After the Man was sent away


''Get lost!''  said Jemima to the man, rather rudely,  Patricia thought.   Still, that was Jemima all over, though Patricia sometimes wished she wouldn't be so... intolerant and snappy.

The man looked at her, sadly, and Patricia longed to say something, but didn't have the courage.   He gave a little wave, and walked away.

''I think, maybe, we should have listened to him, Jemima.''  Patricia said, very quietly, half hoping that Jemima wouldn't hear.   But of course, she did.

''Oh, right!'' she shouted.   ''So Jemima the thicky gets it wrong again, right?   All right, Patricia.   You go off with the weirdo,  if you think he can get you out of this better than I can.''

Patricia looked at the ground, feeling nervous, but too upset to giggle.

''It's just that...'' she looked up.   Jemima looked very angry.   ''It's just that...he seemed to know what he was talking about, and...''

''And I don't. I suppose?''   Jemima had her hands on her hips, and her face was like thunder.

''Well, you're very clever...''   Patricia ventured,  ''But we've never been in this sort of situation ever before and I'm a bit... worried.''

Jemima's expression softened.

''OK, maybe I was a bit too quick to send him away, but I just didn't like the look of the guy.   Did you see those teeth?   Gross!''   She put her arm round Patricia in a rare display of affection.  ''Tell you what!   Lets go for a drink and have a think about what to do.''




The girls walked along the street, still feeling a little disorientated by the sight of unfamiliar styles of building and odd-looking cars. The worst thing was that there were obviously-under-age kids smoking, quite openly, and not even looking furtive.   Didn't they know that their own and their parents' liberty was at risk?

They found a pub and went in.   Patricia took a seat by the window, while Jemima marched up to the bar and demanded two WKDs. The bored-looking barmaid, who looked very like Jeremy's ex-girlfriend Martina Knox, said ''ID?''

''Well, I haven't got it on me, have I?   I mean to say!.   I'm over fourteen though.''

''You may well be over fourteen, but to me you look as if you're under eighteen.'' said the Martina lookalike.   ''You can come back when you've got ID to prove that you're legal, or when you actually are, whichever is sooner.''

''Cheeky cow!'' shouted Jemima, which brought Patricia over from the window seat.   She pulled on Jemima's arm.

''Don't forget what the man said,  Jemima.   This isn't our world. Maybe drinking's illegal for under-18s like it used to be for us.   We don't want to get into trouble, do we?''

Jemima glared at the Martina-barmaid for a few more seconds, then her shoulders slumped and she looked at Patricia.

''You're still wishing I hadn't sent the man off, aren't you?''  she asked.   Patricia smiled slightly, and kindly.   It was so unusual to see Jemima looking cowed that it touched her a little.

''Well, I do understand, but he might be the only one who can help.'' she said, rubbing Jemima's upper arm, reassuringly.   ''I'm sure if we stick together, we'll be fine, though.   I just wonder what we should do next.   If that man was right, there might be another ''us'' somewhere, and it might not be good to bump into them...   I think it could freak them out, and... oh, I don't know, change the course of history or whatever.''

Jemima laughed.   ''You been reading too many science fiction books, girl!   C'mon, lets go.   We can see if we can find the man, if you like.''

They left the pub, but Jemima could not resist a last dirty look back at the barmaid, who made a ''W'' sign with her fingers.   Jemima didn't understand what that meant, but assumed it was disparaging.

Back on the street, they looked around. They were both looking out for the fat, jolly man in the blue and white jacket and straw hat,  but of course, there was no sign of him.   Across the road was a little shop, which looked as if it sold groceries.

''I'm really thirsty – are you?   I was looking forward to that drink! Fancy something?''

''Yeah.   Water'll do – might be safer too, we don't know what the drinks are like in I'm dead hungry though.   D'you think we can get chocolate?''

Jemima nodded.   ''Yeah, lets.   I'm willing to take the risk if you are.   Look, there's a park over there.   We can sit there while we think what to do.''

They went into the corner shop, and grabbed a couple of bottles of water and a selection of chocolate bars, which, apart from very slight differences in the wrapper designs, had the same names and were the same shapes and sizes as the ones they were used to.   Patricia was a little nervous that their money would not be accepted, but the man behind the counter gave it hardly a second glance, and the change they received looked exactly the same as their familiar currency, but perhaps felt a little heavier.   She could be imagining that, though.

The man put their purchases into a thin plastic pink and white striped carrier bag and they walked into the park.   They sat on a bench and tucked into the confectionery.   It tasted much nicer than they were used to.   Patricia suddenly remembered how parched she was. She unscrewed the top of one of the bottles of water and took a swig.   Unlike the chocolate, it tasted absolutely disgusting. Chemical, bitter, sharp.

Patricia suddenly felt very drowsy.   She looked over at Jemima, who had paused halfway through a Snickers bar and was staring at her, a horrified expression on her face.

''Patricia!   You're... disappearing!''  she screamed.

Suddenly, Patricia wasn't in the park anymore.

The End

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