Interview with a Charity Founder

by Karen J Mossman

(Fiction)

Today I am interviewing Sarah Lane, founder of Bread UK, and who is also the girlfriend of Manchester United and England player Paul Westermain.

“Hello, Sarah, thank you for coming along today.”

I put my tape recorder on the table after asking if she minded.

“Not at all. All publicity is good, Linda.” She gives me an enchanting smile.

“Which came first?” I ask as we settle down in the lobby of a hotel. “Paul or Bread?”

She smiles again and there is a twinkle in her grey-blue eyes.

“Unofficially, Bread was first, then I met Paul, but the actual the charity wasn’t set up until later.”

“So tell me how you met Paul?”

Sarah’s face glows, as she chuckles. “Well, it was just before midnight and I was handing out sandwiches to the homeless.”

“This was before Bread UK was set up?” I clarified.

“Yes, I’ve been doing this kind of charity work for as long as I can remember. I go to the supermarkets and buy cheap bread, and make up cheese and tomato sandwiches. Then off I go and hand them out. This was just one of those nights.”

“On your own?”

“Yes, it was just something I felt I needed to do.”

“Is that not dangerous?” I had images of a young girl walking the dark streets and probably mingling with partygoers or traipsing down back alleys.

Sarah shrugs and pushes her dark hair behind her ears. “People generally settle down to sleep at night, and I knew where to look.”

“What compels you to do it? I mean why would you want to feed the homeless? Don’t they have soup kitchens for that?”

“They do, but not everyone can find them and there are not that many. And because there but for the grace of God go I, I suppose.”

That surprised me. “Were you homeless?”

“No, but I could easily have been if things hadn’t turned out like they did.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I was brought up in care, I don’t know if you know that?”

“No, I didn’t.” I made a mental note as that would make another interesting story.

“Yes, I lived in a children’s home and at eighteen they arranged for me to have a job and fixed me up in a bedsit. From there I moved to a little flat, two rooms instead of one, but I lost the job, found another, lost that and ended up on benefits. I had to do something with my time while I was job hunting, so I volunteered at a soup kitchen. Eventually, I hit on the idea of making sandwiches and handing them out. Instead of them having to look for food, I could take it to them.”

“So you were doing this when you met Paul?”

“Ah, Paul, yes. What happened the night we met?”

I nodded.

She laughs and I find myself smiling. “He fell out of a night club.”

I was just about to pick up on that when a waiter approaches with a tray of tea and cake.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Sarah said. “I’ve ordered us some drinks.”

“No, not at all. Thank you very much.” I usually had a quick interview before being rushed out. The waiter hands us the drinks, and the cake was a lovely touch.

“I’m a sucker for cakes,” Sarah said with a laugh, “I just love them. That’s why once a month I used to make dozens and dozens of fairy cakes to take out too.”

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 10.33.05.png

 

 

“I bet that was popular,” I said, selecting one and enjoying her generosity. This woman keeps surprising me.

“It was, and once they realised it was a regular thing, more people showed up. It was hard to keep up the demand, sometimes.”

“What happened when you got a job, did you carry on?”

“I never found a job, and it wasn’t for the want of trying, either. I have no skills anyway, so was limited as to what I could do. If it wasn’t for my volunteer work, I would have gone crazy. Anyway, you wanted to know about poor Paul?”

“Poor Paul?”

“Yes, falling out of a nightclub?”

“Oh yes.” I was distracted by the cake.

“He came out of a nightclub a bit the worse for wear and by the look of his face, he’d been in a fight, too. Not that he gets involved in that sort of thing, but with him being famous, people think they know him and often want to talk football and sometimes they challenge him. Not always with the best results. So he stepped out and then stepped straight into the road in front of a black cab.”

“Oh! Was he hurt?”

“It could have been worse. I stayed with him holding his hand until the ambulance arrived and then went with him to the hospital.”

