* * *
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* * * *
The train was late.
A frown on her face, Sadie grimaced up at the big station clock.
"Ten minutes late." She muttered. "Stupid trains...what a day to be
She paced up and down platform 5, every so often turning to glance
back towards the tunnel in the hope of seeing a big red and grey intercity
train rumbling into the station, but as yet, she'd had no luck.
Convincing Alyssa to lend her the additional money had been less difficult
than she'd expected. When she'd outlined her plan to go and stay with a
friend who lived some distance away, her sister's first concern had been
who, but Sadie had told her that until she was safely there, she didn't
want to put Alyssa and her children at risk by telling them her intended
destination. After promising faithfully to phone as soon as she could, she
had been given the money and that very night had begun to plot.
First had been the issue of work. She had called her boss, telling
her that something serious had occured and that the police had advised
her to leave the area. Jessica's arrival at Alyssa's house late the night
before had given her the idea - Jessica knew what had happened at the club,
and if questions were asked, the authorities at the centre would simply
presume that this was the reason. She had been back to her apartment to
collect her favourite bits and pieces, leaving some with her sister for safe
keeping and paying her landlord a month's rent in advance. She had decided
that, once she was in America, she could tell Alyssa to sell the remaining
bits and pieces and cancel the lease.
Her precious Disney collection, along with most of her own character
sketches she had given over to her nieces. They, as she had told Alyssa,
would appreciate them, and she wanted to be sure she was travelling light.
Alyssa had seemed slightly confused by this action, but had not questioned
it, and that morning she had left her sister's house for the station.
Noone had seen her ask the Four Oaks ticket office for a single to
Birmingham International, instead of her usual return ticket to work in
Witton, and she had stepped off the train at Birmingham New Street, full
of anticipation as she hunted for the train to the airport.
But it hadn't yet come, and she was becoming impatient.
"Of all the days for the train to be late." She muttered, shifting
her heavy bag onto her other shoulder. After much deliberation she had
decided not to take much with her. A case would have made her sister suspicious
- as it was she'd had to claim she was visiting the charity shops in Witton
to drop off old clothes before work.
"Passengers awaiting the 12.15 train to London Euston, please be advised
that this train is running approximately twenty five minutes late. This
is due to a failed signal at Wolverhampton. We are very sorry for the delay
to your journey." The mechanical voice of the station announcer rang out
through the platform speakers and Sadie glanced up at the clock again, muttering
an unpleasant epithet under her breath. Another twenty five minutes?
"Anyone on this platform going to International or Coventry?" A burly
guard dressed in a green and blue uniform came sauntering down the platform,
jerking her back to attention. She nodded her head, fixing him with a
"Please tell me there's another train? I have a flight to catch."
She begged, though in truth she had left so quickly that she did not know
if she could even get a ticket to America.
"Platform Six, love. Train to Bournemouth. First stop is International.
Leaves in two minutes." The guard beamed at her and Sadie thanked him,
hurrying up the steps and through the crowds to the stairwell leading down
to platform six.
New Street Station reminded her of a dark, dismal maze of stairs,
platforms and railway tracks, dim and cool even on the hottest summer
day, and it always gave her shivers. However, the big red Bournemouth train
was already in when she got to Platform Six and, thanking her lucky stars,
she slipped into the nearest coach, making her way to the first empty seat
she found and sinking down into it.
"Even if I have to spend a week sleeping on seats at International
Airport waiting for a flight, it has to beat going home and being a sitting
target." She muttered, making herself comfortable, and pulling out the
sandwiches she had bought on the station. "At least I'm taking my life into
my own hands and doing something about this Neal problem. Okay, so it's
not what everyone says I should do, and it's probably running away again,
but hell, it'll be an adventure."
"Ticket please, miss." At that moment the ticket collector came down
the train, and Sadie obediently held out her ticket for stamping. "International?
Be there in about fifteen minutes."
"Thanks." Sadie responded. "Is..it far from the train to the airport?"
"No, you can get a shuttle there, or it's a direct walk." The collector
told her. "Going somewhere nice?"
"Los Angeles." Sadie smiled. "To see a friend."
"Well, have a nice trip." The collector returned her smile, then continued
down the carriage. Sadie glanced out of the window.
"Goodbye, Birmingham." She whispered. "I'm off to America!"
"I can't fly all the way to LAX?"
Sadie stared at the woman behind the ticket desk in dismay, slipping
her bag off her shoulder and dropping it down onto the floor, fishing into
it for her passport. "I have my passport and I have the money for the
ticket - what's the problem?"
"The problem is, my dear, that the flight is full." The lady responded
quietly. "Flights this time of year are generally booked up - holiday season,
"Oh." Sadie bit her lip, trying not to let her disappointment show,
but the lady saw the tears filling the dark blue eyes and her professional
air faded. She rested her elbows on the desk, eying Sadie kindly.
