Alex sucked in his breath. “Oh. I didn’t realise. I’m sorry, Mairead, did I just do something really stupid?”
“No, it’s okay. It’s more complicated than it sounds. I can’t explain. You’ll think I’m crazy.” Mairead didn’t know why she was telling Alex all this. After all, they had only just met. He had no right to hear her life story.
“You need food,” he seemed to decide. “Come on, let’s get to MacDonald’s. We’ve got plenty of money, after all.” He gestured towards the fiddle case, full of coins. “Help me get it into my rucksack, and yours.”
“I don’t want it,” she told him. “I don’t need money. Where I live, we don’t—” Mairead bit her lip. She had said too much—far too much. If Alex didn’t think she was crazy and leave her there and then—which he showed no signs of doing—he would realise what she meant. And she had already guessed that he would. He had that look on his face. Their look. Oh, yes, Alex would know what she meant all right.
“I see.” He looked stern. “I have a feeling there’s more to you than meets the eye. We’ll have to have a talk about this, Mairead.”
“Before you have any kind of talk with me, Alex,” said Mairead hotly, “you have to explain how you know my name. Explain how you knew I had a whistle. Explain how you knew anything. And most of all, tell me where you learned to play the fiddle like that. Who was your teacher?” He said nothing, so she ploughed on. “I bet there was more to them than met the eye, too.”
“I see. So that’s how it’s going to be, then?” Alex had almost finished emptying the money into his rucksack and he quickly scooped up the last few coins, settling his fiddle down in their place. “That’s how they think they can take me. Well, it won’t work.” He turned to face the empty street. “Do you hear me? It’s not going to work!”
Mairead stepped back. He thought they’d sent her. After all that, he thought they’d sent her.
Well, in a way he was right. Realising this, she almost dropped her whistle, but caught herself just in time. It was her only way of making a living. She had to keep hold of it. Mairead forced her brain to remember that now that she was back in the real world, she would need money. She would need food. Whatever humanity she had lost over the years would return all too quickly unless she kept it happy.
“Let’s go to MacDonald’s,” she suggested. “I think there are several things we should talk about.”