When I lived in Brighton, Bath, Dorset, Stratford and Salisbury it seemed as if something crazy was happening every day. It was the usual mix of youth, hormones, absence of supporting family/old friends and neglect of self-care, and the effect was similar to wandering through an episode of Eastenders in full swing. Or Days of our Lives if you’re American, minus the Exorcism scenes (just).
Anyway, I arrived at my friend’s house in Brighton to see a police car waiting outside. Helen invited me in with a worried expression and I followed her tiny frame into the front room. She and her housemate Nikki, along with a distraught and crying girl I’d never seen before, were giving statements to one very earnest policeman while their female lodger wailed to another in a different room. “Bloody Hell,” I thought, “What is it this time?”
“She was being horrible to her girlfriend again,” Helen explained, indicating the lodger making all the noise from the other room, “and when I told her not to she just went mad and attacked me!” Helen did indeed look shaken and angry.
“Oh dear,” I said helpfully.
“Right, well, she’ll be going somewhere else and we’ll be in touch,” the policeman explained as he got up to leave. Helen and Nikki’s lodger left with them and the flat fell into a heavy silence. The girlfriend of said lodger continued to weep.
“Shall I make tea then?” I offered, hurrying into the kitchen.
When everyone but the crying girl had the warm cups in their hands Helen explained that their lodger had been increasingly unpleasant to her girlfriend and Helen, always unwilling to ignore mistreatment, had had enough, leading to the attack. “You need to forget about her,” she said.
The girlfriend seemed to digest Helen’s advice. As I sipped at my tea she threw herself bodily against me and grappled me in a hug I wouldn’t give to my closest friends. Her tears dripped onto my shoulder. What could I do but hug back and stare fearfully at Helen, who bit her lip?
The hours passed, the sun rose high and soon she seemed to feel better. When she left we were all assured that tomorrow was a new day, that all would be well, and that she would begin a new life. That evening Helen got a call saying they’d got back together.