This part of town is tough. We see more police cars than florist delivery vans, but it suits my budget for the moment, and I have learned a great deal from living here. Downstairs from my place lives Belinda, who earns her living from the passing trade;  she is bright and funny and very anti-drug, which surprised me, because my head was filled with clichés and stereotypes. She saw me move in and carried boxes in so that nobody took my stuff from where I had left it. We have lunch once a week and we laugh until we cry. She has become my closest friend.

Upstairs from me lives Saul, who is very quiet. You would hardly know he was there. He is always polite and replies when I say hello, but he has never started a conversation with me. That’s it. We are the entire occupants of this squat, dilapidated building, but we get along and pay the rent.

I know that Belinda is curious as to why I am here but she has not asked me, just as I have not asked her how and why she does what she does. Everyone here has their own secrets and mine can hide next to theirs.

I have lived here for four months patiently waiting and watching, but nothing has happened. I have watched Belinda, who puts on her tough face before she leaves the house, and Saul, who hangs his head and avoids eye contact. I have decided to try to look as though I am in a hurry to get somewhere, so I never dawdle or pause. I rush and hustle myself through the streets and back to my hiding place.

My window looks out over the street and I sit in my chair and I watch who comes and who goes. My eyes are tired from scanning the faces of people who pass, but I have yet to see the one I am looking for.

Today is Tuesday, and I am due to have lunch with Belinda. We have ordered food from the Moroccan place around the corner because they deliver, not because the food is good. A man was attacked outside the house yesterday and he is in hospital, so we are staying close to home for a few days until it calms down.

Saul has agreed to join us, and we sit in my place and talk about nothing. The food is alright and we eat. We have a glass of wine each and the conversation is easy and comfortable, surface stuff. My eyes are drawn to the window from time to time when a noise or a shout floats up from the street.

We talk about the places we lived before this. Saul lived with a girl on the other side of the city, but she left him and he needed a place that was cheaper. Belinda used to work for a club up in the West End, high prices for the club, not so much for the girls, and she decided to work for herself. They both look at me expecting me to tell them. I start to tell the lie I have prepared about a failed marriage, but these people are my friends, and I am tired of lying.

“I used to live in the country with my husband and my daughter. She met a man, a lot older than her, who filled her mind with dreams and her veins with drugs. She died. My husband went after the man and shouted his pain at him. The man followed my husband home, smashed down the door, and killed him. I am all that is left. I want to see the man, and I want him to see me and face what he has done. He came out of prison three months ago and this is where he came from. I believe he will come back. I want to face him, tell him what he has done to everyone I love.” I shrugged. “That’s what I am waiting for.”

“What makes you think he will stand still and listen?” Saul’s head tipped to one side.

“I can think of nothing else to do. I had to do something. I couldn’t sit in the house where they both died and do nothing.” I had done enough of that.

“Who is he? We might know him.” Belinda’s hand was warm on mine.

I went to my kitchen drawer and pulled out the newspaper report from when it all happened. They shared it while I made coffee. I heard the rustles of the paper and the murmurs from each of them, but in my mind, I saw the three of us, so happy and normal, before we became a newspaper story.

They had finished reading when I got back, their faces set.

“His brother runs the bar down the street,” Belinda told me.

“I know.”

“And more besides.” Saul rested his hand on the table next to mine.

“I know.”

“What do you want him to do?” Belinda watched me carefully.

“I want him to know what he did to me.”

“He spent time in prison; he knows. Why put yourself in danger?” Saul was talking to me but looking at Belinda. I should never have told them; I had held it together until now.

“It’s fine, don’t worry. I will probably never see him, and if I do, I don’t know if I would even be able to speak to him.” I shrugged, as though it was unimportant, but neither of them believed that, and neither did I. Lunch was over and they left. I sat by my window and the dishes sat in dirty water, congealing in the sink.

What would I say if I saw him? I had no plan. They were right; I had put myself in danger with no firm idea about what I would do if he was in front of me. Stupid featured strongly in my mind.

Two days later, I saw him for the first time. He was walking into the bar his brother owned. I stopped breathing for a moment. The man who had wrecked my life was in the street below my window. This was what I had waited for.

My feet carried me down the stairs. Saul was coming in and I pushed past him. I crossed the road and met the man I had waited for. I watched him recognize me, watched confusion and surprise mix with anger. I stood in front of him and I had nothing to say.

“What?” He stepped towards me.

“I need to talk to you.” His friends were clearly intrigued about why some random woman old enough to be his mother was making any effect on him. “Ten minutes, that’s all. I’ll buy you a coffee.” I pointed to the little café on the corner, and I was surprised when he agreed.

