by Nikki cole
Just a short story looking for some feedback and tips
They weren't like me
They weren't like me. I knew as soon as I waltzed in, excited, enthusiastic...no. There was going to be no warm welcome. Who was I to think I could be one of them? Yet this time, I really thought I'd turned things around.
But of course, looking at all the polished, picture-perfect big egos surrounding me, how dare I, someone who was used to life on the streets try to even think I could be one of them? They were even sneering at my lovely Connie too and she's got nothing to be ashamed of, except maybe, well, me. But like I said I've come a long way. How dare they look at her like that.
I don't think Connie could possibly be as nervous as I was. That morning she bought me breakfast in bed as she always did, such a kind lady, and I heard her singing in the shower as always. I don't know how she could act like that. I felt like one of her poached eggs, wobbling about as if ready to fall apart. What a wimp. With the life I'd been used to you never would have believed it. I liked to think of myself as a tough guy. And here I was, a shaky, shivery mess all morning and now being looked down upon by this lot. I was getting smirks, some of them were shooting daggers, some of them had really nailed the death stare. How dare I feel like I could be like this lot? We couldn't have been more different in looks. Even with Connie by my side I never got the hang of scrubbing up well. This lot looked like they lived in the beauty parlour. I hoped to God this wasn't going to turn into a beauty contest.
Let's say I was used to mixing with an entirely different level of class. Make that no class, no standards whatsoever. I'm not proud of my past. I've had to steal and scavenge food from places I imagine this lot would refuse to take a dump in. When you're homeless you have to learn to eat anything that will pass as edible.
It wasn't my fault before you start thinking what unforgivable crime did, I commit to be thrown out on the streets. No, it wasn't like that. See, I was too young to be capable of doing anything. My whole family were poor. Why did my mum have to have so many of us? She really didn't think it through. And that evil landlord wasn't going to stand for it.
We weren't a bad family. Why do I defend them so much, they never loved me? My mother would glare at me and tell me I was my father all over again. They would have left me to die out there. Survival of the fittest, I suppose.
Alone, shattered and hungry I scoured the streets. Would no one take pity. I was young, that was in my favour, surely? I passed restaurants, cafes, I could smell sizzling hot chips, freshly baked bread and biscuits. I saw people munching burgers, hot dogs, some had carrier bags full of the stuff. Surely, they didn't need all that?
Rounding a corner, I felt myself leave the pavement, jumping out of skin, before freezing to the spot. Someone was standing there. I had the feeling they had been watching my every move. For someone who had no experience with mirrors, I had still seen my reflection as I stared at all the food being prepared in all those shops. I suddenly understood what my mum had meant all those millions of times she had said it.
Did it have a massive impact? Well, he was more helpful than the rest of my family? After he said, "You'll never get a meal that way, son," he then took me under his wing. Until the people in uniform caught up with him. They seem to catch up with all of us, eventually.
Becoming streetwise has its perks. This lot here today may look at me like I'm a worm amongst their finest roast chicken meat and two veg, but I highly doubt they'd stand a chance if a real gang set on them. Me on the other hand, I've learnt a few moves and not just for today, oh no. I've had a lot of practice. This lot wouldn't be a match for some of the gangs I've seen in my time.
There I was, no roof over my head, it seemed like this was my lot, my dealt card. My life would be wondering where my next meal would come from, would I be able to stay away from trouble today, would I be able to avoid the guys in the uniform?
Eventually the answer to the latter was no. They caught up with me. In all my horrific days of surviving on the street, I had never been more terrified. What were they going to do to me? I hadn't committed any real crime unless you count surviving. Were they going to lock me up forever?
My brothers and sisters, slowly, one by one, had all been caught before me. My oldest brother deserved it. Like I said, everything I did was simply to survive. Well, not Sid. He was as bad as those gangs I tried so desperately to avoid. My heart sank when he became one of them, working his way up to ringleader. We were better than that. Our family had done no wrong. I tried to hang onto this belief, but the others didn't have such morals.
Sid became one of them. So, really it was no loss to me when he got taken away. That was until the next in line for ringleader, or whatever I should call him stepped up. I bet he had it all planned out, how to frame Sid so he could rule the streets.
When Sid ruled the roost, if they found me, I didn't see it at the time, but he would try and go easy on me. It would all be just talk. Giving me a chance to get away before a beating. Then Sid got nicked and I wasn't so lucky with Frank. Frank wasn't one for talking. Maybe the uniformed guys knew I never committed a crime. Maybe they just felt sorry for me, battered and bruised as I was.
What a shocker. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did getting caught. Meeting Connie. I tried to mess it up at first, trust me, I really did. My past had made it so hard to trust. I was depressed, I was anxious, I was scared. Connie was unbelievably kind. I thought she was just another busybody in a smart uniform but no. She changed my life. And what a life! I owe everything to that beautiful, kind-hearted lady. Breakfast in bed and hearty home cooked meals for one thing. I honestly had no idea life could be like this.
However, I really did scoff and protest when she decided we were giving this dance therapy a go. No way. Then, I decided I couldn't let her down. Not after everything she had done for me.
Which is how I ended up here, in amongst this arrogant, cliquey group. I was embarrassed at how much I enjoyed learning to dance. We never missed a day without practising our routine. Naturally, Connie wanted to compete.
'I'm doing this for Connie,' I thought as one by one they kept turning around and smirking. It was not good for the nerves. I have often felt fear so strong I could smell it, taste it, but this was a different kind. At that moment I would have chosen to face the fight for survival, the terrifying gangs against all this. The smell of fear was getting too much. It was too loud. Why couldn't the others all turn off those haughty expressions? But then Connie smoothed my hair around my ears and gave me a kiss. My spirits lifted. My heart swelled at how much love I felt for this incredible woman.
That booming voice with the microphone made me jump yet again.
"What a lot of fantastic routines we've been seeing at this year's heelwork to music here at Crufts. Next into the ring, we have Bracken and Connie. Now, when Connie took on Bracken, he was a terrified stray, never known kindness. Connie and heelwork to music has turned his life around. Please put your hands together for this brave pair."
And I must have felt a bit of encouragement because I felt my tail start to wag. As the song 'Bat out of hell' blasted out of the speakers and everyone laughed and clapped along, my nerves were forgotten, we both put our all into concentrating on the routine.
It didn't matter one bit that the others weren't like me. As the crowd's appreciation dragged on, the loud man shouted that we'd scored full marks and I can tell you as we left the ring, not one of those arrogant border collies were smirking or sneering!