Memory

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memory
ˈmɛm(ə)ri/
noun
1.
the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information.
"I've a great memory for faces"

Slippers and warm showers and melted butter on warm toast are lovely. I could stay in this place forever. But to get here I've had to claw my way through the worst.

I fell, two storeys, landing in a crumpled heap on the ground with the baby in my arms. The breath knocked out of me, I lay there wondering first if the child was alive and second if I'd broken anything. Drawing air back into my lungs, I lifted the baby away from my chest. No idea if it was a boy or a girl, but it was about two years old, and its eyes were open. The kid stared at me, silent, mouth agape and eyes wide, then it smiled.

The next few minutes blurred together. I'm not even sure what order they happened in anymore. Simons snatched the child away from me, drawing it in and limping away as fast as he could towards the woman, who was still unconscious on the ground. Marv was at my side, pulling me up with one arm - harder than you'd think, he said, when you're used to having two - and then we were there, in the alley, with the man we'd just assaulted. He looked from the ruins of his house to his child and back to us. I think he maybe couldn't decide whether to scream at us or thank us.

"We got to go now," Marv said.

As he pulled me away, I looked back at Simons and said "I'm sorry?" - I actually inflected it into a question at the end, which confused me probably as much as him.

We ran, hopping fences and pushing our way through bushes, leaping cars and smashing down gates. We ran until my legs were jelly and my lungs were on fire. And then we ran some more. House to house, in and out of cover, while the flying vehicle hovered in the sky above us, tracking us relentlessly with its spotlight. It wasn't firing, perhaps deciding that the collateral was already too great, but we were hardly getting away.

I'm terrified but I'm excited, adrenaline pouring into me. I'm eleven years old again, at school, being chased by the boys and thinking it was all fun and games. Through the playing fields, through the car park and behind the changing rooms. Slowing down a bit to let them catch me, knowing that one of them was the really cute one that had been glancing my way in class since the start of the year.

But I'm 19 now, and I raced through the streets of a foreign planet, running with a guy I hardly knew, pursued by forces I didn't understand, through a fancy suburban neighbourhood that couldn't be straighter if it tried. The people living on this street would have stories to tell each other during dinner parties and wine tastings for years to come.

"If they catch us," I said, gasping for air, "what's going to happen?"

"Badness," Marv said, "and then some. Stop talking, keep running."

He peeled off, heading right and away from the street, leaping a fence and emerging into another back garden. No swimming pool here, just a large ornamental flower bed and towering hedges sliced up to look like animals. I always forget what that's called.

"Where we going?"

"Away from the heat," Marv shouted back.

The thing about the changing rooms at my school is that round one side there was a gap between the wall of the building and the outer wall of the school grounds. There was one way in and out. That's where everyone went if they didn't want to be seen. Some of the older kids went there for a smoke, or their first snog. The younger kids, like me, generally stayed away because we didn't quite understand that stuff, or didn't want to get into trouble. This kid, Daniel, was super cute. That's what 11-year-old me thought, anyway. He and his friend run round the corner, see me waiting, and exchange grins. Daniel says something to the other kid, who disappears back round the corner. That was pretty normal - the older kids always posted someone to be a teacher lookout.

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