By lisa h
Tom Metabus was heading down the dark tunnel once more. As he tried to find a vein in which to pierce with his needle, he ignored the screaming from the other room. Janice would see to Camilla, she knew it was his turn to jack up, and finally gave up on his arms and began searching his legs. Somewhere, there would be a place to stick the needle in.
"Jesus Christ, Janice, can't a bloke get high in peace? Tom threw the needle down in disgust, he just couldn't concentrate enough to steady his hands. He climbed off the sofa and over the stains and smells that he no longer noticed, and stalked over to the bedroom.
It stank in there, it stank of rotten nappies and urine and vomit. The curtains were really just scraps of dirty grey netting doubled and slung over a curtain rail that had been there when the council had given them their flat. There was a bed with no sheets, just a manky duvet with and a few thin pillows. A cot in the corner was the nicest thing about the room. It was white, and wasn't yet stained in the grime that covered everything else. Inside the cot a tiny baby tossed her arms and legs around, making a plaintive cry for milk.
"Janice, get up, the baby wants you.
Janice was partly under the duvet, and Tom prodded her before going to pick up Camilla. He was shaking pretty bad now, and his mind kept returning to the liquid waiting for him in the syringe.
"Janice, get the fuck out of bed, Camilla needs her mum. He kicked her legs, waiting for movement, swearing, anything. "What the fuck girl, he said after he'd pulled the covers off her body.
Tom cried for a long time, sometimes with tears, sometimes with drugs. Camilla began to grow up, knowing that she wasn't always going to be fed when she wanted to be and became quiet and withdrawn. One day, Tom sat crying at the edge of the bed with the elastic in one hand as he searched for a place to inject. Camilla was standing in her cot that was no longer white, watching her daddy cry and slap his skin.
"Daddy make better, she said in her sweet infantile voice.
Tom looked up, his eyes grey and his face pallid. He stared at her for a long time, sorting out a great debate in his head. Eventually, he found the vein and injected the poison.
"Time to go Camilla, Tom told her, picking her up out of the cot and leaving the flat.
He paid a visit to the Social Services, found a social worker who appeared to understand, and signed the paperwork she put together there and then. Then the hard part came, and he had to hand little Camilla with her carrot curls over to the woman at the desk. Camilla's lower lip quivered as Tom backed away, but he knew it had to done.
Tom left his friends, his acquaintances and his dealers after he abandoned sweet Camilla and voluntarily put himself in hell for months. He locked the door to his flat, double bolted and chained the door, and waited for the devil to come knocking. He sweated and shouted, walked restlessly for hours in nonsensical circles, vomited and tried to drink the taps dry. He ate endless cans of cold soup until the shaking stopped and his head began to clear, and the only thing left was a ghostly image of Camilla's too thin face and her wide haunting eyes.
"It's time, Tom said to his translucent baby girl as he finally unbolted the door and left.
Tom missed the first three trains as he paced the concourse, biting his nails and drinking directly from a two-litre bottle of coke. Other passengers avoided the oddball man in grey clothes two sizes too big as he chattered continuously, eventually a guard recommending in quiet words that he take a train or leave the station. Tom stared back with hollow eyes and nodded.
Three hours, two changes and a bus journey later, Tom was in a small town he'd never been to, ringing the bell of a house he'd never seen before. The door burst open and a short round woman stood staring for a moment. Tom watched as her eyes made tracks over his worn body, and he almost turned away. Then her face cracked and a smile broke out as she took a step towards him.
"Tom, hi! I'm Lucy! she said in the over happy voice of someone who actually enjoyed life.
"Hi, Tom said, trying to at least smile at the dancing eyes before him. He was incredibly tired, weighed down by a lifetime of ghosts and demons.
"I suppose you want to see Camilla, she said, opening the door wider. "Camilla, she called, "look who's here to see you!
Down the hall a little girl tottered, a little girl in ginger pigtails, a pretty dress and a wide smile. Her face was clean and covered in pale freckles. Tom couldn't remember any freckles. He scooped her into his arms, tears in his eyes. He was never going to let go again.
"Keep her safe, Lucy said with a hint of warning in her eyes as Tom tucked Camilla into her pram and shouldered an enormous bag that Lucy had handed to him.
"I will, Tom whispered, tears gathering, he concentrated on a ginger ringlet.
"I'll look after her anytime you need me too, we always have a spare bed¦
"I know, thank you Lucy, but no dumping grounds for this one. He bent down and kissed his child's forehead. Camilla grabbed his face with chubby hands and kissed back with loud smacking sounds.
Tom got a job nearby on a local estate. He learned the art of forestry, and Camilla grew up to respect nature. She would be outside, no matter how hard the rain fell, how furious the blizzard or how bright the sun shone. So it was no surprise when she excelled in sport, loving to run, swim and ride her bike down endless winding trails.
After Camilla left home, Tom would sit in the local cafÃ© with a smouldering fag in one hand as he chattered about his daughter's latest wins. His entire face would wrinkle into an enormous grin as he pointed over his steaming tea at the greasy television set in the corner. And he swore blind that Camilla could run so fast that her feet were ticked by the blades of grass and how she could cross a river without a single drop of water touching her skin.