When he arrived at the house, the police car was already there, its lights spinning fluorescent shadows across the driveway and the road. He slowed down, breathing heavily, his chest heaving up and down. The front door was open, and he could see Chrissie stood there, pink dressing gown pulled tightly around her chest. She looked like she had been crying, and was talking to a sturdy looking policeman, who stood back as Anthony approached. Her eyes changed when she saw him. They hardened and narrowed, and her lips tightened, as did her arms around her body.
“Chrissie?” he moved past the policeman, sliding his arm around her shoulder. “What happened?”
“Are you Anthony Anderson?” the policeman asked, notebook and pen at the ready. Anthony nodded, moving back enough so that he could see the living room floor covered in shining glass. He looked back at the policeman. He had what Anthony perceived to be an evidence bag in his other hand. Inside it was a piece of paper and a rubber band. “This was attached to the brick sir,” he said. “It would appear the person who sent those letters today, has taken things up a notch.”
Anthony peered into the bag. “Photo of Danny?” he asked and the policeman nodded. “So you’ll be taking this seriously now, won’t you? Letters and graffiti is one thing, but smashing windows! I’ve got little kids in there! Where were they Chris?”
“They were upstairs luckily,” Chrissie said tightly. “I was just about to get in the shower when I heard the crash.”
Anthony looked again at the glass on the floor. “And no one saw anything or anyone?”
“We’ve got officers checking with the neighbours now sir,” the policeman replied. “We spoke to Mr. Bryans earlier sir, about the letters? He informed us that five people have received them? It might be wise if you were to contact those people and warn them about this.”
“I will,” Anthony nodded. “Or you guys could drive around their houses, check they’re okay?”
“We haven’t really got the manpower to do that this evening sir,” the policeman told him regretfully. “But if anything untoward happens at any of their houses…”
“Call you,” Anthony finished for him, and rolled his eyes. “You need to find out who is behind this,” he said then. “You need to get people on this. Do you even know the history behind this? Has Danny told you?”
“We are aware of Mr. Bryan’s special circumstances, yes,” the man nodded. “I’m actually going there next, to see if he can provide us with more information as to who might have it in for him.”
“Well that’s obvious,” Anthony said, glaring at him. “Lee Howard’s father is still alive, plus he had a brother, and then there’s good old Jack Freeman, do you know about him?”
“The name seems to ring a bell,” the policeman said, looking thoughtful, pen poised over notebook. Anthony felt Chrissie pull away from him then. He turned in surprise and watched her stalk angrily down the hall and into the kitchen. He sighed, knew he would have to deal with her in a moment, and looked back at the man.
“It should ring a bloody bell,” he said, scathingly. “He was one of you lot until he got forced into early retirement after some kid accused him of molesting him. You know about that?” The policeman was writing in his notebook and did not look up as he shook his head briefly. “I had to do my own digging around to find that out,” Anthony went on. “The case against him was dropped because the witness got scared. Jack Freeman was good pals with Lee Howard, he worked for him and rented a flat from him in Redchurch. Danny accused him of some less than savoury activities at his trial, but it was all pushed aside because there was no proof.”
“And you think it’s possible he could be behind all this?”
“Of course it’s possible,” Anthony raged. “He’d have it in for us, just like Howard’s family would. Because we found out about him, he lost his job and his home.”
“We’ll look into it,” the police officer assured him, slipping his pen and notebook back into his top pocket. “You need us to sort this window out for you?”
“Yeah that would be good. I have a feeling I’m about to cop it big time from my wife. Do you mind?”
“Go ahead,” the officer gave him a small smile. “We’ll be out here for a moment. I’ll give you a shout when we’re ready to go.”
Anthony nodded and went down the hall and into the kitchen. He found Chrissie sat at the table with a mug of tea in front of her. She was shaking, and her mouth was a hard, straight line. She did not even look at him as he walked in. “Are the kids asleep?” he asked, and she nodded. “That’s a relief.”
