Mrs Lucy Jones. The ink flowed out of the golden nib, a rich, luxurious black. The fluid curves contrasted with the laid paper, textured with lines. The name looked foreign, but it was her name. She couldn’t quite believe it. 3 years, 4 months and 24 days after meeting her beloved Ben they were sat together amongst family, friends and loved ones signing the register that made them Mr and Mrs. He had taken some convincing, but Lucy had dreamed of her special day since she was a little girl and she knew it had to be big. Hundreds of guests, a stately home and the princess dress, flamboyant and excessive, even though she was in excess herself with her own little princess. An unplanned pregnancy, yes, but a shot-gun wedding it was not. They loved each other. She glanced over at the shimmering ink on the page. Their names together; it was official.

You are beautiful! The heart shaped post-it note precariously hung onto the cup of tea, delivered into the bedroom as Lucy breastfed her hungry newborn. She was exhausted after another night of broken sleep, but the thought of a warm cup of tea made her smile. Ben had slept in the other room in preparation for his day at work. He’d been back to work a few weeks now. She missed him.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” she gestured to the bedside table, “I’m looking forward to that.” He placed the fountain pen from their wedding back onto her bedside table. She thought it was cute he borrowed it to write little love notes. Such a romantic.

“Look I might be late again at work. Deadline. You know how it is.”

She did know how it was. The publishing industry was a bitch like that, she knew because she worked in it too. She had been Ben’s PA before she ventured into PR. So many acronyms, which is ironic for an industry where words are celebrated.

As he left, she smiled to hide the tears bubbling up onto the surface. She knew Ben hated her crying. It must be hormones. She had heard from others that this was hard, but she had found it a bit of an understatement so far. She dreaded the long day ahead with the constant crying, milk spit ups and sore nipples. She felt like a hamster trapped on a wheel she couldn’t get off.

Out with the lads tonight, won’t be late! She rolled her eyes. Again? When was she ever going to get a night out with her friends? He’d been working late a lot recently, he does deserve the break, but doesn’t she deserve a break too? She is annoyed she missed him again. He must have left while she was putting Alice down for her morning nap. She hates having to communicate with notes like this.

She confronted him as soon as he walked into the lounge, he’d barely unwrapped the scarf from around his neck. “How was it?” she directed the question at the TV, he wasn’t even sure she was talking to him.


“How was it?”

“How was what?”

“The Langham.” It was a hotel. She passed him the bank statement she had found, the transaction in question circled and underlined so angrily, black ink had splashed over the rows below.

“I have no i-”

She cut him off, “Don’t lie to me. Don’t say it was a work thing. Don’t say you needed a place to crash because you got so drunk that night you missed the last train home. No one just crashes in a 5 star hotel. Not for that price.”

He could have told her it was a mistake. A one-off. It wouldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t have believed him, of course, but they had a kid now. She’d have given him the benefit of the doubt. For Alice. She hadn’t wanted to go through the courts any more than he did. Instead he bowed his head. He said he was sorry. He was sorry it wasn’t working. He was sorry that he didn’t love her anymore. He was sorry it was over. It had been for some time.

Of course she felt betrayed. They had only been married 2 years, but it sounded like he had another woman on the scene from before Alice was born. He held her hand through labour, knowing he was going to destroy the family they were just starting. With every contraction, she squeezed his hand. He felt how much she needed him right there and then, knowing she would only need him more. She hoped he felt the shame he deserved to feel, but if he felt any regret he didn’t show it.

“This sofa is perfect!” Susie was so excited, she hadn’t expected to find a nice sofa in a charity shop. Her husband had insisted they didn’t buy new, despite the money they had received as wedding gifts. It wasn’t environmental, he’d said. This charity shop was more fancy anyway, this mid-century sofa looked fairly genuine. It was barely used apart from a bit of a mark on the left seat cushion, but that could easily be covered by a throw, she thought. She went to turn over the marked cushion and a sales assistant ran over, dutifully.

“Oh don’t worry, I can do it,” she insisted, “I’m not that pregnant!” She hated that just because she had a bump now, people assumed she couldn’t do things. It’s just a cushion.

