We took the bus, the last bus of the evening, so no one would see us. The boys had their tea before we left, I noticed they didn’t finish the jar of jam and I thought of that jam left there for nothing, it was a shame, but I’d taught them not to waste stuff and to think of the next day.

     Leaving on the bus I think they were happy, a bit anxious, too, because I hadn’t explained anything. I’d brought their jackets in case it rained, it often rains by the sea – that I had told them, at least, they were going to see the sea.
     It was Kevin, the little one, who seemed happiest, more inquisitive anyway. But Stan kept giving me suspicious looks like when I just sit in the kitchen and he watches me, thinking I don’t know he’s there, barefoot, in his pyjamas, I don’t even have the strength to say Don’t stay there with nothing on your feet, Stan. Yep, sometimes I sit in the kitchen for hours and I couldn’t give a stuff about anything.
     Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long for the bus and no one saw us leave. It felt really strange driving away from the city, leaving it for this unknown place, specially as it wasn’t the holidays and that’s what the boys kept thinking, I know they did. We’d never been away for a holiday, never left the city, and suddenly life felt new, my stomach was in knots, I was thirsty the whole time and everything was irritating, but I did my best, yes really my best, so the kids didn’t notice anything. I wanted us to set off totally believing in it.
     When the bus turned up we all felt nervous, shy like. We couldn’t have felt more uncomfortable going into a luxury cabin on a first-class cruise ship. It was only a noisy old bus with no heating, mind you. Oh yes, it was certainly cold. You got into the thing and it felt like walking into a draught.
     I paid our fares with the last big banknote I had, and we went and sat at the back, the boys and me, with our sports bags at our feet, I’d stuffed them full of warm clothes for the kids, there were too many clothes, I know, but it was quite a panic packing those bags, I can’t explain it. I wanted to put everything into them, I knew it was pointless, I wanted it to come with us, stuff from home, familiar things, things you recognize as yours straight away. Kevin wanted me to take his toys, too, but I didn’t want to, I knew pretty well we wouldn’t be playing.
     There were a lot of people around us, unbelievable that there are so many people out there, specially so late, where were they all from, were they going to the same place as us, no way of knowing, they looked calm, lost in quiet thoughts. My kids were full of questions, Is it going to take long? Will it be light when we get there? Things like that, I wasn’t sure what to tell them, I felt sick and didn’t really want to talk, I definitely didn’t want to give other people a chance to listen to us.
     We were high up in the bus, so cars – which are normally so frightening – were pathetic little contraptions now, we could see the drivers’ hands, their legs, their stuff on the passenger seat, see them almost as clearly as if they’d been sitting in their own homes, it made them seem less dangerous, yep, we felt better protected in that bus, even if we were dying of cold.
     It wasn’t long before Kevin needed a wee. It’s just nerves, I told him, but he started to worry, he was afraid he’d do it in his pants, he’s easily worried. And me who didn’t want to attract attention, I had to go down the aisle in front of everyone, to stop the bus and have my boy pee against the wheel, in the dark, by the side of the road, cars whooshing past with a fierce flash of headlights. Stan, now he’s never a problem. Never a pee. Never hungry. Nor thirsty. He never asks for anything, sometimes it bothers me a bit, I’d prefer it if he’d look at me less and whinge a bit more. Now it doesn’t matter any longer.