'Ok - no disclaimer required. Just a thanks and acknowledgement.
'Thanks to the Keeper and group for the title and the inspiration.
'The rest of the crap is mine. This is a very, very short intro to what should become a series of longer pieces. As you can see I'm English so I retain a fondness for the letter 'u' in words.
'Comments, complaints, phone numbers - the e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
The day after.......January 14th 1970.
It was raining when she woke.
She was cold.
Almost too cold to feel the pain, but not quite.
She rolled on to her knees, grimacing at the discomfort caused by the cobbles. The alley had seemed a good place to sleep last night, but she'd been exhausted; incapable of moving another step. It had least offered some semblance of shelter, out of the light, out of the passing crowds of London's Soho.
She tried to straighten, to stand, gasping in agony as the dried blood and freshly encrusted scabs across her back broke and tore. New blood flowed, loosening the shirt which overnight had stuck to her wounds.
She breathed in, deeply, steeling herself and moved out into Dean Street. The seedy, neon-lit world she had barely noticed last night; when she had stumbled, spent, into the darkened rear exit of a shop; had vanished. In it's place was the hustle and bustle of a colourful street market. Dimly she became aware of the shouts, "Get yer luvverly ripe toma'oes", "Juicy pears 'arf a nicker".
Breakfast. If she could only pull herself together enough to regain her speed, that flash of pace that kept her free and clear - of all but kin. If, if she could - then half a dozen pears, apples, tomatoes and anything else easily grabbed from the front of a stall or two would do very well. She became vaguely aware of her hunger. Pausing to attempt to recall when she had last eaten, how long she had been running. Was it really only last night? Only 16 hours?
The stall holders had begun eyeing her warily. She realised she had been still too long, in a place where no-one was still. She looked like a young lad, not who she really was; a girl 2 and a bit months short of her 15th birthday. A young lad who had spent the better part of a January night curled up on the floor of an alley doorway, at that.
They were on guard now, she'd not steal breakfast here. Shrugging she turned away, moving out into the passing stream of humanity, meandering slowly towards Soho Square.
Sitting on a bench in the gardens in the centre of the square a few hours later, thinking. 'What the bloody blue blazes do I do now Da?' Her father, dead in a road accident some years before, remained silent on the subject. It didn't stop her continuing her one sided conversation. 'No money, Da, just the clothes I'm wearing...What do I do, Da? Sally Army?? They'll feed me for a night or two, but blimey, do I want the sermon?'
She rose and walked back towards Wardour Street. Maybe she could beg for a meal, the tourists and theatre goers around Leicester Square might be a soft touch. Then she could head down to the river - there were places underneath the bridges; underneath the arches, her da used to sing... where she could sleep warm and dry. She'd have to sleep light, and pray no-one knew she was female. Worse things than a beating could happen on the street.
Not looking where she was going, she started to hurry, stepping out into the street to overtake some slower pedestrians. Suddenly a hand grabbed her coat collar, dragging her back onto the pavement as a big, black taxi swept by in a whoosh of air and a blare of horns.
"Bugger me, kid", said an undeniably female, if not exactly feminine, voice, "you trying to top yerself".
She wriggled free, "Not a kid", she growled.
The woman stared at her for a long moment, before smiling. Softly she murmured, "No, not anymore, eh love."
The girl stretched to her full height and attempted to look threatening. It didn't work. It usually did, but not this time. The woman regarded her thoughtfully.
"You're hurt". It wasn't a question.
"Come on, it's too wet and cold for me to be working. You look like you need a meal and I need some company".
The girl stood, watching for a moment. The woman met her eyes. Unblinking.
The girl smiled, "Me back's bleedin' killin' me", she confessed. "You a tom?".
The woman smiled a little more cynically, with a flash of hurt in her eyes that went by so quickly the girl almost thought she'd imagined it.
The woman spoke more harshly, "Yeah, that a problem".
"Hell, no", the girl smiled again. "At least you won't bloody care I'm queer!"
"So am I, love. So am I. Men are business, women are pleasure. I'm Sally. Come on. I'll feed you and clean your back. You can stay tonight - just tonight, mind. I can't miss TWO night's work!"
She threw an arm around the girl's shoulders, being careful not to hurt too much.
Later as the girl lay face down on her bed, Sally washed the wounds and found herself weeping. "I think they'll heal without scarring too much, child. What bastard did this to you?".
The girl sat up. "My mother. My name's Sam, by the way, pleased to meet you!"