Cole has Sumara, a girl ten years his junior, hidden in his basement. a blanket for cover and a shell, of many decades old, for luck, is all that is really her own. But how much luck will she have, however, when Cole's family are about to sell their house, and a poster appears, requesting any information about a couple's missing young girl?


4. Dinner at Tillerack's

Tillerack was our family name, but by the sign on the door in bright blue italics, and by the way it was manifested as the best, people would often mistake us for a guest house, or hotel which was run by a supremely rich and profound family. Plenty of times walkers-by, clad in their own miniature verson of expensive jewellery [ as opposed to my Mother, who had much too much of it to call for] would stop and ponder this sign, hands to their mouths, some of them uttering high pitched squeals. I supposed they thought this was something similar to Tiffany's and on my way back from school I would just shake my head on entering, having given up figuring out ways to remove it.

However, on this particular occasion, and on returning from the hidden beach where I had spent most of the day after school with Sumara, paddling and letting the coolness of the waves wash over our feet, holding hands and guiding each other, I came through the door to find my Mother, standing to within only a few inches from the door, staring at first the door handle, then at me. Her eyes were narrowed, long and slender fingers measuring her jaw-line. "Where have you been, Coleman?" she said. Slowly was the way she took her fingers off her jaw, and even slower was the way she stood, as if she had all the time in the world and of beyond if need be. I stood myself, sure that I looked guiltless, that I looked fine. I waited for her to say more, or to usher me upstairs. But it was only when she cocked her head to the side, loosening the tight form of her hairsprayed and polished hair, did I realise she was waiting for me to speak. I shrugged my shoulders, but before I could begin speaking mother grabbed my arm, marching and cutting off from the living room. she took me through the laundry and into the study room. Father's piles of textbooks and manuals were all over the desk, but Mother, letting me go to pull stacks off and onto the nearby armchair that already contained enough to fill the table, told me to sit down and stood, arms folded, in front of me. I sat down and dropped my bag beside me, wondering why she had sudden suspicions, why she felt a need to know where I had been, when before, as I returned from the beach countless times, she was either up in her room, music floating down the stair in an air of perfumery and nail polish, or she was sitting beside Father reading over his shoulders and would only acknowledge me with: "your dinner's in the kitchen". I began to think whether she did know about my visits, and if, by some chance, she knew about the little girl with the light blue blanket.

Mother sighed and I turned to the shelves as comfort from her presence. "You didn't answer my question before, where have you been?". The park" I said, pretending not to notice the sharp hissing of her voice and the tone that used to scare me. I wiped the spittle from my cheek. Mother gave a groan that she tried to conceal with a hand to her chest. "The park." muttered mother, as if she was not entirely sure what a park was. Then she straightened herself, and from her expression I saw the impatience and slight confusion. "I don't care where you've been Coleman, but do you know who we have in there? Do you know who is seated in our living room, discussing matters that could potentially concern you? Do you care? Oh, no, maybe you don't because if you had returned home early, like every sensible, intelligent young man, you would have been swept off your feet and paid enough respect to those that actually look after you. And the park is definitely not one of them" her voice was calm and controlled, and the composed form of her entire appearance made me feel inadequate. "I don't understand you, Mam".

Mother sat by on another chair, patting down the hair that was now looking chaotic. " A man, and a woman, Coleman. A rich couple here, discussing their new business venture. And do you know what it is? Well of course you don't, but it's a special school, for people to learn new skills, to acquire knowledge that has possibly never been taught or even discovered before".

"And what is that"?

"Well I don't know! What I do know is that they have started it already, and it has produced some wonderful results".

"Like what?"

"Now listen to me Coleman, I think you should just go upstairs, have a bath and change. And don't come down until the couple have gone, unless they want to have a look at-"

"Are you sending me there"?

"Yes. No. Look, stop asking such sensless questions".

I gazed at my mother. At her flustered skin and darting eyes. "What do they want, Mam"? I said coolly.

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing that requires you sitting there in that filthy uniform questioning me. Upstairs. Now" Mother replied, in a tone that signified utmost finality.

I did as I was told.


Upstairs, sitting on the long wooden bench beside the iron cupboard, was Addie. she was twisting a lock of hair around her forefinger and from her poised position I realised that her eyes had followed me all the way up. "So"? was what she said, looking at me expectantly.

I stopped, wondering why she wasn't downstairs along with supposedly everybody else. soaking up the envious atmosphere our guests were exuding. I decided to sidestep her question. "So not everybody's with our guests then" I said.

Addie cocked her head, confused. "I thought you were down there", she said.

I opened the door to my room and went inside, taking off my coat on the way. I put down my bag beside my bed. There was a golden scrunchie on the floor. Addie. Again. "No" I replied to her question, irritated. I went out and placed the scrunchie on the bench beside her. But her expression showed she hardly noticed.

"Why weren't you there"? I asked, though I already knew the answer:

A muttered "none of your business" and a frustrated march into her room.

The scrunchie was still on the bench.

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