Finished! Our short story, ‘Time and Time Again’ written in 15 minutes per day (average) from 24 March

 

30 April – A final edit … logging on at 21.30pm, and off at 21.40, on at 22.18 off at 23.23. Two hours and 18 minutes to spare. FINISHED!

 TIME AND TIME AGAIN

by Rachel Henry

“Sun is shinin’ in the sky,” Megan sang along to the radio, she loved this 70s song, even if the Electric Light Orchestra had it totally wrong today … ‘There ain’t a cloud in sight …”. “Mr Blue Sky” The joke was on her, she couldn’t see a thing through the windscreen.  There was no point in switching on the wipers, they couldn’t wipe this thick, mucky blanket of fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything. She could just make out the dim outline of the church on her left – and maybe, if she turned left just past the flint churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there, call her daughter Jessie, and sit and work on her laptop in the car,  till the morning sun – it must be up there somewhere – burnt off the fog. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

“And that was Mr Blue Sky, from E.L.O., and what a glorious day it is – blue skies for everyone and spring is definitely here, and to celebrate, here’s a new track from Justin Bieb… ” Megan pressed the off button. “Call yourself a local radio station, can’t even get the weather right!” She only listened to Radio Riverston out of loyalty, hoping to hear Jack’s voice, even though she knew it was impossible. He’d had this very morning show, so if what happened last year hadn’t happened, it would be him – right now – on the airwaves as she drove.

She forced herself to concentrate. Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Megan inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa eating the cake and watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven. And Jack had still been here.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jack, Jessie’s father, had disappeared, eleven months ago. He had left the house as usual, early one gorgeous summer’s morning, to walk the half-mile to work – and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late and not to worry.

If Megan remembered right, there was still a pay-phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline she could use.

Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot gingerly in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking to the right she could see a dim orange light through the fog, about 25 yards along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she walked along and crossed over, straining to see and hear if any cars were coming. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the orange-lit  shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicked to all the horror movies she’d ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitched to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “You must be mistaken. I just wanted to ask if I could use your …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t make jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

“Uh, yes, goodbye, um, thank you …”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe could only be few steps away, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few yards further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? No contest.

The bar of the Bull and Swan was warm and welcoming, but Megan immediately felt a hard jolt under her ribs, and her eyes stung. How could she have forgotten? This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat at the table by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

Quickly wiping her eyes. “Hello. Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman  (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes, ridiculously long lashes, gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. Of course when he disappeared, the conspiracy theorists had had a field day. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Tom? Yes, that was it.

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Tom was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, still no signal – and nothing else either. It’s screen was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. She always used the phone’s contact list to call her daughter, she’d never actually dialled the number. She had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers too at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. By mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan walked over to the table by the fire and hung the red coat over the back of the chair facing the fire, turning the collar back to look at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same font and colour that her mother had sewn on to her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could still see her, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching, criticising, criticising. “Put that silly book away,” “Don’t tell me your daft stories,” when Megan had written and illustrated a special story for her mother’s birthday. “You’re not clever, you know, or pretty, so you’d better get used to it.” Megan had put her notebook with all her stories –  with their  little pencil drawings – into a drawer and vowed never to write another one, and to be as different a mother to Jessie as it was possible to be.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, beside her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“Darling! Thank goodness!How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just getting some of those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’. She held up the bag.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Fog? Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .. .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

The world tilted. “But that’s not possible …”

“Mum, are you alright? Look, sit down.” Jessie pulled out the chair. “You stay here, I’ll get  the drinks.” Megan watched her daughter walk to the bar, order an orange juice, and chat to Tom, then pick up the two drinks. Their two heads fleetingly  side by side – his pitch black, hers silver blonde – their own little Guinness mix. Megan smiled and saw the light in Tom’s eyes as he looked at Jessie. She remembered that look  -  Jack had looked at her the same way.

She’d never tell Jessie, but it wasn’t the first time the fog had come down out of nowhere. The morning Jack had disappeared, she’d been washing the breakfast dishes, watching him walk down the path, out of the gate, and cut right, through the woods, just as he always did. Five minutes later, drying a plate and idly watching a magpie hop across the lawn (‘Hello Mr Magpie, where’s your wife,’ she’d whispered, superstitious, ‘one for sorrow’, and looking around for its partner ‘two for joy’). Suddenly she’d felt as if someone had punched her in the gut, and, doubled over with pain, she’d looked out of the window and seen the mist stealing out of the woods.

“Jack”, the plate tumbled from her hands, smashing unnoticed on the floor. She’d run out of the kitchen, into the woods, calling: “Jack! Jack!”, but the fog thickened and her voice was muffled. She knew, though. The world had suddenly felt empty, in the same way an empty house feels when you knock on the door. Megan knew, the world was different – she knew, just knew,  Jack wasn’t in it any more. Bumping up against a fence, she’d turned towards the house and followed the wooden posts home. She’d called his work, and no, he hadn’t arrived.  So the alarm went out and the long wait began …

“Great coat, Mum.”

Brought back to the present – “What, darling?”

“Where did you get it? Very Sixties, isn’t it. May I try it on?” Jessie had already worked her arms into the sleeves.

“From a little shop up the road, it had a lot of old clothes in it, and a very old man …”

“Oh, there’s something in the pocket,” Jessie pulled out an envelope, browning along the edges.

“It’s addressed to M …. , Maggie? I can’t quite read the name, at The Vicarage, Amlington.” She passed it to Megan. The postmark was almost illegible, but she could just make out the year – 1963. She passed it to Megan, who pulled out the card inside – “it’s a postcard.”

“Barcelona,” said Jessie, looking at the picture of the distinctive cathedral. She  took the card and turned it over to read the old-fashioned, courteous writing on the other side.

‘My dearest darling,” she read. “How I miss you. Every day, every hour, every second. I send my love to you with every breath of my body.  I kiss the air and send it to your dear lips. Can you feel it? Never leave me, my own sweet love.Whatever might happen, I’ll always be beside you. J x.”

“Wow, that’s so … really … I hope someone writes something like that to me one day,” said Jessie.

“Oh, I’m sure they will darling,” Jessie really was beautiful. Not conventionally pretty – eyes blue, lashes long, black eyebrows, happy, laughing mouth – but that not so much these days, and the natural white stripe in her long blonde hair above her left eyebrow gave her a mature, distinguished look beyond her years. Jack had had exactly the same white streak in his black hair – a genetic quirk, but a dashing one – her own Jack Flash, she’d called him.

Really, she must stop going off into daydreams.

“We should go there, Mum.”

“Go where? Barcelona?”

“No. To this Vicarage. We could Google Amlington, I think it’s off the A1, north somewhere.”

“Oh darling, I don’t know …”

“Mum, we must! It’s meant to be, come on, we can go this afternoon – we can go now! Then we can come back and I’ll cook lasagne for dinner instead, please, Mum, it’ll be fun …”

Jessie’s face lit up, pleading, with the little upside-down V between her dark eyebrows that Megan never could resist. It had been the same since Jessie was little, begging for a sweet. She looked from her daughter to the glorious day outside – it would be a lovely drive cross-country.

