Karen watched. The body language was all there. She shouldn’t be here! She should’ve hired someone. She couldn’t leave now though! She was glued to her seat. Paralyzed to the spot! How could someone be so two faced? It was as though she were reading a book. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in real life, not to her anyway. The past was supposed to be behind them, not loitering provocatively in the present!
Oh shit! They were parting. They would surely walk this way and see her. No, no. They kissed goodbye, a lingering romantic kiss, and went their separate ways, further into the bowels of the shopping centre.
Karen finished her cappuccino and tried to let the facts settle in her mind. Back to Principles where she’d seen that gorgeous red skirt. She deserved a present. Maybe they’d have a top to go with it. And some shoes. And perhaps a handbag. She definitely deserved to spend some of the bastard’s money.
Jamie looked at his watch. 0356. Selina still wasn’t home. He’d kill her when he got his hands on her. She knew what time she was expected in, irrespective of whether he was working late or not. He rolled over towards Grace and rubbed his wife’s arm. She pushed him away. How unusual!
‘Selina isn’t back, Grace. Who did she say she was out with?’
‘I wasn’t really listening, I was watching Eastenders.’
Jamie got out of bed and made his way down to the kitchen. Why had he married Grace? Jesus, she’d never loved him from the start. Never mind the fact he was doing the right thing. So long as she got to have a comfortable life she didn’t feel it necessary to be nice to her husband, she hadn’t for the whole fifteen years of their marriage.
Jamie found his mobile phone and scrolled through to Selina’s number. He pressed the call button and waited for the call to connect. But what if it didn’t connect? Where would he start the search? All sorts of thoughts started running through his mind. His heart started pounding.
‘Selina!’ Jamie was so relieved the call had connected, his heart beat slowed a little.
‘Dad! I don’t know where I am!’
‘Jesus, Selina! I’ve been going out of my mind. Why didn’t you call?’
‘I dunno. Come and get me, dad, please.’
‘Where do you think you are?’ Jamie asked, rummaging in his jacket pockets for his car keys. They had to be there, he’d only just used them to lock to the door!
‘We were at Lucy’s, then we went for a drive, but some of the boys got a bit aggressive, so we got out, and I don’t know!’ Selina wailed.
‘Come on, honey, you know every street in Mormper. What direction did you leave Lucy’s in?’
‘We headed down Castle Street first, took a left on to Palace Avenue, right at the end, Mansion Row, then I got disorientated. They started spinning round and round and stuff! I don’t know if we’ve ended up outside Stepsley or Bellion. The shadows are so confusing! I’m so lost, just find us dad! Please, hurry!’
‘I’m on my way, buttercup. I’m calling Charlie and Bob. If they get to you first go with them, they’ll let me know. I’m going to have to hang up on you, sweetie, to be able to ring them. I’ll call you straight back, I promise.’
‘Dad, I’m scared.’
‘I know, honey. We’re only five minutes apart. I promise.’
Jamie started the Audi and headed for Bellion. She was far more likely to be there, surely. The boys had a better escape route away from Mormper in that direction, whereas Stepsley kind of hemmed you in like a cul-de-sac.
He rang Bob on the way. Bob was out the door and on his way to Stepsley before Jamie had hung up. Bob was to ring Charlie. Thank god none of them had fallen asleep yet. It had been one of those nights, where you needed to wind down with a drink or two, preferably alcoholic, before going to bed.
‘Dad! You were gone for ages!’
‘It was two minutes, babe. Bob and Charlie are headed for Stepsley. I’m almost at Bellion. Are you on the main road, do you think?’
‘Yes. No street lights, but white lines on the centre of the road.’
‘Can you see any headlights?’
‘Are you alone?’
‘No. Lucy’s here.’
‘Ok. Stand in the middle of the road. If you see headlights, move, but not so as I won’t see you. I’m not travelling too fast, but I need to be able to see you.’
‘Ok. I’m in the middle of the road. Right on the white line.’
‘Good girl. Where’s Lucy?’
‘She’s sat on the grass. She hasn’t spoken to me since we got out of the car.’
‘How long have you been there?’
‘About three quarters of an hour.’
‘Jesus! You know I’m going to want to investigate this, don’t you.’
‘I think that’s why Lucy isn’t speaking to me. It would be very uncool.’
‘Uncool? Uncool! I’ll give her bloody uncool!’
‘Dad! I can see headlights! God, they’re bright! They’re too high for you, dad. Is Bob in the Jeep? It could be a Jeep.’
‘Dad, it’s ok. It’s Bob!’
‘Ok, get Lucy in the Jeep first. Let me talk to Bob.’
‘Ok. I love you, dad.’
‘Love you too, buttercup.’
Jamie’s heart pace slowed now he knew his daughter was safe. He hadn’t realised until that moment how scared he was. His knuckles were white, gripping the steering wheel. Someone was going to pay for this!
‘J. What’s up?’ Bob’s deep, gruff voice came on the line.
‘Bob! Thank god! Put the child locks on. Don’t let them out until I’ve questioned them. Something doesn’t sit right here.’
‘No problem. Charlie’ll meet us at yours.’
‘Thanks Bob, see you in five.’
He wanted answers. Answers he knew his daughter would give. But he was sure her friend wouldn’t cooperate. He thought he already knew most of the answers. The girls wanted to impress the boys so they got in the car with them. The boys then decided to show off, like they do. They probably knew who Selina’s father was – just about everyone in Mormper did! That was why they had disorientated her down Mansion Row. The road was wide enough to go round in circles without coming close to touching a curb stone. He was sure ‘being aggressive’ as Selina had said really meant in a sexual way. If he got his hands on them he’d kill them all!
Before Jamie knew it he was back in front of his house. After a couple of moments Charlie was there, followed by Bob.
Charlie walked round to the passenger side of Bob’s Jeep and climbed in. Jamie walked to the rolled down window.
‘No comments so far, boss.’
‘Selina, you know the drill.’
Selina nodded and turned to her friend.
‘Lucy, you don’t have a choice. We’ve been picked up at almost half four in the morning by three coppers, it’s totally suspicious. Unless you answer my dad’s questions, he’ll take you down to Vasley Street and follow protocol,’ Selina advised her friend.
