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I can’t believe it, it’s a big day for me and I’m still thinking about those doggy years; that’s what Zara used to call them. That girl, we had so many good and bad times but we’ve been through them all together. Were stronger together, no matter what, we’ve been there for each other, there’s only been one time when things got weird between us.

It was about late ‘99’, Zara and her mum had a big argument a really big argument because Zara threw away all of her mum’s drink. Her mum was drinking too much and was becoming an alcoholic. Zara’s mum got really angry with her and started shouting at Zara and blaming her for everything that was wrong in her life; even blamed her for her dad leaving them which really upset Zara. So she decided to leave but her mum wouldn’t let her so they ended up fighting and I mean seriously fighting. The neighbours got involved and the police came round, it was a really big fight that even when Zara called me to come down which I did with mum because it was really late. They were still arguing while the police were there “I hate you!” Zara screamed at her mum while a police officer restrained her “I hate you too! I wish I never had you; you ungrateful child” Zara’s mum screamed in a drunken rage. As the other officer held her back from attacking Zara again “Please stop Ms Gibson” the police officer said as he retrained Zara’s mum “Noo! Let go of me!” Zara’s mum said as she tried to push the officer off her “Sharon!” Mum said to Zara’s mum as we arrived. “I’m so happy your here” Zara said as she came up to hug me “I didn’t know who else to call” she continued to say as we hugged “Are you a relative?” the officer asked Mum “No but I’m a close friend of the family” “Well do you mind if this young lady stays with you for the night because it doesn’t seem safe for her to stay here tonight”. “Yeah I don’t mind as long as she’s safe” Mum replied “Good! Take her. Take that fucking bastard out of my house” Zara’s mum shouted angrily while spitting a lot “Oh Sharon” Mum sighed heavily and said to herself quietly as she shook her head “Can I go get some of her stuff?” Mum asked the officer “Sure come this way” the officer said before he guided Mum to Zara’s room while the other police officer still held Zara’s mum back. I had never seen Zara’s mum act like this she was so nice when I saw her at parents evening but then again that was when we were in primary school and when Zara’s parents were together; but there wasn’t any excuse for her behaviour, she was completely drunk out of her head. “Come Zee let’s go back to the car” I said as I took off my jacket, wrapped it around Zara she looked so cute in my jacket as it swallowed her up I thought to myself, I then put my arm around her to comfort her “Thanks J” “It’s nothing” I said before I kissed her on her forehead which made Zara smile.

When we got to my house Mum spoke to Zara for a while before she left her to sleep in the living room and as soon as Mum went into her room I came out of my room and went into the living room to see Zara. “Hey Zee, you awake?” I whispered as I cracked opened the door a little “Yeah” Zara whispered back “Cool” I said as I came into the living room, shut the door and laid next to Zara on the blow up mattress. “She blames me for everything” Zara said as she started to tear up “Don’t cry Zee you know it’s not your fault” I said as I hugged Zara from behind. “It is, I know it is” “Stop being silly man you didn’t do nothing” I said but Zara never replied. “Do you want me to make you feel better?” I asked as I sat up and looked at Zara from over her shoulder “How are you going to do that?” Zara said as she turned to face me “I can sing to you?” “You can’t sing J” Zara said with a stern face. “What do you mean? I’ve been singing at school and the girls love it” I said enthusiastically. “But J...” “Just let me sing to you I swear I’ll make you feel better” “Ok” Zara said with a sigh. “Ok listen good yeah” I said before I started to sing “Forever my laday...It’s like a Dreeeaaamm” I sang which made Zara laugh “What?” “Nah nothing, sorry carry on” Zara said with a big smile on her face “I’m holding you close, you’re keeping me waarrm” I sang which made Zara laugh even harder. “What?” “You CAN’T sing J” Zara said as she laughed so hard that tears ran down her face in laughter. “Whatever man I’m a bad boy singer” I said “No you’re not” Zara laughed and said “Anyway at least your smiling now and I’ve never seen you cry while you laugh”. “I don’t, this is the first time it happened you were just making me laugh so much” Zara replied as she wiped the tears away. “Thanks J” Zara said as she hugged me “It’s ok Zee you know I’m always here for you” I said as I hugged her back “Jemmel! Get up bwoy an go in ah your bedroom” Mum said as she opened the living room door. “Alright Mum” I said as I got up “Night Jemmel” Zara said before she turned back around to sleep “Night Zara” I said as I walked out of the room. “Ouch!” I said as Mum hit me at the back of my head “Why you hitting me for?” “Cah you too fast, bout you wan go ina da living room you blasted...” Mum said as she lifted up her hand to hit me again “Mum man” I said as I held her hand from hitting me “Go ina your room” “I’m going, I’m going” I said as I hurried to my room.

