Monday, 7 November 2011

Chapter 10 - Then there was just me

The affair with Ms Clarke didn’t end well. I did learn the valuable lesson of discretion, but it was a close thing. It was my own fault, I couldn’t help but show off. I bragged about what I had done and even convinced her to show some of what made her special to me in class. It was only to be expected that word got around. It took some quick work on my part to hush it up enough for word not to get back to my mother. Ms Clarke lost her job, but I was able to prevent the reason being made public. I certain she was able to get another job.
For the remainder of school I kept my nose clean. I still dipped into people’s mind if I wanted to know something, or needed something to happen, but I was much more discreet about the whole thing. The Headmistress knows that somehow I pulled a fast one on her and watched me like a hawk. So I got on with my studies and approaching the age of sixteen had to make a decision for what my future would entail.
I’d had an interview with the school guidance counsellor that afternoon. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I did have an interest in computers, but they were new enough then that there was no clear route to a career with them. Her advice was to stay at sixth form, or go to college and stick with academic studies for a few years, get my A-levels, then onto a degree. It seemed like a reasonable plan, I was sure I could get through these studies as easily as I had here at school. She advised me to speak with my parents and I said I would do so.
As always I was home before my mother, she would generally arrive about six in the evening, then cook dinner for us both that we would eat while watching TV. I wasn’t too worried when she didn’t arrive at the usual time, but had started to become concerned when there was a knock at the door a couple of hours later.
I looked up at the policeman and I knew what he wanted to say, the well practiced words where in his mind before they reached his lips. There had been a terrible accident, he was very sorry, but I had to come with him. As the only living relative it was my duty to identify the body. He didn’t know the details, only that it had been a road traffic accident.
They took me to the hospital where she had been taken, it wasn’t until I saw her body that it really hit me. They pulled back the sheet and I could see her face. It didn’t look too bad, some cuts and bruising. Not enough to have killed her, but there she was, cold and still. I didn’t even realise I was crying.
Mr Roberts, the manager at the bank where my mother worked was also at the hospital. He had seen the accident and accompanied her in the ambulance, she had died on the way. He didn’t want to tell me the details, but he did in the end, I needed to know. I had to try and make sense of it. He told me what he had seen, a silver car coming too fast as she crossed the road. Too late the driver had tried to swerve, to no avail. Apparently he had been drunk at the wheel.
I wasn’t old enough to be left in my own care, but Mr Roberts let me stay with him until all the details had been worked out. He made the funeral arrangements, helping me pick out the clothes she would wear, the coffin she would lie in. He covered all the costs and while he tried to help me through it, he really couldn’t help. Only one person had ever helped me when I felt lost or frightened and she was not here.
In no time at all the day of the funeral arrived. I don’t really remember much of it. There was a service, the priest telling us why she was a great woman, how everybody had loved her. I loved her. I don’t think I have ever loved anybody else and I know now that I will never do so again. I stood, trying to be strong, but not quite a man I felt like a little boy.
Along with my own grief, I could feel the sorrow of all those around her. I had never known how popular she was, how well liked. I didn’t know any of these people, but here they were. Saying goodbye.
After the service some came up to me, offering their condolences, I accepted them as best I could. Thanking them for coming. Some became distraught, I found myself trying to comfort them, to send am impulse with calm. That was a mistake, my thoughts came from my own bottomless sorrow and they helped no-one.
We were taken to the graveyard, the headstone wasn’t there. Just the hole in the ground, they lowered her into it. I couldn’t stop the cry that escaped me. People tried not to look at me.
Eventually the ordeal was over, people left, returning to their own lives, taking their sorrows with them. Mr Roberts and myself returned to his home, barely talking, not knowing one another. We were unable to bring any comfort to each other. He drank alone, finding some limited solace in the fine whiskey that he drank. He offered me a glass, but I had no taste for it. There was no escape for me that way.
In time my grief hardened, became a bitter thing. It was only two months since the accident but I hunted the driver down. It wasn’t easy to do, no-one seemed to know who he was and where he lived. I couldn’t get close to the people who knew so I could pluck it from their heads. In the end it was a young reporter that gave me what I needed, and that evening I went to the house of Martin Cox.
In those days, drink driving wasn’t the crime it is today. Even with a fatality he remained free until the trial. And then he would maybe get a few years. It didn’t seem a fair swap. These days he would already be in prison and that would have saved him.
I watched him with his family, from his thoughts and theirs, I knew what was happening. He had been a long time drinker, he had almost destroyed his own family. His wife and their two children had been on the verge of leaving him. Killing my mother had shocked him sober. He was starting to get his life back on track, to rebuild the connections with his family. It should have provided some solace for me, but it didn’t. All I could see was the man who killed my mother being rewarded for it.
His family left, looking into their thoughts they would be gone until the next day. I approached the house and knocked on the door. I said nothing as he opened the door, my mind drove into his, he stepped away to let me in. He knew who I was, I suddenly remembered him from the funeral. He had been a furtive presence that stayed only for a few moments. The thought of him being there angered me. The darkness within me overpowered him, I could hear him begging for forgiveness, that he didn’t mean to hurt anybody.
From his memories I found a stashed bottle of cheap spirits, with his hands I poured a drink. He was crying louder now as I forced him to drink it. He finished the first glass and then he poured another. He continued to beg me not to do this. He finished the second glass, the warmth of the drink started to fill him. I could feel his shame, I almost revelled in it as he drank the third. His taste had awakened, inflamed as he swallowed the next drink.
A fourth drink, then a fifth emptied the bottle. Gripping the drained glass with one hand he smashed it against the table. He took the broken glass and cut into his arm. The blood sprang free as if eager for release. He continued to plead with me as he cut again, deeper this time. The glass was slick, but he managed to hold on to it as he cut again.
I stayed with him as the blood drained and his mind faded. I could see him slip away into the abyss and I almost went with him as fell deeper into the darkness. The glass dropped to the floor. I left the house, closing the door with my foot and walked into the night.

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