They were picking up their things when Megan caught Tom’s eye – the poor bloke looked agonised – Megan knew exactly why. “Um, I’m just going to the loo, Jess, won’t be a moment.” “OK Mum.” A couple of minutes should be enough, she thought. Sure enough, when she got back, Tom was grinning as he polished a glass, and Jessie looked a little pink. As they left, Tom flashed Megan a wink. Megan gave him a mock-stern look. If he hurt her daughter, there’d be trouble. Tom nodded – message received and understood. Sometimes, you just didn’t need words, she thought, as she turned to join her daughter in the sunshine.

“Well?” she asked Jessie as they walked along the sunny street to the car park. “Well what, Mum?”

“Well, when are you going out with Tom?”

“How did you…? You are such a witch sometimes! We’re going to the Bell for lunch, tomorrow … if you must know.”

“Good.”

They picked up a couple of sandwiches from the delicatessen – chicken salad for Jessie, tuna and cucumber for Megan, with lashings of mayonaisse on both, and a couple of bottles of water, and sat in the car with the doors open eating their lunch and poring over a road atlas. Megan refused to have satnav.

“OK.” Megan said, with one finger moving up on a red line on the map. “It’s easy, we head up the A1, then take this B road off to the left, then turn off right to Amlington. It’s not very big.”

“Hooray, an adventure!”

And it was – an adventure on a truly glorious day. The blossom was out and turned the hedgerow verges into frothy marshmallow against a deep blue sky. Hawks hovered, and planes – tiny silver flashing specks – left their contrails, criss crossing high above till the winds up there smudged the white lines across the sky. A day to be glad to be alive. Megan and Jessie didn’t talk, they kept the radio playing. The lunchtime show was on, with Jack’s friend Andy White chatting between records – Adele, Katy Perry, Prince. Much better than that idiot who’d taken over from Jack on the morning show, Megan thought, as “Rolling in the Deep” came on – the perfect driving track.

Halfway through Supertramp’s “Dreamer”, Jessie picked up the map, “That turning should be coming up soon, Mum”, and five minutes later they were on the B road, with bright yellow rape in full bloom either side. “Aa…aa…choo! Oh no …,” Jessie scrambled in her handbag. Megan blocked off the air intake. “Are you OK?”

“I will be as soon as I find a tissue and my hayfever pills.” Then they were past the rape and into a wood – dark and cool. But Jessie’s eyes were red and streaming.

“Urgh, Mum, I feel horrible, and I haven’t got any Piriton with me.”

“I’m so sorry darling. We’d better get to a chemist.” A quick consultation with the map showed a large village nearby – and they found a parking space and a chemist on its small Georgian square. They headed to a little cafe a few doors to the right of the chemist and sat at the next table to a young woman with dark circles under her eyes with a coffee in front of her and, an infant in a stroller parked next to her chair. Little black curls escaped his woolly bobble hat as he let rip with an ear-curdling yell. His mother tried to quiet him but he was having none of it. His face screwed up and puce.

“I’m so sorry,” his mother said, to no one in particular.

Jessie opened the pill packet while Megan ordered coffee from a waitress trying to ignore the bedlam at the next table. “Urgh. Isn’t it early for hay fever? And what is that yellow stuff again?”

“It’s called rape, darling. It’s what you get that rapeseed oil you like from – but lots of people are allergic to the pollen.”

Jessie, eyes red and streaming, took the pill and washed it down with coffee. “You don’t say,” she said, with a rueful smile.

The baby at the next table had stopped mid-yell and was staring at Megan. Then he started scrambling to get out of his stroller. “No, Jackie, sit still, darling …”

Jack.

His mother undid his straps and took him on to her lap, where he struggled and pulled and held his arms out to Megan, who gave the woman a sympathetic smile.

“He certainly likes you,” said the woman. “At least you’ve stopped him crying, he’s hardly stopped since he was born.”

Little Jack gave one tremendous push and flew out of his mother’s arms, Megan had to bend quickly to catch him before he hit the floor. He gave a delighted chuckle. But as Megan tried to hand him back to his startled mother he started to yell again. “Oh dear,” said the woman, “would you mind holding him for a minute? I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”

“No, of course not, hello little one”. She smiled. The child looked into her eyes, put his thumb in his mouth, laid his cheek on her breast and fell instantly fast asleep. “Goodness,” said his mother. ” I’ve been trying to get him to do that for the past eleven months! I’m Susan, by the way.”

“Hello, I’m Megan, and this is my daughter, Jessie.”

They spent a quiet 20 minutes chatting. Susan was from this village but lived in Amlington, a few miles away, she said … at the Vicarage there. She chatted away and didn’t notice the sudden stillness of her companions. When they had all finished their coffee, Megan handed over the still-sleeping Jack, and, as she did so, his woolly hat slipped and she saw, among the black curls, above his left eyebrow, a streak of silver. Susan saw her looking – “oh, that’s why we call him Jack” she said. “His real name’s Timothy, after my husband’s father, but when Mark, my husband, saw this streak, he just said – hello little Jack Flash – and that was it. He was Jack.”

“Yes,” thought Megan. “He was.”

They said their goodbyes, and walked across the square to the car. “Mum, did you see …?”

“Yes, I saw.”

There didn’t seem much else to say. Feeling rather like stalkers, now they had met Susan, they decided to drive through Amlington anyway. A gorgeous Georgian house, perfectly symmetrical, with red and yellow roses just starting to bloom around its porch had a sign on its gate “The Vicarage”. And  looking at the beautiful old house, Megan found she  felt happy, content, for the first time since Jack had disappeared.

“Well, there it is.” They started home, and on past the rape fields and back on the A1, southbound, in silence, until …

“Mum.”

“Mmmm?”

“Do you think …”

“I don’t know, darling. I just don’t know.”

Jessie had pulled the red coat on to her lap and took out the postcard from the envelope, and just sat looking at the sepia picture of the cathedral in Barcelona and reading the lovelorn message. The journey home flew by, and soon the red coat was hanging up in the hallway and  they were sitting down to Jessie’s lasagne. They hadn’t spoken of the little boy. Over the lasagne and salad – delicious – and two glasses of ruby red Valpolicella, they chatted about Tom, and Jessie’s plans for the future – basically, she just didn’t know what she wanted to do. Maybe a gap year after her A levels.

Megan felt strange, unreal. Her mind couldn’t process what had happened. Little Jack with his silver streak among the black, tumbling off his mother’s lap to get to her, the beautiful old Vicarage, where he would grow up, as she, Megan, grew old.

And when they went through to the sitting room, and she turned on the news and she and Jessie, sitting side by side on the sofa, watched a breathless reporter, standing in the woods, telling of a sinkhole that had opened up under an old oak tree, invisible under some brambles, only found because of a walker’s dog falling in and barking … Megan knew, just knew what they would find when they rescued the dog. She and Jessie just looked at each other. They both knew, and they both knew that all was well, and as it should be.

