’s a sushi restaurant I’m going to love. What I’m most looking forward to is the sake. Mickey says it gets you drunk fast. He also said it’s made from fermented rice, which doesn’t sound particularly nice, but if it gets me drunk and doesn’t taste too bad, that’s all that matters.
I’m feeling the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here. Today with Mickey has been amazing. We haven’t done anything, not even kissed. But he’s held me for hours in the back of his van and not once did I have a flashback. It feels like a real breakthrough. I’m dying to tell Dr Fielding but Mickey’s hungry and I’ve already talked him into stopping off at the hotel so I can freshen up so it’s not fair to make him wait while I call Dr Fielding too. Later tonight, I’ll be too drunk so I’ll need to leave it until tomorrow.
As we approach my hotel, Lorna’s standing opposite on the other side of the street. She looks like a hooker in her red boob tube top and her jean shorts that are so short they show half her arse. I look away, hoping she won’t see me, but I know I’m probably the reason she’s stood there.
“Oi, Nicole!” she screams.
“What do you want?” Mickey shouts back at her.
“Can’t she talk for herself, chicken legs?”
“We’re off out now. Come over on Monday,” I say, because I want to spend the rest of the weekend with Mickey before he’s back to work.
“Just cross the fucking road, Nicole,” Lorna yells. “I won’t take too much of your precious time.”
I run over to the seafront, leaving Mickey outside the Radisson. I kiss Lorna on the cheek, hoping to calm things between us after the lie I told. “Have you got my two-hundred dollars?”
“Forget about your fucking money. Who do you want to be with, me or him?” Lorna shakes my shoulders. “I know you’re fucking him as well.”
I look away from her and turn my head towards the sea. “I really like him, Lorna. I’m sorry.”
“Well you should’ve said before and not led me on.” She digs her nails into the bare skin on my back.
I rip her hands off me. “I didn’t lead you on. Last time, I was gouched out and when I came to you’d taken off my clothes and were all over me. You fucking took advantage and that’s not the first time.”
“You lying fucking bitch.” Lorna slaps me hard on my cheek. My head swings to the side. As I bring it back up, I nut her on the forehead. She falls flat on the pavement.
Mickey comes running over the road. “I told you she was trouble.”
“She’s a dirty little fuck, isn’t she Mickey?” Lorna pushes herself up from the ground. “That’s what you like though. She’s right up your street. A dirty fucking whore.”
“C’mon, let’s go,” Mickey says forcefully.
I stand next to him on the curb, waiting for a gap in the traffic. I’m shoved from behind. I can hear Mickey calling my name as I spin through the air.
Mickey climbs into the back of the van and I follow. He’s parked up on a side street near where we scored in Narrabeen. It’s a quiet road. All the houses are detached. On the grass verges, there’s trees every few feet that have been planted with the greatest precision. Now, I’m in the back, I can’t see any of it, just the grotty guts of this van. I strategically place a few of the multi-coloured cushions on the floor, so I can lie down without my white dress touching the dirt.
Yesterday was a write-off. I didn’t wake up when Mickey left early for work. I didn’t wake until the afternoon. With my skin painfully sunburnt, there was no point going back out in the sun. I stayed in my hotel room, rationing the gear I had left. Under my breasts, the skin’s stinging. I’m sweating, not from clucking. It’s the heat. This day must be the hottest since I’ve been in Sydney. With no air-conditioning in the van, it’s like a sauna.
Mickey passes me my filled syringe. Finally, I can have a decent hit. To make the smack I had last until this morning, I was only using enough to stave off the aches and sweats. The dodgy vein on the inside of my elbow still isn’t healed. So I inject the hit in my lower arm.
“Can I hold you?” Mickey asks.
“You can try.”
He arranges the spare cushions to make a slim bed next to him. He opens his arms and rolls me over. My head is on his chest as it was the last time, but my eyes are directed at his face. Although it’s a strain, because the heroin makes my eyes close, I force them to stay open. Looking at him helps. It stops other men’s faces entering my head. He’s not like most men. I don’t need to be scared. I repeat that in my head.
“Is there any news on your grandma?” I say.
“She’s doing all right. Dad’s still with her. That’s sweet of you to ask.”
“Is your mother blind?”
“No. Why would my mum be blind?”
