Chapter 1: Prologue
Manchester, UK, 1988
The house was oddly quiet when he woke up.
Blinking, he slowly sat up in his bed. It was morning – the light coming through the window proved as much. But there were no clothes waiting for him; no scent of a breakfast coming from the kitchen; no sound from any of the other rooms. It was as if his parents were still asleep, even though they should have been awake by then.
Maybe they went to work. Even though they stopped their research, they still went to the university every now and then. He wasn’t sure why, but they did.
He got up and picked up a pair of trousers and a shirt from his closet. He dressed up, still wondering about the whereabouts of his parents, and then walked out of his room, towards his parents’ bedroom. He slept there with them occasionally, although mostly before they started doing everything he said. Now, if he was scared, they’d come and stay in his room.
He stepped into the room to find the bed untouched. The blanket was stretched over the mattress and the pillows were puffed; there was no sign anyone had slept there.
Maybe they went to the hospital? He gave the idea a brief thought. It was possible, of course. The iron was hot and hurt his mother; he saw it on her face. He regretted telling her to do it as soon as she screamed, but by the look on his father’s face, it was too late. Maybe when they come back they could go out, and he would make her see how sorry he is.
He quite liked that idea.
When he went to bed that night, he knew they would never come back. He stayed at home all day long, waiting for them, thinking about what he could do for his mother. Even though a part of him claimed she got what she deserved after torturing him, he was mostly upset about hurting her. She was his mother, after all, and he loved her.
But they didn’t come back. He was all alone. He found snacks in the cupboard to eat while he was waiting, but as the day went by, he realised that had they gone to the hospital, they’d have been back already. A long time ago.
When the afternoon turned into evening, he went back upstairs and opened his parents’ closets. They were all empty. The suitcases that used to stand by the door were gone, too. And yet he still hung onto the hope that maybe they would still be back. Maybe they would realise they’d forgotten him and would come back for him.
But when he went to bed, he knew that wouldn’t happen. They were gone.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
I do apologise it took so long, but I really wanted to go over this chapter before posting it, and I only now got the time. Hope you like it. Thank you for the encouragement so far xo
Manchester, UK, 1988
He didn't really know where he was going.
The streets of Manchester were familiar, but with no destination in mind, he quickly lost his way. Not that it mattered in any way; he had nowhere to go and no intention of going back home. He took everything that mattered when he left; the rest was expendable.
He woke up hungry that morning. He took the last of the snacks and then went over the house, looking for anything valuable. Now, after a night's sleep, the sadness and regret were gone, instead being replaced by rage. He couldn't believe they'd really left him. As if it wasn't enough that they tortured him, now they just walked away? A tiny part of him tried to argue that maybe they'd be back, or maybe they had a good reason, but he shut it off. There was no place for it anymore.
He didn't find much. They'd already taken valuable, except some money and the few valuables he had in his room. He shoved them and the recordings of the experiments into a small backpack, took his favourite Eric Brantford shirt, and left the house.
Right around the corner there was a café. His parents used to take him there after the rugby games. They'd go to the university and watch the game, and when they came back, they'd always stop at the café. His father would order him a cake.
He didn't intend to stop, but when he saw the cake in the showcase, he suddenly fancied a piece. So he walked in, hoping it wouldn't matter that he's a child and he doesn't have any money. Maybe the man standing by the coffee machine would be nice to him and give it to him for free.
So he stopped by the counter and stood on the tip of his toes. The man came closer, looking at him curiously.
"Are you lost, son?" He asked.
Kevin shook his head. Could he be lost if he wasn't going anywhere? He wasn't sure. "I want a piece of that cake," He said, pointing at the cake.
To his surprise, the man walked towards the showcase and brought the cake to the counter. He cut a piece and placed it on a simple white plate. He then handed it to Kevin along with a spoon and watched as he took it to a nearby table and sat down. He ate silently, enjoying every bite of the cake, watching the people outside.
When he finished, he got up and turned to leave. That's when the man stopped him, sounding a bit angry.
"Aren't you forgetting something, son?" He asked, quickly going around the counter and towards Kevin.
The boy looked at the table where he ate. He'd taken his backpack when he got up. The only things he left there were the plate and the spoon.
"No," He said, looking back at the man.
Suddenly, the man relaxed. "Have a great day," He said, smiling at him. Kevin nodded back politely and left, leaving the confused cashier behind him.
Three hours later, he was still walking in the streets. A few people stopped him to ask if he's lost or in need of help, but he shook them off. He didn't need some strangers' help. The truth was he didn't even know what he needed.
He briefly considered going to the university. He wasn't sure where he was, but he had no doubt he could find his way there. The University of Manchester wasn't exactly hidden away. Any one of the cabs he saw on his way would be able to take him there.
Maybe they would be able to tell him where his parents were.
Even though he was still angry, a part of him was feeling a bit lonely. He didn't have any friends to go to; his whole life was spent either in the university or at home. His parents were the only people he'd ever known. There was no grandmother, no grandfather, no other relative he could go to. He was certain there was a family, but his parents never talked about them. All they talked about was the experiments.
Thinking about the experiments only made him angrier. They used him. His entire life, they used him, tortured him, and now they just left him. Abandoned him, all on his own. He hated them for it.
He sat down on a bench, looking at the street. It was much easier to hate them when he wasn't alone.
He felt a sudden pang of sadness. In spite of all, he did miss them.
Maybe the university was his best bet.
He stopped the first cab he saw. The cabbie glanced at him through the mirror, looking a bit confused to see a ten-year-old on his own. He wasn't quite sure how to act; he rarely talked to someone who wasn't either one of his parents.
So he did what he knew.
"To the University of Manchester," He said, looking back at the driver through the mirror.
The cabbie's expression cleared. He nodded briefly and drove away.
Kevin turned to face the window. The city flew by, familiar streets following unfamiliar ones, but he wasn't paying attention. He was thinking. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to find his parents. He wasn't sure what he wanted to find.
"University of Manchester," The cabbie announced, cutting his thoughts off.
Kevin looked up. In front of him waited the entrance he knew as well as the entrance to his home. He could feel his heart beating faster. Even though he hasn't been to any of the labs in a couple of years, just the thought of being near them was enough to make him uncomfortable. He felt sweat running down his spine, and when he raised his hand, he could see it shaking.
He was afraid.
"That'll be–" The cabbie started, but Kevin looked up at him and cut him off.
"Thank you," He said, not even paying attention to what the driver was saying. And just like that, the man stopped talking and nodded at him in a silent greeting. Kevin took a deep breath – as deep as he could, with that lump in his throat – grabbed his backpack and left the cab.
