A Place of Safety by Helen Black

By Helen Black

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As usual, it was almost empty. Rupinder and the others were congregated at the far end of the bar. Lilly heard the pop of a champagne cork and her heart sank. Had she missed something important? Whose birthday was it? ’ she called, all faux bonhomie. Rupinder held out a glass of bubbly. ‘Your application for rights of higher audience. ’ Earlier that year, Rupes had come under pressure from her colleagues to give Lilly the boot because of her propensity to speak her mind and take on cases that would add little to their pension funds.

He forces some words out. ’ ‘You look peaky,’ she says, and presses a cool palm against his forehead. ’ He pushes his bowl away. ‘Yeah. ’ Relief plays at the corner of his mother’s mouth. This is her territory. ‘Better lie down, love,’ she says. ’ The thought of Jessie, a year younger than Luke, fills his mind. What if some boys took her to the park…held her down… He runs from the room, his hand over his mouth, acid bile running through his fingers. * * * His bedroom is spinning and Luke concentrates on a small brown water stain on the ceiling.

She looked from Jack to the sandwich and back again and split it in half. ’ They chewed in silence until Jack wiped his hands on his jeans. ’ ‘Yes,’ she said. ’ ‘Been better,’ he answered. She touched his thumb with her own. ’ He nodded. ’ ‘He was out of control,’ she said. ’ He gave a doubtful shrug. ’ They sat in silence while Lilly racked her brain for something positive to say. How did you make someone who had just killed a child feel any better about themselves? ‘At least the press haven’t got wind of it,’ she said.

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