I'm luckier than most runaways. I ended up with a roof over my head, food in my belly. Lots more than can be said about others who started out the same as me; young, skint, alone.
Some people are just born so different from their parents that it's impossible to ever get along. They weren't bad people, my mum and dad - I was never smacked around or fiddled with like just about every waif and stray on TV. I think the feeling was mutual, though, that our relationship wasn't meant to be. The bond that binds parents to their child, and vice versa, was missing. I speculate to this day that the wrong child was taken home from the hospital.
The long story short is, I was eighteen, I stole twenty quid from my mum's purse, and I ventured out into the big bad world. It was exciting at first; an adventure. I was living proof that you didn't need your parents. The shine wore off pretty quick, though. You soon lose track of time, but I think it had been about a month and a half before hunger and thirst overrode my teenage pride and I was on my knees helping middle-aged men with their flies. Even then, I managed to convince myself it wasn't so bad. I was free, independent, making my own living.
It was only when the Parkers found me that I realised I'd been kidding no-one. When they stopped their silver Audi right in front of the doorway where I was crouched, I automatically puckered my lips and gave Mr Parker my fullest come-to-bed eyes. But when his wife got out of the passenger door, I didn't know what to make of it.
"Get in, dear," she'd said to me. I can remember thinking, even then, how beautiful she was. Not a single hair out of place, make-up immaculate, her expensive looking clothes hanging pristinely from her poised frame. She, along with the handsome, well-groomed Mr Parker, exuded what my own family had always lacked: class.
I live with them now. They're what many might call the perfect couple; loving, attentive, and so romantic with each other. They love me too now, and I them. Some days I think back to what it was like to sleep in a bed, but I quite like my cupboard. It's got everything I need, and I've lived in worse. The spell spent in the yard behind Toys'R'Us was pretty grim - compared to that, my cupboard is a palace.
I've long since stopped using the name my own parents gave me. The Parkers call me "pet", and I am happy enough with that. The food that Mrs Parker lovingly prepares for me is delicious - so what if I eat it out of a bowl on the floor? I can tell I make them proud: when their good friends come to visit, I am asked to sit at their feet so they may stroke my hair.
The collar they gave me to wear on that very first day still sits around my throat – a symbol of ownership, of loyalty, of the true home I was always looking for. I doubt I will ever take it off.