Dean stirred around mid-afternoon. It was just a couple of hours before Georgina got back from college. He made a cup of tea and stood out on the walkway, looking over the estate. The small hot sips burnt his mouth, but he liked to feel it. There was nothing worse than lukewarm tea. The courtyard was empty, the graveyard hour. Some of the squares had people around all day, but not this one. The blocks kept themselves to themselves around Dean’s place. For a while after leaving school he’d taken to walking around, looking for anything to do. All he ever found were other lads smoking spliffs and drinking strong cider. Georgina wasn’t into any of that stuff and she wouldn’t let him touch her if she caught a whiff of either. No matter how many extra strong mints he chewed, or deodorant he sprayed, she could always tell if he’d been hanging out with the wasters three blocks down. Dean followed his dick and only smoked weed when he knew he wasn’t seeing Georgina. They’d fucked the first day Dean went to secondary school. Her Nan had been in the next room, but Georgina had explained that her Grandmother’s salivation level was a perfect indicator of how aware she was of anything going on around her. That day her spit was forming stalactites. They could have fucked on the old woman’s lap and she wouldn’t have noticed. Dean liked having sex with Georgina. He liked her sucking him off and didn’t mind licking her in return. After their first tryst, they spent most evenings and weekends hanging out and, apart from a couple of heated hiatuses where they both went off with other people, they’d stayed together. She’d finished school with enough grade Cs to get onto a health and social care course. Dean had been supportive, she could get a job in a local nursery or something like that, whatever it was she was learning there. The only downside was the pregnancy. She’d told him just last week and was already two months gone. Dean got it. He knew what had happened and what was going to happen, but he hadn’t really understood. He’d sat himself down on a number of occasions since finding out and tried to think it through, but he just couldn’t get it to mean anything. Georgina had cried when both families had come together and they had eventually decided to keep it. Dean’s Mum had talked them through applying for a flat and they’d been placed on a waiting list. Nothing would happen until it was born though. The only thing Dean had realised for sure was that his days of doing shopping runs for the estate biddies were coming to an end.
His other job opportunities were limited. Eldon and Addington offered little financially. There had been only one option left, one that he’d never have considered until now. The gang from Addington had graduated into the drug scene and were now the main suppliers across the twin estates. Trade had picked up since the Eldon Brickworks had been renovated and the gang had expanded their patch beyond the main road borders. They recruited runners and lookouts from amongst the BMX kids, and security from the tattooed bruisers who beat ten bales out of each other after a win, lose or draw football match screened at the local stab pub. The gang ran both estates and did whatever they pleased. Dean had been singled out by the leader for special privileges. He could wander the estates at will and enter the no go areas without fear of getting his face kicked in. Gear was always available and on more than one occasion he’d been offered gainful employment in the growing business. Six and a half years ago Phillip Harris had spat menacingly that Dean’d done right by them and they owed him for it. So far he’d managed to avoid asking them for anything. As Georgina repeatedly pointed out, they were a bunch of cunts and made life miserable for the vast majority of the people living on Eldon and Addington. They didn’t just hate the ‘niggers’ and ‘Pakis’, they also threatened anyone who crossed their path, regardless of age, sex or race. Crime had gone up, violence had risen and vandalism was more widespread than cleaning. Dean knew they were bastards, but he enjoyed the benefits his association with them brought. No one had given him any shit for years. The dirty sideways looks he got from the people in Madu’s block were easily compensated by the deference he received from the BMX kids, who happily threw abuse at everybody else. Since Georgina had told him about the baby, it had only been a matter of time.
The bottom half of his tea had gone cold. He threw the grey liquid over the wall and watched its spiral cascade to the ground. He swallowed a tightening sensation in his throat and pulled the front door closed behind him. Below, the courtyard was quiet, but he knew that the twin estates were a battleground, a business, a dangerous and exciting world that called him and scared him at the same time. Up here he was distant, away from it all. But he needed to be part of it, to embrace it, for his kid. It was the only way he was going to earn enough money to buy the little sod all the things he’d never had, like a SNES Supernintendo or a colour television in his room. He knew exactly where the gang from Addington would be. Everyone did. Third courtyard in from the Brickworks gate. All he had to do was walk there. He kicked the low walkway wall and moved off towards the stairwell. At the top of the steps he looked out over the buildings. He wanted to think of something, but was completely blank. He couldn’t even hold onto a feeling. There was nothing inside him, just a slow churning in his stomach. With every step he descended, it swelled, moving up through his chest and throat. By the time he reached the last stairwell turn to the ground floor, he was so nauseous he thought he’d vomit. He held his breath and let it out through his nose. He concentrated on the image of his unborn son, a wrinkled pink blob, a replica of his own baby photos. He took the last few stairs down and stepped out into the courtyard.
