Chapter 8

“Look I'll be able to pay you soon.” Alexandria peered round a tall, scraggy man into a ramshackle, damp warehouse that housed around fifty or so piles of filthy, tattered rags that served as beds. “I'm qualified, see. I can read and write.”

“Yeah right.” The man drawled. “Get yourself down Cragg's Square and turn a few tricks, then come back.”

“I can't, your mother bet me to it.” Alexandria snarled before barging up the lane. “Arsehole.” It was getting dark and it was raining. The cruiser, manned by six guards, had simply dropped her off behind the jail-house and that was that. Alexandria darted behind the litter bins when she saw Barney Cope scuttling into the building. He's have laughed himself silly if he'd seen her back here with the rest of the crap. She sat on the edge of the pavement and smiled as she recalled Bowles' face when she offered Cope her bagged vomit. He'd ordered the rest of the soldiers to sit on their hands in the cruiser, the same as her, to stop her pilfering bits off it. Darius said she was perfect. She remembered how happy she felt wearing that plain, cotton dress that made her feel like a princess. She remembered catching Darius smirking at the look of sheer concentration on her face as she tried to scrawl her name across a sheet of paper. Her first bath, Netty's scoldings, Zach's dancing lessons, Axel, her work being recognised my the Major Sector Board of Agriculture. Had all that really happened? Alexandria looked down at her mud splattered jeans and felt the tears welling up in her eyes. “What happened?” She whispered to herself. “What did I do to stuff that up? How did I end up back here?” She looked up as a man and a woman walked past and threw her the end from a loaf of bread. “Thankyou.” She smiled, but the couple ignored her.

“Alexandria!” Valerie DeWitt would never change. She came darting over in the direction of Alexandria's crust. “How long you been back? Here, what the shit did you do to get lifted by the Major Sector Military?”

“I didn't get lifted.” Alexandria sniffed. “I was helping them with something.”

“Bollocks.” Valerie laughed.

“Yes I was! I stayed in a huge house with four bedrooms and a real bathroom with water and soap of all different colours.” Alexandria smiled sadly. “Real towels that were soft and fluffy. I had three meals every single day and the biggest bed in the world.”

“You were on dope, right?” Val helped herself to Alexandria's bread.

“I had a wonderful man to look after me, Val. He was six feet tall with big blue eyes and long dark hair. He was a university professor called Darius Hawk.” Alexandria looked up through the drizzle. “I also had dinner with a proper, titled lady from Al Kazid. Lady Hexa Call. I stayed with her family and worked with her grandson for the Board of Agriculture. Axel Samson, one of the finest people I've ever met.”

“Ah well they're not all bad down here.” Val shrugged. "Callum Murray's quite fine when he's sober, and he pays up front. Need a word put in?”

“No thanks Val. Thanks for thinking of me. You got anywhere to go tonight? I could do with a put-up.” Alexandria asked.

“I'll grab a few hours wherever I am.” Val apologised.

“You don't believe me about Darius and the bathroom, do you?”

“'Course I do.” Val ruffled Alexandria's hair. “Keep out of trouble.” Alexandria watched her amble off down the street.
Alexandria eventually found herself behind a gambling house, where a group of people of indeterminate genders had a fire going in an old tin bin.

“Hey I know you.” A young man with grimy skin and matted hair smiled at Alexandria. “You're the one the Military lifted aren't you? The spy?”

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