Chapter 24 - Zoe
8 months later
It was summer and the heat was unbearable. I hadn’t slept properly for weeks, and Jesper now had to help me get dressed. I’d just about managed to keep working on my feet, serving countless Laddes (Danish for Lattes) at Original Kaffe, but today was my last shift.
Original Kaffe had a cool, hipster vibe only the Danish could authentically pull off. People came here to relax. To connect with their friends. It was a simple job, but it was also a fun job. I’d mastered embellishing foam with flowers and hearts, and I’d made my own friends here too.
I wiped the sweat from my brow as I called up the last order of the day over the sound of instrumental music.
Henrik clapped behind me as the customer came to collect her drink, “Congratulations, Zoe, your last cup of coffee.”
I could only see half of his face between the bulbous lights that dangled at differing heights across the ceiling, looking like an art installation.
Henrik owned the coffee shop and thankfully was as fluent as Jesper when it came to speaking my mother tongue. Sometimes, I wanted to converse with him in Danish, to test myself, but Henrik always spoke to me in English. Maybe he thought I was no good. If so, he’d probably be right.
“So, do you have exciting plans for tonight?” Henrik asked, hand on hip, bushy brow arched. I suspected he was gay when we first met but then he’d revealed he had a wife and three children on a staff night out. I guess I’d misplaced his bouncy, carefree persona – still, chatting with him felt like talking with one of the girls.
“Oh yeah, a bottle of wine, night on the town, you know, the usual.”
“Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, girl. You should make the most of this time. You’ll be wishing you had it back when the baby comes. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!”
“You really are the best boss. Did you know that?”
Henrik took a bow, dodging the tea towel that I’d launched at him. “I did actually.”
The towel missed him by a mile and landed between a couple of rickety, unvarnished coffee tables. He launched it back at me with a grin and told me to get on my way. I sucked in a satisfying breath and stared at the matte white walls with pockets of brickwork showing through. I was going to miss coming to work, but I was also eager to start this next phase in my life.
When I finally got home, the sweat had soaked through my vest. Jesper wasn’t due to be home until later, so I decided to take a cool shower. Something I enjoyed doing when Jesper wasn’t around was watching English television. Sometimes I missed England, and this was my way of staying in touch.
My favourite thing to watch was British morning talk shows. Danish news didn’t have the same flair as This Morning or Loose Women. Jesper didn’t get the appeal of such programmes, but to me, they were like comfort food.
I positioned my laptop on my bed as I undressed and hit play. The show was today’s date but had aired hours previously. I zoned out at the theme tune and overview of headlines until I heard a name that I instantly recognised. I turned the volume up to 100 and listened intently.
Breaking news, the body of Vivienne Cooper has been found at North York Moors National Park. Ellaine Johnson has the latest.
My blood ran cold; my throat closed shut. I tried to listen intently over the thump of my heart.
Ellaine: Thanks, Audrey. The 28-year-old newspaper journalist was reported missing on 6th March 2015 after leaving her home in York around 9:30 am, never to be seen again. Although many had held out hope for Vivienne’s safe return, Vivienne’s family chose to declare her dead in 2022 following years of no leads. Today, the family finally have some closure on what happened to their daughter on that fateful morning. I’m joined with DC Wilde for the latest on this discovery. DC Wilde, what can you tell us about the nature of Vivienne’s death?
DC Wilde: At this time, we can reveal Vivienne died of suspected stab wounds. A more comprehensive autopsy report will confirm this in due course.
Ellaine: What can you tell us about where and how Vivienne’s body was found?
DC Wilde: I cannot say too much about the circumstances of her discovery, but what I can detail is that Vivienne’s remains were identified by two men camping on the Northern Moors.
Ellaine: Do you have any suspects in custody for the murder?
DC Wilde: As this is now an open homicide inquiry, we cannot comment on any current suspects.
Ellaine: Thank you, DC Wilde. The family has asked for people to respect their privacy at this time. Back to you, Audrey.
I must have rewound and replayed the segment a dozen times. Pictures of Viv, my Viv, filled the screen. Her fiery hair, her angled face, frozen in time. It was official. Vivienne was dead.
I could feel my body begin to hyperventilate. I couldn’t breathe. Even at her funeral, I didn’t believe she was actually dead. And the way she died. Stabbed. I had pretended that she’d moved abroad like me and started again. Deep down, something dark gnawed away at me. I’d suppressed that thought deep within me, worrying that acknowledging it would somehow make it true. My worst fears had materialised. My best friend was murdered, and I knew exactly who did it.
I was on all fours now, panting. A wave of pain pulsated through my back and lower abdomen. I scrambled for my mobile, moaning as I fought for breath. A scream escaped my lips. As my eyes blurred and my water broke, I managed to find his name in my contacts.
“…Jesper…Jesper…agh, I think I’m going into labour.”