From Little to Nothing; The Rest of My Life.

by Beth Porter

From Little to Nothing; the rest of my life.

Her matted hair imitates a bird's nest, scruffy and untidy. Her eyes are filled with sadness as if they are like one giant hole. They seem so deep with no ending to them, just filled to the brim with unhappiness. She's 15 now and her name is Amy. She's got a long way ahead if her, by that I mean her life on the streets; hungry, unloved and unwelcome. These are some of the tragic things that she will experience in the future. But what happened in her past was much worse.

This isn't a great way to start a story, but in this case you can't start with a 'once upon a time', it just isn't that kind of story. You see Amy has a very dysfunctional family; alcoholic mum, violent dad and well her younger sister, she's in care. Ever since Amy was born she's never felt wanted or loved. She is what some cold and heartless mothers would call an 'accidental pregnancy' and the truth is, she was. Her mum got pregnant, what a surprise when she was drunk. And who did the father turn out to be, some violent, abusive man named Mick. She claimed she loved him once she had fallen pregnant with his child. But hey... love happens between the strangest of people, although this wasn't love, this was a disaster waiting to happen. In fact it had already begun.

Amy has never seen her mum sober; the style she normally is used to seeing her mother in is when she has a fag in one hand and a vodka bottle in the other. For most children at the age of five, they would be used to seeing their mothers with a packed lunch ready for school and open arms for when they're feeling down. I guess she just got unlucky. Unlucky, I suppose is not the right word to use when you have to remind your own mother when your birthday is. And when she finally decides to throw a birthday party for you, it's just a few of her wino friends round at your dump of a house. For her birthday present, her first bottle of alcohol. That's not unlucky, that's cruelty for a child who's just turned six to be thrown an awful and disappointing party, and also on top of that, to be given a bottle of WKD by a drunken women or so called 'mother'. In an child's dreams they wish for a 'happily ever after', but in Amy's situation she just wished for a real caring mother. Sometimes her dreams were the only way of getting what she truly wanted, but in reality things were a lot different.

One night before my birthday, Dale, my next door neighbour, was concerned after he heard constant screams coming from inside. The door was open so he casually walked in to find himself witnessing a grown man beating a frail drunk young woman, and then also to see me out the corner of his eye, a little girl hiding under the table, shaking in fear of her own father. Dale was a nice man he stopped my dad from hitting my mum. He chucked my dad out, scared him off for quite a while, then gently grabbed my small bruised hand from beneath the table and wiping my saltly tears from under my sad sore little eyes, with a ragged piece of tissue.

From that day on I learnt that the only people that I could rely on was those who weren't my parents. Dale spontaneously appeared that night, and I seemed to have many of those types of people enter my life for an hour or two. They would help me out when I was most weak and vulnerable, and then leave me to fend for myself again. But waiting for people to help me didn't seem fair; I needed to be a lot stronger, mentally and physically and now knew that I couldn't always depend on other people to pick up the pieces. So that's what I did.

When I turned aged nine I had already learnt many things most nine year olds would have never dreamed of, let alone used the skills in everyday life. I don't remember starting school, I just recall going to nursery for a week, but all you do there is drawing and painting. For me now I didn't need school, I had all the essential skills that I needed for life. I learnt to wash my clothes with soap and water, make a decent meal from nothing and steal from shops without getting caught. You see these are the things that mattered, the key skills they never would've taught you in school. I didn't mind not going to school, but I did know what I was missing out on. Sometimes I would be in the local corner shop ready to steal my dinner for the night, to only see a group of girls, giggling and gossiping coming home from their school, Farmsbridge Junior. Which I was meant to go to, but mum was too drunk to fill the form out, and she said that the money she receives for child benefit belongs to her and that looking after me is like babysitting. So she receives money and spends it on large bottles of vodka for herself. She also told me that whatever money she claims is not going on any tacky uniform. So it was settled. No school. Well that's what I thought for the time being.

It must have been some time after Christmas, I found a letter on the floor underneath all the 'URGENT, FINAL WARNING' letters. I hadn't noticed it there before. I opened it and saw the date it was posted, stamped at the top of the paper. I gasped, 2nd of October, it's now March 24th. I chucked it to one side, to be honest I didn't care, it's a bit late to be worrying about a stupid letter that got posted five moths ago, I thought to myself. But the worst was to come.

