A Tidy Mess (Part Four)

Part one

Part two

Part three

***

 

Katherine felt sick as she looked upon her aunty and uncle’s house. Her dad had died inside those walls. Her father’s death was a memory that she did not hold and yet, in that moment, she was reliving it.

 

Harriett was shocked when she answered the door to her niece whom she had not seen for over a year. Wordlessly, she welcomed the surprise visitor into her home and offered her a comforting embrace.

 

‘Darling, I am so sorry,’ said Harriett.

Katherine looked up into her aunt’s dark green eyes. They were almost identical to her father’s.

‘Wh-where?’ Katherine stuttered.

‘Where what, darling?’

‘Where did you… where was he?’

Harriett sighed, gazing at the broken girl standing before her. She looked over her shoulder towards the bottom of the stairs. Katherine walked slowly over to the spot where her father had taken his last breaths just one week ago. She fell to her knees and began to cry.

 

It had been the slowest week of Katherine’s life. The police were no closer to finding out who had murdered her father and she was growing more frustrated each day. It did not help that nobody else seemed to care. Her mother tried to comfort her with effortless hugs and meaningless ‘I understand’s while Rob seemed to be avoiding her completely.

 

The police had questioned Rob, Katherine knew that, but she did not know what he had told them. He must have had an alibi to keep them from suspecting him and yet Katherine still could not trust her brother. The murder investigation had consumed Katherine to the point where she could not distinguish between her grief for her dead father and her anger towards the mystery murderer.

 

That was why she had decided to visit the place where Tim had died.

 

Harriett did not want to see Katherine and so when she had turned up uninvited on her doorstep, she was annoyed. She knew that her niece would ask questions, and Harriett was fed up of giving the same answers.

 

She had been the one to find her brother’s  lifeless, bloody corpse early on Monday morning. Her husband, Martin, was paying the taxi driver when he heard her scream. The pair stood in the doorway, unable to fully open the door blocked by Tim’s body, struck by devastation as they realised instantly that Tim was dead. Martin phoned the police immediately and their nightmare began.

 

They had been due home from holiday late Sunday night but due to a ‘technical fault’ their flight had been delayed. When the police first confirmed Tim’s approximate time of death Harriett and Martin could only wonder whether, if their flight had been on time, they would have been home before the incident. Would Tim still be alive or would they have still been too late?

 

When they were finally allowed back in their house, nothing was out of place. It was exactly how they knew Tim would have left it: immaculately clean and tidy with everything in it’s place. The rug had been straightened, all doors had been shut, and the cream carpet was clear from any traces of dirt. Nobody knew exactly what had been used to kill Tim, either: the ornament of the violinist was on the window sill, cleaned from Tim’s blood.

 

Harriett and Martin were the only people, aside from Katherine, who felt truly saddened by Tim’s passing. Living in the house had become almost unbearable; they expected him to arrive home from work every evening, Harriett still laid three places at the table, and they felt uneasy all the time. Somebody had broken into their house without leaving a single trace, and that worried them more than anything. They changed their alarm and their locks, they triple-checked that everything was locked even when they were inside their house. And yet, none of their extra security measures helped.

 

Katherine left a few hours after arriving, emotionally drained yet feeling somehow less anguished. Harriett began to prepare the dinner, ready for when her husband arrived home from work. She turned on the radio to distract her from her thoughts, and hummed along as she peeled, chopped and sautéed. Her mood lifted slightly after an emotional afternoon.

 

As Harriett plated up two hearty meals, she accidentally splashed her  chest with the boiling hot sauce. She tore off her top and splashed cool water on her burning skin. Annoyed, she made her way upstairs to change into something else. She looked into the mirror on her wardrobe door and realised how tired she looked. Sighing, she opened the door and pulled out a dress and her make-up bag. She wriggled out of her skinny jeans and donned the flowery purple dress.

 

Harriett closed the door and glanced back into the mirror. Two reflections stared back. She went to scream, but a hand clasped over her mouth to prevent any noise from escaping. She struggled and kicked her legs back, but her attacker was too strong. A hand slipped down from her mouth to around her neck, the thumb pressing forcefully against her windpipe. She looked in the mirror to see her attacker grinning maniacally, both of them watching as she lost her grip on the world.

 

Harriett’s limp body fell to the floor. Her murderer looked down upon their victim and admired their work.