Inside the university there were more people. Professors, walking around in pairs or on their own; students, chatting and joking in groups as they walked into classes or out of them; visitors, looking around in wonder; and even several children, about his age, running around or sticking to the older men and women who walked around.
His first steps were hesitant, but as he turned towards the neuroscience department, he grew more confident. He's gone down that path so many times they he knew it by heart. He was certain that once he reaches the department, everyone will know who he is.
Despite the fact it was the middle of the day, the neuroscience department was oddly quiet. He found his parents' office easily, but the office was completely stripped of everything personal. There were tables and chairs, pens and papers spread over them, but everything that belonged to his parents was gone. Even the sign on the door, which used to say Albert and Louise Thompson, was gone.
He glanced around, and once he was certain he was alone, walked into the room. He opened every drawer saw and looked at every paper he could find. But no matter how hard he looked, he found nothing to indicate that the room was ever inhabited by someone.
He took a deep breath and headed to the labs.
Just the thought of them made him feel sick. The closer he got to the oh-so-familiar rooms, the worse he felt. Wherever he looked, he could see memories – being forced into those rooms; being held by his parents as they took blood and spinal fluid; being watched as he completed yet another test. It was so alive in his mind that for a moment he almost forgot how different the present was.
The labs were just as quiet as the rest of the department. He looked through the drawers and cabinets, looking for something that wasn't standard lab equipment, anything that could tell him where his parents were.
He found some more of the tapes his parents used to record their experiments. They were all labelled in father's neat handwriting with the name of the child, the dates and the lab. At first he wanted to destroy them, but when he thought about it, he realized they might still prove themselves useful. He shoved all the tapes he could find into his backpack, stacking them next to the tapes he found at home. Unlike the ones he brought with him, all the new tapes had other children's names on them. He didn't know what use they might have – unless one of the other children wanted them too, he thought bitterly – but he knew it would be reckless to destroy them without giving it any thought.
Another thing he must have taken from his parents, he realised as he moved to the next lab. Record-keeping. Weren't his parents the best at that.
Just like the first one, this lab was empty. There were papers shuffled on one of the desks, but as he read the first couple of lines of each one, he came to realise they had nothing to do with him or his parents. Research papers, exams, lab reports – nothing valuable.
He was in the middle of rummaging through the fifth lab when he heard a voice coming from the entrance.
"Are you lost?"
He looked up to find a young woman standing at the door, looking at him curiously. Her voice was kind and she was smiling at him, clearly trying to put him at ease. At first he thought she must have been a student, but then he noticed the ID card attached to her shirt. She was one of the staff.
"I'm looking for Albert and Louise Thompson," He explained.
"Are they rats?" She asked, raising her eyebrows.
He frowned at her. Why would she think that? "No. They're my parents."
She blushed. "Stupid joke," She mumbled, embarrassed. "They work here?" He nodded briefly. "Maybe I can help you. What were you looking for here?"
"The records of their experiments," He replied before looking around the room. "I need them."
She nodded immediately. "Come with me while I check-"
"I'll stay here."
He thought she'd resist, like they always did on the telly, but she didn't. Instead, she just said, "I'll be right back", and left him on his own.
He shrugged it off and returned to the papers.
By the time she was back half an hour later, he'd found a few of his parents' early works. Things to do with viruses and neurological disease – he wasn't sure anyone who wasn't a professor could understand it. He simply shoved them into his backpack, deciding to go over them later.
"What's your name?" She asked gently when she returned.
"Where are they?" He asked in response. He wasn't keen on telling her anything.
Once again, she didn't argue. "Albert and Louise filed their resignation this morning," She replied. "They left the university."
He looked at her silently for a moment, his mind reeling. They really did leave him. Where could they have gone? Why would they leave him? He couldn't find an answer to those questions.
"Where did they go?" He asked, hoping she'd know.
But she just shrugged. "All they said was that they received a grant and they're leaving England. They didn't even leave an address or a number. They're just gone."
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Slightly shorter this time, I know, but it just felt right to cut it at that point. Also, this one is for Caroline :)
Manchester, UK, 1988
"I need a bed." He said, looking around him. The living room wasn't large, only containing two sofas, a table and a small television. He didn't mind, not until the moment they suggested he sleeps on the sofa.
"We don't have an extra bed." The woman said uncomfortably.
"Then you sleep on the couch," He snapped, turning towards the hallway. He was hungry and tired, and the last thing he cared about was anyone else. "Where's my bed?"
"Right here," She said, hurrying to get ahead of him. She led him into her bedroom, shyly gesturing at the bed. "Is this alright?"
He nodded briefly and dropped his backpack on the floor. "What's for dinner?" He asked, studying the room. It was even smaller than the living room, but the bed seemed comfortable enough and he didn't plan on staying for a long time. It was surprising enough that she took him in as it is.
"I'll ask my mum," She replied and left, leaving him alone in the room.
He sat down on the bed, staring at the wall in front of him. So far, nothing good came out of this day. After breaking the news to him, the woman – who was, apparently, the secretary of the neuroscience department – wanted to call the head of the department, but knowing how he was likely to respond, he stopped her. Instead, he told her he needed someplace to stay now that his parents are gone.
It turned out that she was the daughter of one of the professors in another faculty. He didn't really care which faculty or what their names were, so long as he had somewhere to stay. At least for the time being.
Once they gave him their address – he was still somewhat surprised that they did – he took a cab to their apartment. Once again, the cabbie didn't argue when he told him where to drive, even though he started asking questions when Kevin sat down in the backseat on his own.
"How old are you, son?" He asked as he drove, looking at him through the front mirror.
"I don't want to talk." He replied briefly. And just like that, the man stopped.
When they finally arrived, he opened the door and turned to leave. The driver cleared his throat, stopping him.
"Do you have any money?" He asked, looking at him dubiously.
Kevin nodded. "Of course I do," He said as confidently as he could. "Money isn't a problem."
The cabbie straightened up and turned back to face the front window. "Money isn't a problem," He repeated.
Kevin looked at him in surprise, not entirely sure what was happening. Then, hesitantly, he placed his foot on the sidewalk outside. This time, the man didn't try to stop him. He just kept staring ahead, saying nothing. He filed it in his memory to think about it later.
It took him a few minutes to find the right place. When he knocked on the door, another woman, who looked a bit like an older version of the woman he met at the university, opened it. She looked at him with a frown for a moment before her face cleared and she smiled.
"You must be the boy Christie talked about," She said. Moving aside to let him in, she added, "Come in. Your parents left Manchester, didn't they?"
His fists clenched, but he bit back an angry comment. For some reason, they were letting him into their home. He wouldn't have to sleep on the street. That was more than some of the boys he'd seen that morning had.
