Ashley was held for questioning by the Police for 36 hours before being released on bail on an Attempted Murder charge, he had a month before he had to return to the Police station. When I picked him up from the station he was a mess. He was drained, physically and emotionally, and he burst into tears as soon as he got into my car. I held him and he sobbed, real, deep, heavy loud sobs. I’ve never been held so tightly. We must have stayed in our embrace for at least 15 minutes, both of us crying too hard to say a word. Once we finally let go of each other I told him to tell me everything.

Ashley said that he was innocent. He said that they were accusing him of being part of a gang who had tried to rob a drug dealer at gunpoint and the dealer had been shot. Flex was allegedly part of the group and he had been arrested too. Ashley insisted that he had not been there and that he was being falsely accused. He told me the day when it was meant to have happened, the date was one I remembered because it was the day that I had found out I was pregnant. I reminded him of that and he said ‘Ohhhh Yeahhhh, well you’re my alibi then, I was with you. We can prove that.’ I reminded Ashley that actually we hadn’t seen each other for long that night because he’d had some mysterious prior engagement that he had to rush off to and that he had disappeared for 2 days after. But Ashley insisted that the time that it was meant to have happened was the time that I was with him. We had a glimmer of hope.

Ashley had obviously been off drugs for a couple of days in the nick and it had done him the world of good. He was still stressed but he was less frantic and chaotic than he had been, he seemed more clear headed. He was full of positivity because he truly believed that he now had me as a solid alibi and I was going to save the day. He kept reminding me over and over that I had definitely been with him at 9pm that night, he said that I had mentioned being annoyed that I was missing Big Brother (these were the days of Jade Goody and Nasty Nick etc when the nation was hooked). He was right about that and so I began to think that maybe he was telling the truth. I had been with him. He told me that we were definitely in the car for at least an hour and that he was sure that his solicitor could get CCTV to prove it.

We were both able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was still pregnant and still extremely torn about what to do. I would happily have had a baby with the real Ashley but I certainly did not want to produce Crackley Junior and so my head was all over the place. Ashley was torn too. He was pretty convinced that the charges would be dropped but he had a niggling doubt in the back of his mind and he was scared that he could miss his child growing up.

We didn’t have to wait long before the Universe made it’s decision about the fate of our baby and 2 weeks later I began to bleed. Ashley and I went to the hospital and they confirmed that it was a miscarriage, they said that there was nothing they could do and they sent me home with some paracetamol. It was probably caused by stress. We both cried a lot, it was painful and heart breaking but we felt a deep sense of relief too. We believed that this was fate, a blessing in disguise, we had to, that was the only way to cope.

The date quickly drew near for Ashley to return to the Police station. The month since he had been on bail was the best month that we’d had in ages. Ashley seemed to be off the gear, although he was still sniffing a bit of coke, but he was back to being clean and fresh and he just seemed more like his normal self again. We fell more in love after the miscarriage, we hadn’t told many people about the pregnancy and so we didn’t need to tell anyone about the miscarriage. It was just me and him.

I had been to see Ashley’s solicitor. He wouldn’t give me any details of the case. He just asked me for my account of that night. I told him that I was sure that I had been with Ashley and I told him why I was so sure. The solicitor seemed pleased and I was feeling confident that this was all going to be over. Everything was heading in the right direction.

The day that Ashley had to go to the Police station was a day that I had college, his solicitor said that it was likely that he would be re-bailed as the Police didn’t seem to have much and he was confident that if the charge didn’t get dropped completely it would at least get dropped down to a Section 18 wounding with intent or GBH charge. I wasn’t worried about not seeing him later so I took the bus to college, the Police station that he had to go to was near there luckily so we travelled together. He was relaxed and that made me relaxed. We kissed, hugged and made plans to celebrate later as we said goodbye.

A few hours later I tried to call Ashley but his phone was still off. I thought it would have been quicker than this but I also didn’t feel particularly worried. I had been with him that night, it couldn’t have been him, and I trusted Ashley. If he said he didn’t do it then he didn’t do it. At 4pm I got a call from Ashley’s solicitor Toby. He casually said:

‘Ah, slightly different outcome to what we were expecting I’m afraid Layla. He’s been remanded for Attempted Murder and they’ve just taken him to Belmarsh Prison.’

