My whole-body groans and moans as I roll about in the hotel bed, trying to figure out what that noise is. Buzz, buzz. What is that? It’s coming from my pocket. No, crap. What an idiot. It’s my phone. I’d turned it on at some point last night. I pull it out and flick off the alarm. It’s nine in the morning. Yay. I love being awake this early. I also only have seven percent battery. Not a good feeling. There was also a folded piece of paper in my pocket which I pulled out with the phone. I unfold it and find a little note I wrote to myself. Casey’s number and a reminder to call Ryan. God, I hope I didn’t tell that guy at the pub what I was doing here. I don’t really remember much about last night past drink number three.
I need to get a phone charger first, before I start anything else. I turn off the phone and head down the stairs. There’s a new person sitting at reception, a young woman. I say hello as I walk past and she responds with a smile and a good morning. She then starts tapping away at a laptop in front of her.
The air is cool outside. A brisk fresh breeze greets me. It’s a refreshing feeling. I smile and take a deep breath. I can almost completely ignore my headache, I’ve gotten good at that. The streets come back to me as easy as walking. I remember every turning to get around. I didn’t think I would, but there isn’t an issue. I turn and walk down one street and cross the road to turn down another. I even skip through an alley that takes me towards the shop and now I’m here.
The shop may not look the same as it once did, but at least it’s in the same place. Can’t imagine what I would do if the whole town had changed around like that. I step inside the shop and walk up to the counter. The same girl from yesterday is working, there isn’t any one else in the store.
“Hey,” I start, and she smiles back at me. “Could I get a phone charger please? Micro-USB.”
“I’ll see if we have any,” she answers. “Nope, sold the last one yesterday. That’s weird. Hey, wasn’t it you that bought it?”
“Yes, that was me. My car got stolen and I’d left it in there.”
“That’s a shame. I’m sorry. I’ll ask Jess if we can order you a new one.”
“I know this is a weird question, but I’m desperate. Do you have a charger I can borrow? I’ll give you my phone and you can charge it outback.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have a phone with that charger. My parents bought me a nice cheap phone that does everything I need it to.”
“Damn, thanks anyway. Let Jess know I said hi.”
“You can tell me yourself,” Jess answers behind me.
“Oh, Hi, I didn’t see you here a moment ago.”
“I was in the stock room and heard you voice. I’ll order you a phone charger, but it might take a few days to get here. Have you had anything to drink or eat this morning? That’s more important than your phone anyway.”
“No I haven’t, not really hungry. I will grab a bottle of water though. “
Without a word she walks over to the chiller and grabs a bottle and picks up an apple on her way back to me.
“You have to eat something, so take this with you,” she says as she holds out the bottle and the apple.
“Thanks,” I answer, taking both.
“Don’t you have a phone charger I can borrow?”
“No, sorry. I have an old phone that uses an old and outdated charger.”
“I do apologise.”
“It’s not a problem, don’t worry about it. I’m sure I’ll figure it out one way or another. Is there a payphone around here?”
“None that work. I think they were all disconnected a few years back. Check at Joyce’s, they should have a phone you can use in the lobby.”
“Thank, will do.”
I leave the shop. The phone at Joyce’s isn’t really an option. I don’t want people thinking I’m snooping by calling Ryan. Word would spread quickly. Shame there isn’t a phone in the room itself. Or a shop around here I could buy a cheap phone. That would be perfect, after all it isn’t even my money I’m spending. I could even get a taxi to Wexgate and meet Ryan in person. That would be great. Hire a personal driver for the day essentially. It would be brilliant just to know when he’s working though. That would be ideal. I can use my phone to call him and then meet him, even get a charger in Wexgate.
I’ve walked a few streets away from the shop. Everything is quiet, like the whole place was asleep mid-day. I pull out my phone and switch it on. The boot up screen flickers on and I wish I’d never turned it off, probably going to be even more drained now. Come on and load you stupid little thing. I hate technology. I love it, but it’s so irritating. I don’t remember getting irritated at phones before they were capable of so much.
Less than five percent. Great. I can probably just about call him. Come on, come on, answer. Nothing, I hear the beeping at the other end and then an option to leave a message. I start to speak and then silence. The phone is dead. Crap. I can’t believe this.
Well I can, it’s my luck. Piece of crap. I resist every urge to throw it across the street and shove it back in my pocket.
“Hey,” a voice behind me calls out to me. I turn and find Jet walking towards me. “Didn’t think I was going to catch up to you.”
