She’s young, blonde and distracted in that self-centred, teen way. She’s got a daggy boyfriend and her clothes hang off her tiny hips. She lives on raspberry liquorice and red cordial. She’s got no boundaries and is prone to the odd inappropriate and thoughtless remark. Just your typical teenager really.
If I had to guess I’d put her at sixteen, though she could be younger. She says she is eighteen but it’s hard to believe her because her habit has already stunted her growth and because the standard line when the youngest ones walk in is, ‘I’ve just turned eighteen.’ It’s the underage mantra.
She has a boyfriend and works for the both of them, walking the street. They both have a heroin habit. They share it, and their homelessness. But I don’t see the romance in this addictive relationship, which is wearing them into the ground.
‘I’m off to work,’ she chirps, her tender age unmistakable in the skewed movements of her uncontrolled and angular limbs. He lingers after she has been taken by a car, stoned and playing at spotter*, mostly failing to take down the number plates like he’s supposed to. He’s dopey and pretty much monosyllabic. Another typical teen: baseball cap, acres of boxer short above his waistband and a slouchy ‘tude.
She is very sweet of course, naive and faintly abrasive, but unarguably sweet. Yesterday she wrote on the whiteboard:
I (heart) you guys. thank-u for ur (heart) and support without this place I wouldnt get through (heart) Angel xxx
And then added the moniker of teen love:
Angel (heart) S. xxxxxx
I’m surprised she didn’t add a 4 EVA.
On Monday, Angel was raped. Raped by a client who beat her with his belt in the hotel room that he had booked for his lunchtime jerk-off. He pushed her on the bed and raped her from behind without a condom while she cried, all the while berating her for her tears.
The hardest part is that Angel is not the exception to the rule. The youngest ones are the easiest targets for violence at the hands of mugs. C. is another young girl who walked in today and, in a tiny voice, asked if she could drop some fits off in our yellow bins. She had two big hickies on her neck and I reckon she was no older than fifteen. She talked so quietly, eyes darting this way and that, about her habit and her baby and how guilty she felt about not being able to breastfeed. All the while I could not help but notice the scars, track marks and bruises on her skinny arms.
She told me she was on the street for the first time after ten days in hospital. She had been beaten by a mug and dumped unconscious in Richmond. I made enquiries into what sort of support she was getting, trying to conceal my dismay. She was reluctant to discuss it and left with a soft smile, back to business. All I could think about was the horrible future I could see stretched before her. She’s just a baby, but one that has a baby and a heroin habit that she works on the street to support. She should be in school having fun.