‘It’s all your fault anyway! If you had let them get their own way they would’ve brought us home safely!’ Lucy yelled.
‘Rape carries a sentence, Lucy. And have you forgotten we’re minors!’ Selina defiantly told her friend. Police officer in the making, she made Jamie so proud!
‘She’s right,’ Charlie nodded from the front seat, still staring out the windscreen as though not actually listening. Normal behaviour for Charlie. Appearing completely detached from the situation. As if!
‘It wouldn’t have been rape!’ Lucy started to protest.
‘Yes it would! I didn’t feel comfortable with those guys, and neither did you, I saw how afraid you looked. That’s why I insisted we get out of the car! They wouldn’t have settled with that. They had their friends following us in another car. They would’ve got to use us too, like cheap pieces of meat. They were bragging about Chelsey and Merrina, and how they used them, for god’s sake! I can not believe what you are saying!’
‘Fenny loves me, Selina. I can’t believe you don’t understand that! I would do anything for him. Maybe you’re just jealous!’
‘Jealous? Of Fenny? Oh, man! Lucy, let me explain something to you. You are 15 years old. He’s 24! He’s been shagging around for years! He’s got about three kids by various different girls all over the county! Like, hello! He doesn’t love anyone but himself. If he loved you he wouldn’t have driven you to a lonely country lane. And he definitely wouldn’t have been with his friends, would he? God, you’re so stupid! Dad, I want to go to bed, I’ve had enough. I’ll answer any questions in the morning. I can’t answer with this idiot here anyway. She seems to think I’m the one in the wrong here! Can you believe that?’
Jamie opened the door and let his daughter out.
‘Bob, you ok to take Lucy home?’
‘Sure thing, boss. She’s on my street.’
Charlie got out of the Jeep and headed to his Golf.
‘Be seeing you about six o’clock, boss.’
‘See you, Charlie. Thanks.’
Bob drove off, towards Tower Place. Charlie turned his car around and headed in the opposite direction to Fortress Way.
‘Come on, Sel. Let’s get you inside,’ Jamie said with an arm around his daughter, leading her into the house. No more interrogation. Not for tonight.
‘I can name them all, dad. Kieran Fench, Allan Dunn, Simon Archer, Mark Bloom, Rory Cheedle, and Gary Edwards, he was driving our car.’
‘You want me to say it under oath or something?’
‘Hey! I’m just trying to get the facts here! Were they coherent?’
‘Yes, perhaps a little slurred. But not much, they’d maybe had a few cans, but they were smoking normal cigarettes.’
‘As opposed to?’
‘Ok. Do you know which one was driving the other car?’
‘Not one hundred percent. I would guess Simon Archer. He lost his licence a couple of months ago and won’t let any of the others drive him anywhere. Idiot. He definitely wasn’t in the same car as me and Lucy.’
‘Thanks, chicken. Would you like a drink?’
‘Please. What are you going to do?’
‘Surveillance. If Lucy isn’t willing to talk I can’t force her to. It’s not worth it. Your word against six lads isn’t going to stick as much as it should, so we’ll forget that too, besides, I’ve already got a pretty clear picture of what happened out there. I recognise all the names you’ve given me, babe, so when I get a spare couple of hours I’ll catch Archer, driving without a licence, hopefully intoxicated, high as a damn kite would be better. I’m sure we can come to some sort of an arrangement about a decent stint in prison.’
Selina smiled, ‘I’m so lucky to have a dad like you. What would I do without you?’ Selina hugged her dad.
‘I’m not going to answer that question. I think we both know the answer anyway.’
‘Yeah, I’d be dead by now.’
Jamie gave his daughter the glass of milk he’d poured for her and then sent her off to bed with a flea in her ear for getting into the car with those thugs in the first place, and for not contacting him immediately.
Jamie found his Jameson’s and poured a generous measure into his tea. Now he was really off duty. His daughter was safely tucked in bed. His wife was asleep and probably dreaming of her latest shag. This was Jamie time.
Karen scrolled through Michael’s phone. She found saved messages in the inbox. At first she overlooked them. They were from Jamie Robertson. She knew of Jamie. His daughter was in her year 10 English class. He was a policeman. Some kind of Sergeant, she thought. So, why would a policeman be texting her husband? Let’s see what they’re saying.
HI THANX 4 LAST NIGHT IT REALLY PICKED ME UP GREAT FILM CU SOON
Innocent enough. He had told her he was going to the cinema with the lads. Although his reason was high sales so the manager was treating them. Jamie definitely did not work with him, he was definitely some sort of police officer.
HIYA JUST THOUGHT I’D TEXT C WOT UR UP2, NOT A LOT GOIN ON HERE, JUST BOREDOM! X
Ok, the ‘X’ seems a little unnecessary. Maybe a habit of texting his daughter and wife? An easy mistake to make.
I NEVER KNEW U WERE SO TALENTED. I SHOULD’VE NABBED U YEARS AGO!
Michael is a very conscientious employee. Maybe Jamie wanted him on the force. Karen suddenly felt that maybe she was being a little bit too suspicious for her own good. Ok, so she didn’t know the woman he was in town with. But these messages were not from a female, just friendly banter between to guys. Thank heavens!
Just one more and she’ll believe it’s Jamie Robertson.
I’M THINKING OF U WHILE SHUT ALONE IN MY ROOM. DO U WANT TO HELP ME?
What does that mean? Undercover work? Ok, one more, just for confirmation.
U KNOW EXACTLY WOT I MEAN, GORGEOUS. OR WAS FRIDAY NITE NOTHIN 2U? I CAN
ARRANGE4 UR WIFE2FIND OUT U KNOW!XXXXXXXXXX
Karen froze. This was clearly not the reply of Jamie Robertson. She needed to find out who this was, and whether they had anything to do with Jamie. She certainly hoped Selina wasn’t involved in any way.
‘Kazza! Do you know where my phone is? I’m expecting a call!’ Michael called from the kitchen.