“Yes it is,” she said, her voice small and controlled. “It is a relief they weren’t sat on the sofa right under that window when it exploded.”
“You lied to me.”
“You lied to me. You knew about those letters. Those warnings. You didn’t tell me. You left us here to be with them.” She still would not look at him. Anthony floundered. He had no idea what to say, because she was speaking the truth. He pushed his hands miserably into his pockets.
“I didn’t know this would happen. I went to Mike’s to talk to him and Dan. To figure out what to do.”
“Those letters warned you Anthony. You didn’t listen to the warning, and this happened.” She finally met his eyes, and he could see the explosion simmering behind hers. “You lied to me. You put us in danger.”
“No,” he said quickly, his objection rising now. “I didn’t. I didn’t know this would happen!”
“Don’t kid yourself. I just heard you and the policeman. You said yourself these people, whoever they are, would be capable of this. You knew that. Don’t try to make out you didn’t know this sort of thing could happen!” Her voice had risen slightly now, but he could still see she was holding onto herself, perhaps trying not to explode while there were still people milling about. He watched her breathe in and out, her eyes falling back onto her mug of tea, her hands curled around it. “Why didn’t you tell me about the letter then?”
“I didn’t want to worry you or scare you,” he told her quickly. “Not until I knew more.”
“You were very sneaky, Anthony.”
“How was I?”
“You took the kids over to your brothers, to leave the letter there with Danny, didn’t you? So the police wouldn’t have to come here to collect it. So I wouldn’t find out. The kids told me they’d spoken to your friend, the one who had a long holiday, they said.” She puffed angry breath out through her nostrils. “You took them to see him, when you knew I wouldn’t like it.”
“Okay Chrissie,” Anthony half wanted to touch her, to reassure her and comfort her, but he didn’t, he leaned instead against the wall beside the table, and tried to meet her eyes. “That is true. I didn’t want the cops coming here and worrying you, so I took the letter over there. We didn’t go in. We left it with him at the door. Then we went to the park.”
“All very sneaky,” she repeated. “I feel like I don’t even know you anymore, since that man came back.”
“That man’s name is Danny,” Anthony cried at her impatiently, “and if you would just meet him and give him a chance, you would know why I’m friends with him, and you would know why I care about him and want to help him!”
“I don’t want to meet him,” Chrissie said, glaring straight at him now. “Why would I want to meet someone like that? A murderer?”
Anthony’s mouth dropped open in hurt and surprise. It felt somehow like she had wounded him, not Danny, by saying it like that. He shook his head at her and wondered why he suddenly felt like she was a stranger too. “Chris,” he said, “don’t say it like that. I’ve told you why he did it. I’ve told you why it happened. If you met him, you would like him, you would understand!”
“I don’t want my children anywhere near that man!” she shouted suddenly, and got to her feet, shoving the chair back behind her. She pointed her finger across the table at Anthony. “Which means as long as he is living with your brother, you are not to take my children there!”
“You’re overreacting, you’re just scared and shocked, and I can understand that, but you have to try to understand Chrissie…”
“I don’t have to try and understand anything Anthony. It’s all very simple. You’ve been warned to stay away from him, because someone wants to get back at him, because of what he did, right?” She looked at him, her neatly plucked eyebrows raised in question. Anthony shrugged and nodded. “You ignored that warning, you kept it from me, and this is the result!” Chrissie threw up her hands. “We could have been hurt you stupid man! While you’re over there drinking beer with your layabout brother and his murderer friend!”
“Chrissie,” Anthony looked at her darkly. “I am warning you..”
“Warning me?” she laughed at him incredulously. “What are you warning me? Not to speak my mind? Not to speak the truth?”
“Look,” he tried again, tried to push down his anger at her, “no one was hurt. The police are onto it now. They are taking it seriously. Something will be done.”
“And I’m supposed to take the risk? I’m supposed to sit in this house with the kids, like sitting ducks? You know what you have to do Anthony, and you need to make your mind up.”
“What does that mean?”