“Hey, what’s going on?”
“I remembered, literally the second after you left the shop. I have a left over phone. I tried selling them a few years back but they didn’t really go down well. I have a couple of left overs out back. Here you go,” she holds out a bag. “Charger and everything. It’s not a fancy phone, but it’ll do the job for you.”
“My phone number is also on a piece of paper in there if you ever need me. If you hear anything about your car then I’ll give you a lift back to Wexgate, or anywhere else you need to get to.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it. How much do I owe you?”
“Oh nothing, don’t you worry about it. You’re one of us forever and we look after each other here.”
“Seriously. Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“Now eat that apple. You’ve lost too much weight since you’ve been gone. We can’t be having that. Want to meet up for dinner later?”
“Seriously? Asking me out after all this time like nothing has happened?”
“It’s not a date, and besides. I’m married.” She says waving her ring finger at me.
“Damn, someone trapped you. Congrats. When did that happen?”
“About four years ago.”
“Anyone I know?” I ask, almost ashamed of how my voice sounded.
“I don’t think so. It’s someone who moved to the town a couple of years before. Vincent Perkins.”
“Can’t say I’ve heard of him. So, your name is now Jessica Perkins? Very nice. I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks, we’re very happy.”
“That’s good to hear. I’ll call you later and we’ll sort out dinner.”
“Sounds good, see you later.”
Without looking back she walked down the street and turned a corner and went out of sight. Our lives were so similar at one point. We were the rebels, the outcasts. The ones who did what we wanted when we wanted. About six months before I left this town we had been laying in the park looking up at the welcoming night sky, stretched out into eternity. We spoke about running away, never coming back. Finding a new start. We lay in silence staring upwards at the sparkles hanging above us. That was supposed to be my future. Now look at us. I did run away, and I achieved nothing. She’s trying to sell new items to boost business and has left over stock showing her failures, but at least she tried. I can’t imagine that girl with electric blue hair doing any of that, but here she is.
Life does not move the way I thought it would. Every plan I had made seems to leave me by the curb. I turn and start walking towards the park. Don’t really feel like sitting in the hotel room right now. It might be a little cold out, but at least it’s sunny. Unlike yesterday. I hate this weather. You can never tell what it’s going to do next. Would be hard to believe it was raining yesterday.
The park hasn’t changed at all. Same trees, same climbing frames, same everything. I walk over to the tree that changed everything all those years ago and sit with my back leaning against it. I should go and charge the phone, get on with actual work and be productive but I just can’t. I don’t feel that need right now. A simple life would be nice. There’s always been this nagging somewhere in the back of mind that I need to write something. I had grand ambitions. I was going to be this big journalist, interviewing politicians and writing on scandals. I don’t even know why I wanted to do it, just a calling from deep inside that started before my memories started forming. When I was around ten all I wanted was for our school to start a newspaper like in one of those American TV shows and then I could write for it, after that the world was mine. I could travel around writing about what I found. Everything was planned so tightly. But it didn’t happen.
If only I could get rid of that nagging feeling, that voice telling me that moments not spent writing weren’t worth living. Even with that voice I can’t do it. I can’t just go and write like there’s no tomorrow, it just doesn’t flow like that. I took it seriously but never enough. Things just didn’t work out the way I thought they would.
We used to play in this park all the time, back when we were children. Our mothers used to bring us here and we would climb that frame and slide down that slide. We would run around and push each other in a game of tag. There used to be a little wooden bench just beyond the climbing frame that our mums would shout at us from. Telling us to be careful. Or they would hand out snacks and drinks. I miss that. I’m not a child any more, but I miss it.
There isn’t a wooden bench today, instead there’s two metal benches on the other side of the playground. A single woman is sitting on one of them, holding her bag while watching her children play. There’s a new swing set that’s been built since the last time I was here. There’s a man pushing his daughter on there. I would have loved a swing set, so would Tim. He probably would have hurt himself though, trying to reach higher and higher.
Tim used to want to be a vet. He loved animals, always had pets. I didn’t, but he had dogs, cats, birds. Anything and everything. That was his dream to become the town vet. Instead of people having to drive to Wexgate or Northampton they could have come to him. That was his dream, carried it on all the way to the end, as far as I know. Every step he made towards that dream has now turned to dust. Every second of thought, piece of effort, all gone. Nothing to show for them. Gone in a second, and never coming back. I never really thought about that, until just now. He wanted to do good in the world, help people, and that’s gone now. One more bright light gone.
To be continued…