“I bet it surprised you to be holding the hand of a famous footballer?”

She chuckles again, “I had no idea who he was, just some poor bloke who’d had an accident. I’d no interest in football at that time.”

“So what happened next?”

“He asked me to ring one of his teammates, then they took me home afterwards. Two weeks later he turns up on my doorstep with a huge bunch of flowers.” She chuckled, “It was cake day, and the flat was covered in fairy cakes and I had flour in my hair and on my face. He must have thought I was a mad woman. Anyway, he asked me to dinner.”

“And you still didn’t know who he was?”

“I did by the time we got to the restaurant. People were staring at us and some even came over. He was really surprised that I didn’t know. I told him not everyone watches football. He laughed and said Manchester United were one of the biggest clubs in the world. Obviously, I’d heard of them, just not individual players.”

“And then you became a WAG, as they say.” She frowns even though I’d meant it as a light-hearted comment.

“No, it wasn’t like that and I’m still not sure if I like the term.”

I move on. “What was it like? You the girl with no job, and he the rich and famous footballer?”

“Well, to be honest, it worried me in the beginning. We lived such different lives. But when I discovered who Paul really was it  changed everything.”

“In what way?”

She shrugged her shoulders lightly. “I suppose I was scared of the limelight and wary of his teammates and girlfriends. I didn’t feel worthy to move in that circle.”

“So what changed?”

“Paul thought it a good idea to meet people. He said I had the wrong impression of them, and they were just normal people doing an an extraordinary job. I wasn’t so sure, about that, but I liked Paul, so I went along with it.

“We went round to one of their houses. It was an expensive looking place. They were having a barbeque. Most of the lads were there along with their partners. I felt out of my league if you’ll pardon the pun. Money breeds money as they say. The women were all beautiful. The clothes they wore, the hair and the make-up, I felt like the odd one out, almost as if someone was going to point me out and say I shouldn’t be there. They all knew each other, and I knew no one, it was awkward.”

I nodded.

“Then one of them—who I might add is not part of the group anymore, made a comment about my dress. I overheard her say that I looked like I was wearing an Asda off the peg. I felt humiliated. My dress was fifteen pounds from George and I loved it. I’d bought it especially for the occasion and I had felt nice in it up until that point.

“Their dresses were designer ones, I might add, and costing hundreds of pounds. As soon as I could escape, I did. I hid in the toilet and cried.

“I didn’t know how to face them after that. I thought they were all talking about me now I’d left the room. I couldn’t go back in there. It was pretty horrible. I felt like the ugly duckling.”

“You could never be an ugly duckling, Sarah,” I tell her, and she has the grace to smile.

She is beautiful in a simple way. Her hair curls long over her shoulders and her clothes are stylish, casual and comfortably worn. Beauty travels deep and Sarah seems a heart of gold.

“You came out of the toilet, eventually?”

“Yes,” she laughs. “I found Paul, told him I was leaving, told him that I didn’t belong there and was going home. As they were his friends, I told him to stay. We argued. He didn’t want me to leave, but I was going. I warned him not to follow and then caught the bus home.

“When I finally got back to my flat, he was waiting for me. He’d caught a taxi as soon as I left. By then he knew what had happened and was really sorry like it was his fault.”

She picks up her cup of tea and sips it several times before carrying on.

“Paul’s the type of person who really believes in people believing in themselves. He knew I had no self-confidence. He told me I was just as good as anyone there and I should never be ashamed of who I thought I wasn’t. He loved me for being me and he gave me the confidence to believe in myself. I’ve seen him say that too many people, and he is so right, everyone is important, everyone is equal. We should believe in ourselves.”

There have been many interviews with Paul Westermain and he is very charismatic. I was beginning to realise Sarah was special too. With his mentoring work with deprived children and her charity, it made me feel the world is a better place because of them.

“So, coming back to Bread UK, how did it officially start?”

