Chapter 1 3
Chapter 2 10
Chapter 3 14
Chapter 4 20
Chapter 5 24
Chapter 6 27
Chapter 7 30
Chapter 8 33
Chapter 9 37
Chapter 10 43
Chapter 11 47
Chapter 12 52
THE END 58
I left school with my friend Georgina. It was quite a sunny day, being late spring and I was pleased that it was half term. There was lots of noise as other kids rushed by us, so that they could catch their lifts home.
My school was a private boarding school. Most of the girls including me and Georgina were boarders; the rest went home every evening. I was always jealous of the girls that could go home at night; every night. A few girls stayed at school during holidays because their parents were abroad. Those were the ones I felt most sorry for. Mind you, that had happened to me before.
I wondered how much time I would have this time with Dad. He was always busy and sometimes he wasn’t able to stay with me when I was on my holidays. Several times I have had to return to school early and join those other unlucky kids with no-where to go.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my dad and he loved me, but what with him working and me being at school, we sometimes didn’t see each other for weeks and on one occasion months, those times totally sucked.
It would be lovely to see my dad again, but he spent a lot of time travelling and it was only during school holidays that we got to see each other.
I suppose that it would be a good idea to tell you a bit about myself. I am Emma Jefferson, my dad is Frank Jefferson, yes that Frank Jefferson, CEO of Jefferson Industries, though to me he’s just plain Dad.
We were in the school drive as the place started emptying and we waited for our respective cars to arrive. Georgie’s mum turned up first; she’s always keen to get her darling Georgina back for the hols.
Georgie’s mum did her usual totally embarrassing thing of hugging the poor kid and raining kisses on her, despite the understandable protests. I never knew that a face could get quite so red!
Eventually, Georgie’s mum let her go and I said, ‘bye,’ to them.
With a squeal of tyres, they were off in their car. I think that 4×4’s are cool, ‘cos you sit up quite high above the traffic. I kind of hoped that Dad might buy one some time.
I looked at my watch, Henry, the chauffeur was a bit late, but he often is, especially if he has been running my dad around. If he is more than 15 minutes late, I have to call a taxi from my mobile.
Miss Derbyshire came over. She was the art teacher and was quite nice, for a teacher.
‘Well Emma, any plans for half term?’
‘Not really, it depends on Dad and if he has time for us to go anywhere. He did promise to take me on the London Eye, last time we spoke and that would be great.’
‘It is good, I went up last year. You can see for miles. Is he picking you up?
‘No, I think that it’s the chauffeur this time.’
‘Well let’s hope that he isn’t too long,’ she said as she walked off.
I sat on a wall, kicking my heels while I waited. It was quiet now; all the kids had been picked up and only a few teachers were milling about. Glancing at my watch I saw that in another five minutes, I would have to phone for a taxi.
Hearing a car coming, I looked up and relaxed again — it was a BMW, our car was a Jag, a bit old fashioned, but that’s Dad for you! The car pulled up in front of me and the nearside window shushed down.
I went over to the car; a lady that I kind of recognised was looking at me expectantly.
‘Mrs Howard? You’ve changed your hair.’ I said as I bend down and looked through the window.
Last time I saw her, it was long and she was a brunet. Now, it was shorter, styled differently and more importantly, blonde.
‘Yes, do you like?’
‘Mmm.’ I said, ‘it’s different.’
‘I fancied a change.Anyway, Emma, your chauffeur’s car is out of action and your dad isn’t available to pick you up, so he asked if I could do the honours and take you home, as your house is on my route, so hop in.’
Mrs Howard was one of Dad’s assistants; I had met her a quite a few times at company outings. We hadn’t spoken all that, much, but she seemed quite nice.
I grabbed my case and bag, put them in the boot and then got into the car.
As we moved off, Miss Derbyshire looked up from speaking to the caretaker. She waved and I waved back.
I sat in the front with Mrs. Howard and did up my safety belt.
‘Good girl; let’s go.’
The car quietly slid away from the curb and soon we were on our way.
‘So Emma how is school?’
‘Fine thank you, Mrs Howard.’
‘That sounds so formal, Call me Claire.’
‘So you like school?’
‘It’s okay, I ‘spose, apart from the uniform, I hate skirts!’
‘Still a bit of a tomboy?’
‘I like to call myself individual.’
‘I bet you do,’ she laughed, ‘You’ll grow out of it, most girls do. How old are you now?’
’12, almost 13.’
‘Nearly a teenager, eh?’
‘Yes.’ I laughed politely, although I didn’t think that what she said was that funny.
‘Hungry?’ she asked.
‘If you open the glove compartment, you will see a bag of sweets; we can eat properly later.’
I did as requested and saw some wine gums — I love wine gums!
‘Do you want one Mrs…I mean Claire?’
‘No thanks, I’ve already had my fill for today, help yourself; I bet you’re hungry, all kids are at your age!’
‘Thanks,’ I said enthusiastically, taking a sweet, an orange one, and popping it in my mouth and grabbing hold of a strawberry one, to eat after the first.
I couldn’t resist chewing it — I never can and in seconds it was gone, closely followed by the strawberry flavoured one.
Claire had a music CD in the player; ABBA I think, not sure really as they were ancient, give me Coldplay any day!
I yawned, feeling a bit tired.
‘Shut your eyes for a bit, you probably had a hard day today.’
‘Yes, I didn’t sleep well last night, as I was looking forward to seeing Dad again and we had games this morning.’
Suddenly I yawned again, feeling a bit out of it. The journey was going to take an hour and a half…
‘I think I will have a nap after all,’ I said sleepily, and then I shut my eyes for a bit.
‘Wake up Emma.’
I opened my eyes and looking around; I saw that we were in a motorway service station.
‘Hello, why are we here?’
‘We need to talk, Emma; are you awake enough?’
‘Mm, I think so.’
‘I’m not taking you home, but to my house. Your father phoned me while you were in the land of nod and asked me to look after you for a short while as he has to go away on erm, a business trip. Are you okay with that?’
I sighed. It was all too good to be true. I wasn’t going to see Dad during the holidays. I had, by now lost track of how often this happened. Why hadn’t she told me this before?
I nodded after she repeated her question. Home without Dad was boring. The housekeeper was ancient and the cook not much younger. We lived in the country and there were no friends that I could hang out with.
‘Why didn’t you wake me up? I would have liked to have talked to him.’
‘The reception was rotten and he kept breaking up. Do you mind coming to my house for a bit.’
‘Is it far?’
‘About an hour from here.’
‘Okay then,’ I replied sadly.
‘That’s good; do you need to use the toilet?
‘I’ll come with you. I could do with a break.’
Claire looked a bit nervous for some reason as we walked into the services. It appeared that she didn’t want to hang around, so we were soon back in her car and about an hour later we arrived at her house.
We didn’t speak much on the journey. I was thinking of Dad and the fact that this holiday was going to be a bit rubbishy. Claire seemed to be preoccupied too and was constantly looking in her car mirrors. I thought that she was probably a nervous driver or something.
Her house was detached, along a quiet road of similar houses. We pulled up on her drive and then got out. Claire opened the front door and we went in the house, with me carrying my case and bag and her, some carrier bags.
Claire took me upstairs and into a bedroom.
Looking around, I saw that it was a small bedroom, obviously a young girl’s one as it had a lot of pink on the walls and the bedding.
‘Just leave your stuff here and I’ll make us something to eat; pizza okay?’
‘Yes please,’ I replied.
I was shown the lounge and I just sat her for a while listening to my iPod through the ear buds.
We ate our pizzas in the kitchen, Claire asked me about school, my friends and what sort of things I liked to do. Apart from football, I didn’t have anything resembling a hobby and I only had one friend, Georgina and she was only friends with me because we were both what people would call tomboys and had what the teachers call “an attitude”. I only ever wore dresses or skirts when I had to, at school for instance. I much preferred jeans, hoodies and plain tops. Other girls were spouting on about fashion, makeup and even boys in our year, but it all left me a bit cold.