‘No, darling. I haven’t seen it. Do you want me to ring it?’ Karen asked, quickly exiting all the menus until the picture of a Porsche whatever appeared, then returned it to Michael’s suit jacket. Who was he expecting to call? Jamie Robertson??
‘Well, I’m surprised it hasn’t rung already. That brother of mine!’
‘What has George done?’
Michael joined Karen in the sitting room. He heaved a sigh before telling her about George’s close encounter with the police. Karen wasn’t really listening. She was more intrigued with Michael. How could he just sit there and chat away like he wasn’t having an affair? The nerve of him. Perhaps that was why he was such a good salesman. Karen just wasn’t interested anymore. He made her skin crawl.
‘Ok, so are you all clear on that? Five thousand words by next Friday?’ Karen looked around, twenty five heads nodded reluctantly.
The class packed their things away and headed out of the classroom. Selina stayed behind, as she had been asked to at the beginning of class. She was a little worried. She had nothing to be afraid of, surely. Her course work was always completed on time, to a good standard. She had no outstanding homework. There were no complaints from any of her other teachers.
‘Thank you for staying behind, Selina. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble, come over to my desk, would you?’
Selina visibly calmed. Her warm smile reappeared on her face, and Karen took it to be an invitation to speak.
‘Do you know if your father does any kind of private detective work?’ Karen asked.
‘Ok, do you think it would be possible for him to ring me on this number?’ Karen asked producing a business card with her husbands name on it.
‘This is for Mr Wood, Miss,’ Selina observed.
‘Yes. My number is on the back. I should be most grateful if you pass it on to him tonight. It really is most urgent that I speak with him as soon as possible.’
‘No probs, Miss.’
‘Thank you, Selina. Off you go.’
Selina understood herself to be dismissed. She left the classroom and waited by the old oak tree for Ella. Ever since the incident with Lucy she had steered clear of that group and found a kinship with Ella MacIntyre. Ella didn’t generally fit in, she wasn’t cool so Lucy’s group made fun of her.
Her father had died the previous summer of cancer and she had taken it really badly, no one had wanted to talk with her about it, no one wanted to be her ‘shoulder-to-cry-on.’ Selina had been the first person to broach the subject with Ella, who gladly told Selina everything. Crying with happiness and sorrow during her sad tale. She now lived with her grandmother. Her mother had died during child birth, and her father had done a really good job of being both mum and dad right till the end. Something Selina could relate to.
Ella approached from the sports hall. She looked as glum as she always looked on Friday. Selina always managed to cheer her up on the walk home though. One of her dad’s better skills to have acquired.
Karen kept glancing at her phone. When would Jamie Robertson ring? No doubt when she got in her car and started driving home. She picked up her bag and stuffed her weekend homework – marking Year 9 Shakespeare essays – in it. She decided to stop off at the shop on the way home. A box of maltesers would be perfect company tonight, especially if Michael did his usual stop out, at his floozy’s no doubt.
As Karen locked the classroom door she heard her phone going crazy in her bag. She fumbled through her bag to find it.
‘Hi, Miss Wood? Or Mrs Wood?’
‘Hi, it’s Jamie Robertson. My daughter, Selina, asked that I ring you as soon as possible.’
Karen heaved a sigh of relief, ‘Yes, Mr Robertson, I was wondering if you have made my husbands acquaintance?’
‘Please, it’s Jamie. And no, I don’t believe I have. Should I know him?’
‘Well, I’m not quite sure how to answer that question. Would it be possible to meet you? Perhaps only for ten minutes or so, but it’s quite complicated over the phone.’
‘Certainly. I’m not due at the station until six. Would before six be ok?’
‘Yes, thank you. Would it be possible for you to come to my house?’
‘Of course. What’s the address?’
‘Twelve, Palace Avenue. Would about five o’clock be ok? I’d rather speak with you before my husband gets home from work. That’s if he decides to come home tonight,’ Karen said, more to herself than her listener.
‘Sure. Do I need back up?’ Jamie joked.
Karen laughed, ‘sadly, Jamie, you might.’
‘Seriously?’ Jamie sounded shocked.
‘Yes. Perhaps not while I speak with you though.’
‘Is Selina ok?’
‘Oh yes, this is nothing directly linked to Selina at all. She’s a model pupil, wonderful in fact. If only you could attend her parents’ evenings, they really are quite something. It would be so lovely to be able to compliment parents rather than complain to them all the time! We have a parents evening coming up just before the end of term.’
‘I’ll try and get the time off for that next one then. Does my wife not attend, Mrs Wood?’ Jamie asked, genuinely interested.
‘No, sadly not. Selina told me it was something of an awkward situation.’
‘That means her mother can’t be bothered. I’m afraid my wife’s opinion of importance is watching her soaps, Mrs Wood, not taking an interest in her daughters life. And I may say some quite unnecessary things about her, if you knew her you’d realize why. Anyhow, I really shouldn’t be bothering you with all this. And I shall be over about five.’
‘Thank you, Jamie, see you soon.’
‘Goodbye Mrs Wood.’
Why the hell had he said all that? He didn’t even know the bloody woman! She sounded nice too. What a shame she was married. Jamie knew of his wife’s antics with other men. He had once decided to start a relationship to get him away from his wife, but the girl had wanted more, he couldn’t possibly leave Grace. More so Selina. How could he break up the family home while Selina was still at school? It didn’t work as he’d expected, so he knew it would be after Selina had finished studying completely before he made the leap. With her.
‘Sel, you ok to get yourself some dinner, babe?’ Jamie called down the hall to his daughter.
Selina was dancing and singing her way through ‘Hairspray’ and drooling every time ‘Link’ came on screen.
‘Hey! Selina! I’m talking to you!’ Jamie called.
‘Hey mama, hey mama, have some fun!’ Selina sang.
‘I haven’t left this house since 1951!’ Jamie joined in, knowing he wouldn’t get any sense out of her until the song was over.
Selina beamed at him and carried on singing. Jamie danced with his daughter. Every time they had this fun he felt guilty. This should be Grace, not him, singing and dancing along with his daughter. Selina never complained though.
‘Good one, dad!’ Selina said, slightly out of breath.
‘Jesus! That’s worse than my gym workout!’ Jamie complained.
