Taking Leave Chapter 29


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I lay very still and focused my eyes on the thin red line of the digital alarm clock beside me: 6.29 a.m.

The sombre nasal drone of the newscaster’s voice would not stop reverberating in my head: ‘John Lennon was shot dead tonight outside his apartment building in Manhattan, at approximately 9.20 local time.’

I had heard Harry and Jessica leave five minutes earlier and wondered if Harry would make it to the airport without throwing up. The two of us had stayed up drinking until half-past two, standing by the television and solemnly toasting it like some coffin at a wake. I didn’t want to get up and say goodbye and had pretended to be asleep. In fact, I was uncertain whether I had actually been to sleep at all but knew it was time to move. I edged my legs out from under the duvet and swung my feet on to the floor.

‘Fucking hell!’ I shuddered as the cold air swept up my legs. Loveday stirred. I took an immense breath as if I was about to dive underwater, and heaved myself out of bed, in the process kicking over the pint of water Loveday had left out for me. I pulled on my clothes, turned to look back at Loveday, blew her a kiss and headed for the front door.

As I stepped out of the building, the sky seemed badly bruised but was shedding light. My tongue felt double-coated and my heart was beating too fast. The gutters were full and rainwater gushed into overflowing drains. I inhaled the damp air, and convinced myself it smelled of cordite. I turned on to Mott Street and hesitated. It was cold, bloody cold.

It wasn’t cold back up there with Loveday. You’re still pissed, just turn round and go back.

I pondered my options and decided to carry on.

In the eerie silence, a blue-and-white police car sped past, its roof lights flashing but its siren strangely mute. I decided to follow it. Both sides of the street were deserted. I pressed on, walking faster to beat the cold, block after block.

A cab appeared, travelling so slowly I thought it was either kerb-crawling or about to run out of petrol. I stood in the middle of the road flapping my arms about until it stopped.

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