Chapter 18

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I hunt around the house for some more water. There are loads of bottles in the fridge and it's mostly melted so it's like a slushy sort of drink. I take one out, shake it and open the microwave, praying that there's electricity. It's been a few days. They should have been able to get the power up and running again.

The microwave hums. I was right.

I wait a few seconds so the rest of the water can melt but it doesn't heat. Then I carry it up the stairs but then stop at the doorway. Joshua is bent over Maisie and he's singing softly, some sort of lullaby.

I feel washed away by his sweet deep voice that soothes me even though it isn't meant for me. He finishes on the last note and looks up, blinking.

I enter the room calmly as though I didn't just listen to that. I can feel Joshua's gaze on me as I open the bottle and pour some into Maisie's mouth. She's awake now and she's opening her mouth wider for more water. I trickle some in.

"You heard me singing," Joshua guesses. I don't reply straight away because it's hard to think of something to say to that.

"It was beautiful," I say eventually. "Really, it was."

I imagine him smiling but I don't turn around. Instead, I set the bottle down. His hand touches my hair at the back of my head, brushing it to one side. I feel shaky at his touch because it's like sparks.

"Beautiful," he murmurs. "Just like you."

I turn to face him. He looks awed, like I'm some sort of angel. That makes me frown. There's a sense that he's trying too hard, like this has come about too quickly. But I can't tell him that. God knows what he'd do then. So, instead I think of a reasonably plausible answer.

"Not now," I say before jerking my head to Maisie and Mum. "We have more important stuff on our hands."

He nods and composes himself. Maisie's cry pierces the silence.

"More water!" she exclaims. I reach out for the bottle but Joshua grabs it first. He nods to me.

"I'll do it. You check up on your Mum."

I do as he says and crawl over to Mum. She's fallen asleep and there's a single strand of hair on her face. I brush it away so it won't disturb her as she sleeps so peacefully.

I then grab the rucksack of food and tear open a sausage roll. Then I slowly rouse Mum from her slumber and she groans, blinking.

"Hey, Mum," I whisper. "How are you doing?"

"Tired," she moans. "And hungry."

I hand her sausage roll and she begins attacking it like a lioness eating a gazelle. I nudge the rucksack towards her and she rummages through, pulling out different bits of food.

"Oh, heavens!" she exclaims. "Where did you get all of this stuff?"

I glance uneasily at Josh. Mum's eyes follow mine to him.

"Amelia?" Mum says sharply. "Who's this?"

I feel a tight lump in my throat. "Mum. He's a friend—Joshua. He helped me."

Mum eyes him a slight suspicion before going back to her food-hunting. I glance at Joshua. He replies with a weak smile, ducks his head and gulps down some water. He drinks too much and ends up spilling it all over himself.

"Whoops," he mutters. Then he mops himself up and draws his shirt to his nose. I frown, wondering why he's doing that.

"Oooh," he mumbles. "Smells just like lavender."

The way he says it makes me crack up. He begins laughing too. He has a nice laugh—it sounds pure and it's like he's truly finding something funny. And then, for some reason, I have those four words stuck in my head. This time, though, I have an answer.

Beautiful. Just like you.

Liar, I reply. Just like you.

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