‘Did you want me for something?’
‘Yes, you ok to get yourself some dinner? I’m off out a bit earlier tonight.’
‘Sure. Are you seeing Mrs Wood?’
‘Yes. I rang her as soon as you told me. Seems a bit cryptic to me. Maybe I should take Bob.’
‘Nah, she’s really nice, dad. You have to promise me not to talk about me!’
‘We already did that. I can tell you now I’ll be making an appearance at your next parents evening!’
‘Why?! Oh, dad!’
‘That’s between me and your teacher. If she thinks I need to attend parents evening, that’s that. I’m attending.’
‘But I always do my homework and everything! Hang on, are you winding me up?’
Jamie grinned, ‘me? Would I?’
‘Dad!’ Selina threw a cushion at him, but he was much quicker and blocked it, picking her up and tickling her.
‘Dad! No!’ Selina shrieked, wriggling to try and free herself. But she loved it.
‘Well, after all that excitement I’m off. God knows what time your mother will be home, but if she’s not home by ten give me a ring, if you can’t get me ring Bob or Charlie. Ok?’
‘Yes, sir! Dad, sir!’
‘Oh, shut up! I love you, pumpkin.’
‘Love you too, dad. I hope you have a quiet night.’
‘Me too, babe.’
Jamie made his way back to the kitchen. Keys. Phone. Jacket. Mrs Wood’s.
Karen stirred the cheese sauce and tasted it. Mmmm-mmm. Just right. She poured the mix over the cauliflower and put it in the oven. She was getting good at meals for one again. Like during her university days, when everyone else ate in town on a Friday, but she had wanted to save as many pennies as possible.
She had tried calling Michael but his phone went straight through to voice mail. That had become a Friday night regular, obviously you turn your phone off whilst in the pub! How could he think she was this stupid? Bloody idiot!
The doorbell rang. Karen hurried down the hall to answer the down. She opened the door expecting Jamie Robertson.
A very handsome blonde man stood before her. This couldn’t possibly be Jamie Robertson, could it? He was nothing she’d expected. This surely couldn’t be him? This handsome specimen? Wow!
‘Hi, Mrs Wood?’ Jamie asked, smiling Selina’s smile.
Oh that smile! It looked sweet on Selina, it looked positively seductive of this beau! Compose yourself, Karen!
‘Yes, but please, it’s Karen. You must be Jamie.’
‘Please come on in, could I get you a drink at all?’ Karen was stumbling over her words now. She felt like a teenager again! Her legs had turned to jelly. Her heart was beating fiercely against her chest. He was sure to hear it!
‘A tea would be great. Milk, no sugar, sweet enough already!’ Jamie joked. That smile appeared again!
Karen laughed, ‘please go through to the sitting room, I’ll join you once I’ve made drinks.’
Jamie obediently sat in the sitting room. Beautiful house. Karen knew how to decorate and accessorize. This put his and Selina’s efforts to shame!
‘I apologise for calling you so suddenly, Jamie. I have been doing a bit of snooping around my husband, and he seems to have a fair few suggestive text messages allegedly from you,’ Karen set the tea on the coffee table in front of Jamie, and took the seat next to him on the sofa. She had somewhat composed herself now. Her heart was beating at its normal pace. She was trying not to look at him though. His blue eyes pierced her, as though he were reading her mind.
‘I’m afraid I don’t even know your husband.’
‘Yes, I thought as much. My husband is clearly having an affair. I was wondering if you would be able to find out a bit more for me, so as I can challenge him with more evidence and get rid of him once and for all.’
Karen spoke with such vehemence Jamie wondered how she’d cope if she were in his situation, with his wife constantly having affairs, ever since Selina was born and before too.
‘Did you make a note of the number?’ Jamie asked, business like, thinking he probably already knew the answer.
‘As a matter of fact I did. Here we go,’ Karen handed Jamie the scrap of paper.
‘Well, this isn’t something I need to investigate too thoroughly,’ Jamie said, recognising the number immediately, and wondering how to break it to Karen. ‘The entry in your husbands phone, did it just say Jamie?’
‘No, it said Jamie Robertson. Had it been as vague as Jamie I never would’ve known, and wouldn’t have thought to ask you.’
‘Right surname. Wrong forename.’
‘I’m sorry, I’m not sure I follow.’
Jamie met her gaze, ‘this is my wife’s number. Karen, I’m so sorry.’
Karen froze. How could she not have seen that? Oh what a can of worms! How the hell would Jamie react now? Hang on! He’d just apologised! What-?
‘Don’t be too stunned. My wife is somewhat, loose. We very much lead individual lives. My priority is Selina. She means everything to me, and the one thing Grace and I agree on is that we won’t separate until Selina’s finished studying.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry! I had no idea!’ Karen blushed slightly.
‘Don’t worry,’ Jamie smiled. ‘I’m more concerned about you. How are you going to cope knowing this? I’m used to it. It’s become something I shrug off now.’
Karen shook her head. There were just no words.
‘My advice? Take a long hot bubble bath, get rid of all that tension, get a bottle of wine, watch some cheesy movies, and act like you know nothing. I’ll have a word with Grace tomorrow, and get back to you.’
‘Ok. Thank you. God, I could do with a weekend at a health spa! Get this pain out of my shoulders! I think I’ll take your advice, long hot bubble bath, movies. No wine though, I used to have an alcohol problem,’ Karen said rubbing her neck and shoulders and wondering why the hell she’d just told this gorgeous stranger that.
‘Oh, I’m sorry.’
‘Don’t be! Michael’s done this before. Before we were married, actually. I was told by his parents and his brother to steer clear, but as they say ‘Love is blind.’’
‘May I?’ Jamie offered his hands unable to believe what he’d just heard. Karen was not a mediocre looking woman, like Grace was. Karen was stunning. Beautiful hourglass figure, sparkling blue eyes, a mass of blonde curls. Surely she could have the pick of the bunch? So why had she settled with Michael?
Karen turned her back on Jamie, and let his hands ease the knots out of her. She pulled her hair out of the clip it was in and wound it into a bun and secured it. She closed her eyes and felt her whole body relaxing. Jamie focussed on one shoulder at a time. His touch was wonderful. Why hadn’t she been introduced to this man years earlier?! Because she wasn’t from around here, and he was a Mormper lad, born and bred.