The assistant helped anyway, lifting the cushion from the sofa. They heard a clatter. She went to drop to the floor, but the assistant got there first. “Hey, look," He held up a beautiful, white fountain pen, with gold detailing. "You can have that for free when you buy the sofa, if you like.” She had always fancied herself a bit of a writer. That’s why she took the job at the publisher’s in the first place. That’s where she met her husband. Although, all she ended up doing as a PA was photocopying and arranging diaries. Maternity leave could be her chance to write her book, on this sofa, with this pen. It was a sign; she had to buy the sofa. Her husband would love it. What’s not to love?

The sales assistant took her cheque. Handy that she had this new pen to sign it with. She added a few extra pounds, it was for charity after all. He promised it would be delivered in the next week. “Thank you, “ he glanced at the cheque, surprised, “Mrs Jones, thanks so much.”

I walk in and he’s the first person I see. Wearing a crisp white shirt, hair gelled to perfection, his name badge perfectly straight. I approach him cautiously, “Any chance I can use the loo?” He screws up his face and backs away. Did he hear me? I start to panic, the pressure on my bladder almost at breaking point. I’m in need of relief. The need of relief on my bladder is urgent, but also relief of the dirt and grime of London’s streets. Another person who refuses to help me.

Welcome to London.

I have been on the streets a while now, but of the seasons I find Summer the hardest. The days are warm, but the nights are cold. Layers of clothes don’t offer the comfort they do in the Winter. They only aid to make it so warm, the smell radiating from me is comparable to a festering refuse bin waiting for collection. There is no hiding the grime on my skin. Hours spent on a busy, polluted road in the sweltering heat, the sweat becomes the sticky layer the exhaust fumes are attracted to. My tired smile struggles to break through the disgust I feel for myself. I don’t blame him for walking away.

It’s busy, it must be nearing work time. I am missing my busiest footfall. My best chance of a warm croissant, the smell of which fills the air of the café. I suppress the thoughts as my mouth salivates a little. I negotiate my way through the queue, making my way to the back of the café in search for a toilet. “Sorry,” always apologising for my being there, am I not entitled to use the toilet like anyone else? I am only human.

In the bathroom I confront my reflection. I barely recognise my face, it is so tired and aged, patchy with grime. My clothes, old and worn, I certainly look the part. I take off my beanie hiding my dishevelled hair thick with oil and set about washing my face. The cool water on my hands soothes the cracks in my skin. My eyes look back, exhausted, these testing Summer hours are taking their toll. Long days on busy streets. Thousands of people walk by without so much as a second glance back to me. I am wearing the invisibility cloak made by poverty and sheer bad luck. I sit underneath it in the hope that someone will see me. A small chance of a sandwich, a warm drink or even a chat. It's been so long since I've told my story.

I was once one them, one of the busy commuters. Head down, eyes on my phone, or my polished brogues as I braced myself for a day in the office. I enjoyed my job, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t bad days. Sometimes I felt too old and cynical for the blinding enthusiasm of my young colleagues. I was called into the office one morning, and told they didn’t have a role for me any more; I was being made redundant. I had my month’s notice, but I had only worked there just shy of a year so I wasn’t entitled to any more money than that. I struggled to find new work; the mortgage didn’t get paid. It’s tough for an old dog like me to get back into an industry where they value youth above experience. Especially when youth costs a third of the price. In this economy, who can blame them.

Homelessness doesn’t just mean someone without a home. When I lost my job, I lost my identity and my purpose. As I wipe away the city dirt with a thin hand towel, I reveal the person who packed up and sold all his belongings all those years ago, when the house was repossessed and set to the streets without any one to turn to. It’s delicate, I want to tell guy in the crisp shirt, the safety net that protects all that you love; your house, your wife, your family. Any one of us could be made homeless; we have to look out for each other.

Updated: Jun 11

Water ripples break against the side of the pool. The water is still, no one is in it. The pool lays abandoned during the hottest hours of the day. Cutlery jingles as the hotel lunch is served. Ripples wander to the edge of the pool, breaking against the tiled edges like waves on a beach. Leaves land in the water, gathering at one side as they are gently blown by the breeze. They wait for the crowds to descend with bellies full. A further twenty minutes pass until the water is alive with bodies jumping in to receive the relief of the water’s cool kiss.

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