For the third night in a row, Morgan woke up in his flat with his heart pounding and his skin slick with sweat. A ripple of goosebumps ran through him as he threw off the covers and took his first waking breath. He groaned as he rubbed his chest and read the bedside clock: 03:32. It was the weekend, but it was the first morning of his new job at Meldotech. Deciding he didn’t want to fight his restless thoughts and the dull hum of machinery in the laundrette below, he let out another exasperated groan, kicked his legs and rolled out of bed. He staggered, and before he found the switch for a table lamp on the floor, he banged his knee on the armchair next to his bed and cried out in pain.
The year before, Morgan had moved two hundred miles away from London (and his parents) to Manchester. He remembered crying as he drove off in the second-hand MINI he’d been saving for. The shrinking rear-view image of his little sister sobbing into the shoulder of his mother still made his guts twist with guilt. He felt bad for leaving Amy alone with his mum and dad but they treated her so different to him. On a rare occasion that Morgan was in the same room as his parents, he announced his plan to them:
“Mum. Dad. I’m going to live in Manchester. I got my acceptance letter last week, and I start university there in September doing computer science.” His father looked over the newspaper he was reading and made eye contact long enough to nod in approval, before looking back to the page. “I even have a flat.”
“Is that right?” His mother asked, and she stood up and turned to the counter to put on the kettle. “So, when do you leave?” She pressed, and he felt his throat tighten.
“In a few weeks,” Morgan held back tears with a gulp, “I just need you to sign a form for the tuition fees. I’ve taken care of living costs.”
“That won’t be a problem Mo-Mo. Just leave the papers on your Father’s desk and he will make the arrangements,” his mother said with her back to him. Morgan’s dad nodded again, this time without looking up. His mother turned toward the kitchen sink and pretended to clean the already immaculate worktops. As long as he didnt cost them their time, they took no interest him, in the job he made for himself creating and running social media accounts for small business owners, or that his weekly allowance from them remained untouched in his Santander Premier account. Even after buying his car, he was able to cover rent for the first few months he lived in Manchester. It was now the end of January the following year, and although he was doing alright financially, he wanted to get started on a career. The job he was starting at Meldotech came after a grateful bakery-owner had a successful Christmas because of his work. The baker had passed his contact details onto his son who already worked there, and he was offered the job with only a phone-interview.
Morgan went to the toilet, washed his hands and his face, and then finally he brushed his teeth. It was a routine he only missed when he was sick or hungover. He limped over to the kitchen counter directly opposite the bathroom door, flicked his kettle on and looked around at his shoebox flat. His bedroom at his parent’s house had been bigger. The apartment had come furnished with a small fridge, a gas hob, a new single bed, an armchair, a bookshelf with a missing shelf, a fold-down kitchen table, a single kitchen chair, a mug that said “get ’em before they get you”, a well soiled frying-pan, two forks and a bowl. There were only two rooms: the bathroom and bedroom-kitchen. In his MINI he had clothes, toiletries, two towels, a duvet and sheets, a small flat-pack desk, a lamp, a clothes-horse, a DAB radio, a laptop and stationery. He unpacked it all on his first night. With only one small window above the kitchen sink, the flat was dark and dingy but aside from the frying-pan, the whole place was immaculately clean, and it was his. As he limped over to the armchair with a coffee, he felt the same swell of pride as when he unpacked five months ago. He smirked at the idea of his parents, seeing where he lived. They would lose it, he thought. He was still smiling when he turned on BBC Radio 2 and started reading his Meldotech welcome pack.
The night was giving way to dawn when Morgan heard the first siren. It startled him from a sleepy-doze he’d fallen into. His bedside clock read 07:23. His knee had stiffened from the bang on the armchair, and he faltered as he got up, kicking over his empty coffee cup with his cold, bare toes. After making it over to the kitchen window in a kind of limping-hop, he hovered over the sink and looked down into the street. The street lamps were already switching off, and the sun was causing a golden haze to border the silhouette of small, squished together shops and flats across from his own. It wasn’t the worst view, he thought as he breathed in another smile.
He heard more sirens and looked down into the street below. Two police cars and a riot van screeched to a stop in a blockade formation facing a part of the street he couldn’t quite see. He dropped into a crouch as an approaching helicopter seemed to stop above his flat and the voice from a megaphone could be heard. “Stay in your homes. Do not open your windows or doors. This is a-”, the booming voice cut off, and a hot glow, followed by a rumble and a roar, came from the direction police were facing.