"Is it very important that you fly today?" She asked gently. Sadie
nodded her head.
"As...as soon as possible." She agreed, thinking quickly. "My...friend
in Los Angeles is having a baby soon and I want to be there."
"Oh, I see." The lady smiled, and Sadie's heart pounded in her chest.
She knew that Topaz's baby wasn't due till January, but somehow she had
to convince the woman to sell her a ticket. The sooner she left Birmingham,
"And it wasn't a total lie." She told herself, as the woman returned
to the computer screen, checking the bookings carefully. "I didn't say the
baby was imminent."
"Well, there's one seat in economy left available on the 1704 flight
to Manhattan." The woman said finally. "You'd have to get a connecting flight
there to Los Angeles, but that's the best that I can do for you."
"Manhattan? New York, right?" Sadie absorbed this with a thoughtful
look, then, "Okay. That'll do. Once I'm there I can phone T..my friend
and ask her advice about flying on to LAX. There must be something, and
I can always, you know, stop over in New York and do some sightseeing"
She grinned, trying to quell any feelings of panic welling up inside her
at the thought of having to cross America on her own. "No problem."
"Well, I'll book you in on this flight. Do you have luggage to check
in?" The woman asked. Sadie shook her head.
"No - I'm not planning on staying long." She lied. "I prefer to travel
"Well, then you'd better take your hand luggage to be weighed, make
sure it's not too heavy, and then go through to the departures lounge.
Duty free shops are still open, so you can shop till your plane is due."
The woman smiled at her. "You have a while yet to wait, I'm afraid."
"That's fine, I'll go get a coffee and explore the departures lounge."
Sadie assured her, her heart thudding with excitement. She had done it!
She was going to America!
"Let me see your passport again, dear?"
Sadie handed the passport across the desk, crossing and uncrossing
her fingers behind her back.
"Please don't let her find a reason to stop me." She murmured. "I
have to go!"
"Well, Miss Monahue, that's fine." The lady smiled at her once more,
handing the passport back and printing the ticket.
Once Sadie had paid, she stopped to stare around at the busy airport.
She had only been abroad once before and that time not only had it been
by boat, but she had been with Cece. Now she was on her own.
"Weigh hand luggage." She murmured. "Where might I do that?"
"Lost, miss?" A friendly airport employee cast her a smile and, startled,
she returned it.
"Very." She admitted. "I have to get my hand luggage weighed in but
I don't know where to go."
"What flight are you on?"
"Erm...it's to New York...at four minutes past five."
"Oh, I see." The man grinned. "You need that desk over there. Then
you have to go through that door..." he pointed. "They'll ask to scan your
luggage and you'll have to go through the metal detector, so if you're wearing
anything with metal zips or anything like that take it off before you go
in and put it on the conveyor. Okay?"
"Yes, I got it." Sadie nodded. "Thank you for your help." She smiled
shyly. "I haven't flown before."
"Well, we all start somewhere." The young man winked. "Have a good
"They're all so nice." Sadie mused, as she made her way to the indicated
desk. "I hope this isn't going to be too heavy. I want to take it on the
plane with me and I remember Cece telling me about an argument over her
hand luggage once when she and Rachael went out to Cyprus."
It seemed an age before her baggage had been properly weighed and she
had made it safely through the metal detectors into the departures lounge.
It was busy, and to the astonished Sadie it seemed almost more like a miniature
shopping centre than a waiting room. Stores selling books, magazines,
sweets and all kinds of other paraphernalia flanked the rows of soft blue
seats and, much to her relief Sadie found that a hole in the wall vending
machine was selling coffee. She had not slept much the night before, partly
in anticipation and partly in fear of what was to come, and so she was
quick to order a drink, taking it and finding herself a seat where she
could relax and observe the hustle and bustle.
"It's a no smoking lounge. I should have thought of that." she berated
herself. "The website I was looking at before said that it was about eight
to ten hours to the East Coast, more to the West. I'm gonna go mental if
I don't get a fag in all that time. Wonder if my seat is smoking or nonsmoking,
or if they even let you smoke on aeroplanes."
"Man, I really don't know anything about what it'll be like." she realised.
"I shouldve insisted that Cece and I fly to Spain instead of getting that
clapped out old boat to the Costa del Sol. At least it would've been a
trial run. I wonder if I could ask someone?"
She glanced around her for an airport employee, spotting the official
at the nearest gate entrance. He was not busy, and with some relief she
approached him, feeling a little silly as she did so.
"Excuse me - I don't want to bother you, but I was wondering something."
