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Chapter Forty Eight
Lunch was over, without too much grief -- for once. Jude had come home from heaven only knew where so we'd all eaten together -- which made a change. Mum indulged in small talk, telling us all about what our neighbors and relatives and friends were up to, while Jude was his usual effervescent, scintillating self and didn't say one word. No one was particularly bothered that I didn't have much to say either. Before I'd swallowed my last mouthful, my knife and fork clattered onto my plate and I jumped up. Grabbing my jacket off the back of the sofa, I headed for the door.
"Where're you going?" Mum asked with a smile.
"The shopping center."
Jude leapt up like a scalded cat. "Oh, no you're not."
I frowned at him. "I'll go where I ruddy like. Since when is it any of your business where I go?"
"Callum, you don't want to go there. Not today," Jude said, nervously.
"Jude?" Mum stood up slowly.
A tense, watchful atmosphere entered the room like chilling fog.
"Why shouldn't I go?" I asked my brother.
He didn't answer.
"What's going on?" I persisted.
I turned to Mum. She was staring at Jude, a stunned look on her face. From her expression, she was obviously well ahead of me.
"Don't go there, Callum," Jude told me, pointedly.
"But..." And only then did it click.
The Liberation Militia were planning something at the Dundale. Something Jude knew about. Something my brother didn't want me anywhere near. And then I remembered.
"Sephy's at the shopping center," I said, horror-stricken.
"Callum...," Jude began.
I didn't wait to hear any more. I ran out of the house, leaving the front door wide open as I raced for the shopping center.
Copyright © 2001 by Oneta Malorie Blackman
Chapter Forty Nine: Sephy
Mother was driving me nuts! In our five long, long hours together, I'd bitten my tongue so many times it'd swollen up to the size of a football and was choking me. If she asked me for my opinion on one more pair of shoes, I couldn't be held responsible for my actions. I sipped my orange juice, grateful for the short but welcome break away from her. She'd gone back to the car park to pack away her various purchases. She was enjoying herself. I'm glad one of us was!
"Sephy! Thank God! You have to get out of here."
"Callum!" I beamed. "Where did you spring from?"
"Never mind that. You've got to leave this place now."
"But I haven't finished my drink..."
"Never mind your ruddy drink. You have to leave -- now!"
I looked at Callum then, really looked at him. He was scared. No...he was terrified.
"What's going on?"
"Don't argue. Out!" Callum told me grimly. "Come on."
Callum dragged me out of my seat and toward the café door.
"Excuse me, love, but is this boy troubling you?" a stranger asked as I was dragged past his table.
"No! No, he's a friend of mine," I called back. "He wants to show me something..."
Callum dragged me out of the café and along the concourse and then every alarm in the world went off, at least that's what it sounded like.
"What's going on?" I asked, looking around.
"Move it. Come on."
And we were running toward the nearest exit. Others around us were looking around and frowning, wondering what was going on. Maybe they saw Callum and me racing for the nearest exit, maybe we started it. I don't know. But it seemed like moments later, everyone was shouting and racing for the exits. We were among the first ones out of the Dundale. We stumbled out into the spring sunshine and still Callum had hold of my hand and was pulling me after him.
"Where're we going?" I asked breathlessly.
"Run. Come on," Callum puffed from beside me. "I thought I'd never find you. It took me almost half an hour to find you. Move."
"Callum, I'm getting a stitch," I protested.
"Tough. We've got to keep going."
"Callum, enough!" I pulled my hand out of his. "You're -- "
Then there was a flash like the very air was alight, followed a fraction of a second later by the most colossal boom. I was blown off my feet and into the air like a dry leaf in a high wind. And even from where we were, I could feel an intense heat on my back. I landed flat on my face, my arms outstretched. There was a strange ringing sound in my ears and it wouldn't stop. For I don't know how long, I lay in a daze. Was I dead? Was this what it felt like to die? I closed my eyes tight and covered my ears, trying to block out the incessant ringing sound -- only it was inside my head, not outside. I swallowed hard and my ears popped, and the ringing stopped. Twisting around, I turned to see what on earth had happened. Billowing smoke shot out of the shopping center. For a moment it was eerily quiet, like the end of the world. I wondered, panic-stricken, if the explosion had deafened me. And then I heard screaming and sirens and all hell was let loose.
I turned to Callum, who lay stunned beside me.
"Are you okay? You're not hurt?" Callum asked anxiously, running his hands up and down my back and arms.
"Y-you knew that was going to happen...," I realized, aghast. "You didn't...Tell me you didn't..." I shook my head. No, that was preposterous. Callum had nothing to do with whatever that explosion was. It must've been a bomb. But Callum didn't do that. He wouldn't. He couldn't.
But he knew.
"Mother! Oh my God!" I jumped to my feet and raced toward the car park across the street from the shopping center.
I was almost across the street when I remembered Callum. I turned around.
But he was gone.
Copyright © 2001 by Oneta Malorie Blackman