The end.

 

18 April. Missed another two days, so now two hours 43 minutes behind. Procrastination is proving a real horror – and the days scoot by. If I want to finish by the end of April, I have to catch up.

Logging on 09.50 am 18 April

 

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

“Sun is shinin’ in the sky,” Megan sang along to the radio, she loved this 70s song, even if the Electric Light Orchestra had it totally wrong today … ‘There ain’t a cloud in sight …”. “Mr Blue Sky” The joke was on her, she couldn’t see a thing through the windscreen.  There was no point in switching on the wipers, they couldn’t wipe this thick, mucky blanket of fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything. She could just make out the dim outline of the church on her left – and maybe, if she turned left just past the flint churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there, call Jessie and work on her laptop in the car,  till the morning sun – it must be up there somewhere – burnt off the fog. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

“And that was Mr Blue Sky, from E.L.O., and what a glorious day it is – blue skies for everyone and spring is definitely here, and to celebrate, here’s a new track from Justin Bieb… ” Megan pushed the off button. “Call yourself a local radio station, can’t even get the weather right!” She only listened to it out of loyalty, hoping to hear Jack’s voice, even though she knew it was impossible. He’d had this very morning show, so if what happened last year hadn’t happened, it would be him – right now – on the airwaves as she drove.

She forced herself to concentrate. Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Megan inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa eating the cake and watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven. And Jack had still been here.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jack, Jessie’s father, had disappeared, eleven months ago. He had left the house as usual, early one gorgeous summer’s morning, to walk the half-mile to work – and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was still a pay-phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline she could use.

Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking to the right she could see a dim orange light through the fog, about 25 yards along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see and hear if any cars were coming. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the orange-lit  shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitched to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “You must be mistaken. I just wanted to ask if I could use your …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t make jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

“Uh, yes, goodbye, um, thank you …”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe could only be few steps away, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few yards further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? No contest.

The bar of the Bull and Swan was warm and welcoming, but Megan immediately felt a hard jolt under her ribs, and her eyes stung. How could she have forgotten? This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat at the table by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

Quickly wiping her eyes. “Hello. Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman  (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Tom? Yes, that was it.

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Tom was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, still no signal – and nothing else either. It’s screen was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on this phone and she always used the contact list to call her daughter, she’d never actually dialled the number. She had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers too at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. By mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan walked over to the table by the fire and hung the red coat over the back of the chair facing the fire, turning the collar back to look at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same font and colour that her mother had sewn on to her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could still see her, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching, criticising, criticising. She’d vowed to be as different a mother to Jessie as it was possible to be.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, beside her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“Darling! Thank goodness!How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .. .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

The world tilted. “But that’s not possible …”

“Mum, are you alright? Look, sit down.” Jessie pulled out the chair. “You stay here, I’ll get  the drinks.” Megan watched her daughter walk to the bar, order an orange juice, and chat to Tom, if that was his name, then pick up the two drinks. Their two heads fleetingly  side by side – his pitch black, hers silver blonde – their own little Guinness mix. Megan smiled and saw the light in Tom’s eyes as he looked at Jessie. She remembered that look  -  Jack had looked at her the same way.

She’d never tell Jessie, but it wasn’t the first time the fog had come down out of nowhere. The morning Jack disappeared, she’d been washing the breakfast dishes, watching him walk down the path, out of the gate, and cut right, through the woods, just as he always did. Five minutes later, drying a plate and idly watching a magpie hop across the lawn (‘Hello Mr Magpie, where’s your wife,’ she’d whispered, superstitious, ‘one for sorrow’, and looking around for its partner ‘two for joy’). Suddenly she’d felt as if someone had punched her in the gut, doubled over with pain, she looked out of the window and seen the mist stealing out of the woods.

“Jack”, the plate tumbled from her hands, smashing unnoticed on the floor. She’d run out of the kitchen, into the woods, calling: “Jack! Jack!”, but the fog thickened and her voice was muffled. She knew, though, she just knew. The world felt empty, in the same way an empty house feels when you knock on the door. Megan knew, the world was different – she knew, just knew,  Jack wasn’t in it anymore. Bumping up against a fence, she’d turned towards the house and followed the wooden posts home. She’d called his work, and no, he hadn’t arrived.  So the alarm went out and the long wait began …

“Great coat, Mum.”

Brought back to the present – “What, darling?”

“Where did you get it? Very Sixties, isn’t it. May I try it on?” Jessie had already worked her arms into the sleeves.

“From a little shop up the road, it had a lot of old clothes in it, and a very old man …”

“Oh, there’s something in the pocket,” Jessie pulled out an envelope, browning along the edges.

“It’s addressed to Mrs. M …. , I can’t quite read the name, at The Vicarage, Amlington.” She passed it to Megan. The postmark was illegible, but she could just make out the year – 1963. She passed it to Megan, who pulled out the card inside – “it’s a postcard.”

“Rome,” said Jessie, looking at the picture of the Colloseum. She  turned over the card to read the old-fashioned, courteous writing on the other side.

‘My dearest darling,” she read. “How I miss you. Every day, every hour, every second. I can feel my every breath winging across the miles to kiss your dear face. Can you feel it? Never leave me, my own sweet love. I promise I will never, ever leave you, whatever might happen, I’ll always be beside you. J x.”

“Wow, that’s so … really … I hope someone writes something like that to me one day,” said Jessie.

“Oh, I’m sure they will darling,” Jessie really was beautiful. Not conventionally pretty – eyes blue, lashes long, black eyebrows, happy, laughing mouth – but not so much these days, and the natural white stripe in her long blonde hair above her left eyebrow gave her a mature, distinguished look beyond her years. Jack had had exactly the same white streak in his black hair – a genetic quirk, but a dashing one – her own Jack Flash, she’d called him.

Really, she must stop going off into a daydream.

“You should go, Mum.”

“Go where?”

“To this Vicarage. We could Google Amlington, I think it’s off the A1, north somewhere.”

“Oh darling, I don’t know …”

“Mum, you must! It’s meant to be, come on, we can go this afternoon – we can go now! Then we can come back and I’ll cook lasagne for dinner instead, please, Mum, it’ll be fun …”

Jessie’s face lit up, pleading, with the little upside-down V between her dark eyebrows that Megan never could resist. It had been the same since Jessie was little, begging for a sweet. She looked from her daughter to the glorious day outside – it would be a lovely drive cross-country.

They were picking up their things when Megan caught Tom’s eye – the poor bloke looked agonised – Megan knew exactly why. “Um, I’m just going to the loo, Jess, won’t be a moment.” “OK Mum.” A couple of minutes should be enough, she thought. Sure enough, when she got back, Tom was grinning as he polished a glass, and Jessie looked a little pink. As they left, Tom flashed Megan a wink. Megan gave him a mock-stern look. If he hurt her daughter, there’d be trouble. Tom nodded – message received and understood. Sometimes, you just didn’t need words, she thought, as she turned to join her daughter in the sunshine.

