At around 5pm, there was a knock on the caravan door.
"D, your date's here!"
"He's early, tell 'im to piss off!"
We both giggled and she opened the door.
I was introduced to a lad about 19yr old, Neil. He seemed fine, although I was going to make no snap judgements. These guys were, after all, criminals living in a bail hostel..... yeah, and we're runaways living in a caravan came back the retort in my mind. Silently I berated the voice.
D's "date" for the evening was a 20 yr old called Gary.
Apparently both guys, brothers, had been caught mid-burglary of a nonce's house. They were due to remain in the Hostel for only another 2 weeks, while their flat was being made ready for new tenants. We also learned our benefactor was called Raymond. He had been released 2 months prior, having served 3 years for violence.
As one lad started to roll a joint we all began to relax and slowly the laughter was coming easily with light conversation.
We walked into the Bail Hostel at just gone 6pm. The staff agreed we could visit in the games room and that yes, we could also stay for food. Under no circumstance were we to go upstairs.
Food turned out to be curry. Was about what I'd expected, being in Bradford.
Ravenous, we devoured as much as we could without drawing too much attention from the staff or certain residents. The lads tried to keep us huddled in one corner, out of sight but as the time dragged on, staff started looking to the clock or their watches and staring at us longer. At around 9.30pm they insisted it was time for us to leave, but that we could return the following day should we wish to.
We thanked them for the food and the staff hovered nearby as Neil and Gary made a show of saying goodnight.
As the cold wind hit us, I felt it bite through to the bone. As I groaned, D turned, a quizzical look on her face.
"Don't feel right."
"Oh god! Food poisoning's all we need in the caravan!" she said, grabbing my arm. "Come on, let's get back."
We hurried down the street to the alleyway as the snow started to fall again, heavier than before. Settling almost instantly, the road was soon covered yet again.
Stumbling in the dark, we reached the safety and shelter of the caravan. My chest was on fire and I staggered over to the bed and crawled under the blankets.
I woke up a couple of times and D hovered nervously, trying to coax me to drink something. I would manage a mouthful or two each time and pass out again. The third time I woke, the police were there and D looked very apologetic.
"It's been four days!" she rushed to explain. As she pulled forward towards me, i could see one Officer holding onto the handcuffs that secured her arms behind her back, like she were a violent criminal, not a runaway from a Children's Home.
I struggled to speak, my throat raw from dehydration and coughing. "It's Ok D. Think I'm not well anyways."
"Up!" The Officer barked the order at me, holding out the cuffs to demonstrate he was growing impatient.
I carefully stood up, holding on to the edge of a unit to steady myself as a wave of nausea swept over me. Rough hands grabbed my shoulders, forcing me round to face the bed as handcuffs were snapped in place behind my back.
D and I spent the next 18 hours in Bradford Police Station. We were told nobody could drive the 10 miles from Skircoat Lodge to Bradford to collect us so we would have to wait in the cells until arrangements could be made.
The following morning, one Custody Sergeant decided he was not having "two kids" in his cells another day and dispatched 4 Officers and a Riot Van to drop us at the Children's Home.
An hour later we stood in the Staff Room at Skircoat Lodge, facing Ms Brunning and Joyce. Ms Brunning was screaming at us both about the trouble we had caused and I felt my knees give way and everything faded to black.
I woke to find myself in bed and the Dr conferring with Joyce about my condition.
"She can't be moved for quite some time. Really I would prefer she were in Hospital, but considering the flight risk, I agree confinement here is probably preferable. If her condition worsens we can look at the options again."
Joyce noticed I was awake and led the Dr out of the room, pulling the door closed behind her. She returned 5 minutes later and started busying herself tidying the room.
"You're going to have to stop running away," she said, "You're only hurting yourself with it. Look at the sorry state you're in. Filthy, half starved, that's before we even get to the Double Pneumonia."
Well at least I knew what was wrong with me. I rolled onto my side, facing the wall, pulled the blankets over my head and waited for the world to fade to black once more.
My recovery took around 3 weeks. Mr P visited my bedside every day.
"Why?" he asked one day.
I looked at him blankly.
"Why you 'ave to cause me so much trouble girl?
"Coz you're a dirty nonce nigger!" I snarled back at him, bracing for the impact that usually accompanied such comments.
Instead he just folded his hands into his lap and smiled. "We have an offer of a place in another facility for you. You would still be registered as living here, but you would spend 5 days there. You have to have an interview first of course, make sure you're suitable. But I sure a girl so determined to leave here is resourceful enough to gain entry anywhere."
"What's the catch?"
"No catch," he replied, "Your Mum has even expressed a wish for you to spend some time back at home, so we were considering allowing you to attend the school in Macclesfield and then return home each weekend. If that goes smoothly, we could look at signing you out of care and back home."
He stood, smoothing his jacket and looked at me, "When will you learn girl?" He shook his head as he leaned towards me. His hand gripped my throat tightly, my already damaged lungs struggling to gasp air as his hand slowly crushed my windpipe. "There ain't no escaping me til I say you can go!" he screamed.
As footsteps came quickly along the hallway, he released his grip on my throat. The bedroom door flung open and Joyce gave Mr P a withering look as she began fussing over my blankets and pillow.
"I told you she was resting."
"And I told you the little bitch would be fine. Now get her back on her feet woman and out of my Home."
As the door closed on Joyce's argument with Phillips, I felt relieved. They were letting me out of there. Didn't matter what kind of school, it was out of hell. All I had to do was survive long enough to get accepted. As sleep crept up on me again, I wondered what kind of place it really was....
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