Zara stayed at my house longer then a day, she was there for at least 3 weeks and it was really cool having her around again. Plus Mum didn’t mind her staying longer because she always loved Zara, she would always say that Zara and I would be good together, she even joked about us getting married and Dad didn’t mind either because he was rarely home anyway because he used to work late so he only saw me and her when we went to school in the mornings. But having Zara around all the time was so good. I use to come home from school happy knowing that I was going to see her; and when we were together we would usually sit in my room and just talk or listen to some music on my CD Walkman or do both till we had to go bed at 11pm my Mum was strict about ‘Bedtime’. Especially because Zara still went to her school in West London so she had to get up earlier than me to travel from South to West but I still used to sneak into the living room to talk to Zara and she used to sneak into my bedroom to talk to me; we used to talk about anything till about 1 in the morning. But sometimes it was not as long as that because Mum or Dad used to interrupt us and send us back to where we should be. One night Zara snuck into my room and we had a really deep conversation “Why are we like this with each other?” Zara said as she laid in my arms “I mean you’re the only one I can do this with and feel so comfortable and so safe” “It’s because we know each other and we’re best friends” “We’re just best friends?” Zara asked as she got up and looked at me. “I mean we’re more than just friends” “What’s more than ‘just friends’?” “I...I...I don’t know we are who we are” I said “I remember the last time you said that” Zara said harshly as she put her head back into my arms. “Zara man stop being silly” I said as I squeezed her and kissed her on the forehead “You know we’re just mad; I mean every time we’re together we’re just like this. This is just us” I said “I know I just wished I could say...don’t worry” Zara said “I want to be your boyfriend” I said quietly but just loud enough so Zara could hear me, as I looked up at the ceiling but I she never replied which was odd. It surprised me because I thought that’s what she wanted but I guess I was wrong. I was just about to tell Zara how I felt but then I stopped and thought that I shouldn’t because if I did that I would have been fucked because even though I felt a lot for Zara. I could hear Rodney at the back of my mind saying ‘Don’t tell her how you feel it’s not gangster’ so I changed the subject “We need to sleep we’ve got school tomorrow and I’m going to follow you, make sure get there safe cause you know it’s dark in the morning during winter times. If you want me to I’ll pick you up after school and we can go cinema to see that movie new The Matrix?” “Yeah that would be nice, oh yeah and I can finally show you that girl that keeps asking for you” “Is she butters?” I asked “You’ll see tomorrow” Zara said with a smile just then Mum came into my room. “Come on Zara you need to go back into the living room” Mum said “Ok” Zara said with a sigh as she got up and walked to the door “I always have to split you two up” Mum said before she went back into her room and as soon as she did I went into the living room to sleep next to Zara, ah the good old days.

Whenever I went over to Zara’s school the girls at her school were always saying “Is that your boyfriend?” to Zara and Zara would always say “Yeah that’s my boyfriend” .We use to play that game with everyone, we were close so people just assumed that we were going out with each other, but we knew the deal, kind of, you see we was like boyfriend and girlfriend but also close friends. Which was confusing enough and when people got involved it got even more confusing like when me and Kieran were walking home from school he kept going on about me and Zara and even though he was my boy and I told him everything I didn’t tell him how I truly felt about Zara. I kept that to myself and acted as if I didn’t care “Cuzie, I’m not hyping it, but you and Zara should get together” Kieran said as me and him walked home from school. “Cuz were cool how we are” I replied “But your good together” Kieran said empathically. “You sound like my Mum” “But it’s true though you are good together” “Like you and Ella?” I replied cheekily as I sniggered. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Kieran said in an angry tone “Don’t get emotional cuz it’s just that...she’s the owner” I said calmly because I weren’t trying to piss him off. “What? She's the owner of what? Of me” Kieran said looking baffled “Don’t get upset it’s just that. I’m a dog I know that and you know that. Now dog is a man’s best friend, that’s why guys get along with each other, better than female’s do. See I’m a dog that runs free, no owner meaning no girl. You follow me?” “Yeah” Kieran said while still looking confused. “Well women not girls; girls are a whole other subject; but women don’t like to keep dogs the way men do, they keep PETS, they train them, dress them, take them for walks when they want to, you’re not in control your being kept, you’re not completely like that because of me, your dog, man’s best friend who breaks you free once in a while so you can run with me” I explained. “Your messed up you know that? I mean you have a rule for everything but no rules about commitment” “I do have a rule about commitment” I said “Yeah what’s that?” Kieran asked as he stopped to listen to what I had to say. “Don’t commit” I said and laughed which made Kieran laugh “You’re a joker you know that? How are you ever going to find love?” Kieran said to me seriously. “Love! Kieran man I’m too young for all that and I’m being real with you cuz, I’m just a dog and dogs & women just don’t go together. Plus if love wants to find me, it better have one big arse net, because I’ll be ghost like Casper” I laughed and said. “That’s not right Jemmel, think about it Zara’s good for you man; I’ll see you tomorrow” Kieran said as he nudge me and began to walk across the road. I did understand what Kieran was saying but I just didn’t know what to think; I know Zara’s a good woman and I want to be with her but our relationship was so difficult. That it made me think is she the one for me as I stood for a moment to think about it I thought I would go Rodney’s house and just relax for a little while before I went to meet Zara.

