After lounging around in the centre for a bit - mostly to try and sober Rob up - we headed off for this squat. When we got there, all I saw was boarded up windows and graffiti in a neighbourhood of similar buildings. I had no idea where we were. We'd walked far enough that even my feet were beginning to hurt, and I was totally lost. It was a sort of industrial area. This building could have been anything - an office, a big house, maybe a hotel of some kind? It didn't really matter. There was no one around, no one to be disturbing, no neighbours to complain about squatters living in the place next door. It was kind of perfect in a really fucked up way.
I say fucked up, because there I was with enough money to buy myself a house of my own, and here I was, living on the streets. I didn't want to buy a house. I was eighteen for fuck's sake. I wanted to find Lucas, or Jesse, and make them pay. I wanted to move around freely and not worry about bills or whether squatters would break into my house while I was away. I'd been trying to hunt them down - Jesse and Lucas, that is. It hardly involved staying put in one place for long.
Anyway, there we were, Rob looking all chuffed and pleased with himself because I liked the first place he'd found, and me, gawking at this place.
"Hello?" a voice called from the main door to the building. The voice belonged to a dark haired woman who looked like she'd only just woken up and wasn't too happy about it. Rob bounded up to her, beckoning for me to follow. I took one last look around the buildings nearby before following him, figuring I could move into one of them if I didn't get on with these people.
"This is the lad I told ya 'bout," Rob told her. "Wassya name?" he asked me, "oh yeah, Alex," he nodded to himself before I could answer him.
"Alex," the woman rolled my name around her mouth, looking me up and down. I wasn't keen on the way she was looking at me, judging whether I'd be worth having around or not. I suppose it was a bit odd, having a kid like me turn up on their doorstep. I stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the homeless I'd met, why would I blend in any better here?
"Nice to meet you," I did my best at a smile for her, sticking out my hand and everything. Being polite could hardly go amiss, right? She looked down at my hand and back up at me like I was about to bite her head off. I dropped it back down to my side, letting the smile go with it.
"Can you look after yourself?" she asked gruffly. I nodded. "Do you know your squatters rights? You need to when the police come knocking at three in the morning." I shook my head. "Learn them." I nodded again. "I s'pose Angelina will teach you them, if you keep your distance respectful."
"She don't take too kindly to men trying to get in her pants all the time. She'll knock yer block off if you do try. Don't want no fights here, thanks."
"Right," I made a note of that, wondering what this Angelina was like.
"Come in then, take a look around, see how you get on with the others. We'll decide if you can stay later on when you've had a chance to talk to 'em," she said, walking off inside. I scuttled in after her, and Rob shut the door behind us, bringing up the rear. "Now this place is big enough that we's got our own rooms here, but if we have to move on, don't expect that to last. We've got the water running and sometimes we got electricity, too, so we get to watch telly. There's a leak in the roof, keep meaning to fix that," she went on about the place, taking me around all three floors, introducing me to the others. There were five of them, including the woman. Angelina was a skinny, dark skinned girl wearing jeans that didn't fit and a men's polo shirt. Something about the way she wore it told me that the shirt belonged to the last guy she had ripped the bollocks off. It was like a fucking trophy or something.
I got away from her pretty quickly. She was not someone I wanted to piss off. After the grand tour, the squatters and me all settled down in a room they'd turned into a communal area to get to know each other. Angelina was not as scary as first impressions made me think. Rob complained about the booze rule, but everyone else shot him down, and I can't even remember the names of the others now. They all walked off to go discuss me staying there. I felt like I was at some kind of job interview. Either way, i knew fretting wasn't going to help me, so I just sat there and talked to Rob until they came back with a decision.
It was a yes, in case you didn't already guess.They didn't seem to mind if Rob stayed but stern words were had when he pulled a can of cider out of his pocket, totally forgetting their rule about it.
The dark haired woman that seemed like she was in charge of the place made Angelina my teacher just as she'd promised. I kept my distacne respectful just as warned, and it seemed that was all it took for Angelina to warm to someone. She took me through squatter's rights, how to survive on the streets, everything I needed to know. It was more than that woman had promised she'd teach me, so in return, I offered to teach her how to fight. That was the first time I heard Angelina really laugh. It was like I had just told her the funniest joke known to man.
"You?" she giggled, "I'd love to see you try."
"Alright then," I smiled at her confidently. "Show me how well you fight." She giggled some more before realising I was being totally serious. She threw out a punch without warning, smacking my shoulder hard. I didn't move. Frowning, she tried again, jabbing at my ribs. I moved to block it, but nothing more. She got frustrated - every punch or slap she levelled at me, I simply blocked or didn't react at all. We were standing in the middle of the room towards the end of it, her grunts and angry shouts having attracted a couple of the others to watch. I think they were all used to her winning. After letting them watch a while, I swept her feet out from under her with a quick kick and pinned her to the floor before she even landed.
She struggled and wriggled, a tiny flicker of fear flitting across her dark features as she realised she couldn't get loose. I let her up then.
"Fuck," she muttered, scrambling to her feet. "Okay, maybe I was wrong. You look like you've never even seen a fight before. I grinned. She took me up on my offer of teaching her to fight better after that.