Jamie couldn’t believe the situation. His wife was having an affair with yet another arsehole. But this arsehole’s wife was so delicious! As he started on Karen’s right shoulder he had to fight the impulse to kiss her. He would’ve loved to start at her hairline, and worked out towards her shoulder.
Karen’s whole body relaxed some more. Was she thinking the same?
Karen’s stomach churned. Jesus! She had desperately wanted Jamie to kiss her, but he’d just concentrated on massaging her shoulders and neck. How could she bleat on about Michael’s affair when she wanted to kiss Jamie? It felt so good as he eased her tension though! His kisses would surely be as good as his hands had been? The whole situation was completely and utterly ridiculous! When would he visit again? They’d swapped numbers and she longingly stared at her phone wanting it to come to life and be him.
‘Sorry I’m late, Kazza. Manic day! What’s for dinner?’ Michael asked as soon as he got in.
Karen snapped back to reality and looked at her watch. ‘It’s half past eight, Michael.’
‘Yes, I’m fully aware of how late I am, thank you.’
‘You are late home every Friday. I stopped catering for you on a Friday about six weeks ago. I know my Friday’s are a guaranteed meal for one night.’
‘Kaz, that’s a bit harsh!’
‘Don’t speak me, Michael. Why don’t you just piss of to your floozy’s, or is her cooking crap?’
‘What?!’ He had the audacity to look astonished.
‘Grace Robertson,’ Karen said, standing her ground.
‘I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Michael said with a laugh. His expression hadn’t even wavered.
Karen left the sitting room and made her way up to her bedroom. Michael followed asking her to explain herself.
Michael grabbed Karen’s wrist, ‘tell me what the hell you are talking about!’ He demanded.
‘I’m talking about,’ she tried to pull her wrist from his grasp but his grip was vice like, ‘the kiss in Centre Plaza, the text messages, that’s what I’m bloody talking about. Now let go!’
Michaels face was ashen. He released his wife’s wrist. Shit!
‘How long have you known?’
Karen slumped to the floor, rubbing her wrist, tears pricking her eyes ‘does it matter?’
‘I suppose not. She won’t leave her husband for me, you know.’
‘More like the husband won’t break up the family unit!’ Karen spat.
‘I teach her daughter!’
‘Yes, something like that.’
Michael reached for his wife’s hand. It was only then that he realised she was not wearing her engagement or wedding rings.
‘Your wedding ring?’
‘On your bedside table. You don’t belong with me. I didn’t want to address this tonight, but it had to come out sooner or later.’
‘How did you know it was Gracie?’
The way the he said her name, with such familiarity, made her shiver. How long had this been going on? She refrained from punching him by not looking at him and pretending he wasn’t really there.
‘I spoke to her husband. I asked him to do some private work for me. I gave him the number from your phone and he was incredibly apologetic. He couldn’t believe she’d ruined another marriage. Do you know how many times she’s done this to alleged happily married couples? Do you know how many men she’s played around with? You’re not the first, Michael!’
Michael shook his head. He knew of Jamie Robertson, his reputation preceded him wherever he went. A fearless police officer who had the most arrests in the county. His team was small, just three men, including him. He occasionally took slightly unkindly to criminals who were given light sentences and strangely enough those criminals often found themselves down an alley at night. Alone. While Jamie always had an alibi. If he wanted to, Jamie could wipe the floor with him.
The weekend was going to be a long one. Michael had rung at eleven to say his wife knew. That’s all he would say over the phone. Jamie wouldn’t be home for another couple of hours, Selina was in her room.
How could Michael not want to be a part of Grace’s life? They went so well together, and Grace loved him. Grace and Jamie? No! Everyone knew they were only together because Grace had fallen pregnant with Selina and they were seeing it through until Selina left school. Only a little over a year to go! Maybe that was more fixable than they realised. Maybe they could lead separate lives more freely if Selina knew the whole story. Of course, Jamie would never agree to Michael living with them in their ‘family’ home, but maybe Grace could come up with some sort of arrangement and win Selina over.
Grace made her way to Selina’s room. If she talked with Selina first she could use her to get an agreement with Jamie. No problem.
She pushed the door gently, not bothering to knock, ‘hi, Sel.’
‘What do you want?’ Selina asked not looking up from her tv.
‘Just a chat.’
‘At midnight? I don’t think so. What do you want from dad?’ Selina continued to stare at the tv.
‘Selina! How could you imply such a thing?’
Selina paused her movie and looked over to where Grace was standing. She shook her head at her mother and got up, making her way towards Grace.
‘I’m surprised you actually know who I am!’
‘What? Sel?’ Grace’s puzzled expression was genuine.
‘Don’t call me that! You have no right!’
‘I am your mother!’
‘Just because you gave birth to me has no bearing on whether or not you can make any decisions regarding me! Get out of my room! I’m not doing your dirty work for you! If you want dad to do something ask him yourself!’ Selina shouted, outraged that her mother should think she could just swan in and out of her room. The last time they’d actually had a conversation had been over a week ago about a sale in Stepsley.
‘How dare you speak to me like that!’ Grace screamed at her.
‘Don’t like the truth? By the way, you’re home a little early for a Friday. What happened? The wife find out?’
Without even realising what she was doing, Grace slapped Selina’s face. She winced, her hand stung no end, god knows what Selina’s face felt like, but she didn’t back down. She looked at Grace, square in the face. She set herself.
‘What have we ever done to you? Dad loves you, I used to love you, but you’re just a dirty old slag who can’t keep her knickers on! You’re an embarrassment to us! Why don’t you just lay over the main line and let a train make all our lives easier!’
Grace reached out to slap her daughter again. The words stung. The truth does hurt.
‘If you hit me again, I’ll hit you back.’
‘Is that a threat? Miss Daddy’s-Girl?’
‘No, Grace. It’s a promise.’
Grace just stood. Her mind was reeling. She wasn’t about to back down from a 15 year old!
‘Now get out of my room.’