“Must’ve been a dream.” I’m feeling so fucked from the gear, I forgot I didn’t want to bring that up. “That morning you left when you had to take your mum shopping, I thought you said she was blind.”
“She doesn’t drive, that’s all.” Mickey chuckles. “You’re a funny one, Nicole.”
“What do you mean by that?” I pull away from him and sit upright.
“Nothing bad, beautiful. I think you’re great. You’re just not like the other girls I know.”
I lie back down with my head on his chest. No, Mickey, I’m not like the other girls you know, but for reasons I don’t think you’re aware of. Or maybe he does know. Maybe Stix has told him what I am. I shut my eyes tight as if that’ll make it all disappear. Hiding the truth is a lie. I don’t want to lie to Mickey, but I don’t want him to reject me.
I’ve been shooting up in Stix’s house in Elanora Heights for the last couple of hours. Me, Stix, crusty-lips and close-eyes are in the lounge. I managed to get a seat to myself on the red leather armchair. It’s a better buzz here on this chair. I hate their bodies touching mine when I’m squashed between them on the sofa.
My sunburnt skin’s looking even worse than it did earlier. Stix’s mum gave me aloe vera gel when we got here. I pick up the bottle from the side of my chair and apply another coat to my face, arms, legs and chest. I’ll have to do my stomach and my thighs when I get back to the hotel.
I’m sure I’ll have missed Lorna now. She won’t be pissed off with me, because she’ll take my share of the heroin. I won’t be pissed off with her, because that’s what I expect. It’s annoying that I’ll have paid twice though. I’ve given Stix a couple of hundred so I’ve got my own stash. I prefer making up my own hits here, and I also wanted to have some to take back to my hotel later.
Crusty-lips passes me a joint. I really need to find out his name and the name of close-eyes too. I’m not feeling as drunk as I was before. I shared the rest of my vodka and coke with the others. They’ve opened some beers but I’ve not drunk anymore. I think I’ve learnt my lesson from the two times I’ve blacked out since I’ve been in Sydney.
Stix’s mum, in her rollers and wearing her pink dress that looks like a negligee, opens the lounge door. “Mickey’s here,” she says.
I want to sink into the armchair. I don’t want him seeing me looking like a bloody lobster. And he’s probably going to be furious with me, or upset, that I didn’t show up to meet him last night – if that’s what the arrangement was. He walks into the room. He’s wearing a royal blue, floral patterned shirt. That must’ve been him outside the cafe this morning.
He kisses me on the cheek. “Up ya get.”
I stand up. He sits on the armchair. He pulls me onto his lap. It feels strange. This is what boyfriends and girlfriends do, I think. I’m used to punters who just want to fuck. This is something different. This is being close. And close in front of other people. This isn’t an act.
“I’m sorry about last night. We were meant to meet, weren’t we?” I say quietly.
“You get a better offer?” He smiles.
“Not really. Not at all.” I pass him the joint. “I saw Lorna and we–”
“Lorna, I might’ve known she’d be involved.”
“What do you mean?”
“I told her yesterday I was seeing you last night. What did she do? Tell you more stories about me?”
“No, she didn’t actually. She was nice.”
“I’ll bet.” He takes a pull on the spliff. “You need to be careful with your skin. The sun’s a killer here.”
“That’s Lorna’s bloody fault. She let me fall asleep in the midday sun…for the whole damn day.”
“You’re lucky that’s all she did.”
Of course, she left me asleep. I told her I was meant to be seeing a punter last night. She knew all along I was lying, that it was Mickey I’d arranged to meet. She let me burn to punish me. And I bet that’s why she took me to Kings Cross. She didn’t want to give me my fifty dollars back. She wanted to keep me away from him.
“Why the fuck didn’t you wake me?” I yell at Lorna.
“Why would I?”
“Because I’m fucking burnt to cinder, you stupid cow.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“How could you not? Look at me. I’ll have to stay indoors for a week.” I push myself up from my Betty Boop towel. The sand feels like it’s rolling under my feet. I can’t keep my balance. I fall to my knees.
