Rent
by Taran Geary

 

Chapter Six: A Young Man of Ealing

Sammy couldn’t sleep; he hadn’t slept all night. He lay awake in his bed looking up at the model aeroplanes hanging on strings from the ceiling of his bedroom, he loved those ‘planes and he loved the time he spent with his Daddy sitting up the table making them.

He could hear his Mummy and Daddy moving about downstairs making final arrangements for the journey to the seaside that the family were making today. That was the reason for Sammy’s excitement. He was going on holiday!!

He rubbed his hands together gleefully as he thought about playing in the sea and on the beach. He was as excited as any 10 year old could be.

“Up you get, Sammy, we’re going on holiday.” Mummy’s voice called to him as his bedroom door opened.

Sammy sprang out of bed and bounced around his room before gaining sufficient self control to make it to the bathroom and a shower.

He gabbled excitedly about all the things he was going to do while they were away; he couldn’t eat his breakfast, he just wanted to get into the car and start his holiday.

The family stepped out of the front door and into the pleasant leafy street that was so typical of Ealing- a wide avenue lined with mature plane trees and comfortable Edwardian or Victorian villas. The car was already out of the garage and parked on the street. Sammy leapt into his place on the back seat and waited impatiently for his parents to finish loading the luggage and making the final checks. He squealed with frustration as his Mother went back inside the house; but she soon returned and finally, finally everything was ready and Daddy started the engine.

“Are we there yet?”

“Good heavens, Sammy. We’re not out of Ealing yet.”

Sammy grunted and rested his head against the window and disinterestedly watched the world go by.

Steadily the shops and houses gave way to green spaces and fields and as they turned on to the motorway the cars speed increased and the drone of the engine and the monotony of the motorway scenery soon started to lull Sammy into sleep. He curled up on the big back seat and soon he was dreaming of ice cream and sand between his toes.

He dreamt he was walking along the pier when he fell off the end. He heard his Mother scream and call “SAMMY, SAMMY, SAMMY.”

He felt himself being thrown around by the rough sea, it felt like he was being spun over, over and over. He opened his eyes and saw flashing lights and heard people shouting and then… nothing…

He opened his eyes to bright light. He heard voice shout “Nurse, nurse, he’s awake!”

Sammy heard someone screaming and sobbing and realized that it was himself but it didn’t sound like him. He felt warm arms embrace him and comforting words whispered in his ear. The screaming stopped and Sammy cried and he felt like it was him crying but he didn’t know why and he didn’t know who was holding him and whispering to him. He pushed away and looked at the face. He thought he recognised it but couldn’t bring it to mind. He opened his mouth to speak but didn’t or couldn’t he didn’t know which or why. He flopped back down on to the bed and slowly started to take in his surroundings. He heard a familiar voice and looked towards its source-it was his Grandma. He still didn’t speak and he felt himself dropping off to sleep.

In the days that followed Sammy slowly began to make sense of things. He knew that something terrible had happened; His Mummy & Daddy hadn’t come to see him and the realization began to dawn on him that they had gone somewhere else – maybe even heaven; but he didn’t know and he didn’t feel as if he cared. His Grandma came everyday and chatted to him but no-one told him where his Mummy and Daddy were. He still didn’t speak and he still didn’t know why but he had started to eat and wanted to get out of bed and walk about; and little by little that is what he did.

After a while he was moved to another part of the hospital and he quite enjoyed the ride in a wheelchair pushed by a very jolly Irishman who chatted cheerfully to him all the way. He made Sammy smile.

The new place was much cosier with big soft chairs and toys for him to play with. It didn’t take long for him to start exploring these, he came across a little aeroplane and immediately the tears started again and the screams. Kind arms scooped him up and hugged and soothed him but he struggled free and ran to his bed and hid under the covers. When the crisis had passed he peeped out from under the covers and saw that the other children in the room were just doing what they always did-they hadn’t even noticed him so he had no need to be embarrassed.

He had no idea how long he was there but he was getting bored of the people who kept coming and asking him strange questions. He still didn’t know why he wasn’t speaking but he didn’t miss talking to people and he was happy in his own little world.

One day his Grandma came to see him and she made her usual cheery greeting “Hello Sammy, How are you today?”

Sammy sat up straight in his chair and looked at her seriously, “Sammy’s not here.” He said.

“What? Where is he”? She replied with a mixture of delight at his finally speaking but with alarm at the content of what he said.

“Gone.”

“Gone where?”

“Gone to heaven with his Mummy and Daddy”

“How did you know?” Grandma gasped.

“Just did.” Grandma started to weep.

“So who are you?”

“Sam; I’m Sam.”

“I understand, I’ve bought you some sweets and some books.”

The conversation went on carefully but as soon as Grandma had gone home the question people came back and talked to him for a long time. Sam told them he was tired and wanted to sleep. They all told him how good and clever he was and how pleased they were that he was speaking again.

Sam’s 11th birthday came and the staff threw a little party for him. His grandparents and some cousins came to celebrate with him. He had a little cake and some nice presents but Sam wasn’t impressed; he thought the cake and the party hats looked silly. He didn’t say so, but he just wished everyone would go away.

