Why the secrecy?

Christmas Day 2006

My girlfriend Julia and I get up to exchange presents. She gets a shitload of books, clothes, CDs and some perfume. Apparently I chose well! I get a Nintendo Wii. I am chuffed.

We get all our gear together, get in the car (google "Peugeot 106" for inappropriate long distance vehicles) and drive the 156 miles to Chard. This actually becomes 200+ miles because Jules makes us turn round as she's forgotten her phone which turns out to be in her handbag after fucking all...

We get to Mum & Dad's at about 10. Open and give some more gifts. It's great. Stuart looks brilliant, he's put weight on, has some colour in his cheeks and everything. It's not until months later I remember that he was a crafty shit and would have made certain to look well for a few days by getting a bit fat and using some fake tan.

Me, Dad and Stuart go to the pub for a couple of pints while Jules and Mum get the grub on. While we're at the pub Stuart starts to get a bit sketchy. Nothing definite but something's not right.

We get home (Mum & Dad's) and Jules does that loud whisper thing that every fucker else can hear berating me for being pissed. I've had 4 pints. Not pissed by any stretch. We sit down to dinner and Stuart's a bit argumentative, talking about religion and denying the existence of god and an afterlife. With hindsight this is quite possibly the most inappropriate conversation we could ever have! I mean shit Stu! There's only one destination now eh son?!

He says he needs some fresh air so he goes outside. Mum, Dad, Julia and I go in to the front room. After a few minutes I go into the kitchen to get a drink (do you really *need* another one?
It's Christmas love come on!)

Dad is outside the downstairs loo banging on the door telling Stuart to get up. He can't get in and we can hear him snoring. I squeeze through the door a little way and can see the needle, burnt spoon and empty baggy. My heart drops like a stone. I tell Dad.

"He can fucking sleep it off in there the little cunt."

My sentiments exactly although I am more scared of what Jules is going to think rather than being angry. I can see that Dad doesn't want to tell Mum either. We're screwed. We stand in the kitchen for a full minute before we move back to the front room wearing very glassy, very brittle smiles.

I don't remember Mum leaving the front room, I can only just recollect Julia nudging me asking what the matter was and my highly unconvincing "nothing love, Stu's just a bit pissed is all."

It's not a scream. There's an air of urgency about the words but a scream it isn't.

"Steve! I can't even hear him breathing!"

We try to get into the downstairs toilet but can't. There isn't a lot of room in there and what there is is being taken up by my brother who is 6 foot 4 and wedged up against the door. We can't get in there. WE CAN'T GET IN THERE!

I run outside, followed by Julia, whereupon I try to gain a purchase with my fingertips on the toilet window frame and prise it open. I've done this many times. As a teenager it was my favoured route into the house if I'd forgotten my key. That was 15 years ago. In the meantime Stuart had also learnt this trick and it was also his favoured method of getting in without a key to steal things to sell for drugs. You can only expect Mum and Dad to be mugs for so long. The lock was now metal instead of plastic.

This is where Julia just completely came into her own. She picked up a garden fork, shoved me out of the way and *pinged* the window open. I climbed through the 18 inch by 2 foot aperture with her shoving me all of the way. I squeezed in, lifted Stuart's body up so that we could open the door and lay him out flat.

I have never seen my Dad cry. He is the single hardest person I have ever met and will ever know. He is on his knees, head on Stuart's chest and crying.

"Oh Stuart. What have you done?"

Julia is straight in there. "Steve! I need you to be his breath!" She explains what he needs to do for CPR while she does the chest compressions. Mum rings for an ambulance. I'm stood there like a spare prick at a wedding.

They do their best. The ambulance crew arrive, hook up some apparatus and after a while say they're very sorry but...

It's 4 o' clock in the afternoon. It's all a bit hazy now.

My Uncle Iain comes in. I can't abide the prick but I was glad to see him. Julia doesn't know what the hell to do. The police are here. One set takes my statement along with Dad and in the other room some others take a statement from Mum and Julia.

She wants to go home. I don't blame her. This is a million miles away from her world and she wants her Mum. I want her Mum! My Mum wants her Mum! Her Mum is ace. She asks one of the police to give her a breath test to make sure she is legal to drive. She's well under the limit so drives all the way back to Wolves in our crappy little 106.

In amongst that whole shit-storm of a day I was so very proud of Julia. In the days that followed I remember one of my mates (although I don't remember which one) saying that she legged it. I don't think so. She did everything she could and at the end of the day she wanted to go home. I was inconsolable so any effort to comfort me would have been not only wasted but met with anger and frustration. She certainly deserved more than that.

I went over to my Granddad's house nextdoor and gave him the news. Somehow through the snot and tears he got the message. He's 80 and that's the first one of his progeny he's lost. I never want to see that look again.

Jules gets home and rings me. I'm just crying. I'll speak to you tomorrow. I love you.

I go to bed. I ring my best friend Andrew. More tears and snot. I need my friend and over the next few weeks I rediscover why he's my best friend.

I don't remember falling asleep but I do remember getting off the phone to Andrew and sobbing and sobbing and sobbing.

That was that day.