When I got to Rodney’s house he had just woken up so he was still in his boxers. “You alright cuz?” Rodney said as he opened up the door “Yeah I’m cool, could you go put on some tracksuit bottoms please. I don’t want to be seeing that” I said as I turned away from him. “Shut up man, I was getting dressed. But I had to open the door for somebody” Rodney replied. “Ok well go get dress” I said as I laughed a little. When Rodney got dress I went into his room to sit down “So what’s up with you?” Rodney asked “Nothing why?” I replied “You sure cuz?” Rodney asked “Yeah I’m sure” I replied as I looked away “Well it looks like you have something on your mind, but whatever it’s your problem, I’m going to get something to eat” Rodney said as he got up to leave the room. “Wait Rods! It’s about Zara” I said as I grabbed on to Rodney’s arm “Oh ok, talk to me cuzie” Rodney said as he sat down at his desk and started to roll a spliff. “I care for her Rods a lot” I said as I looked away from Rodney “Ah Jemmel man! What did I tell you about getting all soppy for these females” Rodney said “I know, I know” “What’s the rule?” Rodney said as he cupped his ears to me. “Don’t show no emotion to anyone” I sighed and said “And?” “And always guard your heart from women so they can’t hurt you” I continued to sigh and say “That’s right” Rodney said proudly as he continued to roll the spliff. “But Rods Zara’s different she isn’t like any other girl I’ve met before” “That’s because you haven’t met that other person yet” Rodney replied. “But...” “But nothing I mean Zara is cool and you never know you guys might be good together but what if you’re not? Then you’ll lose your friendship AND there’s plenty of other girls out there, I think you should see other girls” Rodney said as he finished rolling up the spliff. “Yeah I guess your right” I said “Course I’m right! I’m your big cuz I’m always right” Rodney boasted as he patted his chest before he lit the spliff and started smoking he then passed the spliff to me and I started to smoke. “Damn! This is strong” I said as I inhaled to strong smoke “Yeah cuzie that’s that Purple Skunk that good shit and I got two chicks coming over here soon” Rodney said excitedly. “Why have you got two girls coming over?” I said as my head started to feel really light “It’s a long story but basically she’s bringing her friend here, you can have her if want though cuz she’s six-teen” Rodney said with a big smile. “Nah I got to go” I said before I pulled on the spliff again which was a big mistake because I felt fucked I couldn’t even stand up the last thing I remember was the door bell ringing, Keisha and Charlotte coming into Rodney’s room, me flirting with Charlotte, her flirting back, all of us walking me home, then me ending up at my house with Charlotte, in my room. “You’re so cute I can’t believe your six-teen” Charlotte said as she kissed my neck and started to get undressed, and all I was thinking at the time was ‘Who told you I was six-teen? But it doesn’t matter anyway as long as you think I am it is ok with me’ I then started getting undressed but then someone turned on my bedroom light “Where the fuck were you?” Zara shouted as she stood by my bedroom door in her night dress. “What you doing?” I replied “Is this your girlfriend?” Charlotte said “No” I said “I don’t know what the fuck is going on but I don’t want any part of this” Charlotte said as she quickly picked up her things and hurried out the house. “Wait don’t go” I said to Charlotte “I think I need too; you two obviously have some things that you need to talk about” Charlotte replied. “Bye” Zara said rudely as Charlotte left What’s was that all about?” I shouted as quietly as I could at Zara so I wouldn’t wake my Mum and Dad up. “You mean to tell me, while I was waiting for you at the cinema, you were with some hoe, and look at you your high!” Zara said as her eyes began to become tearful “I really thought you would change Jemmel, I thought you’ll start to…” Zara said as tears started to stream down her pretty face “Start to what? Zara tell me, I know I messed up and I’m so sorry I forgot I was supposed to meet you I was...” I said “forget it, I was stupid to think that” Zara said as she swept away the tears. “To think what? Zee” I said as I held her hand “Leave me alone” Zara said as she pulled back her hand “Zara man come here” I said as I tried to hold her hand again. “I said leave me alone Jemmel. Leave me” Zara said as her tears fell onto the floor “I’m going bed” she then said and with that she slammed my door and went back into the living room to sleep. I sat up nearly all night, I kept having sharp pains in my chest, I hated seeing her cry like that, that it even brought tears to my eyes, I thought to myself that I must really love her because seeing her pain brought me pain. I know I was only fifteen but every time we had something together from our kiss, to the night together, to this argument I always felt something, something that was more than just a kiss, or sex or an argument, when were together its special every time but when I finally realised it, it was too late. I woke up that morning ready to say sorry to Zara but she weren’t in the living room I thought she just went to school but when I looked in Mum’s room to see if her stuff was still there it wasn’t. I then went into the kitchen to get something to eat and Mum was in there cooking herself some breakfast and as soon as I entered the room Mum turned and looked at me like I broke something and didn’t tell her. “She’s gone to her aunties. Good work Romeo” Mum said sarcastically as she walked past me “And nah bring no dutty gal up in ere or mi you haf fi ansa to” she shouted in her Jamaican accent as she walked down the corridor. I than sat down at the dinner table put my head in my arms, stared at the wall and just hoped and wished that she left something so she would come back and I could tell her how I feel but she never left anything. Zara was gone and it felt like she took my heart with her.