FUCK. I really wasn’t expecting that. It was like a blow to the stomach. The next time I saw Ashley was in the visitors centre at HMP Belmarsh. Belmarsh is strict as fuck because it’s full of terrorists and high risk offenders. It’s a Category A prison, reserved for the worst criminals. The search was extensive and I felt like I had been sexually molested by a big butch prison guard as I went in. I felt violated and angry. I wanted to shout ‘I AM NOT A CRIMINAL’ (even though that wasn’t strictly true, but whatever, my crimes were like hippie crimes, helping people to smoke weed is not a bad thing). I was certainly not a Belmarsh level criminal and I was pissed off for being treated like one. Luckily I do have the ability to keep my mouth shut when absolutely necessary and so I was able to go in.

I do think I’m a filthy pervert though, because despite the horrific experience of being searched going in, and despite the fact that I was seeing my man for the first time in prison, the first thing on my mind was how incredibly attractive the prison outfits are. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, grey track suits on men are just……..wow, they really do it for me. Ashley looked so incredibly sexy, the best I’d seen him in a long time, and I couldn’t even do anything about it. It was a nightmare. I’ve never felt so horny.

Ashley was still feeling confident that everything was going to be OK. Toby had reassured him that the Police and CPS were just being dicks and that they had nothing concrete. Ashley clearly wasn’t using drugs in prison and he was really back to his old self, he wasn’t stressed at all; he knew a few people and so he wasn’t having a terrible time. Secretly I was quite happy that Ashley had been locked up. He was close to rock bottom when he was out and I truly believed that this was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. He needed a wake up call and I was convinced that the Universe had arranged this so that he could detox and come out after a couple of months on a different path.

Ashley was writing to me most days and ringing me every day. I would visit him once a week and it was actually lovely to know where he was all the time. I wasn’t worried that he was out on the roads making friends with weirdos or smoking crack. I could sleep easy. Ashley’s letters were brilliant, I lived for them. He would draw pictures of us on beaches and write stories about what we would do when he was out. He’d write sex stories too and I loved them. I enjoyed writing them back too. For his birthday I got my friend to take nude pictures of me and I sent them into the prison. What a fucking twat, did I not realise that prisoner’s post is opened before it’s given to them, and that they hang the nude pics on their walls which other prisoners can see? Obviously not, Ashley loved them and I had to get my kicks somehow.

Ashley was moved from Belmarsh to Wandsworth, then to Pentonville and finally Brixton. Wherever he was I trudged along to see him. Luckily they were all London prisons so it wasn’t too much of a trek but it wasn’t easy. Finally the day of the trial arrived, Ashley had been on remand for 6 months, he was 100% back to normal and I was excited about restarting our life together. He was on trial with two other co-defendants, one of them was Flex. Because I was a witness I wasn’t allowed to attend the first few days of the trial. I couldn’t go into the public gallery until after I had given my evidence and so I hadn’t been privy to anything that had been said about the case so far.

On the day that I was called I had done my best to look posh and not like some gangster’s moll. I borrowed a floral shirt off my Mum and I wore the most unflattering pair of trousers and barely any make up. I had to spend several hours locked in a windowless room with no phone and nobody to speak to. Toby came in and out every now and then asking me questions and making sure that my story was straight. It was. I was telling the truth.

I was called up to the dock and asked to swear on The Bible. I was shaking terribly. The court was huge and imposing and everyone had their eyes on me. The jury was largely white except for one Asian man and they looked miserable. I got a bad feeling from them. Ashley was sat across from me and I held his gaze to calm me down. His barrister began to ask me a number of questions and I relaxed, I didn’t find it difficult because yes, I was certain that Ashley had been with me at 9pm, and that we had been together for approximately 35 minutes and I knew this because I had told him that I was pregnant and I was missing Big Brother.