Sam continued to get better but he knew that things would never be the same and he knew that he was not the same boy he once was; the world looked darker now and Sam knew that, as much as he wanted it, Sammy wasn’t coming back.

Before very long it was decided that he could go and stop with his Grandparents. Things started well but before long Sam started to be disruptive at school and sometimes even skipping school altogether. He became belligerent at home and stopping out when he should be at home.

Sam was a very different boy to Sammy.

Eventually after he set the house on fire, his Grandparents reluctantly had him taken into care. They were elderly and at the end of their tether.

Sam was sent to a Children’s Home not far from his grandparents in Ealing. It wasn’t a bad place but Sam stayed one night and then ran away. He was caught and brought back after a few hours. He stayed another three nights and ran away again; this time he jumped a bus – he didn’t know where it went, but it felt good to getting away from his life. He found himself by the Thames in the centre of London and he was amazed by the Hustle and Bustle of the City and the fantastic shops and buildings. He just wandered about for the day and that night he found a quiet place to sleep.

He was twelve years old.

He came across some other runaways and Sam made friends with some of them and slipped easily into their world of petty crime rent boys.

He was beaten up a couple of times but the other boys said that it was normal and “just an occupational hazard”. Sam moved into a squalid flat that six or seven of the boys shared. The flat was owned by a man called “Rotherhithe Rog” and he looked after the money and the business. All the boys had to do was sleep with him occasionally and give their money to him. He also arranged punters for the boys and they thought it was a “cushty” arrangement. Rog looked after them, fed them and gave them a wage.

When Sam first entered the flat; Rotherhithe Rog was dressed in what looked like an old ball gown and he was standing at the cooker frying up a breakfast. The ash from the crumpled roll up he was smoking fell into the frying pan at regular intervals and was seamlessly incorporated into the food.

Sam soon became a favourite of Rog’s and as different boys came and went Sam stayed and he was “Promoted” to “catcher” and his job was to hang around the big City railway stations looking for new recruits.

By this time Sam was fifteen and he was tiring of the life he was leading. He had come to realise that Rog was cruel and vicious man who preyed on vulnerable boys like he had once been and now here he was helping Rotherhithe Rog ply his trade. He had had enough.

He decided it was time to leave London. He jumped a tube and got out at King’s Cross/ St Pancras.

Sam stood on the pavement gazing, as he had on many occasions, in wonder at the front of St Pancras Station and decided that he would blag a ride on a train to anywhere but it had to be from this amazing building. He found it really easy to jump the barriers and he grabbed himself a seat. He had no idea where the train was going- he hadn’t bothered to look as he had dodged the officials and he settled down as the train started to move. He watched the countryside flying past and tears came to his eyes as flashbacks reminded him of that fateful holiday journey when his life had effectively ended.

He noticed the ticket inspector approaching as the train pulled into a station so as soon as he could he jumped out and onto the platform, he vaulted over the barriers and again dodged the officials and he was soon out on the street.

He decided to stroll around and explore the town; he felt hungry and he followed his nose and found a chip shop, luckily he had collected his “wages” from Rotherhithe Rog before he had bolted and he had enough to last a few days,

Sam went into the shop which was run by a kindly looking stout man of Middle Eastern appearance and the by the way he looked at Sam, Sam guessed that the man was a punter.

Sam engaged the man in conversation and indeed the man invited Sam to come back after the shop shut “To share a cup of Turkish Coffee.” Sam went back and the man, who told him that his name was Ahmed, took him up to the flat upstairs. They sat and talked for a long time before sex was mentioned and all Ahmed wanted to do was to cuddle and kiss but if Sam wanted to let Ahmed watch him masturbate then that would be very nice. Sam obliged and Ahmed gave him an amount of money that was way over the usual amount he earned.

Over the next few months Sam spent more and more time with Ahmed until he turned his sixteenth birthday when Sam moved in permanently. It occurred to Sam that he was in love with Ahmed just as Ahmed was in love with him. And so began the happiest phase of Sam’s life since his early childhood. He was loved and cared for and he managed the chip shop while Ahmed looked after his other business interests.

That lasted for ten years until Ahmed died, he had known he was ill but he didn’t tell Sam and once again, Sam was alone…

Ahmed had left Sam everything: All his business interests and property; Sam was now a rich man, but Sam didn’t care; he was devastated, he didn’t know what to do and he soon found himself going down to the canal and picking up boys just for company. But it was no good, he felt empty and lost.

He threw himself into his business; but he felt he had no purpose in life and he just drifted through the next few years just wondering how long this loneliness could last. He had friends, acquaintances and business associates; he joined various business related organisations trying to find something to care about. He had seriously considered suicide but he was stronger than that. But he felt hopeless.

Then one day he saw a boy aged about fourteen looking lost and dirty hanging around outside the shop. Sam watched him for a short while; the boy looked at Sam with moist eyes.

“Are you alright, mate?” Sam went outside and asked him

“Not really,” came a snuffled reply.

“Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Come on in I’ll give you something”

The boy looked wary

“Food I mean” Sam smiled.

“Ok, thanks.”

The boy went into the shop and Sam dished him up a portion of whatever he wanted. The boy ate it hungrily.

“What’s your name?” Sam asked trying to make conversation. The boy hesitated in answering. But eventually he did answer with just one word:

“Shaun.”

 

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