of grazes on his face. Worst of all though were the bruises around his neck. Conrad had certainly left his mark.
“D‟you want to see a film?”
“No. I thought I‟d go for a walk.”
“I‟ll come with you, if you like.”
“No. Thanks, Jack, but I‟m OK on my own.”
Ten minutes later, Alex left the house. The weather forecast had said it would be a bright day but in fact it was close and cloudy. He started walking towards the King‟s Road, wanting to lose himself in the crowds. He had no real idea where he was going. He just needed to think.
Sarov was dead. Alex had turned away as the man had raised the gun towards his own heart, not bearing to see any more. Minutes later it had all been over. The Repair Yard had been secured, the bomb removed. Alex himself had been whisked away by helicopter, first to a hospital in Moscow and then back to London. Someone had told him that Kiriyenko wanted to see him.
There was talk of a medal. Alex had declined. He just wanted to go home.
And that‟s where he was. Everything had worked out all right. He was a hero!
So why did he feel like this? And how exactly was it that he felt? Depressed? Exhausted? He was both of those things—but worse still, he felt empty. It was almost as if he had died in the Submarine Repair Shipyard of Murmansk and had somehow returned to London as a ghost. Life was all around him but he wasn‟t a part of it. Even lying in his own bed, in his own house, he felt he no longer belonged.
So much had happened to him but he wasn‟t allowed to talk about it with anyone. He couldn‟t even tell Jack. She would be horrified and upset—and there was nothing she could do anyway.
He had missed more weeks of school and knew that it wasn‟t just the work he would have to catch up with. Friendships move on too. People already thought he was weird. It wouldn‟t be long before nobody was talking to him at all.
He would never have a father. He knew this now. He would never have an ordinary life.
Somehow, he had got himself trapped. A ghost. That was what he had become.
Alex hadn‟t heard the car stop behind him.
He hadn‟t heard the door open and close. But there were suddenly footsteps running up behind him and before he could move, a hand had been thrown around his chest.
He spun round. “Sabina!”
Sabina Pleasure was standing in front of him, panting after the short run, wearing a Robbie Williams T-shirt and jeans, a brightly coloured straw bag over her shoulder. Her face was lit up with pleasure. “Thank goodness I found you. I‟ve been after you for weeks. You never gave me your phone number but it‟s lucky I knew your address. Mum and Dad drove me over…” She gestured at her parents, sitting in the car. They both raised a hand, waving at Alex through the windscreen. “I was going to look in just in case you were at home. And here you are!” She looked at his neck, examining his bruises. “You look terrible! Have you been involved in a car smash?”
“Anyway, Alex,” she interrupted. “I‟m really pissed off with you. I saved your life in Cornwall, in case you don‟t remember—although I have to say that giving you the kiss of life on the beach was the high point of the holiday—and the next thing I knew, you‟d simply vanished. I didn‟t even get so much as a thank-you card.”
“Well, I was, sort of … busy.”
“Being James Bond, I suppose?”
“Well…” Alex didn‟t know what to say.
Sabina took his arm. “You can tell me all about it later. Mum and Dad have invited you to lunch and we want to talk about the South of France.”
“What about it?”
“That‟s where we‟re going this summer. And you‟re coming too. We‟ve got some friends who‟ve lent us a house and a pool and it‟s going to be great.” She looked closely at his face.
“Don‟t tell me you had other plans?”
Alex smiled. “No, Sabina, I haven‟t got any plans.”
“That‟s settled then. Now, what do you want for lunch? I fancy an Italian—but he‟s been ignoring me so you‟ll have to do!” She laughed.
Alex and Sabina walked down the street together. Alex glanced up. The clouds had parted and the sun was out.
It looked as if it was going to be a bright day after all.
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