Finally, the solution came to me, as I was unlocking my front door. A ray of golden sunlight filtered through the large front windows of my townhouse and as the ultra-violet light warmed my pale (and still shocked) skin, the answer hit me like the proverbial light-bulb.
Just ring him. Tell him the terrible news, and get it over and done with. There’ll be a funeral, of course there will, but once that’s over you can get that mean man and his cronies out of your life forever.
So, hesitating slightly, I grabbed the old house-phone and dialled in Steven’s number. I always kept it on a fluorescent pink post-it note beside the telephone for emergencies just as this.
The phone rang a couple of times before it was answered by an out-of-breath Steven.
“Mum…” he managed to choke back.
“What have you been doing…?”
I heard him sigh on the other side of the phone.
“Nothing bad, mother… I was just heading back to the house after a jog when the phone rang. I had to run to get it in time, so of course, I am going to be tired.”
“Oh, fine,” I could feel the day starting to wear me down.
Unfortunately, my son could tell.
“Mum, what’s up?”
I can’t tell him this… It’s just not fair.
Cursing myself for bringing back the habit of nail biting (those on the left hand were now getting a thorough biting), I listened to my son call into his receiver, whilst my anxiety was growing.
It shouldn’t bother me. Now, they won’t bother me any longer.
“Mum… Are you there?”
Finally I knew I had to answer.
“Steven, your father is dead.”
There, that wasn’t too bad, was it?
“What? Really?” Steven didn’t sound as shocked as I expected he would be, as though he had been expecting this, “What did he do?”
Despite myself, I laughed.
“He got shot, actually.”
“Ooh, by whom?” Now, I could just see my son leaning his head closer to the phone, ever eager to know more. For someone who has just lost a member of his family, Steven didn’t sound too miserable… Then again, the two had never been close.
“No-one knows…” I muttered.
“So it’s a murder investigation?” Steven almost laughed himself.
Suddenly I was getting a headache.
“Steve, look, this really isn’t the time to talk-”
“What are you denying to yourself this time?”
“Steven Howard, I am not denying anything,” I let my voice soften for a minute, “We should just talk about this in person.”
“Alright, mother. What time do you think you can make it to my flat?”
“How about you come and have tea at home one evening?”
“Nah, to busy. Sorry, but it would be much better for you to come here…”
Eventually he listened to me and we came to an agreement that we would meet up at his university’s café, for a chat, on Saturday.
Today was Monday.
That gave me five days to reflect on what I was going to say…