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About the author:
Her books are mainly, but not all, Baby Boomer Women’s Fiction.
What inspired you to write your book?
The story was inspired by an incident in my own life. My husband and I were watching television and I went to the kitchen to finish preparing supper.. When I came out of the kitchen my husband was not there. In our case he had simply nipped upstairs to fetch something. But I thought what if there hadn’t been stairs? What if the same thing happened and she never saw him again? The story just grew from that.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Alison picked up the post from the pile on the hall rug. The usual sort of thing, special offers on hardware, a completely free valuation-of-your-property card, a flier from a new pizza delivery service, two glossy catalogues, a Visa Card bill. Tucked into the stack was an official looking envelope addressed to Ms A. Parker. It was a long time since she had been called Parker. It took her right back. She examined the envelope carefully turning it every which way and holding it to the light, hearing Mark’s voice: ‘For goodness sake just open it, Al’.
‘I like to see who it’s from’.
This one was from Adams, Jenson and Hilliard at a Kensington address. Not familiar. She put it carefully on one side, opened the credit card account (zero balance), and placed it in the ‘accounts to be filed’ folder.
Muffin was curled up in the dappled sun on the sofa. He lazily opened his eyes, purred gently when Alison stroked him, and then closed them languidly.
Alison went through her usual routine – put away the bread and tomatoes she had bought, hung her coat in the hall closet and changed her shoes for the soft scruffy ones she wore at home. Not really scruffy but not quite smart enough for the office. Not that many people bothered about dressing smartly these days but Alison did feel that certain standards had to be maintained and she was the first person visitors encountered. She emptied the last drop of water from the kettle and filled it with fresh water. While she waited for the kettle to boil she got down her favourite blue cup and saucer, matching jug and the little brown teapot. Only when she was sitting comfortably with her tea tray beside her on the little trolley did she pick up the letter.
We act on behalf of the estate of the late Mark Parrish and wish to advise you that you have been named as a beneficiary in this estate.
Kindly contact the undersigned at your earliest convenience in this regard.
Alison went cold. Completely forgetting her tea she found herself wringing her hands together as though they were a pair of socks just washed.
She picked up the phone and searched for her old brown address book, the one with the hard gold trim.
Rosemary Jenkins – so long since they had spoken, once or twice only since Rose had retired. Once so close and now almost forgotten.
Still she was the only one who knew the whole story. Alison rang, somewhat apprehensively. A familiar voice answered cheerfully, almost musically. The years slipped away. ‘Rose, something’s come up. I need to see you. Can I come now?’ Almost before identifying herself and definitely before the usual polite niceties.
‘Rose – it must be him. Who else can it be? What other person called Mark would remember me in their will? And Rose – it must mean he’s dead!’ A sudden shudder went through her and she quickly replaced her almost untouched glass of sherry on the coffee table.
Rose sighed thoughtfully and poured herself another generous splash of sherry. ‘Well he’s been dead to you for long enough. How many years is it now? Fifteen, twenty? OK seventeen. And you haven’t heard a word till now? I think you should phone this Johnston person’.
* * *
‘Supper’s nearly ready’ said Alison smiling, ‘I’m trying a new dish. I hope you like it’.
‘Thursdays are supposed to be my cooking nights’ said Mark, spreading the newspaper on the sofa.
‘I know but I saw this recipe in a magazine and I thought I’d like to try it’.
‘What are we having, then?’ he asked.
‘It’s a surprise. You know you like surprises’.
‘I do’ he said with a smile. ‘I’m sure I’ll love this one’.
He turned on the television and flicked idly through the channels until he found some football.
‘Well if you’re just going to watch football I may as well go and put the finishing touches to the supper’. Alison got up, as though in a huff.
Mark laughed and pulled her down on to the sofa next to him. ‘I love you’ he said, turning the sound down. ‘I can’t wait for our holiday. Just think it’ll be our fourth honeymoon!’
‘And to think most people only have one honeymoon’ she laughed. ‘We are very lucky. Now I don’t want the supper to be ruined. It should be ready in about five minutes’.
‘I think I’m the lucky one’ said Mark, kissing her gently on the chin as she extricated herself.
Alison went into the kitchen, leaving Mark to his football. He had obviously turned the sound up again as she could hear the commentary by the time she got there. She closed the door so the smoke alarm in the hallway wouldn’t go off when she cooked.
It took her slightly longer than she had anticipated so it was probably nearer to ten minutes than five when she opened the door and carried through the steaming casserole dish, which she placed on the central mat on the table. She was a little surprised to see that Mark was not in the room. The football match was still on but the sound was low. She turned it off. She called out to him: ‘Mark, supper’s all ready’, expecting him to appear from the bathroom.