 

‘Two down, one to go.’ 

A Tidy Mess (Part Four)

A Tidy Mess (Part Three)

Part one

Part two

***

Katherine had made a list. She did not use pen and paper, nor had she made any conscious effort, but she had compiled a short list of people’s names. Suspects. Over and over again she silently repeated the list of names: Carly, Greg, Trudy, Granddad Keith, Shane and Rob.

Katherine knew what her father had done to Carly and Greg, breaking apart their relationship and then destroying Carly after their affair ended. She had never met Trudy, Tim’s boss, but he was always talking about how much she hated him. Her grandfather, her mum’s dad, had sworn to hunt Tim down and kill him after he left his family in pieces. Katherine would never have seriously considered her granddad as a suspect, but her thoughts were fast becoming irrational.

James was not a person Katherine had met, nor had she really heard about him, but he had heard Rob casually discussing possible killers with their mother. Ellen had no idea who it could have been and she immediately discarded Rob’s suggestion of Carly or Greg. From what Katherine could pick out, her ear pressed to the living room door, Shane used to be friends with Tim. Apparently her father did something to piss him off. She did not hear exactly what her father did, however, because her neighbour had chosen that moment to begin mowing his lawn.

The reason Rob was on the list was because Katherine had no idea where he was on the evening of Tim’s death. Neither did Ellen. He refused to answer questions about his whereabouts, although Katherine knew that the police would want to know more. If it was Rob, he would have no alibi. But she didn’t seriously believe that her brother would kill their father, no matter how much he detested the man.

In reality, Katherine’s list was extremely short. While it should be more difficult than it was to compile a list of a man’s suspected murderers, for anyone who properly knew Tim it would have been easy to find over ten names. But nobody did know Tim, not really. He was not a complicated man, but he led a complicated and messy life.

After he left his family in Devon and moved in with his sister and brother-in-law in Salisbury, Tim had become even more of an enigma than before.

Tim’s parents refused to speak to him after Ellen had told them of the atrocities their son had committed. Harriett and Martin were the only people Tim had left, and they gave him somewhere to stay. Katherine knew it was out of pity that they reached out to her father, but she appreciated it nonetheless – they had saved him.

But Tim did not change. While Katherine was fed lies from her father’s mouth about the tidy life he had created for himself, he had continued to cause people pain and upset.

The last of his crimes against innocent people began when he got a job at a supermarket in the city centre. After working for a week on the checkouts, it had come to Tim’s attention that customers were often unwise. Elderly men and women would come to his till, slowly withdraw their wallets, retrieve their debit cards, and stare intently for a couple of seconds at the interior of their card holders before entering their PINs.

It did not take Tim long to work out that these customers had their security codes scribbled on a piece of paper, stuck just above the pockets in which their bank cards were stored. A quick glance over the counter and Tim could see the four digit numbers.

After hatching his simple plan, Tim waited for his next customer that had made this error. A man of around seventy years shuffled to his till, offering a basket of groceries to the sales assistant. Tim scanned and bagged the items, including a gardening magazine. Taking this as a helpful cue, Tim then engaged his customer in a thrilling conversation about gardening, pretending that he was a keen gardener himself. When the man extracted his debit card from his brown, leather wallet, Tim quickly scanned and remembered the PIN, scrawled in black biro in the spot he had been expecting. Continuing the conversation, Tim managed to distract the customer by handing over his bags of shopping. He quickly grabbed the card from the machine and bid the customer goodbye. Wallet in his pocket and hands busied with heavy bags, the customer exited the shop unaware that his card had been stolen.

A few weeks and several scammed shoppers later, Tim’s manager, Trudy, called a staff meeting. It had come to her attention that an unusually high number of customers were calling into the store to check if they had lost their wallets. All of them claimed to have been served by a man fitting two of the workers’ descriptions: Tim and his colleague, James.

Furthermore, a few of these customers had called the shop to warn them that money had been taken from their accounts after having lost their cards there. James had immediately denied all claims and shunted all of the blame onto Tim, who feigned innocence and ignorance. After an hour of failed reasoning and blame-shifting Trudy warned the two men that he would have to alert the police.

Nothing was proved and while the CCTV footage showed Tim hurrying customers from the till, it was not substantial enough for Tim to be labelled the guilty party. Over that few days, Tim had managed to convince most of his colleagues that it was James who had stolen the bank cards. Tim soon became the victim. James left the job just days before Tim did. He had worked there for fifteen years and had a pending application for supervisor, and yet Tim had driven him away after just four short weeks.

