"Thank you for your time Mr and Mrs Morgan, and the soup was delicious" I said as I stepped out of their quaint little home.
"No problem dear, no problem at all!" she smiled, giving me a brief hug. "If you're nearby again, don't 'esitate to drop by. A lovely young man like you, Natalie would be 'appy to see you're well"
"Yes, I know she would" I say, thinking back to the pub all those nights ago. "Well, thanks again!"
They wave from their doorstep as I walk away from their house into the chilly darkness. I had to walk back to the church to get my car, but it wasn't too hard to find and soon I was sat, blowing toasty warm air from the fans at full blast.
I drove to the warehouse in silence, almost in a daydream as flakes of snow began to swirl down once more. As I pulled into the drive, I looked up at the sky, the stars were hidden by billowing clouds and the tiny wisps of snow danced down. I sighed as I headed back to the cold warehouse, thinking that perhaps I could stay in the warm car, but of course Ricky wouldn't like that. I walked over and surprised found the door agar, I was sure I had locked it. Thinking of my visitor this morning, I backed away. Quietly moving my car out of sight behind the hedges, waiting.
After about ten minutes a hooded figure edged out from behind the large metal doors, looking around carefully. I made my move. Quickly and using the skills taught by Paul I caught him of guard, catching him in a headlock. He yelped in surprise and both of us tumbled into the snow. There was a brief scuffle as he tried to get away, but I soon had his wrists held down, and I was holding him down.
It was Nate. I knew it.
He looked at me half in hatred and half in fear, his dark skin hard to make out in the dark.
"Nate" I snarled and he laughed.
"Still recognise me then. I'd have thought you'd have forgotten" he snapped, and I was taken aback as it was one of the few times I'd heard him speak. He was generally the quiet one, but now he was different.
"I have all the right to want to forget you. All of you, are my enemies"
"Enemies?! It was you who wanted us to be your friends!" he laughed, and I glared at him.
"I was a kid! But I would class you as enemies when you sided with Paul against me"
"Come on! You know what he was like! If it had been the other way round, I don't expect you would have done any different!"
"That's where you're wrong, because unlike you I'm not a coward!"
"A coward? You dare call me a coward!?" he roared, thrashing violently, but I kept him down.
"Yes I dare. Now, you are going to tell me where Ricky took Gemma and Lucy, and I'll let you go. If you don't I'll kill you right here"
He just laughed "you haven't got the guts!"
"I've done it before" I said, trying to sound convincing although he was right. I had no intention of taking anyone else's life.
"Not of your own volition" he smirked "and anyway, I don't know where they are"
"Ricky doesn't tell us much. As you know, we try and avoid trusting each other. That was your mistake"
"I made a mistake but at least I'm not like you"
"I'm happy with my life, your the one who I saw with a knife close to killing themselves just the other night"
"That was a freak moment of weakness" I snarled but he now had the upper hand.
"You're letting him get to you Harry. You're going to lose this battle, it's Ricky! He's not like Paul, he's smart, and thinks of everything"
"Not everything" I said, and released him.
He looked surprised but staggered to his feet watching me warily.
"You can tell him, or you can keep this to yourself." I said slowly and carefully "I don't care, but I'm going to get them back. I swear it" and I knew I would.
"Good luck with that" he said disbelievingly, and retreated into the darkness.
I didn't know why I had let him go, but I was afraid I would break, my cracks in my confidence were getting uncontrollable and he knew it. It wouldn't take much to tip me over the edge, and the further away Nate with his watchful eyes is, the better.
I walked into the warehouse buoyed by my renewed confidence but to my surprise found Ricky waiting for me on the laptop. He looked at my accusingly as I walked in.
"Where" he said in a sharp, clipped voice. "Have you been?"
"I fell asleep in the graveyard" I said truthfully, and Ricky smirked.
"Nate checked, you weren't there"
"Does it matter where I was?!" I say angrily, it wasn't like I was going to tell him about Natalie's parents. What if he harmed them too?
"Well it matters to Jessica"
"Oh whatever, it's something like that" he groaned "your girlfriend"
"Gemma" I say sternly and he smiles
"Yes, that's it. Gemma" he says, tasting the name on his tongue and I narrowed my eyes at him.
"Where is she?"
"Oh, well as you took so long, and didn't obey my orders I let Leo take her again. To teach you a lesson"
"No!" I shouted, all my emotion and sadness returning in a huge wave.
"Yes. He seemed eager"
I turned my back on him so he didn't see my tears. Poor, poor Gemma.
I blinked through the darkness, trying to fight off the overwhelming sickness churning in my stomach. Then Leo entered the room alone and my eyes lit up, the sickness momentarily forgotten. He softly walked over to me and removed my gag.
"Leo!" I breathed, and he smiled.
"Hey, how are you doing?"
"I'm okay, where's Ricky?
"He's gone out to get some more food" he said, but still nervously looked over to the door fearfully.
Lucy grunted behind me, and he understood, and got up to remove her gag.
"Thank you!" Lucy croaked, her voice hoarse from disuse.
"Your welcome" he said awkwardly "your Harry's sister right?"
"Yes" she said, looking at him carefully.
Leo grinned at her "he loves you very much you know, always has done. He always said he just wanted to go back for you, to see you, even when he was drugged, he still whispered it in his sleep."
Lucy blushed and smiled at the comforting thought, but suddenly my sickness returned and I puked all over the floor.
"Your still sick?" Leo said looking concerned, but my mind flicked back to the idea I had had only a few hours ago.
