One Secret Summer – Extract

Heathrow was crowded, even at dawn. Josh pushed his way past the crowds standing indecisively in front of screens and signs and made his way towards immigration. He slid his passport across the desk, ignoring the officer’s quick questioning glance – stamps of entrance and exit from Bogotá to Baghdad – and returned it to the back pocket of his jeans. He carried no luggage save a battered dark green backpack that had clearly seen better days. He made his way downstairs, bought a ticket for the brand-new express train service to Paddington and boarded the train. Tossing his backpack onto one of the empty racks above his head, he sank down into the seat. He was tired; he hadn’t slept properly in the two days it had taken him to get from Smara to London. He ran a hand over his stubble. Diana would be horrified. Hopefully he would get home after she and Harvey had gone to work; he needed a few hours to readjust. Coming back to England was never easy.

The train shot out of the tunnel and into daylight. As they sped past the industrial sheds and yards, their corrugated steel sides dissolving in the weak, late winter light, his feeling of dislocation intensified. By the time they pulled into Paddington, a curious sensation of distress was prickling over his skin. He was coming home – and yet it was not.

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