Leave Means Leave Episode 7

In the next few weeks there were more letters, all in printed brown envelopes, all on a single sheet of white paper, newsprint cut out. If this were a TV series there’d be a clue, a smudge on one corner that would narrow it down to a single news vendor, then CCTV would show him buying that paper… but in real life the police looked for fingerprints or DNA and if there was none, that was it. Just keep all the letters, inform your liaison officer, thank you and goodnight. She’d felt so bolstered in the shelter but out here in the world she felt alone, unprotected, scared.

Then the letters stopped.

A week went by, then two – and still nothing. At first she was even more frightened: was he about to do something worse? Would the next step be a bomb? Then as several uneventful weeks passed she began to relax. Perhaps he’d given up; perhaps it wasn’t even him. She didn’t believe either of these stories but they were something to calm yourself with at night, like telling a child a fairy story. A child! It still caught her like an old wound when she thought of the baby that was lost. But there was time, she told herself. She wasn’t thirty yet. Soon the years that he’d stolen would be compressed into a tiny compartment; eventually they’d hardly register at all.

As the time drew near for the summer course, she went out and spent most of her salary on new outfits, had her hair dyed, cut short and styled. With her new clothes on she thought even her mother wouldn’t recognise her now.

She’d called her mother, had a short, rather abrupt conversation. Her mother sounded older, much older and softened slightly when she said she’d left him, but she didn’t approve of Anna’s decision to go to university. Jean was old-school, thought women should stick to the traditional occupations – teaching, nursing, typing. She herself had been a school secretary and given it up to marry a policeman. If Anna’s father had been alive things might have turned out differently, she thought, but her mother knew how to nurse a grudge. She’d never believe it if Anna told the story of her marriage. She’d have said, well, you must have done something to deserve it. Or, why didn’t you leave then?

If it hadn’t been for that, she might have been tempted to go back to Fife; Scotland was looking increasingly attractive since Brexit. But going home again had never been an option.

She’d not yet taken those driving lessons but they were in the back of her mind as she caught the train up to Durham, then a bus. The campus was just as she’d remembered it and she felt nothing so much as a sense of vast space opening up. She stood in the courtyard and took some deep breaths, then went to reception. There was no-one there, so she waited. Then her phone pinged with a text. She read it.


Comments welcome as ever.

Kirk out

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