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I dialled the digits onto the metal squares with my fingertips. . We rang to tell you there is a place on the night shelter service. next to Ridley’s Bar.” A bright voice answered. you called me. We’ll get a pen from somewhere. have you got a pen with you?” I didn’t. about a place…” “What’s your name?” She interrupted. “Remember that. Racing to the phone box in the street. “Oh Hello…” Suddenly I didn’t know where to start.” I said. you can’t miss it. It was in a Church in Forest Gate tonight. ‘Bradshaw Street.’ I opened the door of the phone box and repeated it out to James. I hope this meant we got a place. I kept thinking as the ringing filled my ears. “Oh yes. over and over. how can I help. 2 ‘Being Sian’ Living Day To Day It was four o’ clock when my pager got a message. typing into her computer. but tried to remember the information. “Hello East London Homeless Service. I gave it to her and she paused. “I got a message today. cutting to the chase. I tried to repeat the road name in my head. The Homeless Centre had rang and told me to give them a call back.

‘Come on. as he grabbed his bag up from the floor. to let him disappear on his own. in another of his huffy moods. for my cue to leave. feeling the last scraps of my energy disappear along with my spirit. He joined the queue of passengers as they moved towards the stairwell of the bus directly ahead of where I sat. his sharp eyebrows raised to the ceiling in a sudden jerky motion. glancing up at me reluctantly over the metal rail. and sprang out of nowhere. I met his bland. James had refused to sit next to me. she gets on my nerves. and once again. he muttered something about “Needing space. When I asked him this. so I kept an eye on the hunched shoulders of James. he wouldn’t have made the eye contact. but I had argued. I followed. He didn’t look back at me to check I was following. I could never foresee them. we’re living in each other’s ear. bodies climbing down in front of him a step at a time. He had tried to send me home to my mother instead. That’s what couple’s were supposed to do. knowing what his thoughts were. cold face warily. I stared miserably out of the bus window. didn’t he love me? We took the bus from Poplar High Street towards East Ham. .” This made no sense to me either. I knew that if it faced the other way. They were frequent now. Asian men gabbled quickly in their babbling language behind me. are you slow or something?’ is the message he shot out at me with this one simple move. but he cleverly managed to turn it on me. as it is. my right shoulder squashed up against it. 3 We spent the rest of the day doing nothing till eight o’ clock arrived. He had to turn direction to face the back of the bus as he inched forward. I didn’t know what to look out for in the streets outside. what are you waiting for. I envied the lives of strangers. somehow convinced that their lives were happier than mine right now. using the location as his excuse. This happened three stops later. Can’t I stay with you?” I couldn’t think of what he wanted to do so badly without me being there. pleading: “I dowanna go back to her. the directions she gave me were probably invisible from the bus route.

Inside. just as the woman had said. by tricking them into an expectation of converting in the future. as if being Catholic was not a condition to receiving this kind of help. so there were no crowds pushing in through the doors when we arrived. just waiting for a drunken fool to crash into it if he lost his balance. analytical way. I felt like a common scumbag. It looked like it would topple over. It didn’t happen. asking if I needed any clothes. we might come to our senses after our physical needs were attended to first. the sound turned down very low. The light in their eyes died as they looked at us in their cold. A woman smiled at me from the next table. The glazed eyes of homeless men fixated on the screen. jumpers and tops spilling out. I felt like we were cheating. let alone call in pint after pint like they were. as if we didn’t have permission to be there. scrawny men stood around clutching cups of tea and soup. I looked through them curiously. 4 We turned into Bradshaw Avenue besides Ridley’s Bar. After a while. sending hot liquids flying. They told us to help ourselves to the sheets and bedding in a cupboard in a small hall. The towering grey Church was impressive. . and politely declined. I felt unsure of myself as I pushed open the heavy wooden door. as I passed their patch. next to the Confession booths. A television was on. channels dancing out colours and images. handed out from a small table with tiny narrow legs. I was almost disappointed. I looked at the black bin bags stashed next to her. repulsed at the lack of style and fashion in the grannyish patterns of the stiff. as we were beyond it. the warm air dizzying his cold face. We were late. We were shown into the large hall inside. hypnotized out of their plaguing thoughts and the cold. jeering at each other playfully in mock brawls. We didn’t have enough money to eat with that day. not caring whether it made no sense. standing grandly over our pitiful lives. The whole set up seemed surreal. I felt like a cockroach as I passed the loud cheerful office men as they got tipsy. About forty single collapsible camper beds were stacked in rows. itchy woollen jumpers.

