Breakfast was over, and it was time to go back home. I thanked Judy and made my way to the front door.
Before I opened the door, she reminded me of her inspirational quote.
“If you have a dream, believe in your dream, work on your dream. If you have a passion, look at your passion, work on your passion, and discover your passion. If you love someone, don’t be shallow, stand up and prove to them your love is great. You will only fool, kid, and let yourself down if you don’t believe and try. Wipe away those hard days and work for the new ones. Strive for success, and not to be the best. Believe you are better than all the rest. Shine like the sun in the morning and like the moon at night. Smell the flowers instead of the cave. Don’t waste one second of your day. Get up and move. There are others who are more disadvantaged than you are. What do you have to lose? Stick on those shoes, go for a run. If you are hungry, pick up the bun. Run as hard and as fast as you can. You know you can do it. Win the race. Remember the story about the tortoise and the hare. You can do it, I know you can,” she explained.
I had a copy of her quote pinned to the wall in my room. Every time she told me this quote, it nearly brought me to tears, however it always seemed to lift up my spirits and leave me smiling in the end.
When I walked outside Judy’s door, a van pulled up in my driveway. Judy followed me out.
“Excuse me, Sir, is everything all right?” I asked a tall man in a police uniform as he made his way out of the van.
“I’m looking for a Mildred Shortstreet. Have any idea where she could be or who she is. We’ve captured a man by the name of David Wilfred. He is in custody for a few months until we can investigate a runaway situation that has been occurring for over forty years. We have some evidence he was with this girl,” he said in a well-mannered tone.
I gulped. Thank goodness Judy didn’t know anything about this. Hopefully, the police officer didn’t see the guilt in my face. But why was he in a van? Didn’t police officers drive police cars? I thought this whole runaway business ended years ago. They could have expected I was dead or something. Then I remembered something: the evidence. Oh no. I bet you it’s the evidence from the name change. He was going to find out it was me and then I might go to jail. But I’d done nothing. I ran away from school and never went back. Poor David. That was why he didn’t come home.
“Hey, you look familiar,” he said, looking down at the photo and then back up at me.
“Recognise this girl at all?” he asked, showing us both the photo.
We both shook our heads. It was the photo taken of me on my first day of boarding school.
I gulped again. My life was over. At least I had a good last forty years. I supposed it wouldn’t harm me if I died in a jail cell.
“What is your name, Miss? And your young friend’s name too.”
“I am Judy Bloom, and this is my next door neighbour, Greta Wilfred,” Judy said, trying to fill in the truth.
“Greta Wilfred, hey? It says here that Mildred Shortstreet changed her name to Greta Wallace a couple of years ago. You must be the wrong woman. However, David’s records did say she lived here.”
“No, officer. I cannot recall a Greta Wallace here. It must be a mistake,” I answered hesitantly.
“It’s true, officer. I have lived in my house for my whole life, and so has David. I have never met a Greta Wallace before. Greta Wilfred was the first girl David ever brought home.”
The officer looked suspicious. Then he replied,” I’m sorry for wasting your time. If you find out anything else, please contact us on triple zero.”
“No problems. Thanks, officer,” Judy replied.
As soon as he left, Judy stared me down.
“Are you all right, Greta? Looks like you have seen a ghost.”
I hadn’t seen a ghost, but I was confused. I had nearly been spotted. I thought my name was originally Greta Shorts. But now it was apparently Greta Wallace. But all my identification said my last name was Wilfred. What the hell was going on? How could this be?
“No, I am fine. I think I might rest.”
“Greta, I told you your husband was having an affair with another woman. He is dangerous. A cheater. Are you going to get him out of jail? He could still be guilty,” Judy replied quickly.
I was lost for words. I had no idea how to reply.
“No, I am quite stuffed. I think it’s best I sleep. How could he just leave?” I lied.
I walked back into my house and slammed the door behind me. I cussed for the next few minutes and then threw my old body onto the bed. This could have been the worst day of my life. A pounding headache came over me, one of the worst I ever had. I rose and took some Panadol in the kitchen. Panadol always helped.
I moved to the lounge, where I started to flick through channels on the television. Usually I would be cleaning the house and cooking for people, but my brain was struggling to function.
There was no way out of this mess. No way at all.