“Us or them, that’s what it means!” Chrissie folded her arms over her dressing gown again. She glanced up at the ceiling momentarily, and then glared back at him, and he thought for a moment then, that she really hated him. “You need to do what the letter said, and stay away from that man. So we’re left alone. I can’t believe I even need to say this to you.”
“Chrissie, he is my friend, and he needs me…”
“And we are your family and we need you!” She screamed back at him, and now he saw the tears breaking through, flowing from her eyes. “He is a grown man, who put himself in that situation! There is nothing you can do anyway, not without causing more trouble and putting us all in danger!”
“Chrissie, you can’t make me choose. You can’t make me do that.” He looked at her, his eyes begging. She swallowed her tears, walked around the table and arrived in front of him.
“It should be easy for you,” she said, “us or him. I mean it. You have nothing more to with that man, or I am taking the kids to my mums and not coming back. I mean it Anthony.” She turned, opened the kitchen door and tried to leave the room. He wasn’t having it. That was not going to be the end of the conversation. Her, dropping that nasty little threat on him, and walking out. He reached out, before he knew what he was doing, and grabbed her arm. She froze, glaring up into his face.
“You can’t threaten me like that,” he hissed down at her. She tried to pull away but he held on, he tightened his grip and pointed with his other hand into her face. “Don’t you dare fucking threaten me like that! It’s all right for you, you had it so fucking easy! You’re nothing but a spoiled little princess who has no fucking idea what life is like for some people growing up.”
He watched her top lip curl back at him. “Don’t give me that self-pitying shit.”
“It’s not shit, Chrissie. It’s the truth. What is wrong with you? Why don’t you have any sympathy or empathy for other people?”
“I only have sympathy and empathy for my family, Anthony,” she said back to him, her eyes blazing now. “They are the only things that are important to me. You have to decide what is important to you.”
“Never realised you were such a bitch, that’s all.” He dropped her arm, and his eyes tracked quickly up and down her body. She stared at him for a second or two, breathing fiercely through her nostrils, before lashing out suddenly and slapping him across the face. Anthony stepped back, his cheek stinging. He lifted his hand, and her eyes jerked fearfully towards it. He dropped it again. “Chrissie, if you knew me at all, you would know I can’t just turn my back on my friend, or my brother. At one point I was all they fucking had, you know. I was like their dad, can’t you understand that? Okay, they may be grown ups now, but they’ve never had what you had, they’ve never had stable parents, adults to look up to.”
Chrissie moved towards the door again, and Anthony, stepped forward, blocking her way and grabbing her by the shoulders suddenly. He felt like he was losing her, but it wasn’t so much that which frustrated and saddened him, it was his inability to get her to understand. “Please listen to me,” he tried, keeping his voice calmer. “Just listen. Imagine you are Mike, right?”
“I don’t want to imagine I am him!”
“Please Chrissie! I am trying to get you to understand! Just hear me out, and then I’ll stop, I’ll never mention it again. You can do what you want. You can leave me if that’s what you really want to do.”
She was shaking her head again, fresh tears filling her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re even prepared to consider it…we mean that little to you!”
“That’s bollocks and you know it! You mean the world to me, all of you do! But when you met me Chris, you knew I was taking care of my brother.” He found himself staring urgently into her eyes, as he held her firmly by the shoulders. “You knew that and you knew why. He hasn’t got anyone else, he never has, just me, yeah? And Danny is the same. I looked out for them Chris, I did all I could to protect them and fucking feed them and make sure they were okay. When we all lived together for that year, we were like a little family, you know? I can’t just turn my back on them now, just because they are adults, or because I have you lot. I can’t. I can’t do it. It’s unfair of you to ask me.”
He watched her taking this all in. He wondered if she had really listened to any of it, if any word of it struck a chord with her. She lifted one hand and wiped the tears from her cheek, and then she crossed her arms tightly across her middle again. “You can’t do it,” she said, her voice shaking slightly, “even though it means putting us in danger.”