“Well?” she asked Jessie as they walked along the sunny street to the car park. “Well what, Mum?”

“Well, when are you going out with Tom?”

“How did you…? You are such a witch sometimes! We’re going to the Bell for lunch, tomorrow … if you must know.”

“Good.”

They picked up a couple of sandwiches from the delicatessen – chicken salad for Jessie, tuna and cucumber for Megan, with lashings of mayonaisse on both, and a couple of bottles of water, and sat in the car with the doors open eating their lunch and poring over a road atlas. Megan refused to have satnav.

“OK.” Megan said, with one finger moving up on a red line on the map. “It’s easy, we head up the A1, then take this B road off to the left, then turn off right to Amlington. It’s not very big.”

“Fantastic!”

And it was – a truly glorious day. The blossom was out and turned the hedgerow verges into frothy marshmallow against a deep blue sky. Hawks hovered, and planes – tiny silver flashing specks – left contrails, criss crossing high above till the winds up there smudged the white lines. A day to be glad to be alive. Megan and Jessie didn’t talk, they kept the radio on low. The lunchtime show was on, with Jack’s friend Andy White chatting between records – Adele, Katy Perry, Prince. Much better than that idiot who’d taken over from Jack on the morning show, Megan thought, as “Rolling in the Deep” came on – the perfect driving track.

Halfway through Supertramp’s “Dreamer”, Jessie picked up the map, “That turning should be coming up soon, Mum”, and five minutes later they were on the B road, with bright yellow rape in full bloom either side. “Aa…aa…choo! Oh no …,” Jessie scrambled in her handbag. Megan blocked off the air intake. “Are you OK?”

“I will be as soon as I find a tissue and my hayfever pills.” Then they were past the rape and into a wood – dark and cool. But Jessie’s eyes were streaming.

“Urgh, Mum, I feel horrible, and I haven’t got any Piriton with me.”

“I’m so sorry darling. We’d better get to a chemist.” A quick consultation with the map showed a large village nearby – and they found a parking space and a chemist on its small Georgian square. They headed to a little cafe and sat at the next table to a young woman with dark circles under her eyes, sipping a coffee, an infant in a stroller parked next to her. Little black curls escaped his woolly bobble hat as he played with a blue rattle.

Jessie opened the pill packet while Megan ordered coffee. “Urgh. Isn’t it early for hay fever? And what is that yellow stuff?”

“It’s called rape, darling. It’s what you get that rapeseed oil you like from – but lots of people are allergic to the pollen.”

Jessie, eyes red and streaming, took the pill and washed it down with coffee. “You don’t say,” she said, with a rueful smile.

The baby at the next table had stopped playing with its rattle and was staring at Megan. Then started scrambling to get out of its stroller. “No, Jackie, sit still, darling …”

Jack.

The baby had screwed up his eyes and was taking a deep breath, ready to yell, his Mum quickly undid his straps and took him on to her lap, where he struggled and pulled and held his arms out to Megan, who gave the woman a sympathetic smile.

“He certainly likes you,” said the woman. “I’ve never seen him like this before.”

Little Jack gave one tremendous push and flew out of his mother’s arms, Megan had to catch him before he hit the floor. He gave a delighted chuckle. But as Megan tried to hand him back to his mother he started to yell. “Oh dear,” said the woman, “would you mind holding him for a minute? I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”

“No, of course not, hello little one”. The child looked into her eyes, put his thumb in his mouth, laid his cheek on her breast and fell fast asleep. “Goodness,” said his mother. ” I’ve been trying to get him to do that ever since he was born! I’m Susan, by the way.”

“Hello, I’m Megan, and this is my daughter, Jessie.”

They spent a quiet 20 minutes chatting. Susan was from this village but lived in Amlington, a few miles away, she said … at the Vicarage. She chatted away and didn’t notice the sudden stillness of her companions. When they had all finished their coffee, Megan handed over the still-sleeping Jack, and as she did so, his woolly hat slipped and she saw, among the black curls, above his left eyebrow, a streak of silver. Susan saw her looking – “oh, that’s why we call him Jack” she said. “His real name’s Timothy, after my husband’s father, but Mark, my husband, saw this, he just said – hello little Jack Flash – and that was it. He was Jack.”

“Yes,” thought Megan. “He was.”

They said their goodbyes, and walked across the square to the car. “Mum, did you see …?”

“Yes, I saw.”

There didn’t seem much else to say. They drove to Amlington, past the Vicarage, a gorgeous Georgian house, perfectly symmetrical, with red and yellow roses just starting to bloom around its porch. And Megan found she  felt happy, content, for the first time since Jack had disappeared.

“Well, there it is.” Megan drove on a little way to where the road widened, did a three point turn, and they started home, passing the Vicarage again, and on past the rape fields and back on the A1, southbound, in silence, until …

“Mum.”

“Mmmm?”

“Do you think …”

“I don’t know, darling. I just don’t know.”

Jessie had pulled the red coat on to her lap and took out the postcard from the envelope, and just sat looking at the sepia picture of the cathedral in Barcelona and reading the lovelorn message. The journey home flew by, and soon the red coat was hanging up in the hallway and  they were sitting down to Jessie’s lasagne. They hadn’t spoken of the little boy. Over the lasagne and salad – delicious – and two glasses of ruby red Valpolicella, they chatted about Tom, and Jessie’s plans for the future – basically, she just didn’t know what she wanted to do. Maybe a gap year. Megan found herself saying that she thought she might try her hand at writing again, maybe, she said, looking at the postcard, she would write the story of a young man in Barcelona, missing his love.

“You’ll have to go to Barcelona then, Mum,” said Jessie, “maybe we could both go …”

“After your exams, in the summer – can’t think of anything nicer, darling.” She reached across the table to take Jessie’s hand.

But part of Megan felt strange, unreal. Her mind couldn’t process what had happened. Little Jack with his silver streak among the black, tumbling off his mother’s lap to get to her, the beautiful old Vicarage, where he would grow up, as she, Megan, grew old.

And when they went through to the sitting room, and Megan turned on the news and she and Jessie watched a breathless reporter, standing in the woods, just down the road, telling of a sinkhole that had opened up under an old oak tree, invisible under some brambles, only found because of a walker’s dog falling in and barking … Megan knew, just knew what they would find when they rescued the dog. She and Jessie just looked at each other. They both knew, but they both knew too that all was well, and as it should be.