We sat at the table with a sticky plastic cover and I searched for the words I needed. He held his hand out, as though I was wasting his time.

“You killed my daughter and my husband. You have wrecked my life. What can I do to make you understand how dreadful what you did was?” My hands reached across the table towards him.

“I went to prison on your word, bitch. Your daughter wanted the drugs, I didn’t make her take them; she was bored of the life you gave her. Your husband was an arsehole. He thought he could shout and tell the world what was right. He started the fight. It was his fault. But I was the one who went to prison. You stood in court and told them how I was such a bad guy, but you took no responsibility for raising a drug-hungry slapper or encouraging your self-important idiot of a husband to take me on. This is your fault as much as it’s mine.” His arrogance came at me in waves. I wanted to fight back, but there was nothing left inside me; I was too broken.

The waitress brought coffee whilst I tried to work out how to explain myself. He dumped in two sugars and stirred, and I watched the liquid follow his spoon. I felt dizzy, lightheaded. He drank the coffee and smiled.

“I loved my daughter, and so did her father. We were so happy together. What were you even doing there?”

“Selling drugs to white-bread, vanilla little girls like yours. She was a laugh, but there were loads of them, and they all couldn’t wait to get their hands on it all.” He laughed. It was a mean, cruel sound. He finished the rest of his coffee in one gulp. “Shit coffee here.” He said it loud so that the rest of the café could hear it, and he left. I was shaking. Sick to my stomach and so sad.

“Move.” The voice was soft in my ear. “Come on.” Belinda on my left and Saul on my right; they took me home.

Inside the front door, Belinda pushed me up the stairs, her hands firm on my bony old backside. “Pack up anything with your name on it. Hurry; the cab will be here in less than five minutes. Go,” she told me as we pounded up the stairs. She stopped on the landing and yelled up the stairs. “Saul. Move it.” I was standing in the middle of the room unsure what I should do next. Belinda held the door open. “Come on! Grab what have you got here with your name on it!” She was getting louder and it seemed to kick-start my brain. I ran to the drawer and pulled out the newspaper cuttings and my purse. That was all there was. I threw those pieces into my bag and followed her down the stairs. Saul clattered down after us. She had us all running. I was breathless. Belinda held open the front door. A car pulled up outside the house. In my shock, I allowed myself to be swept along with her intensity.  “Move.” We did as we were told.

“Where to?” The cab smelled of too many late nights and takeaways. The three of us piled into the back seat.

“Waterloo, please.” I sat back against the seat.

“Where are we going?” Saul’s eyes were huge in his face.

“You’re coming home with me.” I grabbed their hands and held tight, sitting between them on the back seat. The cab pulled away from the curb. We passed the pub just as the doors flew open and a group of young men poured into the street.

On the train, we got sandwiches and tea, and I waited for them to tell me what had happened to mean we had to run. They said nothing. I looked from one to another. Belinda shrugged.

“He sold my sister drugs, got her hooked. She worked for him on the street, no money, just for the drugs. She died with a needle in her arm and infected with so many diseases she would have probably died of those if she hadn’t taken too much.” She wiped a tear. “I found out where she had got the drugs. I tracked him down, and I waited. Just like you did.” I looked at her. A tear slipped down her cheek. “I miss her so much. She was such a pretty little thing. She was 15 when she died.” She looked at Saul.

“My girlfriend. Natasha. I told you about her. We were falling behind with the mortgage. He talked her into carrying drugs for him. The condom burst in her stomach. She died in the airport. My brother phoned me because he’d seen it on the Internet. Someone filmed it and put it on Facebook. So I know how she died. I watched it on my phone.” He watched the fields go past, out of the window for a little while, and I let him.

“We had never spoken to each other about it until the other day when you told us about your daughter. Today, when you met him, you maybe didn’t notice who your waitress was?” I shook my head. I had been focused on talking to him. “It was me. I brought the coffees. Saul and me, we mixed in the same amount as broke in Natasha’s stomach, into his coffee. We paid him back.”

“Ah that’s why we had to leave?” They nodded. “Why those men were running from the bar?” They nodded some more. “When we get home. We will all need some rest and good food.”

“Can we stay with you for a little while?” Saul held my hand on the table.

“If you’re not careful, I’ll adopt the pair of you.” Belinda put her hand on top of ours, and for the first time in the longest while, my tears were happy, not for my daughter. Not for my husband, not for loss, but for me, and for my friends. They had taught me to show the face to the world that needed to be shown, and to show my heart to those who loved me.