“You have to keep things in perspective,” he begged her. “The police are onto it, we all are. It won’t take long, and we’ll find out who’s behind it.”
“And then what?” she spat at him viciously, her nostrils flaring again. “What will you do then? One of you will stab them to death? Hey?”
Anthony dropped his hands from her shoulders, and let them hang down at his sides. He considered her carefully. He felt his heart pounding with fear. “Chrissie,” he said, realising he was close to tears now. “No one has ever hurt you the way Danny was hurt. You can’t judge him for what he did. He was sixteen years old.”
“He took someone’s life,” she said, her voice brittle with disgust.
“He had no choice!” Anthony shouted suddenly, turning away from her and raking his hands back through his hair in utter frustration. “Why can’t you just listen to me and understand? I’ve told you before!”
“God, you’ll do anything to defend him won’t you?” Chrissie said then, stepping closer to him, her expression curious, even as her eyes leaked more tears. “I knew he meant a lot to you, but I never realised how much until now. You’re prepared to lose your family over him! A murderer! Someone who got drugged up and killed someone!”
“Okay, that’s it, that’s enough, I can’t do this,” Anthony shook his head, pulled away as she reached for him, and headed down the hallway. He heard her following him. He held up his hands.
“Don’t you walk away!” she cried after him. “If you walk away from me now, that is it! I am packing the kids up and going!”
Anthony stopped, turned around and planted his hands on his hips. He felt ripples of anger running through him, coursing like energy up and down his body. He glanced momentarily out into the night through the open front door, and then looked sharply back at his wife. “I don’t know what else to say to you,” he lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I understand why you are angry and frightened, but if you loved me you would have faith in me that it’s all under control. That I will never ever let anyone hurt you or the kids. And you would understand that Mike and Danny are my family too. You have never accepted Michael, and you won’t even give Danny a chance. I don’t know where we go from here, except we should calm down for now, calm down, and talk about it properly in the morning.”
He waited. He waited for her to see sense and reason, to let her anger die down, and realise what she was prepared to lose. Instead, she said nothing. She looked him up and down, ran her tongue slowly over her bottom lip, then turned and walked slowly, wordlessly up the stairs.
She had been sat expecting a brick. She stayed in the lounge, assuming that if anyone threw a brick, they would throw it from the front of the house, and hit the kitchen window. So she had set herself up for the evening in the lounge, laptop on, wine on the go, and nerves rattled beyond belief. Anthony’s window had been smashed yesterday evening, and an hour or so later, a brick had been hurled from the deserted high street into Michael’s flat. It had smashed through the thin glass, the brick rolling to a stop just behind the sofa Danny and Michael were sat on. The police had knocked on their door just seven minutes later to a scene of anguish and rage.
Now she wondered if it was going to be her turn. She had heard nothing from Kay or Billy, but kept her mobile clutched in her hand at all times. Danny was on his way over. They’d had a fraught conversation on the phone, trying to decide what to do for the best. He wanted to be with her, to protect her, but he was worried if he came to hers it would draw more attention her way. The police had advised him to keep calm and carry on his life as normal, albeit more vigilantly.
She even had the TV turned down low, as her eyes darted every few seconds to the front door she could see from the lounge. She thought of Carl upstairs, and wondered if she ought to call him down, until Danny arrived. She was expecting a brick at any moment, but what happened instead was everything went black. Everything died, the lights, the heat, the laptop and the TV. Lucy found herself suddenly wrapped in a silent and eerie blackness. She had her legs tucked under her on the sofa, and eased them out slowly, one by one. She looked down at her phone and started to type in a message to Danny; power cut!! Where r u? Getting scared!