Later, she introduced him to their second daughter, Helen. At least, that's what he thought her name was – he wasn't really paying attention. Helen showed him the sofa, which was already prepared for him. That was when he finally snapped and told her she can stay there. For his surprise, she didn't argue, but just showed him to her room and left.
No, he had to amend, something good did come out of that day. At least he had somewhere to sleep and food to eat. He never realised how much that was before.
Now that his immediate future was settled, he had some time to think about the day. They took him in without even asking anything. He didn't pay for anything. Not the drives and not the cake. He thought that maybe it had to do with him being a child – maybe they all just pitied him. But it still seemed at least a bit odd.
He always thought his parents kept doing everything he said because of the way they hurt him. But then, that didn't explain the other people's behaviour.
Maybe they all really did just feel bad for him.
"You could use some new clothes," Christie commented when she came back home the next afternoon, looking at him. He was still wearing the same clothes he'd left his house with, despite their mother's insistence that she could borrow clothes from a neighbour. He preferred his own clothes.
Looking down at himself, he had to agree. His trousers were dirty and his shirt had practically become his second skin. He hasn't worn the same clothes two days in a row since… well, ever. Especially since his parents started doing everything they could to please him and bought him everything he wanted.
"I could borrow-" The mother started, but he shook his head.
"I need new clothes," He said decidedly, turning to look at Christie.
She nodded, looking at him thoughtfully. "I think there's a children's clothing store just down the street," She said. "Their prices might be a bit expensive, though," She added after another moment's thought, clearly uncomfortable.
Her words reminded him of the cab driver who brought him there. He was also asking about Kevin's money, but as soon as he said those words to him, he gave up entirely. He didn't even demand the minimum fare.
"Money isn't a problem," He said confidently, looking straight into Christie's eyes. He had to admit she had lovely blue ones.
Christie smiled. "Of course," She agreed. "If you want, we can go later today."
He shook his head. "How about now?"
The store was a few minutes' walk from the apartment. Before they left, he tried to find a place to hide his backpack, but the truth was the apartment was too small to hide anything in it. Eventually he gave up and took it with him.
Christie seemed somewhat confused to see it, but she didn't say anything. Instead, she led him to the store, all the while talking about her day. He didn't bother listening; instead, he tried to think about his next steps.
He still wanted to find his parents. Of course, he had no idea where or how to look for them, but given his current situation, that was hardly a priority. Even though it would certainly be more comfortable to go back home.
He could stay with Christie and her family, but he wasn't fond of the idea. Even though they were nice to him and helped him – a big thing in itself – their apartment was too crowded for him. Not to mention it was nicer to be able to get anything he wanted, whatever its price was. But for that he needed a richer family, and he wasn't sure they would agree to take him in.
What he really needed was his parents. But that was hardly any use.
"There it is," Christie's voice cut his thoughts off.
He stopped and looked up to find himself standing in front of a huge showcase. There were three manikins on display, all wearing branded clothing. Kevin's eyes were immediately drawn to the middle one, wearing a dark purple suit. That was it.
"This," He said quietly, looking at it.
Christie followed his gaze. Frowning, she asked, "Is that for your school?"
He turned to look at her, both surprised and confused. "School?" He asked, frowning back at her.
She nodded. "You are going to school, aren't you?"
The truth was he wasn't. He'd never spent a single day in school. He'd seen it on the telly, of course, but his parents never let him out of their sight. When they weren't busy experimenting on him or on other children, they taught him everything on their own. Maths, science, history and English – they took turns teaching him everything they thought he needed to know. Until they left.
"I don't need to go to school," He said eventually, shaking his head. He didn't know whether he needed to go to school like everyone else, but he had a feeling it wouldn't be half as interesting as his life used to be. It would probably be a waste of his time.
Her frown cleared. "You don't," She agreed, surprising him. He expected her to object, or at least question the idea. But clearly, she wasn't going to. "So you like that suit?" He nodded silently, still wondering why she agreed so easily. "Let's go in."
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Shana Tova! I'm not making nearly as much progress as I wanted to during this long weekend (New-year-long-weekend is awesome!), but here's the next chapter anyway. Love you all xx
Manchester, UK, 1988
Christie was right about one thing – the store was expensive. Kevin didn't let it bother him, though; he picked up everything he liked, ignoring the price tags. Maybe he could use the money he had in his backpack to get at least some of those clothes.
Christie walked with him, held the clothes he chose and commented on the ones he tried. She almost reminded him of his mother when she wasn't experimenting on him.
He felt a sudden pang of emotion, deeper than he'd ever felt before. Despite everything that's happened, he missed her.
"Are you sure you can afford all this?" The cashier asked when they placed everything on the counter. He looked at them dubiously. "Maybe you should start with some of the cheaper clothes."
Kevin clenched his fists. It wasn't the cashier's tone and the way he looked at them that annoyed him as much as the fact he was right. He knew that he didn't really have the money for these clothes, and he suspected Christie did, too. Maybe that's why she agreed to come in, so he'd embarrass himself like that.
Maybe she never intended to help him after all.
"Just put them in a bag and give it to me," He said, as coldly and confidently as he could manage.
The cashier seemed surprised – but did as he said without arguing. Kevin took the bag as soon as the cashier handed it to him, still looking at him coldly. He wasn't sure how his parents managed to afford everything he wanted, but maybe it had something to do with this rich-like behaviour. Clearly, it was making an impression.
"Aren't they paying?" One of the other employees, who just walked by them, asked the cashier.
Before either of them could say anything, Kevin turned to glare at the newcomer. "It's none of your business," He said, his voice frozen. "Leave us alone."
And just like that, they both moved along, leaving Christie and Kevin on their own. He ignored her shock, picked up his bag and left the store, not even waiting for her. He knew she'd follow.
Christie didn't tell anyone about what happened at the store. She only said they got him the clothes he needed and that it wasn't as expensive as she expected. Even though her family tried to get more information out of her, she wouldn't tell them anything more.
He felt oddly comforted by that.
The truth was he had no idea what happened. Was it the tone he used? Was it the way he acted, like he was one of those rich people who got everything they wanted? Was it the fact he wasn't alone? He even started thinking it was some sort of an elaborate scheme or a freakish dream he would soon wake up from.
As he thought about it that night, he slowly came to realise what happened in the store wasn't new. If he looked at everything that's happened to him ever since his parents left, he could see that everyone seemed to be inclined to help him. Earlier he'd just assumed that they pitied him, but that night, he started wondering whether it was true.
Pity wouldn't be enough to give him all those clothes for free, would it?
"Don't move, Kevin," His father said warningly as he emptied the syringe he was holding. He immediately filled it with a transparent fluid from the bottle in front of him. "You don't want it to go in the wrong place."
