Sunday 25th January
It starts out like any other Sunday. I wake up, have a shower, have breakfast and watch an hour of Sunday morning TV while Mei throws her guts up and her mum prepares some food that will apparently help with morning sickness. Some Chinese miracle cure. Her mum seems to have one for everything, mainly a soup of some sort.
I went to work happily and I think the drivers could sense it. They were asking me what was wrong the other day. I didn’t want to tell them so I changed the subject.
That text I got from Amy had actually made me happy. It’s a shame that being held captive and sexually assaulted for days was what it took for her to realise the error of her ways.
I finish work when I should and head to town to pick Mei and her mum up. They’ve been gift shopping again. Where’s my gift?
When we get home there’s some arguing going on at Bret and Alan’s front door. Jason’s mum is there and I think she’s drunk. Looks like it’s their turn for her accusations, and I don’t think she’s wrong this time. Bret, the small squishy one, is arguing with her. I don’t see Alan. He’s probably hiding. I hope he has trouble sleeping at night. My hatred for him is beyond comprehension.
I don’t want to get involved but Jason’s mum makes that decision for me. She leaves their garden and yells to me, ‘You didn’t hurt that bastard enough. You should have killed him.’
Believe me love I wanted to.
Her daughter runs out of the house, she’s clearly exasperated, the slump of her shoulders and the tilt of her head shows disappointment. I bet it’s hard work living with that woman. She comes and takes her home and I can hear the sobs until she their front door closes.
During the afternoon Mei and her mum run through a checklist of what they still need to buy for her return trip next week. I don’t feel like playing games. I just want to chill. I play on my phone instead, flicking through Facebook. It’s only when you go on social media that you realise that some people can’t grasp the basics of life. Apart from grammar being one of my biggest bugbears online, something I know I’m no expert in, it’s stupid questions that make me wonder how some people are educated. One question was about pregnancy. It was asked by a woman. A woman. It said: my boyfriend cheated on me and now I’m pregnant with his child, is the baby still mine?
What the actual fuck? I sit there on the sofa wondering what the hell people are taught. Some people should not have kids.
There’s also someone else, who is white, saying it’s impossible to be racist towards white people. Come on! Next it’ll be women can’t be sexist or old people can’t be ageist.
I think that’s enough internet for today.
Later on, when it’s dark outside, Mei’s mum takes the bin out ready for collection tomorrow and then starts cooking our evening meal. I’ll be glad to get back to normal food next week. I know Mei will be upset when her mum goes, she always is. It does feel weird when she goes home but it’s a good kind of weird.
It’s just after six and we are all sitting down to chicken wings, pak choi, and some pork rib soup. It’s all very nice but like I say, I’ll be happy when it’s finished with.
‘Is the oven still on?’ Mei asks me.
‘I don’t know. Ask your mum if she’s cooking something.’
She does and she says no.
I can smell it too. It smells like smoke.
I jump to my feet and rush into the kitchen. It’s all quiet and the oven and cooker are both off. I can definitely smell smoke. I put my shoes on and head out front into the cold of the evening. A couple of neighbours are already out. The Starkies are out. They’re always out. They must have smelled it first as it’s coming from Alan and Bret’s house. I don’t know if they’re in or not and nobody is trying to find out. I can hear sirens. I don’t know why the emergency services don’t just build a depot around here; they spend most of their time here anyway.
I can just about see the low glow of flames through the glass in their front door. The fire is downstairs.
Their front door opens and Bret stumbles out in a cloud of smoke. Alan isn’t with him. At the main road Bret coughs his guts up. He looks at us all. Nobody is helping him.
The smoke alarm wails behind him and the sirens are getting louder.
He looks at us. I look around and there must be at least ten people behind me. ‘Alan is in there,’ he cries. ‘Help him, please. He’s upstairs.’
Some of the crowd turn their backs on him. The Amy ordeal has left an imprint on their minds all right.
Other residents from back along Bournemouth Avenue watch. It’s obvious what the collective thought is: let the bastard burn.
One man tries to move to help but he held back by others.
The blue lights turn into the road.
Then I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing: the crowd stands in the road to block the fire engine. There must be over twenty people out there now, all standing in the road. I want no part of this but I don’t feel like doing anything about it.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ Bret yells to everyone before coughing.
Whether I like it or not I realise that I am actually part of this. It’s like mass manslaughter.
Screaming comes from the house. ‘Help me!’ His face is in the top bedroom window, the same one Amy was looking through. I think the fire has spread upstairs.
I say to the Starkies, ‘That fire could spread to your house, you know.’
Richard watches with horror.
The police arrive to break up the protesting crowd in the street and five minutes later the fire engine squeezes through them. Abuse is yelled to the firemen and police officers. I feel sorry for them; they’re only doing their job.
By this point, Bret is crying hysterically.
An ambulance arrives two minutes later.
The firemen make it into the house. The relief on Richard Starkies face says it all: thank God.
It would be a disaster if the fire spread to their house. They’re only God botherers in want of a peaceful life.
It’s another ten minutes until the firemen bring Alan out. The paramedics are waiting, stretcher ready. I can’t see properly but it looks like Alan has been burned pretty badly. I have zero sympathy for him. If he died I wouldn’t give a shit and I think most people here would agree with me.
The police are holding people back. Some are spitting and yelling and others are shaking their heads. I can just imagine tomorrow’s headline: YET ANOTHER TRAGEDY ON THE BRADLEY ESTATE. JUST BURN THE SHITHOLE DOWN AND PUT EVERYONE OUT OF THEIR MISERY.
A riot van turns up with all lights and sirens blazing. By now almost the entirety of the estate is out from all corners. Bret is beside Alan, yelling at him for a response. The paramedics are trying to keep him back. I can hear him yelling his brother’s name while onlookers shout for him to let the rapist die.
Finally they get Alan in the ambulance and it roars away, but not fast, not with everyone fighting with the police to block the road.
It takes a good hour for the excitement to die down. The police stayed, as did the fire brigade. I don’t know how long they were out there as I went back inside. It’s cold and I really don’t care what happens next. I know that soon enough I’ll be visited once again for questioning. Until then I’ll go on as normal.