New Year's Day
The picture is of Amy. Another selfie. She’s wearing a tight low cut blouse with almost the entirety of her Mitchell brothers on show. The caption says: ‘Get out of bed and enjoy the party ;).’ Behind her is the front of my house. She’s outside.
I jump out of bed and part the curtains. She’s not there. Nobody is there. Along the road to the right I can see a small flock of people in Bret and Alan’s front garden. The music is still going strong. But I can’t see Amy anywhere.
She must be at the party right now.
The countdown to the new year begins.
‘You need to tell the police tomorrow,’ Mei reminds me. ‘Please don’t forget.’
I can’t afford to forget. I close the curtains and get back in bed and silently pray that the Bradley murderer finds her tonight.
I wake up at six. The room is chilly but the bed is warm under the quilt. Mei is sleeping soundly beside me. I didn’t sleep well after all. I think I saw every hour on the clock. That’s twice now in the past couple of months. Amy really spooked me last night. She’s unhinged.
I check my phone. No new messages or anything, not until the Wi-Fi connects and a Facebook friend request pops up in the notifications. It’s from Amy. I quickly press ignore and delete and put the phone back down.
There’s no point in going to sleep now.
I slide out of bed and creep downstairs. It’s bloody freezing down here. I turn on the electric fire and sit on the floor next to it with a throw over me. I flick on the TV and watch the morning news. They talk about last night’s fireworks in London and how other countries fared.
In the night the music and street chatter went on and on. Fireworks exploded in the sky. I was so tired I was waiting for Poppy to start barking from next door. At one point I could swear I heard Amy’s voice outside and I feared the worst for my car. I still do. I haven’t looked out at it yet.
At almost eight, after I’ve fought to stay awake on the sofa, I hear movement upstairs. From our bedroom, which is a relief. I can’t be bothered to mime a conversation this morning, though I can guarantee that her mum will be woken up by Mei moving around.
And sure enough, there’s the sound of voices.
I stay where I am when they both come down the stairs. Her mum looks knackered. I’m guessing she slept as well as I did.
They do their thing in the kitchen with the kettle and the porridge. I have some with them this morning.
It doesn’t feel like a new year at all. That sense of enlightenment will come when Amy is dealt with. On that topic, I need to speak to Office Smith today or I’ll never hear the end of it.
Mei is off work today. I’m not, of course. My time off will come next weekend in Scotland.
I step outside at ten o’clock and into the sunny chill of the new year. There’s a certain eeriness about the estate like everyone is still subdued from last night’s festivities. I like it. So do the Starkies. They look like they’re heading for a day out, and they look as tired as I feel.
‘Hi, Lee,’ says Richard.
I say hi.
He looks really dejected, like he’d seen something last night that wouldn’t agree with his sense of right and wrong. It would be fully in the wrong position I’m guessing. ‘I can’t tell you what I saw from the back window last night,’ he tells me. He also does the north south west and east cross, or spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch, as I’ve come to know it. I don’t dare tell him that, though, from fear my house will be sprayed with the blood of a sacrificed ox.
‘There was a woman,’ he goes on to tell me. ‘Blonde and pretty. She was there in the back garden with a man...’ he drifts off.
He looks like he’s going to pass out. I start to wonder how his children were made if he’s so affected by some nudity. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the woman he’s talking about was Amy.
I say my goodbye and head to work. Unfortunately I have to drive past Bret and Alan’s house and I can feel eyes on me as I do.
I wonder what it was that Amy did to get a criminal record. It could be something a small as shoplifting a chocolate bar to burglary. Hmmm. Perhaps it was public indecency. I can’t ignore my primal urges; she is gorgeous and sometimes I wish I hadn’t deleted those pictures. But everytime I see Mei I’m reminded of why I married her.
I think I noticed Amy’s Fiesta in the carpark beside Harold’s house earlier, though I couldn’t be sure. Hopefully it means she’ll still be with Bret and Alan and not stalking me. I would really love to know what her game is.