A week later, it was the end of the month. I remember being woken up by a loud banging noise, I thought it might have been mum falling over, but then I realised it was far too early in the morning for her to be drinking. Although I wouldn't be surprised, nothing stopped mum from drinking, not even me. I crept down the stairs, turned and saw her. She had never fallen over, in fact she was completely away with the fairies. Her glazed eyes fixed staring at the ceiling and her hand clutched the near empty vodka bottle, whilst she lay on our old disgusting sofa. I'm guessing the little world she was in at that moment didn't hear the loud banging noise, she blocked it off, just like she had forgotten that she had a child, well two children, but my little sister was in care. The noise got louder, it was the door. I opened it to only find myself stood beneath two massive men. One knelt down and asked, "Is mummy there?" with his deep but friendly voice.

I nodded, but never replied. Knowing the state the house was in and how mum was looking, I was ashamed when they asked if they could come in for a little while. I knew they were important people and were definitely not one of mum's drinking friends, so I agreed and stepped aside, opening the door wider.

I would have offered them something to drink but it was too early in the morning to go shoplifting, they didn't seem too bothered though. They both glanced at each other, then raising their eyebrows as they looked at my mother in disgrace and sighed. They turned to me and told me they needed to ask me a few questions. I swallowed, my mouth was dry and I started to bite at my dirty fingernails, as if they were some kind of comfort, whilst I stood looking uneasy in a filthy pair of pyjamas, that were slightly torn, too small and didn't even match, in the middle of my wrecked living room that was piled with bottles and cigarette butts.

"How long has your mum been in this state for?",

"Has she been looking after you?",

"Why aren't you at school?"

Those were some of the questions they asked me. I felt in an awkward position to answer them, but I still managed to string together a fairly honest reply. Once they had finished, they decided to let themselves out and casually said goodbye. My eyes followed them out the door, but my body seemed to heavy to lift. I was worried and anxious. Although they were nice and polite to me, my mind screamed the word 'danger!', I knew something was wrong I just pretended that things were okay for now. As the door slammed shut I breathed a sigh of relief, even though my heart was still racing and my mind screamed so many words of fear and anxiety. I sat in discomfort looking pale with a plastered facial expression of embarrassment as I looked over the over the other side of the room at my mother. Still so lifeless and emotionless.

My mum didn't arise until 2:30pm. By that time I was dressed and pottering around the house, whilst treading carefully over the damp bit's of carpet from where she had dropped a glass bottle. Pftt... so much for the saying, 'life is like a box of chocolates', for me it's, 'life is like broken glass, shattered into pieces, not a hope in hell you'll ever fix them back together again, and you must tread carefully around the edges otherwise the outcome could be painful'. So yes, my life is compared to broken glass, and I'll tell you now, it's no walk in the park.

Mum staggered across the room, hoisting herself up when she stumbled over in thin air. I sat steadily on the staircase, blowing at the thick, grey and smoky dust, until it parted so I could stare an empty stare at my mother through the banister. I took an intake of air, hardly fresh but my lungs craved something to inflate themselves, as they were now empty and I was now short of breathe. Watching my mum wonder mindlessly around the house made me scared. Okay she wasn't the best of mothers, far from it, but I'll give it to her, she has tried once or twice at least, it's not enough but it's more than I've ever expected from her. The idea of losing her was a shock to the system. Just being able to say I have a mum was something to be proud of, instead of saying 'Oh yeah, my mum's dead because she was an alcoholic, so now I live in care'. Although the idea of being in care was something that bought my breathing back to a steady and controllable pace. Being closer to my sister would be amazing. She'd be so different now, but just having somebody, a relative, who I could care about and expect the same level of respect and love back would possibly make me feel content for once. It all seemed so perfect until I snapped back into normality and opened my eyes to what was truly going on around me. Not so perfect now.

Being stuck in the house gave me a headache, well it was either that or the potent smell of the mould that held tight onto the ceiling and walls or the lingering smell of the vodka. Either way I had to exit that house. Quietly whispering under my breath 'goodbye' to my mum as I pulled open the stiff door, which seemed to get stuck under the small, flea infested piece of carpet. For a moment I turned back, and waited for a voice to softly say goodbye. There was no reply. I pulled the door shut, and glanced upon welcoming blue sky that brightened and lifted my spirit. I dragged my feet along the pavement as I travelled past the houses and cars that sat firmly on either side of my pathway. I couldn't help but stare into each car as I passed. Checking to see what others have got, and what I didn't have.

