Chapter 24 – A Little Storm
Thunder rumbled in the night, disturbing little Charlotte Doherty. Dave woke to her cries and sighed. Working all day had exhausted him. Teresa stirred in bed.
“I’ll go,” he murmured. It was his turn, after all.
A streak of lightning through the hall window illuminated the path to his daughter’s nursery.
“Daddy, what’s that noise?” she asked.
“It’s ok,” he said. “It’s just a little storm. It’ll soon pass.” Torrential rain lashed against the window. He stroked Charlotte’s hair.
“It’s scary. Can I sleep in your bed?”
“Ok,” he said, and scooped her up into his arms. She was getting heavy now. In no time at all, she’d be all grown up, like her older sister Sarah, who was now at secondary school. On the way back to the bedroom, another flash of lightning lit up the lounge, casting their sofa and the bookcases containing all of Teresa’s books in a supernatural blue light. Teresa was now a successful children’s author; he was a site manager. The job paid well, but he needed to travel across the South West visiting the various factories and warehouses owned by the food company. After helping take care of Charlotte, he had little free time. Still, he was happy. Teresa cooked beautiful Spanish cuisine—omelettes and paella—and filled their spacious home with ornamental decorations and house plants. She was always ordering things from the internet.
He nestled Charlotte in the middle of the bed and told her to sleep. Pulling the covers over himself, he snuggled up to them and closed his eyes. It wasn’t long before he settled into the refuge of sleep.
Dave dreamt of the old days, when he first arrived in Bristol. One particular Saturday night stood out to him, his nineteenth birthday. He’d been sat alone in his room all evening, listening to his housemates through the thin walls. From the sounds, they were drinking and playing Street Fighter 2 Turbo for bets. They all sounded loud and drunk. One voice he didn’t recognise—a visitor. Drum and bass blasted from the stereo, punctuated by Ryu’s incessant yelling of “shoryuken”.
He summoned the courage to leave his room and join them, but hesitated before entering the lounge. He could see Hazeem and Steve, who he’d met briefly last night in the kitchen while he made packet noodles for dinner. Hazeem was grinning as he played the game, and Steve was rolling a cigarette. It seemed longer than a normal cigarette and he was filling it with green stuff. Drugs, maybe?
There was a guy he hadn’t seen before. He had spiky black hair and wore thick-rimmed spectacles, large, but they suited his face. He was slim with sympathetic eyes. He was smiling warmly while playing the game.
Suddenly his bedroom door slammed shut. All the doors in this shabby little house did that unless you closed them carefully.
“What’s that noise?” asked the guy with the specs.
“The new guy,” said Steve. “Moved into Frog’s old room.”
“Oh? What happened to Frog?”
“Got slammed up for shoplifting and the landlord kicked him out.”
“Shit. How’s the new guy?”
“Bit weird,” said Hazeem. “Irish. Stays in his room most of the time listening to indie music. Slit your wrists and wet the bed type stuff.”
“Does he smoke?”
“Let’s find out.” Steve knocked on the wall and shouted for him to come and join them. “Must be ‘avin’ a Tommy Tank.”
“Maybe he’s a serial killer,” said Hazeem.
His heart pounding, Dave opened the door to the lounge.
“Hey,” said the guy in the specs. “Sorry if we disturbed you. Wanna chill with us, man?”
He nodded, crept into the room and sat down in the corner.
“What’s your name, dude?”
“I’m Tom. So what’s it like living with Snout-Nose?”
“Steve. We call him Snout-Nose Steve ’cos he’s got a nose like a Dyson.”
He frowned, unsure what Tom meant.
“He loves his lines,” Tom said. “We’re about to do some.”
“Yeah, man. We got some coke.”
“By the way, Steve,” said Hazeem, “You can go to Easton yourself next time. I’m no drug mule.”
“You went all the way to Easton? Let me give you an extra tenner at least.” Hazeem’s eyes lit up when Steve pulled out his wallet, flashing ten-pound notes.
While Steve and Hazeem negotiated costs, Tom prepared a few lines on a hand mirror. He reached into his pocket, rolled up a ten-pound note and snorted a line. The light from the lava lamp reflected in the mirror, the white lines of cocaine taking on a green radioactive glow.
Tom turned to him and smiled. “You want some, Dave?”
“Uh, I’m okay,” he replied.
“Never done it before?” Tom asked. “I used to be like you. Shy, went through a lot of bad crap at school. Drugs helped a lot.”
“Yeah, I know, you hear all the scare stories in the media, but it’s bollocks. Drugs change people for the better. I mean, people have been getting high since the dawn of time.”
“You don’t have to,” Hazeem said to him.
The thought scared him, but he longed to be part of their group. Affection and positivity flowed between them. And laughter; he hadn’t laughed in years. He accepted the mirror from Tom. “I’ll try it,” he said.
“Go ahead,” said Snout-Nose Steve, nodding in approval.
“What’s it feel like?” asked Dave.
“It’s awesome, but you’re always in control,” said Tom.
“And the music,” said Snout-Nose Steve. “Holy shit.”
Dave took the mirror and snorted his very first line.
“You’ll never look back,” said Tom and smiled.
He felt the drug kicking in. His heart pounded so fast he feared it would explode in his chest. He heard a high-pitched ringing sound, and flashes of images entered his mind—flickering strobes and dancing bodies. The room twisted around Tom, who grinned malevolently. “You’re one of us now,” said Tom. “There’s no going back.”
Dave awoke, dripping with sweat. These nightmares were happening regularly, ever since Tom showed up at the house. He pulled off his sweaty vest and gazed lovingly at Charlotte and Teresa, who slept on. He was so lucky to have them. He remembered the first time he cradled Charlotte as a baby in his arms. She was the most important thing that had ever happened to him.