I know this isn’t the right direction. I should’ve taken the passageway between my block and Ghalia’s and then joined the access road up towards the Brickworks. I’m walking along the road towards the Junction. I don’t even remember deciding. I’m just walking. It’s completely the opposite way. I don’t know why, but I don’t care. My stomach is doing rollercoaster loops. I can’t go and see Phil like this, he’ll think I’m a right fucking wanker. A bit of fresh air is good, that’s what Georgina’s Mum always says. She smokes like a fucking chimney though so I’m not sure where she got that nugget from. Some telly doctor. I never listen to that bullshit. Every week something different to worry about. Mum’s got more pills and creams than Boots nowadays. Guess I’ll start having to though, what with the baby and all. That’s why I’ve got to sort myself out and go and see Phil, start making some proper money. Just some fresh air first though. I look at the buildings lining the main access road. There are so many people living here. It’s mental. I think of all the food they must eat. Where does it all come from? London’s so fucking big. Who gives a toss about Eldon? Who gives a fuck about anyone? I’m walking fast. I didn’t even notice, but I’m nearly at the end of the estate, right up by the Junction. I come out by the side of the last building. I haven’t been here for ages. There’s still grass on the prick, about the only place there is. It’s pretty tatty, covered in weeds and dog turd. I step off the tarmac. It’s like walking through a maze of crap. One foot wrong and you’re up to your ankle. I zig zag left and right, head bent down, checking my feet. I try and go faster, dodging this way and that, like a footballer doing spins and turns to beat the defender. I hunch over and I’m dancing through it. Stepping up through the grass path. I know where I’m going. I stop. Underneath me is a small square tablet. It’s hidden flat in the grass and it’s got shit on it. I know what it is. It’s so fucking small. What’s the fucking point? It’s not going to do anything. My face is burning. I clamp my jaw tight and purse my lips. I’m not going to fucking let myself down. I scrunch my fist to my eyes. They’re itching, hot and wet. I pinch my thigh and twist the flesh. Not going to let it get the better of me. It ain’t nothing to do with me. It ain’t my fault. Just ‘cos the police couldn’t catch them. It’s their fucking fault. Not mine. I don’t think about it anymore. I just said it, but I didn’t really know. I was just a fucking kid and I didn’t know. I still don’t know. Fucking pigs’ problem. Not mine. I open my mouth and breath deeply. I calm down and my blurry eyes go clear after a few blinks. I stand up straight and look around. Nobody. Just the noise of the Junction. I’d hate to live in this block. My breathing’s normal again. I look at the plaque. In memory of Dwayne Campbell, 1978-1993. I push the dog shit off it with the sole of my trainer and walk back to the access road. I don’t want to take the road. I don’t want people to see me. I want to disappear. I drop off down a passageway that takes me to the back of a courtyard. I skirt around the buildings and blocks, avoiding the open spaces. I know Eldon better than anyone, I swear it. Me and Madu learnt it all by heart. Every path and cutting. I go past Georgina’s block. She won’t be back for at least an hour. I’ll go and see her later. It feels strange fucking her with our baby inside. Maybe, she’ll give me a blowjob instead. I wonder if her pussy will get looser after she gives birth. If it does I’ll have to do her in the arse. I think of fucking Georgina. It gives me a semi and I feel the urge in my balls. She’s great in bed. I fucked a girl from Addington once but she just lay there and didn’t do nothing. I might as well have had a wank or done a sack of potatoes. Georgina’s like a fucking animal. I let myself go and talk a load of dirty shit to her and it just makes her wet. I love it when she comes and I can feel her pussy getting tight. The baby better not fucking ruin it. I’m at the back of Madu’s block, nearly home. It’s still the wrong direction, but I can go in for a slash. At the corner of Madu’s building I see the broken wall. It’s just a pile of breezeblocks now. That’s where I snogged Ghalia for the first time and saw a fox. I try and imagine fucking Ghalia, but I can only think about cuddling her. I haven’t seen the fox again. I go back home and have a dump. It’s runny and makes my guts turn inside out as I do it. It’s a really clean one and I only wipe twice. I feel empty. I’ve shit out everything, even the sickliness. I feel good. I’m properly ready now. I leave the flat and head straight to where the gang hangs out. I usually avoid this way ‘cos I don’t want to bump into Phil or the stuck up cunts from the Brickworks who only come to Eldon to buy gear. As I get closer to the third courtyard, I see more BMX kids. They hang out in pairs, watching the road for the filth. They pretend to be doing stunts and wheelies so the police don’t know they’re lookouts. Truth is, they are actually playing and some of them are really good at doing tricks. They don’t have to worry about the cops ‘cos they never bother showing up here and if they do it’s so fucking obvious they might as well announce it on the nine o’clock news the day before. The BMX kids nod as I walk by. Some say alright Dean. They’re a bunch of little bastards. I walk through the last passageway into the gang’s courtyard. There is a line of nice looking souped-up cars parked in the centre. The gang from Addington walk around them, listening to the music from an open boot. I can make out all the main crew, Phil, Simon, Dan, Brian and Matt, plus two or three of their tattooed bruisers. Now and again, someone turns the base so loud it bounces off the windows of the blocks and rumbles my insides. It’s mental. Fucking cool. The gang rule. I feel invisible here. All you can see is them and their cars and their designer clothes. I look at my trainers. They ain’t even good fakes. I don’t fit in. But I ain’t got no choice. I step out into the courtyard. The first car is a red Volkswagen Golf with two exhaust pipes and a double spoiler. I reach it before they even notice me. Great fucking security they’ve got. Phil sees me first. His squinty eyes go sharp and then wide when he recognises who I am.
He doesn’t shout. He just says it in a normal voice, but even with the music, everyone hears him. The whole courtyard turns in my direction. They all say alright, except Simon who just nods. Everyone says he’s the nutter of the gang, just ‘cos he’s the hardest. But it ain’t how tough someone looks, it’s what they’ll actually do. Simon would beat the shit out of anyone who stared at him funny, but it’s just mental fighting, you ain’t in control. Phil, he’d properly think about it. He’d want you to know how much he’s hurting you and that’s proper fucking mean.
I nod towards the others.
I wonder what they do here all day. Smoke and snort and drink themselves stupid, I guess. Fuck, that’s something Mum would say. Phil takes a few steps towards me.
‘What you up to Dean?’
It feels like he’s trying to catch me, like a fucking pig interrogation or something. Every question seems deeper. No matter what I say he’ll suss it out.
‘You know, just hanging out.’
His head moves to one o’clock and his eyes get narrower.
No bullshit, get to the point.
‘Actually, I wanted to ask for that favour.’
The whole gang’s staring at me. Simon’s arching his back ready to attack. The courtyard is silent, even though the music is loud. I can hear knuckles cracking and teeth grinding. Phil stares at me. He doesn’t move anything. He’s a statue. A machine. A weapon ready to strike. I’m contracting slowly or the world is expanding without me. It’s still. The calm before the storm, like what everyone says. Things slow down and your brain goes mental and you can think about everything super quick, like being Einstein for a second. I only think about Phil’s face.
His body drops into a tight swagger and he waves me closer. The music comes back up and the rest of the gang go back to whatever it was they were doing. Simon keeps staring and I catch his eye by accident. I quickly look away but I get the message. He’s a fucking head case, really. Phil slaps me on the back and leads me towards one of the blocks.
‘You done right by us Dean and didn’t I always say we owed you?’
I nod, but don’t look at him directly. I need to look him in the eye, show I’m not a pussy. We reach the stairwell and he puts his hand out, telling me to go up. We walk to the first floor landing. He doesn’t speak and I don’t know what to say. I feel cold. He leans on the landing wall and looks out over the courtyard.
‘Fucking shit hole, innit?’
He doesn’t look at me. His face doesn’t change. I follow his eyes and see the courtyard. It looks the same as mine. They all look the same to me. I don’t get what he’s talking about.
‘Why’d anyone wanna live here? It’s full of scum. Pakis and fucking niggers everywhere.’
He spits over the wall and turns to me, looking me straight in the eye. I can’t do nothing. I have to hold it.
‘If I could, I’d skin every black fucker alive and set ‘em alight.’
He moves his head so close I can feel his breath on my face. It’s hot and dry.
‘I’d blow their arms and legs off and tell ‘em to swim back where they came from.’