I trailed along still glancing into each car, until I was suddenly startled by a figure I saw staring into my shocked face from inside the car. I made out from what I could see through the tinted window, a man. I stood concentrating hard on the man's face. It came to me, it was the guy who visited my house earlier on that day, the friendly one. My heart pumped faster than usual, my stomach felt queasy as I felt the blood rush round my body fast. That sudden feeling of danger had now surrounded me again. My mind was like a sponge being squeezed tight as the energy and thoughts were drained from my head. The man opened the door wide, stepping out and scanning my small worried face. "Aren't you a bit young to be out all by yourself?" he lowered his voice as he reached for his phone. "" I answered with my anxious voice, whilst my eyes darted around, avoiding any contact with the man. He seemed to take no notice of my reply, due to him now half way through a conversation on his phone. I listened carefully to the muffled sound coming from within the phone and the voice of the man which gradually seemed to tense as he spoke loudly on the deserted narrow street. The phone call had ended, and the man seemed flustered and frustrated. He stared into my eyes. For once I had experienced somewhat of a warm stare from somebody, I didn't know how to react. I fidgeted and picked at the loose ends of cotton that seemed to ruffle the sleeves of my old and worn cardigan. He knelt down to my level, touching my shoulder steadying his balance as he whispered softly " Hello there, I saw you this morning didn't I?", there was silence for a second as I pulled myself back together, then cleared my sore throat and replied a simple "Yes".

Everything from that moment on was a blur, my ears became immune to any sort of sound. The man's cherry red lips moved, and I attempted to lip read, but the most I got out of it was his name. Stuart. I tended to focus on the stubble that surrounded his young looking face, trying to piece together who exactly he was. He stood up, flapping his hand over his smart trouser leg, brushing off the remains of the gritty loose pieces of tar, and placing his hand out in front of me, waiting for me to respond and hold his giant hand. I took hold of his hand, and he led me to the flashy looking car. For some reason I trusted him, there was just something, maybe it was that warm look that came from within those deep blue eyes, whatever it was I followed him into the car. He placed me into the passenger seat, took hold of the seatbelt, strapped me in before settling himself in the drivers seat and starting the car.

I didn't know where I was going, I suddenly realised I was in a complete strangers car, but I kept cool and calm. I began to ask where it is we were actually going, but my mouth seemed to hesitate, although I think he could vaguely work out the few muttered words that spilled from my small mouth. "What?, Oh, we're going somewhere quite special, I'm sure you'll be pleased with your placement",Stuart half smiled, still keeping his eyes on the road. "Placement?", I bit my lip hard, until I felt warm droplets of blood. I had heard this word before, placement, something mum used against me when she would take a drunken swing at me. I thought hard, turning my head towards the window, squinting my eyes as I tried to remember how and what sentence mum had used the word 'placement' in, I needed to know, I was incredibly scared and worried. Then it came to me, ' You just watch out the those social workers, they took your sister and they'll take you too, I'm sure they already have a placement waiting for you right now, little brat get out of my sight!'. That was it, care. I was going to care. It all made sense now, Stuart is a social worker, I knew he was important looking. Oh god, my mum, my poor mum. She's not well enough to look after herself, she can barely stand, she needs me! "Take me home now, I need to go, please" I shouted in desperation, " I'm afraid that's not possible, I know your frightened but honestly, there is nothing to be scared of, your in safe hands now". He spoke so calmly, how could he, I'm being separated from the little to nothing of what remained of my family. I panicked, my breathing shortened and I struggled to release myself from the chair. Suddenly, the car had stopped, for a split second I thought he was considering my command of turning the car round. He didn't. I looked out the tinted window, and glared at what was now to be my whole life ahead of me. A care home. Children running wild, screaming, crying. Was this where my sister had been all of her life? The door opened, and I was greeted by a scruffy, old women. "Welcome, to Lakes care home" she muttered under her croaky voice. The place was run down, kind of like home, but with more children.

So this was it, home. I had nothing, I had nobody, aged 10 and I was in a care home. I inhaled the dirty air, and walked down the barely visible path leading to the rest of my life, I didn't turn back, I didn't say goodbye to Stuart and he never said goodbye to me. I wiped away the tears that streamed down my cheeks like little salty rivers, that fell neatly from my chin and onto my chest, whilst I picked nervously at my fingernails.

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