I was told that I would grow out of it, but I saw little sign of that so far. I preferred who and what I was and I just wasn’t into the fluffy, uber-girlie stuff that some of the kids at school went in for.
We both finished eating at the same time. Claire put her knife and fork down and then looked at me.
‘Well Emma, I can’t put it off any longer, I have to tell you about what has been going on. You need to be brave about this, but you are here because of your father.’
I looked at her. What did she mean?
‘Why, what happened; is he hurt, what…?’
‘Well your father has been a bit naughty.’
She sounded like he had been a naughty child.
‘Naughty, what do you mean?’
‘I don’t know how much you know about running a large multi-national company?’
‘Well at your age, I’m not surprised so I’ll keep it simple. Your father has been systematically taking money out of the pension fund…’
‘Yes, that’s a fund set up by the company to pay workers a pension when they retire. Anyway, for some time, the company has had financial problems because of various things that you probably won’t understand. To keep the company going your father has evidently used the pension funds.’
‘Isn’t he allowed to do that?’
‘No, the money should only be used for pensions and not be touched. Normally, the funds are kept separate from the normal business, but your father has somehow been able to dip into it whenever he feels like it.’
‘Is he in trouble?’
‘Yes he is; he needed to disappear for a while and rather quickly, so he has, shall we say, gone on an extended break abroad, to a country where he is safe and cannot be brought back to face any possible charges.’
I didn’t know what to think — my Dad a criminal! I couldn’t believe it, my Dad was a nice man, he was good to his workers and everyone said how great he was. He was kind and gentle and he loved me. After Mum died of cancer, he became my mother as well as father. I know that he was always busy, but when he could, he managed to find time to be with me.
‘Can I speak to him?’
‘Not at the moment; by now, he is on a flight. He said that he will get word to you as soon as possible. He is so sorry that he didn’t have time to see you or get word to you sooner.’
‘Where is Henry?’
‘He has gone with your father. I don’t know if you are aware, but Henry, apart from being a chauffeur, is also your father’s security man, minder and personal guard.’
‘I didn’t know.’
‘That’s OK, not many people do. He needs to stay with your father to protect him.’
‘But why are you looking after me?’
‘Well, as you know, you don’t have any close relatives and he asked me to look after you and keep you safe until all this mess is sorted out. Anyway, erm…he and I have been getting rather close lately and he turned to me for help.’
I didn’t really know what she meant by “close” or perhaps didn’t want to know, so I picked up on something else.
‘Safe, what do you mean by that?’
She looked sad. I suppose that she was rather pretty, about my fathers’ age; thin, tall, with large blue eyes.
‘Well Emma, there are some people out there who will want to do your father some harm after the pension problems become public. Think of it, all those people who thought that they would have a cosy pension when they retire could now have nothing. Then there are also the distinct possibility of police enquires.’
‘What has all that got to do with me?’
‘They may want to get at your father, through you.’
I didn’t want to think about what she meant by that, as it sounded a bit nasty.
I was close to tears. My dad a criminal and abroad and me hiding away ‘cos it wasn’t safe for me. What was going to happen to us?
‘I…I don’t know what to do.’
‘Don’t cry dear, here’s a tissue.’
A wiped my eyes. I tried to be big and grown up about this, but it was very upsetting. So much for me being a hard case.
My tears had dripped onto my school blouse.
‘I’m all wet now,’ I said.
‘Never mind that, listen to me Emma. It’s possible that you will be looked for. You can’t go back to school, as that would be an obvious place for you to be found and anyway, it’s half term. Also the police will probably want to speak to you and then when it’s found out that your father has left the country, you may be handed over to social services and your father will not be able to send for you.’
‘That doesn’t explain…’
‘As I say, the authorities and perhaps other people will be on the lookout for you; the press, disgruntled employees and goodness knows who else. If you were dressed and looked different, they wouldn’t know it was you.’
‘That’s silly; we would never get away with it!’
‘I know that it sounds a bit daft, but you don’t want to get caught do you?’
‘And, if you are caught, your father might feel that he needs to get back here before he is able to sort things out — then he may be hurt or sent to prison — do you want that?’
‘No, of course not, but…’
‘Well then; you need to be disguised and the best way to do that is pretend that you are someone else. Your father suggested it, in fact.’
‘H…how are you going to disguise me? Not as a boy!’
‘No, you are too pretty to be a boy and you have the shape of a girl.’
‘I’m not pretty.’ I said with certainty.
‘You should look in the mirror some time. In a few years time, you’ll be fighting off the boys.’
‘I kid you not. Now, we can dye your hair for a start. It can change your look dramatically. I can also cut it for you; in a previous life, I worked in a salon.’
‘I like my hair long.’
‘Even though you are a bit of a tomboy?’
She just smiled in the superior irritating way that some adults have when they know they are right.
‘It will grow out and we need you to look a lot different. It’s for your safety. Look, we are at my house at the moment, but we can’t stay here long, it’s not safe. Before I picked you up, I got some things for you to wear; we can’t go back to your house remember; it’s too dangerous. The clothes are in those carrier bags in the bedroom.’
‘I have clothes in my case.’
‘I bet that they are jeans, t-shirts and stuff like that.’
‘So, lots of girls wear jeans.’
She sighed and then talked to me as if I was a little kid that needed simple explanations all the time.
‘As I said before, we need to change your look. We want you to be someone different so that you look nothing like Emma. Doing something with your hair is a very good start, but we also have to change the sort of things that you wear too, then no-one will recognise you. ’
I followed her up to the bedroom like I was going to the gallows.
In the overly pink bedroom, I looked at the bags uncertainly. This was all like a nightmare.
‘I know, it’s hard Emma, but think of it as an adventure and it should only be for a little while.’
‘I don’t know yet; this has happened so fast that we haven’t sorted things out fully.’
She stood up.
‘Let’s go and sort your hair out and then you can try on your clothes.’
I reluctantly followed her out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. To say the least, I was not a happy bunny!
Half an hour later, I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair had been cut so that it now rested just above the shoulders in a sort of a long bob. My once dark hair was now more of a strawberry blond. I did look different; I hardly recognised myself.
I wasn’t sure that I liked the look, but it was too late now. I had to live with it.
Claire came in the bathroom.
‘Your hair looks nice, it suits you. Now go put something on and then come into the kitchen; we need to talk some more.’
With that she left and I went into the bedroom and walked over with some reluctance to the three carrier bags.
I opened the first bag and saw some under things, you know. Bras and panties; a couple sets of PJ’s, all a bit too young and girlie for my liking and three pairs of short white socks with pink edging.
I shuddered, not being too keen on pink. I put the stuff on the bed and then went over to the next bag. Looking in, I saw that there was two skirts one black and another pink, a white blouse and yet another in pink. Also there was a yellow strappy type thin dress, which was yellow in colour with tiny flowers; finally, there was a thin white cardigan.
After putting the stuff on the bed, I picked up the final bag, hoping to find some jeans, maybe leggings…
I heart dropped through the floor as I saw that the bag only contained shoes; white sandals and some black shoes with low chunky heals.
Sighing, I went over to the bed and sat down. I wasn’t happy about this, but had no choice; what to wear?
I much preferred jeans and capri’s and clothes that weren’t pink. As far as I was concerned, pink was for little girls and I wasn’t little anymore. I suppose, I was a bit small for my age, but I make up for that by having a big personality! I never was into skirts and dresses. It wasn’t me. They called me a tomboy, but I just liked what I was most comfortable to be in. It was bad enough that I had to wear a training bra!
I rummaged through the clothes and with distaste, finally picked up the black skirt and white top. I just couldn’t handle pink! I slipped on the blouse; it was cotton, similar to my school one. Next I pulled on the skirt; it had an elasticated waist so I didn’t have any zips or buttons to worry about. It came just above my knees. I sniffed, thinking that I looked dorky, weird and stupid. On an impulse, I turned over the waistband a few times and then the hem was about mid-thigh. That was better. If I had to wear a skirt, I didn’t want to look like a convent reject.
