Absolution Chapter three

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I want to thank the the Beta Bells as I call my band of girls. This story is a little bit of a slow burner because I wanted to tie up some loose ends and I also wanted to make the Alex character a little more easy to understand.

Comments welcome as ever.

Chapter 3  

There were certain things that John neither took for granted nor did not enjoy when he returned from being away. Working as he did in the more remote parts of the world, he never used the term 'third world;' he had quickly learned it was the basics that counted. Water, he thought, was the most important natural resource in the world and yet so many of the places where he was sent had no clean water. One of the greatest pleasures he had on returning to England was drinking a glass of ice cold water straight from the tap, free from the lukewarm chemical taste of the purifying tablets that were an essential part of keeping a soldier healthy. He was already on his third glass; funny, there was a time when he rarely drank water, preferring Vodka. He wasn't sure if he'd drunk to forget what had happened in Iraq or to help him get through what his life had become. Had he been an alcoholic? Not quite, but he had certainly drunk way more than the government recommended. Katie's kidnapping had changed that; now, given As'ad's presence in the UK and Hugh Collinson's death, he had come full circle.

The rhythmic patter of water running reminded him that he had switched the shower on. Finishing his water, he walked through to the shower room, a space so small it contravened the trade subscription act. Room, he thought wryly; a cupboard would be more apt. Pausing to peel off his clothes, he stepped beneath the steaming spray. Hot water was another luxury he had learned to go without when he was away. As the jets of hot water cascaded down over him, washing away the weeks of ground-in sand, dirt, and sweat, he felt the tension slip from his shoulders. Glancing down at his battle-scared body ,he realised on his latest mission he had sustained no new injury. Grabbing the shampoo before the temperamental shower decided to change the temperature of its own accord to cold, he scrubbed his dark hair. It was not just his personal hygiene that needed attention, he thought; he was well overdue for a haircut. After years of looking like a scarecrow, he had started to take a lot more pride in his appearance. The humiliation of discovering that his first time with Danni had been because the service felt he had low esteem, and-how had Layla put it?-"needed to have a shag" had awoken him, and he had cleaned up his appearance, bought some new clothes, shaved regularly, and, most importantly, got a decent haircut.

Danni. He admitted he was a little puzzled, as well as miffed, as to why she had asked for a transfer. After their less than auspicious start, he'd felt that they had something good going. Was it him or the job she wanted to get away from? He'd asked Layla what had been behind the transfer request, but she had not been very forthcoming. Maybe later he'd get the answers to the questions he had. Surprisingly Danni had answered his phone call and agreed to meet him.

The call to Danni wasn't the only one he'd made; his first thought had been to let Alex know he was home and safe. Disappointment warred with pride as he admitted he had missed his daughter. Her decision to spend her gap year working for an Oxfam had taken him by surprise; stunned him, in fact. Since her mother's death, she had been adrift, so deciding to work for Oxfam had come out of the blue. She sounded so good when he spoke to her, alive and vital; her enthusiasm for what she was doing had been infectious. The only thing that worried him was where she was: Columbia. He sighed; he supposed there were more troubled areas to which she could have been sent. He knew there was a time when a parent had to let a child go, but it felt like he had only just found her. He'd made so many mistakes with Alex over the years. Too many times he had not been there for her. He knew he wasn't entirely to blame; his wife, Diane, had played her part as well, but he should, and could, have insisted on more contact with his daughter. Glancing around at the grotty bed sit, he made a decision. This had to change as well; the place was a dump and he no longer needed to live here. He could afford something better, somewhere he could call home, a place to which Alex could return. Maybe now the pair of them could start with a clean slate. The enquiry would set the record straight and then maybe he would once again be the hero he'd once been to his daughter. He smiled wryly; that was an unrealistic aspiration. Alex wasn't a little girl with rose-coloured spectacles about her own action man soldier Daddy. She was a beautiful, sassy young lady who was well aware of his failings. All the same, things between them seemed to be improving and he prayed nothing would jeopardise the progress they had made since Diane's death.

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