Our faces are next to each other. His nostrils flare. It’s tiny, but I can see them pulsing in and out. It makes me feel drunk. My legs are heavy and my eyes are burning dry. Phil moves away and I blink and breathe. He looks back at the courtyard and I feel the pain of my heart throbbing. The blood is shooting through my body so hard it hurts. I lean on the landing wall and pretend I’m looking out at the courtyard, but it’s all 2D, flat squares in a row, tiles. I don’t see anything real. Phil speaks quietly.
I turn to look at him. His face is serious and mean, but there’s something different too. His eyes are redder, his lips are juddery. His voice almost cracks.
‘Don’t forget you’re white.’
Fucking hell, I get it. He’s scared. He bolts back up into his metal pose.
‘So what is it you want?’
I can’t follow how quickly he changes. I swallow and shake myself as I push up from the wall.
‘I need a job.’
Phil arches his lips and nods.
That’s it. He doesn’t say anything else. He slaps me on the shoulder and gestures to walk down stairs. I follow him out to the courtyard and back to the cars. The gang are all packed together, staring into the boot of a beamer. They don’t notice we’ve come back. Phil jolts his head in the direction of the access road. I follow his gaze. I don’t get it. I turn back to him. I’m confused. What does he want? He smirks.
I don’t move.
He joins the rest of the gang and leaves me alone. I’m a rabbit surrounded by eagles. I want to get out of here. I stand still. The music is too loud to think. I need to move. I pinch my thigh and it bolts into life. I’m walking. I’m at the access road. I go past a couple of BMX kids. I don’t even look at them. I drop off down the nearest passageway. I look around me. There’s nobody. I run. Down alleys and across car parks, past dented garages and rubbish bins. I don’t stop until I’m outside my front door. I go inside. It’s dark and smells damp. I pull the curtains open and light pours in. I go to every room in the house. It’s empty and noisy and silent. I put on the kettle and put a tea bag in a mug. I go to the living room and drop on the sofa. I wiggle and shift and twist my body, lying down, sitting up. I can’t get comfy. I turn on the telly, but the programme’s shit as usual. I jam my thumb onto the off button. Fuck, I caught my nail. I grab my hands together and hold my throbbing thumb. The kettle’s boiling in the kitchen. I want to see Georgina. I leave the flat and slam the door behind me. I don’t notice anything on the way. I’m at her flat before I even realise it. Where did time go? I can’t remember it. None of the blocks or the bins, or even if I saw anybody. It’s all gone. Where’s my brain? I can’t concentrate on anything at all. I knock. I have a key. Why did I knock? I haven’t done that for years. Me and Georgina practically live in each other’s flats. I take my keys out, but my hands won’t do what I say. I fumble with the key ring and go through all the keys, passing the one I need. The door opens and Georgina stands there chewing gum. She’s only wearing her pink hoodie and a pair of knickers. Her hair is everywhere like a bog brush witch. She puts her hands on her hips and pushes her cunt towards me. She is so fucking hot.
‘Let’s move in together.’
I blurt it out.
‘Let’s not wait for the council.’
I don’t even think about it. I haven’t even thought about it, but I want it. I smile at her. Georgina’s jaw chews twice. She looks at the keys in my hand. She blinks and her eyes are on mine. It lasts for ages. Her mouth drops open and I can see stretched chewing gum lines from her top teeth to her bottom ones.
‘Don’t be such a knob, Dean.’
Dean and Georgina bickered for a bit. Her Nan stared lifelessly into space as they sparred around her wheelchair. Georgina wanted to wait until they got a flat. Dean, on the other hand, thought they’d be better off waiting for the Queen to do a streak through Eldon. Shouldn’t they practice first before the baby came? Georgina asked exactly what they were practising for. Surely they’d done too much of that already, hence being up the gut. The heated discussion went on until Georgina let it slip that she’d actually like to live with Dean, but they had nowhere to go and no money. Dean told her he’d got a few extra regular runs from the old bids and that would cover them until the benefits came through. He didn’t dare tell her about working for the gang from Addington. She’d go spare. In the end they decided that neither wanted to live with a zombie grandmother, so it would have to be Dean’s flat. Dean’s Mum told them to fuck off. Couldn’t they just wait until they got the council place? There weren’t enough room for her and Dean as it was. And what the bloody hell were they going to do when the baby got here, put it in the airing cupboard? And for fuck sake, they practically lived together anyway. What was the fucking point? Dean played the only card he knew would turn his Mum. He wanted to be a good father, to be there for his son or daughter, right from the start. Him and Georgina needed some space to get used to it so that when the baby came it wouldn’t hit them so hard. It was pantomime. Dean knew he was bullshitting, but he also knew it was true. They all knew it but within a week Georgina had squeezed her way into Dean’s bedroom. No one noticed any difference at first. Dean’s Mum was hardly ever there anyway. Her promotion had meant much longer hours for a disproportionately low pay rise. She actually got less per hour now than she did before, but the title sounded better. Georgina spent a good portion of her time at college or back home looking after her Grandmother. They fucked almost as much, but as she got bigger, they spooned and doggy-styled more.
Dean’s everyday life changed in other ways too. He kept up the shopping runs for the old folks, but was now doing a couple of shifts for the gang from Addington. He’d gone back to Phil the day after he’d asked for a job to find out that he’d be entering the retail industry. He was given an empty bread bag full of weed and hash baggies and told to hang out on the corner beside the number two bus stop opposite the back entrance of the gentrified Eldon Brickworks. The artists who’d moved in with their loose clothes and socialist graffiti had soon been followed by their old school friends from the city who funded their raw food delis and gastropubs. Prices had shot up and so had the demand for class A and Bs from the likes of the gang from Addington.Dean was given a list of instructions. Block was ten and weed was twenty, five for the price of four, don’t toke any of it and don’t get fucking caught. Dean dropped the gear in his rucksack, but before he left, Phil gave him one piece of advice. He shouldn’t worry about the posh cunts from the Brickworks, they might talk it up, but they were scared shitless of people from the estates. They wouldn’t lay a finger on him even if he told them to go fuck their own mother up the wrong un. What’s more, they’d keep coming back, begging to buy more drugs from us, because what they were really, really terrified of doing, was going to the blacks for them. Dean began loitering outside the Bricks and Water Organicafé. At first he’d hunched up, hiding in the shadows, desperate that no one would buy anything. He quickly recognised the shaky faux-confidence of his customers. He could spot them from the other side of the road. They’d walk through the Brickworks with furtive little glances around them and then assume a stiff awkward swagger as soon as they got in sight of the bus stop. They spoke funny, with an accent that shook in and out and were always deadly serious. He came to the conclusion that they were all dicks. If they thought buying weed from Dean was scary, they should try hanging out round Eldon at night. He couldn’t care less about them. He preferred the grannies on the estate. Only thing was they didn’t pay as well as Phil and the gang from Addington. Dean was soon making a few hundred a week, which pleased Georgina no end.