 

The end

logging off 12.00 midday

 

15 April 23.30 logging on … Have missed 11 days – distracted by everyday things and nearly two weeks went by, scarily easy to do. Thanks Jaye for reminding me:) So 11 times 15 minutes is two hours and 45 minutes behind, plus today’s 15 minutes. Back to work! …

Logging on at 00.48 Tues 15 April

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

“Sun is shinin’ in the sky,” Megan sang along to the radio, she loved this 70s song, even if the Electric Light Orchestra had it totally wrong today … ‘There ain’t a cloud in sight …”. “Mr Blue Sky” The joke was on her, she couldn’t see a thing through the windscreen.  There was no point in switching on the wipers, they couldn’t wipe this thick, mucky blanket of fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything. She could just make out the dim outline of the church on her left – and maybe, if she turned left just past the flint churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there, call Jessie and work on her laptop in the car,  till the morning sun – it must be up there somewhere – burnt off the fog. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

“And that was Mr Blue Sky, from E.L.O., and what a glorious day it is – blue skies for everyone and spring is definitely here, and to celebrate, here’s a new track from Justin Bieb… ” Megan pushed the off button. “Call yourself a local radio station, can’t even get the weather right!” She only listened to it out of loyalty, hoping to hear Jack’s voice, even though she knew it was impossible. He’d had the morning show, so if what happened last year hadn’t happened, it would be him – right now – on the airwaves as she drove.

She forced herself to concentrate. Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Megan inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa eating cake and watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven. And Jack had still been here.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jack, Jessie’s father, had disappeared, nine months ago. He had left the house as normal, early one gorgeous summer’s morning to walk the half-mile to work and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was still a pay-phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline she could use.

Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking to the right she could see a dim orange light through the fog, about 25 yards along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see and hear if any cars were coming. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the orange-lit  shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitched to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “You must be mistaken. I just wanted to use your …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t make jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

“Uh, yes, goodbye, um, thank you …”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe could only be few steps away, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few yards further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? No contest.

The bar of the Bull and Swan was warm and welcoming, but Megan immediately felt a hard jolt under her ribs, and her eyes stung. How could she have forgotten? This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat at the table by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

Quickly wiping her eyes. “Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman  (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Tom?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Tom was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, still no signal – and nothing else either. It’s screen was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she always used the contact list to call her daughter, she’d never actually dialled it. She had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. By mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan walked over to the table by the fire and hung the red coat over the back of the chair facing the fire, turning the collar back to look at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same font and colour that her mother had sewn on to her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could still see her, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, beside her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“Darling! Thank goodness!How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .. .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

The world tilted. “But that’s not possible …”

“Mum, are you alright? Look, sit down.” Jessie pulled out the chair. “You stay here, I’ll get  the drinks.” Megan watched her daughter walk to the bar, order an orange juice, and chat to Tom, if that was his name, then picking up the two drinks. Their two heads fleetingly  side by side – his pitch black, hers silver blonde – their own little Guinness mix. Megan smiled and saw the light in Tom’s eyes as he looked at Jessie. She remembered that look  -  Jack had looked at her the same way.

She’d never tell Jessie, but it wasn’t the first time the fog had come down out of nowhere. The morning Jack disappeared, she’d been washing the breakfast dishes, watching him walk down the path, out of the gate, and cut right, through the woods, just as he always did. Five minutes later, drying a plate and idly watching a magpie hop across the lawn (‘Hello Mr Magpie, where’s your wife,’ she’d whispered, superstitious, ‘one for sorrow’, and looking around for its partner ‘two for joy’). Suddenly she’d felt as if someone had punched her in the gut, doubled over with pain, she looked out of the window and saw the mist stealing out of the woods.

“Jack”, the plate tumbled from her hands, smashing unnoticed on the floor. She ran out of the kitchen, into the woods “Jack! Jack!”, but the fog thickened and her voice was muffled. She knew, though, the world felt empty, in the same way an empty house feels when you knock on the door. Megan knew, the world was different – she knew, just knew,  Jack wasn’t in it anymore. Bumping up against a fence, she’d turned towards the house and followed the wooden posts home. She’d called his work, and no, he hadn’t arrived.  So the alarm went out and the long wait began …

“Great coat, Mum.”

Brought back to the present – “What, darling?”

“Where did you get it? Very Sixties, isn’t it. May I try it on?” Jessie had already worked her arms into the sleeves.

“From a little shop up the road, it had a lot of old clothes in it, and a very old man …”

“Oh, there’s something in the pocket,” Jessie pulled out an envelope, browning along the edges.

“It’s addressed to Mrs. M …. at 3 Vicarage Cottages, Amlington, with an illegible postmark, but she could just make out the year – 1963. She passed it to Megan, who pulled out the card inside – “it’s a postcard.”

“Barcelona,” said Megan. She took the card from Jessie and turned it over to read the old-fashioned, courteous writing on the other side.

‘My dearest darling,” it read. “How I miss you. Every day, every hour, every second. When I breathe, I can feel my every breath winging across the miles to kiss your dear face. Can you feel it? Never leave me, my own sweet love. I promise I will never, ever leave you, whatever might happen, I’ll always be beside you. J x.”

“Wow, that’s so … really … I hope someone writes something like that to me one day,” said Jessie.

“Oh, I’m sure they will darling,” Jessie really was beautiful. Not conventionally pretty – eyes blue, lashes long, black eyebrows, happy, laughing mouth – but not so much these days, and the natural white stripe in her long blonde hair above her left eyebrow gave her a mature, distinguished look beyond her years. Jack had had exactly the same white streak in his black hair – a genetic quirk, but a dashing one – her own Jack Flash, she’d called him.

Really, she must stop going off into a daydream.

“You should go, Mum.”

“Go where?”

“To this Vicarage Cottages. We could Google Amlington, I think it’s off the A1, north somewhere.”

Logging off 1.35am

 

3 April 23.30 logging on …

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the flint churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there, call Jessie and work on her laptop in the car,  till the spring sun burnt off the fog. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa eating cake and watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack,had disappeared, just over a year ago. He had left the house as normal one morning to walk the half-mile to work and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was still a pay-phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline she could use.

Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking to the right she could see a dim orange light through the fog, about 25 yards along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see and hear if any cars were coming. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the orange-lit  shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitched to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “You must be mistaken. I just wanted to use your …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

“Uh, yes, goodbye, um, thank you …”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe could only be few steps away, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few yards further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? No contest. The bar of the Bull and Swan was warm and welcoming, but Megan immediately felt a hard jolt under her ribs, and her eyes stung. How could she have forgotten? This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat at the table by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

Quickly wiping her eyes. “Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman  (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Tom?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Tom was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, no signal – and nothing else either. It’s screen was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she always used the Contact list to call her daughter. She had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. By mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan picked up the red coat and looked again at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same sewn font and colour that her mother had sewn on her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could still see her, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, beside her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .. .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

The world tilted. “But that’s not possible …”

“Mum, are you alright? Look, sit down.” Jessie steered Megan to the table by the fire and went back to the bar. Megan watched her daughter order an orange juice, and chat to Tom, if that was his name, as she picked up the two drinks to bring back. Their two heads fleetingly  side by side – his pitch black, hers silver blonde – their own little Guinness mix. Megan smiled and saw the light in Jo’s eyes as he looked at Jessie. She remembered that look  - when Jack had first asked her out.