There was nothing interesting on television. I kept flicking, however, until I reached the news channel. It was always good to keep up-to-date with what was going on in the world.
“Good morning to all watching today,” the news reporter said.
The news reporter was a very old and tall man. His wrinkles were in clear view and he had very thick, grey hair that was put to the side on the top of his head.
“Today we have a stack of new, fun, and exciting stories to share. We will be covering the latest crisis on the Benchyl River, where an accident occurred on the road yesterday. Our next story tonight will be covering the latest sightings of dingoes in Fino Town. The major story tonight, however, will cover an interview between my co-assistant journalist, Natalie Alstar, and two men who go by the names of Luke Hostile and David Wilfred. We will be covering this story first. I will hand you over to Natalie Alstar.”
Natalie Alstar was a young, tanned woman who was short. Her brown hair was in the shape of a bob and was very thick. From a distance, it looked like her nails had been done. A French tip of silver was seen on each top of each cuticle.
Both David and Luke were sitting facing Natalie around a small table facing the camera. David looked fidgety. He wouldn’t keep his hands still and he had a red tanginess to his cheeks.
Luke, however, looked calm and was not moving an inch. He was a lot different to what he used to look like, but his eyes remained the same. His hair was now a shade of dark grey and he too had wrinkles forming. He was also wearing glasses. I was happy that I could still see the face I fell in love with however, regardless if he was wearing glasses or not.
“Thanks, John Sinister. I have Luke and David here tonight at Fino Station. Several years back, we heard about the runaway girl named Mildred Shortstreet. There has been evidence that these two men had contact with her these last years. However, they are refusing to reveal her true identity. A court has also told us that a name change was in the process for this mad runaway. Firstly, thanks to both of you for being on the show today. We will begin now. Luke, I believe you have known Mildred since she was quite young?”
My eyes were glued to the television. This was like a bad dream. It was a pity both of the guys I loved in my life were being interviewed on the same news channel at the same time. Hopefully, Judy wasn’t watching this. This could create World War III. She wouldn’t understand if I told her that I had known both of these guys and that I had been running away my whole life and had a changed identity. She would be distraught, I believed, and would probably never talk to me again. However, she was supposed to help people deal with problems, so I guess it would be alright. On the other hand, I couldn’t risk telling the truth, so I had to keep my mouth shut.
“Thanks, Natalie. I believe so, although I cannot remember exactly when, as I have lost some of my memory. The last time I saw her was before she was sent to boarding school.”
“I see. And you also told the court you sent a proposal via mail to her, and you think the day she got it, she ran away?”
I could see David trying to keep a straight face. I could tell he wanted to laugh, but if he did, he could be more guilty than beforehand. He would feel guilty for cheating and hiding me for all these years. But I guess he already did.
“And you also reported she was peculiar and always had something on her mind?”
“Yes, she was a bit like that. Very creative, jumped to conclusions a lot, but she always had the best solutions. However, sometimes it went too far and trouble happened.”
“Do you recall anything about a boy named Jonny?”
“No. I have a bit of short term memory loss and I cannot remember a lot. What I do know is that he played me and Mildred, causing us to get into more trouble.”
“Did you love her, Luke?”
“Yes, I did. The first time I saw her on her first day at my school. It was love at first sight.”
“How sweet. It must have broken your heart when she was sent away. And then she ran away after you sent her a proposal.”
“I couldn’t sleep for years. I was heartbroken. I underwent therapy because I developed a horrible mental condition.”
Tears filled my eyes. The whole time, David looked so confused and worried. He and Luke both did. But listening to Luke’s voice made me remember all those happy days with him. I was stuck in a love triangle. I didn’t know what to do.
“Thanks, Luke, I will get back to you on that. Now, David, do you know of a Mildred Shortstreet?”
“I have never heard of her before, I’m sorry.”
Guilt shone in his eyes. I could tell the poor old man was in trouble, and he had no idea what to do. I wished I were there with him. He was trying to protect me, but he wouldn’t be able to for long.
“Well, that is a bit strange. We have evidence here that she changed her name to your last name when she married you.”
“I married Greta Shorts. Not Mildred Shortstreet. What do you have on me, seriously?”
“I’m sorry, David. You’re not in trouble. We want to find out the truth. And if you cannot give it to us, you will never leave custody.”
