It is a sad fact of life that many of our teenage children come off the tracks. There are many hypotheses that try to explain how it is our society cannot cater for the younger generation, how it fails them at a fundamental level and leaves them to learn and fend for themselves. We teach our children the usual things, History, Geography, to read and write, numerical skills, but we seem to have forgotten how to teach them social graces and how to behave.
But, for a large slice of the populace, we fail entirely to teach moral values. Our children are introduced to sex at an early age, shown the mechanics of reproduction, but we rarely explain the emotions that go with the act. We show them how to screw each other and make babies that they cannot cope with, creating more social problems in an insidious spiral of descent. We fail to teach them, because we don't know ourselves.
So is it any wonder that the youth of today has little in common with their parents? Is it any wonder that they rebel or please themselves, given the lack of moral guidance we, as a generation, offer to their development? How can we expect compliance and conformity when we seem to discard or ignore our kids after they get to school age?
This following story alludes to under aged sex. I am not someone that subscribes to sex with minors, so please do not think that the case; I abhor it. It is mentioned merely as a background comment or rather, a painting of how real life is these days.
One last comment; for the American readers, in the UK, our age of consent and legality is two years less than yours. At sixteen, it is legal to screw your head off, if you want. I have no feelings either way about that, just wonder at the preparedness of such a person to handle the often harsh and consuming emotional rollercoaster of human interaction. At my advanced age, I still find emotions a confusing and dangerous area of our persona.
At fourteen years of age, Abigail had left the straight road, dropping out in a spiral of self-loathing, mixed with more than a small amount of defiance and rebellion. A heady concoction that took her to places only the truly down and out would ever visit.
At fifteen, she had turned her back on the education system. The rules and regimentation of an orderly day did not fit within her chaos of life. Resolutely, she refused to go to school, sparking off furious rows with her mother, who in exasperation, washed her hands of her daughter and threw her out of the family home and into the clutches of the welfare state.
The fights were not all about school. Two women in a small space with convergent ideologies is a match made in the suburbs of hell. Increasingly, the close bond that had been mother and daughter eroded until the inevitable crash. It was predestined that they would clash in spectacular style, their characters being so close that it could be thought Abigail was cloned from her mother; it was predestined as an outcome, but vastly hastened by the sudden departure of her father.
Neither mother nor daughter had any inkling of his intention to up stakes and run from their lives and not leave a forwarding address. What he left were debts that amounted to twice their annual income, the hangover of his gambling, a house part owned by the bank, an ancient car with more curiosity value than ability to run or realise any money and an envelope on the table with two words scrawled in haste on the outside; I'm sorry.
He had left with all of his clothing, what money was in the house and Abigail's piggy bank that might have had twenty pounds in loose change in it. Her mother's paste jewellery had been tipped out of her box over the bed so that he could take his birth certificate and some commemorative coins that had been collected and stored with her rings. They never heard from him or had any idea where he might have fled. For the two women left behind, there was no closure, it was as if he had suddenly died, they were emotionally and financially destitute and, because he hadn't died, had no income as such from a pension or insurance.
It wasn't just their meagre valuables he took, just as effectively, he took from them the bond they had shared, leaving them bereft of even the ability to turn to the other in solace and comfort. They blamed each other and themselves simultaneously, drawing lines and barriers that neither had the tools or inclination to ever remove.
At sixteen, Abigail was on a fast track to oblivion. For some short time, a guy she met on the road someplace, had fed her, then introduced her to drugs and then put her to work on the streets. She had been popular at first, a nice fresh face, an unblemished teenager; blonde haired and firm breasted, she had been all the rage. It lasted for a short time at least, but then, as drugs always do, her body started to show the rigours of abuse and deprivation of food.
In a matter of months, Abigail was totally on her own, relying on handouts and whatever she could scrape from the back streets. Tricking where she could to raise enough cash for her next hit, then crashing wherever she stopped until the craving for heroine woke her and the process started all over again the next day.
That was how Paul found her. Alone in the street, soaked through by incessant rain that had steadily drizzled all day and hardly able to stand from enforced DT's. He was pretty much the worse for wear him self; the party he had left a little earlier was taking its toll, or at least the amount of alcohol he had consumed. He weaved an erratic path through Bermondsey, blindly staggering his way to his converted warehouse beside the river.
It was not how Abigail liked to remember it in later times; instead, she concocted a story of how he had entered the smoking room at the office, nervous and unsure of his new surroundings and the people he found himself in company with. First days had that effect on most; she liked his vulnerability and struck up a conversation. They had gone out for a meal or something; he was new to the area and had yet to find his bearings. She couldn't be certain, but it was either the third or forth date that they fumbled around in bed, hardly a momentous occasion and somewhat less than memorable. It almost finished the relationship there and then, but they got to know each other and sex gradually got better. A more acceptable story than the truth; She even got to believe in it and covered up the past effectively, but that is some way ahead.
She was curled up almost into a ball; perched on the kerb with her arms tucked around her knees. Abigail rocked slowly back and forth, waiting for the cramps to subside before trying to find some shelter and if she could, hook up with one of her street outlets for her daily trip to a less painful place.
Oblivious of the rain that had soaked through his jacket, shirt and everything else he wore, Paul sat beside the girl, even matching her rocking motion with his own.
"Twenty pounds for French," She informed him without looking up. "Or twenty five for sex; thirty for Greek."
"I said, twenty for French, twenty five for sex or thirty for Greek." She still hugged her knees to her chest, but glanced at him, waiting for his choice and the exchange of money. She needed the cash.
"I ain't got a clue what you're talking about."
"Listen mister, do ya want to fuck me, get sucked or what? It's gonna cost ya whatever." She impatiently asked him, pausing her rocking and reinforcing each syllable with a nod of her head.
"Don't want to fuck you." He was somewhat confused and more than a little affronted at the same time, he was trying to make some sense of how the conversation had started so badly. "I don't want to fuck you."
"Well if you ain't here for business, are ya carrying?"
He shrugged, both shoulders almost touching his ears in an exaggerated expression. It seemed a safe way to answer her question that he didn't understand at all.
"If you ain't carrying and you ain't here for business, you can fuck off. Okay?" She turned and looked at him full in the face, her lips curled back in a snarl as she mouthed the words.
Paul was almost sobered by the vehemence of her voice. But, more than the viciousness of the sound was her dead eyes. She looked at him, but the expression of her words didn't reach her eyes. It was as if he was looking into two pools of dead, grey water. They stared back at him, utterly lifeless, but at the same time, unfathomable in depth. He realised that she might have been pretty once, but was now emaciated, her skin sagging like curtains around the sockets of her eyes and cheeks where the fatty tissues under had been used up by her body. Her hair hung in lank strands, dirty and uncut or cared for and he became aware of her smell for the first time. Involuntarily, he shifted away from her a few inches, shuffling his bottom along the quartz of the kerbstone.
If he were to be asked later, it would be quite likely that Paul would not be able to provide a good reason for his actions, but without any thought, he grabbed her arm, painfully aware at how his hands easily encircled her, then yanked her to her feet and began to drag her like a rag doll along behind him.
She started screaming and feebly trying to tug her arm away from his grip.
"I ain't got no money, so it ain't worth robbing me." She screamed at him, spittle flying from her lips and adding to the rain already seeping through his clothes to his skin. Paul didn't answer her, but just continued to drag her unceremoniously by the arm towards his home.
.... There is more of this story ...