Chapter 1: The end of the beginning..

By Sarah O’Brien

Sam opened his tired eyes again, the ceiling hazily looked down on him, a mirage of peeling white paint. He cleared his throat awkwardly, feeling the roughness of the night before and tried to sit up. As he reached out to pull the crumby moth-eaten blanket off, he noticed a shadow at the door.

Lottie stood there, her dishevelled dark hair shoved hastily in a topknot, eyes bleary and unwilling to meet his. On her arm was a bruise the size of a two euro coin. The cigarette she held was unlit.

As Sam looked at her, he realized there was a low but audible hum coming from next door, straining to hear the words, he wondered who it was. He bowed his head for a moment- cradling it ever so gently, using his thumb and index finger to trace the little pulsing sensation he still felt along the ridge of his forehead.

Wordlessly Lottie approached the bed and climbed in. Her thin little body seemed even more fragile than usual. Sam wondered how they had ever come to be. As her slender wrist snaked around his arm, he suddenly felt sad. Sam sat there a few moments longer, resisting the urge to fall back to sleep, a sleep if he was honest he might not want to wake up from. Sliding away from her grasp, he rolled from the bed, gasping as his feet came into contact with the bare concrete.

The debris on the floor crumbed under his feet as he crossed the room. He quickly did up the fly of his old jeans and threw on two odd threadbare socks. He caught sight of his reflection in the old antique dresser mirror that stood haphazardly pushed up against the peeling door frame.

His body looked distorted, strange. Sam traced the line from his angular collar bone right down to his hip noting the many nodules he felt on the journey as several ribs poked uneasily out of hiding and looked unabashedly back at him. Wincing he tried to remain calm, smothering the urge to scream.

He bent down and removed the bottom drawer of the dresser and reached inside. His heart raced, hoping against hope as he did every morning that it was still there. Sam heard the scurrying, chirping sound of mice as he felt his way blindly into the little hole he had made in the wall behind the dresser all those months ago.

As his hand touched the comforting grain, he knew the box was still there and he was safe. Sam breathed a sigh of relief. He noticed once more the low audible murmur coming from the other room. Pressing his ear up against the rough pine door,the knots in the wood scratching his cheek, he tried to listen intently but was repeatedly distracted by the soft mutterings coming from the bed. Lottie was finally asleep.

Sam walked over to her, watched her small shattered frame engulfed in that same moth-eaten blanket, her hand curved protectively around the fabric. Sam wondered about the bruise on her arm, where had it come from?

He looked at her and picked up the pillow case, why not end it for her, for both of them, there was too much suffering he thought, better he end it now than hang on to this half-life existence. Lost in his thoughts, pillow in hand hovering over Lottie’s bruised body, he felt a tear escape and leak down the side of his face. It splashed onto her cheek, running onto the blanket.

Sam thought of how he’d come to know Lottie Jefferies, some college party a lifetime ago. They’d sat on the stairs all night talking about everything and nothing. That had seemed so important then, until the pale light of the morning streamed in and ushered them homeward.

Sam remembered walking her home. Watching her as she carelessly brushed the dewy grass and held the moisture to her lips. Lottie. She enraptured him, amazed him- and yet now they had become this, it had come to this.

He smiled sadly as he remembered her and decided that was how he always would remember her, as the bright young thing, not this..nothing, she..they both had become. Pillow still in hand, Sam resolved himself to their ill faith. His heart jolted as he realized Lottie’s eyes were open. Wordlessly she looked at him, without accusation. She was tired. So so tired of it all.

The tears came now hot and heavy, cascading down Sam’s cheek. He reached for her as he dropped the pillow. ”I’m so sorry”, he cried, yearning for the forgiveness that could only come from the comfort of her body. Lottie reached out and held him to her bosom. Rocking him like a child, Sam cried. He cried for them both. In desperation they lay like that for some time, dozing half awake half dreaming. Feeling the comfort of the heat between their two bodies and letting it wash over them both, giving them an endless sense of peace…

Suddenly there was a loud clatter. Sam started, wiping his eyes of sleep he listened out for the noise again holding a finger to his lips signalling Lottie to be still. He slowly climbed down from the bed, inching his way across the dank room over to the windowsill. The heavy yellowing lace net curtain was all that stood between them and the outside world. The loud bang came again.

As Sam pulled back the moth eaten lace, he saw there was a black town car outside the derelict apartment block. A tall pale faced gentleman had gotten out, followed by younger fair haired man dressed in a suit. They looked to be having a heated discussion. Sam watched them carefully noting peculiar details about the unlikely duo.

Just then one of the tinted out car windows rolled down. An elderly gentleman sat in the back seat of the vehicle. He looked at his pocket watch with dissatisfaction and glanced up at the top window catching the younger man’s eye, Sam felt sick. He lept back from the window fearing the net curtain might not have been enough to disguise him after all.

Sam remained pressed against the bare wall, fingertips digging into the side of the windowsill causing flakes of paint to break off, degrading the finish further. He clinched his eyes tightly together for a moment, hoping against hope that the men outside weren’t there for him, but at the same time knowing that they might be-they could have found him.

Sam opened his eyes and peered around the curtain once more, the three men were still there. The elderly man was on his phone now, barking instructions. Sam listened intently, catching the word, squatter. His heart filled with relief. If that’s what they wanted him for then he was a happy man. They could just pack up their precious few belongings and move on again. It was nearly time.

Feeling almost euphoric, Sam turned to tell Lottie the good news. Just then there came another loud bang- the sound of a small explosion and a door giving way. ”It’s Craft, approach with caution”, muttered the elderly man into his phone. Sam felt sick. How did they know, how had they found him. Sam scrambled for the dresser ripped out the bottom drawer and reached desperately into the hole. Grabbing the box,he yanked it open and threw the contents onto the ground. Pulling out the 45. He quickly loaded it and snapped it shut throwing the colt over to Lottie.

Grabbing the velvet pouch that had fallen free, Sam haphazardly refilled the contents of the box shoved it back into its hiding place and replaced the dresser drawer. Beckoning for her to follow him, he made his way over to the bedroom door. Lottie stared at him, brown eyes wide with fear. Her sockets resembled two black holes, months of exhaustion etched across her face.

Sam noticed the smudges under her eyes and took in her thin and shrivelled appearance once more. It had aged her hugely and he knew it was because of him. That it was all because of him. Thinking back to the deplorable act he was seemingly ready to commit against her moments ago, Sam shuddered. This had gone on for too long. He’d end Lotties’s misery one way or another.

Read Chapter 2: Meeting the Digbys

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