‘For your information, lady, your father is no oil painting.’
Selina lunged forward screaming and knocked Grace over, her hands were at Grace’s throat. She had somehow managed to pin Grace to the floor so she had no use of her arms to try and free herself and fight back. For a 15 year old she was very strong. Her face was expressionless, her eyes full of rage. She wasn’t going to let go anytime soon.
Grace started to struggle for breath. Her vision wasn’t clear. Jesus! She felt she was going to die at the hands of her daughter!
And all because she had to have the last word. Every time.
‘Sel! Fuck! Sel!’
Jamie prised Selina’s fingers from Grace’s neck and scooped her up and walked out of her bedroom. They settled in the study. An ambulance was on its way.
‘Baby, what happened?’
Selina crumpled. She clung on to Jamie and sobbed. Jamie managed to get the whole story out of her eventually. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He could clearly see Grace’s hand print on Selina’s face. God he was pleased it was only Selina who’d been here, he would’ve surely killed her. It seemed Selina had had a pretty good go herself though.
‘J,’ came Bob’s voice at the other side of the door.
‘Come on in, Bob.’
He took one look at Selina and shook his head.
‘She’s with us. Gabbling away. Possibly pressing charges.’
‘What?!’ Jamie saw red. He could feel his blood boiling.
‘Easy, tiger!’ Bob placed one of his hands on Jamie’s left shoulder, pinning him to his seat, ‘I just told her that wasn’t a good idea. After all, self defence by a teenager under the circumstances would win hands down, right,’ Bob grinned.
‘This is not looking good, Bob.’
‘Chill. If she were dead it’d be a whole different story, you know that J. It was self defence, wasn’t it honey,’ Bob said turning to Selina.
‘Oh, Jesus. Is that what she did to you?’ Bob asked pointing at the hand print.
Selina nodded again.
‘Sel, we need to take some pictures of that, ok?’ Bob asked, crouching to Selina’s level and holding her hand.
Again, she nodded.
‘J, get out of here and find that photographer.’
He wandered down to where Grace had been laying, over the threshold to Selina’s room. She was fighting the paramedics now, not wanting to go to hospital, albeit just for observations.
‘It would only be for one night, you banged your head when you hit the floor, we just need to make sure you’re ok,’ one of them explained.
‘I’m fine,’ Grace insisted. She looked up and saw Jamie. It was the first time she’d seen him since she’d regained consciousness. She was completely out of it when he’d pulled Selina away.
‘Jamie! Where’s Selina?’
‘Safe. You’re lucky Tom and Brenda heard you screaming at each other.’
‘They rang you?’
Jamie nodded, ‘yes. I called an ambulance when Tom told me it had all gone quiet. I know what Selina’s capable of. I’ve seen that hand print you put on her face. Proud? Are you proud that you drove your daughter to what happened here?’
‘She called me a slag!’ Grace had the audacity to look contrite.
‘You are!’ Jamie shouted back at his wife.
The paramedics silently packed up and left the room.
‘What? Oh, so it’s not true? You’ve not been shagging Michael Wood lately?’ His voice changed, mocking her.
‘You told his wife!’ Grace spat.
‘His wife approached me, to do private work. She suspected her husband was having an affair and she’d seen you, but she didn’t know who you were. I knew straight away.’
‘Jamie, what’s going to happen?’ Grace actually looked frightened.
‘You’re going to leave this house. Leaving Mormper would be good too. Don’t even try to fight this one, Grace. It’s over. You have twenty four hours to clear your things.’
Jamie turned on his heel and went to find Penny. She was their photographer. No doubt she’d already snapped Grace.
Jamie found his way to the kitchen. Penny was making tea. Flirting outrageously with Charlie.
‘Pen, could you take some snaps of Selina, please. She’s got a hand print on her face. Bob’s with her right now.’
‘Sure, where are they?’
‘Last door on the right when you get on the landing.’
‘I’m on it,’ Penny said taking her bag with her.
Charlie finished making the tea.
‘So what’s going on, boss?’
Jamie lowered himself into one of the chairs around the little table they kept in the kitchen. God it was uncomfortable!
‘They had an argument, Grace slapped Selina, they argued some more, Selina challenged her and called her a slag, Grace raised her hand and said something about me, and Selina attacked.’
‘Never in a million years did I think this would happen.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’ve told Grace to leave.’
‘We’re here for you, bro.’
Jamie was swamped. His shoulders carried the worries of the world. What the hell was he going to do? Sure, they could survive on his salary alone, just the two of them, but he wouldn’t be able to work nights anymore. Nights were what he did!
Karen finished her tea and put the cup in the dishwasher. The house was spotless. She had already phoned two estate agents. One of them was on their way round today in the next hour or so, the other on Monday evening. She didn’t feel the need to consult Michael. He couldn’t afford to run the house on his own anyway, and she didn’t want to live here with his memories. There were no other houses down the Avenue which were up for sale, and it was a desirable street. So hopefully the price would be good and someone would want it sooner rather than later. Even if she rented somewhere for a few months until she got herself sorted and worked out what she actually wanted. This house wasn’t part of who she was anymore.
‘I’m going to stay with George for a few days. Let the dust settle. You know,’ Michael said as he reached the bottom of the stairs carrying a small holdall. He certainly couldn’t be planning on staying away for too long, the holdall was only just big enough for one change of clothes!
‘Fine,’ Karen shrugged. She hadn’t told him she was having the estate agents round. She’d tell him once she had made her final decision about what to do. No point causing more arguments. It was over whichever way you looked at it.
‘Karen, I’m really sorry.’
‘Cut the crap, Michael. There was nothing wrong with our marriage. But you couldn’t resist anyway. You couldn’t resist shagging around, just like everyone warned me before we got married. I’m an idiot for ever thinking you’d changed.’
Karen headed for the study. She had her homework to do. Not only did she need to mark the Shakespeare essays, she had to break into Michael’s computer. Knowing he was having an affair was one thing, but she needed to make sure she had a bit more evidence in case he denied it for the divorce. He would more than likely try to pull a fast one and pin it all on Karen being the adulterer. She knew what he was capable of.