They spent weekends and free days from college heading down the local high street at the other end of Addington, shopping for baby gear. They bought clothes for it, a pushchair that doubled as a pram, toys, nappies and a play mobile. It was fun. They held hands, they kissed, they talked about names. The pregnancy had brought them closer. Dean never gave Georgina all the money he was earning. He guessed that she’d suspect something dodgy if he just turned up with a few hundred quid and claimed it was from a bunch of flat-ridden pensioners. He opened a savings account and started putting the extra into it. Maybe they could have a holiday after the kid was born. Somewhere hot and exotic, like the Costa Del Sol or Tenerife. Georgina was doing well at college. She was getting merits in most assignments and only had to resubmit work on two occasions. She wasn’t going to be able to finish the course before giving birth, but the college had agreed to let her continue from where she’d left off. During the later months, her face had filled out and her skinny legs had gained a muscled outline from carrying around the extra weight. Dean thought she looked the best ever. A few weeks after leaving college Georgina had been contacted by a researcher who wanted to interview her for a study they were doing on single mothers. They wanted to meet Georgina before and after giving birth and then again a year later. The first interview took place in a rustic looking coffee shop around the corner from the Eldon Brickworks. A café where the brickwork was exposed on purpose rather than neglect and the seemingly random collection of furniture had been carefully handpicked from vintage markets to look authentically complementary. Dean didn’t get what it was all about and asked why Georgina was even bothering. It seemed like a waste of time and Georgina wasn’t getting anything out of it. The least the researcher could do was pay her for her time, a tenner would be a good start. Georgina was a bit vague but said she had enjoyed it. The questions the researcher had asked made her think about things she’d never thought about before. It was interesting. And she’d got a free cake and coffee and Dean should’ve seen the prices in that place. Dean asked what sort of questions, but Georgina didn’t really give any concrete answers. They were kind of about everything she said, the estate, the people, her feelings, her life, and the…you know…race thing. Dean didn’t really understand. What the bloody hell does someone from…Hampstead or….Chelsea have to do with them? Why couldn’t they study their own lot? You didn’t see anyone from Addington or Eldon hanging around in their neck of the woods and if they did they’d probably think they were robbing and mugging and call the police. And what about the race thing? Maybe it was because they didn’t have blacks and Pakistanis where they lived. If they want some inter-racial gang violence to research, they’d have to let the immigrants into their posh white suburbs first. Fucking waste of time if you asked Dean. Rich bastards always think they knew best, trying to tell the estate how to make friends and live in harmony. What a load of bollocks. Give us some fucking money and a few of their big swanky houses and we’d soon sort it out. It took the piss.
Working on the Eldon Brickworks patch didn’t help Dean see things any clearer. He started to despise the customers from the new builds. He hated the suits they wore and the stupid shoes and the pretend just-out-of-bed haircuts and the attitude of not giving a shit when he could tell they were the type of person who’d study non-stop for a week just to take a sight test. It did his head in. And they all had so much fucking money. Some of them wore clothes he wouldn’t even tarnish a dustbin with, but they’d be drinking these bottled beers that cost more than a six pack of lager. They’d take taxis to pick up weed and stop off to buy champagne on the way back to one of the Brickworks’ cafés who’d charge nearly three quid for a fucking pot of tea. What a bunch of losers. That said, it was a job and he was on to a good screw, so he could put up with it. It was an easy patch to sell in as the cops never bothered the yuppies and the neighbouring black gang knew the Brickworks crowd wouldn’t buy from them.
On Dean’s patch things were generally smooth. He’d drop off back to the third courtyard in on the way home and hand someone from the gang the leftover bag of gear and the wad of notes. If Phil was there, he’d sometimes hang around. Phil occasionally told Dean more about the business. Weed was only one of their lines. They had the full range of top quality narcotics and they were planning to move into firearms soon. Just needed to make the final arrangements with the supplier. Dean was fascinated and tried to picture the extent of the gang’s empire. Their turf stretched across both Eldon and Addington right up to the high street, including the new Brickworks of course, and their front line was as far as the Handonwell Junction. Phil explained that this was where the threat came from. The Brickworks formed a natural barrier, as did the A48. The other side of the high street was controlled by a white gang they’d made an amicable peace treaty with. The only patch of their turf that had seen serious incursions was up by the Junction. A black gang of pushers had set up around the streets on the other side of Handonwell and had been seen selling crack on the prick. So far there’d only been a few scuffles and beatings, but Phil confided that the blacks were recruiting and gaining in numbers. He was sure something was going to kick off and there was going to be a war pretty soon. He needed Dean on side. It wasn’t just about turf, it was about pride. This was theirs, he reminded Dean on many occasions, this was their land and no fucker was going to take it from them. It washed over Dean. He listened to the rhetoric, but none of it hit home. He just liked the parts about the dealings and the money making. It made him feel like part of a bigger machine. A corporation like those in America, where they wheeled and dealed and paid off the government so they could drill for oil in a nature reserve. Money could do anything. Phil didn’t really frighten Dean anymore, but he was still wary of the cold unknowable streak that ran through him. His time in the third courtyard was still limited and Phil would make it quite clear when Dean should leave. Dean didn’t mind. He was making money and that was why he was there after all. Just a job, who gave a fuck about any of the rest.
Georgina’s belly had got tight and round. She was within days of her due date and Dean would spend hours rubbing his hands over her protruding stomach, occasionally giving her pubic hair a gentle stroke with his fingers. Those days were peaceful and calm. They cuddled for hours without saying anything. Dean rested his head on Georgina’s lap. He was doing a shift that evening and had the afternoon free. He’d made a cup of tea and brought it into the living room with a plate of biscuits. Being a father wasn’t that hard after all. Before he left, Georgina checked he had his mobile with him, just in case. She kissed him deeply and told him that she loved him. He didn’t respond, just grabbed his things and went. He walked through the estate towards his patch thinking about Georgina. What did she mean? Well, of course, he knew what she meant, but what did it mean? It puzzled him, he’d never really thought about it. Georgina had just been there. Sometimes after sex he felt like wrapping himself around her and squeezing her into his own body, but at other times he often just wanted to slap her. She could be really fucking annoying. She didn’t whinge or anything, but she was always putting him down. She knew just what to say to make him feel tiny. She was smarter than him, Dean knew, but that was also part of the reason he felt rising lumps of pride in his throat when she got good marks at college. He didn’t really care what she was actually studying, but she was getting on just as well as any of the stuck-up kids. Georgina confused him, or he was confused about Georgina, or he was just confused about the whole thing.
