Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Book: Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Jennifer Payne
office.” She stands up. “Excuse me for a moment. I need to see what Angel is up to. Boys can get into such mischief, you know.” She glances at Jermaine as she speaks.
    â€œActually, I’ll take that orange squash after all. Please,” he says.
    â€œOf course. I’ll be just a minute. Please, make yourselves at home.”
    As soon as Cristina is out of sight, Jermaine grabs me by the fleshy part of my upper arm.
    â€œOw! What are you doing?” I snap. “Playing lobster?”
    â€œShhh,” Jermaine says, placing a finger to his lips. He leans in closer. “We gotta go. You told her way too much. This lady is already concerned that your mum needed to work under the table ’cos that’s illegal. And now she finds out your mum’s disappeared and you’ve turned up at her flat.”
    â€œSo what?” I say, rubbing my biceps. I’m still angry about my arm and the news I’ve received from Cristina has only convinced me more that something terrible has happened to Mom.
    â€œSo, this woman might already be in it up to her neck for employing illegals like your mum and then if the police find out she knew about you and didn’t do the right thing by telling them or social services, she’ll get it even worse.”
    â€œMom isn’t an illegal immigrant. She’s got a British passport.”
    â€œDon’t be daft, Edie. Who cares about that? That woman is likely on the phone right now,” he says. “Let’s go!”
    Jermaine pulls me up from the sofa and this time I’m more than happy to follow. If he is even half right in his predictions, we’re in trouble. It was stupid of me to have said anything about Mom going missing.
    Cristina’s son appears in the doorway to the kitchen again. This time he’s clutching a glass of orange drink in his small hand.
    â€œWhere are you going?” he asks, his voice filling with disappointment. “I made this for your friend.” He holds out the glass.
    â€œSorry, just remembered that we’re supposed to be somewhere,” I say, over my shoulder. Jermaine is already at the stairs, descending them two at a time.
    â€œMummy! They’re leaving!” Angel cries.
    I begin to leap down the stairs, keeping my eyes locked on Jermaine’s back, praying my feet don’t miss a step. Jermaine has already reached the front door and is fumbling with the latch, his fingers clumsy with panic.
    I hear commotion above us. Angel’s cries of dismay mix with his mother’s angry voice. Blood pounds in my ears.
    Suddenly the latch clicks and Jermaine twists the door open with his left hand while grabbing my wrist with his right.
    â€œWait right there!” Cristina shouts from behind me. I can’t tell if she’s already on the stairs.
    Jermaine pulls me through the door then slams it shut with a single, backward kick. We immediately break into a frantic run, our trainer-clad feet slapping up and down on the sidewalk.
    A curtain of misty rain wraps itself around us as we continue running without saying a word for what seems like forever. My chest burns and I feel faint, but continue following Jermaine. We reach the high street and continue our mad dash: weaving in and around hand-holding couples, mothers pushing their newborns in strollers, and red-faced joggers. Jermaine leads us back past the Docklands station and down toward the water where we finally slow our pace.
    â€œJust to be safe, let’s hang here for a few minutes,” Jermaine says, making his way down a set of stone steps to the locks. Below the locks, the murky waters of the Thames wind their way toward the heart of London.
    The rain begins to fall harder, making the steps more slippery and treacherous than I would like. A sign posted on the black, wrought-iron rails warns pedestrians about the dangers of walking along the water’s edge. That makes me slow down even more.

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