After putting on the ankle socks,I finally, slipped on the shoes; they felt a bit strange as they made me feel a bit taller (good) and clomped as I walked over to the door (bad). I much preferred trainers but I didn’t have that choice.
Looking at my reflection on the wardrobe door, I didn’t like what I saw. I still felt that I looked about ten, a dorky, gormless ten year old, dressed by a mummy who had absolutely no dress sense.
At least I took comfort that I looked very different to my normal self.
I left the bedroom and followed my nose to the kitchen. Claire was stirring something on the cooker; it smelt like tomato soup.
‘Hello.’ I said shyly, feeling all awkward in these strange, alien clothes.
She turned round and smiled.
‘You look lovely Emma and your hair really suits you!
‘Come on; try to be enthusiastic about this. You are helping your father, after all.’
‘I know; I’ll try but it’s all a bit much…you know?’
‘I know; it’s all a bit of a shock. Look, the pizza we had at the services wasn’t very large, so have some soup and then we’ll finish getting you ready.’
I sipped at the hot soup, thinking of my Dad and where he might be. I still found it incredible that he was now a wanted man and also, I could not get my head around my changed look.
After we finished our soup, we went back into the pinkyfied bedroom. I noticed that Claire had a couple of bags in her hands.
‘Come and sit at the dressing table. Look, we can’t call you Emma,So how about Melissa?’
‘I know, and you’re a very brave girl. But we need to change your name; I can’t call you Emma, just in case it gets picked up by someone out to find you. So Melissa?’
‘I spose,’ I replied, unenthusiastically. I had changed my look, why not my name? After all that had happened, I was beyond caring.
‘Do you ever wear makeup?’
‘No, Dad doesn’t like it and I’m not too keen. Some of the other girls at school wear as much as they can get away with, but not me.
‘Well, in that case it will add to your disguise.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘Yes, I’m afraid so. Okay, sit down Melissa.’
It was strange being called that, but I just sat down. She stood in front of me and looked closely at my face.
‘Right, shut your eyes and keep them shut, OK? I only need to put a little bit of makeup on you. It will help with the disguise.’
‘OK, but not too much, please!’
‘Don’t be a wimp, Melissa. Anyway, you have nice clear skin, so there’s no need to overdo it.’
Over the next few minutes, she did things to my face. I’m not sure what she did, but my eyes, cheeks and lips got painted, plastered or whatever and then she was finished.
‘Don’t open your eyes yet.’
I kept them closed, although by now, I was a bit curios as to how much of a clown, I looked like. Perhaps I could run away to the circus or something! Eventually, after what seemed like hours but was probably minutes, she finally finished.
‘Right, what do you think?’
I opened my eyes and saw my reflection, talk about weird; I looked like my own sister, if I had one.
I tried to take it all in. The blond hair; eyes made wide with makeup; cheeks making me look like I was blushing a bit; lips shiny pink and feeling a bit sticky. Then there were the clothes; the black skirt and white top; the whole thing made me look, well erm, so very girlie!
I sighed. I wasn’t happy with this, but what could I do? Short of running away, I would have to be this person that I wasn’t, if you know what I mean.
‘Do you like?’
I turned to Claire, who had a slight smile on her face.
‘I look — strange.’
‘You’ll get used to it.’
‘I hope not. Are you sure I can’t speak to Dad?’
‘Not at the moment; he promised to ring me on my mobile as soon as it was safe. Now it’s time for us to go. Here is a bag for you.’
She passed me a black small shoulder bag made of leather.
‘It has essentials in there.’
‘Like makeup, purse, tissues — stuff like that.’
I shuddered slightly as I put the thing on my shoulder.
‘Come on, let’s go. Do you want to use the toilet?’
‘Well try anyway, as we have a long way to go and I don’t know if we’ll be able to stop much on the way.’
‘Where are we going?’
‘It’s a surprise; leave your bag on the bed and then pop into the toilet. While you are sorting yourself out, I’ll pack the rest of your new clothes for you in the case.’
I reluctantly went to the toilet, shut the door and sat down.
To say I felt strange would be an understatement. Sitting there, I could see my reflection in the mirror, over to the side. I was fast becoming more than a little bit fed up with all that was happening to me.
I thought about my dad; was he worried about me? He must be, otherwise he wouldn’t have suggested disguising me like this; and what about Claire; was she Dad’s girlfriend? Different questions kept popping into my mind. How was I going to pretend to be this girl Melanie, no Melissa? She was nothing like me. I wondered what my best friend Georgina would think of me if she saw me like this — I bet she would laugh…
‘Melissa, have you finished yet.’
I couldn’t wee; I had too much on my mind. I stood up and pulled the panties up, then washed my hands, avoiding looking in the mirror again as I felt more than uncomfortable looking at that stranger.
I went back into the bedroom; Claire was just finishing packing some stuff in a case.
‘Is that my case?’
‘Yes dear,’ she replied as she closed and pushed down the catches.
She picked up my case and asked me to carry a few bags — including my new shoulder bag out.
It was quite warm outside; Claire locked the front door and we headed out to the sleek, shiny BMW.
After putting the bags in the boot, we got into the car. As soon as Claire switched the engine on, the air conditioning kicked in and I felt more comfortable. The car quietly moved away from the curb and we were soon on a motorway, doing about 70 miles an hour. Music was playing — ABBA again, I think. I tried to work out where we were going by the signs. We were heading west on the M4 towards Exeter, that’s all I knew.
‘Can you tell me where we are going now?’
‘It’s a surprise, but we are going to the West Country; that’s all I’m telling you for now so be patient.’
‘Can we have the radio on?’
‘Erm…no; I get distracted when they start to talk, that why I only like music on when I’m driving.’
I sat back and watched the scenery go by.
I looked at Claire out of the corner of my eye. She was very pretty for someone quite old. I wondered again if she and my dad really did have a ‘thing’ going on. She had been a bit cagey when she mentioned it before. If they were serious, would I like her as a mum? Not sure really as I love my mum more than anything, even though she wasn’t with us anymore.
I must have shut my eyes; when I woke up, it was starting to get dark. I immediately felt the need to use a toilet.
‘Claire, I need to use a loo.’
She looked a bit annoyed for some reason.
‘Didn’t you go when we were at home?’
She thought for a moment.
‘Okay, I didn’t want to stop because there is always a chance of being recognised, but looking as you are, we should be alright. There’s a motorway service station about ten miles up the road, we’ll stop there.’
We were soon pulling into the services. It was the usual type, with McDonalds, Burger King, another restaurant run by the service station owners, a shop selling expensive food, mags and other stuff and most importantly, of course, it had a toilet!
As soon as we stopped, I quickly opened the car door and then felt myself being grabbed by the arm.
‘Hang on, don’t rush; you will draw attention to us. Wait a sec and I’ll come with you.’
I got out of the car and shut the door. I was almost dancing now, what Georgie always called the pee dance.
‘Okay,’ said Claire, ‘let’s go — and walk please, don’t run.’
‘But I’m dying to go!’
‘Alright, we’ll walk fast; give me your hand.’
I reluctantly let her lead me by the hand. It made me feel like I was six or something.
After what seemed like a year, we arrived at the toilets. Claire whispered for me to go to in and be quick…I slipped in a cubical, bolted the door, sat down and let go with a sigh of relief.
After I had finished, I went outside to wash my hands. Claire was there waiting for me.
‘All done? Good.’
‘Are you…okay, we have time to have a quick bite; what do you fancy?’
‘Nuggets with curry source.’
‘Right, McDonald’s, it is.’
Soon, I was biting into my first nugget. Things didn’t seem so bad, now that I had been to the toilet and was able to feed my face. As I munched, I began to realise that I should be more worried about being found out. In all the rush of finding the loo and then getting something to eat, I had clean forgotten how I was dressed and looked. I casually glanced around me to see if anyone was noticing me and just saw people doing their own thing and not paying a blind bit of attention to me. I relaxed a bit. I think that even my best friends would have a problem recognising me like this!