It would make sense, it was the right time... wasn't it? They say this is one of the main giveaways... could it really be?
"Yeah, a bit" I said, but already the sickness had past and I felt okay again.
All of a sudden the door flung open and Ricky was there, looking suspiciously at Leo.
"What are you doing in here without me?" he said, and Leo blushed red.
Oh no!I thought,busted!
But Leo stammered on "I wanted to... you know. Take one of them to my room, whilst you were out"
Ricky roared with laughter "Sure you can mate!"
"But what are you doing with the sister? I think the girlfriend would hurt him more"
I felt a pang as the hurt to Harry was referred.
"Yeah well she's a bit... dirty" Leo said, looking at me distastefully.
Ricky came closer, then backed away a little holding his nose.
"Eugh, the bitch puked everywhere!" he spat, and I glared at him.
"That's why I wanted this one" Leo shook Lucy by the shoulder and Ricky nodded.
"I still want you to take the girlfriend. Let her use your bathroom, I'll get this one to clear the mess up. You can have her all night"
"Thank you Ricky"
"As long as shes washed of that awful stink!"
"Of course, thank you. Come on you piece of crap" he said to me and I caught the momentary flicker of an apology and sympathy in his eyes.
I was led down the hallway, Leo not wanting to touch me, befouled as I was, and once we were in his bedroom, he locked the door.
"Phew, that was a close shave!" he said laughing a little.
"Your telling me" I agreed, too close.
He lifted a hand and pointed to a door in the wall "bathrooms in there, I think it's best if you clean yourself up" he said and I followed his finger to the door, and entered. It was a clean bathroom, white and black tiles with a large shower. I triple checked the door was locked before going in the shower, I didn't want another Paul incident.
I relished the warm water raining on my face and washed the sick out of my hair, and felt my stomach rumble painfully. I was so hungry, but that didn't matter right now. I made sure all the sickness was gone before shutting off the shower and rapping myself up in a towel. There was a soft knock on the door and I opened it a crack. Leo stood there awkwardly with a pile of clothes.
"I didn't think you would want to put your sicky ones on again" he smiled and his red bandana slipped a little into his eyes. Pushing it up with a free hand he laughed.
"Ermm, thanks" I said. But I couldn't' help thinking of when Harry had given me his clothes all that time ago. Leo was totally different to Harry in looks, and Harry lived the better life, but in the end, they were both kind. Perhaps that's the key.
It wasn't much, but a large pair of jeans and a large shirt which was huge on me. I salvaged a vest top from my clothes and chose to put that on under the shirt, and it didn't look too bad. I towel dried my hair and pulled it into a bun I learned which needed no hair ties.
I felt my tummy nervously pondering the possibility... the strong possibility... that I was... could I?
When I left the bathroom Leo was lying on the bed staring into space, listening to a quiet radio station in the background.
"Are you feeling better?"
"I think so" I confirmed, and he looked at me concern and sympathy all over his face.
"Do you know what it is?" he asked,and I considered telling him.
"I think so" I say nervously, still deciding whether to confide in him.
"What?" he asked, and I breathed in nervously.
"I can't tell you" I said quickly and he scowls flopping back down on the bed, and lights a cigarette and I wrinkled my nose at him.
"Really? Do you have to smoke right in front of me?" I growled, and slumped on the bed.
He put out the cigarette, and looked apologetically at me.
"I'm cutting down. I just need them every now and then"
I frowned and he lifted his hands protectively "come on, I dropped the drugs a few months ago, that was hard enough! Cut me some slack here!"
"Why?" I asked, and it was his turn to frown.
"Why?" he repeated.
"As in, why did you stop?"
"I didn't want them anymore" he said still confused by my question, but I was persistent.
"I mean, what motivated you to stop? You don't just stop something like that, particularly someone like you who has been doing it most of his life. There is always a reason, what was yours?"
He thought about it for a moment, then went pink a little "I suppose, strangely, it was Harry. I am extremely jealous of him. He has everything now, a life, a beautiful loving girlfriend, people who care about him. I have no one who cares about me"
"I care about you" I said shoving him in the shoulder jovially and he smiled sadly
"Not in the same way. Not how you care about Harry, how he cares about you. I want that. I want someone to love me for who I am, like what you two have. It's beautiful. I wish I could just walk away from all this..." he broke off and I overtook him.
"You can! Harry did! You can leave, and have a life!"
"Yeah, and look at the mess Harry is in now. It''s not easy for people like us Gemma"
"But if you helped us get away, you could be free"
He pondered the idea, then shook his head.
"It wouldn't work, Ricky would--"
"Be locked away! Nate too! And any others who are lurking around! Between you and Harry, you could wheedle out all of the hideouts! You could escape it all!"
He looked at me strangely.
"Would that work?" he whispered, and I could almost hear the childish hope, and desperation aching in his voice. The lost childhood. The lost life.
"Yes" I took his hand, and he looked down in surprise at it.
Then his face broke into a smile "okay! Okay I'll do it!" he said excitedly "but what first?"
"First" I said, relieved and overjoyed that Leo was on our side! "We tell Harry exactly where we are."
"Okay" then he jumped to his feet "no time like the present"
Spurred on by our newfound friendship and confidence, I decide to tell him. As he said, no time like the present.
"Leo" I say, picking my words carefully, pulling him back down to a sit. "You know I said I couldn't tell you why I was sick?"
"Yes" he said, "but don't feel you have to tell me. It doesn't matter, and it is private after all"
"No" I smile "I want to tell you. I need to tell you. Leo, I, I think that I'm... pregnant."