Friday the 13th. September 2013.
This was it. Today was the day.
I walked to Tesco in the morning and got out enough cash to get the bus.
A single ticket – because I wouldn’t be returning.
I didn’t even look back once I was on that bus.
Which is strange to think of now, because it was the last time I’d ever see that lay by as it was then.
I got to the bank and was having a mini breakdown in the queue worrying about whether the money would be in my account or not. Three times I checked my bank card was definitely still in my hand.
The cashier asked me what she could do to help and I told her the amount I wanted to take out in cash.
‘ Oh ‘ she said ‘ Usually you have to ring first to take out that much.’
She excused herself to talk to her manager.
Fuck. Fucking fuck.
I could feel myself sweating. I was starting to go red as well.
If someone had said anything to me then I’d have probably just cried at them.
She came back and sat down again.
‘ Hello Miss Potten ?’
I looked at her.
‘ We can do your request today, but in future please do call ahead so we know to keep the cash in for you.’
She counted the cash and I stuffed it all into my purse.
My legs felt wobbly when I left, and I could still hear my heart beating all the way down the street.
I grasped my purse tight, paranoid I’d get robbed. I felt like everyone knew I had such a large amount on me and didn’t want to tempt anyone into noticing me.
I checked the train times and had a long wait until the next train.
Going to the bank hadn’t taken as long as I thought it would.
To kill time I wandered around the city centre.
I went to grab something to eat at a cheap cafe and sat down near a plug socket to charge the phone. I still felt too nervous to eat.
I was staring out the window when a guy tapped the table I was sat at
. There was only one table in the cafe – it was meant to be a takeaway place really, although there were other seats outside the front.
But as it was sunny they were all taken by other people.
‘ Do you mind if I sit here a mo? I’m just waiting for my order to go..’
I nodded, too shy to say anything else.
‘ Thanks’ he said. And he smiled back.
I didn’t know whether to talk to him or not. He wasn’t much older than me. I felt awkward sitting opposite a complete stranger – didn’t he know I was homeless ?
Why was he still smiling ? Why hadn’t he given me a wide berth like most other people did?
‘ I like your tattoos’ he said. I looked at my arms – like I’d forgotten that I had any.
‘ Oh Thankyou. I did these ones myself.’ I pointed at my forearms.
‘ Really ? Wow, they’re pretty good. Is that what you do then ?’
‘ Um. No.. I wanted to. But it wasn’t for me really..’ I laughed nervously. And loudly.
A man in the queue glared at me.
‘ Iv got a few myself.’ He rolled up his sleeves and showed off his arms.
He was covered in several Sailor Jerry style inkings.
‘ They’re Sailor Jerry designs’ I said.
‘ I’m in the Navy.‘ He added. ‘ I thought they were pretty cool.‘
I smiled back. He had no idea I was homeless. He was just chatting to me like a normal person.
In fact I felt like he was chatting me up.
That hadn’t happened for a really long time.
He went to say something else, but his order was ready.
‘ See you around then’ he said as he left.
‘ Yeah….‘ I replied, unsure.
The phone had charged loads by now, and I said goodbye to the owner of the café.
I’d chatted to him before when I was selling Ryans iPod in Cash Converters.
He said goodbye and wished me luck with the flat.
I walked past Cash Converters and looked in the window.
I was just curious and only glanced as I went past. But there was a black iPod in the window.
For sale : £35.
I don’t know that it was Ryans. But I don’t know that it wasn’t. It was the exact same. Robbing bastards I thought! But it was lighthearted. I didn’t care now, it had gone. I felt like I was leaving all those horridly unfair moments behind as I walked towards the train.
I got to the train station, and paid for a ticket. One way again – I wasn’t coming back.
I found a seat and watched as we left Devon and entered Cornwall.
I don’t remember what happened next exactly.
I know I must have gotten to the estate agents, handed them the cash and got the keys. I’m sure I bought some lunch from the shop on my way past, and a chocolate for Ryan.
I saw Annette again as I let myself in the big black door. She gave me a hug when I said I got the flat, and offered me a cigarette. We smoked together and chatted.
Someone had a peek in the shop and picked something up.
She got a bit arsey then – later I found out she didn’t like people picking bits and pieces up. Probably because it would send several other bits flying…
‘ That all costs me ya know!’ She’d say.
They asked the price on the glass bottle they were holding.
‘ Iv got a tenner on tha ‘ She told them.
‘ Could you do any lower ?‘
‘ Ere – have it for £7 but I can’t go no lower else I ain’t makin anything’
She replied inbetween drags on her cigarette.
She took the cash from them and I let myself into the flat.
I was here.
It was ours. It was all over.
I plugged the phone into the socket nearest to the window. I watched the traffic for a moment and everyone in the café across the road. I waited for Ryan to get back. It was literally just me in an unfurnished flat.
Most of the light sockets didn’t even have bulbs in, so I ended up sitting in the spare room once it got dark. I watched Annie for a bit, putting all the things she had outside the shop inside. Once everything was off the street and inside the shop you really couldn’t go inside.
It amused me for a little bit.
Finally Ryan must have gotten back.
I helped him bring in all the bags of clothes, and any other bits and pieces.
We chucked them all in the ‘bedroom’ and blew up the air mattress we’d packed months ago and used once. We didn’t even have curtains but Ryan found some different size nails in a drawer and used a shoe to hammer two blankets across the windows so we had some makeshift ones. It makes me laugh now but it was a right sight at the time ! Worked though.
I really don’t remember much after that.
Ryan went to work in the van every day and the car was left parked up where it was. A couple of weeks in and we drove up to the Midlands to get some more bits.
We took mum up on the offer to lend us £200 and we bought some food and house bits. She also gave us a few plates and pans and things. Including the pan from the fry up on the beach. I still have that even now.
Ryans mum gave us some bed linen and towels and more kitchen utensils.
We went to Dad’s and picked up Ryans chest of drawers and the rest of our stuff. A few bits were missing, like the iron vase Ryan had bought for our first anniversary, and a couple of my favourite clothes. I knew what Dad was like, so they’d either been thrown away in a revenge rage when his rent money hadn’t appeared. Or he’d just gotten rid of them to be spiteful. I didn’t care now though. It was just stuff.
And even though some things had value beyond money, It didn’t matter really. I had a roof over my head. Some food in the cupboards ( NOT soup ) and Ryan by my side.
We had done it. We had got through it. It was officially over.