I was sucking up some Coke in a straw when Claire picked up her bag and pulled out a bottle of pills, unscrewed the cap and shook it in her hand.
‘I almost forgot, you have to take two of these.’
‘What are they?’
‘Your dad said that you went to the doctors last week and had a blood test.’
‘Yes.’ I said, remembering the injection with a shudder. I hate injections and the doctor must have taken an arm full out of me — well that what it seemed, anyway.
‘Well the results came in and the doctor said that you were a bit anaemic so you need iron tablets. Before your dad left, he asked me to get a supply and make sure you take them.’
‘They won’t send me to sleep, will they?’
‘No, silly, they will help you to get some iron in your blood; lots of people take them, even athletes and footballers; I did when I was pregnant.’
‘Well,’ I thought, ‘if athletes and footballers take them, it must be okay.’
I was in the girls’ football team at school and took the game seriously.
I swallowed the brown pills and washed them down with some coke. I could feel them go down my throat — not a very nice feeling!
We finally finished the meal and then got up to leave; going through the crowds, we went past the shop. I glanced in and noticed that there were quite a few people looking around it.
I suddenly thought of something.
‘Can I get a paper? I want to see how my football team, Chelsea are doing.’
‘Erm…no time,now, we’ll get a paper in the morning, if we have time.’
It was a shame because I really wanted to see if there was anything about my dad in the papers.
Before too long, we were back in the car, ready to continue with the journey, but before we started, Claire looked at me.
‘I think we need to touch up you war paint.’
‘Your makeup needs a bit of a touch up, especially your lips.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘Yes, you need to get used to doing it yourself, so open your bag and let’s see if you can do it yourself in the vanity mirror.’
‘But it’s getting dark.’ I protested, ‘no one will see me.’
‘No buts, you need to practice.’
I opened the bag reluctantly, almost as if I expected a snake in there or something and saw the lipstick, tucked down the side. Pulling it out, I took the cap off. It had a sort of wand thingy in there and it sucked slightly as I pulled it out of the tube.
‘Okay, let’s see if you can put the lipstick on yourself.’
‘Yes you Miss and don’t shout, ladies don’t do that.’
I pulled down the visor and there was a little mirror; it was lit up and I could see my face, quite clearly. Most of the makeup had stayed put, but my lipstick had worn off, maybe ‘cos of eating and drinking.
With slightly shaking hands, I put the stick up against my lips and traced around.
Claire looked at me carefully.
‘Hmm, not bad; you’ve gone over a bit too far in the corner.’
She wiped some of the excess lipstick off with a tissue and then looked again.
‘Yes, that’s fine for a first attempt. The rest of your makeup isn’t too bad. Well done Melissa, I’m proud of you!’
I smiled at that but secretly hoped that I wouldn’t have to get too good at makeup in the near future, enough of that when I had to use it to hide all the cracks in my face when I got older.
The journey continued. It was getting quite late now and Claire mentioned that we wouldn’t be getting to our destination for several hours.
‘Why don’t you shut your eyes and sleep for a while. I’ll wake you up later.’
I yawned, it had been a long day.
‘Okay; night, night.’
I thought that I would have trouble sleeping, but obviously not, because when I woke up, dawn was breaking and we were no longer on a motorway. In fact, we were on a little winding country lane.
‘Where are we?’ I yawned, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
‘Hello, sleepyhead, decided to wake up?’
‘Yes but are we there yet?’
‘Nearly, just about a mile to go.’
I sat up a bit at that; wondering where we were and where this mystery destination might be.
The road got a bit rougher from there on and soon we were going along nothing more than a rutted track.
I couldn’t see where we were because each side of the road had high hedges. We didn’t pass any other traffic and it seemed that the track wasn’t used much, as there were weeds growing in the middle of it. Through gaps in the hedges, I could see hills and fields but not much else.
Just then, the sun rose and it started to feel a bit hotter. We went around a left hand bend and then right hand one. Suddenly, the view opened out and I gasped as we pulled up outside what looked like an old ivy covered cottage. But that wasn’t what made me gasp; it was the view; because the cottage was on the side of a hill overlooking a lovely sandy bay and beyond that lay the deep blue sea that reached over to the horizon.
‘Welcome to Cornwall, Melissa!’
I looked at the scene before me; on the left was a pretty rose covered cottage and on the right a view of the cove down below. It was great! I had always loved the seaside, but what with Dad’s work and everything, I had not been able to go more than twice to the seaside and they were only day trips.
‘Can I get out?’ I exclaimed excitedly.
‘Yes, of course, but don’t run off; we’ll go down to the cove when we settle in.’
I quickly opened the door and got out of the BMW.
It was a bit windy and as I stood there admiring the view, my skirt started to rise up and I had to hold it down. My hair was waving about in the breeze and kept getting in my eyes; I needed to get some scrunchies.
It was a lovely place; I could see the waves washing gently up the sandy shore; it was so quiet there, that I could actually hear the waves in the distance as they went up against the rocks at the edge of the cove.
It was very hilly and the cottage was sort of perched on an outcrop of rocks and was, in parts, built into the hill. I could see a few other cottages dotted around and on the other side of the cove; one was actually on the beach.
‘I bet that’s neat,’ I thought, ‘being able to live right on the shore!’
‘Come on, Melissa, help me with the bags.’
I reluctantly tore myself away from the view and helped Claire.
We struggled up several steps leading to the front door and Claire put her bags down and fished out a key from her handbag.
Once the door was opened, she went in and I followed, curious to see what the inside looked like.
The door led straight into a lounge, or sitting room, I suppose you would call it.
I was pleased in one way that I wasn’t that big yet, because the ceilings were low and covered with wooden beams. Tall adults would bang their heads!
‘Welcome to your new home!’ beamed Claire as she turned to me and waved her hands about.
‘It’s nice, but it’s not my home.’ I said a bit ungratefully.
‘Well it is until we can get your dad sorted out. What do you think of the place?’
‘It’s great and I love the seaside!’ I said, trying to make up for my rather unkind remark.
‘I thought you might.’
‘Is this your cottage?’
‘Yes, I inherited it from an Aunt, Working in London, I don’t get down here as much as I would like, but I have used it as a sort of holiday home for years. It helps to have a nice place, to get away from the pressure.’
‘Where will I sleep?’
‘I’ll show you in a minute. Let me give you the tour.’
She led me through to the kitchen, which was larger than I thought it would be, it had a range over in the corner and lots of pots and pans hanging from a low ceiling, beneath which was a large rustic wooden table. There was a dresser on one side; I think they call it a Welsh dresser. It had lots of plates, cups and saucers on it; placed neatly in wooden slots and hooks. On the other side of the kitchen was a normal cooker, a worktop, microwave and flat screen television.
‘Yes it all looks nice.’
‘The range is mainly used for heating in the winter, but I like making my own bread when I get the chance and it has a great oven for that. Let’s go upstairs and I’ll show what’s up there.’
I followed her up the narrow stone staircase; it led to a landing.
‘Come on, follow me,’ she said turning left.
She pointed out the bathroom as we passed along the passage. I peeped in and saw that bathroom was quite small and had a shower instead of a bath. I liked that as I always preferred showers. Over to one side was a toilet and washbasin. As I say, it wasn’t a large bathroom, mind you I suppose, officially, it was a shower room but, there again, I’m not a large girl, and so I didn’t need much elbow room!
I caught up with Claire as she went to a room at the end of the passage.
‘This is my room.’
It was a pleasant room, light and clean looking. It had a double bed with white pillows and a bright and colourful quilt on it.
There was a dressing table and chair in the corner and by the bed was a bedside table.
I walked over to the bedside table and saw a photo in a silver frame. There were three people in it, smiling for the camera. One was obviously Claire and with her was a man and a young girl; about my age; she was pretty, with long blond hair.
‘Is this your family?’
Claire walked over with a bit of a frown on her face, for some reason.
