I sped through the well-kept up-right fantasy land of West End London and before I had even stopped to think, I had reached the industrial nightmare of the East End. The East End was a place my family didn’t even deign to drive through, so to be wandering through it now was like taking a trip through Birdland. I remembered nervously that Whitechapel was in the East End.
The steam behind my escape was now dissipating and now I shivered in the early morning chill, walking aimlessly. This seemed liked the sort of area where you had to seem like you had someone waiting for you or you’d be in trouble. Eventually, the lack of sleep and the anxiety won out and I had to stop. I dropped onto the curb outside of a convenience store. I cried until I thought my ribs would crack with the force of one more sob, and then I cried some more. I only calmed down when the fat woman from the shop came out and told me to ‘take it somewhere else’.
With a few final sniffs, I got up off the curb to ‘take it somewhere else’ and took a look around for the first time since I’d bolted out of the house. I was on the less desirable fringes of central London, but I wasn’t very far into the East End; I could still see the glittering skyscrapers of the city, and I walked in the direction they rose from.
I had no idea where I was going to go; after a scene like that, I couldn’t go home yet, and I had no where else I could go where they wouldn’t call my parents. I thought desperately of all the places I’d been in central London and suddenly it came to me. I was going to go to the one place that made me think instantly of safety, good tea, and comfort: The London Tea Room.
The London Tea Room was far enough into central London to be considered decent, but it was still a place people of his stature only patronized when we wanted to conduct ‘discreet business’. It was one of the only places I’d ever been where my name didn’t impress anyone, a fact which had alarmed me at first, but I grew to like not living under the shadow of my surname, if only for an hour or two. I hadn’t been there many times, but I remembered it well.
When I got there, it looked exactly I recalled it: like a hole in the wall, just as likely to be an old-fashioned British pub as it was to be a lovely little tea room. Inside, the main dining room was just as I remembered: everything was covered in some cheap brocade fabric and the lighting was very dim, giving the vague feel of a Russian whore house. (Not that I knew what a Russian whore house looked like, perse.) I was seated by a bored-looking waitress at a table in the middle of the nearly deserted dining room. While I remembered the place having good tea, it wasn’ t a place I would have eaten at under normal circumstances. I was starving, however, and now was hardly a time for culinary snobbery, so I ordered the steak and eggs and vowed to eat them and like it.
I knocked back six cups of the free-refill tea and devoured half the steak and eggs before I forced myself to stop and think about what I was going to do now. The longer I sat there, I was certain, the worse things would be when I went home. The angrier they would be, and I had no idea what to expect when my mother and aunt were angry . I had no idea, but I suspected it wasn’t something I wanted to rush home to.
However, I could only sit there so long. I ordered another cup of tea and a muffin, though my stomach was already turning. I picked at the cuts on my arm, not caring when they opened up and started bleeding again. The waitress asked if I needed a bandage, but she didn’t sound too interested, so I hummed non-commitally as she set down my tea and muffin. I leaned on the table on my elbows over my fresh tea, something I would never be permitted to do at home, and it felt like a defiance, and it felt good, so I slouched harder. That was when they came in.