She got up then and went to the lounge window, trying to determine if the whole street was out, or not. Then she remembered Carl and typed in another text message; has your power gone out? The houses in the road behind hers all looked okay, with yellow light spilling from every window. Lucy held her phone to her chest and tiptoed slowly down the hall and into the kitchen. She was too afraid to get too close to the window, but peered out from the doorway, trying to see if the streetlights were on or not. Her phone beeped then making her jump. “Shit,” she breathed, and opened the message. It was Carl; not at home babe, at the pub! U ok? She was about to reply when the phone beeped again. Danny this time; just left Mike’s. Walking. Be twenty mins. U ok? She quickly typed back; fine, just a blackout. Hurry up tho.
Lucy left the kitchen and went back to the lounge. She picked up her glass and finished the wine in it. She laughed at herself for being so scared, but the sound of the laugh in the empty dark flat scared her even more. She lowered herself back onto the sofa, jumping again when the landline phone called suddenly. “Christ,” she muttered, snatching it up from the handset on the coffee table. “Hello?”
Silence. Fear crawled slowly up her spine. “Hello?” she said again, her voice a croak.
“I can see you.” The voice was hoarse and growling, deep and throaty, yet whispered. Lucy felt panic setting her body on fire. Her skin began to tingle and her hairs stood on end.
“Who is this?” she asked, one hand going to her mouth. Her eyes scanned the dark room helplessly. There was a noise from the other end of the phone. It sounded a bit like the caller was licking their lips.
“You look lovely,” the voice said then. Lucy was horrified. Every ounce of her body wanted to simply throw the phone to the floor, but somehow she stopped herself. There was the possibility it was just a crank call, some stupid pervert, but that was probably just too much of a coincidence. This had to have something to do with Danny.
“You’re the person making trouble for Danny,” she said, breathlessly, her voice now a terrified squeak. She waited while the silence spun out again. Her eyes flicked from the door to the window, and back again. She wondered how it was possible for the room to be that dark. She could barely make out any of the furniture, any of the pictures on the walls. She tightened her grip on her mobile, willing Danny to call again, willing him to say he was minutes away.
“Give the little man a message,” the voice said finally. “Tell that shit stain he’s got it coming. Tell him it’s not over until I say it’s over.” That was it. The line went dead. Lucy dropped the phone to the floor, and covered her mouth with both hands, sobs building up violently in her throat.
She sat in silence until she heard the tap at the door. She was shaking from head to toe, as she rose from the sofa and went to the door. The power was still out. “Is it you?” she asked at the door.
“It’s me,” Danny replied, and Lucy felt the relief swamp her, making her knees feel weak, and her stomach a mess, and she tore open the door, pulled him in by his arms and shut it quickly again. He looked at her, alarmed. “What is it? What’s happened?”
“No bricks,” she told him, eyes wide, head shaking. “Just the power went out, then a few moments after that someone called me.” Lucy watched the horror and the realisation flooding his face in the hallway. He had one hand on the wall behind her, the other touched her face wonderingly.
“On the landline,” she mumbled, “private number. A deep growly voice.”
“What did they say Lucy?” Danny’s hand had now moved to her shoulder, and he held her there, his grip gentle but firm.
“First they said, ‘I can see you’,” Lucy remembered, and fresh horror crawled through her skin, making her want to curl up into a little ball. “Then they said, ‘you look lovely’…so I said, ‘you’re the person after Danny’, and there was a bit of silence, and then they said to give you a message.” Lucy looked up into his face. The fear was so horrible, she thought then, it was like something alive, something creeping all over you, and deep inside your veins, making it hard to breathe. His deep blue eyes were fixed on hers, and his hand tightened slightly on her shoulder while he waited for it. Lucy swallowed, took a deep breath that still didn’t feel like enough. “He called you ‘little man’, and he said ‘tell that shit stain he’s got it coming. Tell him it’s not over until I say it’s over.’” Lucy watched Danny’s eyes cloud with recognition and then pain. He moved his hand from hers shoulder and pushed both his hands slowly, awkwardly into his pockets. He stared back at her for a few moments, which for some reason made Lucy want to cry and hold onto him tightly.
“What does it mean?” she whispered eventually, reaching out for him, closing her hand upon his arm. “Who is it?”