. We were told to tidy up our blankets by folding them and putting them back onto the shelves of the small room again. I couldn’t relax enough to enjoy it.’ But he was far too polite to say it. The next morning hit us as bright rays of light spilled through the Church windows. one eye cautiously glued to the Church door behind us. A few weeks passed like this. and we didn’t expect anyone to interrupt us now. the smell of carpet and wooden floor hitting our noses. I was surprised. I looked at him. the warm tip of his tongue seeking out my clitoris to massage it gently. and a guilty panic overtook us as James bolted back up towards me. none of which I tried to remember. recommending that we sleep in the small hall by ourselves. until James hand wandered down into my knickers when it was dark and we were truly alone. Even the door to this tiny hall was closed. watching his head under the white sheet. a staff member carrying a pile of blankets. As it turned out. though initially I wasn’t in the mood. pulling down my underwear to insert his face in between my thighs. There was no sign of anyone about so I turned back again. so we abandoned them to crash out directly onto the floor. not with the others in the main hall. one church blending into the next. We just died of shame. men were being crammed into every corner by now. However. That was like star luxury under the circumstances. illuminating the coloured stained glass that had been unnoticeable the previous night. Suddenly James crawled down under the sheet. Then I heard a loud creak. Nothing could have been further from my mind. in a confusing whir of different places. 5 The staff took us to one side. The tiny narrow beds were making things difficult. his head averted in discomfort. and could almost hear the silent explanation in his head. we did get down to a guiltily snatched moment or two under the covers. if you want any hanky panky. The beds were to be collapsed and stacked against the wall. This was a move that could obviously be seen by the guy moving down the aisle past us. rocking up and down. ‘You know.

“Just shut up! I dowanna hear it. James had no interest either in a shower. dreading the cold. weak body language of inability. and the prospect of there being no towels. which contradicted their helpless. with tired scruffy men grabbing cans in corners and trying to dodge the staff who shouted out their ‘no drinking policy’. “Stop fucking complaining! I’m not in the mood for your whinging right now. and that it was cold.” He flung at me. Showers were available but most of them had no interest.” . deft fingers rolling tobacco with ease. I was hungry now though. shocked and confused. They shoved stale rolls and lukewarm soup at us without manners or care. I laughed to myself. spinning round to glare at me with sharp eyes of rage. We were informed of the homeless day facilities in East London. so we returned to Whitechapel for the free food at the Day Centre there. the thought clearly in their heads that we were all trying to scam them somehow. imagining these mousey smelly men trying to sell extra rolls in the local market for a pound or two. it was up to us to disappear into the street outside and find something to do till then. preferring to huddle together in groups of communal misery. It was like a community centre. “What?!” I’d asked. Anyway I felt drained and lazy. 6 After being informed of the next night’s sleeping location. I didn’t bother either. I was saying how lucky we were that the Day Centre was there to pass the time. I hadn’t even known it existed before. so we went to the canteen to staff who stared at the queue suspiciously. It was as we were leaving the Day Centre that James attacked me.

