Alex raised a hand in greeting. Hi.
I hear youre getting out of here tomorrow, Paul said.
Yes. How about you?
Another day, worst luck. He hovered in the doorway. He seemed to want to come in, but at the same time something held him back. Ill be glad to leave, he admitted. I want to go home.
Where is home? Alex asked.
Im not sure. Paul was completely serious. We live in London a lot of the time. But my fathers always moving. Moscow, New York, the South of France . . . hes been too busy even to come in and see me. And we have so many houses, I sometimes wonder which is my home.
Where do you go to school? Alex had picked up on the mention of Moscow and assumed that Paul must be Russian.
I dont go to school; I have tutors. Paul shrugged. Its difficult. My lifes sort of weird, because of my father. Because of everything. Anyway, Im jealous of you getting out before me. Good luck.
Paul hesitated a fraction longer, then left. Alex gazed thoughtfully at the empty doorway. Perhaps his father was some sort of politician or banker. On the few occasions they had spoken, hed gotten the impression that the other boy was friendless. He wondered how many kids were admitted into this hospital who had fathers willing to spend thousands to make them better, but who had no time to visit them while they were there.
It was nine oclock. Alex flicked through the television channels, but there was nothing on. He wished now that he had accepted the sleeping pill from the nurse. A little sip of water and he would have been out for the night. And out of the hospital the next day. Alex was looking forward to that more than anything. He needed to start his life again.
He watched half an hour of a comedy that didnt make him laugh. Then he switched off the television, turned off the light, and curled up in the bed one last time. He rather wished Diana Meacher had come back to see him. Briefly he remembered the scent of her perfume. And then he was asleep.
But not for long.
The next thing Alex knew, it was half past twelve. There was a clock beside the bed, its numerals glowing in the dark. He woke up reluctantly, trying to climb back down into the pit from which he had come. The truth was, it was difficult to sleep when he had done nothing to make him tired. All day hed been lying there, breathing in the clean, conditioned atmosphere that at St. Dominics passed for air.
He lay in the semidarkness, wondering what to do. Then he got up and slipped into his dressing gown. This was the worst thing about being in the hospital. There was no way out, nowhere to go. Alex couldnt get used to it. Every night for a week, hed woken up at about the same time, and finally hed decided to break the rules and escape from the sterile box that was his room. He wanted to be outside. He needed the smell of London, the noise of the traffic, the feeling that he still belonged to the real world.
He put on a pair of slippers and went out. The lights had been dimmed, casting no more than a discreet glow outside his room. There was a computer screen gleaming behind the nurses station but no sign of Diana Meacher or anyone else. Alex took a step forward. There are few places more silent than a hospital in the middle of the night and he felt almost afraid to move, as though he were breaking some sort of unwritten law between the healthy and the sick. But he knew he would just lie awake for hours if he stayed in bed. He had nothing to worry about. Mrs. Jones was certain that Scorpia was no longer a threat. He was almost tempted to leave the hospital and catch the night bus home.
Reprinted from Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz by permission of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © April 2006, Anthony Horowitz. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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