The train of thought took him through the third courtyard, one of Phil’s lectures on race relations, and over to his corner hang out. The evening was warm and he skulked around the bus stop serving the regulars with his usual disdain. He spat back monosyllabic responses whilst doing a deal and told a couple of punters to fuck off and come back ten minutes later just to make them wait. The night pushed on and Dean had already sold his target average. His bread bag was now only a quarter full and he had a pocket full of notes. An hour or two more and he would be able to go home. He heard some chatter from inside the Eldon Brickworks gate and watched as a group of three girls came out onto the main road. They were dressed down in jeans and T-shirts, their blonde hair let loose across their backs. They were playful and giggling, bouncing along the road arm in arm. One of them was wearing a tight white top and her dark nipples pushed firmly against it. Dean stared. He could fuck that. One of the girls caught his gaze and pulled the rest in line. They threw him silent cautious glances and then hurried off along the street with their heads down. He felt the rejection at the pit of his stomach, just above his subsiding semi. They could fuck off, he didn’t need bitches like that. He watched their arses disappear around a corner. Still, he could definitely fuck that.
Behind Dean, a man in a loose vest top and baggy jeans nervously built up the courage to ask for two bags of weed. Dean took a glance over his shoulder and then watched until the last buttock had vanished. He turned and looked the customer up and down. The long hair, the goatee, the skate shoes. Did they make all these knobs in the same place? He chuckled to himself, forgetting about the transaction. The guy asked again, but Dean interrupted him. The number two bus was coming and they’d have to wait until it was gone before they could continue. Dean leaned against the rotating advert for sanitary towels, a breakfast cereal and an action film. He waited for the film poster to come back up, ignoring the furtive glances of his customer. His phone buzzed and he read a text from Georgina saying how lucky she was to have him. That was news to Dean, but he couldn’t help smiling as he put the phone back in his pocket. The bus pulled up and Dean kept his head down as a couple of people brushed past. He watched their shadows slide across the pavement. He heard the bus’s hydraulic door clamp shut and noticed a shadow that hadn’t moved away.
‘You looking for something special or have you just got a thing for pavements?’
I know that voice. I follow the shadow up to the body it belongs to. I can’t fucking believe it. I freeze. I stop breathing. I stare, but I remember to stop my mouth dropping open at least. It’s her. It’s Ghalia. She’s covered from head to toe in one of them Paki tent dresses, but she’s showing her face. It’s round. Her whole body is rounder. She’s all curvy. The dress is tight on her body and I can see her knockers. They’re huge. Fucking hell, she’s changed. I stare at her tits. I can’t help myself. Ghalia follows my eyes.
‘What’s wrong Dean, not seen a woman dressed modestly in the name of Allah before?’
I force myself to look at her face. One of her eyebrows is higher than the other. Her lips are pursed but curved at the corners. She’s taking the piss out of me. She always has something cool to say and I’m left with an empty mouth. I feel stupid around Ghalia, but it’s a good stupid. She’s just having fun, she’s not being mean.
‘Mate. What about that…you know…thing?’
The fake hippy has got closer and is trying to lean into the conversation. He’s blocking Ghalia.
I snap at him. It’s not aggressive, but it’s a warning. I catch myself. What about Ghalia? Shit, she’s going to suss it out. I don’t want her to know I’m dealing drugs. I look at her wide eyes. They look at me, then at the customer and then back at me. I don’t know what to say, my tongues caught between Ghalia and the buyer. I can’t back down to him, but Ghalia’s going to hate me for it. Her eyebrows are raised, asking for an explanation. I stare back, blank.
‘Look, mate. Can I just, you know, get some?’
He moves closer to me, getting between me and Ghalia. I’m nailed to the floor. I can’t stay focused. Ghalia moves towards me and touches me on the shoulder. She turns her head to the customer.
‘He told you to fuck off, didn’t he?’
She nods her head in the direction of the prickworks entrance. He goes to say something, but Ghalia gives him a dirty stare like Mrs Tosser used to do to shut up backchat. He hovers, then turns and walks away quickly. He must be proper shocked getting told off by a Paki bird. The whole thing’s gone right through me. I look at the back of Ghalia’s head. Her headscarf is light blue and falls in a wave down her back. I feel her hand on my shoulder, it’s heavy and hot. I can feel every line of her fingerprints. I can sense her pulse, it’s beating with mine. I’m lead, I’m air, I’m a feather cushion, I’m drowning and flying. I see an imagine of me wearing her headscarf and Ghalia’s thick hair is flowing like in a shampoo ad. She turns to face me.
‘I hate those arrogant twats.’
She takes her hand off my shoulder and smiles at me. I want to say something, but nothing comes out. I just look at Ghalia. She’s really beautiful and her knockers are massive.
‘You’ve been smoking too much of what you’re selling.’
I look down guiltily at my rucksack. I feel small, like I’ve been caught doing something naughty and I know I’ve been a bad boy. She slaps my arm.
‘When’s your shift over? You can walk me home.’
Her mouth is a serious straight line, but it’s curving up on one side. She’s trying not to smile, but she can’t hold it. It’s funny. I laugh out loud and Ghalia joins in.
‘Why? Where’s your brother?’
I try and be ironic to keep the laughter going.
‘I thought you weren’t allowed out on your own.’
Ghalia rolls her eyes and makes a duh face.
She gives me a wink that scrunches half her face up.
‘Mahmud’s probably cruising through Vauxhall.’
She looks at me like I should get it. I wink back. I’ve no idea what she’s going on about. Change the subject.
‘Come on then.’
I want to take control. I want to show Ghalia I’m grown up.
We walk towards the entrance to Eldon. We’re side by side and our shoulders sometimes touch. I try and sneak glances at her face. I like watching her mouth move and her white teeth shining in the streetlights. I look at her body. Her arse has got bigger too. It bends round from her back and her full length dress drops from the edge of it like a waterfall. She walks so smoothly. I can’t see her knees. She glides along the pavement and now and again I see bright red leather shoes poking out at the front. I try and make jokes and she laughs a lot. Sometimes she laughs and even I know it’s not funny. Ghalia’s strange, but it’s exciting. I wish I could see her every day. We walk through the estate along the main access road and I tell her about a customer who was so scared that he gave me a fifty quid note for two bags of weed and told me to keep the change. She lets out a huge laugh. It actually echoes it’s so loud. She bends over double and stumbles as she tries to move forward. I put out my arms and catch her by the shoulder. I pull her up straight. Her body is full and heavy. I can feel it under her dress. It makes me shudder. I keep my hands gripped tight until she’s steady. Our faces are close and we look at each other. Ghalia giggles and then her face softens. I look into her dark eyes. I feel lost and warm. Like I can do anything. Ghalia coughs and the air whooshes into my face. I catch a smell I recognise.
