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Sunday 28th December

Sunday 28th December. The day of Mrs Mellor’s funeral. I’m not going to have time to come home and change before the funeral so I take my suit to work and plan on changing beforehand. There must be somewhere I can get changed. I might be cheeky and ask the last client on my round if I can get changed in his or her house.

All afternoon yesterday I kept my phone close to me. There’s no way I’m letting anyone see what’s on that screen if a dirty picture should come my way. It didn’t, thank god. Maybe she got the message.

I didn’t see her at the depot today. I hope she quit. It’s too much hard work dealing with this shit. I don’t need it.

My last drop, Mrs Milton, a lovely lady I try not to get too close to, lets me get changed in her bedroom. All the while I’m in that house I need to tell myself not to get too attached. Mrs Milton isn’t what you would call healthy. I don’t think she has long left to be honest. But at least she has family.

It’s still frosty when I get to the church. The wind is picking up and the sun is trying to pierce the clouds. I wish it would. It would make the perfect scene when the body is being lowered into the ground. If she’s not being cremated that is. I haven’t seen the newspaper notice yet so I’m heading in blind.

There aren’t many cars here. There’s a hearse outside the door and a white Ford Fiesta. Oh dear.

I park beside it. She’s not there. It would make sense she’d be here I guess. I’m not happy about it. I wonder if Naz is here.

The church is just outside Leyland on the way to Euxton. It’s a church with its own graveyard. I thought at first that she’d be buried at the cemetery in Ribbleton in Preston. But she’s here, at St Michael’s on Wigan Road. It’s a nice looking church, I’ll give it that. It’s made of stone with a slate roof. The gardens are immaculately planted with bushes that look good no matter the season.

I can’t see Amy anywhere. She must be in the church.

I head over. I don’t know if I’m late or something. I’m sure they said two. I look at my watch. It shows 14:10.

Shit.

I walk in like a pupil late to class. I expect a lot of faces to turn around and glare at me as I do.

The inside is lovely. The pews are decorated in red cloth on the backrests and a matching carpet is unrolled along the centre aisle. Mrs Mellor’s coffin is at the front and the vicar is in the pulpit to the right of it.

There are a total of five people in there, not including the vicar. Amy is at the front to the left and Mrs Mellor’s son is on the right being chaperoned by two other men who I assume to be police officers. They all look at me. Amy smiles secretly. She’s dressed in a black pant suit. Her hair is done up like a nineteen thirties dame and her red lipstick looks magnificent even from back here. Mrs Mellor’s son looks at me briefly and turns away like he’s disgusted with himself. He recognises me, I can tell that much. The police don’t know who I am so they turn away.

I take a seat at the back so as not to cause too much of a disruption.

I feel a bit dirty being in here. Especially during the hymns. I’m not a religious person by any means, so it’s like I’m in a foreign country. Hope I don’t burst into flames.

After going through The Lord is my Shepherd, the coffin is carried out to the burial plot in the cemetery. I’ve never been to a funeral like this before. The few I have been to have all been cremations.

I stand with my hands joined at my front as the coffin is carried by some pallbearers through the church. Mr Mellor and his police escort follow. He doesn’t look at me. Amy does. I can feel her watching me as I walk the centre aisle. When she gets to me she puts an arm on my shoulder and moves me beside her. We walk out together. We look like a proper couple. I don’t like it. I hope nobody of note sees this. I want to shout: this is the wrong woman. I’m married.

When the body is being lowered I feel like I should say something. Isn’t that what people do in these situations?

I don’t say anything. I stand beside Amy with my hands together in front of me and my head down. I glance up and see Mr Mellor is opposite with his escorts. He also has his head down. I see him wipe a tear from his eye. I hope he’s proud of himself. I feel like yelling ‘It should be you in there’. He looks at me as though he knows what I’m thinking. I don’t look away. I stare right into his eyes like we’re in a staring contest. I win and he gazes at the coffin. Piece of shit.

Amy cups an arm through mine. I want to pull away but I’m afraid of making a scene. What the hell is she doing? I look at her. She’s staring ahead. Her eyes follow the coffin into the ground. She has that subtle smile on her face.

When we leave I put a twenty on the donation plate and we head to our respective cars. Amy is no longer clinging onto my arm. Thank god for that. I managed to shake her off when I took out my wallet. But she’s still walking close behind me.