"It hurts," He whispered, looking up at him beggingly. His wrists were tied together above his head and a rope was holding his waist, keeping him pinned against the wall. He knew whatever his father was planning, it would hurt even worse. "Please, dad."
"Be quiet." His father's tone turned angry. "Stop being a baby. You're my son; this is nothing to you."
"Silence!" His father took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. "Be a good boy, and I'll take you to the game on Sunday," He said, giving him a smile that scared Kevin more than it calmed him. "Now, stay quiet and don't move."
"Mum," He tried to turn his head to look at her, but his father's free hand was now pressing his head to the wall, stopping him from making any movement. He felt the tears slowly run down his cheeks. It was more painful than anything they'd ever forced him to do. "Please, mum…"
"It's alright, Kevin," His mother said soothingly somewhere to his right. "Everything is going to be alright. Just be a good boy, and it will all be over soon."
Then his father injected him whatever fluid was in the syringe, and his head fell forward as he lost consciousness.
He woke up sweating and breathing heavily. His heart was beating fast and he was gasping for breath as he sat up in his bed. He was hot and yet he was shaking as if he was freezing. Even knowing it was just a nightmare wasn't enough to calm him down.
He hadn't felt it in a long time, but he knew what he was feeling nonetheless. He'd felt it often enough before. He was terrified.
Slowly, he got up. He took a few deep breaths – as deep as he could manage, which wasn't very deep – and stumbled towards the window. His hands shaking, he forced the window open and leaned against the windowsill, feeling the cold night air. His eyes drifted shut as he breathed it in, letting the coolness bring him back from his nightmare to the real world.
He used to have nightmares when he was younger, especially after days spent in his parents' lab. He used to dream about the things they did, about their tests and injections. But it was never that bad, not even after the worst experiments.
Pain flooded him. He took a breath, which turned into a sob, and before he knew what was happening, he was sitting on the floor, crying. He didn't know why he was crying or how to make it stop. He didn't care, either. He just wanted everything to be the way it was before.
"Kevin?" A soft female voice asked quietly, making him look up.
"Mum?" He whispered, hoping against hope that it was her and that they were back home.
"Are you okay?" The woman walked in, and as she came closer and her face became clearer, he slowly realised it wasn't his mother, but Christie.
He straightened up and hurried to wipe his tears with the back of his hand. "I'm fine," He said, attempting to pretend he really was fine.
"Are you sure?" She sounded genuinely concerned, and that was almost enough to make him start crying again. "I heard you screaming earlier."
He sniffed. "I had a nightmare," He admitted in a whisper.
"Oh." They sat in silence for a moment before she whispered, "You miss your mum, don't you?"
"Yes," He admitted, folding his legs to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. For the first time in his life, he felt he was all alone in the world. He could trust no one. There was just him.
"I'm sure she'll come back," She tried. "She loves you."
"She doesn't love me." His voice turned cold. If she loved him, she wouldn't have experimented on him. If she loved him, she wouldn't have left him. "She never did. I hate her."
"I'm sure that's not true-"
"What do you know?" Suddenly, he couldn't take it anymore. Sitting there, exposing himself, hearing her telling him all those lies his parents used to tell him. "You don't know them. You don't know what they did! What sort of loving parents do that?"
For a long moment, she didn't say anything. He thought she must have been taken aback by his outburst; that was the only way to explain it. He hadn't mentioned his parents before, not since he met her at the university. Maybe even the hints he'd just dropped were shocking to her.
And then she spoke again and he realised he was completely wrong.
"Then maybe it would be a good thing if we called the social services."
He stared at her in the darkness. He couldn't see her very clearly, but it was enough to make out her expression. She pitied him.
"Mum said we should," She continued, as though speaking to herself. "We can't help you forever. I thought we should wait. I thought your parents would come back. But if they hurt you…"
He bit his lower lip to stop himself from crying again. "That's not necessary," He said, as confidently as he could manage. "I have family in London." It was the first place he could think of, and he hoped it wouldn't be close enough for her to check it.
She smiled at him. "Then maybe we could take you there," She said in relief. "They'll be looking for you."
"Yeah." He turned his head and stared at the dark silhouettes of the furniture in the room. "I imagine they will."
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
AN: I am so SO sorry it took this long. Really. I've had a bit of an issue with writing lately, but I think I'm back in business! Anyway, sorry sorry sorry. And I promise I'll continue soon. Promise.
London, UK, 1988
He arrived in London in the early afternoon.
Christie's parents seemed incredibly relieved to see him leave. In fact, they were so relieved that they bought him a train ticket and even gave him some money. He promised he'd call to let them know when he meets his family, even though he had no intention of doing so.
If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that he didn't want the social services involved.
On the other hand, now he was alone again, and in a city he barely even knew. Unlike Manchester, which was at least partly familiar, London was brand new to him. If he weren't as scared as he was, he would have probably been thrilled by all the opportunities it offered.
The first thing he did when he made it to London was to find someplace to eat. He ordered a sandwich at a fast-food restaurant and then sat down on a bench outside the train station. Even though the food wasn't the best he'd ever eaten, it seemed to him as though it was the most delicious thing he's ever had.
Maybe it was because he couldn't stop thinking that this was probably one of his last proper meals.
He needed to think.
If there was one thing he was sure about, it was that he'd never survive long if he wastes his money. He didn't think he had enough money for a place to sleep, but maybe, if he asked nicely, one of these shop-owners would let him stay in their shop at night. Maybe he could even offer them some sort of a trade – he'd help them with whatever they need, and they'd let him sleep there.
He looked around him, at the shops and restaurants, and shook his head to himself. That wasn't likely. Although he didn't have anything to lose by trying.
What he needed to find was someplace he could sell the valuables he brought with him. There weren't a lot of them – one of his mother's rings, forgotten in his room; several expensive-looking cufflinks, which must have been his father's but were used by him as a child; an old fob watch; a cross-shaped necklace his parents received when he was born. He briefly considered keeping it before deciding there was no point to it. He wasn't religious, and it wasn't like god could help him now, anyway.
And then, he also had a little under thirty quid in cash, but somehow, he doubted that would be anywhere near as useful as the valuables.
He sighed and then, once he finished eating, got up and started walking away from the station. He didn't know where he was going, but it didn't really matter, either. It's not like he had a destination in mind.
He stopped as soon as he saw a pawnbroker's store, right around the corner. He hesitated a moment before deciding it was his best bet and walking inside.
The pawnbroker looked up from a magazine when Kevin walked in. He raised his eyebrows when he saw the boy, but said nothing. Kevin walked up to the counter, placed his backpack on the floor and kneeled next to it, looking for the items he hid there.