‘Have you been drinking?’
She doesn’t take her eyes off me. She rubs her mouth and takes a step back. I let go of her. She clenches her body tight and then drops it loose.
‘What do you think?’
She gives me her serious face. The one that’s supposed to make me feel wrong. The one with the raised eyebrow and the hand-on-hip expression. She pushes her head forward a tiny bit, wanting an answer.
‘Yeah. I do. You smell like you’ve had a skinful.’
Her face gets wider and longer. It’s wrapped in her headscarf and looks like a big brown balloon. Funny that you don’t get brown balloons. I never thought about that before. She looks surprised, but she can’t fool me. I’ve been drunk loads of times.
‘You look pissed.’
Her blown up face collapses into a giggle. I watch her body shake under her dress. She’s like a big kid. It’s cute and funny. I want to grab her and squeeze her tight. She’s got her hands on her hips and then wipes her cheeks with her palm. Her eyes roll and look off somewhere into the distance.
‘I don’t want to go home yet.’
She lets out a choke of a laugh. It sounds as though she’s sobbing. I really can’t tell. Maybe she’s doing both, like when you hit your funny bone. Ghalia looks past me, in the direction of our courtyard.
‘Take me somewhere Dean.’
She’s stopped laughing and is looking right at me. Her eyes beg me. She looks so sad and I don’t know what to do. I reach out and rub her shoulder at arm’s length. I feel so useless and pathetic. Ghalia watches my hand go up and down on her arm. She splutters out a laugh and her spit flies everywhere. She shakes herself upright and uses her sleeve to dry her face. When she’s back to normal she rolls her eyes to heaven and pushes her palm into her forehead. She snorts.
‘I’ve been celebrating.’
I don’t understand. I’m a blank. I can see Ghalia knows it too. I want to be in charge, but I don’t know what I’m in control of. Ghalia is so different to me. But not because she’s a Paki or a girl, just her brain works in a weird way. Maybe, I’ll never understand her. I like that. Ghalia takes my hand. She guides me along the access road towards Madu’s block.
‘I got into university. I’m going to study Law.’
I hear all the words, but I’m not really listening. I’m here, but somewhere else. All my concentration is on the touch. Ghalia’s hand in mine. I float along and I can’t feel anything but her. My phone buzzes in my pocket, but I ignore it.
‘My parents are both so happy and congratulating me all the time.’
‘That’s cool. Congratulations.’
I crack open a big smile and do a face like I know why it’s good. She lowers her head and walks slower.
‘If I’m honest, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to study Law.’
I nod my head, but then I actually think about it. Georgina tries so hard in college and won’t even be able to finish. Ghalia’s so lucky she’s smart.
‘Well, you know, it ain’t that bad. I mean some people don’t even get the chance.’
Ghalia squeezes my hand without looking up. I want to make her feel better.
‘And you’ll be great. You’re really good at maths.’
Ghalia snorts a laugh through her nose. She smiles at me with a huge grin. I smile back, I’m glad I made her laugh. I don’t know how I did it, but it doesn’t matter if she’s happy.
‘Oh Dean. I know, I know. It’s not just that, though, there are a lot of things.’
I nod my head. I kind of get what she’s talking about, but I also don’t really know at all. She’s probably on the blob or something or doesn’t get on with her Mum and Dad. I’d like to know. I’d like it if she told me everything about her. I wouldn’t get bored. I’d just sit back and nod like a Hollywood therapist. I try and make a joke.
‘Is that why you hit the bar?’
‘Yeah, something like that. I just needed to get away from it for a while.’
She slaps her thigh.
‘It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a pub. I didn’t even know what to do.’
Her eyes widen like a full moon.
‘They’re weird places, aren’t they? It had rowing oars on the wall and it’s not even near the river.’
A huge grin spreads across her face.
‘You should’ve seen the face of the barman when I showed up and asked for a bottle of gin.’
She lets out another huge round of giggles. I don’t see the big joke. All the girls I know love getting pissed. Actually though, fuck, that is quite a lot.
‘Did you drink a whole bottle?’
‘No. Two glasses and it almost made me vomit. I gave the rest to some old guy who thought I was an angel.’
Ghalia looks up and tugs my hand. I realise where we are. At the end of the road behind Madu’s block by the pile of knackered breezeblocks.
‘You want to see something cool?’
Ghalia pulls me forward and we climb over the bricks. She struggles a bit in her dress, but I help her like a real gentleman. As she clambers down she looks out into the darkness.
‘Someone once told me there was a fox here.’
Her voice is like going on a slide, it starts high, falls and then flips up at the end, and it’s as much fun to ride. I never forgot this place. I sometimes dream about it. I can’t believe Ghalia remembers too. She’s so horny she must have had loads of boyfriends. I feel special. I don’t know what to say and just watch her. She turns away from me and looks out over the wasteland. We’re quite close and I look over her back. I can’t see any of her skin, it’s all covered, but I can make out the shape of her body, all the curves, her hips, her round arse. She turns back towards me. Her head is slightly forward and she’s looking up to me from under her eyelashes. The night air is getting warmer. It’s clammy. Everything’s getting smaller as Ghalia gets bigger. She steps towards me. My heart pounds ten to the dozen. I can feel her, even though we’re not touching. There’s a force field around her and one around me and they’re rubbing up against each other and fizzing and buzzing and sparks are flying but we’re still moving closer until they join and we’re both in the same one. Ghalia’s lips are full. They move in slow-mo as she speaks.
‘A fox, huh. What a terrible chat up line.’
It’s a joke, but the words are heavy, grainy as sand. Her voice is deep. It’s coming from the bottom of her belly, from deep inside her.
‘It’s the only one that ever worked.’
Time vanishes. We’re locked together. My lips on hers, our tongues slip-sliding against each other’s. We bite lips and scrape teeth. Spit dribbles from the join in our mouths. I don’t care. Ghalia doesn’t care. We’re working together. Our hands journey across our backs, pulling us so close we’re going to blend. I’m touching her arse. It’s soft but I can feel the tension underneath. It works in my hands like plasticine. I pull her hips towards mine. I can feel how hard I am against her body. I’m behind her, groping her tits. I push my dick against her buttocks and thrust. She groans. Her head tilts back against my chest and her mouth opens. I put my hand to it and she sucks my fingers. I drop my lips to her neck and lick. I get a mouth full of headscarf. It breaks my concentration. I can sense the separateness between us. I feel her knockers in my hands, they’re big, but I can’t relate them to the woman sucking my fingers. I’m turned on, but not connected. I want to fuck her. I want to rip off this stupid fucking anti-sex dress and fuck her hard right here. I pull my fingers from her mouth and pull them down over her headscarf, across her tits and potbelly and down to the fold of fabric between her legs. I cup my fingers hard around her and start to rub. Ghalia bends and uses her bum to push me away. She swivels about her hips and makes the space between us wider.