‘Erm, yes, my ex-husband and my daughter.’
‘Aren’t they worried about where you are?’
‘They went on holiday to the States…Let’s go and see your room!’ she replied rather sadly, changing the subject.
She grabbed me by the hand and we went out of her room and back along the passage to the other end. She let me pass her as she said ‘Go on, open the door.’
I did as I was asked, curious to see where I would be staying.
The room was of a similar size to Claire’s bedroom, but with a single bed. The walls were very pale pink emulsion and the bed coverings were sort of very pale blue. On the pillow was a small doll, pink, of course. All in all, it was certainly not a boy’s room!
‘Do you like it?’
‘Yes, it’s nice room.’ I said, trying to sound polite. ‘Can I go out?’
‘I don’t see any harm in going out later. We may see some walkers or others trying to find their way through the cove to the sea and also, there are a few other occupied cottages in the cove so we don’t want to raise any suspicions, do we? The last thing we want is for the authorities to get wind of strangers living here. It may lead to your Dad getting caught, so we’ll have to be careful and not draw too much attention to ourselves.Is that okay?’
‘Good girl, now let’s get those bags up here and then we can have a cup of tea.’
She went downstairs, but before I followed her, I looked out of the window. It was small, but had a great view of the cove and the sea beyond. It was a clear, cloudless day and I could see for miles. There were a few ships on the horizon and what looked like a sail boat in the cove. I couldn’t see clearly, but it looked like there was a girl in the boat. She had bright red hair flowing in the wind. I wished I was on a boat, sailing towards my Dad. I hoped I would see him soon and that all our problems would be over.
It was a nice scene; the only thing that bothered me was the noise of what looked like hundreds of seagulls that seemed to think that the cove was their home. I hoped that they went to sleep at night!
I went down the steep stairs to find that Claire was picking up some bags.
‘Good, can you pick up those two, they’re yours.’
I picked them up and also my shoulder bag and struggled back up the stairs with everything.
‘At this rate, I’ll get big muscles in my legs, going up and down these stairs,’ I thought, puffing slightly.
I turned right at the top and went into what was now my room and put the bags on the floor; I then sat on the bed and bounced up and down a bit. It was a comfortable bed, soft and springy — just how I liked it.
I had a thought, ‘where is my mobile phone. Perhaps I can ring Georgie or text her.’
Picking up the shoulder bag and very annoyed at myself for not thinking about it before, I rummaged about, but couldn’t see my phone anywhere. I then opened up the other bags and had a good look in them. I found my iPod and charger, but no phone. Had I left it at Claire’s house? I went to her room and knocked on the door.
I heard steps crossing the polished wooden floor, and then the door opened.
‘Strange,’ I thought, ‘Claire’s eyes look red as if she has been crying.’
‘Are you okay?’ I said.
‘Yes fine, just hay fever; it affects my eyes, sometimes; come in.’
She didn’t have streaming eyes a short while ago and it made me wonder if that was just another possible lie or was she telling me the truth?
I went into her room and could see her bags on the bed with some clothes as well…
‘Claire, I can’t find my mobile phone.’
‘Can’t you; that’s strange.’
‘Have you seen it?’
‘No; you must have left it somewhere.’
‘I ‘spose I might have left it at your house. Is there a phone here?’
‘No, my aunt never bothered. I have my mobile and that means I can keep in touch with things.’
‘Will you be ringing my Dad?’
‘No, he asked not to be contacted, as any calls might be traced to him. He is going to get another non-traceable phone where he is going to and then he will contact us.’
‘Oh ,’ I sighed, ‘ I miss him.’
‘I know, honey — come here for a cuddle.’
She opened her arms and I went over to her. She wasn’t my Mum or Dad, but at least she cared.
As she hugged me, I looked over her shoulder.
I couldn’t help noticing that the silver frame with her family picture had gone.
After a little while, I felt a bit better and Claire gave me a tissue to wipe my eyes.
‘Shall we go and have a cuppa?’ she said with a smile.
I just nodded and we were soon sitting in the kitchen, drinking some hot sweet tea and dunking some Scottish shortcake biscuits.
‘Feeling a little bit better now?’
‘I’m going to have to have a nap later or I’ll be falling asleep on my feet. It’s okay for you, you slept on the journey.’
‘Are you sure that you don’t want to sleep now? I asked.
‘No, later. I’ll be all right.’
‘What are we going to do now then?’
‘Well, you young lady, are going to have a shower and get a change of clothes, then we’ll have a late breakfast…how does bacon and eggs sound?’
‘Great! What are we doing after breakfast?’
‘Well, I need to have a shower too, that will wake me up but I’ll have mine after breakfast. Then we’ll go down to the beach, if you want.’
‘Wow! Could we?’
‘Yes, of course, so wear something that would be good on a beach. See if you can choose something appropriate.’
‘Pity I don’t have a cozzie!’ I laughed.
‘Well, if you look carefully, I packed a couple for you, but don’t look too anxious, it’s a bit early in the morning for swimming, it’ll be freezing, so wear something nice, okay?’
‘Okay,’ I said reluctantly. Nice to Claire meant something frilly and girlie.
Then I thought a bit more positively.
I ran upstairs and tore my clothes off, and then had a shower. There was a shower cap, so to keep my hair dry, I put it on. I noticed some shower gel on a shelf in the shower, so after getting myself nice and soggy, I squeezed some goo on my hands and used it all over. It had a nice flowery smell to it, which I liked. When drying myself, I noticed how soft and smooth my skin felt and realised that it was the shower gel that did that.
Soon, I was back in my bedroom and sorting out through my bags to find something suitable to wear. I saw the two swimming cozzies, one black and one, the inevitable pink and I would have loved to wear the black one, but as Claire said, it was probably a bit cold at the moment.
In the end, I chose a pale pink tee shirt with small flowers on it, and a shortish white cotton skirt that ended just above my knees, well it did until I turned the waistband up a bit. Then I found some white sandals that well with the skirt and I was nearly ready. I would have preferred shorts or capri’s and if all this hiding was going to go on for a while, I would have to get Claire to buy me some. I wondered if Claire’s daughter was forced to have the dorky little girl look.
I brushed my hair until it looked reasonable tidy. I still wasn’t used to the length and the colour, but it was growing on me. I saw my makeup bag on the dressing table. I didn’t feel very confident doing that stuff, so I took the bag downstairs with me.
I still didn’t see why I needed to wear makeup. It seemed silly that any girl of twelve would want to wear that goop, but Claire knew more about this sort of thing than I did and I knew that many of the girls at school used makeup, despite the school rules.
When I went into the kitchen, I could smell the mouth watering bacon and eggs and I realised how hungry I really was.
Claire looked up from the cooker and looked at me.
‘Nice choice of clothes, well done!’
‘I didn’t know what to do about makeup. Do I really need to wear it?’
‘Well, just a dusting, but we’ll sort that out before we go down to the beach. Can you get some orange juice out of the fridge and put it on the table?’
I did as I was asked and soon we were tucking into our breakfast. I enjoyed it a lot, not realising how hungry that I actually was. We didn’t talk much while we were eating — mouths too full, I suppose.
Soon, I was quite full up and pushed away my plate with a sigh.
‘Thank you, it was very nice.’
‘You’re welcome, honey. I’m just going to have a quick shower and change; can you do the washing up, while I’m upstairs? I won’t be long.’
As I washed up, I thought again about the strange things that were happening to me. It seemed so unreal, standing there, washing up in a cottage; by the seaside in Cornwall, with all that was happening to Dad.
With a pang, I wondered where he was and I realised how much I missed him. Although he was always busy with his work, I loved the small amount of time that we had together. I remembered when he took me fishing once. I tried all day to catch a fish and when I finally managed to catch one, I was all upset, because I thought that the fish was in pain. Dad took the hook out and let it go; he never took me again, because he realised that it upset me to hurt anything. Then I remembered when he took me to see Swan Lake; I thought that it would be sissy and not a thing that a tomboy like me should go to, but the music and dancing was fantastic and I remember crying when Odette and Siegfried drowned themselves by leaping into the lake. It was lovely but very sad.
