*some adult content.
CHAPTER 11 – THE BOY
The pier’s lighting was on. Brightly coloured streams of light were bouncing across the waves. Shrieks and laughter were coming from the rides. Sarah walked along the promenade and up to the gated entrance. Her hair flew around her face and whipped at her cheeks. Peering through, she saw Simon leaning against one of the open stalls. His green coat showing against the red and white canvas.
She walked slowly and purposefully towards him. Simon stood with .22 rifle in hand and a huge grin on his face. He waved the gun from the stall until the chain reaching the end of its length to where it was tethered to the counter, clanked and pulled back against him.
“Hey Doc. Fancy showing me what’s going wrong here?” He asked, smiling.
Over the next few minutes, they huddled together, bent over the gun stall, trying to shoot the once yellow but now grey speckled ducks. She showed him how to line up the shot using the sight and how to adjust the line of fire to suit the rifle after the first shot.
When they had finished Simon had a fluffy unicorn for his little sister. He put it inside his jacket and looked out across the dark, moving water towards the shoreline. The rows of houses, where their hotel was stood strong against the horizon. It amused him. The uniformity of the buildings it were as if the hotels and seafront homes were soldiers on parade, at the lands edge guarding it from the sea.
They walked, together, along the wooden pier and Simon looked at the doctor. She was impressive, who wouldn’t be impressed at how much Doc knew? He liked her. What was it his father had said about her? He stopped and rubbed at his arm. His school project would take at least a few hours and he had planned to go and see Georgie on Sunday. He stood up and blew through his lips before putting his hoodie up against the wind.
He’d enjoyed the shooting; it was different from gaming but now he was cold and hungry. His arm ached and he was feeling his healed but still injured leg. Starting to think he would have to spend the night with her if his Dad didn’t contact him soon, he grimaced. His face betrayed his feelings. Seeing his distress, Sarah asked,
“Do you fancy some Fish and Chips? We can try the café and call your Dad?”
Simon nodded and they walked along the wooden pier towards the restrurant. Sarah, with a secretive grin, pulled Simon down on a bench and from her pocket pulled out a joint.
“Do you mind? Let’s get a hit on this first.” She said. Then more seriously, “I don’t often but some locations…You do smoke don’t you?”
Their eyes met and laughing they both patted down their coat pockets to see if they had a lighter. Simon shielded the smoke from the wind with his jacket, flicking the lighter until he got the rollup lit and drew deeply from it. He immediately started coughing and Sarah, laughing, grabbed his wrist pretending to take his pulse.
“Don’t tell your Dad.” Sarah said in mocking, stern style.
“Why not? He wouldn’t give a shit.” Simon said.
They sat; talking about gaming, his love of Ground Rush and others. Sarah asked him about his leg and about his plans for the weekend. She promised to talk to his father to get him back to Rickmansworth as soon as possible. They walked, bracing themselves against the wind, linked arm in arm into the strong smell of vinegar permeating from the diner.
Simon was stoned and barely able to order his battered cod for laughing. As they took their seats Sarah suggested that he call his father.
Simon responded. “My phone still isn’t working.”
She passed her phone to him and he sent a message to Jane’s number, it read,
“Tell Dad to sort his phone out! I’m a great shot. I have a surprise present for Tori. I need to come home as I have plans for this weekend. Simon x”
The phone rang back immediately. Sarah put it to her ear, deftly cutting the call at the same time, but answered as if she were talking to someone on the other side.
“It’s okay. No. He’s been great. How is it going?” And then pausing to hear a fake reply before continuing with,
“Yes why not?” and then “Yeah, we are just grabbing something to eat then heading back” pausing before adding,
“He says he needs to do school project and meet with friends on Sunday so…”
She got up from the table and gestured to Simon that she needed to continue the call outside to be considerate to the other diners. Simon nodding that he understood, smiled and watched her go back out through the glass door. He’d wanted to speak with his father on the phone but he’d already used the Doc’s phone once so not wanting to be rude he concentrated back on his food.
Sarah hands were now shaking, and her face flushed. She stared out towards what was left of the West Pier. It was as sad sight, ravaged by time, a skeleton of its former self. Once it had been glorious, curved jewel, floating out from the pebbled coast, now it was a derelict collection of wooden stakes hovering over the waves.
Momentarily Sarah felt herself calm down, she hated lying to Simon. Turning to look at him through the café window she pondered briefly if she should tell him her plan and see if he would be interested in helping her get his father back. He looked up and met her gaze. Sarah drew a deep breath, smiled and gave him the thumbs up as she moved towards him.
“Wow.” Said Sarah, as she returned into the warmth of the diner and saw Simon’s empty plate.
“You were hungry.”
“Well, I didn’t have lunch today.” Simon said, looking away. “So, anyway, what’d he say?”
He slouched forward on the table, with his plate pushed over to one side, his head resting on his elbows and shoulder. Sarah, ignoring the shared information, said, in a sharp tone.