She’d never tell Jessie, but it wasn’t the first time the fog had come down out of nowhere. The morning Jack disappeared, she’d been washing the breakfast dishes, watching him walk down the path and cut right through the woods, just as he always did. Five minutes later, drying a plate and idly watching a magpie hop across the lawn (‘Hello Mr Magpie, where’s your wife,’ she’d whispered, superstitious, ‘one for sorrow’, and looking around for its partner ‘two for joy’). Suddenly she’d felt as if someone had punched her in the gut, doubled over with pain, she looked out of the window and saw the mist stealing out of the woods.

“Jack’, the plate tumbled from her hands, smashing unnoticed on the floor. She ran out of the kitchen, into the woods “Jack! Jack!”, but the fog thickened and her voice became muffled. She knew, though, the world felt empty, in the same way an empty house feels when you knock on the door. Megan knew, the world was different, it felt empty – she knew, just knew,  Jack wasn’t in it anymore. Bumping up against a fence, she’d turned towards the house and followed the wooden posts home. She’d called his work, and no, he hadn’t arrived.  So the alarm went out and the long wait began …

“Mum, look,”

Brought back to the present – “What, darling?”

“Here, in the pocket.” Jessie held up an envelope, addressed to Mrs. M …. at 3 Vicarage Cottages, Amlington, with an illegible postmark. She passed it to Megan, who pulled out the card inside – “it’s a postcard”

“Barcelona,” said Megan. She took the card from Jessie and turned it over to read the old-fashioned, courteous writing on the other side.

‘My dearest darling,” it read. “How I miss you. Every day, every hour, every second. When I breathe, my breath reaches across the miles to kiss your dear face. Can you feel it? Never leave me, my own sweet love, J x

“Wow, that’s so … really … I hope someone writes something like that to me one day,” said Jessie.

“Oh, I’m sure they will darling,” Megan watched as Tom slid yet another glance over at their table.

 

logging off 11.45.

 

2 April 2014 – logging on at 22.03

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there, call Jessie and work on her laptop to wait till the sun burnt off the fog. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack,had disappeared, just over a year ago. He left the house as normal one morning to walk the half-mile to work and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was still a pay-phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline she could use.

Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking to the right she could see a dim orange light through the fog, about 25 years along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see and hear if any cars were coming. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the orange-lit  shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitched to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to use your …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

“Uh, yes, goodbye, um, thank you …”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe could only be few steps away, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few yards further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? No contest. The bar of the Bull and Swan was warm and welcoming, but Megan immediately felt a hard jolt under her ribs, and her eyes stung. How could she have forgotten? This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat at the table by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

Quickly wiping her eyes. “Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman  (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Jo?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Jo was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, no signal – and nothing else either. It’s screen was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she always used the Contact list to call her daughter. She had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. By mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan picked up the red coat and looked again at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same sewn font and colour that her mother had sewn on her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could see her mum, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, beside her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .. .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

The world tilted. “But that’s not possible …”

“Mum, are you alright? Look, sit down.” Jessie steered Megan to the table by the fire and went back to the bar. Megan watched her daughter order an orange juice, and chat to Jo, if that was his name, as she picked up the two drinks to bring back. Their two heads fleetingly  side by side – his pitch black, hers silver blonde – their own little Guinness mix. Megan smiled and saw the light in Jo’s eyes as he looked at Jessie. She remembered that look  - when Jack had first asked her out.

 

She’d never tell Jessie, but it wasn’t the first time the fog had come down out of nowhere. The morning Jack disappeared, she’d been washing the breakfast dishes, watching him walk down the path and cut right through the woods, just as he always did. Five minutes later, drying a plate and idly watching a magpie hop across the lawn (‘Hello Mr Magpie, where’s your wife,’ she’d whispered, superstitious, ‘one for sorrow’, and looking around for its partner ‘two for joy’). Suddenly she’d felt as if someone had punched her in the gut, doubled over with pain, she looked out of the window and saw the mist stealing out of the woods.

“Jack’, the plate tumbled from her hands, smashing unnoticed on the floor. She ran out of the kitchen, into the woods “Jack! Jack!”, but the fog thickened and her voice became muffled. She knew, though, the world felt empty, in the same way an empty house feels when you knock on the door. Megan knew, the world was different, it felt empty – she knew, just knew,  Jack wasn’t in it anymore. Bumping up against a fence, she’d turned towards the house and followed the wooden posts home. She’d called his work, and no, he hadn’t arrived.  So the alarm went out and the long wait began …

“Mum, look,”

“What, darling?”

“Here, in the pocket.” Jessie held up an envelope, addressed to Mrs. M …. at 3 Vicarage Cottages, Amlington, with an illegible postmark. She passed it to Megan, who pulled out the card inside – “it’s a postcard”

 

logging off 22.17 (14 mins, one less as worked 16 mins yesterday)

Logging on at 22.08

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there, call Jessie and work on her laptop to wait till the sun burnt off the fog. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack,had disappeared, just over a year ago. He left the house as normal one morning to walk the half-mile to work and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was still a pay-phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline she could use.

Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking to the right she could see a dim orange light through the fog, about 25 years along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see and hear if any cars were coming. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the orange-lit  shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitched to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to use your …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

“Uh, yes, goodbye, um, thank you …”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe could only be few steps away, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few yards further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? No contest. The bar of the Bull and Swan was warm and welcoming, but Megan immediately felt a hard jolt under her ribs, and her eyes stung. How could she have forgotten? This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat at the table by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

Quickly wiping her eyes. “Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman  (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Jo?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Jo was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, no signal – and nothing else either. It was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she just used the Contact list to call her daughter. They had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. By mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan picked up the red coat and looked again at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same sewn font and colour that her mother had sewn on her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could see her mum, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, beside her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .. .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

The world tilted. “But that’s not possible …”

“Mum, are you alright? Look, sit down.” Jessie steered Megan to the table by the fire and went back to the bar. Megan watched her daughter order an orange juice, and chat to Jo, if that was his name, as she picked up the two drinks to bring back. Their two heads fleetingly  side by side – his pitch black, hers silver blonde – their own little Guinness mix. Megan smiled and saw the light in Jo’s eyes as he looked at Jessie. She remembered that look – Jack had

Sign off 22.34 – 26 minutes, 14 minutes tomorrow

Go through pockets – find ticket and letter.

Travel to new town and see mother and child.

Knows what happened to Jack. Dog falls down mine.

M&J go to

” Logging on at 23,39, 31 March

 

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there and wait the fog out. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack,had disappeared, just over a year ago. He’s left as normal one morning to walk the half-mile to work and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was a phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline. Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking ahead she could see an orange light, about 25 years along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see if any cars could be seen or heard. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe on the opposite kerb.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitches to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to borrow …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe was only a few steps on, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few steps further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? She turned into the pub and immediately felt a jolt under her ribs. This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat in the arnchairs by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

“Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Jo?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Jo was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, no signal – and nothing else either. It was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she just used the Contact list to call her daughter. They had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. by mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan picked up the red coat and looked again at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same sewn font and colour that her mother had sewn on her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could see her mum, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, with her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That …, well it was .” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walked by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

Go through pockets – find ticket and letter.