She heard his car drive away and heaved a sigh. How had she failed so badly? Why hadn’t she listened to everyone? Right up to the morning of the wedding George had told her she had time to back out!
Jamie hadn’t yet contacted her, so she sent him a quick message telling him Michael was staying with his brother in Stepsley for a few days and she was having the house valued, ready to sell up and start afresh.
The reply was instant.
Avin a mare here. Selina almost killed Grace last nite. Grace gone. Come ova if lonely. Pizza
4 dinner! And endless tea! J
Oh my god! Poor Selina. Karen had already made her decision. She had to get over there, she wanted to know everything.
Hurry up Mr Estate Agent. I have more important things to do!
‘What the hell do you want?’
‘I need to speak with your dad.’
‘Come to hand yourself in? You moron! They’ll be willing to take you in on Vasley Street, you know, they’d love it.’
‘I haven’t done anything wrong.’
‘Selina, please can I speak with your dad?’
‘Does he know you’re coming?’
‘Then he won’t miss you, will he?’ Selina said, not looking at him and started to close the door without a backward glance.
Rory pushed his foot in the way of it closing completely and started yelling for Jamie. Selina was strong, but surely just a couple of yells would do the trick?
Selina pushed the door with all her might. She was so angry. How dare he!
Rory’s face turned a funny colour. His foot felt like it was being sawn off! Selina was a lot stronger than she looked.
‘Sel, it’s ok! Rory’s a guest.’
‘You heard me. Now release his foot.’
Selina did as she was told and stalked off to the kitchen to put the kettle on. She couldn’t believe her dad had welcomed that thug into their home. Yeah, ok, so she’d been stupid enough to get into the car with them all those weeks ago, but only because she didn’t want Lucy to be with them on her own. Safety in numbers, and all that tripe. Just look where it had got her. Besides, what had happened since? Nothing. Her dad hadn’t even managed to get Archer yet! So much for his cunning plan with all his fangled dangled surveillance.
‘Rory’ll have a coffee, Sel.’
‘Isn’t that nice for him.’
‘Rory, go through to the sitting room. We’ll be with you shortly.’
Selina could feel her dad glaring at her from the doorway. She refused to look him. She turned all her attention to making the drinks. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of telling her off in front of their ‘guest’ again.
‘Are you ok?’
‘Stubborn fine, or not fine?’
‘Babe, when you get in there with us you’ll understand what I’m doing. Rory works for us. Me, Bob and Charlie. We’re going to take Fench and Archer in next week. He’s more than happy to help us out, they’ve bullied him for too long.’
‘They bully each other all the time, dad!’
‘Yes, but they found out it was Rory who rang Vasley Street that night, to tell the right people where you and Lucy were.’
‘He made the call just after I got you home that night. It took him an hour just to get five minutes on his own in order to make the call.’
‘Why would he do that?’
‘I don’t know. But once I knew that I knew I had a shot at getting the gang leaders. He’s more than willing to help us out.’
‘Should I get a plate of biscuits out?’
‘Why not, maybe you should get an apology ready too. I’m just needing to get some paper work from the study.’
Selina walked into the sitting room and gave Rory his coffee.
‘Peace offering?’ She gestured towards the biscuits.
Rory grinned at her, ‘accepted.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realise. And I’m sorry about trying to break your foot just now.’
‘That’s ok. I’ve been trying to make contact with you, for ages, to let you know about it. But it’s been so difficult. Getting just five minutes away from them is like, totally impossible. They know every move you make, every person you look at, they know it all.’
‘So they’re not your friends?’
Rory shook his head and drank some of his coffee.
‘Ok, Rory. Here’s the deal,’ Jamie said entering the sitting room with a sheaf of papers.
Karen drove to Manor Drive as soon as the estate agent left. He was a very peculiar little man. He looked more like a car sales man, more so than Michael ever did. Anyway, he said he’d be in touch on Monday with a figure. She felt him checking her out so she had let him walk around the house on his own. He had spent perhaps a little too long in her bedroom for her liking, but still, it was necessary to get this place on the market and get out.
Karen slowed her car to a stop on Jamie’s drive. She wasn’t sure how to act. She wanted to know everything that had gone on the previous night, she wanted Jamie to herself, she wanted to kiss him, to feel his touch. She had to pull herself together!
‘Be still my beating heart,’ Karen said to herself as she climbed out of the car and headed to the side door.
She knocked on the side door and waited.
Within seconds Jamie had opened it with a beaming smile, so warm and welcoming.
‘So how did it go?’
‘He’ll let me know on Monday. He was a bit creepy actually.’
‘You should’ve called, I could’ve come over.’
‘That’s ok. It seems you’ve got enough going on,’ Karen said, thinking ‘you should’ve come over anyway!’
‘Just another day at the office. Except it’s revolving around this house and everyone in it!’ Jamie grinned.
A young lad joined them in the kitchen, placing dirty mugs in the sink. Karen was sure she had seen him somewhere.
‘I’ll be off then, J. Thanks.’
‘Whoa! Rory. Meet Karen.’
‘Hi, Mrs Wood. You taught me about four years ago.’
‘Of course. Rory Cheedle, I knew your face was familiar!’ Karen smiled, surely this couldn’t be Selina’s boyfriend? No, of course not, Selina would be in here wishing him goodbye. Wouldn’t she?
‘I’ll just say bye to Selina, but I’ll be seeing you soon as, yeah?’
‘Keep your ear to the ground, Rory, ok? I’m home for the next week, but you can still contact me. Bob and Charlie are in, if you need them. They know everything necessary.’
‘Cool. Nice seeing you again Mrs Wood,’ Rory said and headed back down the hall and into the sitting room.
‘Bye,’ Karen said absently.
‘So you’re off now?’ Selina asked. She’d actually enjoyed talking with Rory. He wasn’t the person she had perceived him to be. Whoever she saw with that group she tarnished with the same brush. But Rory, well, he was alright. Her dad wouldn’t be involving him if he wasn’t.
‘Yeah, don’t want them getting all up in my face,’ Rory said, pulling his zip up trackie top on, and pulling the collar up all the way around.