After a minute or so she went to the bathroom. The door was ajar, the room empty. She looked in the bedroom and then the spare room. No sign of him. She called out again: ‘Mark, where are you?’ But there was no reply.
She went back to the living room. The door to the garden was closed but unlocked. She was almost sure it had been locked earlier but couldn’t be one hundred percent certain. She opened it and looked in the garden, calling out again. She opened the side gate, the one she used to put the wheelie bin out on Tuesdays. Mark invariably parked on the side street though he always used the front door. There was not a single red car in the block. She ran around to the front of the building. No red cars there either, except for the very old battered Ford Fiesta that belonged to the student son of the people in number seven.
She went back inside and closed the door. She picked up the casserole and took it to the kitchen and put it in the oven which was still warm. She sat down on the sofa. Mark will be back soon. There’ll be a perfectly rational explanation. He must have just forgotten something. He must have nipped to the shops to buy something.
He won’t be long, she told herself firmly.
She got up again and went outside once more. She ran up and down the side street, looking at the cars. She ran around to the next street although he never parked there. She ran around to the front once more, willing herself to see Mark’s red Audi but it wasn’t there. With heavy steps she went back inside again.
She turned on the television and found a rerun of Only Fools and Horses but it didn’t hold her attention.
He’ll be back soon, she kept telling herself. And repeating like a mantra: There’ll be a perfectly rational explanation.
All thoughts of supper now forgotten she went to the large wardrobe that they shared. Everything looked as normal. Mark’s clothes hung neatly on his side. She looked in the bathroom. Mark’s razor and shaving foam stood in their usual place on the shelf. His toothbrush was next to hers in the glass.
Very slowly she walked back to the living room. She picked up the paper.
D Day Remembered shouted the headline. She glanced at the header: 6th June 1991. D Day, well before her birth, seemed a long way in the past.
Alison longed to talk to someone, someone who could tell her it was alright or even just be there for her. But there didn’t seem to be anyone really close enough. For the last nearly five years the only person she had confided in was Mark. She even briefly thought of calling Maureen but quickly rejected the idea. Maureen, with her perfect home and family, would be patronising or even worse, pitying. The one person she wanted to talk to, other than Mark, was Mum, but of course that was out of the question. Mum couldn’t talk on the phone and in any case Alison wouldn’t have dreamed of disturbing her or Dad. Dad had enough on his plate with Mum being bedridden.
In the end Alison phoned Rose. It was very late, gone 9:30 but she knew Rose wouldn’t mind. ‘Rose, I’m sorry to call so late’ she started, ‘but something’s happened and I just need to talk to someone’.
‘Oh, it’s no problem, Alison. It’s not that late. Fire away. What’s happened?’
‘It’s probably nothing. I shouldn’t have troubled you. It’s just that Mark’s, well, he’s gone missing. He was here one minute then he was gone. I don’t know what to think. It’s not like him at all’.
‘Didn’t he say anything?’ asked Rose.
‘Not a word. I went out of the room and when I came back he was just not there. I looked outside and his car was gone so obviously he drove off. I waited and waited for him to come back but he hasn’t. It’s well over two hours now. I just don’t know what to think or what to do’. Her normally controlled voice was on the verge of hysteria.
‘Listen, there’s nothing you can do tonight. The most likely explanation seems to be that something urgent came up and he had to rush out. I’m sure he’ll either be back soon or contact you. Either tonight or at the very latest in the morning. I think you should try to rest now’. Rose was keeping her voice very calm and soothing.
‘Oh Rose, I do hope you’re right. Yes, there must be an explanation. I mustn’t stay on the phone. He might be trying to call me now. Thank you for being supportive. I needed to talk to someone. Good night. I’ll let you know what happens’ she added.
She felt a little better after talking to Rose but still found herself staring at the telephone which stayed obstinately silent.
She sat there till eleven o’clock, neither reading the paper nor watching television, although going through the motions of both. Eventually she went to bed, where she lay with her eyes open for what seemed like several hours, repeating her mantra: There’ll be a perfectly rational explanation.
She must have slept at some point as she woke up very early, stiff from sleeping in an uncomfortable position. Matilda came forward for her cuddle. Alison went through the motions but felt as if an enormous black cloud were over her, making it difficult to think, even to breathe.
With horror the events, or rather lack of events of the previous evening came back. She knew she had to keep faith. She repeated to herself: There’ll be a perfectly rational explanation. But her small inner voice was starting to lack conviction. She did know that she could not face going to work that day. She called Rose at home very early on that Friday morning and asked her to tell them something, anything, at work. Rose promised to come around after work.
Alison tried to force herself to eat something, but the toast choked her and even her tea would not go down. She sat down to wait.