“By accident actually, Linda. Paul wanted me to go to London for an away match. Most of the girlfriends and wives were going, and I was starting to like them. Friendships take time, don’t they?”

I nod and finish the last of my tea.

“Anyway,” she says with a chuckle. “I still wasn’t sure I liked football. Paul never pushed me but suggested we stay on for a few days, taking in the sights and seeing a show, that sort of thing. It sounded wonderful, how could I say no?

“We stayed at Claridge’s. A world away from anything I was used and I planned to spend an evening feeding the homeless. I was intended to speak to the hotel about the food they throw out. All hotels do and it goes into the bin. Such a waste.

“Anyway, I was in the lobby waiting to speak to the manager, when I overheard two men talking. They were in a panic because they’d organised a big charity event that evening and their speaker had dropped out. They didn’t know if they could get anyone at such short notice. It occurred to me that I could tell them about people who live on the streets. They are not all just druggies, but people who’d had a hard deal in life. Losing jobs and homes and many are ex-service men.

“I must have been mad. I’d done nothing like that before, and I had no idea why I suddenly thought I could. It was just one of those moments that you jump in with both feet and then wonder what the hell you have done!

“It went through my mind that people attending functions at the likes of Claridge’s would have no knowledge of life on the street. Maybe I could get them to donate money, which I could turn into food.”

Her face was animated and her eyes flashed with enthusiasm. “My God, I was so naïve!” She laughs.

“Had you done any public speaking before?”

“No! Paul asked me the same thing and when I told him and he was horrified!”

“So you just volunteered to speak to a group of people and you’d done nothing like it before?”

Sarah was laughing. “I was mad, wasn’t I? When I think back I don’t know what inspired me to think I could——well, I do. I was thinking of all the food I could buy and hand out. All I had to do was tell them how I made sandwiches.”

I was sceptical and it must have shown.

“I know; Paul was the same. Nothing is ever that easy, is it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t have thought so.”

“Afterwards, I went into a panic. So I grabbed a phone book and found a charity called St. Mungo’s.

“They try to prevent people from sleeping rough, a first stop if you like. I asked if they could see me, and they did. I had a long chat with a guy called Richard. He gave me some facts and figures, which I wrote down. At least then, I would know what I was talking about.

“Paul was sceptical and kept asking me if I knew what I was doing, but I was excited. Finally, I could speak to people who would listen. Any of us could find our situation changed and end up on the streets.

“Anyway, there I was, standing in front of three hundred people who had just eaten a nice meal. I suddenly realised that me talking about people not getting enough to eat might make them feel uncomfortable, and I didn’t want that.

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 10.47.42.png

“I didn’t want to put doom and gloom on their evening by telling stories of hardship either. I thought I had blown it because I had to think fast and start again. I knew I going to make a fool of myself and at the same time didn’t want to let anybody down. So I had to say something.

“I gave them the basic outline and switched tack. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but British people are very good at turning bad things into humour. I had some really funny encounters, like the man who thought he was still in the army and  saluted me every time I saw him, and another who kept calling me a cake fairy and moved his arms as if they were wings. I told the stories and people laughed. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

“I spoke for over half an hour. It was amazing. And I really enjoyed it. At the end, I suggested that if everyone in the room made a £10 donation, I could go out tomorrow buy bread and hand out sandwiches that evening. At least people would be fed. I really hoped I wasn’t too cheeky asking for that amount.

“Anyway, they applauded, so they must have approved. Afterwards Paul said he was really proud of me. There was a look of admiration in his eyes and I knew then I hadn’t made a fool of myself.”

I smile with her and doubt she could ever do that.

“Oh, and I forgot to mention that the organisers said they would pay me the same at the person who didn’t show up. Three hundred pounds would buy a lot of sandwiches. I was so thankful.”

“That’s amazing and £10 each off the audience would buy plenty of food, too.”

Sarah bit her lip and then spoke quietly. “The organisers handed me the envelopes with the donations. When I looked inside, I thought there had been a mistake.”