One by one, he pulled them out of the backpack and placed them on the counter. Seeing the cufflinks and the ring, the pawnbroker moved the magazine away and picked up the first cufflink, studying it thoughtfully. By the time he finished placing everything on the counter, the man had already finished with the cufflinks and was studying the golden ring.
"How much can I get for these?" Kevin asked, attempting not to let his nervousness show.
The pawnbroker was still looking at the ring as when he replied. "These aren't worth much," He said, tilting his head towards the cufflinks. "I can give you fifty quid for them." Kevin frowned, wondering whether he could get a better price. Seemingly reading his thoughts, the pawnbroker shrugged and added, "You can try elsewhere, but it's the best price you'll get. Only because you look like you need it, kid."
He hesitated briefly before nodding. The pawnbroker was probably right. "How about the ring and the necklace?" He asked, pointing at them.
"The ring is real gold, and it's a good one. I can give you… two hundred quid for it," He said, studying the ring. He placed it back on the counter and raised the cross. "This is worthless," He added before taking the fob watch. "This, on the other hand…"
Seeing the pawnbroker's interest, he leaned forward, looking at the watch closely. There was nothing special about it – nothing that he could see, anyway. But clearly there was something to it, because the man in front of him looked as though he was trying to hide his excitement.
Which made him wonder whether he should sell it or not.
"How long has it been going in your family?" The man asked, still looking at the fob watch.
Kevin shrugged. "A few generations," He lied, not wanting to show the man he had no idea. Who knows how expensive that watch really was.
The man nodded. "Thought so. Tell you what, because of the jewels, I'll give you four hundred for it. Although I imagine your parents wouldn't like it. Did they give you permission to do this?" He left the watch and turned to look at Kevin.
He didn't even hesitate. "They're dead."
The man's eyes narrowed slightly. He nodded, still looking casual, but his free hand reached out to the telephone on the counter. Seeing it, Kevin hurried to grab the watch and the ring.
"No police," He said. The man froze. "I'll take your deal. But no police."
Slowly, the man nodded. "I'll get the money," He said.
Still looking at Kevin, he turned to bring the money. His eyes were wide as he quickly counted the money, constantly sneaking glances at Kevin as he did.
"There." He said, pushing the money on the counter towards Kevin. "Six hundred and fifty quid. Count it if you want."
He placed the watch and ring back on the counter and picked up the pile of notes. Constantly looking at the broker, he quickly counted the money, nodding when he finished. The broker kept looking at him, his expression a mixture of suspicion and confusion.
"Thank you." He said as he pushed the pile into his backpack. He hid the money underneath the clothes, between the tapes. He then picked it up and left the store, still feeling the broker's eyes looking at his back as he did.
He nearly ran the next several blocks. Then he turned to another street, and ran a few more blocks. He repeated the process a few times, each time turning towards a different direction, until he was certain there was no way for the pawnbroker to find him. Even if he did call the police after Kevin left, they would have no way to find him.
Once he felt he was safe, he sat down by the road, looking at the area around him as he tried to catch his breath. He was in a quiet street filled with apartment buildings; there was no store in sight. A few people were walking on the sidewalk, but for the most part, no one gave him so much as a second glance. He felt more comfortable seeing that.
Once he managed to catch his breath and calm his beating heart, he stood up and started walking in the opposite direction from which he came. He assumed that if he walked far enough, he'd find the stores again. There were so many people living there; there had to have been stores somewhere nearby.
Being busy looking around him, he didn't even notice the man in front of him until they collided.
"Watch where you're going!" The man scolded him angrily. Then, slowly taking Kevin's appearance in, his eyes narrowed and he reached into his pockets, clearly looking for his wallet and keys. Kevin stumbled backwards and opened his mouth to say he didn't take anything, but the man didn't let him speak. "I know what you're thinking," He said, hands still in his pockets. "You're waiting for your little friends. You're a distraction? Or just a really bad thief?"
"I… I wasn't…" He stammered, "I'm not… I don't have any friends…"
"Try to fool someone else," The man growled at him. Then, still holding whatever he had in his pockets, he walked away, making sure to keep as far from Kevin as possible the whole time.
Kevin waited until the man was gone before letting out a long sigh. Did he make a mistake by coming to London?
He shook his head. It didn't matter. He couldn't have stayed in Manchester anyway.
"Excuse me." He stood on the tip of his toes, hoping he could finally get the store owner's attention. He's been trying to talk to the woman for the past fifteen minutes, but every time he was ignored and pushed aside by the customers. Now the store was finally empty, and he hoped he could get her to talk to him before someone new walks in.
"Yes?" She looked down at him, clearly bored.
"Can I stay here?" He blurted out, not entirely sure how to make his offer. He'd spent the entire train ride preparing his speech, but now that he was standing in front of this woman, he couldn't remember any of it.
Her eyes narrowed. "What?"
"I can… uh, work," He continued, getting the words out as quickly as he could. "I can help here. If you need help. I can do all sorts of things."
"You can, can you?" She moved past the counter, towards him. "Get out of here!"
"But-" He tried, taking a step back.
But she wouldn't let him speak. "Get out of here, now! I don't know who you are and what you want, but get out of here!" She walked closer, looking at him angrily and suspiciously, and eventually he gave in and ran out of the store, tears slowly filling his eyes.
He'd never felt so alone in his entire life.
In the end, he settled for a small hotel in the edge of London.
It was expensive for what little money he had, but the moment they saw his money, the hotel employees were happy to serve him. He had a warm meal for dinner, better than anything he'd eaten since his parents left, and his own room – small as it was – to stay in for the night. He even had the chance to shower and change.
Once he was ready for bed, though, he found that he couldn't really fall asleep. He'd been to three more stores after that first one, and in each one he received the same suspicious, angry response. When he asked them about working there, the hotel workers thought he was looking for a job for an older sibling – and, once he said it's for him, they were certain he was joking.
Although there was no way to know what they really thought underneath their smiles.
Curled in his bed, he stared at the white wall in front of him. He couldn't stop thinking about Christie and her family; about his own parents; about the life they had in Manchester. He couldn't stop wondering what he did wrong. Why did they leave him? Was it because of his argument with his mum? She yelled at him, but she did so before, too, and she never left. And then she screamed when the iron touched her face, but he couldn't understand why she did it in the first place. It wasn't because of him, was it? He didn't really mean for her to do it.
Surely, she knew.
Tears filled his eyes. He felt so alone these past several days. Even when he was with Christie's family he felt alone. Deep down, he knew he didn't really belong there.
Maybe he didn't belong anywhere.
He fell asleep crying that night.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
Sorry it took so long, you guys...
