Hopscotch

Daniel had a small green rucksack. I followed it into the station in a stupefied daze. I was drained, and on the run now, like Steph, but it was a relief to escape that hotel. To stay there alone, in that grey mist, even for another night, going through the door that he had leant against, crumpled like a child, or walking past that lounge where we had sat, his finger doodling on my leg … No. Following Daniel further south was somehow more rational than sitting in Bucharest torturing myself.
The station was cold. An old woman in black was scavenging in the rubbish bins.

‘Food,’ I said, veering towards an outlet on the concourse selling croissants. Fornetti.

‘I’ve got it covered,’ said Daniel.

I bought two bags of pastries anyway. We looked up at the departures board. Prague, Warsaw, Vienna … In a blink, my life had become exotic. This was like a nightmare and a dream, running concurrently. Daniel was in the dream, in the unreal; Milenko was in the nightmare, and there was no way of getting him out of it. His distress sucked me into the ground. When I had left him in Croatia, he had been too confused to react, but now his tears were pulling on my conscience, dripping into my heart. I had crippled him. It was if a bullet had travelled through me and brought him down too, because he was beside me, body and soul. Perhaps it was fair that he should be hurt, but I loved him too much to bear it, which was why, when Daniel stopped beside a carriage door and said, ‘In you go,’ in I went.

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