I’d leave tonight if the memory of my ice-block feet this morning wasn’t still fresh. I’d wait until he passed out and slip past him, maybe try to find some cash to take with me on the way. Cash or drugs to sell. I’m sure I could get a decent price for them, just to set me up.
“Ain’t you gonna watch this with me?” he grunts, and I curse that he knows I’m still awake.
“I’m fucking tired. Walked all last fucking night.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll be walking all through this fucking one if you keep speaking to me like I’m a soft fucking asshole.”
It stings to bite my tongue.
“Lee’s coming over,” he tells me, and I cringe inside. “He’s looking forward to seeing you.”
“He can go fuck himself.”
Eli laughs. “He’s hoping you’ll do that for him. Says he’ll give you a tenner towards your caravan fund.”
Lee Davis was a mistake of mine. A stupid idiot who told me I was special.
Like I said, I’ve never been anywhere near a real man. Lee Davis is nothing but a joke. A druggie joke who thinks he’s a hard man. He’s not. I punch harder than he does.
Still, how it ended between us is all the incentive I need to get myself up and out of there. I move the cats and climb out of the sleeping bag. I head to Eli’s grotty bathroom and put on another couple of layers under my clothes.
He doesn’t even look at me when I head back through and pick up my backpack.
“Where do you think you’re fucking going?”
“I’m gonna make a move,” I say. “Gonna head down south. See if I can get to the coast.”
He laughs, points to the armchair. “Sit your skinny ass back down.”
I head for the front door regardless, hissing under my breath as he catches me. He moves fast for a stoner. That’ll be the coke. His breath is hot and fucking gross. I give him the finger even as he pins against the wall.
“Fuck off,” I hiss. “I’m fucking leaving.”
“You always were a snotty fucking bitch,” he says. “I told you. Lee’s coming. He wants to see you.”
“And I don’t want to fucking see him.”
“Tough fucking shit,” he says and then his eyes soften, just a bit.
For that moment he’s the Eli I always knew. The boy who could convince me to do anything, just with a smile, even though I knew I’d get all the blame for it.
“There’s some pasta in the cupboard. Why don’t you make yourself a proper dinner?”
I glare at him. “I can’t pay you for it.”
He shrugs. “We’re friends. We help each other.”
That’s a fucking joke.
But I’m hungry, even after a crappy sandwich. I know it’s cold outside and I don’t want to walk through those alleys on my own, not right now when I’m already tired enough to drop.
“Alright,” I say and he smiles.
“That’s my cute little sis.”
He ruffles my hair and I cringe.
I’m not his sister and I never have been.
He lets me go and I drop my backpack. I head through to the kitchen with a sigh and he takes his TV show off pause.
“Make me some as well while you’re at it,” he says. “I’m fucking starving.”
I was only pretending when I spat in Rosie’s stew, I’m not tonight.Chapter SixMichaelThree days and three long nights.
I’ve been calling every agency I can think of through my lunch breaks and driving around the streets looking for her every night, despite knowing full well that she’s probably long gone. I wonder how she celebrated becoming an official adult. I wonder if she celebrated at all.
I found myself at Rosie and Bill’s front door last night, just to check in person that they hadn’t heard anything. Their eyes said it all. They told me she’s a lost cause and it’s sad I haven’t accepted that yet. But I haven’t.
We’ve never had Carrie Well’s mobile number on her case file, simply because she refused to give it to anyone, me included. It was Rosie’s parting gift to me, followed up with the assurance that there’s no way the madam will answer, but it still felt like I’d been handed the Holy Grail as I left their doorstep and headed back to my car. I pulled over before I was even back in Lydney, my heart thumping as I keyed her number into my mobile.
Rosie was right, of course. The call rang straight to voicemail.
They’ve gone straight to voicemail ever since.
When the office is quiet and my meetings are done for the day, I sit back in my chair and stare at my handset. Nothing from Carrie, and only a string of unanswered texts from Jack in Germany. I haven’t replied because I daren’t. I can’t lie, and the moment I tell him Carrie has taken off somewhere and I’m on a one-man mission to locate her and solve her housing crisis, he’ll either have me committed or fly back home to scream some sense into me.