Travel to new town and see mother and child.

Knows what happened to Jack. Dog falls down mine.

M&J go to

Yesterday was one of those days without a single minute to spare, so double time today, less two minutes from Friday’s overrun. It’s actually much harder to sit down and write with the prospect of nearly half an hour’s work ahead, than 15 minutes … here goes!

Logging on at 23.30 Sunday 31 March. 

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop in the car park there and wait the fog out. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s super-rich chocolate cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 17-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack,had disappeared, just over a year ago. He’s left as normal one morning to walk the half-mile to work and just never came back. Never got to work. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was a phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at Charitea, the cafe cum charity shop on the high street, it was almost opposite the church – perhaps it would have a landline. Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There was no one around. Hardly surprising, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking ahead she could see an orange light, about 25 years along, on the other side of the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see if any cars could be seen or heard. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe on the opposite kerb.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitches to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers. He reminded her of something – a bridge, a snowstorm, Jimmy Stewart, in black and white …

‘Ah, it’s you,” the old man wheezed. “About time. I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to borrow …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” With a light hand on her back, he hustled  her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed behind her and the orange light winked out. Red coat over her arm, she peered into the silver-grey murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe was only a few steps on, she thought. Then she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few steps further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? She turned into the pub and immediately felt a jolt under her ribs. This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat in the arnchairs by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and fire blazing merrily away. She hadn’t been here since.

“Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hi,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were hauled before the head, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local builders bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Jo?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Jo was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, no signal – and nothing else either. It was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she just used the Contact list to call her daughter. They had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – some of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter. by mobile or landline.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper,” she muttered. Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

Megan picked up the red coat and looked again at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same sewn font and colour that her mother had sewn on her school uniform – black, and cursive. She could see her mum, in her mind’s eye, stitching, stitching.

“Mum! I thought it was you,” And Jessie was suddenly here, with her. “I tried to call you, but your mobile was dead – I got held up.”

“How did you…?”

“I saw you walk past the veggie shop, I was just picking up those lovely little tomatoes they have, for the salad’.

Megan stood and kissed her daughter. “How on earth did you see me in this fog?”

Jessie looked at her. “Er, what fog, Mum?”

Turning to the window, Megan raised her arm to point. “That … oh ….” Bright sunshine lit the street outside, people walking by in shirtsleeves and summer dresses.

“That’s impossible, I couldn’t see a foot in front of my nose… why aren’t you at home?”

“I just ran late. Is that your coat? Nice,” Jessie picked it up, ran her hand over the smooth cloth

I just got it, an old clothes shop a few steps from the cafe

” looks like the real thing – Sixties – oh!”

“What,”

There’s an envelop in the pocket, and this … Jessie pulled out a brochure -

logging off at 23.54

Go through pockets – find ticket and letter.

Travel to new town and see mother and child.

Knows what happened to Jack. Dog falls down mine.

M&J go to

logging off at 23.58

Logging on 12.15 28 March

‘Time and time again’ – logging on at 13.59, 27 March

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop over for an hour or so in the car park there and wait the fog out. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 15-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack, disappeared last year. Walked out of the door one morning to drive to work and just never came back. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was a phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at a cafe. Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

She couldn’t see another soul, not surprising really, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking ahead she could see an orange light, just over the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see if any cars could be seen or heard. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe on the opposite kerb.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitches to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers.

‘Ah, it’s you,” he wheezed. “I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to borrow …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” He walked her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed and the orange light went out behind her. Coat over her arm, she looked into the murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe was about five doors along she thought. Ten steps further and she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few steps further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? She turned into the pub and immediately felt a jolt under her ribs. This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat in the arnchairs by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and the fire blazing merrily away.

“Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hello,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were halted in their tracks, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local businesses who were bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Jo?

“Thanks.”

She gave him the coins, and waited for her Guinness, Jo was taking professional care over her half-pint glass, and filling it slowly, allowing the black and white to separate between pulls. Megan took out her mobile to check – no, no signal – and nothing else either. It was blank, nothing there, no matter what button she pressed. She realised, with horror, that she didn’t even know Jessie’s mobile number. It was on her phone and she just used the Contact list to call her daughter. They had cancelled their landline, with all the fuss over Jack’s disappearance they’d had journalists calling night and day and, worse, the cranks – wome of them wilfully cruel. So they’d disconnected and both changed their mobile numbers at the same time. Megan realised she had no way of contacting her daughter.

“Note to self – buy up a proper address book made of proper paper.” Well, Jessie was a sensible girl, she’d see the fog and realise what had happened.

 

Megan picked up the red coat and looked again at the name tag. More than her name, it was the same sewn font and colour that her mother had sewn on her school uniform – black, and cursive. Beyond strange – Megan was a practical person and not given to fanciful thinking, as her mother had said to her over and over as a child – why was she thinking of her mother? As a child Megan had been a daydreamer – a fanciful thinker – but seven years at a strait-laced girls’ school had ironed it out of her. “Megan Riley, if you’d stop looking out of the window and grace us with your wisdom ….” She remembered Miss Goodman, English teacher and vicious tempered harridan all too well. All the girls had been terrified of her.

 

Logging off 12.32 – two minutes over – take off tomorrow’s, not sure about this last par, may delete …

 

“You all right?” Jo was back with her drink.

“Uh, yes, thanks.” Megan picked up the drink and went to sit in the old leather armchair by the fire. One look out of the window was enough to confirm that the fog was as think as ever. What on earth was she to do?

 

Logging off at 14.13

 

‘Time and time again’ – logging on at 13.59, 27 March

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop over for an hour or so in the car park there and wait the fog out. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 15-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack, disappeared last year. Walked out of the door one morning to drive to work and just never came back. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was a phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at a cafe. Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

She couldn’t see another soul, not surprising really, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking ahead she could see an orange light, just over the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see if any cars could be seen or heard. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe on the opposite kerb.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitches to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers.

‘Ah, it’s you,” he wheezed. “I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to borrow …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” He walked her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed and the orange light went out behind her. Coat over her arm, she looked into the murk and turned left along the pavement, the cafe was about five doors along she thought. Ten steps further and she recognised the door of the Bull and Swan pub. Where to go? For a lovely steaming coffee a few steps further on, or an ice-cold Guinness? She turned into the pub and immediately felt a jolt under her ribs. This was were she had come with Jack on the last night, before he … They’d sat in the arnchairs by the fire, he with his back to the oak panelled walls, and she facing him, where she could also gaze into the flames. Those seats were free today, and the fire blazing merrily away.

