Her voice trails off, her eyes losing focus as the bus slows down. A large spiky roof with gold spires comes into view, a mountain shrouded in trees behind it. As the bus draws closer, the whole temple appears before us, curved and ornate with tiered icing-sugar walls and arched windows fringed with gold. Two painted tiger statues adorn its entrance, looking ready to pounce on the frantic relatives and tired- looking officials hurrying around the busy area in front of it. This must be where the foreign embassies are: white canopies, rows and rows of photo boards, lines of desks weighed down with paperwork and flags.
I try to find the Union Jack among all the other flags, as if it might blur the strangeness of this place a little. But all I can see is a tiny beige monkey that is weaving in and out of the table legs. I make a mental note to tell the girls about it. They’ll want to know things like that when I get back. They don’t need to know about the bodies I’ve seen floating in the sea, nor the turned-over cars.
Just this little sprite of a monkey and the bright green lizards I noticed while waiting for the bus. I think of their faces when I’d told them I’d be leaving them for a couple of days to find their nanna. My youngest, Olivia, had got that look, like she might cry any minute, and it had made my heart ache. They’ve not spent more than one night away from me and even then it felt like a small kind of torture for them – and me. To make them feel better, I’d told them Daddy was taking them to the show they’d been going on about; the same show he’s made every excuse under the sun not to go to.
The Atlas of Us is available in e-book from Amazon. You can also pre-order the paperback which is due to be released by Avon on 31st July.
Find out more about Tracy at tracybuchanan.co.uk
Tracy’s blog tour continues tomorrow over at Girls Love To Read.
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.