London, UK, 1988
The sun was setting, and with it came the promise of snow.
The streets of London were slowly filled with more and more umbrellas. Around him, more and more people wore coats and scarves and boots. Even their pace was faster, as though they knew when the rain was due to come and didn't want to find themselves in the middle of the showers. They walked as quickly as they could, heads bent down, holding their coats against them, all hunched against the blowing wind.
All but him.
He spent his first week in London walking around the city, getting to know it better. He tried several more shops, but the owners' responses were always the same: no. Some were kind and attempted to help him by directing him to other places or suggesting calling the social services. The latter he ran from like from fire, and for some reason, as soon as he told them not to call the social services, they complied with his wish and left the phone. Others were blunt and rude, some clearly thinking he was a thief or only meant trouble. The last shop owner scared him so badly that he decided to quit the search altogether.
"Get out of here, you maggot!" He yelled at him as soon as Kevin dared asking – somewhat hesitantly and shakily – for a job. "I know you and your type! You're not getting anything from me! Get out of here, now!"
Seeing the man moving towards him, he ran out immediately, tears filling his eyes. He ran until he could barely breathe and then sat down on the floor, leaning against the wall and breathing heavily. He folded his legs to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, crying quietly with his face pressed against his knees. He couldn't understand what he could have possibly done to deserve any of it.
For the most part, he stayed in the streets. He changed – at least once a day – and ate regularly, although mostly food from markets rather than in restaurants. He only gave in to his tiredness and stayed in a small hotel once that week; the rest of the time he slept on the street, in that slightly awake-light-sleep mode he came to know. He made sure to stay close to big hotels, areas active at night-time and the emergency services, where he doubted anyone would take the risk to rob him. Once, he was even invited to sleep in the main hall of one of the hotels, saving him from spending a cold, wet night in the street.
Even though he was yet to encounter thieves, he was terrified at the thought of being robbed. He had little to lose, but what little he had was precious to him. He couldn't afford to lose anything. And so even when he slept, he made sure to hold his backpack closely.
But even though he made sure to buy the cheapest food and spend as little as he could, he was still running out of money. There was no way he would survive long like this.
Now that he was one of them, he noticed the homeless in every turn and every corner of London. Some of them were adults, sitting on the sidewalk in the busier streets of London, begging for spare change or something to eat. Some were children, his age and younger, running around or waiting by big hotels and restaurants, attempting to gain money and property by both legal or illegal ways. To him, they always seemed to come out of nowhere, bursting out to the street like bullets shot from a gun.
After another day of walking around, he decided to try doing what some of the other children did – sit by the backdoor of the restaurants and wait for the chefs. They constantly got rid of food that wasn't cooked well or failed attempts at new recipes, and the children who waited got something edible nearly every time. He could try it too; at least it would save him the money he spent on food. As he went to sleep that night, this time in an alleyway, he wondered how his life changed this drastically. Two weeks earlier, he was in his home, with his parents, and everything was fine.
And now... now he was in a city he barely knew, living on the streets, and no one in the world cared if he lived or died. Somehow, it didn't seem right.
He got up early the next morning. The sun was just beginning to rise, and, naturally, the streets were quiet and empty. Here and there a few people returned from a night out, but for the most part, he was on his own. Small, shallow puddles lined his way, telling him it rained that night, too. He was lucky to have found a relatively sheltered place to sleep.
It wasn't even five in the morning when he reached the restaurant he'd chosen. It was a big, posh place that always seemed full, but at that time of the day, it was completely dark and empty. Not even the chefs seemed to have arrived by the time he showed up.
He didn't mind. Watching the children taught him the ones who came the earliest got the most food. So he sat down on the sidewalk on the other side of the street and waited.
The first time he saw the back door of the kitchen opening, he was thrilled. People walked around, ignoring him as they hurried to and from places, but as far as he could see, he was the only child around. He didn't stop to think about his good luck before hurrying to get up and cross the street. The way things looked, he had no doubt he'd be able to eat properly, at least that morning. He might even get a chance to eat well the entire day. If he stayed by that restaurant and saved some of the food instead of eating it all, he might not have to settle for market-food and cold water. For the first time since he left Manchester, he let himself feel hope. He might just be able to survive this life after all.
He was just turning to the alleyway where the back door was when he was shoved aside by someone else. Slowly sitting up in the mud, he looked forward in complete shock. Around the door, the alleyway was suddenly filled by children, in all ages and sizes, all fighting to get closer to the door and the exiting chef. He gave them one disgusted look and returned to the kitchen, leaving them to fight over what little food he brought out. Before Kevin could get up, it was all gone and the alleyway was quiet once again.
He stared at the wall in front of him in shock. It was all so quick it seemed as though they came out from the cracks in the walls and the dark comers of the alley. The now-empty-alley stared back at him, quiet and motionless, as though everything he'd just seen was made up by his mind, a result of his loneliness. The bruises he felt, though, proved otherwise.
He shook his head, got up – slowly, making sure he wasn't injured – and found a new spot to sit, this time closer to the alley. He learned his lessons. Always.
He didn't have much luck later that day, too. He managed to get closer to the door and even managed to eat, but it wasn't enough to be called a meal, let alone a whole day's worth of food. By the afternoon he was tired, hungry, bruised and hopeless. Even as he remained in the alleyway, preparing himself for the next round, he didn't feel as though he had a chance to make it through the day, let alone the week.
The worst times were when the adults showed up. They didn't come often, but when they did, they shoved all children out of the way forcefully, barely even using their strength, like they were all nothing but weightless dolls. All the children scattered away as soon as one of the homeless men showed up, and after being nearly thrown away the first time, Kevin quickly did the same. When the door opened again, he ran towards it, attempting to push his way to the front of the group. He didn't intend to remain in the area much longer; the sun was setting, and he knew he had to find someplace to spend the night. He could hardly feel his muscles; every inch of what he could feel ached. He could have sworn he was never that exhausted in his entire life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he couldn't make it to the front of the group. The children shoved and fought and even bit each other, using every weapon they had to beat the others. It was a rough competition – something Kevin had never seen in real life. It was even worse than the rugby matches he watched with his parents. But then again, this was about more than just winning. It was about survival.
Tears filling his eyes, he slowly made his way across the street, looking for a dark, quiet corner to sit in. When he found it, he let the tears make their way down his cheeks as he sat down and hugged his backpack to his chest. He'd only gone through this for a little over a week, but the backpack already looked raggedy and dirty, as though he'd been using it for years. There was barely any hint of his old life in his possessions.
And the ferocity those children fought with... He could never match them. They were used to living on the streets, having to fight for their food and shelter and lives. He couldn't. He hadn't even thrown a punch before that day; it was something he only ever saw on the telly, or in rugby matches. Most of these children were stronger than him, even though they seemed small. He had no chance of survival in these circumstances.
