I don’t know what to think. It didn’t matter when I was a kid, when Little Billy did the thinking for me. Wake up, stand here, hold this, be nice to uncle Kenny. I never knew I had so many uncles, but they came to visit mam every weekend. Little Billy said they was just being friendly, like, when they wanted to cuddle me too and I didn’t mind, not really. Uncle Kenny used to bring me comics and I’d sit on his knee while Little Billy was at the match, then they’d all go down the Rocket and I’d have to make the tea.
“Fish fingers, our Linnie,” mam said to me. “The economy ones, mind.” And she’d disappear into the bathroom and come out all shiny-eyed and sniffing. I used to think she’d been crying, but Little Billy told me to stop fuckin’ thinking so much and get the goddamn tea on. And he peeled a fiver off a huge wad of notes and pushed it across the kitchen worktop.
I gasped. “Where d’you get all that cash, Little Billy?” I never saw so much money before. Not even when mam won on the bingo and we had pizza for tea – real pizza that came in a box on the back of a motorbike.
“Worked hard for it, our Linnie.” He looked at me then. Really looked at me, like – with his head cocked to one side and his bottom lip between his teeth. “D’you want to earn some money for yourself, then?”
And that’s how it started. A tenner for me and a tenner for Little Billy, he said. But a tenner was a fortune to me and I wasn’t to know that Little Billy’s cut was more than twice that and then some. So when mam was at the bingo, Uncle Kenny used to come round to see me too, while Little Billy stood out on the balcony and smoked roll-ups and watched the traffic on the North Circular.
“Gonna buy a car,” he said to me afterwards, flicking ash onto the walkway below. “Soon as I get out of this dump. We’ll have a nice house, you an’ me, Linnie. With a garage and a garden and all.”
“What about mam?” I tucked my vest back into my knickers.
He looked at me in that strange way again. “Yeah, mam too.” He gave me my tenner then and I stuffed it in my pocket and bought chips with it later.
(read part 2)
(read part 2)