“They had given more than £10 each?” It wasn’t a surprise.

She nods, “There were cheques for hundreds of pounds and so much cash. I was speechless.”

“How much was there?” I ask intrigued.

Sarah’s eyes fill up, “I still can’t believe that first time. There was over £20,000. More than enough for what I needed.”

I blink several times, both out of surprise and to push back a tear. Even I hadn’t expected that.

She gave me that dazzling Sarah Lane smile again. “More cake?”

 

 

THE END

The Power of Love

by Karen J Mossman

It was a normal scene of children playing down at the sparkling brook. A brook that ran through the forest, except this was no ordinary boy as he and his friend squatted by the water, knees to their chins holding sticks.

Jorge’s gold coloured hair was mucky with dirt from the ground, the same dirt that covered his naked body. Josie’s ringlets carried specks of leaves and a tiny twig had caught in one. The children played happily in the water. People who didn’t know them would think they were siblings, but they weren’t.

Josie’s head shot up a moment before Jorge’s as music filled the air. “The King plays,” she uttered.

Jorge watched in awe as the colourful musical notes filled the surrounding air. Quavers, crotchet, minim, and clefts showered downwards entering the water with a slight hiss. Bubbles rose to the surface as if to receive them.

Josie stared at the popping on the water. “What is it?”

“It’s the music drowning,” he said.

Josie looked up and around not seeing anything. “Are they still raining?”

Jorge nodded wiping away one that had landed on her shoulder. Awe shone from their faces, although Josie only heard the sounds. She accepted that Jorge was the only one to see them. Perhaps it was magic.

Once, when Jorge was at home in the village with his parents, the music struck up and he dashed to the window to watch them fall.

“They are beautiful, Mama,” he sighed as they hit the ground, split apart, and vanished.

“What are?” His mother asked as she came to window to see what he was looking at. She was pretty woman, with an abundance of dark hair that she kept calm with a ribbon weaving through it.

“The music, Mama. Can you not see it?”

His mother looked at her husband, who was standing very still. Her eyes were fearful. Jorge was a special boy and she didn’t want him to appear different to the other children in the village.

“Son…” His father sat next to him placing his big hand on the boy’s shoulder. He was a robust man, a solid torso with short legs, so different from his son. “You must never speak of this to anyone.”

“But why?” Jorge asked earnestly. “They are so pretty and the music is so special. It’s the King playing, isn’t it?”

His parents again looked at each other. “Yes dear,” said his mother. “When the King, who lives in the castle, plays music on his pianoforte, everyone in the land can hear it.”

“But only you,” continued his father, “can see it.” The boy’s eyes grew wide.

“That makes you a special boy,” she said, her eyes never leaving her husbands.

“Yes,” he agreed. “You are our special boy, but never speak of this to anybody, not even Josie. Do you understand?”

Jorge nodded, not wanting to say he already had. “But why, Papa?”

“It’s our secret, and when you’re older, we shall tell you why it needs to be this way.”

His mother’s eyes filled with tears and Jorge’s hand rested on hers. “It’s all right, Mama, whatever it is will not take me from you.” He didn’t know what he had said to make her gasp and cry.

“Mama loves you very much and never wants to lose you.” Jorge still did not understand and frowned.

“Everything will be all right. Just remember our secret.”

Jorge never forgot the hurt his questions had caused and never spoke of what he saw to them again.

-O-

One day, several years later Jorge was out hunting with Josie. The King played his music and Jorge stopped and lowered his bow. The mournful song tore into his soul with its beauty.  Over the years the musical notes had become transparent accompanied by a myriad of rainbow colours.

Josie watched him for a moment and then said, “You still see them, don’t you?”

Jorge nodded. He could not be untruthful with the girl he would eventually marry. “One day I shall join the others and visit the castle to watch the King play.”

“But your parents forbade you.”

