Friday 28th July
It all started by accident of course. It should never have happened that way at all. It was term-time and midweek, so Harriet should have been at University at the time. What none of them realised was that she had practically dropped out of her courses by then. It was, of course, the heroin. She had started off, and had confidently asserted to Jane, that she could control it – in fact she said that she would never let it control her. She was cleverer than that, she wasn’t hooked on it, she did enjoy it, but knew it was dangerous and she respected it and would therefore make sure she was always in control. But though Jane was sure she started off that way, just dabbling with it, enjoying the thrill of doing it, the excitement, the incredible high it gave her, slowly, or maybe not that slowly at all, it started to control her. Where she had decided when and where to smoke it, she now couldn’t go so long without it. It just pulled her in, and dragged her down with it.
It would be easy to blame the people she was hanging out with at University, but Harriet was an intelligent girl, she should have known better. No matter how Jane tried to rationalise after the fact, she couldn’t fail to come to the conclusion that Harriet knew what she was doing, and didn’t really care. There was obviously nothing important enough in her life to stop her; her family, and by that Jane meant her, even Jane didn’t mean enough to her. Her education, her University course must have seemed such a drag to her, all her old connections must have counted for nothing, compared to the overwhelming allure of this stupid druggy culture which she had slipped so effortlessly into. And so the drugs took over, and then nothing else mattered to her; she had made it pretty bloody obvious on her visits home that they all counted for nothing, that they were all ‘boring as shit’, as she so politely put it one dinnertime. The family stupidly shrugged this away, as ‘Just Harriet showing off’; in fact she can still recall the benign smile as her mother let these really hurtful words slip over her.
* * *
The footsteps got closer and closer and June was sure they must be right outside the door by now. She frantically gestured to Ted not to make a sound by putting a finger to her mouth and silently shushing. He seemed to shrink into himself and slowly started to pull the blanket up and over his legs. June was watching the bedroom door which wasn’t even shut properly and praying that Phil would decide to go back downstairs and just leave them alone. All she wanted in the whole world was to be left alone. Everyone always seemed to need her for something when all she wanted was to be left alone. Then for what must have been almost a whole minute there was this deathly silence. A silence you knew must end, but you were desperately hoping never would.
* * *
The day after her impulsive London stop-over Harriet got up and left quickly. She had to decide whether to carry on and go up to Leeds, (her ticket was still valid) or stay there in London. Maybe she could get a job and somewhere to stay and start another life for herself, away from Jim and Leeds, away from stupid Stowmarket and her useless parents. She just needed to get away from everyone and start again, she would be alright then. But she needed money, and desperately. She realized with some sort of sickening clarity that she would have to go back to Stowmarket and get hold of some money. Maybe she could talk to her Dad; maybe he would listen to reason and set her up in a nice little flat in London. But how could she explain to him why she had to get away from Leeds, he would feel so let down. She remembered how proud he had been that she was going to University, how he had sat her down and talked to her about the new life she would be starting and what a wonderful opportunity it would be for her. How could Harriet tell him that this brilliant opportunity – she was so casually throwing away, and at the first hurdle too. That would be heartbreaking.
She mooched over a second cup of black-mud-masquerading-as-coffee, in a greasy little café off the Whitechapel Road, when, all of a sudden the solution came to her. She remembered that she had a Trustee Savings Book at home; relatives had regularly given her small sums of money which Dad had insisted she save. She couldn’t remember how much was in it, or where exactly it was in the house, but it must have been nearly a thousand pounds by now. she was over eighteen and was sure she would be able to withdraw the money without having to have her Dad countersign it. She reckoned the book must be in Dads study and she would have to wait till they were all in bed and slip down and find it, she would just need an excuse for being back so soon. Perhaps she could pretend to be sick, or that she had forgotten something important, like some text books or something, she would think up something on the train back.
If she really wanted this to work she should simply have gone back to Leeds and acted as if nothing had happened and come down in two weeks time as planned, but she felt she couldn’t wait. She had to do it while the idea was fresh in her mind, or she might chicken out. She decided to stay in London another day and go back on Tuesday morning, maybe no-one would be in, and she could rummage around and find the book and they wouldn’t even know she had been back.
Harriet stayed one more night in Grotsville Towers, and left and got the nine o’clock out of Liverpool Street back to Stowmarket. She had decided that she would just brazen it out and tell them that she was having a short break from my studies – ‘that she was tired and needed a few days rest and recuperation and the halls of residence were far too noisy for revision, so she’d decided to come home for a few days.’ Anyway it was her life and she could do what she wanted, she wasn’t a kid anymore.