maybe we’re better off splitting up Sian. as it was closer to where she lived in East London than Victoria Place was. and be the one to dump him. ‘To see where it is. that I’d seen the last of James’ unpredictable temper. I would do anything to stay with him. if you ever go missing. Myself and James barely had time to unpack and settle in our room before we . I’m warning you.’ Events moved very quickly.” Suddenly he moved from attack to control.’ Of course I didn’t do that. we were soon offered a flat together. the alive bit deep inside the back of my chest. or why it made him so livid. Poplar House was formerly an Old People’s Home. She insisted on visiting me there. my mother was happier with me being there. He ignored my peace plea now. “Look. Despite the doubts I had about James. near Mile End. we were given a double room in ‘Poplar House’. wondering what he meant by us breaking up. I was relieved at getting a place to stay. storming away from me in long cold angry strides. It’s up to you. whispering a small timid ‘sorry’ to pacify him. so I know where you are. like an Asian wife who steps behind her husband. when James left me to it. less than a fortnight later. We didn’t have to wait very long to be allocated a shelter. converted into a shelter for the Winter. My chest hammered now as I hoped things like this wouldn’t keep happening. I couldn’t figure out what I’d said wrong. maybe he’ll be sorry then. heavy with dread. making it seem as though he was being reasonable to a girl who was clearly a problem. That’ll show him. I stayed behind him following submissively. I followed behind. Of course. I was getting tired of changing churched every night and wandering every day by myself. fought back with the thought: ‘Maybe I’ll just leave him here. if you don’t like it. So I stayed silent. 7 “But….” I tried to defend myself. Part of me. I panicked.

the cold rift between us like the view from a cliff edge. without a smile. I tried to stand up for myself now. His face was the hardest I had ever seen. Stubbornness was rising inside me. James had gone on another mystery tour an hour before. I thought we were in trouble about something. and I’m not turning it down. Silence filled the next few minutes. a busy.” I said eventually. Get married or leave him!” Unwilling to be a part of her as we walked together in unison. He was a ‘no-nonsense’ type. ‘Take it or leave it’. with dark vicious hatred. We’re moving in together. demanding signatures. Instead. It was time to tell my mother about it. I was surprised.straight away he told us the offer was non- negotiable. She arrived at our room. The pints sat in front of us as Robbie Williams played in the . firm looking man sat with his arms across his chest. I was becoming braver by the month.” I told her firmly as we walked along the street from Poplar House. We were not entitled to separate accommodation. 8 were called upstairs to the Manager’s office. I fell silent and edged away from her. “I’m moving in with him. her face set in anger.” She said. barking threats across the table about behaving ourselves in our new flat or we’d end up back here again. My heart was pounding. We had to accept it as a joint tenancy. mum. The hostel gave us a flat. “You ain’t living in sin. since we were a couple. “Well. we’ve got the flat now. he said. but I didn’t know what to say back to her. He shoved forms across the short table in a swift move. We went into the local pub. you’re not.” “Oh no. “I mean it. huge and unforgiving. as I stood alone in front of the mirror cabinet.

I peeled off my socks. I resisted them. that would be admitting I had made a mistake. Back inside. I went to the small stuffy room I shared with James. As I retrieved it. you won’t succeed in this world because you shouldn’t be out there. copyright@emmasharn2009 . bitterness cutting our table off from the rest of the people around us. the happy atmosphere clashing with our argument. It wouldn’t be long before we moved into our flat. he reflected my own deadness inside. I noticed a small mouse. 9 background. and collapsed onto the double bed that consumed it. but small little ice cubes of doubt melted away inside my chest. So far James was the only person I had. After a miserable hour and a half. I felt sorry for him. I knew I didn’t want to ‘go it alone’ now at this stage. it was too late. Alcohol did nothing to lighten my mood after being crushed again by the presence of my mother. gruff and unrelenting. dead in a trap by the side of the dressing table. you should be at home with me! When will you learn? Why d’you have to do things the hard way all the time?” I was lonely and needed to be part of someone else right now other than her. I told her I wanted to go back to the hostel. Despite needing to oppose her domineering control. with friends. Nothing to delight my mother more than for me to come crawling home to her hostile black piercing eyes. Besides.” She told me. I’d lived in hostels too long to wait for my own place. it would sicken me to give up on James. they were not going to be helpful now. I knew that James was not everything I needed. with her taunts of. They had already noticed that we were a couple. Also. ‘See. and one rolled over the edge of the bed. “I’ll bring you back. and had refused to house us separately. Years of her abuse had to be diluted now with normality and a life.