Naomi had no plans to say goodbye, she didn’t even leave a note. Her life had taken a dramatic turn since turning 18. She had big dreams to work for the NHS. Being a nurse was all she dreamed of; ever since she saw a picture of her grandmother in uniform. On her last day of school she mapped out her life, down to every last fine detail. However sitting in the cold at Victoria coach station at 11:30PM wasn’t part of it. Neither was falling pregnant at 18. As a matter of fact, nothing in Naomi’s life had been part of her plan. Her big dreams suddenly turned in to an even bigger nightmare.

She let out a sigh and stroked Daniel’s head, he was 4 now. Sitting out in the cold with no scarf or hat wasn’t doing him any good. But neither was living in a back street South London estate. She had a decision to make and she made it. The more she reflected, the more she realised how easy the decision was. Simone had always told her so. She remembered it like it was yesterday, they sat on the swings in the children’s playground on the estate. It was the last time she saw Simone before she moved up to Birmingham.

“Most of our stuff is up there already, me and Martin are drivin’ up tomorrow” Simone smiled.

“You must be so excited; it’s like a whole new start.”

“It is. I’ve had my fair share of shit in this place.” Simone’s smile disappeared, although she hated London, her younger sister had it worse. Way worse. She was only 18 and was 6 months pregnant. To make matters worse, the father was local drug dealer Haze, a real lowlife scumbag. Simone had tried her hardest to keep Naomi from his clutches, but the allure of the bad boy was just too strong. Naomi never said she regretted her decision to keep the baby, not once. But seeing Simone fly high while she crawled through the dirt wasn’t easy. Simone shuffled her swing across and held Naomi’s hand. Tears were falling from her eyes.

“Hey come on Nay, you can always come up and visit.”

“I know” Naomi sobbed. “It’s not that, it’s just…I feel like you’re leavin’ me, When I really need you.” She broke out in tears again.

“What do you want me to do Nay? I told you how I felt 6 months ago. You chose to ignore me.”

“No!” Naomi’s voice boomed. “I chose what was best for me!”

“How is havin’ a kid with a drug dealer what’s best for you? Explain that one to me!”

“He loves me, he takes care of me.”

“Oh yeah, where was he when you had your scans? Selling drugs. Where was he for your Lamaze classes? Selling drugs. Where will he be when that baby is being born?…”

“Shut up, just shut up!” Naomi cried. She got up from the swing and walked towards the railing. She leaned on the rail crying hysterically. Simone came up behind her and placed a hand on her back.

“You’ll always have me Nay, if ever it gets too much. Just leave. Ok, just leave. Promise me you’ll do that.”

Daniel stayed awake on the coach when it drove through the city. This was the first time he’d seen bright lights in London that weren’t flashing from the top of a police car. Naomi made sure he got a good look at the city; she knew he wouldn’t be back here for a very long time. The buildings and lights faded as the coached roared on and city streets transformed into motorways. Daniel had fallen asleep by now. Naomi gazed out the window at the same stretch of road again and again. At the tender age of four he’d already been through his fair share of traumas. It was time for Naomi to change that, before it was too late.

“Mummy is daddy coming to eat some cake?”

“Yes darlin’, as soon as he finishes work.”

“Daddy always at work.”

“Yes he is” Naomi said staring blankly out of the window. Haze had promised he would be home for Daniel’s birthday. But she hadn’t seen or heard anything of him. He missed the first time Daniel ever blew out his candles and he missed him unwrapping his first present.

“Mummy, can I play in my room?”

“Sure darlin’, let’s save some cake for daddy ok.”

“Ok, I gonna play with daddy’s toy.”

“Daddy’s toy? What’s daddy’s toy?” Naomi asked.

“I show you, I can’t carry it’s too heavy.”

Daniel took his mother’s hand and led her to his room. Naomi was pleasantly surprised that Haze had actually bought Daniel a present. Even more so had the wherewithal to give it to him in the morning.

“Daddy hid it under my bed, but I found it” Daniel smiled triumphantly. He let go of his mother’s hand and ran over to his bed. He used both of his hands to carry the present over to Naomi.

“Look mummy.”

Naomi jumped back with a fright; she took the present from her son’s grasp and placed it on the floor.

“Where did you find that Daniel?”

“Under my bed, here” he lifted up the mattress and pointed.

“Oh my God” Naomi whispered. She grabbed Daniel and squeezed him. She couldn’t stop her body shaking. Daniel put his arms around his mother and rested his head on her. Naomi glanced back over at the gun that lay on the floor. Haze had hidden it in his son’s bed; there was no line he would not cross. She knew she couldn’t stay any longer. She couldn’t let Daniel grow up in this environment.

Everything Simone had told her was correct. Haze was not cut out to be a father, he was a scumbag. Keeping him around Daniel only endangered her son. She made the decision that night after a quick phone call to her sister, telling her to wait up because she was coming for a visit. Simone didn’t ask any questions, just told her the kettle will be on when she gets here.

Naomi checked her phone, there were no missed calls or messages from Haze. Haze probably wouldn’t notice they were gone until next week. The motorway continued for miles, Naomi was drifting off in her seat. The same signs kept repeating the further down the road they went. Her destination was getting closer, but nothing seemed to be changing. The same roads, the same cars and the same street lights. She stroked Daniel’s hair and watched him stir in his sleep. She kept a hand over Daniel; her only job now was to love him. Love him in a way no one else would. Love him in a way his father never could.

Greg J Allman