Then I thought about the strange things going on at the moment. I hated to think of my Dad as a criminal and it was all hard to take in. He couldn’t be guilty and I just knew that it must be some terrible mistake.
I had just finished washing up when Claire came downstairs.
‘All done? Thanks Melissa; right let’s sort out your face and we can get off.
Once again, with a sigh, I shut my eyes while Claire put on my makeup. She didn’t seem to put on as much as last time and I was grateful for that. Soon she was finished and she showed me in a mirror what she had done.
Whatever she did, it was enough for me to look different. What with the clothes, hair and makeup, Emma was nowhere to be seen. I was sad about that, but realised that as a disguise, nobody would think that I was another girl called Emma.
‘Now, Melissa, while we are out, we might see people, especially down at the beach and on the lane leading down to it. Remember, you are Melissa, not Emma. If anyone asks, you are staying with your Auntie Claire for a few weeks. It’s important as we do not want anyone to guess who you really are and put you or your dad in danger; okay?’
I just nodded, realising the seriousness of the situation and not wanting my dad to get caught through my giving the game away.
We left the cottage and walked down the narrow lane towards the cove down below. I began to get a bit excited as we got nearer the beach. I could smell the sea and could hear more clearly the sounds of the waves. Seagulls were making their usual noises and it all added to the seaside thing.
There was a gate in front of us and Claire opened it, letting us through and then closing it behind us. We were now on a narrow pathway through a wood and the sun was partially hidden by the trees. I could hear the branches and leaves waving in the breeze and the sounds of the sea ahead. I felt goose bumps on my arms and bare legs, as it was a lot cooler in the shade.
The trees thinned and suddenly we were out in the sunshine again. There before us was a narrow sandy path that led onto the beach. The sand was almost white and very fine. My feet started to sink as I started to run toward the deep blue sea. I could hear Claire behind me, laughing as she tried to keep up with me as I ran to the water and just stopped myself before a gentle wave broke up onto the shore, almost wetting my white sandals. I was surprised how cold it was, but it was great!
I looked around and saw the cove was a bit larger than it had seemed from the cottage; it was a wonderful place and I loved it more than I thought possible.
Claire walked up to me, slightly out of breathe.
‘Do you like it?’
‘Oh yes, Claire; it’s wonderful!’
‘I’m glad; I’ve had many happy times here, let’s go and sit by those rocks for a minute.
She walked over to some outcrops of rocks and sat down. After a few moments I sat down beside her. It was still fairly early, but the sun was getting stronger. I could feel the heat on my bare arms and legs and I realised that today was going to be a scorcher. Maybe I could get to wear my swimming costume later and have a swim after all.
Claire must have thought it was hot as well as she opened her bag and had a rummage around.
‘What’s wrong?’ I said.
‘I forgot the suntan lotion.’
‘Do you want me to get it?’
She thought for a moment.
‘No, that’s OK; I’ll go. You wait here and don’t go far; remember what I said.’
‘Yes, Auntie Claire.’
She looked at me with a smile on her face, but somehow her eyes looked a bit sad.
‘See you in a minute,’ she said getting up and making her way back up the beach.
I watched her leave the beach and go into the wood. I looked back to the sea and then got up, brushing the fine sand off my skirt and legs. I slipped off my sandals and left them by the rocks as I walked down towards the water.
The sand was warm on my feet and I loved the sensation of the hot grains as they went through my toes.
I reached the water and dipped my toes in; the water was surprisingly cold but lovely too. I hoped that I could swim here. I always loved swimming and I was quite good at it. To swim in the sea had always been one of the things that I always wanted to do, but had never had the chance.
I was totally concentrating on the water as the waves ran over my feet…
I jumped, nearly falling over in surprise at the voice coming behind me.
Turning around,I saw that there was a girl, about my age standing there. She had flaming red hair and was covered in freckles.
‘H…hello.’ I said.
She was wearing white shorts and a t-shirt, lemon in colour. She was quite thin and her hair long red hair waved about a bit in the sea breeze.
‘Are you on holiday?’ she asked.
‘Yes…no…I mean yes.’
‘Don’t you know if you’re on holiday?’
‘S…sorry, I mean, I am sort of on holiday, I’m here with my Auntie Claire?’
‘Claire; Oh from up at the cottage?’ She pointed in the vague direction of the one I was staying at.
‘Yes, that’s right; are you?’
‘Am I what?’
‘No, I live here.’
She pointed at the cottage near the edge of the beach.
‘It must be neat staying so close to the sea?’
‘Yes, it’s great; I can go out on my sailing boat when Mummy lets me.’
I was getting over my shyness now but was trying to be careful not to say anything that might give the game away. I tried to keep the conversation off me and onto her.
‘I saw you,’ I said.
‘I saw you from my bedroom window, you were in a boat. It was you wasn’t it?’
‘Yes, probably; what’s your name?’
‘It must be horrible?’
‘To have a stutter like that; my Uncle Henry has a stutter, he daren’t say anything with a P in it.’
‘Sorry, I don’t want to make fun of you. I’m a bit silly like that. Mummy says I always put my foot in it up to my knees; I’m Felicity but that’s a mouthful so call me Flic.’
She put her hand out and I shook it up and down.
‘Gosh, you shake hands like a boy; my arm nearly fell off!’
‘That’s okay, only joking.’
We stood the looking at each other; both a bit quiet, not knowing what to say
‘You’re wearing makeup, it looks nice.’
‘Mummy won’t let me yet unless it’s a special party or something. She says that my skin is nice as it is without covering it up…’
We both looked round to see Claire walking down the beach towards us; she wasn’t smiling.
‘Hello, Felicity, I thought you were at school until term finished?’
‘No, we had an outbreak of measles at school and everyone came home a week early.’
Felicity looked at me.
‘I go away to school and only come home in the hols, where do you go to school?’
‘Fabians’,’ I replied without thinking. I could hear a sharp intake of breath coming from Claire which she sort of changed into a cough.
‘Ooh that’s a posh school. Are you here for long?’
‘Probably a couple of weeks, we’re not sure yet,’ saidClaire quickly, ‘look, Felicity; we have to go back to our cottage now; things to do, unpack and everything.’
‘Okay; maybe, I’ll see you around, Melissa.’
‘Sorry about the stutter thing, Melissa; do you want to go out on my boat, while you are here?’
‘That would be great!’ I said enthusiastically, ‘Can I C…Auntie Claire?’
‘We’ll see; now let’s get back, Melissa; we have things to do dear and we haven’t had breakfast yet.’
I waved goodbye to Felicity and followed Claire up the path to the cottage; we had had breakfast, so that was a lie, had she been lying about anything else? I didn’t know, but I was getting to be a suspicious.
Looking back to the beach; I could see Felicity walking down to the seashore. I thought she was nice and would very much like to be her friend. Lets face it–I lacked friends.
When we reached the cottage, Claire went into the kitchen with me following closely on her heals.
She sat down on a stool and then looked at me, questioningly.
‘How were you with Flic?’
‘Felicity; everyone calls her Flic. Did you say much to her?’
‘Not really, we only talked for a few minutes before you came up. She seemed nice.’
‘Yes, she’s a nice girl; she was friends with my…erm, well never mind that. Look, I’m sorry we didn’t have time to stay on the beach.’
‘Can I go back there later?’
‘We’ll see. Now would you like something to drink?’
She got up and went over to the looked in the fridge.
‘Hmm, I need to do some grocery shopping or we might starve. Would an orange juice be okay?’
She pulled out a carton and poured me some juice and then made herself a cup of tea. Then she picked up a biscuit barrel and offered me a shortcake. I never turn down the offer of a biscuit, no matter how worried or upset I was.
Dad sometimes said that I was shallow, whatever that means.
A few moments later we were sitting at the kitchen table and I looked up at Claire, she seemed distracted.
