20th February, 14:58
Today I thought I’d share a short story I wrote a while back so grab a cuppa, get comfy and enjoy!
By Georgia Springate
‘Drive. Just drive.’ Emily pushed harder on the accelerator, her foot now almost touching the floor. Her Mini groaned objectively but she ignored it, used to the rattles when she hit over 70 miles per hour. She turned sharply off the A5 onto the narrow country lane she’d driven down so many times; even the potholes felt familiar. But she wasn’t here to cruise slowly, roof down, shades on, as she had before. Today she had a destination. And she needed to get there fast.
‘Oh no, oh no, oh no. Where is she?’ Lucinda ran her hands through her hair.
‘It’s alright, love. Take a breath …’
‘I can’t take a bloody breath, Gary!’ Lucinda whirled round, meeting her husband’s sympathetic expression with a stormy frown. ‘Our daughter is missing you idiot! Gone! She could be anywhere … abducted … drugged …’ She sank onto the sofa, her head in her hands. Lucinda Brown had never felt more heartbroken than now. In fact, the heart breaking had commenced an hour before, when she opened her only daughters’ bedroom door to find it empty. She’d called her mother, Emily’s friends, her boyfriend – anyone she could think of. No one had seen her.
‘Shhh.’ Gary sat down beside his wife and patted her knee awkwardly.
‘I just don’t understand,’ Lucinda said through sobs, ‘where on earth our baby girl has gone. Where has she gone, Gary? Why has she left us?’ She broke down in hysterics, her entire body shaking with the force of fear for her child. And underneath the fear, shame. Because the question she had just asked her husband, she had the answer to herself.
The speedometer read 82. From inside, the car sounded as though it was still in first gear; from outside, the noise resembled that of two metal sheets being banged together continuously. Despite herself, Emily eased off the pedals slightly. It would be no use if the Mini broke down now, none at all. It would take her too long to walk from here. She glanced at her watch, all concept of time having escaped her. She felt as though she’d been driving hours. It had been fifty minutes. Emily wondered briefly if her mother had noticed she’d left yet. If she had, that really amped up the pressure; she surely would have called the police. If not the police, then Jared. If not Jared, then Cora. There was no knowing what time frame she was working to, but she had to get there. She just had to.
‘Sorry,’ Emily whispered to the car and floored the accelerator once again.
Cora sat cross-legged on her bedroom floor, the phone still in her hand. She hadn’t moved since Lucinda had hung up. Even though she knew she really, really needed to. Instead, Cora had been staring at the photos covering her bedroom wall. Some polaroids, some professionally shot, some Snapchats. It was the documentation of her seventeen years of life and counting, right from the far-left photo of her as a baby in the bathtub to one taken just last week of her and Emily at a gig. She loved that photo. It was blurry, sure, and the lighting wasn’t great, but the smiles the girls wore were so clear and genuine that Cora had had to add it to her collection. She stared at the photo, at Emily. A girl with her fair share of struggles, most definitely. But, a girl with heart. And humour. And the ability to brighten up anyone’s day. Cora imagined Emily’s face now, wearing her typical concentrating driving expression. That’s if she wasn’t there already … Cora’s breath caught in her throat at the thought. Her best friend, cold and alone, probably terrified out of her mind. A surge of anger ran through her: why didn’t you go with her? Cora clenched her fists so hard her nails dug painfully into the flesh of her palms, making her gasp in pain. It brought her back to her senses. Taking a deep breath, she uncrossed her legs and stood up, eye-level with the photo she’d been staring at. Those smiles … she couldn’t let that be the last photo she took with Emily. She had to do something.
‘Dude, who was that?’
Jared pocketed his phone and joined Darren on the park bench.
‘Lucinda, Emily’s mum. She seemed kinda weird … kept asking me where Emily was.’ Jared pulled a box of Marlboro Red from his pocket and gave one to Darren.
‘Cheers.’ There was a moment of silence as the boys bent their heads together to light their cigarettes.
‘She never calls me,’ Jared went on, exhaling. ‘I didn’t even know she had my number.’
‘Weird,’ Darren nodded. Silence fell over them again; they smoked. They watched the children play in the park. It was their usual Thursday evening routine.
‘Ugh, who now?’ Jared’s phone was vibrating again in his pocket.
‘Turn it off,’ Darren suggested, not taking his eyes off the two boys on the swings. Jared answered it anyway.
‘Jared? Where are you?’
‘Cora? I can’t really hear you. What’s up?’
‘Where are you?’ Cora repeated, unmistakably this time. Her voice was loud; Darren heard. He shook his head at Jared.
‘I’m just … out. With Darren. Why?’
‘I need you to take me somewhere.’ Cora sounded out of breath. ‘Come home, we need your car. I’m almost there.’
‘Why?’ Jared was getting exasperated now. This was the one night, the one bloody night he had to himself, to do what he wanted to do. And now, by the sounds of it, Emily had got herself in some sort of situation again wherein he, the idiot boyfriend, had to swoop in to the rescue. He was sick of it.
‘Look, Jared, I’m serious,’ Cora panted, ‘you need to meet me. Now. She’s in trouble.’
The bitter, irritated part of Jared kept him rooted on the bench a moment longer. So what if she’s overdosed again? He couldn’t keep running from whatever he was doing to stick his fingers down her throat or drive her to the hospital. That wasn’t his job.
