Swinging my school bag, I skipped along my mum’s side, telling her all about my day.
But then, as Mum stopped to talk to a man, I saw him gesture towards me, and I took a step back.
I knew my mum, Lisa Taylor, wasn’t like other mums. She had a heroin addiction and she worked on the streets to pay for it.
Even as a 12-year-old, I would stand guard at the end of alleyways while she disappeared with strange blokes. It was a way of life for us.
But what happened next was a shock, even for me.
‘I don’t want you, I want her,’ the man was saying.
At first, Mum was arguing with him, shaking her head. But then she seemed to back down.
‘Just go with him and do as he says,’ she said, leading me down the side street. ‘You’ll be fine.’
Numb with shock, hardly realising the enormity of what was happening, I handed Mum my school bag and went off with the man.
Still wearing my school uniform, I had sex for the first time in my life.
When it was over, the man handed Mum $400 and she passed me $20.
I felt rich. I was really pleased with the money and went straight to the shop to buy sweets.
But I was in pain, and the memory of the man’s face made me shudder.
I didn’t like what Mum had done but I didn’t blame her for it either. Of course, I had no idea it was child abuse.
I just accepted this was how life was – for Mum, and now for me.
Despite everything, I adored her. She was fun and exciting and unpredictable.
We’d cuddle on the couch, with a takeaway and watch a Disney film.
If I got into trouble at school, Mum would giggle.
While my older brother Luke worked hard at school, Mum taught me how to pick-pocket and fight.
In the eyes of an impressionable little girl, she was my hero.
I liked to think I was helping her out when she was working, like I was part of the team.
But after my own mother sold me for sex, I was confused and scared.
I’d have flashbacks of the man, who was middle-aged and well-dressed.
From there, I ended up working the same streets as a prostitute myself. I became addicted to drugs and was arrested countless times.
Just like Mum.
One of my close friends was Charlene Downes, 14. She was fun and I passed on the tricks that my mum had shown me.
We had a regular route through town, calling in at certain takeaway shops and arcades, stealing drinks from tables.
There was a gang of men who would wait for us and give us sweets in return for kisses.
We’d look out for each other, one in a flat, one at the end of the alley, keeping watch.
Then, in November 2003, Charlene disappeared.
I thought nothing of it at first, but as the days passed, I really began to worry.
Weeks turned into months and there was still no sign of her.
Eventually, two local takeaway workers were arrested – one for her murder and the other for helping to dispose of her body.
In court, the prosecution claimed that Charlene’s body had been cut up and minced into kebabs, her bones crushed into tile grouting.
But the jury failed to reach a verdict. After a planned retrial was abandoned, I gave up hope of ever finding out the truth.
It tormented me that I probably knew her killers.
The police found that Charlene and other girls in the area had been swapping sex for food, cigarettes and affection, a form of child sexual exploitation known as localised grooming.
We hadn’t known it at the time, but we were being abused.
When I looked into the eyes of some of the men prowling the streets, preying on vulnerable young girls, I wondered if one of them was the last face Charlene ever saw.
It made me realise that I was living very dangerously.
And that I might be next.
In 2007, my mum died, aged 38, after complications from tuberculosis.
I was heartbroken at her funeral. I couldn’t believe she had gone.
My brother Luke did his best to look after me in those years afterwards, offering lots of help and support.
And slowly, now, I am getting my life back on track.
People find it hard to understand, but I adored my mum and I don’t feel any kind of anger or bitterness towards her.
I feel she was as much a victim as I was.
I don’t forgive her for what happened, because there is nothing at all to forgive.
She did what she thought was best at the time.
But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t want a different path for me.
I’m doing my best, in her memory.