The prosecution barrister was an extremely posh woman and she laid into me, she asked me a million questions about why I wasn’t pregnant now and how I could be sure of the times and did I have any way of proving it. She was making me flustered. Then she informed me that the prosecution had evidence that Ashley was at an address in Enfield at exactly 9:17pm and so it was impossible for my story to be correct. But I had been certain. I didn’t know what to say. I looked at Ashley but he wouldn’t look at me. Maybe it hadn’t been 9 then I thought, maybe I had been with him before but left him around 8.45 knowing I’d miss Big Brother. I had been so sure though. The QC was making me look like an absolute clown, like I didn’t have a clue what I was saying. And quite clearly I didn’t. I had just believed what I wanted to believe.

That was probably one of the most traumatic ordeals of my life. I vomited profusely after I was allowed to step down. Once I had sorted myself out I was allowed to sit in for the rest of the trial and boy was I glad that I did. Being at the trial enabled me to hear for myself exactly what had happened and it was absolutely ridiculous.

Ashley, Flex, and two other friends (one of them was never caught and nobody grassed on him, because you just don’t do that) – let’s just call them Eediat A and Eediat B, had decided to go to a known drug dealers house to rob him. Eediat B had a gun. They knocked on the door, faces NOT hidden, and waited for the dealer to open up. When he did they attempted to barge into his house but the dealer had a gun too so it all got a bit messy.

Eediat A somehow managed to put the dealer in a headlock but the dealer then shot him in the foot. Eediat B then responded by shooting at the dealer’s head but he accidentally shot Eediat A in his bum cheek instead. All the while Ashley is standing by the door with his ungloved fingers touching pretty much every surface he could get his hands on, before deciding to go into the flat to look for the goods. He couldn’t find anything of much value so he stole a couple of phones and some trainers. He then walked his big foot prints through the blood in the hallway before proceeding to call an ambulance for Eediat A from his own phone and then calling Flex, who had legged it, from one of the phones he had stolen.

The whole thing was beyond a joke. It was like the Zippos Circus version of a robbery. There was so much evidence placing Ashley at the scene of the crime that I was surprised that they were even bothering to have a trial, he was quite clearly guilty. Ashley was a very bright guy and so I was certain that he must have been high as a kite when he decided to carry out the world’s most bait robbery. What was he thinking? And why hadn’t he just told me the truth, and what the fuck was Toby up to, why didn’t he warn me???. I was extremely pissed off with Ashley but I was even more pissed off with Toby and the rest of the legal team. I really could not understand why they weren’t forcing Ashley to plead guilty, at least he would get a lesser sentence. It was so incredibly obvious that he had been there.

I stormed over to Toby and the barrister at the end of the day, I was probably close to being done for contempt of court, they had to usher me to somewhere private because I was quickly losing the plot. They explained that the prosecution were trying to get Ashley on a joint enterprise charge. This means that although they knew that Ashley was not the one with the gun, they would also expect any reasonable person who witnessed that type of crime to attempt to stop it and report it to the police, the fact that he hadn’t done that showed a willingness on his part to be involved. Ashley’s defence were trying to bring the charge down to robbery but Ashley was sticking to a not guilty on all charges plea. I think he might have lost his mind. Probably the fucking crack.

He called me from prison that night and I went mad at him down the phone:

‘Ashley, plead guilty please, the evidence is all there, finger prints, ballistics, blood splatters, footprints, your voice on the phone to the ambulance from YOUR number. It’s all there. Save yourself babe, please’

‘SSSSHHHHHHH! Layla what the fuck, these calls are recorded you know. Hold it down for God’s sake.’

This plonker was actually driving me insane.

‘Ashley, this information is not secret – I learnt all of this in a public court room.’

Ashley appeared to have actually somehow convinced himself of his innocence and that he was going to walk free. He was not guilty and he was sticking to that. Ashley’s barrister was very good though and he did put across a convincing argument so somewhere deep inside me there was still a little bit of hope left that everything would be OK. On the day of the verdict all of Ashley, Flex and Eediat A’s friend’s and family were in the court. I sat with Ashley’s Mum and we held hands. There was a very pretty girl in the court on that day, I had no idea who she was, Flex and Eediat A’s girlfriends were both there, I knew them. The girl didn’t seem to know anyone but she kept looking over at Ashley. She was a Black girl with beautiful eyes and cheek bones but a really shit lace front wig. I assumed that she must be related to Eediat A.

