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Jade Catch a Falling Star
By Jade Goody
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2008 Jade Goody and Lucie Cave
All rights reserved.
It actually took me a few months to fathom that Mum's new group of friends were wrong 'uns and that thanks to them she was getting hooked on drugs. At the very beginning of her friendship with those nasty addicts I didn't know what she was doing. I didn't realise at first that they were even on the stuff. Or perhaps I just chose to block it out. Mum just seemed happy (funny that), which was all that mattered to me. Also, I was content that I'd found some new friends because of her. Mum had been seeing a woman – let's call her Janet (I won't reveal her true identity just in case she doesn't want to be outed as a lesbian by this book) – and I became mates with one of Janet's sisters. I'll call her sister Shelly, because she certainly won't want me to tell you her real name – you'll understand why in a minute.
Shelly was a few years older than me, about 21, she was really pretty and had blonde hair. I wasn't overly impressed by her age because I was used to hanging out with people above my age group, but I was excited by the world she lived in and the parties she used to go to. It was the time when House and Garage music was the scene to be in, and every weekend she and her mates would invite me out clubbing. We'd get really dressed up – me in an over-the-top Moschino outfit that I used to call my pride and joy and thought was the nuts. It consisted of a white skirt and a white shirt with little black stick-men and women all over it. I wore it everywhere. What the hell was I thinking? Or another number that was covered in the designer's logo to the point that you probably couldn't even see the dress itself. I might as well have had 'D&G' tattooed on my face, I was so eager to prove I was cool. It pains me now to admit that I've since realised I was actually a chav before they were given a name. We'd go to Bagleys, Camden Palace, warehouse parties in Old Street – the lot. My shoes would be all scuffed when I got out of the club – these were proper full-on, dirty raves. And I loved them.
The girls would all take pills when they went out – which was something I never wanted to do. I'd only ever smoked weed and that was enough for me, besides I'd seen what drugs had done to my dad. It used to freak me out to see him when he was high on heroin. I was around drugs so much that I even learnt to differentiate between the types of drug people were on. You can tell the difference between someone who smokes crack and a scag head because crack makes you all scatty, whereas a heroin addict will be really fussy, not with-it, and they won't be able to get their words out properly. I used to have lots of conversations with my dad where he'd look at me and pull all these faces like he was really out of it, and it frightened the life out of me. And because of this I was petrified that I could end up the same way if I went down that road – even if it was just ecstasy and not the harder stuff. I thought, that's how it starts.
None of the girls questioned the fact that I wasn't into it. I was never frowned upon or pressurised to do it, so it was no problem for us to all go out together. Anyway, I could dance like a nutter without alcohol even. And the sort of faces I pulled on the dance floor probably made people think I was on the strongest drug imaginable – I would look like I was properly gurning. (I can't help my face, that's just the way I was born.) I'd never been around this sort of thing before – people on ecstasy – and it was a completely different atmosphere to the potheads I was used to. Everyone went crazy, hugging each other and dancing like manic things for a billion hours non-stop. I loved the music at these clubs; everyone seemed so happy and full of beans all the time.
I hung out with them for months, and we had loads of mad nights out together, but then one I night I realised just how different I really was to those other girls. On the way home Shelly spotted one of those little Jamaican corner shops that are open all night and announced that she wanted to get some chicken. 'Oooh, I want some curried goat and rice,' I said, famished. She went in and came out again with my food, but nothing for herself. I thought it was a bit odd, but didn't question it. Then she went to another shop and bought a bottle of water, a ballpoint pen and an elastic band. Again, weird. There were about five of us in the car, including a guy Shelly was seeing at the time, and it was decided that we'd all go round to his house for a bit. Once we got into the lounge my heart sank and I felt that familiar sick feeling. I knew from their faces they were about to do hard drugs. It was the look of greed my dad used to have before he jacked up.
Shelly's boyfriend poured the water out of the bottle, dismantled the pen and stuck it through a hole in the top – then got some silver foil, put it on the rim of the bottle and fixed it with the elastic band. He had made a crack pipe.
I felt so alone. I wanted nothing more than to get out of there. I watched them pass the pipe around, inhaling deeply and gazing at each other in their dreamy state. They offered it to me but I shook my head and looked at the floor. I didn't know these people any more. How could they do this? I didn't dare say anything though. At that point I was too scared to move. I wanted to cry but I managed to hold it in somehow. They became all erratic and scatty, talking and laughing while passing the pipe round for more and more hits. It felt like I was there forever. When they finally called it a night I couldn't stand up fast enough. I hadn't touched my curried goat (funnily enough).
