Eye Contact

Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill

Book: Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Fergus McNeill
yesterday evening so tonight would be pasta – eating the same meal on consecutive nights made him feel uncomfortable about himself. He turned the oven on and slid in a piece of French bread to warm, then placed a pan of water on the stove. Even when his appetite deserted him, he made himself go through the ritual – cooking passed valuable time.
    When it was ready, he sat at the kitchen table with his food, a book and a single glass of wine – he knew better than to risk more when he was in this sort of mood – reading until the light from the windows began to fail.
    After the washing-up was done, he took what was left in his glass and stood in the back garden to smoke: Alice had never liked the smell of smoke in the house. It was dark now, and over the distant rumble of the city he could hear a girl laughing in the next street. Frowning, he went inside.
    By eleven, it was becoming difficult to stay awake. Wearily he climbed the stairs and went to the bathroom, then walked along the landing, past the closed bedroom door and on into the spare room. He hung his jacket in the single wardrobe and dropped his clothes in the wicker basket, then gathered up the duvet and pillows and went downstairs.
    The sofa bed opened out with a metallic creak and he arranged his bedding in the usual way before turning off the main lights. Settling down, he made himself comfortable, put the TV on timer and concentrated on the programme even though his eyelids were heavy. There was nothing on, just a documentary about architecture, but it didn’t matter. Anything, so long as his mind didn’t wander. This was how he survived, forcing himself to watch until, eventually, sleep claimed him and granted him peace.

part 2
SOUTH DOWNS

12
Wednesday, 13 June
    It was difficult to see over the dashboard so he lay back into the seat, gazing up and out of the windscreen, watching sunlight flicker down through the trees. The motion of the car was comforting, with the steady rumble of the road beneath them as tall buildings slid gently by. And then they were slowing down, the
tick tick
of the indicator sounding as they pulled in to the side of the road.
    They had stopped again. He looked up at his father sitting beside him, staring straight ahead with a blank expression. For a long moment they sat in dreadful silence, until a motorbike roared by, breaking the spell. With a deep breath, his father got out of the car and came round to open the passenger door.
    It was a warm day and the pavement looked pale and dusty as they walked along. A cat was sitting in the sun, just a few steps into someone’s driveway, but his father hurried him on down the street – there was no time for stroking cats today. No time for anything.
    They came to another telegraph pole – the same splintered grey wood as all the others. His father pulled out a piece of white paper, carefully covered in polythene, and began fixing it to the pole with drawing pins, his face an unfamiliar mask of fear as he smoothed down the clear film and pressed home the last pin.
    Another one done. Large, uneven capital letters at the top of the sheet, telephone number along the bottom . . . and the dark, photocopied face in the middle.
    He stared up at the face smiling out through the polythene in clean school uniform and smartly combed hair. It was the same photo that usually sat on the shelf above the fireplace at home. It was a photo of his big brother.
    ‘Come on.’
    A large hand reached down to take his and led him back towards the car. The door was held open for him and he climbed in, settling back in the seat once more. A moment later, his father got in and wearily reached across him, grasping the seat belt and pulling it over. It felt tight, pinning him down into his seat. There was a click as the belt clip snapped into the slot, and he looked up. His father was staring at him, the expression slowly changing from worry to puzzlement . . .
    ‘Sir?’
    Naysmith opened his eyes. Everything

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