When I awake the next morning, Marc-Antoine is not in the room. At first I suppose he’s gotten up early, grabbed a coffee and gone out to photograph some edifice in the morning light. But then I recall that he stayed at the pub after me, and would likely be tired and hung over.
Then last night floods back, all the details. My frustration. Our quarrel. His cruel words. I sit up and rub my sleepy eyes. They are swollen and hot from crying myself to sleep. Again. I should grow a thicker skin. Or fall in love with someone who’s not a self-centred, moody artist. Probably he’s pissed with me for being so high-maintenance.
My eyes are drawn to a sheet of paper from Marc’s sketch book lying on the floor near the door. I can see his dark, boxy lettering, and, with my scalp tingling, I rise, shuffle over and pick it up.
Don’t worry about me. You want independence, you have a little taste. Enjoy yourself in York for a couple days. See some viking. I get a ride with Annika and Vulf. We don’t bore you with our ARCHITECTURE stuff. I come back and take you to Stratford and Bath like you want.
X - Marc-Antoine
Oh, Marc. What have you done?
I blink and look around, my breath stopped. He came back? And left? I see that his backpack is gone. No wait! My heartbeat is suddenly fast and hard, thwapping against my ribcage like a trapped bird. I crouch on my haunches and grab the backpack that’s on the floor by the bed. The one without the green ribbon. This is his backpack!
I whip my head back and forth, scramble to search under the bed. My backpack is gone. I rip his open and search, yanking out t-shirts, boxers, shaving kit, tossing them onto the bed. In the bottom, a spare pair of black jeans, a cotton turtleneck. Nothing else.
My legs wobble and I sink down to the floor. There’s a roaring in my ears. He keeps his money and passport in his money belt. I keep mine in my backpack-- I set his down, my hands shaking—remembering the extra emergency cash Dad passed to me the night before I left home, along with his words…
I’m disappointed in you, Sophie. I’m still hoping you’ll come around by morning. But if you insist on going, well… Take this. He pressed a blank envelope towards me. I could feel a thick wad of bills inside. I don’t want any harm to come to my little girl. He turned to go, then over his shoulder he said, oh-- Don’t mention it to your Mother, eh?
Mom would have had a fit if she knew. She was hysterical that I dared go travelling without their permission. And worse, that I would leave with someone who they despised. That old wound barely hurt anymore. My face and ears are hot, my throat tightening as tears build up and overflow. There was something about Marc-Antoine they just couldn’t tolerate, and he was the subject of many, many arguments over the past two years. It burned that they didn’t trust my judgement about men, or about anything else. They couldn’t trust me to take care of myself.
But I trust Marc. Sure he can be selfish and impulsive. But he loves me. Once he realizes he has my passport and money, he’ll hurry back. Won’t he?
The yellow-brick York police station on Acomb Road is a tiny little dive of a place. Obviously this isn’t the main station. I can see bars through the archway behind the beat up front desk. It looks like they have just one cell, enough to contain the occasional delinquent or temporarily lost soul. My problem is not a lost soul, however, but a lost person. Marc-Antoine.
“Pardon me?” I say, squinting, as though this might improve my hearing.
This crazy Yorkshire dialect is giving me a migraine.
A heavy-set grizzled cop leans back and props his booted feet on his desk, repeats some indecipherable jibberish. All aahs and oehs and ems. Like a gutteral sing-song.
My eyes slide over to the younger cop, with his traditional bobby hat and underbite, who’s standing over a clipboard at the front counter. “Pardon?”
“He could come back any time. There’s nowt we can do for a week,” he translates.
I’ll starve! “Yes, but maybe he… What if he can’t come back? He might have been mugged. It happens to tourists all the time.” Who were those student he left with? I shake my head, hopelessly. “If you don’t look for him…”
The old cop glowers at me through his prickly brows, his nostrils flaring, impatient, and he shuffles his papers, muttering.
He reminds me of my uncle Adrian, crossed with my Dad. Tall and big boned and totally master of his world, to the extent that you can’t get a word in edgewise. Except for his speech. My own family, at least, I can understand. I answer with a blank stare at his assistant.
“’E says we can’t file t’missing person’s report if he’s left you a note. But we’ve made a record of it. Go home, we’ll contact you if we hear anything about yer boyfriend, lass,” says the younger cop.
“But it’s been more than three days. He said he’d be back in a couple of days!” The note of hysteria builds in my voice. They’re actually not going to help me. I don’t believe it.
He shrugs. “Can you leave a number to call?”
“I’m at the Youth hostel, the one on Water End? But I can’t stay there long. I have no money. Marc-Antoine took all my stuff! I had hundreds of pounds, a train pass, airfare home. And a passport!”
“But ye won’t report a theft,” deadpans the bobbie.
“Because it was an accident!”
The old cop grunts and rises from his desk, stepping around the counter. He leans back with his arms across his brass-buttoned barreled chest. “Aye, aye, an so tha said. If Ah was tha fayther, lass--”
I grit my teeth, my exasperated breath huffing through my nose, and glare at him. “I’m not a child!”
He stops speaking and scowls at my insubordination.
I blink and roll my swimming eyes up at the glaring fluorescent lights suspended from the ceiling of the Spartan police station, and take a deep breath. I won’t cry in front of them.
He’s not totally unsympathetic. He pats a big heavy paw on my shoulder, and it feels like I’ve been hit with a ham. “Tha must call up thy fayther and mam and get money fra ther an’ get thissel doon t’igh Commission in Londontoon.” He nods once, a punctuation mark.
Thank you very much! Clearly he doesn’t understand my predicament.
“I can’t call my parents.” I bite my lip. “I…uh, they’re away right now. On a trip.” I won’t call them for help. Not a chance!
He shakes his head, frowning and yanking on his long twisting grey brows. “It cap owt.” He turns to the younger guy. “Am gan yam, Joe, lad. Shut t’wood in t‘oil.” He hooks his hat on his head and ambles down the back corridor.
“Aye, chief. Good neet.”
“What did he say?” I ask. I’m not sure he hasn’t called me a rude name.
He turns back to me. “’E said ‘e was goin’ home and to lock up. Don’t worrit, lass, summit’ll come up. You’ll see.”
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