Small and taut, with skin so black it was almost blue he was like blueberry ready to pop. Anger and anxiety fizzed from him as he looked around the room. Dingy and dull, threadbare with nowhere to hide. He heard the front door slam and flinched; the sound was a call for action, but where could he go? He had always known since he took the money there would be trouble, but he hoped he would be moved on. He had been before, from home to home as people passed him back and forth, but somehow here had stayed. There had been safety in this house when he had kept his eyes closed, he had been able to breathe and sometimes even he had played, surprising himself by laughing, running and spinning in the garden with the joy of freedom. He had even gone to school.
But now what? That, once more, was over. He would have to take the punishment, the disappointment and face another move to another strange place. He moved back, away from the door and the windows, until he was pressed against the wall. It was the only defence he had, physically shrinking and presenting the smallest possible front for attack. The door opened and he looked up. And unfolded with surprise. In front of him was not the Big Man he has been expecting, the man he stole from so he could have something of his own. It was a small woman, breathing hard and heavy, her eyes wide with surprise and shock and fear and amazement. He stepped forward and held her hand, stroking it gently to calm. He didn’t have any words. She panted, sucking in the air with desperation, as though she had recently been denied. Slowly, she straightened, and looked at him as though she had only just noticed him. She tried to smile, to reassure, but it faltered, cracking.
She stepped forward and wrapped him in her arms. He hugged her back. And there they stayed for minutes until they gently parted. Her hands stopped on his shoulders.
“It’s ok now,” she said.