‘Hmm,’ she said.
‘How long will we be staying here; you said to Flic a couple of weeks?’
She frowned a bit and I hoped that she wasn’t going to be angry with me for asking.
She sipped her tea and then looked at me.
‘I don’t know, Melissa; it’s all complicated. I received a phone call from your dad while I was up here getting the sun cream; I wasn’t going to tell you about it, because I thought that you might get upset.’
Whilst she was talking, my heart flipped a bit at the thought of my father ringing; I stood up eagerly.
‘Is he okay; when will he be coming home, where is he, what’s happening?’
‘Shh, Melissa, I’m trying to tell you! Things are complicated; the police are definitely looking for him and so are some rather nasty people who want to do him harm. He hasn’t been traced yet and he has to go even deeper into hiding until he can sort things out. He has people over here that are doing their best to try to sort out the mess and until they can come up with something to help, he is going to be out of contact,’
‘I wanted to speak to him.’ I whispered, tears coming unbidden to my eyes.
‘I know, honey; he only had a few minutes and he was very disappointed that you wasn’t with me. The trouble is, he doesn’t want any sort of trace from his or my phone, that’s why the call was so quick. I can’t ring him back because he is going to change phones or SIM cards every time he rings here. Perhaps next time you will be here and be able to speak to him.’
‘Okay, can you at least tell me where he is?’ I sniffed.
‘Here, have a tissue. No I can’t tell you as I don’t know myself. Anyway, if either of us are caught, and we knew where he was, we might let slip and tell the police something. It’s better that we don’t know his location.’
I wiped my eyes, noticing the trace of makeup on the tissue. I couldn’t think about the situation anymore, it was too upsetting.
‘Flic doesn’t wear makeup.’ I said waving the soiled tissue at her.
Claire shook her head.
‘Always the tomboy; she does occasionally use makeup, like a lot girls your age; remember it does help your disguise and makes you look a little older. I remember…well never mind that, I’ll tell you another time. Now let’s get washed up and then I have a surprise for you!’
I helped wash up the breakfast things, wondering what the surprise was. After finishing, Claire took off her apron and then looked at me with a smile on her face.
‘I need to do some shopping in town, also you need some more clothes — now don’t look like that; girlie shopping can be fun, anyway, once we’ve been shopping, then we’ll have something to eat. After that, we can go to the cinema and see what’s on; I’ll have to do the food shopping last, to stop stuff spoiling. How does that all sound?’
‘Okay, I guess.’
‘Well don’t sound too enthusiastic, will you!’ She came over and gave me a hug then looked at me.
‘I’m sorry your dad can’t be here. I want him here too. He asked me to look after you and treat you like my own and that’s what I’m trying to do. Can you just go along with this and try to enjoy yourself? Your dad wants that more than anything.’
‘Does he?’ I said smiling slightly.
‘Yes he does.’
That made me feel a little better.
‘Can I get some shorts, jeans, capri’s and t-shirts?’ I asked, changing the subject.
‘All right,’ she laughed.
‘Great; so what’s on the pictures?’
She laughed, ‘that’s more like it; we’ll see when we get there. Now you, young lady need to change into something more appropriate.’
‘I look okay!’
She laughed.’ You have a lot to learn!’
An hour later, we were in the car heading towards town. I was wearing a thin cotton sundress, the label said Next and it was light blue with a white and red design. It had side zipper and was quite cool in the rising temperature. Mind you, the air con was kicking in and I did start getting a bit too cool and goosebumpy after a while. To add to my chilliness, I wasn’t wearing any socks, just some white sandals. Still it was preferable to being hot!
I did look in the mirror before we left. As usual, Claire insisted that I wear a bit of makeup. I licked my lips; the pink lipstick tasted slightly of strawberries, it was nice, but it still felt weird. The strange thing about all this was that I was getting used to wearing this stuff, you know the makeup and über girlie clothes. It wasn’t that bad, after all, my appearance was just a disguise. Underneath was the real Emma and I was just acting. I was glad that Georgie couldn’t see me now though, as she would laugh at me, she was more a tomboy than me and that was saying something.
The car went along the country lanes as I listened to Coldplay on my iPod, using my ear-buds. I turned my player up loud, ‘cos Claire insisted on having Abba on her car CD player again.
Finally, we arrived in town and Claire parked the car in a multi storey car park. I was a bit nervous as there were so many people there. What if someone realised that I was Emma, the daughter of a wanted person?
It was strange going around the shops with Claire. She was obviously getting into the shopping thing straight away. She dragged me into countless shops and I tried on about a million things like dresses, skirts, tops and blouses (what’s the difference?) Capri pants, jeans, you name it, I wore it!
It was funny, but after a while, I relaxed a bit and began to enjoy myself, trying on all the different clothes and stuff. Claire wasn’t my mum, but she seemed to care for me, so it was the next best thing.
We came away with several bags of clothes, which we left in the boot of the car.
‘Right, a bit of lunch and then the cinema. After that, we’ll get some food shopping and go home. Okay with you?’
I just nodded. I don’t know where she got the energy from!
We had lunch in McDonalds and then went to the cinema. We watched Bridge To Terabithia and I must admit, I cried when Leslie died! It was a sad film with a happy ending.
After a while I temporarily forgot my problems, relaxed and enjoyed myself.
After the film, we went back to the car and then went to Tesco’s for the food shopping. It was one of those huge mega-supermarkets that are open 24 hours a day. They sell everything from toilet rolls to TV’s, so you can get almost anything you might need there.
We got a trolley, and I pushed it around while Claire filled it up. We were over by the TV’s and we stopped for a minute.
‘Can you wait here? I need to get some rice.’
‘Okay,’ I said, rather bored with everything.
Getting out my iPod, I turned it on and listened to the music.
Watching people walk by and humming away, I glanced at a bank of different TV’s, all for sale on three shelves. Suddenly I gasped, as from about nine of the TV’s, there was a picture of me and my dad!
I pulled out my earplugs, just as the picture disappeared from the screens. The sound was down and I couldn’t find anything to turn it up on any of them! Then my heart fell as the pictured turned to adverts.
Claire came up and saw that I was upset.
‘There…there was a picture of me and Dad on the TV’s.’ I pointed.
She went pale in the face.
‘Come on, we have to go.’
We left the shopping trolley, full of food and headed for the exit in a hurry.
I was crying as we rushed out of the supermarket, my hard heels making quite a noise on the linoleum or whatever it’s called, as I struggled to keep up with Claire. She was holding my hand tightly as she virtually dragged me over to the car and got me in.
‘Claire, I cried, ‘what’s happening?’
‘Wait a minute; I will explain when we get going.’
With a screech of tires, we were out of the car park and onto the main road. I couldn’t stop crying, wet drops fell onto my sun-dress. Claire kept patting me on the knee and telling me not to worry. I was getting more and more upset. Why wouldn’t she tell me what’s going on!
Eventually, we were out of the town and on a quieter road. The coast was on my left and I could see bays and inlets in the openings of the hedgerows. There was a small bridge with a brook flowing under it. We went over the bridge and then stopped by the edge of the water on a grass bank. Claire switched off the engine and then turned to me.
I looked at her through my tears and she opened her arms. I went to her and she cuddled me until I stopped crying, she was lovely, soft and warm.
After a few moments, I felt a bit better and Claire handed me a tissue.
‘Wipe your eyes honey, we need to talk.’
I did as I was told and looking at the makeup stained tissue, I somehow said to myself that I needed to do my face again; weird.
‘Melissa, I was as shocked as you about the TV thing. I didn’t think that you would ever be seen on there.’
‘But why was I on TV with Dad?’
‘They must think that he’s with you for some reason. I need to know more about what’s going on. It isn’t safe for you to be seen. We’ll go home and then we’ll decide what to do, okay?’
‘Okay; when will Dad be calling again?’
‘I’m not sure. The line wasn’t too good, but I think he said tomorrow. Now let’s get back.’
I calmed down a bit after that, and apart from a few sniffles, I was all right.
