Eventually the police arrived. I probably ended up waiting about an hour. My phone battery was dying, and I didn’t want to waste it looking at the time as I don’t know when I’ll be able to charge it. The police car pulled up and two uniformed officers got out. A male and female. I approached and explained who I was.
It wasn’t a long process. The male went inside the bookies and spoke to him. Probably about CCTV or witness statements. The female asked me some routine questions. Did I lock the door, what time did I park it, when I did I realise it was stolen? She seemed a little caught up on it not being my car, and I was only put on the insurance yesterday.
Afterwards they said they would contact me if and when and also asked if I had a place to stay and an easy way to get there. I stupidly said yes, even though I didn’t and then they left.
My wallet is full of money I took out of the ATM. I don’t know what bus goes to Westmeadow. I’ll just get a taxi. It’s been a long enough day and it’s not really my money. She gave it to me, so I can use it.
I pull out the crumpled-up scrap piece of paper from my pocket and type the number into my dying phone. That’s annoyed me more than the car. The charger I bought was in there. Now I have to buy another one.
“Hello,” Jet answers.
“Jet, hey. I’m sorry it’s late. It’s Chris.”
“I would recognise your voice anywhere. What’s up?”
“I need that room at Joyce’s if you can get me in there? I got stuck in Wexgate, someone stole my car and I can’t find a place to stay.”
“Someone stole your car? That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry to hear that. And don’t worry about the time. I’ll come and collect you and take you to Joyce’s.”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll get a taxi.”
“It’s no problem, it’ll save you the money. Just tell me where you are. I’ll call Joyce’s on the way and then drop you off there.”
“Thanks, but if you just call them I’ll get there.”
“It’s no bother. I ain’t calling them until you tell me where you are.”
“I’m on the main street, with the shops. Silver Street I think it’s called.”
“Yeah, that’s the one. Give me twenty minutes and I’ll be there.”
“It’s been a long time since someone’s called me that. I like it. See you soon, Chris.”
“Thanks, you too.”
I hang-up with a lingering smile stretched across my face. As much as I hated that town, there are some people I miss. It’s been a long time since I thought about the good times. My mind always thinks everything in my childhood was miserable, but not everything. There were some good times. Jet was a good friend. Jessica is her real name. I’m not sure why we called her Jet, but we did. Maybe something to do with her hair? She wore black all the time as well. That could be something.
No one walks past the entire time I’m waiting. The faint lingering smell of takeaway food grease has faded. A single car drives past which makes me stand up, but it’s not Jet. I always find it satisfying, that sound that cars make driving on a wet road. The clouds have parted, allowing the moon to shine down on us. I still can’t see many stars, though.
Eventually another car comes around a corner and onto the street. I don’t stand this time, thinking it won’t be Jet. The car slowly crawls down the street and stops in front of me, the headlights blinding me.
“Chris?” a voice shouts out the window.
“Get in, I’m sure you want some sleep.”
“God, it’s been forever. What kept you so long,” I joke as I get in the passenger seat.
“Yeah, yeah. I can leave you here if you would rather find your own way.”
“That was the plan from the beginning, you’re the one who said I had to wait for you.”
“I don’t want you wasting your money. Not when I can get here and back so quickly.”
“Shut up. I bought you a drink and a snack. It’s in the bag on the back seat.”
“Awww. So motherly.”
I lean back and grab the heavily creased plastic bag. Inside is a bottle of water and an apple. I twist the cap of the water, breaking the plastic seal and take a swig.
“An apple?” I say after drinking half the bottle.
“You can’t be just eating chocolate and crisps all the time. They’re not good for you. We have to look after our bodies. We’re not getting any younger.”
“I can see that.”
“HA. Always ever so funny. I called Joyce’s and got you a room. You can stay there as long as you like.”
“How much is it a night?”
“Nothing. We wouldn’t charge one of us. You’re always welcome in Westmeadow. Everyone’s been buzzing that you’re back. Really curious to see how the big shot writer has done for himself.”
“I wouldn’t really call myself a writer.”
“Don’t be so humble. You wrote about that school. That was a big news story. I remember the whole town reading about it. We were so proud of you.”
“That was nothing, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I’m done with that anyway. I’m doing a favour for a friend and then I’m done.”
“Oh nothing important. She wanted me to interview someone up north, but I decided to stop here on the way up there.”
“I’m sure we can get you mobile soon enough.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that.”
I didn’t like lying to her, but it’s not like I could tell her the truth. She would either laugh at me or kill me. I’m not sure which way I’m leaning towards. I place the apple on top of the bag on my lap.
“Not hungry?” Jet asked.
“Not really. It’s been a long day. Honestly I’m just tired.”
“I get that, you will be at the hotel before you know it.”
We don’t talk for a little while. I stare out of the window at the darkened surroundings. I remember so much and yet so little. It’s all jumbled. This whole place seems so tranquil when compared to London. It’s been such a long time since I left the capital that I didn’t remember the world sleeps at night. Few cars, fewer people. Near enough every house we pass has lights on, shielded by curtains. Soon enough we’ve left town and are heading through dark twisting country roads.
“Have you heard about your dad?” Jet asks, cutting the silence with a rusty knife.
“Which part?” I start. “His second life or his death? I found out earlier.”
“The later part, I suppose. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, you didn’t kill him.”
“That’s not what I mean. I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you when it happened. But I couldn’t find you. I searched you out on the internet but couldn’t find you or be sure that who I found was you.”
“I don’t blame you or hold it against you. Don’t worry about it.”
“Thank you. It means a lot to hear you say that.”
More silence. I can see the stars in the sky now. No street lights. The moon is almost full, looming above us. I think I can make out the big dipper, but I’m not sure.
“So what’s Tim like?” I ask, pretending to be curious about my new half-brother. “Do you know him?”
“He comes in the shop sometimes, his mum brings him after school. He’s a nice young boy. A bright future in front of him. He seems happy. Such a little sweet heart. A good boy. Always eats his fruit and doesn’t even buy sweets.”
“The opposite of me then? Who is his Mum? Do I know her?”
“I wouldn’t think so. Janice arrived in the town about six years ago. Hit it off with your dad straight away. Small town so things travel fast. They married and had little Timmy. They raised him well. A real shame what happened to him.”
“If you say so.”
“That’s your dad you’re talking about. You may not have nice memories of him. But he really changed once you left. Learn to forgive it will do you a world of good. He was a good man. Maybe not a saint, but who is. He tried, and what more could you really ask for?”
“For him to have tried when I was younger?”
“I’m sure that was a big regret for him, but he was a changed man towards the end. A good man. I wish you could have seen how much he had changed.”
“So do I.”
To Be Continued…