I walk into the depot and the drivers are all there again, some of whom look hungover while the others are more spritely. They’re all holding their wine and chocolates. Agatha looks her normal self, so I can’t tell if she’s hungover or not. She looks at me. She doesn’t trust me, I can tell that much. She might think I’m trying to usurp her from her throne. I do hope Mr Blacksmith told her about his plan for us to be a more caring company. It will save me spoiling her day. I can already imagine my first day: Agatha trying to put me off the job and keep me under her thumb. There will be an argument, there’s no doubt about that.
When I finish the round I head home with the intention of phoning Constable Smith. I just don’t want to. I think it will make things worse, not only because she’s a nutter, but because of Bret and Alan. If any of them are the murderer in the area then I could be putting Mei’s and the baby’s life in danger.
How did I get myself into this situation? Or shituation.
On the way I call Mei to see what she’s up to. I do the loudspeaker thing and hold the phone out of view. There’s no answer. I suppose she’s busy. I try again and the result is the same.
A wave of panic comes over me. Amy is two doors away from my house.
I try again, and again. I feel my foot getting heavier on the accelerator. It’s always the same when I try to call someone and they don’t answer after a couple of times. I always think the worst and I can’t rest until I hear from them.
Finally, Mei answers. ‘I was shitting,’ she tells me.
Isn’t that nice. I tell her I’m on my way home and ask if she wants anything picking up from the supermarket.
‘No, me and mum already went out.’
That’s that then. I release the accelerator a little and drift home.
Harold is out in his garden picking up what’s left of the fallen leaves. I pull up and he comes to the gate.
He speaks first. ‘The Starkies are shaken up,’ he says with a beaming smile. I’m surprised he hasn’t burst into laughter.
‘I heard,’ I tell him.
I look at the carpark. There’s a white car there but it’s not Amy’s Fiesta. I must have been mistaken this morning.
‘They said they saw her against their fence with someone behind her. I believe she was noisy.’
I don’t say anything.
Harold tells me the music kept him awake.
‘Me too. Mei slept like a log though.’
The bus pulls up at the stop and no other than Jason’s mum steps off with her daughter, her weight making the job of navigating the couple of steps difficult. She doesn’t look drunk; she looks like she’s cleaned up a lot. She tries hard not look at us but can sense we’re watching her. They walk past us quickly like they’re ashamed. I still feel sorry for her.
The bus leaves and Harold and I stand talking for another twenty minutes. He offers me a brew but I decline. I wish I’d accepted. It beats standing out here in the cold.
I go on to tell him about Amy and the picture from last night. He looks serious. ‘Is that her?’ he asks.
I turn around and there she is, walking towards us in the opposite direction Jason’s mum and sister made earlier. She’s still wearing the clothes from the picture along with a skirt short enough to double as a belt and ankle boots showing every curve of her toned legs. She glances at us and carries on her walk of shame. Seems she’s embarrassed by Harold being there. I’m glad he is in case she talks to me.
She stands at the bus stop with her back to me and waits like a statue. I hope she feels low and filthy. Because that’s what she is.
Bret and Alan are nowhere to be seen, but there’s the haunting face of Mei’s mum watching everything from my bedroom window.
Harold doesn’t notice. He’s busy looking at Amy. He leans in to me. ‘She’s pretty.’
‘If I was fifty years younger...’
‘Don’t even think about that.’ Even at his age his hormones are raging. But that’s the affect that Amy has on people and she knows it.
I head inside and find Mei’s mum making some soup while Mei watches something on TV in the living room. Some daytime TV crap. I don’t tell her about what the Starkies said or that I just saw her skulking away from what could be the biggest mistake of her life.
I call Constable Smith in the afternoon. He tells me he can’t come and see me today because he’s dealing with the aftermath of last night’s parties. That’s fine by me. I don’t want to talk to him anyway. He says he will come by tomorrow evening.
A lot can happen between now and then.
Not today, though. Today goes by like any other with us eating our meals and watching some TV. I even get an hour of gaming in. Seems that Amy’s shame might have put her off sending me any more texts. Being a man, I’m secretly disappointed. Being a husband and father, I couldn’t be happier.