A haggered looking young white woman wearing all beige was the foreman of the jury and she was asked to read out the verdict.

‘In the matter of the Crown Vs Ashley Saunders for the offence of Attempted Murder do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty?’

The woman looked directly at me and said ‘Guilty’. People were making noise, Ashley’s friends were shouting. His Mum let go of my hand. People were talking but I couldn’t hear anything, the room went black and the sounds of the people felt like they had become distant. I felt a noise rise up from my stomach. I couldn’t control it, it started off like a hum and then it grew louder and louder until I was in the court literally screaming my head off like a deranged chimpanzee. I had to be taken out. I was allowed to go and see Ashley in the cells downstairs once everybody had calmed down. I had missed the other verdicts and he let me know that they had all been found guilty. I was looking for windows that I could help him escape to through.

I can’t remember how long we had to wait for the sentencing but it felt like it was quick. Toby had warned me that it would probably be about 7 years but that he would most likely serve half. I went to court to find out and the Black girl was back again. This time she was dressed up to the nines, a tight mini dress and open toed heels. She had not had a pedicure. This time I really noticed that she was staring at Ashley. I knew all of Ashley’s friends and relatives so I was confused. There was something fishy about this chick, she was like walking BV. But I had bigger fish to fry.

The judge read out a big long speech about all the good things that people had said about Ashley’s character, he said that Ashley had saddened him because he clearly had a lesser role and he was now going to spend the best part of his future locked up because he wouldn’t grass on his friend or admit to the small part he played. The judge seemed to have picked up on Ashley’s vibe, you could tell he felt sorry for him. But that didn’t stop him from sentencing Ashley to thirteen years imprisonment.

13 fucking years. For stealing some trainers and a phone. I realise that his intentions were to rob a dealer but you know, dealers accept that there are certain pitfalls to their career of choice right? I’m not saying he was asking for it but if he was a window cleaner that would not have happened. Ashley was not carrying a gun and nor did he hurt anyone. All I know is that being in jail for 6 months worked for Ashley, it had the desired effect, he didn’t need any longer and he didn’t require any major punishment for what he did, 13 years was excessive. 14 years later and I’m still sitting here trying to justify his behaviour but I’ve always felt passionate about it. You get far less for abusing a child and my brain cannot handle that concept.

The day after sentencing Ashley was taken to Parkhurst Prison in the Isle of Wight which was about a 4 hour journey from mine, part of which involved crossing the sea on a fucking ferry. I went to visit him 3 days after he arrived there. There was a special bus service that went from Brixton straight to HMP Parkhurst specifically for prisoner’s families. And ‘special bus’ is the right description, it was like the Jeremy Kyle cast going for a trip to the seaside. I’m surprised I didn’t get robbed. It was fucking grim. I sat with my earphones in listening to songs on my ipod that reminded me of Ashley. Our song was Al Green ‘Let’s Stay Together’. Ashley had a really shit singing voice and he always used to sing to me ‘iiiiiiiii I’m soo in love with you, whatever you want to do is alright with meeeeeee’. I was sobbing all the way there. I was a mess, and this was not helped by my depressing soundtrack and my special bus companions.

I was trying to stay positive but it had hit me like a bereavement. He was so far away and his release date felt even further. He wouldn’t be out until half way through 2009. Six and a half years if he behaved. I was grieving. I vowed to stay with him for the whole sentence, I couldn’t imagine my life with anyone else. I cried for weeks on end after the trial. I couldn’t cope with the sense of loss. My friend dragged me to a rave called Sun City to cheer me up. The rave was shit. There was gunshot at about Midnight, just before EZ was about to come on, everyone had to run and it was bullshit. What kind of a fun wrecking lunatic takes a weapon to a rave? Absolutely foolish behaviour on every level. If you want to shoot people do it in your own house, don’t spoil everyone’s night because you cannot manage your own anger like a normal person.

The rave got shut down and we ended up going back to a hotel for an after party with two guys we knew. When we got back to the hotel I got into bed and lay under the covers weeping for 4 hours before falling asleep. I think I might have killed the after party vibe. I was 22 years old, how could I go for the next 6 years not having sex, or intimacy, or companionship, someone to go to the cinema with, or whatever, but I didn’t even consider leaving him or think of seeing other men. I was devoted.