“I don’t want to hurt them, but the music calls me, Josie. I have no choice. I must go.”

“Then I will accompany you.”

Jorge went to his parents and told them his news.

“We have to tell him the truth now,” his mother said, as she looked at her husband for agreement.

“What truth is this” Jorge asked.

His father looked at the fine strong young man in front of him and knew the time had indeed come. They could not keep their secret any longer. “Sit down, son.”

Jorge stepped back and sat in the wicker chair his father had made many years ago. His parents sat on similar chairs and looked uncomfortable.

Jorge fidgeted, “I fear for what you are going to tell me.”

“Just know we have always loved you,” said his mother.

“I know,” said Jorge quietly. “Of that there has never been any doubt.”

“You were not born of your mother,” his father began, as Jorge’s eyes grew wide in shock. “We found you in the forest when you were a tiny baby. Your Mama fell in love with you and we brought you home.

“In those days there were many battles, as men came from foreign lands to claim what belonged to us and our kingdom. We found out much later that one such battle occurred whilst the King and Queen were travelling in their carriage. They lost their child, a boy.”

Jorge’s face changed as he realised what his father meant.

“They wounded The Queen, and some say she went mad for her only son who was never found. The King plays his music as a lament for what was lost. Not only for his son, but in truth he lost his wife as well.”

The silence hung heavily between them as Jorge looked at each of his parents. He lowered his head and said quietly, “I am that boy, aren’t I?”

“We fear so. Your Mama could not give you up despite a King’s ransom being offered.”

Jorge looked around his humble dwelling and just like the other people in the village they were a poor family. Indeed, to have turned away a King’s ransom they must have loved him very much.

He sighed quietly knowing he couldn’t change the path he must now take. “The music calls me, Papa, Mama,” he said looking at each of them again. “The music has always called me. I have no choice, but to go to the castle.”

Mama cast her eyes downward knowing she could not dissuade him.

“The King grants an audience to his music,” Jorge continued. “I must go and hope they will choose me to enter.”

“Maybe they won’t choose you?” his mama said hopefully.

“Then I will keep returning until they do. I will get in, Mama, and Josie will be accompanying with me.”

Jorge could see how upset his mother looked and went over to her. Kneeling down in front of her chair, he took the hand of this woman who loved him beyond doubt, and who had cared for him all his life. Despite their poverty her love was a rich as any King’s ransom.

“You will always be my Mama. You both will always be the people I return to, and the people I treasure most,” he told them earnestly. ‘This is not the end. It is just the beginning.” He stretched his hand across to include his father. “I love you both very much.”

-O-

They gave him and Josie horses and provisions to make the trip in case they had to camp outside until they gained entry to the castle.

Many people requested entry on a daily basis and Jorge was dismayed when he saw just how many arrived at the castle gates like they had. Each one having their own reason for wanting admittance. None would be as important as Jorge’s.

Only so many people were allowed into the castle at one time and people crammed towards entrance hoping they would be chosen ones. Jorge and Josie were turned away many times, not being able to get near enough. Josie knew it was just a matter of time. Jorge was confident of that and she remained by his side. Each day, they made progress and now they were near, Josie could see the music was having more of an effect on him. People outside listened in awe, but Jorge was lost in the sound, his eyes closed, his body almost rigid. He still saw the musical notes.

One evening as the sounds played, she watched tears form and spill from his eyes. Leaning over she wiped them away. “Please do not weep, my darling Jorge. We are here, we will get inside and see the music being played.”

“They are not tears,” he said. “The music is inside me now and pouring out making me as translucent as it.”

Josie could see the magical quality of his skin and it was like he was taking on a glow.

The following day Jorge and Josie were at the front when the drawbridge was lowered. Once inside they could only stare in wonderment. It was the most beautiful place they had every seen. The walls led up to high ceilings with carved elegant wood moulded into beautiful shapes. Some were even animal-like. People scuttled in beside them, their own faces looking around in admiration.