Tim did not care that he had ruined James’ career. He did not worry that he had swindled tens of elderly people out of hundreds of pounds. He did not spare a thought for anyone but himself.

The evening after he left that job for the final time, Tim drove back to Harriett’s house in the Porsche he had borrowed from Martin. They had gone away on holiday for the week, and so Tim permitted himself access to the gleaming car.

He did not know that someone was waiting for him inside the house, but he would have had a good idea of who to expect.

A Tidy Mess (Part Three)

A Tidy Mess (Part Two)

The news of Tim’s death spread through Salisbury quickly.

Everyone reacted with a gasp of shock and horror, but nobody feigned sadness. It was horrible news, one that had surely affected his family in a tremendous way, but it would have taken real effort to mourn such a horrible man.

Tim had no family, not anymore. His daughter was the only person who had continued to bother with him. She would never forgive him for all the pain he had caused so many people, but he was her father and she needed him.

When Ellen, Tim’s ex-wife, heard the news she was unsure how she should react. The police had knocked on her front door early on Monday morning to break the tragic news. He had been murdered. She cried, although she was unsure whether the tears were real or merely for the benefit of the two strangers sitting opposite her. When they left the house and Ellen was alone again, a feeling of relief swept over her. Or, at least, she thought it was relief.

She phoned her best friend, Greg, to tell him what had happened. He did not hold back.

“Good, the bastard deserved it after all he did,” he spat down the phone. “Are you okay?” He then asked, worrying that he had been insensitive.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just…” She paused. “It’s just, how am I going to tell Katherine? She’s going to be devastated.”

Ellen was right. She had requested for her two children to come to the house immediately, which they did. When she broke the news, in what she considered to be a sensitive yet slightly detached manner, Katherine screamed as though she was in unbearable pain and sobbed violently while Ellen tried to console her. Rob, Katherine’s brother, remained fixed to the spot, his face unchanged.

Rob, like his mother, was not saddened by the loss of Tim (or ‘ The Sperm Donor’, as he referred to him in the rare occasions he was mentioned in his presence). For the last year, Rob had completely denied Tim’s existence and so he had already come to terms with losing his father. As he watched his sister crying inconsolably, he pitied her. Maybe she was too young, too naïve, to understand why she should be happy that she was free at last from their scumbag dad.

It was a year ago that the family found out what had been happening. Rob had grown suspicious of his father’s actions long before they came to light but he had remained silent, afraid that he would upset his mother or anger his father. Tim was usually a calm man, but when pushed he had been known to present his son with a black eye. Once, when Tim had unearthed that a fifteen-year-old Rob had stolen money from his wallet, purchased alcohol and cigarettes, and spent a weekend at his friend’s house having parties with his school friends, he had hit Rob so hard in the ribs that they had to go to A&E. So that his father would not tell Ellen about the weekend, Rob had said that he had been riding his bike and had fallen over the handlebars.

One evening, while Tim was marking some of his students’ essays, Rob heard his father’s ringtone in the kitchen. He answered it and a woman answered back. She thought it was Tim.

“Hi babe, are you free to talk?” The woman’s husky voice asked.

“Yeah,” replied Tim, not really thinking about what he was doing.

“Last night was amazing, I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Me too, it was fun.” Rob knew he was not being very convincing, but the woman on the other end of the line didn’t seem to notice.

“When can I see you again?” She asked.

Rob suspected that he would regret it when he replied, “Tonight.”

Rob agreed to meet his father’s mystery woman at a pub in a nearby village. He shouted up to his father that he needed to borrow his car and left the house. He waited in the car park for ten minutes until a burgundy Mondeo pulled up next to him. She looked into his car, smiling, but then her face dropped. Rob was horrified to see that his father’s mystery woman was Carly, his mum’s best friend. He had know Carly, her husband Greg, and their twin sons since he could remember, yet Rob had not managed to recognise her voice on the phone; he would never have expected his father to have an affair with her.

Angry and confused, Rob sped off without asking any questions, and confronted his father. Tim made no threats nor did he try to deny anything. He promised to tell his wife, but Ellen had entered the house during the shouting match and heard everything.

