A few hours later and the temperature began to drop, as it did in the evening.
It was always a welcome change and I’d take down the towels once everyone else had driven off to their cosy homes – with thoughts of bottles of wine in their lovely gardens no doubt, and showers and fresh bed sheets. And I’d be forgotten about until the next morning …
I’d find myself ‘tidying our house’ ready for Ryans return, and would baby wipe the surfaces and shake out the duvet and pillows. I’d save any chocolate I had left over for him, and would usually read the last days diary, or one of the books I’d acquired whilst out in the van with him.
Seeing his figure on the horizon brought the same relief that you get from a hot shower after a hard day. It was the only time I’d begin to actually relax and things wouldn’t feel so much like a wierd daydream. The day always becomes more real when Ryan is around, but in a good way, his familiarity and knowing he understood the tiny struggles that no one else was going through. Together we’d cling to each other and things wouldn’t seem so tough. We were getting through each day for one another, and neither of us would crack for fear of letting the other down.
I told him about the phonecall, and he nodded.
‘They came to the depot to get a contact number. I was out in the van and Lee wouldn’t give them my work number. So they must have given this one to get rid of them.’
We agreed to move the car now, to stay permanently.
Usually in the evenings – despite what I’d told the Policewoman – we did move the car.
Just a mile or two down the road was the Child Support Agency. And next to it was a tiny parking area. We’d come across it by chance – we had actually been visiting the local Tesco, which was a 30 second walk from this parking area. You’d never know it was there until you were in it. And it was quieter and away from the busy road near Ryans Depot.
It was a dog walking trail, and often we’d get dog walkers walking behind the car – but they almost always left us alone – usually wrapped up in whatever people think about when they walk their dogs.
There was a lovely field to the side through the brambles, and you could follow a footpath, or make your own through the tall grass. I’d explored it one weekend and found loads of wild flowers and secret hiding places. It was the sort of place you’d find a fairy if you believed in them, but if you were hunting for one, you’d more than likely find me amongst the grass – having a wee.
At the weekend Ryan wouldn’t be working, so he’d join me in the boring long days of nothing. We had a little bit of cash left, just enough to get some food with about £15 left. It would be the end of the month in a few days, and Ryan would be paid and we could get ourselves out of this mess.
We’d walk to Tesco and have a look at any food samples, and scoff the lot if there were any – each of us daring the other to be more greedy. Laughing as we’d scamper off down an aisle, crumbs all over our faces.
We would also use the toilets at Tesco – it was 24hr, so we could go whenever, although Sunday’s were rubbish because it’d shut at 4pm.
There were toilets downstairs that not many people used – most choosing the ones near the café. So these were forgotten about generally. That suited us just fine.
In the corridor, there was a plug socket. So we would charge the phone there daily. Usually I’d be left to guard the socket and Ryan would take himself off for a shit.
I’d get so panicky trying to act casual, and if a member of staff walked by I’d smile and try to look a bit over friendly. I probably looked borderline nuts but it kept them asking questions as to why my rear end was pressed solidly against the wall – so it was worth it.
As much as it was starting to become really shit being here all the time – the weekends were great, because we would chat about absolutely everything. We’d make plans about the future, which was a really positive way to deal with it all. Often Ryan would tell me I could go home if I wanted, and he’d come and get me once this bit was over, but I always refused – we were in this together, and to go home would be admitting defeat.
Besides, I didn’t have anywhere to go home to. Mum couldn’t have me on her boat, it was a squeeze with her and Brad – let alone me as well. And Dad hadn’t contacted me at all, even though he would have surely noticed our absence by now – it had been weeks. The thought of it made me feel wierd, and for a moment I felt like no one cared in the world where we were.
To keep our minds occupied we decided to have a walk around the surrounding areas, instead of the usual jaunt to Tesco. And we stumbled across a village, and a small hub with a shop. Next to it was a pizza place, and I still remember the unfair smell drifting past us.
‘God I want a pizza’ Ryan said
‘ I know… Me too.’ I replied.
We hadn’t had hot food in ages. Whenever we chatted in the car we tried not to talk about food, because it reminded us that we were hungry.
When evening came we’d make a big show of having ‘dinner’ and deliberate on what flavour soup to have. We’d stopped including bread in our weekly shop because it would go mouldy so fast with the heat and humidity of the car that it was a waste of money. So now it was just soup and water, and occasionally a £1 Vicky sponge.
We were having our dinner one evening and I was scraping my plastic spoon against the inside of the tin.
‘Oh fuck this Ryan. It tastes like shit.’
‘ I know… It could be worse though honey..’
‘How ? How could this – possibly- be worse?’
We were laughing about it, but there was some truth in what I was saying…
‘ Well. It’s better than dog shit.’
‘ Great !’ I laughed ‘ So the ONLY thing better than this soup is ACTUAL dog shit !!!’
We laughed so much, we forgot about our surroundings and the shitty soup. It was true – it was shit soup – but it didn’t matter in that moment. We were getting by. We were still us. We were still laughing.