Naomi turned the pages of the paper back and forth, reading, re-reading, trying to understand what it was telling her; trying to make sense of it all.
The ink swam and darted about on the page as her eyes flooded and her body convulsed into sobs.
A kindly woman sat beside her and proffered tissues and offering her phone in case there was anyone she needed to call.
Naomi didn’t know any numbers. She didn’t know anything.
She had no idea whether or not they would be cross that she’d never been in touch. They didn’t know. That was what she couldn’t take in, but that was what the paper said – parents and teachers and friends hadn’t known. Just a few ‘agents’, sent out to scout the best of the best, infiltrating schools and sports clubs and activities… she wondered whether she had been chosen for her martial arts, and if so, which of her martial arts tutors had been the one and how long they had been scouting. She wondered when they had known it was her, how long she’d been watched. She wondered what she could have contributed to the… the project, the paper called it.
And she wondered if the last two years would have been easier if she’d just let them take her.
She paced around the city for hours and thought of all that had happened; of Union and Red’s bar and Tina and Amber, and lovely Alice, and of hitchhiking and that trucker… and the woman and child who saved her. She thought of all those nights on the streets of New York, the running from police, the false names… and of the new home she’d found these past few months in the squat, the bar work, the smell and excitement of Seb and Asha. And the sobs came harder and faster.
Some time later, after coffee and a donut and crying her way through multiple sheets of toilet paper in the public lavatories, she ended up in a public library. For the first time in years, she tried to log into Facebook – the only thing she could think of to get through, but her account was locked, or she’d forgotten the password, or something.
Tears started to prickle her eyes again and she was about to give into them, when she remembered the paper had said something about a helpline.
She grabbed it and ran to the nearest payphone. Fingers shaking, she dialled.