Begging Through Coppers, Begging Through Drugs
by Wendy

There's a man playing the harmonica in the rain, his cap at his feet. He's swaying from side to side, engrossed in the blues as I scurry past the corner and head towards the shop opposite. I shelter under its canopy as I catch my breath.

It's raining cats and dogs, straight up and down. It's raining like there's no place else on earth it could be raining. The harmonica man doesn't notice, as he switches to a vaguely familiar tune. He's a blur in the rain, the cars and buses sploshing past drowning out much of his sound. Still I hear him.

I'm so intent on him, that I don't see Ethan join me under the canopy. He clutches a small bag of change, and we fight our way through the rain to the train station to find an open cafˇ. It's Sunday, and the town is ever more dreary. No one comes out on a Sunday anymore. Too busy sleeping off the night before, and I can't face the morning after. Ethan has no such problem. Up and down and buzzed and still with a smear of glitter decorating his long lashes. He cut his hair a week last Wednesday, at a strange party declaring that the sixties were dead and he was the New Age. It sticks up and all over the place, casting strange shadows on the wall behind him.

I used to love watching his shadow. We would make shadow plays on the walls when the electricity cut off, and all we had was candles and fag ends to see each other by. I couldn't have told you where our bodies separated from the shadows. But now I can't sleep, and every day is the morning after for him. He doesn't tell me where he got the bag of pennies that pays for our strong tea. It's so bitter that it burns the roof of my mouth, and he moues with pity and offers to kiss it better.

Times past I would have allowed him without hesitation, enjoying the looks from the other customers, from the waitress. She would have refused us a second cup, and we would walk laughing out onto the platform and pick destinations that we'd like to visit. We never left cosy London.

I was scared of being found.

Now. I want to be found. I want my father, the Watcher's Council, even the Dean of the University to sweep through that cafˇ door and find me. Take me away and lock me up for all the trouble I've caused with Ethan. For the death we caused.

He looks at me with something approaching soberness in his eyes. Ethan is never sober or straight anymore, and there is something to be said for his lack of passion for anything but the next chance to get off his face. Smashed, blootered, pissed. Fucked up beyond belief. I think I manage most of this without any alcohol or illicit substance. There's a moment when everything becomes clear.

"I'm going home." The statement hangs in the air between, resting on the cloud of cigarette smoke pouring from Ethan's unsmoked cigarette.

"To the flat." He always insists on calling it that. He knows I don't mean there. He just wants to see if I have the courage to say it.

"I'm going back to my father. Away from London." His lips sneer and I take the mouthful of vituperation he throws my way. It's hard to say that perhaps I loved him once, with his tumbling curls and soft mouth and lust for anything that was different and new and powerful. The biggest rush on earth may have sustained him in his search for new ways to attain it. For me, the magic had destroyed any wish for me to continue here.

I would be doing some good with my father. And then perhaps I could atone. I get up to walk out of here, back to the life I once loathed, when he throws the final insult in my face. "Back to daddy to beg for coppers and crumbs from his table."

"At least I'm not begging for drugs to forget what happened." Any trace of the feeling we once had was slipping like grains of sand though an hourglass. He looks away. The rain batters me once more, but it feels lighter. The decision takes a weight from my back and I don't look back.


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