A terrifying thought came into his mind, shoving away all the other ones. They were all pressed so close together during these fights; anyone could have taken anything from his backpack while he didn't notice. He tried to hide his money, but not everything was out of reach, certainly not for experienced thieves. He had no doubt that's exactly what some of those children were.
Panicked, he opened his backpack and took every single item out, making sure it was still present and intact. He was relieved to see no item was missing – although his relief was mixed with a sense of bitterness when it came to the experiment tapes – but his heart dropped when he realised two notes of fifty pounds were missing. Someone must have picked them off him when he didn't notice.
He sniffed, attempted to wipe his tears away and then got up. With a heavy heart, he slowly made his way to a nearby apartment building.
He fell asleep inside that building, in a dark comer by the stairs. He was curled on the floor, his backpack pressed against his chest, traces of tears still drying off his cheeks. He fell asleep thinking about his home and his parents, wishing he could go back a week, perhaps two; back to the time when everything was okay and these homeless children were nothing but images on his television screen. He didn't believe they were real at the time; now he was once of them.
He was awoken so late at night it could have been called early morning. A man was crouching next to him, looking down at him with bleary eyes. Kevin blinked and slowly sat up, attempting to look back at the man. It wasn't easy; the lamp behind the man's head was blinding Kevin and making the man's head look like one dark ball-like object.
"Is that a kid there?" He asked, squinting at him. Even without coming closer, Kevin could smell the sour scent of alcohol off him, telling him the man in front of him was drunk. "Blimey, I think that might just be a kid! Unbelievable! Lesley, come have a look!"
Footsteps followed, and soon Kevin was looking up at a woman, standing next to the man who spoke. Her face looked dark as well because of the light behind her, but her eyes were so bright that he could easily see their light green colour. Then she smiled at him, her teeth just as bright as her eyes.
"Hey there," She said, still smiling. "What are you doing down there on the floor?"
"Food," He croaked, slowly reaching up to his cheeks to clean them from whatever traces of tears they still had. "I'm hungry... Can I...?"
"Of course you can!" She turned her head to look at the man, who, in the meanwhile, stumbled backwards and was staring at the stairs. "Greg, go upstairs and see what we have in the fridge." Looking at how drunk the man was, Kevin doubted he could find the stairs, let alone go up to their apartment and find the fridge. But he didn't say it. These people were being kind to him and giving him food willingly, and he wasn't going to risk it by saying something that might insult or hurt them. He was so hungry and thirsty; it felt as if he hadn't had anything to eat or drink in a year.
"What fridge?" The man – Greg – turned to look at Lesley as soon as he heard his name, frowning at her.
She rolled her eyes, exasperated. "I told you not to drink so much!" She scolded. He stared at her blankly, and Kevin bit his lower lip to avoid laughing. It seemed, though, that the woman was amused too; there was a hint of a smile on her lips. "Just stay here with him, alright? I'll be right back," She added, turning to him. She only waited for him to nod his understanding before disappearing up the stairs.
Heavily, Greg sat down next to him, staring forward in amazement. "Where did she go?" He asked Kevin, confused.
Kevin bit back a laughter, but smiled anyway. Maybe, just maybe, he could survive this after all. If he found a method... He might just make it through.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
A slightly more optimistic chapter just in time for Christmas. Merry Christmas everybody xx
London, UK, 1988
When he woke up in the morning, he felt satisfyingly full.
Lesley brought back nearly everything she could find in short notice. Or at least, that's what it looked like to him – there was half a loaf of bread, a small piece of pie, salad leftovers, some cheese and what looked like ham. He didn't mind; he ate it all hungrily, save for a slice of bread, which he shoved into his backpack for the next day.
Both Greg and Lesley sat with him as he ate; apparently, Greg was too drunk to move on his own once he sat down – "Which is why," Lesley told him, "He shouldn't drink this much! He always falls asleep in the first place he sits." – and Lesley wasn't going to bring him up all by herself. Once he finished eating, Kevin offered to help, but she just smiled and ruffled his hair.
A while after she left them there and went back to her apartment, both Kevin and Greg fell asleep on the floor. He dreamed about ice cream and chips that night.
Not that he cared when he woke up to find himself alone on the floor. It was early morning and he was still full, so even the tempting dreams he had couldn't bring his mood down. For the first time since he left Manchester, he felt good.
He glanced outside, saw that the streets were still empty, cuddled on the floor and fell back to sleep.
In hindsight, he realized he should've left the building while it was still quiet and empty outside.
When he was awoken again, the sun was high up in the sky, the streets were full of people hurrying to their workplaces, and he was surrounded by several people – two of whom were boys roughly his age – who were arguing what should be done with him.
"Maybe he came here by mistake," Said one old-looking lady. She had a long, freckled nose and small green eyes, which, at that moment, were focused on him. "These buildings all look the same."
A man standing on her right shook his head. He was squinting at Kevin through his glasses and holding a small briefcase. "No, no," He said. "Never seen him 'round here."
"And you know everyone who lives here?" Challenged the lady.
"It happened to Jonathan once," Piped another woman. She patted one of the boys' heads. "Isn't that right, Johnny?" She asked affectionately, messing the boy's hair in the process.
Jonathan nodded, but the man spoke again. "Something doesn't seem right about him," He said. He clearly didn't like Kevin, which made him wonder how much he could have possibly seen about him to be able to dislike him.
"Look, mum, he's waking up!" The other boy pulled his mother's sleeve, making her turn to look at Kevin.
"Who are you?" Asked the man, looking down at him disapprovingly.
"I'm-" He started, but was cut off by the old lady.
"Don't scare him!" She scolded the man, not even looking at Kevin.
"Don't tell me what to do!" He growled back at her. "What if he's a thief? Maybe you want your apartment emptied by him and his friends-"
"He's just a boy!"
The two carried on fighting, and the rest of the people turned back to Kevin, ignoring them. He sat on the floor, holding his backpack pressed to his chest, and looked back at the people surrounding him. The man and the old lady were now arguing as to whether he could be a thief and whether he carried any diseases like the stray dogs running around. The others were looking at him, some curious, some suspicious and some simply pitiful.
He took a deep breath to stop himself from crying and then spoke.
"I'm Kevin," He managed, his voice coming out shaky and quiet. "I don't have any friends. I'm from Manchester."
"Are you lost, son?" Another man asked sympathetically.
He nodded. "I think." He sniffed. He couldn't see Lesley or Greg anywhere.
"Where are your parents?" Jonathan asked curiously, eyeing him like he was a strange animal.
