Read an extract from The Last Room:
It was 8.30 when he left the hotel. Piotrkowska was quiet. The shoppers weren't out this early in the morning and the rickshaw drivers had yet to set up their stalls. The opulent grandeur of the hotel dining room had offered only an indifferent buffet of tinned fruit, cold meats and dry bread. Swooping orchestral music had driven him out, breakfast virtually uneaten. He wasn't hungry anyway.
His appointment at the university wasn't for another forty-five minutes and when he made enquiries at the desk he found that the faculty building was only five minutes from the hotel. He couldn't face going back to his room so he hunched into his overcoat against the cold and started walking. He had no particular destination in mind. He just knew that he didn't want to sit in his room, staring at the walls.
He took one of the roads off Piotrkowska and stopped at a café with the improbable name of Coffees and Toffees, written outside in big letters in English. The girl behind the counter greeted him with a cheerful Dzien dobry and served him with a cup of good coffee that came with a piece of fudge.
Coffee and toffee.
"It does what it says on the tin." Ania's voice. He turned round abruptly.
She was sitting at one of the tables. She probably came here often, maybe with friends and colleagues from the university which was, according to his map, just round the corner.
"Breakfast," he said, knowing she would disapprove of such an unhealthy diet. The girl behind the counter gave him a puzzled look and he smiled at her and indicated the piece of fudge. She nodded in incomprehension.
He took his cup across to the table and sat down. The chairs were comfortable and upholstered in bright red. He felt old. He'd barely slept, and what sleep he'd had had been disturbed by dreams - not the dreams he'd feared, dreams of Ania falling, but a familiar dream, the dream where he was fighting his way through the crowds in a railway station, knowing that the minutes leaking away through the clock on the departure board were vital, that the cascade of seconds that raced past his eyes were counting towards something he had to stop, except he couldn't find his way past the people who stood in his way, meandered across his route, turning the straight line of his run into a jagged path with no clear way through.
Then he was in the mortuary, looking at the body of a youth, a boy of seventeen who had fled for most of his life, and had now come to the end of it. In his dream, the dead eyes opened and looked at him. The boy's mouth moved and bled, but no words emerged.
You are responsible for this.
Ania's fingers touched his wrist. "I never said that, and I never thought it. You did what you had to do."
"I walked away from it." Sweat broke out over Will's body and for a moment, nausea overwhelmed him. He felt saliva flood his mouth and he clenched his jaw, breathing deeply through his nose. He sat very still and gradually the sickness faded. He straightened up, aware that the girl behind the counter was watching him, her cloth moving mechanically across the top of the bar. He managed to smile at her and after a moment she smiled back. He looked across the table but now there was no one there.
The Last Room was published by Caffeine Nights on 5 June 2014.
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Photograph of Piotrkowska by Polimerek