I shared a cab home with Shelly's mate, and as I closed my front door I knew that was the last time I was ever going to see them. And I was going to come clean to Mum. Not that she could say anything, because she was hanging round with an even worse crowd – crack addicts, to be precise. Only until now I'd tried my hardest to pretend she wasn't one of them.
I knew my mum was easily influenced and, for some awful reason that I just couldn't fathom for the life of me, she'd started befriending these parasites who wanted to hang out with her (simply so they had company when they got their next hit). My biggest fear was that she'd start taking drugs herself and would turn out like my dad. After all we'd been through with him, I couldn't work out why she'd want to be friends with people like that. At first I believed her when she said she hadn't tried crack herself, but after a while it became obvious she was doing it too. And it broke my heart. I've never been able to deal with it and until recently I've never even told anyone about it. I've just buried my head in the sand and tried to deal with it myself. I was my mum's carer. I was all she had, and vice versa. So to me that meant I would have to be the one to get her through this.
But every day when I came home from work (which by now was as a nurse in a dental practice) I'd have this empty feeling in my stomach, not knowing what I was going to find.
To this day there are two smells that I cannot stomach. One is the smell of dirty ashtrays. For some reason, when crack addicts make a pipe they always light a cigarette and let the ash burn right down. I don't know why they leave it there, but they do, and without fail, if you go into a room where someone has been doing crack, you'll find ashtrays full of burnt-down cigarettes, full to the brim with ash.
The second smell I can't abide is matches. When I was just a few years old, if I wasn't watching my dad injecting himself with heroin, I would see him burning the stuff on tin foil with a spoon – what they call 'chasing the dragon'. The smell of matches makes me feel like I'm going to throw up. I used to see pieces of tin foil all over my dad's house, burnt with the residue from the heroin. And now that I've finally got a home of my own I still find it incredibly hard to have tin foil in the house because it gives me the creeps and makes me feel dirty.
It was tin foil that gave away that my mum was doing drugs herself. I'd already discovered at Shelly's boyfriend's house that crack addicts use it to put on top of the bottle to make a crack pipe. So, when I first suspected Mum of smoking crack (I knew she would never touch heroin because of what had happened to my dad, but to her for some reason crack was different), I'd rush into the kitchen and hunt for the roll of tin foil in the drawer to see if any squares had been cut out for the pipe.
'I know you've done it,' I would scream, as the lies just came flying out of Mum's mouth denying all knowledge.
I wouldn't say she was scared of me, but the nature of our relationship while I was growing up means that I've always been the figure of authority, the one who calls the shots or who says what's acceptable and what isn't. So when I accused her of doing crack she just behaved like a child being told off, desperate to cover her tracks in case she was going to get a smacked bum.
It all began when she brought home a new boyfriend, I'll call him Peter. (For those who don't know Jackiey's background, she regularly chopped and changed from men to women. As a rule she was bisexual, which as far as she was concerned just meant she could pick and choose.) This Peter was a recovering heroin addict and Mum seemed to be intent on helping him through it. Never once did I think she'd turn to heroin, because of my dad, so I was OK with it to start with. But I did wonder what the hell she saw in him, because it was clear he'd been through the mill. In fact, he looked bloody rough. And, after her relationship with my dad, I thought she'd learnt her lesson.
Peter seemed like quite a nice bloke. But my mum is very easily persuaded, and unbeknown to me Peter had introduced her to a crowd of people who were his 'mates'. And these so-called friends were all into crack. Peter was on it too (what's the point of coming off heroin only to get hooked on something just as bad?) and before long Mum was becoming part of that world.
When I found out he'd got her on crack I wanted to stab him.
I remember the first time I came home and realised what was going on. I walked in and noticed my mum was all sweaty and seemed preoccupied and scatty. Straight away I had a hunch.
'It stinks in here,' I said, turning up my nose. And it did, although back then I didn't recognise the stench of crack. Now I can smell it a mile off.
Mum suddenly looked a bit worried and started tidying up. Then I noticed some ashtrays that had been washed up. There were loads of them. I was used to Mum smoking a bit of puff, but she would never have ashtrays all over the place. Something didn't fit.
'Why did you wash the ashtrays up? They're not dirty.'
'Oh, I don't know,' she mumbled. She was so nervous, it was obvious. 'I, er, I need to go out, Jade. See you in a bit.' And with that she was gone. She literally fled out the door – and she didn't come home for about two days. By which time she was acting as if nothing had happened.
Once Peter had introduced her to crack, it didn't take long before Mum had a whole heap of new 'friends' feeding off her addiction. One of these was a woman called Mel. (I mentioned her briefly in my last book, but didn't quite fill you in on the extent of her influence on my mum.) She was a nasty, ugly, dirty user of a woman. And I hated the sight of her.
