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Chapter 4 Unannounced Guest

  • In my jumbled-up dream where everyone I'd ever met in my life made a cameo, I was in some sort of courtroom. Dozens of familiar faces glared at me unforgivingly while a wizened judge rattled off my list of crimes.
  • "Extortion," he continued. "Bribery. A manslaughter attempt."
  • "Clearly Kiara is a menace to society and must be kept under lock and key," some other official guy stated.
  • I looked round for my lawyer but he was nowhere to be seen and when I tried to open my mouth and cry out about human rights the words wouldn't form themselves. Then I realized. They'd stuffed me with cotton balls like a soft toy and I'd never be able to speak again.
  • "Silence," the judge slammed his gavel. "Kiara, I hereby sentence you to fifty-five years in prison -"
  • Too quick the courtroom melted away into a drab hotel room, all depressing grey and brown, and in my half-awake state it took almost a minute to figure out where I was.
  • Someone was knocking on the door. Not hard menacing knocks like Yunai's, but small soft ones.
  • "Excuse me," a maid or something of the sort called out from the other side.
  • Oh bloody hell. I'd checked in last night - seventy euros for this poky room, all because it had a double bed and sea views! - and hadn't been able to sleep until three or four, plotting and scheming using the hotel stationery until the ballpoint pen ran out of ink.
  • I was clad in yesterday's cheapo Primark underwear and my hair was all wild and uncombed, half up and half down. "I'm coming," I called irritably. I wasn't leaving without a long hot shower.
  • Wrapping an unused fluffy towel round my body I creaked the door open. It was a cleaner with her little trolley of products and a twee uniform.
  • "I'm sorry miss, but it's ten minutes past twelve. Checkout was ten minutes ago," she informed me politely.
  • "Oh God. Look, can't you clean those rooms down there and I'll be out in ten?" I grimaced. No point batting my eyelashes or pouting for the benefit of an old hag.
  • She bristled. "Alright, but be out in ten minutes."
  • Off she went with her squeaky trolley. I shut the door and had a nice hot shower but I just couldn't get clean enough with the watery hotel gels. I used up all three bottles and imagined I smelled the same.
  • I brushed my teeth with my nice new electric toothbrush, realizing I'd forgotten to buy Listerine mouthwash and a good perfume, sprayed on the deodorant and changed into yesterday's depressing blue tracksuit with a change of underwear. It didn't take me long to gather up my meager belongings. Funny, every time I checked into a luxury hotel I used to be paranoid about leaving behind precious items. But everything was different for now.
  • Combing my hair out to the best of my abilities so it would fall in soft curls around my shoulders, I gave the room one last look and left. I didn't even bother taking my frantic scribbles with me. I was awful at planning.
  • The hotel maid was very irate indeed when I finally left.
  • "Took you long enough," she mumbled, barging into my room and dragging her trolley in with her.
  • A nasty thought creeped into my head as I took the lift down to reception. Even though I knew I was on a far superior level to the help, nobody else did. And I didn't even have the money to lord it over anyone anymore.
  • Things will change today, things will change today, I repeated to myself over and over as I left the hotel lobby and walked out into the street.
  • It was a hustle and bustle of activity at midday. I stood there frozen for a few seconds trying to figure out where the hell to go. My grandparents wouldn't exactly welcome me with open arms and fanfare. My parents and brothers were all living it up in jail with their criminal buddies. I had no clue what Steisy was up to and nothing would be more embarrassing than to go crawling back to her after our falling out.
  • "Paula," I whispered to myself as I made my way back to the Gibraltar border. My new shoes were tight and awkward because I hadn't broken them in yet. My aunt Paula, my mother's sister, wouldn't possibly turn her back on me. We were blood. She wouldn't be too pissed that I hadn't gone to those sodding nail classes way back last year. That was ancient history now.
  • I caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window and smiled. No one was exactly stopping in their tracks to admire me but I'd never been much round this way, only entering Gibraltar for the occasional glamorous shopping trip. And I'd been AWOL for a year. People might have forgotten about me, but as soon as they saw me again they'd remember. Oh yes.
  • "Salón Paula on Calle Belmonte," I mumbled when the taxi driver asked me where we were headed. I sat in the back just in case he tried some funny business but to my dismay he didn't even make conversation. I felt like a pariah. I needed human interaction. More importantly - I needed cash.
  • What would I tell her? Her husband never much liked me but I didn't care about him. I'm sure my little cousin would climb all over me and ask where I'd been. Paula would take one look at how slim I was and insist on me staying at her place as long as I wanted. It was a poky flat above her store, but it was far better than nothing.
  • Oh, if only I'd done those nail classes I could have a skill. Though it wasn't right for me to sit in a chair for hours a day working on people's manicures. It should be the other way round. Maybe Paula herself could give me a nice new set with bling and Svarovskis and bright polish…
  • "That'll be five euros, miss," the driver commented. Somehow we were already here.
  • I blinked and handed over five exactly. I didn't want to look into my plastic wallet for too long because it depressed me. Now I had less than ninety euros on me and I didn't want to suck my debit card dry unless it was an emergency.
  • Oh well; with ninety euros I could still buy things. More outfits. Sunglasses to cover my face. Decent body gel. Another pair of good shoes. I should be proud at how I'd budgeted so far.
  • The taxi trundled off and I peered dubiously at Salon Paula. It was certainly open, with its same familiar baby pink and gold facade, a display of beauty products was ever present in the window. But it didn't look… Busy. People used to queue up outside. My aunt had two hairdressers, one nail tech, and a young girl working there who doubled up as a receptionist and cleaner.
  • Once she suggested I work there myself - "It's a real opportunity, Kiara, everyone wants their nails doing and you'll never be without a job," - because Steisy had started folding shirts at Deluxe. What had my reaction been? I'd probably snorted and said thanks, but no thanks.
  • Oh, if only I'd been more tactful. Turning up unannounced didn't seem such a good idea now.