Parkhurst was an old prison, there were a lot of old timers doing long stretches, the other prisons that Ashley had been in were remand prisons so you had a lot of new people coming in and out, people still high from drugs they had taken on the streets and coming down horrifically, some still full of energy and hope because they still have trials ahead of them and they don’t yet know their fate. You get a lot of young street rats doing short sentences so the vibe is faster and more edgy. Parkhurst was slower paced and calmer. Ashley said that he felt happier out there. It was a cat B so it was more relaxed. We were allowed to kiss and we had a photo taken together, both of us were able to keep a copy. Ashley was depressed though and so was I. He seemed different.

Ashley had a particular smell about him, like a baby, I had always loved how his skin smelt. We would hold hands for the whole time we were together and when I had to leave I could smell his smell so strongly that I didn’t want to wash them. I’d avoid going to the toilet for the longest time. When I left the first visit after his sentencing, I stood outside having a fag before getting back on the coach. I’d put Al Green back on the ipod and I was sniffing my hands and sobbing, I probably looked more like I fitted in with the bus crew now. A beautiful, sophisticated looking woman approached me and asked me for a light. She looked like a solicitor. She noticed that I was crying, probably because I had snot and tears dripping off my face, I’d left them there because I couldn’t wipe them with my Ashley scented hands.

Ella introduced herself and gave me a tissue. She told me that her bloke was doing a 10 year sentence for armed robbery and he was 3 years in. She was used to this but she remembered how she had felt after her first visit and so she offered me words of advice and comfort. I liked this woman so much. She was like me, a middle class hood rat who had got a bit lost, she was a bit further down the path of finding herself than me but she was there to take me under her wing. Ella asked how I had got there and I told her about the ASBO bus, she refused to allow me to travel back with them. She had driven and she offered me a lift back to wherever I needed to go.

Miraculously it turned out that Ella lived about 10 streets away from me and that we were the same age and into the same things. Ella became my prison visiting buddy from that day forward and so the weekly treks were actually really great fun. Ella became my best friend, our friends became each other’s friends. We were kindred spirits, united by our love of useless criminals. Ella is still one of my best friends and I couldn’t live without her. She’s now happily married to the Chief Executive of a major UK brand with one daughter and another one on the way. I’ve always respected Ella, she has smashed life.

And so for the next couple of years, that is what my life became. Trudging back and forth to prisons across the country. Ashley was moved to a variety of different establishments, always far away. Some of the prisons he stayed at were privately run, those ones were a joke. He used to be able to finger me during visits without anyone noticing. I’d never have the balls (or rather pussy – because they are stronger, balls are fragile) to smuggle anything into a prison but I very easily could have. He was moving down the categories quickly and he was soon in a Cat C and so it got more and more relaxed as time when on and I really lived for my weekly fingering sessions. I was still living for Ashley’s letters, phone calls and visits but I was growing lonely and depressed.

I started University in 2005. I had achieved so much since Ashley had been away. I had started to grow up and become more of a woman with goals and ambition, the street life did not appeal to me anymore. I’d made different friends at college and Uni and I felt like Ashley wasn’t a part of my new life anymore. I still loved him and I had no intention of leaving him, but I was growing tired of this life and the visits started happening less frequently.

Thank God, because it was around this time that I found out who the mysterious girl from the court was. I got a private number on my mobile one night and I can assure you that it was not an ‘I’m coming to you as a woman’ call. It was a ‘LEAVE MY MAN ALONE YOU FUCKING SKET, YOU FUCKING UGLY, DIRTY FUCKING WHORE’ call. This girl was telling me that she was Ashley’s fiancée, they were planning to get married and he was going to stay at hers when he got his home leave. She was going crazy at me, I kept ending the call but she would ring back repeatedly until I answered. This girl was a psychopathic waste girl.

