“I thought you might be hungry,” he said. “Linda is on her way; she shouldn’t be too long, if all goes according to plan. Don’t eat it all right now, though, because you might be sick—your stomach has no doubt shrunk to half its original size.”

          Rich grinned weakly. “That shouldn’t be too heavy a burden to bear: it was far too large before, and I ate far too much.” Lenna looked him up and down, but he seemed thin enough. Then again, he would be, after so little food over the last ten days, although he didn’t have the stretched-out look of someone who had lost a lot of weight in a short period of time, so he couldn’t have been too fat before.

          “You don’t look like you eat too much,” she said.

          “My mother used to say I was one of those people that could eat forty meals a day without growing any fatter,” he told her. “My mum!” Suddenly he was agitated, glancing at the calendar on the wall and the clock above it. “I should call her; she’ll be wondering how and where I am.”

          “There’s a phone in the lobby if you’ve lost yours,” said Davide helpfully. “Does she know where you were going?”

          “I don’t know,” said Rich, suddenly stricken with guilt. “I don’t know if I told her, I can’t remember! I’m such a bad son, I really am. Not to know whether I told me own mother where I was going, and then vanishing for weeks! She’ll be out of her mind with worry. As soon as I’ve eaten, I’ll call her.”

          But it was not to be. The food was good—a taste-bud-tingling experience comprising of freshly baked bread and toasted cheese, sausages, beans and a fried egg, a very late breakfast for Rich, with a side of strawberries and cream—but it was too much for his deprived stomach. “I’m going to—I’m going to…”

          Unable to finish his sentence, he dashed out of the room and barely made it to the ground-floor men’s toilets before he was promptly sick. Suddenly woozy and unable to stand, Rich fainted again.

          As he fell, he hit his head hard on the tiled floor, causing instant concussion. And he stayed there for over an hour until Davide, wondering where he had got to, went to look for him. Finding his guest in a state of serious injury and no doubt distress, he called an ambulance and dragged the unconscious young man out into the lobby, where Lenna was waiting anxiously.

          “Is he going to be all right?” she asked worriedly.

          “Let’s hope so,” said Davide grimly. “Let’s hope so.”

The End

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