She began. "I was told that the 1704 flight to Manhattan leaves from this
gate -is that right?"
"Yes, love, but not for some time yet." The man grinned at her.
"Can you tell me, is there a smoking section?"
"I'm afraid all our transatlantic flights are non smoking these days."
The man shook his head apologetically. Sadie frowned.
"Oh, I see." She replied. "And how long is it to New York?"
"Eight or nine hours, depending on weather and the like. Looks like
there's a wind up, so they'll be careful taking off." The man told her.
Sadie swallowed hard.
"A wind up?"
"Yeah, means a blowy take off." The man nodded. Then, seeming to realise
that he had frightened his companion, he laughed. "Oh, don't worry. It
won't be all that bad."
"I haven't flown before." Sadie confessed. "I'm a little nervous."
"First time for everyone, kid." The man told her. "But it's nothing
to be worried about." he raised his hand, indicating the far end of the
departures lounge. "Some of the cafeterias at the bottom have smoking sections,
by the way. You might want to check that out, calm your nerves a little."
"Oh!" Sadie's blue eyes lit up. "Thank you, I will. Thanks again for
your help - everyone here has been so nice to me!"
"That's what we're here for." The man told her. Sadie thanked him again,
then, draining the last of her coffee she set off in search of a cafe
with a smoking section.
"Well, I can't order another coffee, I'll wind up hyper." She reasoned.
"But I can get some chocolate cake or something like that and some mineral
water for the plane, in case I get airsick." She grimaced. Cece had told
her in graphic detail about her friend Rachael's airsickness. "God forbid
that I am. Mm, perhaps I'd better eat something bland instead, just in case."
She pushed open the door to the first cafeteria, ordering a blueberry
muffin and a bottle of Evian, and secluding herself in the smoker's section
as she reflected on what had already happened. She lit up a cigarette, glancing
"Maybe I should call Aly and tell her what I'm about to do." She mused,
exhaling a cloud of smoke and tapping ash into the ashtray. "Though knowing
her she'll come straight down here to get me, or send Andrew. There's plenty
of time for them to still come do that - best I don't call them till I get
to America. Then they can't do anything to stop me."
A waiter delivered her order and she ate the muffin quickly, taking
a sip of the water. It was almost two o'clock by now, and she had ascertained
from the big computer monitors that her flight would begin boarding at
four, so she decided to spend some time in the duty free shops.
"I can't afford to spend much." She mused, as she paid her tab, stubbing
out the cigarette and leaving the cafe. "But a magazine or book for the
flight might be good. I didn't bring many with me because of weight, and
I've read them all before."
She paused, scanning the mini mall for a shop selling books, and as
she did so, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She gasped, swinging around
to face the confused gaze of David Courts, otherwise known as Shock, one
of her former associates and a long term friend.
"What are you doing here? You scared the life out of me!" She exclaimed.
"Wondering why you're at the airport, to be honest." Shock told her
with a grin. "I'm flying out to Paris to meet up with the girls - I've fitted
in a week off and I want to spend some time with Amber, even if she is touring.
"I...I'm going away for a while." Sadie coloured, and Shock frowned.
"Away?" He echoed. He took her hand in his, examining her wrist and
arm. "Am I to guess Neal had something to do with this?"
"You were right. He is in Birmingham." Sadie pulled her hand away,
gazing down. "I don't know how he found me, exactly, but he did and it
"So where are you going?"
"To stay with a friend." Sadie was vague. "And you're not to tell anyone
you saw me, okay? Promise me!"
"Hey, not my business." Shock raised his hands in mock surrender. "I
won't get involved. So long as it's legal."
"Of course it is." Sadie snapped. "I'm going to visit a friend, that's
all, and get away from Neal for a bit. Nothing else!"
"Well, then can you tell me where? I'm curious, Sadie. You look kinda
"Oh, since when did you become the connoisseur of airports, huh?" Sadie
demanded. "Look, I'm going away. That's all that matters. And I'm not lost,
I'm looking for somewhere to buy a book."
"WH Smiths. Go right to the end of this row and turn right." Shock
told her, not at all perturbed by her tone. "I've been there before. Have
some good stuff." He smiled at her. "My flight's been called for boarding.
Good luck, wherever you're headed!"
"Yeah, likewise." Sadie muttered, watching him go, then pausing to
catch her breath. It had unnerved her to meet someone she knew here, and
it began to frighten her. Were any of Neal's friends hanging around Birmingham
Airport? Did they know what she was going to do?
She frowned, shaking her head to eradicate the idea.
"I'm gonna find a book and I'm going to settle down and wait till my
flight is called." She murmured. "If I'm airsick, well, tough luck. It'll
only be for a while and it's worth it. Anything is worth it to get
away from that creep!"