Inside the music room the walls were adorned with paintings of past and present royalty, animals, and musical events. Like Jorge and Josie the people had never laid eyes on such things and could only stare in wonder.

“Look,” whispered Josie as she pointed out candelabras made of cut glass and figurines made from finely painted china. “Have you ever seen anything as beautiful?” She drew in her breathe as her eyes glowed with the astonishment of it.

A murmur arose as the King entered. People lowered themselves to their knees paying homage to their monarch. Jorge saw the grand pianoforte on a raised platform in front of them. Josie gasped as she stared at the King, then turning she looked at Jorge with shock. “The… the King, Jorge, the King,” she stuttered. “He looks just like you!”

Jorge stared and realised he did. Even her could see the likeness now. It explained many things. One stuck in his mind and that was when the King and his carriage passed by Jorge was never allowed to attend.

carriage-1295752_1280

Questions he asked were evaded, and looks between his parents did not go un-noticed. Now it was clear to see why.

People rose to their feet, clapping in glee, all eyes focused on the rotund robed figure.  The King was a handsome man of middle age. His coiffure shone in its goldenness and on his head was a crown encrusted with rubies and diamonds. He wore a double-breasted waistcoat made from finely woven material, and a cloak of red velvet with fur trims held together by a golden button. His dark corduroy trousers finished below the knee and met white woollen stockings leading down to fine shiny leather shoes with a small heel.

The King bowed in acknowledgement waving a royal hand. His reddened cheeks crinkled as he smiled. He appeared happy to greet his people. Moving over to the piano, he sat down, pushing his cloak to the back of him.

Behind the pianoforte, the people could only see his head and shoulders and a little of his chest. He swayed as he began to play.

Jorge’s legs weakened and for a moment thought he would fall. Josie’s hand shot out to steady him. “Jorge? Are you all right? Jorge?”

Jorge blinked, tore his eyes from the King and looked at her. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak, shocked of what he was seeing.

He had expected to see the musical notes arising, but instead, he saw the small transparent clefs, quavers, and crotchets descending like they were a living being. They were raining from the ceiling, at first settling on the instrument and then King. The more he played the more they rained down.

It seemed the King was not playing the music at all! Jorge moved around, with Josie following to see what the King’s fingers were doing. They were hovering over the keys but the musical notes were making it appear that the music was coming from the piano, so no one suspected. Only Jorge was able to see the notes settling around him and popping, like a bubble bursting. It was indeed like magic.

Jorge whispered in Josie’s ear, “Someone else is playing the music, it’s not the King.” Josie looked back and couldn’t tell. It sounded like he was playing, everyone around thought he was playing. “Stay here,” he said close to her ear.

To her amazement Jorge pushed his way out of the room. He eyes followed the dancing music. He walked quickly down a corridor as it lead the way leaving Josie behind.

Guards, who were standing nearby, didn’t seem notice him pass. Jorge’s skin shining and almost see through, as if the music was making him invisible. He felt a dampness it clung to his clothes and hair, yet his eyes were fixed on their movement to a small open doorway.

Passing through, he went up the dark narrow steps. The way lit up by clefs and quavers. The stairs moved up in a circular manner he went up a tower. Light-footedly he skipped up higher as the music became louder as it called to him. Reaching the top, he found a solid iron door. There was a rusty key sticking out of the lock. He turned it.

The light inside almost blinded him. The music was so beautiful, it made him stumble and as the emotion consumed him, he thought his heart might break. It was mournful, sorrowful and the notes contained a yearning that was beyond measure.

He stopped and the music suddenly ceased. The silence startling  as his eyes adjusted to the bright light inside.

There in the centre of the room was the biggest pianoforte he had ever seen. The silence was startling as he stared at the figure sitting on the stool.

