It was the creek of a floorboard that alerted Miri first; the sound stirring her from sleep and setting her pulse racing once more.
As she listened, terrified, she was certain she could hear movement – someone was inside her flat.
Tentatively, she opened her eyes and peered into the darkness of the room; immediately seeing the figure of a man moving about.
A crippling fear filled her belly as she slowly reached out and snapped on her bedside light. “Who are you? What do you want?” She demanded, her eyes briefly dazzled by the sudden brightness.
As she bolted upright in bed, pulling the blankets up to cover her nakedness, she could see that the man had a closely shaven head. He was wearing a patterned red and white T-shirt, tie-dyed Levis that were calf-length and high-laced, cherry red Doc Martens.
Indeed, it was unmistakably the skinhead who had been following her earlier.
He seemed startled and staggered slightly as he turned to face her.
“Come any closer and I’ll scream!” Miri warned. “I mean it.”
“No, please,” said the intruder, swaying unsteadily at the foot of her bed, “Don’t.”
Miriam’s eyes were still struggling to get used to the light but she could see now that the man was not actually wearing a patterned T-shirt at all. It was, in fact, a plain white Fred Perry and the redness, which she had mistaken for some sort of design was, rather shockingly, a large, wet blood stain.
She gasped with horror at the realisation.
Yet there was more blood on his jeans and as Miriam’s eyes slowly adjusted, she could see that the skinhead also had bloodied nostrils and a nasty split across the bridge of his nose. His lips were badly swollen too and he had clearly been in one hell of a fight.
However, it was his eyes which struck her the most. Deep blue and filled with warmth and kindness, they were eyes she would have known anywhere. And she had missed them dreadfully.
“Oh, mon dieu!” She exclaimed, realising with utter shock that this intruder was no stranger at all but the man whom she had thought about every single day for the last six months.
“Sam?” She said, her voice cracking with emotion as he fought to stay upright.
“Hi, Miri,” Sam replied with a friendly smile, just a moment before his eyes closed and he pitched forward.
He fell face down onto her bed and immediately Miriam leapt out from under the covers and rushed to him, completely oblivious to the fact that she was stark naked.
Very gently she turned him onto his back and stared down into his badly beaten face, unable to quite believe what she was actually seeing.
She leant over him and tenderly brushed his cheek; his eyes flickering open at the softness of her delicate touch.
Miriam smiled at him, tears of joy and pain and heartbreak flooding her eyes. “Hello, Sam,” she said, her voice no more than a whisper.
He grinned back at her, obviously in a great deal of discomfort. “Sorry to scare you,” he croaked.
“That’s okay, chéri,” she cooed, “but what the hell have you been up to?”
Sam’s eyes glanced down involuntarily and Miriam was suddenly conscious of her nakedness, but she made no attempt to move or cover herself such was her concern for him.
He smiled again, forcefully averting his eyes from the sight of her gorgeous body. “It’s a long story,” he said. “But put some clothes on, will you, or you might just finish me off,” he coughed, making light of his strange appearance and the serious condition in which she found him. “Then I’ll tell you.”
“Tell me later,” Miri replied, trying to disguise the distress in her voice, realising he was in an extremely bad way. “I’m going to take a look at your wounds first.”
“Great, I was hoping you would,” said Sam, his pained voice dreamy and far away, “that’s why I came here.”
Then his eyes rolled upwards and he surrendered to oblivion.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here.