“Did it sound like Howard?” Danny asked then, tilting his head slightly. Lucy stared at him. She tried to read what must be running through his mind, but all she could really see was sadness.
“I don’t know,” she told him. “Sort of. Really low and deep. We have to call the police don’t we?”
He nodded. “Yeah. That sounds like him, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
Danny rolled his eyes to the ceiling, taking a huge breath, before he looked back at her. “What you said. That’s how he talked. That’s what he always called me. Little man was one. Shit stain was the other one. Sounds like him.” He shrugged at her, his lower lip trembling. Lucy could bear it no longer. She flung both arms around his middle and pressed her face into his chest.
“It wasn’t Howard, Danny,” she told him. “He’s dead. It must be his dad. It just must be.”
Danny nodded at her, but said nothing. He moved his hands from his pockets and rubbed them up and down on her back. “I’m so sorry,” he said then, resting his cheek down upon the top of her head. Lucy hugged him tighter.
“Don’t you be sorry. This is not your fault. These people are evil. His family are evil like him. They can’t just let it lie. They want to get back at you!”
“You must have been so scared baby,” he wrapped his arms around her then, squeezing her into him. Lucy relaxed into the close embrace. She thought she could probably stay there like that forever. “Bastards…”
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” she assured him. “I’m okay now you’re here.”
He pulled back then, frowning at the door. “Doesn’t feel safe here.”
“Let’s call the police,” Lucy reasoned, tugging him towards the dark lounge. “And I’ll get my dad over. I’ll get him to look at the electrics.”
“Did you find anything out?” Danny let her pull him into the lounge, where her laptop sat, dark and silent on the sofa.
“I’d just started,” she told him. “I’d started with Friends Reunited but none of them are on it. Then the power went. I don’t understand why I didn’t get a brick. I don’t understand any of this.”
“It’s pretty simple really,” Danny sighed, dropping onto the sofa with her. She picked up the other phone from the floor and held it between her knees for a moment, looking at him. “I killed his son. He hates me. I’m out of prison and he wants his revenge. He’s going through you lot to get to me, just like his son did back then. The only thing is, I’ve got to find him somehow.”
“How bad do you think this will get?” Lucy asked him then, crossing her legs up on the sofa, and wiping away the fresh tears that kept filling her eyes. She realised she was shivering violently now, but how much was from the flat growing colder, and how much was from fear, she did not know.
“Worse than this I think,” he answered quietly. He looked resigned, she thought then. She had been expecting him to erupt into rage, to shout and swear, and storm out into the street to look for the caller, the thrower of bricks, but instead he seemed so horribly sad, and quiet. “I’ve got to find him.”
“Who, Howard’s dad?”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “Any of them. They want me, right? They want to talk to me. Kick my head in, whatever. Whatever they want, they want it from me, right? They’ll only leave you lot alone once they get that.”
“Bastards,” Lucy said again, tears spilling down her cheeks. “You’ve been through enough. What is wrong with them? I don’t understand it!”
“Maybe they want the money,” he said then, his tone lifting slightly. “Yeah, maybe that is it. Maybe I could let them have the money, and then they’d leave me alone.”
“Can you call the police please Danny? I don’t think I can do it. I’m a nervous bloody wreck.” Lucy passed him the phone and he took it from her gently, and shifted closer to her on the sofa, dropping one arm around her shoulders. With his other hand he tapped the number in quickly. Lucy supposed he must know it off by heart by now.
“They’ll be sick of the sound of me by now,” he whispered to her, as if he had read her mind. She smiled, looked at her empty wine glass, and wondered if she was brave enough to go into the kitchen and get the rest of the bottle. “Hi there,” Danny said into the phone. “My name’s Danny Bryans, I’ve called a few times lately…Yeah…About harassment?” Lucy got up then, patting his knee as she did and gesturing to her empty glass. He nodded, and she went slowly into the kitchen, feeling her way through the dark with her feet edging out carefully. She supposed she ought to relax now really. Danny was with her, the police were being informed, and whoever had called had achieved what they wanted. She was terrified in her own home.