That evening was the worst night of Rob’s life. He witnessed the screaming, the crying, the arguing and the unravelling of many truths. His father had been having an affair with Carly for over two years. All the evenings Tim spent at school marking essays and meeting with the other teachers in his department were actually evenings spent somewhere secret with his wife’s best friend.

Rob was relieved that Katherine had moved out a few weeks previously, so she did not have to know all the small details that were being yelled through the house by their mother. She threw her husband out and told him never to return. But the next day, she changed her mind.

For the next month-or-so, Ellen and Tim carried on as if nothing had happened. When Greg had heard about his wife’s affair, he had kicked her out immediately and vowed to cut off Tim’s testicles if he ever saw him again. He stopped talking to Ellen altogether, unable to forgive her for staying with the man who had ruined their lives.

Ellen was in constant turmoil. She was always anxious to know where Tim was and called him constantly to check up on his whereabouts. Eventually, she cracked. Switching on his laptop and searching through his files, Ellen thought she would put her mind to rest. Instead, she discovered that her husband’s treachery was only the beginning.

Three different girls had been emailing Tim. Blackmail. Threats to tell the headmaster, to tell their parents, to tell Tim’s wife. Three of Tim’s students were claiming that he had made passes at them. Ellen felt sick as she read the messages. None of them mentioned the word ‘sex’, but that was only a mild relief in the cobweb of lies in which she was trapped. Tim was the spider, creeping over girls and women, spinning a web of destruction.

Ellen phoned the school to report the emails and Tim’s career, family, and reputation crashed around him. His family, except Katherine, detested him, his best friend wanted to kill him, and the families of the three fifteen-year-old girls had a score to settle. Tim was forced to leave his home in West Devon and moved to his sister and brother-in-law’s house in Salisbury. He left behind tens of people who hated him to start anew.

However, it seemed that Tim was so accustomed to making enemies that he had forgotten how to make friends. His fresh start was the beginning of his sticky end.

A Tidy Mess (Part Two)

A Tidy Mess (Part One)

Tim yawned. He did not care that a customer had approached his till with the Sunday newspaper, the correct change clutched tightly in the elderly woman’s wrinkled fist, nor did he care that his manager’s beady eye was fixed on him. He absentmindedly scanned the barcode, flipped the paper in half and exchanged it for a few silver coins. The old lady ambled away from the counter and Tim’s manager marched towards him.

‘I’ve told you before about not ironing your shirt before work, Tim,’ Trudy said in her sharp, shrill voice. ‘And don’t yawn in front of the customers, it makes you look like you don’t want to be here.’

‘It’s 7am on a Sunday morning, I don’t want to be here.’ Replied Tim simply.

Trudy sighed, unable to find the energy to argue with her most stubborn employee, and sped off towards the bread aisle.

Probably going to find someone else to moan at, thought Tim. Warm saliva circulated the taste of last night’s beer around his mouth. He grimaced and greeted his next customer, responding with only a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as the middle-aged suit struggled to make jovial conversation. The day was going to be slow and painful, Tim was certain.

 

The top of Tim’s thigh began to vibrate. He glanced around and, no manager or customers in sight, lifted his vintage Nokia half-way out of his pocket. It was his daughter, Katherine. He made a mental note to call her on his break and released his phone.

Only eight more hours, Tim told himself. He detested the inconsiderately visible clock that faced the counters: keeping track of the time made it go even slower, it seemed. His third yawn caused tears to gather in the corners of his eyes. He shut his eyes and slowly dragged the palm of his hand down his face. When he opened his eyes, a young woman was standing in front of him, talking rapidly and loudly into her phone and thrusting a two pint bottle of milk and a scrunched up five pound note at him. He carried out the transaction silently aside from a forced ‘thank you’ as the chatty brunette shot him a smile and darted out of the automatic doors.

 

Eight hours trundled by until Tim was finally free to go home. He was sitting in the car, fumbling with a pouch of tobacco, when his phone rang. It was his Katherine again.

Shit, I forgot to call her back!

He answered the phone, letting the filter tip drop from between his dry lips.

‘Alright, love?” He asked gruffly.

‘Dad, listen to me. You can’t go home.’ His daughter sounded panicked.

‘What? Are you alright, Kat?’

‘Dad, just promise me you won’t go to your house. Something bad’s going to happen,’ She pleaded.

‘What do you mean, something bad? Don’t be silly Katherine, I’m fine.’ He was met with silence, and then a deep exhale.