Lorna passes me the large bottle of coke that we mixed with vodka before coming to the beach after breakfast. I gulp it down, knowing I probably shouldn’t because I won’t be able to walk back to the hotel. But my bright red skin is so sore. It’ll help with the pain. What would take the pain away is a fix, but we don’t have any smack. We’re meant to be scoring tonight. I don’t think I’ll bother getting Mickey’s number from Lorna’s phone while she’s gouched out later. Until my skin’s a normal colour again, I don’t want him to see me.
“I’m not going to Kings Cross looking like this. Can you get the Dolomite?” I ask Lorna.
“I’ll try. Gimme your money and I’ll see what I can do.”
I take two hundred dollars from my purse and hand it to her. I pass her back the bottle of vodka and coke.
“You keep that,” she says, refusing the bottle.
In her fluorescent green bikini top and jean shorts, Lorna walks towards the promenade. I hope she can get her ex-boyfriend’s car because the way I feel, I don’t think I could manage the ferry and bus journey to Kings Cross and back again. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the Radisson. I’m going to have to try. Most people have left the beach now. I can’t stay here all night.
Carrying my beach bag and my handbag, and with my towel tucked under my arm, I trudge across the sand. When I reach the promenade, I slip on my stilettos. Staggering along the pavement, I swig back the vodka and coke. People are staring at me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m obviously drunk, or if it’s because my skin is abnormally red. I don’t like it. I like people looking at me because I look good. That doesn’t happen much anymore.
“Nicole,” a male voice shouts.
I stop outside a surf shop. I look around. The seafront is busy. I can’t see anyone I know. Suddenly, I realise I haven’t changed into my dress. I’m wearing only my black bikini. Teetering in my high heels, I lay my towel and my handbag on the pavement. I take out the long, Yves Saint Laurent dress from my beach bag. Slipping it over my head, my hipbone collides with the ground. It’s agony. I sit in the pain until a hairy hand appears under my nose. I look up. It’s Stix. He pulls me back on my feet.
“Wanna come with us? We’ve just picked up,” Stix says. He’s with crusty-lips and the guy whose eyes are too close together. I’m relieved Mickey’s not with them.
“I don’t know.” I want a hit badly. But I don’t want to be in the company of three men when one or more of them might have fucked me when I was comatose on Christmas Eve.
“Come on, it’ll be a laugh,” crusty-lips says. “We’ve got wheels. It’s not far to Stix’s place…we’ll drop you back later.”
I want a hit now, but Lorna has my two hundred dollars and if I’m not at the hotel when she comes for me, if she’s scored already, she’ll use my share of the smack. If she hasn’t been able to get the Dolomite, then we’ll need to trek to Kings Cross to score. I can’t make the trip to Kings Cross and I can afford to lose the money.
I take a sip from my bottle of coke. There’s vodka mixed in with it. I need that. I’m anxious. I’m dying for my hit. I’m also worried I’m not going to make it back in time for Mickey. If I didn’t dream the conversation with him, I’m meant to be meeting him at the Radisson at seven o’clock. Me and Lorna have only just got on the ferry from Manly heading to Circular Quay. We need to catch a bus to Kings Cross at the other end, have our hits, and then make the return journey.
“Are you sure we’ll be back in time?”
“You’re doing my head in.” Lorna sits down on a bench on the deck. “Why don’t you just call your punter and rebook him?”
“I told you. His mobile doesn’t work here. It’s a UK phone.”
If I had Mickey’s number, I would call him. And if Mickey was a punter, I wouldn’t care about missing him. I’m so angry with myself for getting on this bloody ferry. I should’ve stayed in Manly. I’ll be lucky to get my hit an hour before I would’ve probably had one with Mickey anyway. I can’t bear being driven by the powder like this. It makes me do things I don’t want to do.
Arriving at Circular Quay, me and Lorna walk to the bus stop and wait. Time is dragging. Unusually, I’m wearing my watch. I keep checking it. Eventually, the bus comes and we take the short ride. When we step off at Kings Cross, I’m infuriated by Lorna’s slow pace. I’m the one wearing high heels, as always, and she’s in flats. She should be walking faster. I can’t even pull her along. I don’t know where we’re going. I came with her once before to score here, but I never paid any attention on the way.
At last, we reach the turquoise door by the side of the barber’s shop. Lorna rings the bell. “Wait here,” she says, as the door is buzzed open. She disappears inside.