‘We both know that’s not going to happen.’
She runs her hands over her face. Her eyes are closed and she breathes out deep and long. It’s Ghalia. My hard on is showing against my trackie bottoms and I feel embarrassed. I just want to cuddle her. She fiddles with her headscarf and makes a mess of pulling it straight. She waves her hand and gives up. She opens her eyes with a sad smile.
‘It was nice to see you Dean.’
She’s going to leave. I won’t see her again. I feel a burning swell in the pit of my stomach. I’m fixed and heavy. Water runs out of the bath. I panic. Ghalia takes a step towards the breezeblocks. I can’t take it.
‘I love you.’
I say it and I know it’s true. I feel it glowing all through me and Ghalia is at the centre. It’s a relief. Like coming to the surface at the deep end. My brain feels loose. My arms are light and tickly. It’s true. I love her. I love Ghalia. She comes close and kisses me gently on the lips. It’s soft, no tongues. I close my eyes and feel her mouth on mine. She breathes into me. It’s sweet.
She speaks whilst kissing me. I hear it though my skin, not my ears. She puts her arms around me and pulls me close. We hug. Her head is on my shoulder. She squeezes tight and then pulls away. She moves toward the pile of breezeblocks. She’s caught in the orange streetlamp and I can just see the outline of her body.
‘And by the way, congratulations.’
She’s gone. I stand still. Everything is spinning. I feel sick and happy and sad and everything at the same time. I love her. Do I really love her? I don’t know. I don’t know anything at all. I’m so fucking dumb sometimes. I chuckle to myself. I felt Ghalia’s tits. They’re amazing. She’s so fucking hot. I could fuck her. A light tickly jet rushes through my chest and I want to cry out with joy. I love her. I should have touched her hair, but I went straight to her knockers. My phone buzzes. I ignore it, but it shakes me back to life. I climb over the breezeblocks and start walking behind Madu’s block. I need to drop all this stuff off. I reach the main access road and take my phone out. I’ve got two missed calls and two voicemails. I dial up and listen. It’s Mum. Georgina’s gone into labour.
Dean arrived at the hospital with a rucksack full of class Bs and a jacket pocket stuffed full of twenties. Georgina had given birth and, according to the doctors and nurses, mother and child were doing fine. Dean’s Mum was already there. It was hard to tell which had flustered her the most, the grandson, Dean’s absence at the birth, or the ride in the ambulance. She was all up and down, hugging Dean one minute and scolding him the next. He had to wait almost an hour before he was allowed in to see Georgina. Cradled in her arms was a shrivelled pink curdle of flesh that occasionally flapped like a beached fish. The nurse smiled and left them alone. Georgina looked down on the baby with a joyful grimace, tears streaming down her face. She looked up and told Dean he’d better not fuck off and leave them or she would seriously rip his fucking balls off. The teenagers stared at each other from the opposite ends of the maternity ward bed. Dean was transfixed. He saw in Georgina’s pained, desperate expression that she wasn’t just making one of her put-down faces, she needed him. He looked at the lump of wrinkled skin again. He felt distant, outside. Was this kid really part of him? How did his spunk produce that? It was going to grow up and go to school and tease the fat kids and feel up girls and have a little baby all of its own. His child’s life flashed before him and he wanted to do everything he could to make it better than his. He took a few steps closer and leaned in to see the boy. It was hideous. A proper little runt. But it was his, whatever that actually meant, and he was drawn to it. He reached out and touched its face. It was so warm, almost hot. It surprised him and he took his finger away instantly. He was a father. He was going to do all he could to protect his kid. They were going to get a flat off the council, do it up nice, get a load of toys and bring up their boy. Dean was determined that he’d encourage his son to finish school and go to college. He wanted him to get a good job so he didn’t end up selling weed to a bunch of wannabe hippies. He wasn’t ever going to run away like his own Dad had. He was going to stay put and see it through. He was going to be a good father. He held his finger to the boy’s lips. The baby licked it and the image of Ghalia flooded back.
The family went home to Dean’s Mum’s flat and settled back into their new routine. The baby slept in with Dean and Georgina and the living room housed the pram-cum-pushchair as well as the playpen and mobile. The day after the birth, Dean showed up for work and the gang from Addington gave him a four pack of expensive lager and two weeks off to enjoy the first taste of fatherhood. Phil had suggested George for a name, but in the end the couple settled on Harry, short for Harrison, as in Ford. He was nothing special. Just an ordinary baby that puked and shat himself and cried a lot. Georgina breast fed for a while, which turned Dean on, until he realised he hadn’t had any for so long even a slight glimpse of tit gave him a rager. As the novelty of the maternal bond faded, he started enjoying Harry in his own right. As the days past he recognised repeated movements and sounds coming from the boy. He found patterns in his behaviour that made him seem alive, like a real person. There was still a strangeness about the connection, that Harry had come from Dean having sex with Georgina. How did that work? He’d glanced at the prenatal textbooks lying around the flat and thought he had a firm grasp on the biology. But life? What made the boy move and grow and sprout a personality that was different from everyone else? They put food in, Harry shat it out, every day he got heavier and everyday he would get bigger, until one day, Dean thought, the little bugger would snuff it along with the rest of the world. What was the point of that then?
Seeing life develop in front of him made Dean more philosophical about existence. He’d look out over the estate from his sixth floor walkway and wondered what was going on behind all those closed doors. Did they all think like him? Have thoughts and emotions? Could he ever know anyone else like he knew himself? Did he even know himself? He asked other people too, but decided to stop after questioning Phil about his ethnic musings. What made them different to us other than skin, you know, biologically? What if we wanted to go and live in another country like America, would all the people there hate us? What about the football players and Olympic stars? We’d be rubbish without them. Dean’s probing didn’t go unnoticed. Phil began to question Dean’s allegiance to the cause. Dean on the other hand realised that Phil could never give him more than a stock answer, which didn’t really answer anything at all.
