Rich was cold. Colder than he had ever been in his life, and hungrier, too, than he had imagined was possible—a far cry from how peckish he used to feel when he came home from school, having not eaten since breakfast, and a completely different world from the land of limousines and fancy restaurants that he had been inhabiting for one glorious day. Now, he was nothing. A tramp. A homeless teenager, a bum on the streets.
He begged. It was the only thing he could do, although he’d tried at first to get a job. But with no clothes but the spare pants he had in his rucksack and no money except that which he’d had in his pocket after returning his train ticket, he was not in a position to continue looking and so he joined the ranks of the homeless.
Sleeping in shop doorways was all very well, but the floor was bitterly cold at night even though it was not yet winter, and the police were always there in the mornings to clear out the homeless before shop owners arrived. Besides, they were far too open, and so Rich found a new place to inhabit—a forgotten corner of the indoor market, never used after market hours closed and completely hidden away. If he snuck in there during the day, he could stay there after the doors were closed and remain entirely hidden. True, there was plenty of rubbish around and he was certain that mice were swarming, but it was better than nothing, and it was worth it for a good night’s sleep.
Well, as good as could be expected anyway.
After three days, Rich began to think—to hope—that the Seekers had given up looking for him, so he began to be a little more open. He became friends with another young lad that had run away from his parents in Scotland. Seventeen he was, and they wouldn’t let him apply for the course he wanted to do, insisting that law would be better for him than music. So he had run away, since they were ‘trying to control his life like the fascists they were’.
If Rich’s parents had rung him again since that first day, he would not have known, because his phone had run out of battery and there was no electricity supply, no handy plug socket, with which he could have charged it. But it didn’t matter, because he was determined that as soon as he knew he was safe he would return home.
“They won’t make me a thief,” he whispered to himself each night, curled up in the corner. “They won’t make me a thief.” That much he was determined to prove. “If they try, I will fight, and I will scream. They will be ruined.”
But time passed, and he began to weaken.