“So it’s yours,” said Rich without emotion. “You must be the rich one here.” After a pause he decided it would be polite to continue. “I’m fine, thanks. Nice car, by the way. Thanks for the ride.” Suddenly his ordinarily smart voice sounded common and out of place compared to the intelligent accents around him, and that was when he really seemed to realise that he didn’t belong here. This wasn’t the home of a nineteen-year-old who wasn’t going to university, was rather good at running and had always been clever when it came to mathematics. It certainly wasn’t the home of somebody who even now was practically running away from home because they didn’t think their parents would approve of what they were about to do.
“You look uncomfortable,” noted the man, pouring a glass of iced water and handing it to him. “Don’t worry, you’ll soon relax. We have a long journey ahead of us. You may as well get used to us. Tell us something about yourself, and when you’ve finished we’ll—maybe—tell you a little something about ourselves.” He smiled, and Linda gave Rich an encouraging nod.
“Go on,” she said. “Tell us everything about you. We’re interested.” Her insistence was so strong that Rich almost found himself caving in.
“I thought you knew everything?” he muttered mutinously. “All right. I’ll tell you.” Then louder, he said, “If this is the price for getting a lift…”
Surprisingly, one of the two men in the corner—who had until now remained silent—laughed gently. “Oh no, there’s more,” he said. This was not particularly encouraging.
“Okay. I’ll tell you.” Rich thought back over his life and tried to decide what would be interesting to these complete strangers, things they were unlikely already to know, even if they could tell which café he would be in. “I was born here in London in the nineteen nineties…”
When Rich finished his tale it was a long way past lunchtime and his stomach was grumbling loudly, although he tried to hide it. I should have bought a biscuit or two, I knew it, he thought mutinously, and realised that that was one of his greatest regrets in life. Well, shows something about the sort of life I’ve lived until now, doesn’t it? No greater regrets than not buying a biscuit. Man, I’ve been privileged.
“Are you hungry?” asked Linda. She was by far, or so Rich thought, the friendliest of his mysterious companions, and certainly the one that seemed to be most concerned by his welfare and happiness. He nodded vigorously, hoping she got the idea. “We’ll be stopping for lunch soon. We’ve made good time—I’d say we’ve covered about a hundred miles over the last three hours or so, and that’s definitely not bad considering the traffic we ran into in London.”
“Hush, Linda,” said the man, looking from her to Rich. “Rich, thank you for sharing your story. I suppose you would like to know about us now?” He paused, looking inquiringly at his guest who sat, silent and still, in the limousine. It may have appeared that Rich was scared but those close to him would have been able to tell that the withdrawn appearance was caused merely by his wish to know everything about the people and objects surrounding him. He was drinking in everything nearby.