A Place of Safety by Helen Black

By Helen Black

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He presses select. ’ Luke’s heart leaps in his chest at the sound of his sister’s voice. ‘Hello,’ she repeats. Everything he wants to say gets stuck in his throat, like a ball of cotton wool, all thick and dry. ’ Jessie’s voice rises. ’ The televisions in Dixon’s window flash beside him. The constant stream of pictures is hypnotic. Jessie is shouting now. ’ He hasn’t slept in forty-eight hours and his head feels weird. The last time he’d stayed up all night had been at Harriet Mason-Day’s party They’d all chipped in for some Es and he’d ended up getting a blow job from her little sister in the laundry room.

He shook his head, hair falling into his eyes. ‘I’m a volunteer,’ he said. ‘I offer advice, and help with the language. ’ ‘I see,’ she said. But in truth she didn’t. He opened his arms as if to explain. ‘When I came here there was no one to help. No one to explain. ’ And so, thought Lilly, this strange and dazzling man did what he could for those that needed it the most. ’ she asked. ’ Milo gave a single nod. ’ asked Lilly. ’ Lilly scribbled the name of a firm in Luton who specialised in criminal law and handed it to Milo.

Although she kept the increasing numbers quiet, particularly from Rupes, Lilly now represented at least half the kids in there. It didn’t take up too much of her energy, she told herself, as she checked her watch. As soon as she crossed the threshold a young man in a checked shirt and denim jacket sidled over. ‘Hello, Artan,’ said Lilly. He should have been a good-looking boy with his full pink lips and the blackest of lashes, but something about him always unnerved Lilly. His entire family had been killed in Kosovo, but he never seemed angry or sad or even confused.

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