I kept my voice low.
‘How did you get here?’ I asked George quietly.
‘I was going to Leicester…I was thumbing a lift*.’ George started to cough. `It was late. A car came and stopped. It was him. I got in and that’s the last I remember. I woke up here.’
`Do you know me?’ I asked.
‘Yes, you work for that homeless place…’ George started to cough again. He turned his head as he did so. I felt spittle land on my face, and I jerked* away, repulsed*. This time George couldn’t stop coughing.
The door opened across the room and the man appeared in the doorway. George kept on coughing. The man said nothing as he approached. His eyes were in deep shadow, but his narrow mouth was as thin and tight as a paper cut.
‘He’s not well,’ I said, ‘he needs a doctor.’
The man turned his head and stared at me.
George was struggling to breathe. The man leaned forward, grabbed George by the hair and stared into his face. George coughed and spit* covered the man’s face. He staggered backwards and stumbled into a metal shelf. A big plastic bottle fell and bounced on the stone floor.
The man was furious. He wiped his face and stared at his hand. His chest heaved and I could see him grind his teeth. He stood abruptly*, ran across the room and flung open the door. I could hear his heavy footsteps as he climbed the stairs to his rooms above; then the sound of running water.
George finally stopped coughing. I turned and looked at him. He stared back at me, his beard covered in spit, his eyes full of tears. I didn’t know which one I hated more: George or the man who had kidnapped us.
thumbing a lift* – signalling to a driver that you want them to take you somewhere
jerked* – moved, pulled suddenly
repulsed* – disgusted
spit* – the water in one’s mouth
abruptly* – suddenly