“Alexis, that was so, so stupid. You could have gotten yourself killed!” She said, quietly.
“I know, but he was in the middle of… I couldn’t just let that happen right in front of me. And anyway, everything had already gone wrong for the guy – He’d already gone past the point where he could walk away. He was going to do something really stupid. I didn’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
She didn’t really have a reply to that. She took her jacket off and put it round my shoulders. I was still shivering; I don’t think it was the cold.
“Where did you learn to fight like that?”
“I wasn’t fighting. I don’t know how to fight, that was just the quickest way I could think of getting the knife off him.” I said. “I got lucky, and he wasn’t paying attention to me so I could do a lot before he could start to react. If he hadn’t been distracted by that other guy…”
“I can’t believe he did that.”
“I know, that situation could have ended without anyone getting hurt, he had to go and escalate it by getting himself stabbed.”
“I wonder if he will be ok…” She said looking a bit worried.
“Probably. He was breathing fine, the knife missed his lung.” I caught her giving me a strange look. “What?”
“You just seem so, knowledgeable about this kind of stuff. I mean, as soon as he came in there it was like you knew what was going to happen – you did didn’t you? That’s why you tried to get us to leave.”
“I’m sorry, I know it wasn’t the right decision…”
“No, it’s not that – you did what you thought best. But how did you know?” She said. “And then without batting an eye you just grab him like that and break his arm like you do it every day. I could hardly move.” She looked away.
“I… It wasn’t like that, I didn’t know for sure. Anyway, he was clearly taking something and…” I stopped for a second to breath. Maybe I should tell her? Could I take the risk? I’d found over just a few days that I didn’t really want to lie to her any more.
“I recognised the look. He was desperate for another hit. I’ve seen it before with my Mum.”
“Your Mom? What do you mean, does she…”
“Yeah.” I thought I should feel relief telling her but I didn’t. I was worried how she’d react. I was worried about the other lies I’d told her, at some point I was going to have to let her know I was lying.
I felt scared about having someone that close to me.
“I don’t really want to talk about it. Not right now. Can we walk?” I stood up.
“But…” She paused. “Sure, if you don’t want to that’s fine.” She didn’t look fine with it, but she didn’t press me.
As we walked through the park my shaking subsided. Beth was still giving me worried sideways glances but I ignored them. If I could pretend this whole thing hadn’t happened I would have.
“So, what did you have planned after coffee?” I said to bring us back to normality.
“Oh, I hadn’t really thought. I wondered if you might want to go shopping or something? I don’t know. What do you like to do with your time off?”
“Well, I don’t have any money so there isn’t much point in me going shopping. I don’t mind if you want to though.”
“We can go to a cash machine.”
“No, I mean I don’t have any money Beth. I don’t have a bank account; I’ve never had enough money to warrant one.”
“Oh. I didn’t know things were that bad for you.”
“It’s not bad you know. If I can get food, and with school that’s easy enough.” That was maybe stretching the truth a little. I looked at her. “I’m happy. You asked what I like to do with myself.”
“Mostly I walk around the city, or I go to the library and read, to the museum to look at the old ships. I listen to the radio. None of the things I like to do cost money, sure I’d like to go to the cinema again but before I met you I didn’t really know what it was like.”
“Ok, sorry I didn’t mean to…” She stopped herself and looked at her watch. “It’s only 11. Do you want to go to the library then? It’s not far. We can grab some food on the way.”
* * *
She bought us a hot-dog each and we spent a good few hours looking through the dusty shelves of the library. Most books were stored, loaned and sold electronically but the library kept a decent stock of real books. I liked the smell of them and if they had a copy I would prefer to sit in one of the quiet cubicles in the library reading for a couple of hours rather than borrow one of the tablets to download the text to.
There was a certain romance about a real book.
We each managed to find something to our tastes and a quiet corner with a sofa to share and spent most of the afternoon reading. I spent a lot of time thinking. Beth picked up on this.
“You haven’t turned the page for about 5 minutes.” She said smiling. Damn, caught out.
I returned her smile at her wearily. “I’m just thinking.”
I’d decided to be honest with her.
“My mom kind of threw me out this morning. I don’t really want to go back tonight. I was wondering if…”
“You could stay at mine?” She finished for me. Two days ago I would never have put so much trust into someone. I felt like I could now though. “I’m sure I can persuade Mom.” She flashed me another smile.
That was… Easier than I thought it would be.
* * *
The bus journey was uneventful. We made good time, getting to Beth’s house at about six in the evening. The sun had came down to meet the rooftops of the houses. She knocked twice on the door and pulled it open.
There was an intelligible scream from the house and her mom came running to the door.
“Bethany! Where in seven hells have you been all day. I’ve been calling your mobile for hours.” She sounded angry. I started to worry and wondered how Beth could be in so much trouble. Maybe we’d have to find somewhere else to sleep, I had a few places I’d spent the night before if Beth didn’t mind being a little cold for the night.