55. Dream Away

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Midnight sunshine silent thunder
Sky as black as day
Only a dream away


I run to the back gate, crashing into it. As my fingers fiddle with the bolt, trying to open it, I have a moment of clarity. It can only be a second or two, maybe not even that long, but I suddenly realise - running away has never helped. It's never actually allowed me to escape whatever I have been running away from. The things have stayed with me. They've haunted me; in my dreams and when I'm awake. They've stopped me from being happy, from doing what I want to do and from what I should do. And they follow me, anyway. Wherever I run to, they still follow me there.

Here I am, running away again. Scared again. Running away, instead of doing what I should do. If I run away now, I know it will be no different than any other time. I will still be haunted by what I've just seen. I will wonder what would have happened if I'd just stayed - been brave, stood up for myself and for him.

I turn back towards the house. The sun is behind it, obscured by the chimney stack and sending out dazzling rays. I have to raise my hand to shield my eyes to see it, but it's still only a silhouette. A shape, tall and narrow and sandwiched between identical red brick constructions.

I step back into the shadow of the house in Golders Green.

*

I drop my holdall bag onto the floor of the living room of the flat with a heavy thunk. It's the same bag as I took to West Bay. It still holds the same clothes I took there, I haven't bothered unpacking it. I hastily shoved some more things in on top, clean clothes on top of those I need to wash after the weekend. It was heavier than ever to lug across the city to St John's Wood.

George looks at the bag, unzipped, its contents spilling out and then up at me. He sits cross legged on the sofa, holding a jumbo acoustic guitar on his lap.

'What's that?' he asks.

'A bag of clothes.' I sit down on the sofa next to him.

George plucks a couple more notes on his guitar, bending his head over the strings. It has flowers etched across the scratch plate and a yellowy-orange sunburst body. It's so big he has to wrap his whole arm around it to reach the strings. It's new, I think. I haven't seen it before.

He doesn't ask, so I tell him. 'I've moved out. Kind of. I'm going to be staying here, at the flat.'

George nods. Strums a bit more. I would have expected a little bit more of a reaction.

'I couldn't bring much. Only what I could carry.'

'Yeah.'

'I haven't told him properly yet, that I'm leaving him. Because you said to wait. So I have. I've brought some stuff here, but not so much that he'll notice and think I'm never coming back.'

'Okay.'

George starts playing the guitar properly, loudly. It's a tune I don't recognise, maybe one of his own compositions.

'George?' I say, but my voice is lost in the music.

I wait a couple of minutes, but it doesn't appear as if George is planning on stopping anytime soon. Impatient, I lean over and wrap my hand over the fretboard. He glances up at me, annoyed.

'Is that all you have to say?' I ask.

'What?' he replies, innocently.

'"Yeah, okay..."' I repeat, mimicking him. 'Aren't you happy I've done it? Moved in here? For now, at least.' After I really didn't want to, I add in my head. I wanted to avoid being in this situation. Being George's kept woman, waiting for him at a lonely flat in North London.

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