‘Okay then, dad, just call me when you’re home okay?’

‘Will do, bye love.’

‘Bye dad.’

 

Tim would have been disturbed by his daughter’s phone call, once upon a time. But not anymore. Katherine phoned him at least once a month with a warning (or ‘vision’ as she liked to call them). Since she was fifteen, Katherine was convinced that she had some sort of psychic ability to see into the future, but her prophecies hardly ever came true and those that did were never more than coincidence. Tim shook it off, rolled and lit his cigarette, wound down the car window and drove out of his parking space, the thought of a cold, refreshing beer and  comfortable sofa propelling him home.

 

He pulled up on the large, gravelled driveway fifteen minutes later and stepped out of the silver Porsche 911 Carrera. Upon entering the boastful house, Tim deactivated the alarm system and locked the door behind him. Stepping into the front room, the middle-aged shop worker knew something was different.

 

Tim was a very particular man and everything had to be perfectly in its place. But it wasn’t. The rug was not straight, the door leading to the kitchen was ajar, and a letter was on the floor. There was no way that Tim would have left the house in this state; just looking around made him feel uneasy. Then again, he had had several beers last night. Maybe he had woken up still slightly drunk and failed to realise the mess he had caused. He doubted it, but it was possible.

 

Unworried, Tim walked into the kitchen. Everything was perfectly in order, it seemed: The floor was immaculate, one clean tea towel hung from the cutlery drawer handle, the blinds were all three-quarters open and the breakfast bar was gleaming. He opened the dishwasher to find a clean mug and began making himself a cup of tea. As he poured water into the kettle, he realised that he had not been to the toilet since before he started work. Suddenly, his bladder felt ready to burst. He put the kettle on and rushed towards the stairs.

 

If Tim had not been in a rush, he would have noticed the faint footprints on the cream carpet. He would have heard shuffling. He would have noticed that the ornament of a woman playing violin was no longer on the window sill at the top of the staircase. Unzipping his fly as he dashed into the bathroom, he did not bother to lock the door before emptying is bladder with a satisfying release.

 

He could hear the kettle bubbling from the kitchen, and so he did not hear the shuffling from the bedroom next door. After he washed his hands, Tim gazed up into the mirror. He realised how tired and old he appeared. He was only forty-two and yet he looked at least fifty. His daughter joked that he should dye his hair because the grey was becoming more dominant that the light brown it once was. He wondered what his daughter would say if he turned up on her doorstep with all the grey entirely eclipsed. Maybe he would dye it blue to shock her. He smiled at the thought and turned off the bathroom light.

 

The kettle was roaring through the house, coming to a boil. Tim walked across the landing but stopped suddenly. He could faintly hear something else. Creaking. Shuffling. He turned quickly, but nothing was there. Mentally shaking himself, he arrived at the top step. The kettle clicked and stopped  boiling. A floorboard creaked. Tim span around and froze. Someone was there. He squinted through the darkness, trying to make out the shadowed face.

 

‘You?!” Tim exclaimed in shock.

 

A heavy object struck Tim around the cheek. He whelped in surprise as he was knocked backwards by the force of the blow, toppling on the step before losing his balance completely, tumbling down the staircase.

 

As he lay at the bottom of the stairs, heavy footsteps descended upon him. His attacker stopped, took a deep breath, and brought the ornament down with great force onto Tim’s skull.

 

Tim’s phone vibrated in his pocket. It was Katherine, calling to see if her father had arrived home safely.

 

To be continued…

A Tidy Mess (Part One)

A boy and a girl

Friends since they were six years old, Jamie had never planned to tell Collette that he loved her. He never even realised it himself until ten years later, when Collette went on a date with an arrogant, underachieving arsehole. For the next year, two months and twelve days, Collette was in a happy, if not turbulent, relationship until eventually she decided that they had had one argument too many. After storming out of her now ex-boyfriend’s front door, she wondered mindlessly to Jamie’s house. Collette knew that she could rely on Jamie. He was her best friend, he had helped her through her entire relationship, he had never judged her for making the wrong decisions and most of all, he had always been there.