"Be polite, Jonathan," His mother scolded. She looked at Kevin once again, smiling at him in a way that was supposed to be reassuring but was, in fact, creepy. "Can we take you somewhere?" She offered.
He shuffled up to his feet, backing against the wall behind him. "No," He said, his voice still shaky. He would've done anything in that moment to get his confidence back. "Just… let me go." He sniffed again and then managed to whisper, "Please."
Then the people in front of him split into two groups, allowing him a quick, safe passage outside. He didn't stop to wonder why they let him go, but slowly walked away, holding his backpack to his chest as tightly as he could. He'd just made it past the last of the group when he heard someone moving behind him.
"There," The younger boy, Jonathan's brother, moved past him and handed him a wrapped sandwich. He smiled at him shyly. "You want it?"
Kevin hesitated, but seeing the boy's smile, he nodded and reached out to him. "Thank you," He said quietly.
The boy's smile widened. "Sure," He said. As soon as Kevin took the sandwich, he closed his own backpack and turned to his mother. "Are we going?"
She was still looking at Kevin, looking a bit confused. "Yes," She said, nodding slowly.
He shoved the sandwich into his backpack and then walked outside, constantly aware of the eyes still staring at his back. As soon as he was out of sight, he started running, hoping none of the watchers would bother following him to see which guess about him was right.
It was lunchtime before he stopped moving. Even though at some point he knew he wasn't chased – or, even if he was chased, he'd lost them long ago – he couldn't help but keep moving. It was the fear running through him, urging him to continue forward, until he was absolutely certain no one could possibly track him down.
He sat down on the sidewalk, took the sandwich out and started eating. Looking around him, he spotted what looked like a hotel, as well as a couple of cafes. The streets were busy – busier than he expected at that time of day – but he was certain he was small enough to find a way to get to where the food was.
Maybe he wasn't as big as the other kids, or as strong as the other kids, or as experienced as they were. But he was young and thin, and maybe that would give him the advantage he needed. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that he needed to find an advantage, and fast.
And for the first time since leaving Manchester, he was optimistic enough to find a possible one. Even after what happened that morning in the building.
That night he snuck into another building.
As he stood outside that afternoon, his mind played back the events of the day before. He ended up surrounded by working-class families, and for some reason, they seemed to be the most sympathetic of the people he'd met so far. He wasn't entirely sure why; but at this point, he hardly cared.
So that night he decided to put it to the test. He found another working-class neighbourhood and snuck into another building which, judging by the mailboxes, seemed to mostly contain families. Then he sat down by the stairs, holding his backpack to his chest and keeping his eyes closed, pretending to be asleep.
He tried to remain awake, but it was dark and cosy, and he was surprisingly full after whatever little food he managed to get that day and the remains from the night before. Not to mention how tired he was after that day…
Slowly, he fell back to sleep.
No one woke him up that night. No young, slightly drunk people coming back from a night out. He wasn't awoken by anyone the next morning, either; he was still on his own, lying curled by the stairs with his backpack pressed to him. The sun was slowly rising outside, and even though he briefly considered staying, just for the chance of getting food, he decided he'd had enough the morning before. So as soon as he woke up, he got up and left the building.
As he walked down the street, looking for a small market where he could get something to eat, he compared the two nights. There had to have been something different the first night; it couldn't have been pure luck.
Could it have been?
No. He had to believe it was more than just luck, or he'd lose whatever hope he had of finding a method to survive. It couldn't be random. It couldn't be just luck. There had to be something.
He stopped in front of a small marketplace. A couple walked outside as he did, both holding paper bags. In one of the bags he spotted a couple of beautiful red apples that made him hungry. In another he saw a bottle of sparkling water. They were talking to one another, and the woman laughed quietly at whatever the man said before they stepped outside. The sight brought tears to his eyes.
Looking at them, he couldn't help but remember his parents. They looked like that. Occasionally, when they all went shopping for groceries together. His parents would walk around, picking up whatever they needed, while he would drop sweets into the cart. His mum would always laugh and his dad would decide whether to get it or not. Until the day they stopped with the experiments, that is; from that they on, they always bought him everything he asked for.
He wondered whether his parents were like that somewhere in that moment. Whether they were walking down a street somewhere, holding hands and talking about their plans for the future. He could almost see them like that, in a small apartment, bringing in the groceries they bought. Enjoying their freedom, now that they didn't have him to deal with anymore.
He bit his lower lip, took a deep breath and walked into the market. He couldn't let them have that effect on him. Not anymore.
As quickly as he could, he picked up a couple of apples, a bottle of water and a few sweets. A warm loaf of bread also found its way to his shopping basket, but he didn't care. It was so warm it was clearly straight out of the oven. He couldn't say no to it.
Behind the counter was an elderly man who smiled at him. "Anything else?" He asked, looking at the things Kevin picked up. Kevin shook his head shyly. "Picking up things for your mum, eh, son?"
He started shaking his head, but then changed his mind and nodded.
The man nodded briefly in understanding and smiled at Kevin again. "Are you new here?" He continued.
He nodded again. "Sort of," He said, his voice quiet and shy.
"There you go, son," He said, handing him a paper bag with everything Kevin picked up. "You'll see, it's a good neighbourhood. I'm sure you're going to be happy here."
He placed a fifty-pounds note and placed it on the counter. Then, he looked down at the bag, to make sure everything he chose was in the bag. He was surprised to find an extra loaf of bread and a chocolate bar inside as well. Carefully, he picked them up and placed them back on the counter.
"These aren't… I didn't…" He tried nervously, not wanting the old man to think he tried to steal them.
The man placed the change back on the counter and gave Kevin another smile. "A welcome gift," He said, patting the change. "Welcome to the neighbourhood."
He blinked back tears of gratitude. "Thank you," He whispered shakily. He shoved everything but a half a loaf of bread into his backpack and then walked outside, nibbling on the bread.
As he walked down the street again, looking for a small restaurant or hotel to stay by for the rest of the day, he thought about the old man. There was something similar between him and Lesley; he was sure of it. They both worked to make a living, but so did the people in the building where he spent the night. Was it possible that they both knew how he felt?
He shook that thought off. Even if that was the reason they were kind to him, it was impossible to use it in the future. He couldn't track down every single person who once lived on the streets. It was impossible.
What else could it possibly be?
He shook his head. There were more important things to focus on. He settled by the back door of a small hotel, watching a nearby café as he did. He'd have to find a way to figure it out, though; his survival might just depend on it.
A tiny smile appeared on his lips as he realised what he'd have to do next. He'd have to experiment.
Like father like son, He thought, somewhat bitterly. If there was anything he learned from his parents, it was the power of experiments.