Do you have any how idea of how frustrating it is to receive a call like that and not be able to contact your man immediately after? I was trembling, my heart pounding. It’s a mad feeling, that feeling when you catch someone out or you get devastating news. Something takes over your mind and body, I think it’s adrenaline. I had no appetite, I couldn’t concentrate and I was on edge for 24 hours until I heard from him. Initially Ashley pretended to not know who I was talking about but after a few minutes he admitted that he had been seeing someone. He had met her whilst he was in prison, right when he first went there on remand. The girl was a friend of Ashley’s cell mate and she was writing to a few prisoners, it was obviously her thing. Ashley had got her address off his mate, he said it was harmless and he was bored. Ashley said that the girl started buying him trainers and putting money in his account and so he felt bad about not meeting her. Eventually he sent her a visiting order and he said they got on well. They had been having a prison relationship since before he had even gone to trial.

This man had made me serve a prison sentence on the outside while he was playing happy dysfunctional families with some fucking random lunatic who spends her time writing to prisoners for kicks. I could not believe what I was hearing. I crumbled in a heap on my kitchen floor and I just lay there, I didn’t even cry, he was on the other end of the phone saying ‘But at least I told the truth right?’ Wrong you fucking cunt. He should have let me go. He should have loved me enough to let me run wild and free but he didn’t. He became a Fuckboy in jail. I could not believe it.

And so that was the end of me and Ashley. We had one final visit after that. I had a lot of questions. This woman was clearly mad, who writes to prisoners who they don’t know, and who cheats on their girlfriend with a woman like that? All he did was apologise over and over but he never really provided a reasonable explanation. I was so angry that I could barely look him in the eye but I held his hand nonetheless. He had betrayed me on such a superior level that there was no way that this could carry on, I still loved him though, that hadn’t changed but I knew this would be the last time that I saw him and so we hugged before I left. I breathed in his smell one last time, fuck I was going to miss him. He whispered in my ear ‘Nobody will ever love you as much as I do’. I got a lump in my throat and I left. I sniffed my hands all the way home.

Time went by and I had been with my son’s Dad Liam for 3 years when we split up quite majorly in 2009. We’d been split up for about 4 months and he had openly started seeing another girl on Facebook, I was jealous as fuck but I had to be OK with it because it was me who had ended our relationship, but all of this is for another blog. One night I woke up crying and I realised that I had been dreaming about Ashley. It was a really vivid dream and it made me wake up missing him, I loved Liam but Ashley had always held a piece of my heart. The next morning I checked my Facebook to find a friend request and an inbox message from Ashley Saunders. I was stunned to say the least. Thoughts really do become things.

We hadn’t had any contact at all since my last visit so this was a big shock. He was out, he’d been given a place to live in South London and he wanted to meet up. I did too. Even if it was only to piss off Liam. We exchanged numbers and arranged to meet the next day. He had been released after 6 and a bit years and had been out for a few months before contacting me. He had a job on a construction site and it sounded like he was doing really well. I drove down to his place in Deptford, it was a hot summer’s evening in late August and Ashley had told me he was going to make dinner so that we could eat al fresco in his garden. I was nervous and sweaty as I got out of the car. I didn’t know what to expect. As soon as he opened the door it was like he had never been away. We had so much history that we fitted back together with ease. Conversations flowed, it was all good. He looked different though, older and less well kept.

Ashley had a lot to tell me. I was still childless at that point but unbelievably Ashley had ended up getting the lunatic girl pregnant when he was out for his first day release and she had given birth to his daughter whilst he was still in prison. Ashley had a fucking child, I shuddered at the thought of how things would have been if we had still been together when that happened. The looney tune wasn’t allowing Ashley to have any contact with his daughter because he didn’t want to be in a relationship with her and so he hadn’t seen his daughter for months.

Ashley was a bit of a mess to be honest. His flat was a bit crap and he seemed like a bit of a loser. He cooked a frozen pizza for us and we sat out in the garden drinking wine and eating until it got dark. Ashley’s cousin was running a children’s bouncy castle company and he had stored one in Ashley’s back garden. Ashley said ‘I reckon we should do a line of coke and lay on the bouncy castle looking up at the stars.’ I thought that was a banging idea, although I was deeply concerned that Ashley had coke on him, with his addiction history he needed to be staying well away from it.

