“I stink,” he told her miserably. “Will I be able to clean up when we get there?” His words came out in a mush, blurred and confused.
“I don’t understand you,” she said, but her face was swimming, and everything was spinning … he couldn’t see, he didn’t know what was happening, she was blurring out of focus and Rich was frightened.
“I can’t see,” he whispered, and started to panic. “It’s all so crazy—the colours—the lights—the warmth and the people and the busyness…” With a small cry of terror, he fell backwards off the chair and fainted.
Rich wasn’t on the bus when he came around. This room had a high, vaulted ceiling with chandeliers hanging from it, and public transport never seemed to look like that, or at least, none that he had ever seen. The floor was softer too, and it wasn’t moving. All the evidence pointed towards a solid building. A house?
Feeling sick but propping himself up his elbows even so, he looked around and saw that it appeared to be the lounge of a hotel or something. And—he should have known, really; it was too good to be true otherwise—there was Linda, and with her Davide. The rest of them were nowhere to be seen.
“Rich!” cried Linda, running over. Behind her was the girl: he hadn’t noticed her at first, but now he couldn’t take his eyes off her lovely face. Noticing his stares, she blushed. “It’s all right, he’s coming round, he’s going to be okay.”
“Don’t crowd him,” said the girl. “He’s probably very confused. It must have been hunger that made him faint. Or perhaps he’s ill?”
“I don’t know about that,” put in Davide quietly. “You say you gave him some money the other day, without realising who he was?”
“Yes,” she replied. “He bought a cup of tea with it. I saw him.” Turning to Rich, who by now was slightly more awake but even more confused, she said, “My name is Lenna. I met Davide and Linda during your absence and they asked me to help them find you, but it wasn’t hard, since I had seen you just three days before.”
“Three days?” he gasped. It was the first words he had spoken since waking up.
“Yes.” Lenna looked puzzled. “Why, what’s wrong?”
“That was yesterday…” whispered Rich. “How long have I been out? It can’t be so long, surely?” The three stared at him in some consternation.
“Only two hours, no longer. Are you sure you’re okay?” So he had missed two days, sleeping perhaps, or otherwise unconscious. But how had he not noticed? No wonder he was hungry, if it was in fact four days since his last meal, and no wonder he was feeling disorientated. “You look awfully pale. We’ll get you some food.” Linda left. Shortly afterwards, Davide muttered something and followed suit. That left Rich alone with Lenna.