Anthony’s wife had gone to stay with her parents for a few days, taking the children with her. Lucy had heard this from Michael via text messages. She found it unsettling and disturbing. It was like a nasty disease was spreading among them all, something dark and twisted tainting all of their lives. She shuddered in the kitchen, her teeth chattering together loudly. She grabbed the wine bottle from the fridge, and a second glass for Danny and hurried back to the lounge, not daring once to glance at the windows or the door. She huddled back on the sofa beside him and poured them each a glass of wine.
“Okay thank you,” he was saying into the phone. He put his arm back around her, and she nuzzled her cheek into it, closing her eyes briefly. “I’ll be at my girlfriends house waiting….That’s right, 19a Barrack road…okay, goodnight.” He hung up the phone and tossed it onto the table. He pushed his hair back, and then accepted the glass she nudged him with. “Thanks.”
“The usual,” he sighed, turning to face her. “They’ll come by in the morning. Call back if anything else happens.” He laughed a little. “Lock doors. Brilliant. Now I remember why we never bothered with them back when we were kids.”
“They’ll be here in the morning,” Lucy reassured him, keeping her head rested against his arm. “There’s nothing they can do now anyway.”
“What about your power? I can take a look, but I wouldn’t have a clue.”
“Leave it. I don’t want you to leave my side. I’ll text Dad in a minute. He can come by in the morning. We’ll be okay until then.”
“But we’re not okay, are we?” Danny said, his eyes dropping away from hers, that desolate look filling his face again. “None of us are. Not since I came back. Michael and Anthony fighting. All this shit. Now Anthony’s wife has had a fit and walked out. This can’t go on Luce. You’re all in the firing line, because of me.”
“Cowards,” Lucy muttered, wrinkling her nose and shaking her head. “That’s what they are, whoever they are. Disgusting vile cowards. Can’t just let you live your life. Isn’t eight years in jail enough for them?”
“Obviously not,” Danny shrugged.
“What are you going to do?”
“Find them,” he said, and met her gaze again. She felt horrified, and desperate, and it reminded her of so many other moments of pure fear, and worry and helplessness. She tried hard not to cry again. She so wanted to be strong for him. She thought back to all the years she had felt like she was watching him from afar. They were friends, then they were not friends, they were almost more than friends, but then back to nothing again. God, it had been agonising. She had felt useless, totally unable to help him, not even knowing what was wrong, until Michael took her to the cafe one day and told her the whole story. And that had made her feel even worse. Knowing that every time he had not turned up to school, was not because he was on drugs, but because he was beaten down, because those men were giving him the drugs, keeping him in line, because going to school was the last thing on his mind in a life like that. She felt her stomach twisting into knots. She wanted to hold his face and pull it near and kiss every inch of it. She wanted to do what she had told his mum. Let him go, tell him to make sure she was really the one for him, because she sure as hell knew he was for her, she always had known, but what if it wasn’t the same for him? What if she wasn’t the one, and he just didn’t know? She wanted to tell him she would wait, she would sit back and wait, and if he came back to her, then that was it, that was forever.
Now was not the time. His face was restless, his eyes troubled. She could see the thoughts tumbling through his mind. “How?” she asked him.
“Not sure. Don’t suppose they’ll be that hard to find. Maybe I just need to make myself more visible. I don’t know. Hey, let’s forget about it for now,” he smiled at her, another one of those magnificent smiles that did nothing with his eyes, and he drank some wine, and pulled the throw up over the two of them.
“You’re so brave,” she told him then. “You’re so calm. I don’t know how you do it. This is just all so unfair.”
“It is unfair,” he agreed. “But maybe I can sort it out. Maybe it’s just one last little blip you know? One last little thing to iron out, and then it really will be all over.”
Lucy nodded. She drank her wine, and he drank his, their arms around each other, their heads touching. They drank until the wine was all gone, and they drank until they both fell asleep on the sofa, their bodies entangled.