Faster, faster and then faster. I sprinted down the street knowing that I could slip any second on the wet cobbles. I enjoy running, under normal circumstances, but today wasn’t going well. I could feel him behind me and he was catching me fast, his greasy, panting breath was on my neck and I could almost feel his slobbering tongue licking my ear. I pushed everyone out the way, desperately trying to avoid his sweaty hands. The blethering women, the yowling babies with their young mums, the lazy tattooed boys, and I sent them all spinning in my frantic bid to get away from my pursuer. Even the wee boys, pulling stunts on their BMX bikes, stopped to stare.
I was breathing in gulps, my arms were flailing recklessly at my sides, trying to keep my legs working; all of the oxygen had been mysteriously sucked out of the atmosphere. What had I been thinking? Now I regretted my actions. I plunged on, past the traffic lights at St. Marnock’s Street, heading down towards the lane. If I could make it to the corner maybe I could give him the slip.
I heard a clatter behind me but didn’t look back, afraid I’d lose time and didn’t want to give him a chance to dive at me. It’s not a good idea to run when you’re seven months pregnant, I was discovering, but I had to sprint to save my life.
I held onto my belly as I ran further down the street but my swollen breasts started to sway wildly and ache as they strained to be set free. I’d been in scrapes before but I’d gone too far this time. I heard a commotion and more shouting. He must have battered into some old biddy, but I daren’t stop to look and made a swift turn round the corner, across the road, into the traffic.
The lane at the back of the Chinese Dragon smelled of chip fat and steamed rice and it hit me on the face like a damp blanket in a dog’s basket. At the entry, I finally stopped, hands on my knees, tried to catch my breath. Thank goodness it was a fat slob who was chasing me, I hoped he’d had a heart attack.
I took out a smoke from the packet under my sleeve and lit up. The bump gave a big kick, obviously not too happy about being jiggled about so much. The exhaustion in my legs made my calves as tight as the grip my old dad used to have round my neck. I leaned back on the door and took a big drag and waited for my heart to slow down.
I dropped the black leather bag against the wall. There had to be easier ways to earn a living than this. Who did I think I was; the Artful Dodger? There was no sound of footsteps or shouting so I began to feel sure I'd lost him. The look on his face had been hilarious. Lazy toad. Liked strutting around the shop in his uniform wearing his wee cap, mumbling into his walkie-talkie, but when he had to chase me down the street, well, he obviously struggled to fulfill his duties.
Normally, getting away from trouble is easy for me. Into Markie’s and scout around. Look for some old dear with an expensive looking handbag. Wait until she’s absorbed choosing a big pair of knickers and grab her bag from behind and make off, faster than a flee on a greyhound’s back. I’ve always been praised for my running and even won medals for it at the school. My teachers said I had a big future if I stuck at it, and they were right. I make a good enough living.
Then like a saddo I went and got pregnant. Was okay at first, didn’t show, being a skinny bird with a tall athletic build. I was never going to get all bloated, the size of a beluga whale by the time I was four months gone, sitting eating cheesy chips in the Tesco café, wondering why my ankles were swelling up. I just got a wee bump that I could hide easily with a longer t-shirt, and it never made much difference to me, until now. I’m seven months gone and the baby’s getting big, moving a lot.
First of all I’d thought about getting rid of it. Let’s be honest here, the lad that did this to me isn’t exactly father of the year material. He’s probably got a wheen of weans already. It was just one of them stupid moments that I regret with all my heart, but you know, I’d been out with Janice and the girls for her hen night and I’d gone a bit further than normal with the booze. It was the shots that done me in. I’d been dared to drink six in a row and if there’s something my pals all know about me, it’s my competitive nature.
I downed every last one to cheers from the girls and I was so pleased with myself, I know, what a stupid thing to be proud of, but there you go. Add in a snort of persil in the lavvy, a wee treat seeing as the girls were all together, and I was flying high.
I usually wouldn’t have given him houseroom but that night I just thought I was untouchable and some quick dirty sex up against the back wall of the pub seemed like a fun thing to do. You know what it’s like. Condom? Don’t be daft. I was hot, he was desperate, it was over in a couple of minutes and I was back inside with my pals.
You can guess the rest. Six weeks later and I’d missed my period. Bought a test kit and sat in the toilet at the bus station waiting to see that wee blue line appear. I didn’t cry. It seemed unreal. I stuck it in the bin and got on with life as usual, didn’t tell anybody. Thought all the time about getting rid of it but couldn’t work up the courage to do it. Pretended it wasn’t happening at all. Can’t do that now.
I threw the cigarette butt down and ground it into the dirt with the toe of my boot, thinking of the mess I’d made. This bag needed to be worth it. When I snatched the strap from her shoulder, the woman had turned round with such a shocked look on her face. I spotted an obscene diamond ring on her finger when she grasped at the air trying to get the bag back, but by then I was off. She started to scream, they always do. Too bad. I’m sure she can afford it.
I would never grab a bag off some poor old soul shuffling about carrying her grimy tartan shopper, her legs aching with her varicose veins. No, it’s always the better off older ones that I go for. I look and see what kind of clothes they’re wearing. Leather gloves are always a giveaway. Those soft tan ones, real expensive, and I can tell a leather bag from a knock-off any day. I’m not heartless, you know. I just take from the ones that can afford it.
My heart had stopped racing and I could breathe again. Time to see what my wages were. I picked up the bag and unzipped it. Nice and tidy, not full of receipts and packets of Anadin Extras. An umbrella, a Blackberry, car keys with a BMW fob, a Channel lipstick and compact and a very nice leather purse.
I always enjoyed this part. There was no saying what you might find. Some days it was a total disaster, a £5 note and a packet of polo mints. Sometimes you hit the jackpot. Two hundred quid in notes and a whole collection of debit and credit cards. Even got a passport once. Today it was a bit disappointing. £50 and a debit card. Not much for all that running. I took the money, the card and the phone, and chucked the rest over the wall beside the takeaway boxes.
Decided that I should go home. No point trying anymore today. Too much of a close call. It was then I felt the warm, wet sensation running down my legs. I touched it and brought my hand up to inspect. Blood, and lots of it. I looked around to see, stupidly, if there was somebody I could shout to for help but, just at that point, a pain ripped through my stomach from my groin to my ribs.
I sank down onto the dirty ground and groaned. The blood kept coming and I started to feel sick. I had a sudden urge to push; but I knew what was happening.
Two shiny black shoes appeared in front of me. I let out a low groan, knowing that my body was doing stuff that I could no longer control.
The fat slob gobbed on me before calling for help on his walkie-talkie.