The woman had long black hair tied back in a once neat style. Now it was matted together with ribbons that were already falling apart. Her once opulent dress was torn, and old. The vibrant green was faded and dull. She stared at him with bright blue eyes that looked almost out of place on her old face. Her dry lips parted and her voice sounded like it hadn’t been used in a long time.

“My son,” she uttered. Jorge couldn’t move from where he stood as he stared knowing she spoke the truth. “I’ve been calling for you for so long.”

“Mother, your son has come.”

The Queen always believed her son was alive and had not been eaten by some wild animal was it was suggested. The King had his guards searched but to no avail. Eventually the Queen was banished to the tower with her madness, and in truth many had forgotten she was still alive.

Rising to her feet, her body was bent from the long hours at the instrument. “I am the mad Queen they put in the tower,” she said, her voice becoming clearer. “I’ve been calling for you to give me the peace I desire.”

She held out long thin fingers to him. Taking her hand he was surprised to feel the strength emanating from the thin weak skin.

“Come,” he said. “It is time for you to take your rightful place beside to the King.”

At the top of the tower, they descended the dark staircase, she following behind him. As they emerged together through the door, the guards gasped standing aside as they saw their Queen and the tall young man by her side, her arm looped through his. The only sound, as they made their way to the music room, was the rustle of her dress on the floor.

If it hadn’t been for Jorge by her side, the people would have thought she was an apparition as they gradually parted to let them through. All eyes were wide in horror and fascination as they gasped allowed. “It’s the Queen! Isn’t the Queen supposed to be dead!?” People muttered as they began to curtsey and bow in awe uttering, Your Majesty.”

The murmur grew louder and as they moved passed Josie, Jorge caught hold of her hand and brought her with him to where the King was standing. A stunned expression was on his face.

“Sir,” said Jorge, with a respectful bow. “May I present my mother, the Queen?”

There was another audible gasp as people came out of their stupor and fell to their knees.

“My son!” said the King just as the Queen began to speak.

“The power of my love has brought him home. Just as I said it would one day.”

The King gasped again, this time he clutched his chest. As he fell to the floor, his courtiers rushed forward. They knelt beside him and sadly shook their heads. “The King has died,” said one.

The Queen reached her shaking arm out towards her son and with all the energy she could muster, cried. “Hail the new King!” Her legs gave way, and she collapsed dead beside her husband.

After a moment of shocked silence, the crowd shouted out and until their voices became one. “Hail the new King!”

crown-759296_1920

 

Missing!

by Karen J Mossman

 

It's been a while since I posted a short story, so this one I wrote a
few years ago. If you have a story you would like to feature here, 
get on contact, I would love to feature you.

 

handcuffs-2102488_1280Nick was about to put the key in his door when the cops turned up.

Charlie was called to the foreman’s office and asked to accompany them to the station.

Marie, Charlie’s girlfriend, was working on reception when they came for her.  Russ tried to dodge them which didn’t go down well. Wasn’t he the one who told Michelle he would kill her?

“I didn’t!” Russ frowned.

Her friends said she had been depressed lately. Was it true?

“Yeah, she was a little down.” Nick remembered.

What was her relationship with Russ like?

“Stormy.” Charlie had found her crying.

What was she like the last time you saw her? They asked Nick.

“Quiet, tense, like. I asked her what was wrong and she told me to mind me own business. I heard her cryin’ in the night. She was gone when I got up.”

They asked Russ the same question. What was she like when you saw her last?

“Sulky,” he scowled.

Charlie shrugged. “She wanted money to feed her ‘abit.”

She was a user?

“What?” Nick was indignant. “Bullshit!”

Marie chewed her nails. “I thought she was, but she swore she never touched the stuff.  Russ had the habit. They had a one sided relationship, y’know?”  She said referring to Russ and Michelle.

Nick pulled a face, “She was besotted with Russ. He was bad news. She knew it, deep down, like. But try telling her anything….”

Charlie lit a cigarette. “I think she was scared of him. I think he had some kind of hold on her.”

