She nodded and closed the door behind her. He breathed out
deeply, trying to release the accumulating tension. He wouldn’t
be here this afternoon, and he would never speak to Monsieur
Cattiaux from the bank, ever again. He took some satisfaction
from that, at least. A single crumb of comfort floating in his
sea of troubles. If there was one thing he did not mind leaving
behind him it was debt.
He put the empty container back in the safe and locked it
again, carefully re-hanging the picture. Then he turned to his
desk and began going through the drawers. Not much here that
he would take with him. Almost impossible to anticipate what
he might need in an obscure and uncharted future.
The azan call to prayer rang out across the kasbah, the voice of
the muezzin carrying across the night, rising above the racket of
the street markets and restaurants below. It was a familiar and
comforting sound to Yves, coming as it did with the soft air
through the open windows of his studio. Even in February the
night air was mild. He would miss the climate. The heat of the
summer, the mild winters, the clear, dry air. And the smell and
sound of the sea. When silence settled across the city in the dead
of night, it was always there, a sound like breathing. The deep,
sighing, ever-present breath of the sea. In a way, he thought, it
was what he might miss most of all.
The small leather suitcase was open on the bed. Prepacked
and always ready, he was adding last minute items. Insignificant
things. The detritus of a life to which he had grown too attached
and was reluctant now to abandon entirely. An engraved silver
cigarette case, a clock with luminous hands that he had bought
at the souk, a gold wrist chain given him by Salima. He paused
and wondered about her photograph. It stood in a pewter frame
on the bedside table. When he hadn’t wakened to her on his
pillow, she had always been there at the side of his bed. On an
impulse, he tore the cardboard backing away from the frame and
took out the black and white print. He looked into her dark,
smiling eyes, and ran a fingertip over her lips. Lips he would
never kiss again.
He slipped it into the lining of his suitcase and stood debating
whether he should call her. But he knew he could never explain
the reason he was leaving, or make her understand why she would
never see him again. And he wondered why that thought caused
him more pain than the leaving of Magda and the boys.
In the end, he found a more practical reason for not calling
Salima. It was just possible that his phone was being tapped,
and he did not want to alert his pursuers to the fact that he was
about to flee.
He closed his suitcase and sat on the edge of the bed looking
around his studio. A glance at his watch told him it was not long
after 11.30, and he suddenly felt very alone. And frightened.
He had never planned for a life like this. Living in the shadows,
watching for those who might be watching him. Forced to flit
from one life to the next, always leaving behind the people and
the things he loved. There was almost, he thought, no point in
building a new life. Because somewhere, sometime in the future,
they would find him, and it would all begin again.
Wearily he got to his feet and lifted his case. The bastards were
relentless. And if they ever caught him, his life would be over.
At 11:38 he pulled the door of his apartment softly shut behind
him. The old stone staircase was in darkness, the bulb on the
landing burned-out or stolen. He would leave by the side exit
in the corridor next to the caretaker’s apartment on the ground
floor, just in case they were watching the street. Once out into
the maze of alleyways that riddled the kasbah, he could melt
undetected into the night.
But the dark in the stairwell was profound, wrapping itself
around him like a cloak, very nearly tangible. His outstretched
free hand followed the line of the wall downwards as he searched
ahead with each foot for the next step. His own breath resonated
loudly in the silence that resided behind the thick, stone walls of
the old riad.
Kenn Nesbitt is new Children's Poet Laureate(Jun 12 2013) Kenn Nesbitt has been named the new Children's Poet Laureate: Consultant in Children's Poetry to the Poetry Foundation, which noted that the two-year position...