“Half a pint of Guinness please,” she said to the barman (young, floppy-fringed black hair, T-shirt,blue eyes,  gorgeous). “Hello,” he said, smiling, reaching for a glass. “Haven’t seen you for  a while… ” He tailed off, his smile sagging. Megan knew the look. People forgot, then remembered half-way through a sentence. Difficult not to know what had happened really, with all the publicity. It had been over a week before all the journalists had left her doorstep. She and Jessie had quietly moved into a B&B till all the fuss had died down. She still got the occasional call from the Riverston Argos, looking and hoping for a new angle. Jack had been, not quite a national celebrity, but well-known locally for his morning radio show, which he used to throw a light on to anything he came across that he thought deserved it – from the dinner lady who quietly made sure that the school bullies were halted in their tracks, to a very dodgy councillor who turned out to have been lining his pockets with backhanders from local businesses who were bidding for council work. He’d been a force for good, her Jack, and now? Well, and now….

“That’s £2.40,” said the barman – what was his name? Jo?

“Thanks.”

She took her half pint to the

Logging off at 14.13

 

 

‘Time and Time Again 26 March logging on at 12.50pm

Am feeling a bit ‘what now?’ … here goes with today’s 15 minutes’ writing.

 

‘Time and time again’

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop over for an hour or so in the car park there and wait the fog out. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 15-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack, disappeared last year. Walked out of the door one morning to drive to work and just never came back. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was a phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at a cafe. Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

She couldn’t see another soul, not surprising really, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking ahead she could see an orange light, just over the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see if any cars could be seen or heard. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe on the opposite kerb.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old-fashioned clothes hung up all around – ‘hello?’

A shuffling sound from the back and Megan’s mind flicks to all the horror movies she’s ever watched as the curtain to the back of the shop twitches to one side, revealing a man of around … 80? 90? Ancient as a piece of old parchment, a papery man, with round spectacles and a tan cardigan over a blue checked shirt, frayed at the collar , and rust coloured corduroy trousers.

‘Ah, it’s you,” he wheezed. “I’ve got your coat here.”

“I’m sorry”, said Megan, “I don’t think we’ve met. I just wanted to borrow …”

“No,” it’s definitely yours – look.” He held up the coat – red, in a Sixties swing-coat style – towards her. Inside the large collar was an old-fashioned name tag with a name embroidered on it … “Megan Jefferson”.

Her name. Megan smiled. “Is this a joke? Did my daughter put you up to this?”

“Oh no,” said the man, smiling – he really did have an extraordinarily sweet smile. “We don’t do jokes.”

We?

“Please, take the coat, it is yours, after all. And I have to go now … it’s been so nice to meet you.” He walked her to the door and opened it into the fogbound world outside. “Goodbye, Megan.”

Megan, in a daze, stepped out, the door closed and the orange light went out.

Logging out 12.06 – one minute over time, will take off tomorrow’s 15 mins.

(Total now 45 mins)

 

 

‘Time and time again’

‘Bother’! Megan couldn’t see a thing.  There was no point in switching on her windscreen wipers, they couldn’t wipe the fog away. She sat forward in her seat, squinting to see – anything – through the thick grey blanket. She could just make out the outline of the church on her left, if she turned left just past the churchyard wall she could stop over for an hour or so in the car park there and wait the fog out. No way was she going to risk driving home in this.

Moving slowly forward, the car growling in first gear, Jenny inched into what she thought – hoped – was a parking space, stopped the engine and picked up her mobile phone. No signal. Can fog block phone signals? She had no idea, but she had to let Jessie know she wouldn’t be home for lunch. Her daughter had promised to bake a lasagne for her birthday. Megan smiled as she remembered last year’s birthday – and Jessie’s cake, sweetly lopsided, with its pink, Gaudi icing. It had been delicious, and they’d sat  side by side on the sofa watching Bette Davis in ‘Now Voyager’ – now that was her idea of a perfect day – with her then 15-year-old daughter, cake,  and an old black and white weepie. Heaven.

Megan and Jessie had always been close but had become more and more so since Jessie’s father, Jack, disappeared last year. Walked out of the door one morning to drive to work and just never came back. Megan’s mind skittered away from the thought, all the police, all the questions, all the tears and anger and frustration. No, not now. It was more important to think of practical things – like finding a landline to tell Jessie she’d be late.

If Megan remembered right, there was a phone box  up on the high street, or maybe she could call in at a cafe. Locking the car with its little phweep! and a friendly blink of its lights, she looked around – the fog seemed a little less dense, she could certainly walk – carefully  - up to the shops.

There didn’t seem to be anyone around at all, not surprising really, she thought as she put one foot in front of the other – everything felt very other worldly. All the normal sounds – traffic, footsteps, ringtones were absent, as if she’d stuffed her ears with cotton wool. The ground was slippy underfoot, and Megan grabbed the metal rail as she walked up the ramp to the high street and stood on the pavement. Where now?

Looking ahead she could see an orange light, just over the road – was that the cafe? This must be what sensory deprivation is like, she thought as she crossed over, straining to see if any cars could be seen or heard. ‘Ouch’, she’d stubbed her toe on the opposite kerb.  Scrambling to catch her balance she almost tumbled through the door of the shop – ‘Ah, not the cafe,’ she thought, looking around. What a relief to be able to see again. She didn’t remember ever seeing this shop before, though – old clothes everywhere – ‘hello?’

Time up – 17.46pm, 24 March; 11.08am 25 March (Total 30 mins)

 

 

 

 

could hardly see through her windscreen – the world was

5 comments

  1. Helen Hunt says:

    Wow! What an amazing story you’ve come up with in such a limited time. I love the way you’ve taken Megan right out of her comfort zone with the fog and the inability to contact her daughter. I also loved the scene with the coat and the back story about Jack’s disappearance. I look forward to finding out how it all ties together. One thought – you’ve got a huge amount of plot here, and I wonder if you’re actually heading for writing a novel!

    • admin says:

      Helen – thank you! Yes, am wondering how to rein in the story … I think I have a tie in, just not sure if it’s believable or too off the wall. Will see! Thanks again for the constructive review.

  2. adrienne vaughan says:

    I too am seriously impressed …good writing, fast pace and shows how much can be achieved in just 15 minutes a day. Totally agree about typing skills, the nuns taught me in a cleared-out hen-house, had to scrape the poo of my Imperial regularly.
    Kick on …

  3. Sue Moorcroft says:

    Did you seriously write this in half an hour? Go you!

    You’ve begun in a good place, plunging into the story at a point of conflict. Megan’s in conflict with the weather, her anxiety for her daughter and the lack of mobile phone signal. All kinds of places you can go to from here. The pace is good and you’ve included a bit of backstory by relating it to the current conflicts, so it doesn’t hold the momentum up too much.
    S

    • admin says:

      Sue – thanks – I knew that touch-typing course my father made me go on when I left school would come in handy one day :) Seriously, a note to anyone struggling with typing their work – keyboard skills are the one practical skill that can really, really help you write – especially when you get to the stage when you can think through your hands as you type. It’s worth investing in training, and practising a lot. I’m a fast touch typist, but it’s taken a long time and a lot of hours to get there (and some really, really boring jobs!). Also, I had the idea in my head when I left your short-story workshop, but that’s pretty much run out now, so I’ll be spending more time thinking. Am a bit stuck on who I want to come out of the back of the shop to talk to Megan …

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