Louise hunched against the radiator. The café was steamy but no heat reached across the counter to the customers even though the skinny woman brewing up tea had sweat running down her forehead. Maybe the cold is inside me, Louise wondered: maybe I should be drinking antifreeze? Hysteria threatened, sourness rising in her throat. She picked up her mug of tea using both hands to steady it.
Well, here I am, though God knows where “here” is.
She had slammed the door behind her, tossed the keys on to the estate agent’s desk and gunned the car towards the motorway. Go West, young woman. It would be difficult to go much further west without swimming, so here she was. Car parked outside the B & B, suitcase unpacked, registered for a week while she looked for somewhere to live, details already with a local agency.
A “stranger in a strange land”. “New beginning;” “fresh fields”. All that kind of crap. The lifeline she was clutching at was that nobody knew where she was. Dead to the world. Old life over. Gone. Andrew would search for her, of course, and he’d be efficient. Efficiency was his middle name after all; well no, actually his middle name was Daniel, but still.... Discreet questions, that’s how he’d start, then phone calls, online enquiries, perhaps even a detective; he’d try the lot but he would fail. Dogged Daniel, dogging her footsteps. The view from the steamy window was bleak and the beach deserted apart from an old man shouting at the seagulls and another figure (male? female? hard to tell) standing in front of an easel, wrapped up against the chill and painting the old man’s picture. If I walked into the sea, would they stop me, she shivered: would they even see me? I think I’m invisible; I’m nothing. A nothing-creature made of invisible ice.
“I got a bikkit,” confided a small voice at her elbow, startling her out of the dark thoughts. It was a small, round child, not obviously male or female, just a generic toddler creature. It held something up to view. “It’s a rectangliar bikkit.”
“Don’t bother the lady, darling.” The mother sounded half-hearted, deep in conversation and, the gesture made, she turned back to her friend.
“Look,” the small voice was polite but persistent. “There’s bumps on my bikkit. There’s ninety-seventy-nine.”
Louise stared at the child and mumbled something that seemed to satisfy its proud boast, then she exhaled a long, sighing breath.
Not invisible then, after all.
It was a start.