I was torn up about that, we never spoke to each other for about a year, my Mum saw her from time to time, when she worked in West London and she did ask for me, but I was hurting, like proper hurting and it just got worse. The beginning of 2000 was cool but I was still missing Zara but I had a new girl Tanya, my studies were up, and that was it really, for the good part. The ending of yr 10 was messed up because now my boy was rarely in school and every time I phoned his house, I got no answer. See I never been to Kieran’s house in my life but one day I thought I need to go see him, see what’s up.

Kieran always used to walk home so I just assumed he lived not too far from me but he did and I don’t mean like a few bus stops away I didn’t know how he did this journey every day. So anyway when I finally arrived at his house, I saw that he lived in a tall tower block which kind of surprised me. Not that I expected him to have a mansion because I lived in a flat too but Kieran lived in crazy tall tower block. So I’m in his block now, and I never been here before but I had one of he’s letters from school, I just told the teacher that he lives near me which was an understatement and I’ll drop it off on the way home “No.74 damn! This nigga lives high” I said to myself as I looked over the balcony; at first I looked in his window you know just to see if the lights were on so I could know if he was home, but the lights were off. But I just thought I might as well knock, so I did, but no one answered so I knocked again, but no one answered, just as I was going to knock for the third time, Kieran answered the door with the latch on so I could only see half his face. “Jemmel; what are you doing here?” Kieran said rudely “What’s good cuzie, I haven’t seen you at school for mad long so I thought I would come and see you” I replied. “How you get my address fam?” Kieran said angrily “Fam, I came to drop you your letters” I said as I handed them to him through the door “Safe cuz, man will see you later” “Aren’t you going to invite me in? I came all this way K” I said as I held the door with my foot “Kieran who is it? If it’s the council people tell them they’ll have their money by Friday” I heard a women say. “Oh hello, you must be Jemmel? Kieran’s friend, I heard so much about you come in” the woman said as she undid the latch to let me in, as she opened the door I looked at her and smiled because I’ve never seen Kieran’s mum before, she was older then my mum, she looked about 53 at least, but she was one of them old school mums, she had long grey dreads which were wrapped in a bun, gold hooped earrings and a Rastafarian dashiki on which was like a long tan and black dress that was covered in different shapes and patterns “Good afternoon Mrs James” I said politely “You don’t have to call me Mrs James, you and Kieran are like brothers so your family, you can call me Ms Lee” she said with her sultry West Indian voice “You two can go upstairs to Kieran’s room if you want to” Ms Lee said. “Thanks mums” Kieran said with relief, Kieran then quickly ran upstairs and as I followed him into he’s bedroom he pushed the door open to his bedroom which had candles everywhere “What you doing Kier? Inviting some chick over?” I said with a smile. “Why did you have to come here?” Kieran said with his back towards me “I just wanted to see if you’re good” I replied “Do I look good cuz?” Kieran said as he turned to face me “I’m living in fucking darkness, I have no hot water, and I barely have any food in my fucking fridge, so tell me do I look good?” Kieran said to me in an angry tone. You see Kieran has never spoken to me like that before so I was surprised, then my mind clicked back to one of the rules that Rodney taught me which was ‘Don’t let no one disrespect you’ I was just about to flip but when I looked at Kieran straight in his eyes and I could see there was something wrong so I just asked “Kieran what’s wrong?” and as we sat down on his bed he told me everything. How his Dad was cheating on his Mum and how he just walked out on them and took their life savings. You see Kieran’s mum had a bad back and was always ill, and because of her age she couldn’t just go out there and get a job, so they eventually ran out of money and Ms Lee was too proud to claim for any benefit money so their electricity and their hot water got cut off. “I hate him. He’s not a man” Kieran said as he looked down at the floor holding his hands together in his lap, “Family, I’m going help you through this” I said, Kieran just looked up at me, he never said thank you but I knew what he meant by that.