Jamie had spent one year, two months and twelve days of his life in complete turmoil. He had always loved Collette but it wasn’t until she became unavailable that he truly realised just how much. The jealousy that filled him from head to toe was unbearable and seemed to grow with each passing day. Her beauty overwhelmed him. Her smile sent waves of joy through his soul. When Collette was happy with her boyfriend, Jamie put his own feelings aside and was instead grateful that she was content. When Collette’s boyfriend caused her hurt or upset, Jamie’s blood boiled with a venomous anger.
Now, with Collette standing on his doorstep in the pouring rain, Jamie’s heart ached.

They talked and hugged and eventually laughed. Jamie comforted his friend in exactly the way he knew how, and Collette appreciated every second. He listened and he understood. He said only what she wanted to hear and what she needed to comprehend. He made her laugh and he made her smile. And that made him smile. Jamie offered Collette his bed for the night so she would not have to discuss her break-up with her parents, and she immediately accepted. Jamie would sleep on the sofa.

The next few weeks were some of the best; Jamie had his best friend back all to himself. Summer rolled around which meant Sixth Form had ended. Exams had seemed a lot better than they would have before, because Collette revised with Jamie. He admired Collette because she worked so hard every day, starting from early in the morning and carrying on until everyone else had gone to bed. They were studying two of the same A Levels, but Jamie was revising French while Collette trundled through History notes.

Jamie and Collette had become completely inseparable. Their other friends enquired frequently into their friendship, wondering if it was possibly more than ‘just friends’. Collette was always first to respond with a final ‘no’. Even though that was the truth, a hot blade pierced Jamie’s lungs each time the word passed her lips. The boy was infatuated and besotted. Collette was all he could think about and not being able to kiss her was impossibly frustrating. But then they got drunk.

Collette had just turned eighteen and so the pair could finally go clubbing together for the first time. They were bad influences on each other and soon lost not only their other friends, but all sense of what they were doing. As Collette slipped on a spilt drink on the dance floor, Jamie miraculously managed to catch her mid-fall and they walked off laughing hysterically to a booth. Neither of them could remember the conversation that followed when they awoke the next day, but they did have a vivid image of Jamie leaning over and planting a sloppy kiss on Collette’s mouth.

Collette had pulled away in shock and asked Jamie what he thought he was doing. With the elegancy of an elephant on roller-skates, Jamie then mumbled and slurred his way through a declaration of his undying love for the beautiful girl sitting beside him. Inadvertently he offended Collette when he began to discuss her ex, stating that she was naïve to have stayed with him for so long. In his clouded mind, Jamie thought he was being romantic and saying that she had true love right in front of her eyes. He was confused, then, when Collette stormed away from the boy and out of the club.

The next morning, the pair did not speak. Nor did they talk during the following week. Jamie made attempts to contact Collette, but she had ignored every text message. They did not see or talk to each other for a few weeks, when results day finally arrived. Both Jamie and Collette arrived at their Sixth Form as soon as it opened to collect their results. Collette opened her envelope first and Jamie smiled when she squealed in delight, obviously getting the results she needed for her first choice university.

It was with mixed feelings that Jamie celebrated his results. He had also managed to secure the results he needed for his first choice university, but he was not sure if wanted to go. In fact, nobody except Jamie and his parents knew what his first choice university was. Now it was becoming real, he had to tell Collette even if she did not want to see him. He walked over to her and she turned her back on him.

“Hi.” He said, timidly. There was no response. “Look, I’m not going to apologise again because I know it’s pointless. I just wanted to say congratulations on your results, I see you got in to university. I’m proud of you.”
He expected a reply, perhaps she would congratulate him, too. But still she was silent.
“Well, anyway. I thought you should know I got in as well. But I lied before. My first choice university wasn’t Southampton. I guess I was just scared because I kind of regretted making my decision straight away but now I’m in and…”
“Where is it?” She asked, surprising Jamie with a reply.
“Paris.”
It was in complete silence that Collette walked away from her old best friend.

Jamie was at the airport. Collette was at home, packing. The pair had not spoken since they collected their results. Jamie never understood what he could have said to hurt her so badly and he did not remember much of their conversation. But he had told his friend that she was naïve, that she was stupid, and that she had caused Jamie unbelievable heartbreak during her relationship. And that was why Collette knew she had to stop talking to Jamie; because she did not love him back. She had caused her best friend the most hurt he had known. She had been the reason for his unhappiness for over a year. She loved Jamie, but as a friend and nothing more, never anything more.