Smoking a cigarette, I watch the passersby. There’s a mix of people. I try to avoid focusing on the parents pushing buggies. It makes me sad, thinking about the babies I should have. I take a slug from my vodka and coke. I look at the prostitutes. They’re dressed the same as the streetwalkers back home in London. You can see the suspender straps of the women wearing stockings. They fall below their nearly non-existent skirts.
A young, blonde girl catches my eye. She’s wearing a jean mini-skirt and a black bra. I know I’m staring at her, but I can’t avert my gaze. She looks about fifteen. I ache in my heart for her. I ache for the young girl I was at that age. Fifteen’s when I started working. It was terrible then. I cried all the time. Doing a punter was like being raped. I didn’t have a choice back then. My pimp made me work on the streets. At the time, I thought he was my boyfriend. I was so naive. I thought he loved me. He was evil. So were the paedophile punters who bought me. They fucked a crying child. That is rape.
I stamp my cigarette out on the pavement. Lorna’s taking ages. I hate not having a phone on me. If I was back in London, I’d call her to tell her to hurry the fuck up. I can’t ring the dealer’s doorbell. I don’t think I can. It’s not the done thing when you’re the friend of a dealer’s customer. You’re meant to wait outside discreetly. That’s the rule.
I look at my watch. There’s no way I’m going to make it back in time for Mickey now. I’m not even sure the arrangement was definite. It might’ve been in my dream that I heard him say he was coming back. I can’t check with him though. I don’t have his number. I should have stayed in Manly. Now I’m going to have to get his number from Lorna. Considering she’s trying to keep me away from him, it isn’t going to be easy.
I pull myself up onto the high seats in the front of the van. Me and Mickey are heading back to Narrabeen to score more smack. Through the windscreen, I see Lorna walking in the road towards us. She’s making a habit of hanging around my hotel. It was only this morning I saw her here last, but I don’t think she saw me then.
I consider ducking as I did this morning, but it’s too late, I’m sure she’s seen me. I don’t want her to interfere with me and Mickey being together. She told me to stay away from him. But who the hell does she think she is? She isn’t my only connection in Sydney anymore. She was good to me for the first few days but I’m angry and hurt that she told Mickey I was a hooker. He didn’t believe her, but that’s not the point. She had no right to tell him about my business. And I’m still pissed off with her for using the heroin I paid for at the party the other night.
Mickey starts the engine. There’s a knock on my window. Lorna looks terrible. Her long, blonde hair is wild like she slept in a hedge. Her black dress is ripped at the shoulder. I wind down my window. I realise it’s not her black dress. It’s my Moschino dress. The one I leant her to wear to the party in Dee Why. That’s one of my favourite dresses.
“What’s happened? Are you okay?” I ask. Though I’m keener to scold her for ruining my dress, she looks such a state, I’ll have to leave it for another time.
“Never mind me. What are you doing with him?”
“That’s none of your business. You’re not her keeper,” Mickey says.
“Shut up, chicken legs.” Lorna shakes her finger at Mickey. “I need to borrow money,” she tells me.
I don’t want to lend her any money. She’s ruined my dress. And she’s not wearing the Russian wedding ring I gave her the other night. I expect she’s sold it for heroin already. Reluctantly, I take fifty dollars from my purse and pass it to her out the window.
“That’s not enough,” she snaps, tucking the note under her grubby bra strap.
“That’s what she’s giving you. You’re lucky to get that.” Mickey turns the wheel, pulling away from the curb.
“Fuck you!” Lorna screams after us as we drive off.
“Chicken legs.” I giggle. “Why does she call you that?”
“Stupid thing from school.” He looks at me briefly then returns his attention to the road. “It’s not funny. She’s always got an angle. I told you.”
I light a cigarette. “It’s not like I can’t spare fifty dollars.”
“Your inheritance will run out if you give it away like that.”
My inheritance – I’m glad that’s come up in conversation. That means I must have told him the dead, rich aunt story when I was drunk and not that I was a hooker. He said he didn’t believe Lorna when she told him, and it seems he still doesn’t. It’s not going to stop me worrying though. Stix knows what I do for a living. He could tell Mickey at any time. There’s a part of me wants to come clean with it tonight, get it over with and out in the open. But there’s another part fighting to hold back.