Friday, 6.30 am
A distant siren merges into the staccato shriek of an alarm clock, and Lainey’s dream slips away. She comes to in her own bed, her body heavy on the sagging mattress, the weight of the blanket pressing her down. Rolling over, she gives the alarm clock a whack, hoping it hasn’t woken her mother. From his basket nearby, Fergus lets out a low grunt. Beside the bed, there’s fluttering and rustling.
She sits up and rubs her eyes. Her room is still dark, full of shadowy cubist shapes. Although the autumn temps have dropped already, she hasn’t turned on her radiator yet, and the morning air is chilly. It’s raining outside, and the rush of water is a million murmuring voices, cajoling, soothing, warning, impatient. Get moving, they say. Get this done.
Lainey hesitates, thinking of her plans this morning. There’s an icy lump in her belly. And she hasn’t accounted for rain.
She tiptoes to the bathroom, alert for any other sound. All is quiet. She sits on the toilet with her head in her hands, staring at the scrappy fabric of her knickers caught at her knees. If she stays here and prays hard enough, something might change. Except she doesn’t believe in miracles.
Finally, she gets up to wash her face and brush her teeth. Her hands shake as she gulps water from the tap and she sighs. If this is going to work, she needs to stay calm. Back in her room, she moves stealthily, gathering what she needs. She gives Fergus a few treats then unclips her watch, attaching it to his front right paw. Fergus looks mournfully at it, then his trusting brown eyes turn towards hers.
‘Sorry, buddy,’ she tells him, stroking the spaniel’s ears and kissing the soft swatch of fur between his eyes. ‘I need you to cover for me. I won’t be long.’ She still feels paranoid doing this, but now the watches are compulsory, day and night, and she can’t risk being tracked for the next hour or so…