‘I don’t suppose you’ll be back for a few days either,’ Selina casually asked, not really looking at him. Not wanting to notice how his eyes smiled every time he looked at her.
‘No. Too risky. Do you want my mobile number, you know, in case your dad and that aren’t around and you happen to need someone or whatever?’ Rory asked, pretending the idea had only just dawned on him!
‘Oh, sure, yeah, that might be a good idea,’ Selina said, hiding her smile.
Selina reached on the table and picked up her phone at the same time Rory handed her his.
‘I don’t know my number, so type yours in and ring it,’ Rory instructed.
Selina did as asked, typing her own mobile number and hitting the ‘call’ button. The call connected and Duffy’s ‘Mercy’ played for a few seconds. Selina cancelled the call and gave Rory his phone back. She opened her own and saved the entry.
‘What should I save you as?’
‘Oh, I dunno, how about ‘Selina’?’ Selina asked as though she’d just had an epiphany.
‘How about no?’
‘There’s only one Selina we all know, and she’s you. They’d be on to me straight away. My cover would be blown, you know. Come on, everyone knows a guy like me doesn’t go out with a girl like you.’
‘Coz I’m a copper’s daughter, right?’
‘Not just that, Sel. You’re, you know, nice and everything. It’s girls like Chelsey and Merrina we’re supposed to be seen with, so it’ll look proper dodgy and everything. They’ll know I’m up to something, for sure.’
‘Oh, I didn’t think of that. It could ruin the whole operation couldn’t it.’
‘I dunno then, sorry.’
‘Your ring tone. There’s a guy we used to play footie with who we used to call Duffy, so that’ll stick.’
‘Right, I’m off. Thanks for not sawing my foot off.’
‘Thanks for not holding it against me!’ Selina grinned.
Rory turned on his heel and left. Selina felt somewhat deflated. They’d actually had an ok afternoon. Rory was alright.
Grace went through her phone book. She couldn’t stay with any of these people. Most of them were married and had the whole 2.4 children thing going on. Michael had rung her on his way to Stepsley to say he was staying with his brother there, and he was planning on laying low for a couple of days. This was not good. How dare Jamie throw her out! That little bitch had him wrapped around her little finger! She would never be welcomed into her family home again.
There was only one thing for it.
‘Hello?’ A polished telephone voice asked.
‘No, it’s me, Grace,’ she said, somewhat crestfallen. How could her mum not differentiate?
‘What do you want?’ Came the now stern voice.
‘I was wondering if I could stay for a couple of days? Be good to see you and dad.’
‘All three of you?’
‘Erm, no. Just me mum.’
‘Have you been caught with your knickers down again?’
‘You dirty little madam! Do not ring me again.’
‘No ifs, buts or maybes, Grace. I have no desire to be contacted by you. Neither does your father. The whole family is disgraced by you, Grace. Jamie offered you the world, he’s a good lad. But you’ve thrown everything back at him haven’t you. You don’t deserve anyone.’
‘Great, everyone’s wanting a piece of me! Selina almost killed me last night! And no one could give a shit!’
‘We’d be more interested if she’d succeeded.’
The line went dead.
Karen couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed so much. Jamie and Selina were great entertainers. The atmosphere was great. The food was great. The tea was flowing in very generous quantities. The whole afternoon and evening had whizzed by. It was a shame it was already nine and would be drawing to a close pretty soon.
‘I’ll get another drink for everyone,’ Selina said, taking Karen’s empty mug and her dad’s empty beer bottle.
As soon as she left the room Jamie turned to Karen, a serious look on his face.
‘Do you think Michael will stay away for a few days? Or might he try and return tonight?’
‘I’m not sure. I don’t think he’ll try and come back just yet.’
‘But you can’t be completely confident he’ll stay away tonight?’
‘No. Not one hundred percent.’
‘Well, you’re not going home then. We have a spare room all made up, you can stay. Besides, you couldn’t possibly drive home after drinking all that tea!’
Karen laughed, ‘yes. If that had been wine I would be well and truly drunk by now.’
Selina returned with a fresh tea for Karen and a bottle for her dad.
‘I’m going to call it a night. I haven’t had my daily dosage of Link Larkin yet, so I need to watch it before bed. Nice spending time with you, Karen. See you in the morning dad. I love you,’ Selina kissed her dad goodnight and left them again.
Karen could feel the electricity again. She was willing something to happen, but thought she knew nothing would. Jamie was far too nice to jump at her just yet.
‘Well, that appears to have halted conversation,’ Jamie said, taking a swig from his bottle.
Karen smiled, ‘I’m sorry. My mind went away for a few moments.’
‘Can I ask where to?’
‘Your bedroom,’ Karen said with a delicious smile.
She couldn’t believe she’d actually said it, but she had! And what’s more, Jamie didn’t seem to have taken offence. He was grinning at her like a teenager!
‘Well, it’s nicely decorated. But then I’m biased coz I did it,’ Jamie grinned.
Karen had never been so happy. Although she’d been married to Michael for almost fifteen years, had been with him since she was 14, she had never felt how she did when she was with Jamie. It was as though Jamie made her whole. How could someone she’d been with for just over twenty years not be the right person. Then again, would Michael be right for anyone? His infidelity knew no bounds, clearly.
Jamie had shown her the guest room, a formality rather than ‘this is where you’re staying.’ He opened his own bedroom door, crisp white sheets covered the bed, the pillows had been plumped. Karen decided she could easily settle here.
Jamie watched Karen’s eyes explore the room, when she made her way over to the window he took the opportunity to close the door. She wasn’t leaving this room any time tonight, certainly not without Jamie at least kissing her.
‘Considering the circumstances you’re in, Jamie, this house feels like such a happy one. It’s all very casual. You can tell when you walk in mine that it’s a show home. It’s not a happy environment at all.’
‘The decoration is pretty stunning, but the maintenance is not practical. Not in a happy family home, anyway. Everything needs to be simple in a family home. There’s always too much going on.’
Karen smiled, ‘it’s scary how you pick up on everything.’
‘Yes, you. What are you picking up now?’ Karen asked.
‘Well, I don’t think a lot of sleeping will be taking place in this room tonight.’