We spent the next few hours having the most magical night. The bouncy castle was a winning idea. It was romantic, fun, and sexy. I had weird feelings for Ashley but I wasn’t sure if it was love, lust, or nostalgia. I was still in love with Liam and Ashley was not in the best state, but I had mad feelings for him nonetheless. As the night wore on we ended up kissing and it was deep. We didn’t sleep together but I can now say that I’ve been licked out on a bouncy castle. I never thought I’d get to live that dream. Once all the fun died down I was still completely wired from the coke, I had to get home because I had something to do the next day. I could not believe that I had to drive from Deptford to Barnet in the state that I was in. I disgust myself for doing that but at the time there was no way I could have afforded to get a cab.

I was wide awake and I was worried that I wouldn’t sleep so I asked Ashley if he could give me a spliff to take home. Ashley said that he was drug tested monthly at probation and so he couldn’t smoke weed. He said he had something very similar though. He had bought a legal cannabis equivalent at a shop in Camden, he said it looked like weed, smelt like weed and had the same effect as weed but it was legal. I was impressed by this. Legal highs weren’t a huge thing back then, this was the first I’d heard of it anyway. Ashley rolled me one in a short rizla, he said I wouldn’t need much, but he assured me that I would like it and that I would definitely sleep.

We parted ways with a kiss and a promise to see each other soon. I had decided to smoke the joint when I was 5 minutes from my house, I had planned it that way so that I would be stoned by the time I got in, that way I could just crash and get the longest amount of sleep. I took two draws on the joint which would normally do nothing to me but I was instantly completely wasted. The road in front of me started to turn into a river and I could not understand how I was supposed to get my car through it. People behind me were beeping because I was driving at 4 miles an hour, worrying about my car sinking.

I realised that I was hallucinating, my hands felt like jelly on the steering wheel, I was fucked. I looked to my left and I saw a Police car parked up outside a shop ‘Fantastic’ I thought ‘I better go and tell them that I am not safe to drive’. And so I parked my car up directly behind the Police car and got out to tell them. I thought that it would be ok because what I smoked was legal so surely they couldn’t arrest me.

My stars must have been aligned that day because literally just as I was about to approach the car window the Police drove off in a hurry. I somehow managed to get home, although I have no memory of how. I don’t know how I got up my stairs either. The next memory I have is coming into my bedroom to find a load of New Look bags full of new shoes and clothes on my bed. I did not have the physical ability to move them and so I just lay on top of them. I couldn’t move, my heart was pounding loudly in my ears and I thought that there was music playing. I kept shouting ‘Turn It Down’. I felt so incredibly weird. My mind was racing, creating mad thoughts and my body was completely paralysed. I thought I was dying. It was 3 am but I rang my sister and told her to call an ambulance. She told me to fuck off, I didn’t have the strength to argue.

I was completely terrified. I believed that all of my organs were shutting down and that my Mum was going to kill me for dying on top of New Look bags instead of moving them out the way first. Ashley called my phone to see if I got home safe. I could barely open my mouth but I was able to tell him that I was dying. I described my symptoms to Ashley and he said:

‘Oh yeah that stuff is lethal. It’s pretty much ruined my whole life. I’m using it most days but I can’t function, that’s partly why I’m not allowed to see my daughter to be honest.’

Was this dude for real? I could not believe what I was hearing, perhaps I didn’t hear it right, but I’m fairly sure I did. I went to the toilet and I threw up repeatedly for the next 2 hours. I was so so ill and I was so so angry with Ashley for allowing me to take that stuff knowing that it had ruined his whole life. Looking back I think it must have been Spice. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life, and I’ve had a few. I never spoke to Ashley again after that. I have no idea where he is or what he is doing now.

I had pretty much forgotten about him until I started writing this blog. Last night I went through my boxes of letters, pictures and memories of him and I listened to Al Green and I cried. I cried for what could have been. He was right that day in the prison, nobody has ever loved me like him since, not yet anyway. He showed me what it meant to be really loved and it doesn’t matter that it didn’t last. It wasn’t meant to last, if it was we would still be together. He was there to shape me and teach me things. He wasn’t my forever man but a part of him will be with me forever. The quote below says the way I feel about Ashley better than I ever could so I’ll leave you with that…………

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