I told Mum about Kieran and his mum situation, and the next day after that she gave some food to take over there after school, I now had a second family, me, Kieran and Ms Lee used to sit down eat and buss jokes all night until I had to go home and sometimes Kieran would come over to mine and have dinner and bring food back for Ms Lee. One night while I was at his house in his room Kieran and I had a conversation that would once again change our lives. “Family, I appreciate everything you and Ms Vanessa have done for man, but I still need some money” Kieran said to me. “How much do you need? I could ask my Dad he’ll…” “Nah, I mean that real dough” Kieran said seriously as he looked at me straight into my eyes. “Fam. What are you talking about?” I said with a confused look “Rodney is selling weed you and me both know that, so ask him if we could get on that too” Kieran replied “But K selling...” “I know what you’re going to say J but look” Kieran said as we both looked around his room but we couldn’t see much because the candles only lit as much as they could. “No 9 to 5 can solve this problem, I need real money” Kieran continued to say. I never ever thought about selling drugs but Kieran was right a 9 to 5 wasn’t going to help him and Ms Lee and he needed me so I couldn’t say no. “Alright then cuz I’ll speak to Rods tonight” “Thanks J” Kieran said as he nudged me and gave me a hug “It’s cool but I’m going to go now and talk to Rodney” I said as I got up and put on my jacket “Alright then cuz I’ll see you at school tomorrow” Kieran said “What? You’re actually going to come to school tomorrow” “Yeah cuz I’ll be there” Kieran replied with a little smile “Ok Kier” I said with a little smile before I left to go to Rodney’s house.

As I travelled to Rodney’s house on the bus I was thinking how am I going to ask him to let Kieran and I sell drugs I mean how do you ask a question like that? In fact what do you say ‘Hey cuz can I sell drugs with you?’ I didn’t know what to say but I had to ask just for Kieran and I knew what Rodney’s response would be “No way, you’ll slip up” Rodney said to me harshly as I sat on his bed watching him pack his bag for his midnight buyers “Why not cuz?” I said “There’s way more rules to this game it’s not like handling girls, this is a lifestyle that you’re not ready for” Rodney said as he walked around the room “How do you know that? Me and Kieran can do this” I pleaded with Rodney. “I don’t know cuz” Rodney said as he wiped his face with his hand. “Rods, Kieran needs the money there’s no way we will slip up it’s too important to us. So I’m begging you please let us man get down” I pleaded. Rodney then stopped walking around put his hands on his hip, breathed in and out deeply and said “Okay listen cuzie, if you do this you got to follow the rules to the tee, ok?”. “Ok”. “And if Aunty V catches you I don’t know nothing” Rodney said as he kneeled down next to me, “Ok” I said while nodding my head. “I’m serious J; I don’t want to bring the Jamaican out of Aunty V”. “I know, I know” I said with a smile because I didn’t want that either.

And that’s just the beginning people, I’m not going to go into details about me and Kieran’s first night on the street, but all I can say is it was scary as hell. I thought we were going to get robbed, stabbed, or shot, but we were cool we started making money, lots of money. See selling drugs or shottin’ as they used to call it back in the day back was different in 2000-2001, you actually made money because everybody wasn’t doing it, and with the money came problems, yeah you guessed it again, girl problems.

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