The son is following with his escort. I pass the police cars and turn around to him. I don’t get close in case they decide to arrest me or something, but I do make a scene. He can’t be allowed to get away with this. I yell, ‘Proud of yourself are you? It should have been you in that grave, not your mother.’

He ignores me and gets into the car. One of the escorts yells back to me, ‘Just go.’

Amy and I stand at the cars and watch them leave. I hate that man. To do what he did to the woman who brought him into this world just makes my blood boil.

Amy asks me if I’m all right.

‘I’m fine,’ I say. ‘What was with the arm thing?’

‘Just trying to make you feel better.’ She pushes me back against my Clio, hard, and kisses me. I have to pull away. What the hell is she doing? I fight every urge I have and pull back. She puts her hand on my groin and whispers into my ear, ‘I can make you feel like nothing else matters.’

I push her back onto her car. It would be so easy to say yes, so easy to forget my problems. But I fight my urges. ‘I’m married.’

‘Come on, Lee. I know you want me.’

‘Leave me the hell alone. And stop sending me pictures.’

Her face changes from the angel she always shows, to the devil inside. This is the real Amy. The real black widow. Her scowl seems to go right through me. ‘You’re going to regret pushing me aside. Nobody says no to me.’

I get into my car. ‘You’re a fucking crazy bitch. Leave me alone.’

I drive away fast, wheel spinning and kicking up dirt as I do. I see her in the rear view mirror watching me. I’m not looking forward to the next few days.

When I get home I’m fuming. I’m so angry with her. There’s lipstick on my mouth and I scrub hard with a tissue to remove it before I get out of the car. I love Mei and I’m going to be a dad. I keep reminding myself of that. Should I tell the police about Amy? She certainly put me out of sorts. Constable Smith’s card is still on the coffee table.

I decide to see what happens tomorrow. I’ll put off telling Mei for now. I don’t want to worry her. I’ll just deal with this myself. I’ll tell her to back off.

Later on, while it’s still daylight, the other pain in my arse comes a knocking: Jason’s mum. She’s not been seen for days and now I guess her daughter must be out or something as when I answer the door there’s no sign of her. The mother is pissed off her face again. I get that her life is in a terrible state right now but that’s not my doing.

‘Now what do you want?’ I ask.

Mei’s mum pops her head around from the kitchen behind me.

Jason’s mum is in tears again. Her hair is greasy and her breath stinks. ‘Please, I’m begging you. Tell me why you did it.’

She’s adamant it was me that killed him. I don’t know why.

‘For the last time, lady, I had nothing to do with his death, OK? Please leave my property.’

My mobile phone beeps. It’s on the coffee table in the living room. It’s a text message. Mei’ mum goes into the living room. Shit. I need to ditch this bitch at my door.

A taxi pulls up. It’s the daughter. I feel sorry for her. She looks like she has a good head on her shoulders, like if she wasn’t babysitting this lump then she’d be pretty successful. She has long black hair and is slim and has the kind of features many men will no doubt be after in a few years’ time.

‘Mum!’ she says with stress.

Her mum turns around. ‘He knows,’ she cries as she points at me. ‘He knows what happened to Jason.’

‘You can’t keep harassing him.’

‘I just need to find the murderer. The news says there is one.’

‘I know, but let the police do their job.’

She didn’t exactly say I’m not the murderer.

‘The police are useless bastards.’

Her daughter puts her arm around her and leads her to the car. She looks back. ‘Sorry.’

‘Don’t you apologise to him!’ her mum yells as she climbs into the back of the taxi.

They drive the short journey along the road to their house. I watch them. Bret and Alan are out as well. I hope they got all they need. Nosey bastards.

Shit. There’s a text on my phone in the living room with Mei’s mum.

I run inside quickly. She’s there with the phone in her hand, holding it out for me to take. She hasn’t looked at it. At least she’s respectful of my privacy.

I open the message with the screen close to my face so she can’t see. It’s from Amy again. Another nude picture. Another selfie in front of a mirror, this time in a different pose. No caption this time.

Mei’s mum is looking at me. ‘Mei?’ she asks.

I wish it was.

I just shake my head and say the Cantonese for rubbish, which sounds a bit like: Lap sap.

She smiles. She always does when I speak Cantonese. I remember the first time I went to China. She had me saying the same word over and over, laughing each time. I felt like a pet doing tricks.

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