It was raining so everyone was cotching in the bottom of the block. About 15 of them, aged between 11 and 16, spliffs being passed round, music playing from someone’s speakers, everyone chatting. Suddenly the elder shouted down from the top floor of the 4-story high block of flats. He was in one of the top floor flats that was being used as a trap den.
“Cobs come” he shouted down the stairs. Everyone went quiet. Cobs, who was about 16 quietly kissed his teeth and started to walk up the stairs. Everyone stopped chatting for a bit until they herd the door upstairs close. “What do you think it is” Blondy asked. She liked Cobs, had known him a long time. One of the older boys spat on the block floor and said “He’s gotta go country”. A few of the others shook their heads. “I aint ever going country brah, let me tell you dat” another of the boys said in his thick streets accent. “Init” piped up one of the youngers “Its mad what can happen to you when you go country”. Blondy nodded her head. She had made herself 3 promises when she started all this.
She would not be forced to sleep with no man no matter what.
She would never be shotting (selling) hard food.
She would never go country.
The thing is, in gangs, you don’t get to make the rules when you’re just a foot solider. But she didn’t know that. But she would learn.
A few days later Blondy went home to find her mum crying at the table in the kitchen. Proper sobbing. There was about £40 in notes and change spread out on the table. “Mum what’s wrong” Blondy said shocked. Her mum didn’t answer, just looked up, eyes red and sore. She had been crying for some time. Blondy was used to seeing her mum cry. “Mum, just tell me init” Blondy said.
Her mum explained that she had fallen behind with the rent the past 2 months. That she couldn’t afford it. That they were going to be kicked out and they were gonna have to move to North London. Blondys eyes widened. North London!! Was her mum mad! You get caught slipping like that people could end up hurt. Plus, Blondy had the man dem here. Her family. Na, she wasn’t going. Fuck that. “How much” she said in her 13-year-old voice. Her mum laughed and waved her away. “How much?” Blondy said, a little more serious this time. Her mum turned and looked at her. Almost unsure if to answer. “£800”. Her mum looked away and started crying again.
Blondy wanted to walk over and hug her mum. Or at least put her and on her shoulder and say it was ok. Something. She did nothing. Blondy, at 13 years of age was cold. Dead inside to some degree and avoided any physical contact with any person.
She turned on her heel and left the flat, walking with purpose to one of the trap flats. She went to the first one but could not find who she was looking for. At the second flat she found him. Her older. He smiled when he saw her. Blondy smiled. He really cared about her. For real. Not like the others who he mugged off, he said she was different. He treated her different. He was about 25 and everyone feared him. She told him what had happened with her mum. Of course, he said and laughed, patting the dirty sofa next to him for her to come and sit. He smiled and said anything for his Blonde Eye (that’s what he called her sometimes… he would say “Wagwan Blonde Eye”). Blondy started smiling her head off, she knew he wouldn’t let her down.
She sat down next to him and he said that he will get her the money for the rent. Thank you she said, all cheesy smiles. Then he said “Your gonna have to go country for it”. Her smile slowly disappeared, and she was suddenly aware of hear heart pumping in her ears. She tried to shake her head and then he stopped smiling. She got up of the sofa and said it was ok, she would sort it. He stared at her for a moment and said, “I said you’re going country blud”.
Her bottom lip quivered, and she felt hot tears burning her eyes. He leaned back on the sofa and looked at her long and hard. “ What…your gonna cry…like some likkle pussy gal. Is that what you’re on Blondy let me know …if you wanna be treated like the girls …then…” and he slowly licked his lips. She shook her head violently. Just stood there looking ever inch a 13-year-old child. He got up and walked towards her, towering above her. He stood in front of her and reached out and took off her baseball cap. Her long blonde hair that she pinned into a bun everyday to hide under her hat cascaded over her shoulder. It was so long, past her elbows, and everyday she hid it under her cap. She had learnt that trick a while ago when some of the boys had started talking about sleeping with her. She started dressing like a boy. And it had worked. They did’nt look at her like that…did they?
He held her cap in one had and stroked his giant hands over her hair a couple of times. She stayed as still as she could. She was visibly shaking and she was using every bit of energy right now to keep the tears in. “ya see Blondy…people been talking…saying you looking kriss…I could make money off you init” he said still holding her hair. She didn’t look at him she was staring at the ground. Nothing she said or done right now would change what would happen in this moment and she knew it. Just then one of the youngers come bursting through the door and just stopped. What a sight it must have been to see, little Blondy , head down not saying a word whilst the older was just stroking her hair over and over. The younger, Aron said “B, you ok?”. He didn’t know what to do. She didn’t respond. The older said “She’s kool. She’s going on a trip. Aron go get the Jezzies, they need to make this one look younger”. Aron didn’t move, he looked at the older and said …in a slightly smaller voice “B…blud”. Blondy so wanted to look at Aron. Wanted to run. But she didn’t move not one inch. The older stopped stroking her hair and said, “Pussy hole I said go”. Aron ran out the room. They were alone again.
He bent down so they were eye to eye and he put his finger under her chin and pushed her chin abruptly up, so she was looking him in the eye “welllll…what do you know” he said with a big smile on his face “Not one fucking tear dropped”. She just looked at him, not daring to breath. “your gonna go country, on your own, and when you get back you won’t have to move away” he let go of her chin and grabbed her hair in his hands tightly and pulled her towards him. There faces were so close that as he spoke the next line his lips moved against hers “Time to step up Blondy, your going country…your gonna move hard food and your not gonna fuck about…ya get me” and then he pushed her so hard away from him that she fell across the floor. She stumbled trying to get up and as she did she felt her cap hit her in the head where he threw it at her. “Go tell your mum your going to stay at a pals for the weekend, that crazy bitch aint got any idea what day it is” he threw his head back and laughed a long laugh. Blondy walked as fast as she could to the door and he called out “Blondy, you got 20 mins to get your shit and get back here…don’t make me come looking for you”. She heard him and as soon as she got out the door she ran…she ran down the 4 flights of block stairs, tears running down her face. As she burst out the block door to run to her house someone grabbed her by her arm. She slightly screamed out and turned around. It was Aron. He just looked at her, his brown eyes shiny like he might cry. In any other circumstances at any other time, if any of the boys had seen her crying they would have either cussed her or punched her up.
They just looked at each other for a moment…Blondy crying…Aron holding her arm. Then he pulled her towards him, quickly. He hugged her hard. She was shocked and didn’t know what to do, then she kind of hugged him back. “Run Blond” he whispered in her ear “Run, don’t come back”. She whispered back “You know I can’t do that” and she pulled away from him and run home to tell her mum she would be staying with friends for the weekend……