I listen to the throb of the engine, the strangled whine of his brakes as he brings the battered old pickup to a halt.
`Will you be wantin` a lift then darlin?`
His breath is rancid, the stench of stale alcohol drifting out through the open window.
Is it through sheer desperation that I accept his offer, just to be as far away from him, as possible? I sweep the crumpled cigarette packet and curled, half-eaten sandwich onto the floor of the vehicle before dropping gratefully into the passenger seat.
`And where would you be wantin` to go on this filthy night?` he asks.
`Into town,` I reply, slowly slipping my rucksack from my shoulders.
He laughs. `The bright lights you`ll be after is it then?` he replies, coaxing the pick up through the gears.
`It`s just a friend,` I mutter.`
`What`s that you say? He shouts over the engine`s throb.
`I`m visiting a friend, in town.` I reply, my eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead.
He lapses into silence, the only sound the steady, uneven chug of the vehicle`s engine. I visualize my father again, his overweight frame silhouetted against the bedroom door. I had feigned sleep, as always knowing it would not deter him. I listen to the creak of the floorboards as he pads across the room, my heart pounding against the thin white sheets.
Had my mother known? Surely not. If she had I`m certain she would not have left me to such a despicable fate? No. She too had left in the middle of the night, no doubt worn down by his laziness and unpredictable
`Soon be there sweet`eart.`
The man`s voice drags me back. `By the old cinema will be fine,` I say.
`You know, where you can drop me off.`
`No problem,` he says, producing another cigarette packet from inside his scruffy old jacket. `Fancy a bit of weed,` he says, thrusting the packet into my face.