I can see her in a few years time: fat, tubbed up, a brace of squawking sprogs milling around her feet. Existing in some dismal council flat with damp creeping up the walls, boiling in summer, freezing in winter, the electric fire extortionate to use. Always waiting for the next benefits instalment. What else can she do with all those kids? No one else dare look after them, certainly not her drunk of a mother. And certainly not any of their absentee fathers.
There she's standing, fag in mouth, ironing board out, washing piled in the sink, getting fatter, the tight ill fitting threadbare dress several sizes on the small side, boys no longer desiring to slip a hand down her knickers. She'd still let them if they only would. It's only after the child benefit is paid she can afford to get pissed down the local. Then, if she's lucky, one of the drunks might feel her up. Not so long before she would never have countenanced those wrinklies.
Foul mouth and fouler breath. She rushes outside, striding out on those white podgy legs, iron still in hand, screams abuse at a neighbour, then saunters back into the kitchen and lights up another fag, momentarily content with a petty victory. Until those bellowing kids interrupt her repose. She makes do with burger and chips, it's all she can afford, or think of, it's easy, and the kids 'll eat it. Even then there's not quite enough to go round. But forget that her soap's about to start.
What a contrast to look at her now. Laughing on the dance floor. The brilliant centre of attention. The faded blue jeans, the tight low cut top and the silk flower in her hair. Lager in hand and that penetrating laugh. That most penetrating of laughs. She has the weird gawky mode of dancing, so joyful, bouncy, full of life. She gulps down half that lager, the excess dribbling down her chin and staining her red top. You could never mistake that penetrating laugh. And you cannot mistake what's coming. The cute puppy fat is just starting to coalesce. The bulge of her first stillborn pregnancy is almost showing.
Across strides the one that thinks she's his girlfriend. Claiming her attention and his rights. Demands she stops flirting, putting it about, drags her away, they argue. Everyone can hear them argue. She gives as good as she gets. And cries, she always cries. Safest not to get involved. They leave together, bad tempered, she tear stained and still bickering.
And yet she's intelligent, or could be, if only...