Chapter 2: Vukovar
“hi, how r u? frank”
Repositioning her phone on the kitchen table, Lorelei read the words from an unknown number, but she knew who it was. A probable fourth-hand Nokia her mother gave her, the text was blockish. It was dated technology, when everyone else, even the new refugees at her school, messaged through Facebook and Twitter using touchscreens. Old school.
“who gave frank my no?” she typed, sending it to a group called “ptsd,” then dunked a spoon once more into her cereal. It would be dangerous to be associated with Frank. She didn’t want him sniffing around. Not that Frank “sniffed”, technically speaking. He just tried too hard. Much too hard by Lyme Road standards.
";-) minus 3 minus 3 minus 3" replied Patasa, one of the girls from her post traumatic stress disorder group.
Frank sometimes helped out in the science laboratory where he looked after the pet rabbits, cleaning out their cages and sorting out the mothers and their endless litters. He knew everything about rabbits. That was only partly why he was called “Bunny.” It was also because he was white, and because he helped the teachers. A gem: easily fooled.
A new text message from Frank tinkled on her phone. “im an astronomer with a big telescope and i see an angel”
“r u mad?” she replied to Patasa’s text. “why?”
“u have him” Patasa was having her on, right?
Lorelei stopped reading when her mother appeared in the doorway, a black silk dressing gown wrapped round her slim figure. She brushed a hank of brunette hair from her wan, sleepy face and gazed at her daughter as though uncertain of what to say. There were days when she never saw her mother, or only as a sleeping form in a bed in the main room opposite the kitchen. The sleep of the dead. Lorelei saw the tremor in her mother’s hand.
“What are you doing up?” Lorelei slouched over the kitchen table, a spoonful of cereal held in mid-air, droplets of milk falling into a bowl. Her straight blonde hair was held back in a ponytail that reached halfway down a navy blue tracksuit top, her preferred school attire. The white ear-bud wires drooped over her shoulders were plugged into the Nokia on the table. She had skin that always looked slightly tanned, even in the London autumn, and the contrast with her almost white hair gave her the look of a human palomino.
Under thick, dark hair, her mother’s pale blue eyes narrowed.
“Good morning to you, too.” Her voice had an Eastern European accent even after fifteen years in London. She told people she came from Bosnia, but Lorelei was no longer sure that was true. Who knew what was true about her?
Lorelei had inherited her aquamarine eyes, but not her thick hair, which almost floated about her shoulders. And Lorelei didn’t quite have her mother’s wide smile, so rarely seen anymore, or that pale, porcelain skin. Too perfect skin. She was a cocktail waitress at one of the London gentlemen’s clubs, the social venues for the rich, famous or powerful. So she claimed. Yet she didn’t have a uniform, and what waitress was driven to and from work by a minder who whispered Albanian expletives as he plodded down the stairwell? Lorelei sometimes heard him if she left her window open at night. And how is it such a beautiful waitress never had a boyfriend? At least, not since Lorelei’s father. But these were not questions she could ask. She couldn’t ask her mother anything.
“tell frank u gave him the wrong no. ill text back like im in a gang bruv” she wrote.
he is a very good friend of mine (be this important or not)