Collette was sitting on her bed, tears rolling down her soft cheeks. The clock in front of her ticked, each second passing by with a soft thud. She never moved an inch, remaining still and silent for over two hours. Finally, she watched as the minute hand and the hour hand formed a horizontal line. Jamie was on his plane and it was time for take-off.
Collette began to cry. She crawled over her bed and peered out of her window, where she could see Jamie’s rooftop.

Tears streamed down her face, her eyes were sore and red and her throat began to ache. Her phone vibrated. It was a text message from Jamie.
‘This isn’t goodbye.’
The girl began to cry even harder, regretting the last few months and the sheer stupidity that both of them had shown. Jamie would always love Collette, but Collette could never stop being Jamie’s friend.

Collette smiled. Then she looked at the sky and sighed…

A boy and a girl

Surprise!

What a day. Work was utter chaos, mainly because I’m surrounded by morons. Not a single person in my office has any common sense and I spend a huge part of every day wondering why I employed them. I’m surprised they even managed to write a CV, never mind making it past the interview stage. To make this Friday even more wonderful, everyone decided to go to the pub and insisted that I go along for a ‘quick half’.  Three pints later and I’m finally home, looking forward to seeing the wife and watching a bit of TV. A relaxing end to a stressful week.

I open the front door, switch the living room light on and have a minor heart attack. The room is full of people shouting ‘Happy birthday!’ flailing their arms excitedly and there’s Jay with a big grin on her face. I realise she thinks she’s done a nice thing for me and so return her smile, my peaceful Friday evening slipping away from my grasp. My ever-so-thoughtful wife gives me a hug and wishes me a happy birthday. I manage a ‘thank you’ through clenched teeth.

Stepping back to evaluate the turnout, I’m surprised that I’m happy to see some people. There’s my sister and her husband, a few cousins who I haven’t seen since last Christmas, the mates that haven’t yet managed to piss me off, and Jay’s best friend who is irritating but easy on the eye. Not too bad. But then amongst these welcome guest, I spot some others. Those people I have on Facebook but can’t bear the sight of. They are all here. In my house. For me. Ridiculous.

The first dickhead I see is Alan. This is the man who haunted my nightmares for three years when I worked in the restaurant. He is nerdy, needy and weedy. The bloke followed me around. He was everywhere. He worked the same shifts as me, had his lunch breaks at the same time as me, and even joined the same gym as me. And then he figured out my routine. I’d work out in the morning and he was there, waiting for me. I’d have a cigarette before going into work, and he was there. He started smoking so he could join me. Obsessed is the word. Why he was here, in my house, I had no idea. Jay can’t have invited him.

But he’s not the worst one. Sitting on an armchair looking like she can smell a bad fart is Jay’s sister. She hates me and I hate her. At our wedding, when the vicar asked if anyone had any objections, she stood up. Jay’s only bridesmaid stood up and squealed, barely able to contain her excitement, ‘I object!’.  Why did she object? Because apparently we had slept with each other behind Jay’s back. Apparently I was in love with her. Apparently I should have been marrying her instead. Thankfully, everyone saw through it and didn’t believe her. She’s a compulsive liar. She lied that she was pregnant once just so a bloke wouldn’t break up with her. Crazy, that’s what she is. Besides, we only slept together once and I was absolutely hammered.

Then I see Charlotte and Kerry. What was Jay thinking when she invited those two imbeciles?! Jay lived with these two through all three years of university which meant I saw them every single day when we started seeing each other. The only word that can really describe them is empty. There’s nothing between their ears except their wide eyes. When I first met them, I thought they were funny. Then I realised that they were just completely stupid. How they got through university I will never know. It is impossible to hold a conversation with them, they barely understand English. I make a mental note to avoid them at all costs and then I see the worst of them all.

Harold fucking Noakes. This time I look at Jay and shake my head. She smiles apologetically and scarpers into the kitchen, hopefully to get me a strong drink. I’m going to need it to get through the night. Harry is every man’s worst nightmare. We met him at our local one night and he seemed like an alright lad. Over time he became a good friend to us both. Then Jay and I had a fight one day and she went to live with her sister for a week or two. I didn’t see Harry for that whole time, but Jay did. He was going over there every day with comforting words and a shoulder for Jay to cry on. I stayed here moping around none the wiser. Then, I see them in our local together one night. The look on his face. I could have wiped that smug grin off his mug and he would never have seen it coming. Then Jay walked over to me. We chatted and decided to go for dinner the next evening to sort things out. That smarmy git’s face dropped like a teenager’s testicles. I only carried on talking to him because Jay insisted that he talked her into getting back with me. But I know he just saw his opportunity to pounce. He didn’t even come to our wedding, not that I wanted him there of course.