‘I never asked for this,’ he hissed, the unfairness of the situation making his blood boil. ‘I told her to stop. I’m not always going to be here picking up the pieces every time she gets herself in trouble.’
Cora was silent for a moment; the only indication she was still on the line was her breath, slowly regaining a normal rhythm. Jared wondered what she was thinking right now. Probably that he was a selfish pig. To be honest, he couldn’t care less.
‘Look.’ Cora’s voice was icy. ‘I’ll cut to the chase. Emily found out … what you are.’
Jared’s heart skipped. He glanced at Daren, but his friend was still watching the park intently, taking the final drag of his cigarette.
‘What do you mean?’
‘You know what I mean,’ Cora snapped. ‘She found your … collection. You’re sick. A disgusting, immoral human being.’
Jared didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer.
‘And she’s going through some stuff right now. I need to be with her. And I need you to give me a lift. Now. Or I’ll tell everyone what a pathetic excuse of a man you really are.’ The line went dead.
She was here. She made it. Emily finally slowed to the speed limit as she turned into the car park, feeling calmer than she’d felt all day. Her heart was beginning to beat normally again, her temperature cooling. No need to be flustered now. You’re here. She parked her faithful Mini neatly in a bay on its own at the back; the little walk would do her good. Give her a moment to catch her breath, to think things through. Emily swallowed as she switched off the engine, distracted momentarily by her key rings. A bundle of them, glitter and fur, and a photo of Jared. She felt her eyes well up as she studied it; he was the most beautiful person she’d ever laid eyes on, despite what he was on the inside. She couldn’t really bring herself to do this to him, to his baby. Could she?
‘Yes, she’s about this tall. Brown hair, past her shoulders. Beautiful green eyes …’
‘Thank you, Mrs Murray, I can see by the photos.’
Lucinda wrapped her arms around herself and glared at the policeman. ‘Photos don’t do her justice.’
The policeman nodded with a half-smile and made a few notes on his pad. He was always doing that, Lucinda noticed. As if writing was more important that finding her baby girl.
‘So, Mrs Murray, obviously it’s very early to deem that she has, but … can you think of any reason as to why Emily would run away?’ The policeman flicked over to a new page. ‘Any issues she’s having with friends, maybe, or school?’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Lucinda snapped, irked by the question. ‘She’s not dramatic like that. She’s very mature for her age.’ As the words came out of her mouth, images flashed into Lucinda’s head. The weed hidden in the wardrobe. The vodka under the bed. The positive pregnancy tests. Oh, she’s mature all right.
‘And you’re sure she hasn’t snuck off to be with a boyfriend, perhaps?’
‘No,’ Lucinda sighed. She knew this wasn’t going to get them anywhere without honesty from her part. Maybe just a little. She glanced behind her to make sure Gary was still in the kitchen and lowered her voice. ‘I think she might be … pregnant.’
The officer raised his eyebrow and made another note. Another stupid useless note.
‘She’s told you this?’
Not directly. But she hadn’t denied it when Lucinda had confronted her. She recalled the pain in Emily’s face as she’d screamed into it: you idiot. You stupid, immature, irresponsible idiot.
‘I need you,’ Lucinda said carefully, ‘to check the hospitals. And the nearest …’ She shuddered at the thought, ‘… abortion clinic.’ The word felt alien on her lips, distasteful, like a bad swear word. She glanced up at the wall behind the police officer where her biggest, golden cross hung proudly. Lucinda furiously blinked the oncoming tears away, the determination overwhelming her. Her daughter cannot sin. She cannot get rid of that baby.
Cora and Jared sat in silence on the way to the clinic. Though Cora had a million thoughts running through her head, she felt it best not to voice any of them; it’d only get her in trouble. She’d made it crystal clear over the phone, anyway, how she felt about him.
‘Are you going to tell me what’s going on yet?’ Jared asked eventually. Cora considered. He was a monster who didn’t deserve Emily, let alone any input as to whether Emily kept his child. But they were getting close now; he would work out what was happening when they arrived. The last thing she wanted was to upset her best friend. The second-to-last thing she wanted was to make Jared angry. She’d seen how he was when he got angry. She never would have called him if she’d had another friend that would give her a lift … she should have just gone with Emily in the first place, like a real best friend would.
‘No? Not gonna talk?’ Jared suddenly swerved over to the side of the road.
‘Jared!’ Cora’s heart thudded in her chest.
‘I’m not driving for another second unless you tell me where the hell we’re going.’ He pulled up the gearstick defiantly.
‘I’m not … it’s not my place …’
Jared glared at her, a wild look in his eye. ‘We’re going back home.’
‘No!’ Cora yelled.
‘I’m not going with you! For all I know this is a trick and you’re carting me off to prison or something!’ Jared’s voice wobbled as he spoke.
‘It’s not prison!’ Cora sighed, exasperated. Damn it. She’d have to tell him.
Emily crossed her legs. And uncrossed them again. Crossed. Uncrossed. No position felt comfortable, appropriate even, for the seat she was sat on. Was she supposed to look nervous? Happy? Relaxed? She didn’t feel any of those things.
‘Emily? Emily Murray?’
A nurse had appeared in the doorway, looking down the corridor expectantly. This was it.