They felt one of them wasn’t telling the truth. The brother? The ex? The boyfriend? The flatmate?

What about home life, parents?

Nick shrugged. “She and dad were always arguing.”

About?

“Boyfriends, I suppose. She always picked the dregs, y’know?  Wrong sorts for a girl like her, that’s what dad used to say, anyway.”

Like who?

“Ones with problems, trouble makers, ones who had been in trouble with you lot, know what I mean?”

What did you think about Michelle, Marie?

“I didn’t like her much, but what could I do?  Nick was Charlie’s mate.  His sister and Charlie, well, it’s over now. Least Charlie says it is.”

And was it over?

Staring at the table Marie followed the white cup rings with her eyes, gauging how much to tell them. “I think she was coming onto Charlie.”

Charlie looked away.  “No. It was over.”

They left his word to hang in the air, compelling him to say more. Instead he reached for another cigarette. Taking a long drag he blew smoke towards them. Playing for time, they’d seen it before. They waited.

“No,” he said again.

He was lying.

They were playing it softly, but in interrogation room 3, the air was blue. Russ wasn’t having that. “Me and Shell, we were like that.” He crossed his fingers.

Softly, softly was getting nowhere. It was time to go in for the kill.

Marie looked horrified.  “I didn’t kill her, I didn’t.”  She was tired, nerves spent.  “I was sick of her coming on to Charlie. He’s mine now, mine, not hers, not any more.”

They accused her again.

“I didn’t kill her, we argued that’s all.”

Charlie put out his cigarette and reached for yet another. “Course she liked me, we’ve been friends a long time. She didn’t want to let go. Wanted to get back together, but I’ve got Marie now.”

Nick looked at them, “Bullshit!  We didn’t row about Charlie. She wasn’t after him. Who told you that?  When I asked her what’s wrong, she told me to mind me own business.”  He shrugged.  “I went out; left her to it. When I came back I heard her cryin’, but I didn’t go in, I mean, it ain’t the first, like. She gets mixed up in things.”

They were interrupted then as formal identification of a body was required. As next of kin, Nick would have to do it.

Afterwards he sat with his head in his hands. It was a shock. He had never seen a dead body before.

They explained it was time to come clean.

Marie burst into tears. “I hit her, we fought, but she left, she left afterwards, honest she did, honest.”

Russ went ape, he threw back the chair and kicked at the table. It took five of them to restrain him.

As they locked the cell door, one said dryly, “I think he’s upset.”

“Or guilty,” said the other.

Charlie clenched his jaw and balled his fists, but apart from that he showed little emotion. It was an odd reaction for someone who was once in love with her. Or perhaps he still was.

Nick was relieved when they let him go. Whoever that body was, it didn’t belong to his sister. So where was she?  Where was Michelle?

“I dunno,” said Charlie. “Why would I know?  She didn’t come to me. I’m not her keeper. Why would I know?”

If Marie was relieved, she showed no sign.  “Ask Russ, my guess is she told him about her feelings for Charlie. Or he found out or, maybe she got her comeuppance another way.”

Russ fixed his gaze somewhere above their heads. “You put me through that, and it weren’t even her. Bastards.”

They told him what they thought, too.

“No,” he yelled. “There was no relationship with Charlie. All right, so I shouldn’t have accused her. I was jealous, see. Come on, man, why would I kill her?  She was the one who got me off the stuff. I’m clean now.”  He banged his fist down on the table. “It’s him, Charlie, I know it’s him. He’s the one who couldn’t let go; couldn’t accept she loves me now.” He put his head in his hands and groaned.

It looked like they’d have to let them all go, until there was a body that is, or new evidence. Maybe Michelle wanted to disappear. Russ was perhaps one more lame dog she’d helped. And Charlie, well he had Marie now. Perhaps she did want him back, or maybe it was the other way round. Marie was jealous, and Nick, well Nick had probably seen it all before.