At exactly 8:07 mum comes walk up the garden path to find me shivering outside the house. For a moment she looks puzzled and says nothing. Then she frowns and says: ‘Stephen… What are you doing outside, it’s raining?”
I try to reply but I’m too wet and cold to speak. I sort of mumble something and try to cough out the words. Mum moves over to me and scoops me up in her arms.
“What’s happened Stephen?’ she gently asks.
‘I got locked out!” I splutter, not able to stop the tears. ‘I left my bloody key in my room!’
Mum hugs me close to her chest so that I can smell her perfume and feel her body heat. She does this for several moments and then she suddenly draws away from me as if struck by a thought. ‘But why didn’t Sofia let you in?’ she says. “Have you two been arguing again?’
Some more words leave my mouth but even I cannot make any sense of them. I panic and shake my head back and forth. Mum takes hold of both of my arms and pulls them down by my side. “Look at me Stephen,’ she orders. “Try to stay as calm as possible and slowly tell me what has happened.”
“Sofia’s not here,’ I splutter.
Mum frowns again and then something like a smile seems to creep on to her face. ‘What do you mean she’s not there? Where is she Stephen? Is she hiding?”
‘She’s not here,’ I say again. ‘She’s gone.’
Mum pulls away from me and opens the front door as if she doesn’t believe what I’m saying. ‘Come inside,’ she says, roughly grabbing hold of my hand and heaving me inside the house. The she shuts the front door and begins calling Sofia’s name.
“She’s not here,’ I say. ‘She’s on the Bayswater Road.’
Mum abruptly stops yelling and turns around to stare at me. ‘What did you say?’ she asks. ‘Look Stephen, I’ve just got home from a hard day at work and I can do without this silly nonsense. Now where is Sofia hiding?’
‘She’s on the Bayswater Road,’ I repeat.
‘Stephen!’ she snaps, snarling like an angry dog at me.
And then I sort of slump to the floor and more shouting than talking I tell her all about what has happened since I got home. I tell her about Sofia not being here, about me calling and calling her and only getting voicemail; about me using Find my Phone to trace her whereabouts. And about Bayswater Road.
Mum starts to look worried as she takes this in. ‘Show me,’ she says, her voice raising in pitch.
“Show me Find My Phone.’
She follows me upstairs as I try to tell her that it won’t work now. That Sofia’s phone has disappeared. That the red dot is gone. But mum won’t listen until I’ve shown her, and even then she seems either completely unimpressed or unable to understand what I’m showing her. Now she gets angry. ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ she says.
‘You told me I’m not allowed to call you at work,’ I say, looking down at my feet.
Suddenly there is a noise downstairs. The sound of someone putting a key into the door lock. For a moment I feel a deep wave of relief wash over me. Everything going to be all right. Sofia’s home. She late and she’s really gong to catch it from dad but at least she home.
But it isn’t Sofia. It’s dad. He doesn’t say anything but mum ands me both know straight away that it’s him. ‘Tony!’ mum cries.