1. Chapter One: Leeds
Through the half – open window, Alex stared down at the stone fountain in the driveway. Gabby had gone downstairs over an hour ago, but the room still smelt of her cigarette smoke. Again, Alex hadn’t told Gabby of her plan to leave, but all week something had stopped her. She tugged at the grubby strap that tied the window to its frame and pulled it shut. Outside, at the entrance to the Home, a stray dog padded up to the wrought iron gates and pushed its muzzle through bars. Its body was streaked with dirt, looking up, it watched her for a while and then moved on. I wonder if anyone’s looking for you, Alex thought. She picked at her right thumb and watched as it began to bleed, tonight, she thought, I’m going tonight.
On her bedside table, the gift nestled in fuchsia tissue paper; a set of three garish lipsticks that Alex wouldn’t use and so would end up back with Gabby. Everyone had signed a house card, and some of the younger kids had made their own. Drawn in wax crayon she looked like a boy; with short black hair and jeans with trainers. Maybe I should dye my hair blonde like Pink, she thought, maybe that would be better. Her full name, Alexander, was also something she didn’t like, what sort of parents give a boy’s name to a girl? As the light outside melted into the dusk, she made her decision. I need to get a long way from here, she thought, and suddenly her mind felt as clear as fresh water.