Mum must've been using for about three years. In that time all her usual priorities just started disappearing. I'd get home and the fridge would have nothing in it apart from maybe a bottle of milk – if I was lucky. Not that Mum has ever been one to have a fridge packed full of groceries (now I'm older I always have to have the fridge crammed, because I never had that when I was growing up), but she'd always buy what she could with her disability allowance. That was, until drugs became more important than food. During that time she lost all sense of normal, acceptable behaviour. She stopped caring about anyone apart from herself.
Mum knew perfectly well I was on to her. I ended up taking lots of time off work because I was too worried about leaving her alone for fear of what she'd get up to. I was always especially scared on the day she got her disability allowance, because that was money – drug money.
This is the kind of low life that Mel was: Mum would go to the Post Office and tell me she'd be back in a few minutes. Meanwhile, Mel would be lingering at the Post Office ready to pounce on my weakling of a mum and tempt her away to buy drugs before she could so much as protest. As a result, I'd be sitting indoors waiting for my mum to come home, but she'd be gone for hours, sometimes even days, blowing her allowance on drugs.
I didn't want to tell any of my friends, though. I was too scared and embarrassed. In those days I was going out with a guy called Danny who was heavily into coke and liked to beat me up in his spare time. So back then I didn't really have a great deal to choose from. Neither option was very appealing. All I could do most nights was hide in my bedroom and hope it would all go away. You always want people to think you've got the perfect mum and the perfect dad, don't you? Well, all my mates already knew my dad didn't fit into that category, so I was desperate for them to believe that my mum was amazing. And for the most part she was. But to have to admit to my friends that Mum was a drug addict! They would think she was dirty, and I couldn't stand that. So I hid the truth. And I didn't tell one single person.
Mum actually won the lottery once, believe it or not. She and one of her 'mates' got something in the region of £15,000, which they split between them. It embarrasses me to talk about it now, and you can guess why. She blew the lot on drugs – all £7,500 of it. Oh, except for one present she bought for me – a light-green plastic mac from Mark One that cost about £6.99. She'd even tried to keep her winnings a secret from me to start with because she knew I'd want to know what she was going to spend it on.
Every night I would go home and frantically search for evidence of my mum's drug use. Would she be on crack? Would she even be alive? I used to argue and argue with her, and I hated it. In the end we were fighting like cat and dog.
Mel was still on the scene and it made me feel violently ill just to think of her. Ultimately, one day she made me feel plain violent.
Mel lived near to my nan and granddad, the two cutest and gentlest people on earth. I mentioned in my last book that I raised a hand to Mel because one day she walked past them on the landing and muttered under her breath to my granddad, 'You bastard.'
Well, that wasn't the half of it.
I was always telling my nan and granddad that Mel was bad news and that Mum was getting involved with her, but they didn't like to interfere where Mum was concerned. They've always known Jackiey has a mind of her own and I think they feel better just staying out of things and leaving her to her own devices. But at the same time they could see how much it was all upsetting me. And that hurt them.
I remember one afternoon I was round at their house eating lunch – my granddad makes the best sandwiches, 'doorsteps' he calls them, and that day he'd made me a ham and cheese one – and all of a sudden there was a banging on the front door. My nan went to see who it was and scuttled back after a few moments and said to my granddad, 'John, it's that Mel woman.'
My ears pricked up instantly and I dropped the doorstep sandwich in my lap. 'Who?' I stood up. 'What does she want, Nan?'
'She asked me for some money.'
That scavenging, disgusting drug addict of a woman had so little shame that she had actually asked my little nan for money so she could buy drugs! That was it. I was at the door in a second. 'Do yourself a favour, Mel, and get away from the door now.'
Her face was pulling all sorts of contorted shapes, she was so bloody out of it.
'Oh, Jade – where's your mum? Come on, lend us 20 quid, will ya?'
I am not proud of what I did next. And anyone who already thinks I've got a bad temper will just think they're being proved right after hearing this. But put yourself in my shoes and imagine what you'd want to do to the person who was encouraging your mum to take drugs.
I pulled Mel by the hair, then shut the door, dragged her outside and proceeded to hit her uncontrollably.
'How dare you bring your dirty self to my nan and granddad's and ask them for their pension so you can buy more crack!'
I was livid. I hit her over and over again until physically I couldn't fight any more. When my mum appeared round the corner I turned on her as well. 'Take your fucking scummy friend away. You're welcome to each other. I don't want to see you again. You make me feel sick. Go and fuck off to your crack den!'
Excerpted from Jade Catch a Falling Star by Jade Goody. Copyright © 2008 Jade Goody and Lucie Cave. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
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