The hall is not much warmer than the landing, but the light left on in my room lets us see each other a bit better. Angela looks up at me, her golden hair has lost its glitter, dirty and bashed down as a sombrero; kiss-curl over her right eye makes her seem suddenly shy. ‘C’mon pet, you’ll be OK.’ I step outside, crouch down and take her wee hand, a damp spider web, falling from mine as she pulls away. A coughing fit brings her closer, leaning on my shoulder, droplets splash on the side of my face. I lift her under the oxters and she throws her bare legs around my waste as I carry her through the hall, back heeling the front door shut, and plough into my room. Balanced by the familiarity of the surroundings, I drop her on top of the sheets of my bed like dirty washing. The wind whistles down the lum, bringing the sickly sweet smell of soot and it would be warmer in the big room beside the fire, but that’s Da’s place, his space. Peeking out from under my bed, the well-thumbed book of fairy stories. ‘Get cosy,’ I tell her, pulling off her orange summer sandals and dropping them to the floor. Pulling the blankets from under her, and even though she’s still got my duffle coat on, wrapping her inside. I’m cold as well. I kick off my own shoes, pick up the book and tuck myself in beside her. The binding is worn and falls open at a familiar story and I start reading, ‘Once upon a time...’but already her eyes are closing and so are mine. I feel the book falling from my fingers.
Much later, I’m dimly aware of staggering feet coming up the stairs, the loud braying of a familiar voice singing a Celtic song, and ‘One Pope of Rome,’ echoing off the cavities of the stairwell. In the darkness I’m not sure where I am or who it is. Thoughts crowd in, mixed up with images and dreams of mum’s voice, buzzing like midges around my head. Da pushes open the door and slams it shut, falling into the hall and tottering towards the big room. Angela nuzzles warm into my shoulder and neck, her coughing doesn’t waken her, but I hear Da stotting against the wall and stomping back the way he came. He stands black, swaying in the room door, looking in at us. Walks across to the bed and, stumbling on the fallen book, bends peering, short-sightedly, down at Angela’s blonde fizz.
‘Whit’s she doin’ here?’ Da roars.
‘We fell asleep,’ I tell him, a note of apology in my voice. I give him time to digest the information, but he’s not having it.
Da reels forward almost falling onto the bed and stumbles backwards. ‘Well, get her up and into her ain house,’ he blusters. ‘She shouldnae be here.’
I know better than to argue with him when he is in that mood so I spring out of bed. Angela’s body is partially hidden by the blankets, coughing. She is flailing about like a kitten, her head under the blankets, refusing to go home. I turn and try explaining to Da, ‘I chapped her door a hundred times, but naebody answered. There was naebody in.’
Angels squirms away from my grasp to the far-away side of the bed, near the window, but sits up, still with the blankets over her head. We hear her mewing cry. That puts Da over the edge. He sways drunkenly, looks at me, then the lumpen form of her under the blankets and storms out of the room.
‘That’s it,’ he cries.
I slip on my shoes and follow him out into the hall and stand at the door. Angela slips in beside me, clutching my leg and reaching for my hand. It’s sticky, her cheeks pink blodges, forehead sweaty from the heat of the bed.
Da is fighting a battle against Angela’s mum’s front door. He chaps the door and waits a second. No answer. Then he chaps more loudly. They he batters on the door panels with the palm of his hand. Shouting,‘C’mon, I know yer in there. Stop fuckin about and answer this fuckin door.’
Karen flings the door open. Light material, soft on her body, almost see through if you looked very hard. A body rich with curves. The sweet curve of long neck. Of her hips. Her ankles. Straggly hair gathered at the nape of her neck, showing off her tits. By the set of her mouth she contrived to look outraged and pleased at the same time about the attention she was getting. ‘Whit is it noo?’ she spat out.
Da’s face dithers between expressions of disbelief and fury. He blurts out. ‘You’re wee lassie…’ He points across, a wavering finger picking her out standing in the doorway beside.
‘Aye, whit’s she done?’ she says.
Pizza Face’s brother, Jaz, swaggers out of the room behind her and into the landing. His hair slicked back with Brylcreem and he is wearing an imitation black Crombie, narrow lapels, falling down to the elevated heels of his suede two-toned shoes under his longish trouser cuffs on his jeans lifting him to the height of nonsense, five-feet nothing. But he’s got a big reputation with a blade.
‘We were just havin’ a wee drink Dessy,’ he says, with a sneer. ‘You’d no’ all about that, eh?’ He holds Da’s gaze before running downstairs to his own landing below.
Karen looks across at Angela, eye sockets bulging. Screeches. ‘Whit did I tell you about sneakin’ out?’ She cuts off all prostrations from Angela with one word, ‘In,’ adds emphasis with a swing of her wrist and bat of her hand.