“Why are you showing the whole world this? I told you the truth, and all you are doing is playing with it. Do you not believe me?
“We have evidence, however, that you might be lying.”
“Yeah, so tell me, Natalie. What this Mildred girl’s first name change?”
“Greta Wallace. Your name is David Wilfred, right?”
“Yeah. But I don’t know of a Greta Wallace. I married a Greta Shorts …”
There was a puddle of tears on the floor in front of me. I couldn’t stop crying. I was lost in my thoughts and tears.
The Tenseness Continues
“David, isn’t your wife’s name Greta Wallace? Did she not want your last name? Whose last name is it?” Natalie replied with fury and confusion in her voice. By now her eyes had opened wide, and her face was turning red.
“Ummmmm,” David replied with a sigh, turning his head away from the camera.
“David, do you know Mildred or not, for the final time?” Natalie snapped.
“Why are you yelling? You’re not supposed to be yelling on the news!” David replied, nearly throwing a pen that was placed in front of him on the table.
“This is the news I know. But it’s Court News. We discuss stories that may affect others or stories that have affected others. The whole world is looking for this mysterious girl,” Natalie said, lowering her voice.
“Did you know, Natalie, that this Mildred you speak of could be dead?” David snapped again this time, standing from his chair and pacing around the table.
“David, you realise you are getting yourself into a hot spot dragging me off my questions. You will be in custody for ages. I don’t think you want that.”
Natalie seemed as if she had anger management problems. Every time David answered a question, her face would get redder and her voice would either drop in volume, or increase to an extremely loud and terrible voice.
“Well, maybe I do. Why don’t you leave this Mildred person alone and focus on something that is relevant. I’m leaving now. Far out, you people annoy me,” David answered pushing the chair in front of him forcefully into the table, nearly causing Natalie’s glass of water to tip over.
He walked away from the camera leaving Luke and Natalie looking blankly at each other.
“Well, I guess we might take a break. Sorry, Luke. Do you mind if we continue this next week?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
Luke was shivering. I could tell he was frightened. I turned off the television with no second to lose. I was not planning to watch any more of it for years. I went down to the basement where David kept all of his tools. I picked up a hammer and smashed the television. Then, I threw all the pieces into the large disposal bins outside on the street. The television was an expensive one, but it wasn’t going to be used anymore. My body itched to do something, and I destroyed the TV – too late to take it back now.
I couldn’t believe what I did. My jaw dropped. However, smashing the television made me stop crying.
There was a knock on my door.
“Come in,” I called.
It was Judy. The one thought rushing through my head was she had either watched Court News or she heard me smash the television and chuck the remains outside. There was no way I was going to explain everything to her. Every new person I met, the longer my story became. My story was once ten pages long when I was in kindergarten with Mr Humble. Then it kept growing when I met new people, and it has never stopped. What should I do? I couldn’t possibly say they were talking about me. Plus, she already knew I was a crazy old woman with many mixed emotions. She was possibly quite confused by all of this. I couldn’t come to terms with what was going to happen next. I could die of a heart attack or be sent to jail. Maybe I might go into a mental institution or an aged care home. Whatever happened, the outcomes and consequences would be large and complicated.
“Greta, when we were talking an hour ago, you did mention you were fine, right? It seems you are not. I heard a big bang coming from this house. Did you drop or break something?”
Well, she didn’t know about the Court News, but I figured I might still have to explain things to her.
“It was my television,” I said nervously. “I smashed it. I don’t need to be indulged in such a form of entertainment when I can be working.”
Judy blinked several times.
“Not being rude or anything, honey, but do you think going to an aged care home might help with some of your problems? I think maybe you might be taking things too far with your husband’s cheating business, and I certainly don’t think you can live here on your own. I don’t understand why you have been breaking things lately either. I can contact a home if you want me to.”
“But David said …”
“Greta, it’s not about David, it’s about you. What do you think is the best thing for you? I know you and I see each other every couple of weeks, but I feel this is not enough. You need extra support.”
I was weeping silently. Judy handed me a box of tissues on the bench beside us in the hall. I was making a fool out of myself. I was older than she was and should be the mature one. A role model. Instead, I was sulking and hiding the truth. I never thought I’d become this way.
I wiped my eyes and inhaled deeply.
“Do whatever. I’m sick of it all,” I said.