Jay comes in and hands me a cold can of lager. I take a few swigs and try to appreciate her good intentions. It’s not every day your wife throws you  surprise birthday party, I suppose. I make my way around the room, thanking people for coming, insisting that I had no idea there would be a party, and pretending to laugh at anecdotes about things I’d rather forget. The majority of guests at my birthday party are those I had hoped never to see again. Maybe the people I actually like are busy, because Jay can’t have just invited this group of idiots.

It gets late and gradually everyone leaves our home. I sit on the sofa and yawn. Finally I get to relax. Jay comes and plonks herself next to me, equally as tired.

“Did you enjoy it?” She asks me.

“Yeah, I really did. Thanks love.” I smile at her and give her a quick peck.

“You’re not too annoyed at me inviting my sister and Harry, then?”

I lie, “No, of course not. It was lovely to see them.”

We sit there in silence, too shattered to talk. I consider going to bed, but she speaks again before I can move.

“I know you slept with my sister, Carl.”

My heart skips a beat and I struggle to find my words. “What? No I didn’t. She’s a liar, you know that.” I don’t sound at all convincing.

“It’s okay, Carl. Harry saw you two go home together that night but he didn’t want to tell me. But he told me three weeks ago.” I was surprised that Jay wasn’t punching me or shouting or packing her bags. She was surprisingly calm for a woman who had just discovered that her husband had had an affair with her sister.

“I… I… I’m going to fucking kill that man!” I growl, getting to my feet.

“Wow.” Jay says, still unbelievably calm.

“Wow?” I wonder.

“Well, if you’re going to kill him for that, what are you going to do when I tell you that I slept with him.”

“You… You what?! When!?”

“Oh… about an hour ago when you were talking to the group of people you despise. I hope you had fun.” She stands up and walks to the bedroom. I stand silently, bewildered and shocked as she walks past me with a suitcase and opens the front door.

And there, waiting for her in the front garden, is Harry.

“Surprise!” He shouts. That smug grin is the last thing I see before the door slams shut.

Surprise!

Hangover.

The room’s in a spin,
My memory’s a blur,
I went out last night,
But what did occur?

The first drink I had
Was a bottle of lager,
Then we played Ring of Fire
To begin our drunk saga.

A shot of tequila
With lemon and salt,
Moved on to white wine,
Liver under assault.

Disaronno and coke,
A quick cigarette,
Before downing a pint
Of what, I forget.

Welcomed to the club
By a jug of cocktail,
A Sambuca shot
Caused my vision to fail.

I was handed a drink
Which was luminous blue,
With a hint of regret
I ran to the loo.

Then back to the bar
For some quick Aftershocks,
Jäger bombs and a Sourz
To knock off our socks.

Here, my memory fails
But I know I drank more,
Bruises all down my side,
Must’ve dropped to the floor.

I woke up in my bed,
That’s always a relief,
Pneumatic drill in my head,
Beer residue on my teeth.

How much did I drink?
I have no idea.
When I check my bank balance
I’ll be shaking with fear.

But a night out is worth
All this pain and the debt,
Because I’m only young once
And I’ll have no regrets.

Hangover.

Silence part 2.

Scissors and knives,
Razors and blades.
Not the solution,
Nor are they to blame.

Internal trauma,
Wounds in your mind.
Pain on your body,
Scratches and lines.

Tears do not fall,
A frown is a smile.
Hiding away,
Alone in exile.

No-one to listen,
Nobody to hear.
They see the scars,
Flooded with fear.

Scared you’re not happy,
Is it their fault?
Truth is you don’t know,
Why life came to a halt.

Scissors and knives,
Razors and blades.
Not the solution,
But they help ease the pain.

Internal trauma,
Wounds in your mind.
Pain on your body,
Scratches and lines.

And healing is hard,
These cuts will heal.
But you’ll always be sad,
No-one knows how you feel…

But somebody knows,
Someone understands.
People do care,
That you always feel sad.

It isn’t your fault,
You are not alone.
Don’t suffer in silence,
Pick up the phone.

Silence part 2.