“That’s silly.” But I didn’t scoff at her.
My breath was catching in short gasps, as if I had no idea what to do. But that wasn’t true. A plan of action bloomed in my brain as always. I would get right back up, keeping my eyes- and my soul- alert, just in case, and then I would stroll in continuum down the street, letting what had just happened roll off my shoulders. I had seen the faces of passers-by, fearful, but none were going to assist; they all thought I had Clarissa to protect me now.
That was another lie. I had no clue whether this changed woman would let me go.
Clarissa had been watching me for some time. The way she tore her eyes down from the back of my head meant that they had lingered there for longer than comfort required.
I set my own eyes upon her, questioning to her meek performance.
“You should get a move on,” she replied, easily dodging her interest in me. I let my features settle into something of an unimpressed face that she soon saw. “You should get out of where it’s too easy to take the life of… I’ll shut up.”
My deep breath could not still the miniature tremors that ran themselves up my back and arms.
“You should be worried,” Clarissa added, noticing.
“I’m not worried,” I said with a scowl, “I’m cold. This is a pathetic excuse for a jumper.” I plucked at the threaded garment, the only jumper I had packed.
“It’s getting darker. You should leave.”
“I guess so, but I’ve got a shop on Regent Street to find. Business to do and all that.”
“Shops? Hey, I know London seems always to thrive, but most of Regent’s will be closed by now.”
“This isn’t.” I indicated around me.
“Yup, but this is Oxford Street.”
“It’s the same, right?” I asked.
Clarissa just stared.
The minute passed swiftly and, though she dropped her eyes again, she wasn’t going to quickly give up her view.
“And where am I going to go?” I asked the sky. “If cars are swerving into my path in a crowded street, how am I going to fare amongst the trains of the underground, which already hate me? You know, The Admiral was sort of my only base-point. It’ll be open, won’t it?”
“It’ll be open, yeah, but it’s a bit far. You already look knackered.”
“Thanks…” I grunted darkly.
Clarissa unwound herself and stood, offering a hand down to me.
“You could always stay in my flat for the night. It’s not far, and that was where I was heading anyway.”
“I couldn’t…” I took her hand, the appeal forming ideas that grasped me just as strongly as her grip. Clarissa was almost magician-like as she lifted me to my feet.
“Your head’s not spinning anymore, right? I’d be happy to have some company. Relax, Miss Brooks. I’m not the one after you.”
I couldn’t say anything other than my reply:
“Yeah, okay.” I smiled as I spoke, shrugging in that instance. What harm would it do?
We walked, the street-sounds leading their own conversations where ours were none. I had too many thoughts in my head, those from before, plus something triggered by that which Clarissa had said. Her persistence in there being a ‘one’ after me was shockingly rubbing off in my direction. I didn’t hope to believe it, but again I clung to the assumption that something wasn’t right.
Why me? I’m only thirteen; what have I done? The teeth of the questions were forever biting. Nevertheless, secrets were what had made me; secrets were going to sustain me…at least, until I could clench my fist around visible answers.
I yawned in what was left of the light, wishing I could behave at least a little more mature in the presence of the woman, whose strolls now filled with bounce, her eyes flowing with vibrancy. Even the laugh, when it came, didn’t belong to the desk-girl I had met days previously.
“Don’t worry; we really haven’t got that far to walk now. Once we’re out of the shopping zones, my flat is just around a couple of corners.”
“I’m not tired, honest!” I muttered submissively.
“Sure, you’re not. Look at that night, how it sparkles! No one could be tired of that.”
I let her keep her dreamy state.