‘That time there, the landlord was selling up, so I had to move out,’ Andrew said. ‘So I was in this hostel, but you can’t work and stay there cos then you’d have to pay the staff’s wages and everything, so I found myself another bedsit, and I finished my training, and I got a job with an OK company, and I was stupid. I’d never had proper wages before or money, and I blew it all. I was going out, getting wasted all the time. I bought a load of video games, the big TV – everything.’ He put his head in his hands. ‘Then the 2008 crash happened. I was sacked two months later. No one was building houses anymore. I tried looking for another job, and I got bits and boba for a while, but it all dried up. There was just nothing.’
‘You lost everything.’
‘I don’t know why I haven’t topped meself,’ Andrew said. ‘I’m not looking for pit or owt. I just don’t see any future.’
‘Would you go back to being a builder?’ Sophie asked him.
‘Goes without saying,’ Andrew replied. ‘If there was a job for me, I’d start tomorrow.’
‘And have a roof over your head and be warm and dry.’
‘I don’t want to think about that just now,’ Andrew said. ‘It’s chucking it down and I’m freezing. I don’t want to think about it being warm and dry. I just want to get through the next few hours.’
‘We should go to St Theresa’s,’ Sophie said.
Andrew didn’t move. ‘What do you want to be?’
‘Me?’ Sophie seemed taken aback to have been asked this. ‘What do I want to be? I don’t… I don’t know. Maybe a hairdresser? That’d be good; chatting all day and doing hair. That’d be nice.’
‘I reckon we should wait another ten minutes, see if the rain stops and -‘ Andrew stopped. The sound of a car’s engine alerted him to danger. ‘Oh no.’ Andrew put his arms around Sophie. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll look after you.’
But Sophie could not be comforted by this. ‘You’re in no shape for a scrap.’
Andrew got up. He had to protect her. ‘Stay there. I’ll go and see -‘
Andrew didn’t have to look for who the car belonged to. A police officer came striding towards them. Andrew shouted to Sophie,
‘It’s ok. It’s The Busies.’
But Sophie ran. She threw aside the blanket and ran. The officer ran after her, calling Sophie “Little Bitch” and other similar names. Andrew ran after them. Sophie, the officer and Andrew ran through the clump of bushes behind the last warehouse and onto the smooth tarmac of the pavement alongside the new dual carriageway that led to the out of town shopping area. The police officer was panting heavily and fell back. Andrew overtook him and he ran towards his girlfriend.
Suddenly, a police van pulled up in front of Sophie, cutting her off, and the driver jumped out from the van and wrestled Sophie to the ground. Sophie was screaming and struggling.
‘Stop it!’ Andrew yelled at the officer as he ran up to them. ‘She’s been abused. Get off her.’ He went to rescue Sophie by grabbing hold of the officer’s stab-proof vest, but the panting officer behind him easily lifted Andrew off his colleague. Andrew tried to fight him but he had no strength left.
‘Andrew Harding?’ The officer addressed him.
‘I haven’t done anything!’ Andrew glanced over his shoulder to see his girlfriend being handcuffed. ‘And she hasn’t done anything either!’
‘Andrew, I need to talk to you,’ the officer said. ‘You’re not in any trouble. I just need you to come with me for your own safety.’
‘I can take care of myself,’ Andrew replied.
‘Andrew,’ the officer said with an edge to his voice. ‘Come with me or I’ll have to arrest you to take you into protective custody. You choose, but we have to get you off the streets. People are looking for you.’
This is the second part of the story. The third part will be posted in two days’ time.