Back home, Dean’s Mum had been invaluable in sorting out everything with the council. She’d filled in the forms for them and got them off to the right department. Now that little Harry was here she was sure they’d be in a flat as soon as one became available either on Eldon or Addington. Georgina’s Mum was hardwired into the estate gossip channels and news stories of questionable truth always got to her first, although on several occasions they were ones she had actually started herself. She’d heard from several reliable sources that there were at least three flats soon becoming available on Eldon. Surely Georgina and Dean would get one of them. As Georgina’s Mum was proud of repeating, they now had four generations living there. Georgina’s Grandmother had been in one of the first waves of families to move in, and now, what with the kid and all, there was no excuse not to give them a place. Dean’s Mum’s job kept her away from home most of the time, but still the couple were desperate to move out. It had been alright before Harry was born, but now they felt they couldn’t breathe. Both Mums were constantly giving Georgina conflicting advice and it was starting to drive her crazy. In turn Dean got the tail end of the flak. Both just wished to bring up their son on their own terms. Not that they wanted to sever links from the in-laws, far from it, they just wanted to be their own family. They waited on their haunches, tensed and ready to move at short notice. The weeks passed and no word came from the council. Dean went back to work.
The job didn’t get any better and Dean was keen to make some extra cash. Neither he nor Georgina had realised just what a money vampire a baby was. The benefits were handy, but they weren’t even enough to cover the basics, let alone any mini luxuries. Selling weed was one rung up on the ladder, just above the BMX kids, the real money was in amphetamines and coke. Phil wasn’t sure Dean was up to it. He’d have to move to a different patch that was a lot more shady and prone to police raids. The clients were a different sort too. He’d still get the knobs from the Brickworks, but there’d also be some proper cases that would need a certain level of tact and balls to handle. Phil agreed to let Dean have a stab at it when a patch became available, but for the meantime he’d have to stay put. Phil wasn’t just worried about Dean’s inability to deal class As, he was also concerned about the increasingly regular scuffles between the gang from Addington’s pushers and those of the expanding black gang on the other side of the Junction. There’d been a lot of threats and beatings thrown back and forth over the Handonwell front line and things had come to a violent head just last week. Simon and a couple of the tattoo security lads had given a black dealer a good kicking after they’d found him selling on Eldon. It had gotten nasty and turned into a bloody session of nigger bashing. They found out later that the victim was a member of the Handonwell gang and Phil had feared a revenge attack. It came in the shape of a baseball bat knocking the life out of a white teenager. The kid had been out walking his dog on the triangle of grass at the end of Eldon and been set upon by three black gang members. His skull had been caved in and his face left unrecognisable. He died instantly. Dean had gathered with the rest of the Addington gang in the third courtyard in from the new Eldon Brickworks to find out what was going to happen. Phil explained that the teenager killed was nothing to do with the business. He’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that was no excuse. The gang from Addington vowed to avenge the life of one of their own. Those murdering bastards from Handonwell had it coming. It was war, all out fucking war. But for the moment they’d have to keep their heads down. The feds were going to be all over their turf for the next few weeks so no one was to do anything stupid. Keep a low profile and sell your shit discreetly as fuck. The gang was to bide their time, wait for the black fuckers to think they’d gotten away with it, and then strike. It was a solemn, violent meeting and Dean felt scared of what was going to happen. Phil spoke like an American general from a war film who pep talked their troops into committing a massacre. Dean didn’t want a war. He wanted a quiet life for his family and that wasn’t going to happen if the estate became a battleground. Of course he felt sorry for the kid who’d got murdered, especially as he wasn’t even part of the gang, but couldn’t they all just call a truce and leave it at that. After all, what about Dwayne Campbell, he got killed for no reason. Why not just let it go? Although Dean already knew the reason. Phil actually wanted to fight. They weren’t just waiting for the cops to leave, they were using the time to get armed. Things were just going to get worse.
Dean witnessed the shock waves sent through the estate communities by the murder of Gareth Etherington. People talked about innocence being lost. Others talked about Dwayne Campbell. Some whispered about taking the law into their own hands and getting rid of the gang from Addington. For some it was a revenge too long in coming. For others it was a racist attack against whites. Mixed race friendships became suspicious and suspicions became aggravated. The estates of Eldon and Addington became split down coloured lines. For the media it was just another drug related murder. Some kid got his brain mashed from a bat rather than from drugs. One was just quicker than the other. Who was going to want to read about the death of a wasted youth? The news made it to a few national pages deep in the double figures. Small columns declaring an innocent victim of a gang murder. No reporters came, no television crews. Not even a picture in the local paper. As Phil had predicted the police were gone in weeks. Another unsolved crime to further stain the walls of these blood sink estates. The media and official response to Gareth Etherington’s murder stirred up memories of the storm that had blown up around another killing on the patch of grass at the Handonwell Junction end of Eldon. They were not random killings, accidental or spontaneous. The perpetrators knew the identities of their targets. It was written all over their skin. Dean, along with the residents of Eldon and Addington, was not blind to the difference in the reporting and the narratives of unfair treatment spread through the estates like a pandemic. He heard it echoed in the bus queues, over tea and biscuits, at the launderette, in the pubs, in the evening dog walks, in the primary school playgrounds at going home time, through the alleyways and courtyards, it permeated every atom of the estates. It was one rule for them and one rule for us. And those at the top had chosen whose side they were on. The lines were drawn. Eldon and Addington became pockets of separated communities. They all knew it. The estate whites had become the outsiders.
Dean did as he was told. He kept his head low and sold weed to the Eldon Brickworks’ population, who lauded ethnic diversity, but still didn’t dare go to the Handonwell gang for their expensive thrills. He’d taken on another shift as a couple of his supermarket runs had fallen through. He didn’t blame them for taking on a black kid instead of him. The old dears probably preferred someone of the same colour, what with everything going on. Dean understood and it made his guts twist painfully. He was white and that bought a whole lot of shit with it. But, fucking hell, it was better than being black or a Paki. He saw first hand the crap they got from the BMX kids and it made him feel like a complete cunt. But what could he do? Georgina’s Mum now started everything she said with a negation of her racism and his own Mum finished every statement claiming she wasn’t allowed to say it anymore. Everyone knew that the estate whites were being treated unfairly. Everyone knew that the council favoured every other group except their own. It was obvious, wasn’t it? And like seeing a younger sibling get a better present on their birthday, resentment of the estate minorities grew. Dean floated above it. He’d seen it from both sides and wanted to keep out of it. He grunted muted responses to his mother. He turned off when Georgina’s Mum went off on one. He stopped asking questions to any of the old folks who wanted to tell him how good it was before that lot had all come here on the back of a boat. He wanted to stay neutral, keep out of it. He had no intention of joining Phillip Harris’s new crusade. People were just fucking people and the sooner everyone got it the fucking better. That was until he came home one day to find Georgina and her Mum bitching about housing. The gossip was in and for once it was true.