“Sit up Simon.” Then softening,
“Your father seems happy for us to head back to him. Although he is unlikely to be there. It seems his plans have changed, his friends are not coming over and he’s staying out, but Jane will be home.” She watched the disappointment travel across his face.
“He’s pleased you’ve had your jab.” She added.
Simon sat watching Dr Cacroft eating her fish and chips, glugging down cola with each mouthful. Her face changed through different emotions. The soft thoughtfulness replaced by flashes of anger and then what looked like deep sadness.
Sarah had finished and was picking her teeth. In truth, she had forgotten where they were. She felt stiff and in need of a workout. Her mind had wondered. She was reminded of the day she’d found out her father had a few weeks to live. Sarah been happy to get an invitation for tea and cake with the best man in the world. They’d sat in a café like this, tears filled her eyes, remembering how she watched her father tell her the news.
He’d gone to the doctor complaining of stomach ache. The GP had examined him, and finding no reason for the pain, advised him to change his diet and stop smoking. David Cacroft did both. A remarkable achievement as both her parents had smoked for decades. Her mother had given up the year before. However, the stomach pain continued so his doctor sent him for an MRI scan.
He told her of how they had waited for the results, five weeks and received a report saying that all was okay, and he was referred for pain management classes. Elated that there was nothing sinister going on, they’d not thought it necessary to tell Sarah.
But things weren’t so simple, unfortunately, the hospital had made a mistake. The scan had shown deposits of cancer. The radiographer had missed them, reporting all was fine in error. The tumors had grown angrily inside her father’s body until so large they could be felt by the GP who sent him for an ultrasound scan of his abdomin.
The clinician who found the cancer called the GP back directly. He was given the news later that day. Her father’s eyes had filled with tears and he’d wept when he told his only daughter that it was too late. Untreated, the cancer had spread throughout his lymphatic system.
Her parents were not unused to bad luck. Her mother also had cancer; losing both her breasts to it the year before. They had struggled so much. Isolated, ill and without anywhere to go for support, her father had never looked so beaten. Her face clouded, showing the pain.
“You okay Dr K? Sarah?” Simon inquired.
“Yeah sure, hun. All okay, thanks for asking.” Blinking back tears and using the serviette to dab under her mascara eyes.
“Come on, let’s go for a nice stroll back to the hotel so I can grab my things. Do you want dessert? We could order here, or we could get a candy floss on the way, if you can hold on to it in the wind.” She joked.
“Nah, you’re alright. I’m not keen on candy floss.” Simon replied, making a funny face and Sarah laughed.
Simon liked that. She called him ‘hun’. His mother had done that before she’d left. He picked up the menu saying,
“Do they have ice cream?”
The walk back along the seafront was quiet. Simon thought about his mother. Now a days she was known as The Bitch, especially to his father and his father’s friends. But they had been close once. He loved her with all his body and soul. When she’d left, without saying goodbye, or even leaving a forwarding address, she had broken his heart.
At first Simon had been sure his father had hurt her or that she’d fled after one of their monstrous arguments. But then his father explained what a slut she was. After he’d heard how his Mum had tried to seduce other men into satisfying her, he was glad she was gone.
His father told him about the messages he’d found on her laptop, messages to other men. He hadn’t wanted to believe it. As her son, he’d been worried about her. Then there was a sighting of her. One of his father’s friends saw her in Ibiza, weeks later, dancing, in a night club.
Relief quickly turned to anger. Apparently, Mum had the latest designer clothes, looked off her face on drugs and was dripping in jewellery. Simon had been distraught about her leaving, but somehow the news had helped. At least his mother was okay. He could come to terms with her not taking him but leaving Tori just to party and dance was unforgivable. But that is what most women are like.
Dad had taught him that women were deadly. What sort of person would walk out on their own children? Deception is part of their make-up. Devils dressed up as angels. Little Tori would be the same one day. Simon was looking forward to seeing her. He pictured the plate of biscuits and cup of milk he’d take to tuck her in before bed and her bright smile when he gave her the unicorn.
Back at the Queensbury Hotel, Sarah collected her bag, and they used the facilities before searching for where they had parked the car. She was starting to feel tired and was going over the next part of the plan, silently rehearsing the conversation where she would give Kevin Hargreaves the ultimatum.
She looked at Simon sitting next to her,
“You okay?” She asked as she changed up gear and joined the motorway traffic travelling north.”It could take us a little longer to get home as there is a lot of traffic towards London.”
“Fine.” He responded and closed his eyes.
Sarah recognizing when someone doesn’t want to talk, switched on and tuned the radio to Kiss FM. They travelled until they reached junction 16 and Sarah pulled off the M25 without saying anything. Sarah was happy. She was experiencing the utter joy of power and hoping that Kevin Hargreaves was beside himself with worry. She looked at his son, sleeping soundly on the seat next to her. He looked innocent, sleeping the sleep of gods, with the fluffy unicorn peeking out from his inside pocket.
copyright 2022 sam j harris
All characters and interactions are fictional.
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