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Steve Savage Publishers Ltd
CoverComing Back to Life

Catherine Hume
sample extract...

'Tabitha, post for you.'

'I'll be out in a minute, Ben,' I called back to him. I hauled my cargo trousers on, ensuring the zips were closed, and then I opened my bedroom door. Ben's hair was still dishevelled from the right before, and he was wearing his boxers and freckles with weariness.

'You should've stayed in bed,' I told him.

'I need the money,' Ben replied.

'Stuff the money, you're wrecked.'

'We're not all as sought-after as you,' Ben said, which made me cringe inside. He had no idea. He went on, 'Some of us have to work our butts off to make ends meet. Anyway, here's your post.'

'Thanks,' I snatched the two envelopes from his outstretched hand and slammed my bedroom door. I grabbed my big, funky red, unisex trainers from the bottom of the wardrobe, careful to not dislodge the arrangement of clear plastic wallets that contained documents of research and Indian rupees.

As I tugged on a pair of socks and the trainers, I heard shouting. I couldn't distinguish the words, but the tone was violent, and seemed to shake the warehouse.

I put the memory aside and made my way down to the bistro quietly. Ben and I were the only two awake, as it was our turn to open up. Everyone else was sleeping off the night before. O'Malley's had been open until four o'clock this morning as we had been commemorating the D-Day Landings and celebrating everything that meant. Four veterans had even honoured us with their presence, having heard of our night of celebration, and they had left me in awe. I hadn't been able to talk to them, but they still amazed me. I felt very privileged.

Going to the effort of hardly making a sound as I tiptoed along the hallway, then down the stairs -- keeping close to the wall affected me. As I inhaled, a stress pain hit my stomach. It had reminded me of the past -- of hiding.

Downstairs in O'Malley's, I left the two envelopes behind the bar for later, and began to take down the chairs from the tabletops. Ben was quietly clattering away in the kitchen, setting out crockery and preparing the plates of scones and slices of cakes. The metal teapots stood alert with their lids open on their hinges, ready for the customers who were guaranteed to pile into O'Malley's at eleven o'clock.

I went to the kitchen to get a wet cloth with which I would wipe down the tables. Ben turned around from where he was standing at the counter with a knife and lettuce.

'Tabitha, have you seen the soda bread?' he asked.

'In the frigo sous l'escalier,' I replied, without looking up from where I was crouching by the open cupboard under the sink.

'In the where?'

'Sorry.' I realised my mistake. I took a cloth, stood up and closed the cupboard door and repeated, 'In the fridge under the stairs.'

'Are you OK?' Ben asked.

'Je le souhais,' I replied and walked off with the wet cloth. I took the two envelopes with me and kept them in my right hand as I wiped the tables down with the blue cloth. Things would have been different if I had been different and allowed to live in the country I was born in. But life had happened, politics had happened. I miss Marseille.

At the final table by the stage, I threw down the cloth and flopped down into the chair I always took. The first envelope was torn open with ease, and I read the contents, enraged.

I retrieved my mobile phone from the deep left pocket of my cargo trousers, and dialled the number at the top of the letter. It took over two minutes for my call to come to the front of the queue.