The young sex worker was meticulous about choosing her clients.
Gigi Ryder was fussy about whom she entertained, and now that her business was pumping, she only opened her legs to a select few. She had spent the last year separating the wheat from the chaff and was happy with the results of her harvest. She was agreeable to these clients’ fetishes and they paid cash as soon as their fantasies and sex were satisfied.
All her clients were professional people, and just as importantly, were agreeable about washing themselves in front of her. Not that she got any kicks out of it; she simply couldn’t bear dirty people and was fearful of catching a disease from any germs they might carry. If anyone had a cold or even sneezed, he or she was turned away and told to come back when they were feeling better. Critics might have commented that this was ironic coming from a sex worker, not having given consideration to one who might be phobic.
Quite simply, Gigi preferred all utensils to be clean, like in cooking. You washed your ingredients before you used them and you wouldn’t fry your bacon in a dirty pan.
All in all, Gigi was content with her life as a sex worker and in fact, it had more benefits than people realised. She rarely had to get up early for work. In fact, there were many occasions where she didn’t have to get up at all. There was no nine to five routine, no-one to report to, cash on tap, and lots of presents from highly satisfied clients.
However, there were two things that Gigi would have liked to improve on. The first was her location. The block of flats she lived in was barely fit for her profession. It was in a rough part of east London and the only reason that she was there was because of the kindness of the man who had taken her in when times had been about as bad as they could get.
A year ago, Gigi had been on the streets. It wasn’t that she couldn’t get a job, if she’d bothered to try, but because she’d found crack more attractive. It was the usual story; she had been introduced to drugs by a boyfriend, he became a dealer, she became an addict, and so on.
And then something had happened, which brought her to the other thing – which she didn’t actually need to improve on, but it was festering away in her psyche and haunting her.
One day, Frank had introduced her to heroin. She’d had bad period pains and he said it would help. ‘I don’t want needles’, she’d said. ‘Nah, we can smoke it,’ he’d replied. ‘It’s pure. Cost me a fortune’.
She’d watched while he mixed the heroin with marijuana and rolled it all up tightly in a paper. He’d lit it and taken a drag, inhaled deeply, taken another drag and passed it to her. She had done the same. After a minute or so, she had stared at him blankly. ‘Nothing’. ‘Takes about fifteen minutes or so’, he’d told her, ‘just a bit longer than injecting it. Be patient’.
Gigi had waited and then, just when it really seemed like nothing was going to happen, she realised that she couldn’t feel any more pain, and better than that, she felt ecstatically happy, like she was cushioned in puffy white clouds with feathery fingers that were softly stroking her body.
After that, she’d craved more. Eventually, they were injecting the stuff nearly every day. Frank knew where to get it and had a regular dealer, but money was tight. He began to steal stuff from shops and to sell it. Anywhere. On street corners if he had to.
He progressed to stealing handbags and picking pockets. He snatched cell phones from those looking the other way and brazenly yanked a cashbox from its chain just inside a charity shop.
It was a vicious circle. There was pain on the comedown which Gigi hadn’t realised would get worse without more heroin to blank it out. Sometimes she couldn’t feel her heart beating and one time when she looked down at her chest she couldn’t see any movement there at all. She was on the fast track to death and she knew it.
Then one night, Frank disappeared. It had been raining and the London streets were black and glistened under the lights. They might have looked pretty if she’d had a hit, but she hadn’t, and was waiting in desperation for Frank to return with her next fix.
Gigi wasn’t even sure where she was, so she’d crawled into some cardboard boxes close to where they’d last injected together. She daren’t go far in case Frank came back and wouldn’t know where to find her.
She’d felt paralysed; none of her limbs wanted to respond to her signals to move. She had curled up in the boxes, just out of the rain, not really caring whether she got wet or not; and it was then that she noticed a needle on the wet pavement. She must remember it for when Frank got back; they could probably use it.
Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye she had seen movement. Clutching her stomach, she had turned her head to look, hoping to see Frank; but there was nothing there except some old tramp poking around in the bins.
Then she had heard scrabbling and a tick, tick, tick sound coming towards her and figured it was some kind of animal or bird – claws tapping on the pavement.
Gigi had tried to sit up but pain shot through her body like an electric shock. Groaning in agony, she had turned her head to one side and found herself staring into tiny black eyes. The rat was inches from her, appraising her, its nose twitching while it worked out what to do.
Gigi had watched as it began to scamper around, sniffing frantically at everything in its path. It soon found the needle, nosed it and somehow got it stuck in its face. The rat scuffed at it with its front feet and squealed in pain, the needle sticking out of its cheek. In panic, the creature kept clawing at its face like something possessed until the needle dropped onto the pavement next to Gigi. There was blood running down the rat’s cheek and its two front teeth, which it bared at her, its eyes glistening with menace.
Suddenly it adopted a crouching position, and with a menacing hiss, lunged at Gigi’s face. She jerked her head away, opened her mouth and began to scream.
And that was when a man called Mick Doughty had found her.
The road to becoming healthy again had been tortuous, yet somehow she’d made it. With all her heart she would thank Mick Doughty forever, the big man who’d chased the rat away, taken her hand and stayed by her side all night long.
As dawn chased the dark away, he’d managed to get her to stand. She remembered calling out in agony, as desperate for heroin as she had ever been, even begging early morning workers to get her some. Why Mick had persevered with her, she would never really know, and when she’d asked him, he merely said, ‘Pavement no place for a pretty girl’, or something along those lines.
The place where he lived wasn’t great either, but it was a palace compared to the streets of London – and there were no rats.