Soon we were back at the cottage. It was early evening now and the sun was beginning to set over the bay. I looked over at Flic’s cottage and I fleetingly wondered what she was doing.
We got the bags from the boot and carried them into the cottage. I took them upstairs and put them on the bed. Trying not to think of my problems, I looked out of the window and marvelled at the scene. The beautiful bay looked lovely in the fading light. It would still be an hour before the sun set properly and I was betting that it would look lovely as it sank finally into the water.
I turned to see Claire standing in the doorway.
‘We need to work out what needs to be done. Can you come downstairs for a minute?’
I followed her down and into the kitchen and a few minutes later, we were drinking cocoa and dunking hobnobs.
‘Right Melissa, I’ve got a plan but it means you have to stay here by yourself. Is that okay?’
I nodded, not knowing what else to say.
‘I’m going back into town and I’ll try to get some information as to what is happening with your father then I’ll get the food at Tesco’s; we have to eat and we haven’t much in the cottage and then I’ll come back and tell you what I’ve found out.’
I thought of something.
‘If you’ve got a computer, you can look on the net about it.’
‘I don’t have internet connection.’
‘Can I put on the TV? The story might be on again.’
‘Reception here is no good. As I don’t live here all the time, I haven’t bothered, but I will probably get a satellite dish soon.’
I felt frustrated, wondering how anyone can keep in touch with everything without a TV or a computer with broadband.
‘Anyway, can you promise to stay here and not go anywhere while I’m out?’
Yes, Mum…I mean, Claire.’
I saw the look on her face when I said that slip. She looked shocked, surprised, happy, sad and upset all in a few seconds.
‘I…I had better go,’ she said kissing me on the cheek, ‘remember what I said, don’t leave the cottage…it’s not safe. Lock and bolt the doors when I’ve gone, okay?’
She gave me a little sad smile and left.
I heard the car go down the lane and went up to my room. Sitting on the bed, I wondered what was going to happen to me. If the police found me, would I be arrested and if so, for what? I started sniffing as I thought about my Dad and where he might be.
I needed something to do to take my mind off the horrible things that were happening, so I decided to sort out the carrier bags.
I took out the clothes and laid them on the bed; there seemed quite a lot and I thought that Claire went a bit mad with her buying spree. On an impulse, I tried on several of the things. I was getting quite into it and was enjoying myself.
On an impulse, I put on a dress that was really for parties. I’m not sure why Claire bought it as I had no parties to go to, but it was nice even if it was pink, but a very pale pink. It went down to just above my knees, was made from a very fine almost see through material and had straps like my sun dress. Underneath, it had a sort of net underskirt thing that made it flair out a bit. After putting it on, I went over to the dressing table and applied a bit more lipstick, wishing rather strangely that I was better at doing it. Then I brushed my hair a slightly different way and it somehow made me look a bit older. What would Georgie think of me now, wearing pink, of all colours?
My heart went into my mouth as I heard a loud knock on the door.
I carefully went to Claire’s room, which was in the front, and looked though the net curtains down to where the door was.
I could see the top of someone’s head. I sighed with relief as it was a red head…Flic!
I hurried downstairs and opened the door.
‘Hi, Melissa, doing anything…ooh that’s a pretty dress!’
‘Thanks,’ I said as I opened the door letting her in.
She was wearing some lemon coloured shorts and a pink vest. To be honest, I didn’t think the colour suited her flaming red hair, but I’m no expert!
We went into the sitting room.
‘Want a coke?’
‘Yes please, I’m parched. Where’s Claire?’
‘Gone into town for some food.’
‘Oh; are you going to a party or something?’
‘Just trying on my new clothes.’
I went into the kitchen, opened the fridge and took out two cans.
Going back into the sitting room, I handed the coke to Flic.
‘Did you want me for something?’
‘Nah, just bored and I just thought you might be too. So what did you buy?’
So we did the girl thing and went up to my bedroom, to see what I’d bought.
In no time, we were trying on the different outfits and we were having a great time..
It was a nice to be with my new friend for a bit and I almost forgot all my troubles. It was funny, I could sort of talk to Georgie and my few other friends at school, but I was never really that close to even her!
We were both outside, sitting on the step, watching the glorious sunset. Flic was wearing one of my purchases; a red skirt and top. It made her look like she was on fire, what with her hair and all! I was wearing a sky blue vest top and blue denim skirt and I felt good. We had tried different types of makeup and I showed my lack of practice quite soon; Flic helped me though and I was surprised how much makeup can change the way you look.
We talked about lots of things, groups we liked, games we played on our computers and I really began to think of her as a friend. Somehow my troubles had been put to the back of my mind, for a little while anyway and I was grateful for that.
‘It’s nice here.’ I said looking around.
‘Yes, I love it when I’m on my hols and I can come and sail my boat and go on the beach. Do you like going home to your parents?’
‘My mum died and my dad is often away working.’
‘Oh, sorry about that; is that why you’re here?’
‘Ooh, you’ve started stuttering again.’
‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have upset you. Anyway, I think Claire is nice, you’re lucky to have her as an aunt.’
‘Y…yes she is nice.’
I looked at the sun, now virtually on the water. It looked huge, almost as if I could reach out and touch it. The reflection over the sea was red and I felt the gentle breeze on my legs…I almost missed what Flic was saying.
‘It’s a shame about Claire.’
‘Mmm …sorry, what about Cl…I mean Auntie Claire?’
‘Well, you must know, she is your aunt, after all.’
‘Oh, I see, you are probably upset too. Yes it’s a shame that David and Emily died in that accident.’
‘Yes, silly, you’re Uncle David and your cousin Emily…they died in that accident…you know the car crash in America. Didn’t you know?’
I looked at her in puzzlement. I didn’t know what to say.
‘Oh, sorry, it must have been awful for you and here’s me dragging it up again. Anyway, I had better go or my mother will have a fit, I only said I’d be a little while. I had better change into my stuff and shoot off.’
As I watched her go down the path to the beach, barely seeing her in the gloom, I wondered what was going on.
I went into the house, grabbed another can of coke and a hobnob biscuit and sat in the large armchair by the unlit fire.
Claire’s husband and daughter dead?
She had lied to me, hadn’t she? I thought back to what she said…that they were in America, not really a lie then, but DEAD!
It made me wonder what else she had not told me. Was my Dad in trouble? I had no TV, telephone or computer to check things out and see if she was telling the truth. Every time I tried to find out what was going on, something or someone — Claire — stopped me with one excuse or another. I wondered, what if?
What if…my dad was not in trouble and this was something dreamed up by Claire?
If it was Claire doing all this, then why?
My head started spinning at a thought that had just popped up…had I been kidnapped?
The thought horrified me. What was going on and why was all this happening to me?
I put my drink down and got up. I decided that I needed to find out things. Looking out of the window, I saw that the coast was clear. I wasn’t expecting Claire back for some time, so now was the chance to search the place for clues. I wasn’t stupid, in fact I suppose I was quite bright for a girl of my age.
I went upstairs and into Claire’s room. I wanted to look around but I had to be careful as I didn’t want anything to be out of place when she came back.
The first thing I did was to go over to the bedside table. I opened the drawer and had a look inside.
There were a lot of papers in there, bills for electricity and stuff like that.
There was a torn out page of a newspaper under the bills. I pulled it out and looked at it.
At the top it said that it was The Miami Herald. What drew my attention was a small article on the bottom right of the page.
British Man and daughter killed in a car accident.
[David Howard (36) and his Daughter Emily (12) were killed late last night when their car had a blow-out on Dolphin Expressway. Their car turned over several times and then blew up. We understand that Emily was over from England, staying with her father, who had divorced from his wife some time ago. Mrs Howard has been informed and The Herald Understands that she is flying in to Miami on Tuesday. No other cars were involved in this tragic accident.
So, that explained it. Her ex-husband and daughter died in a car crash, how horrible! Why didn’t she tell me? Perhaps it was too painful to talk about it. I felt very sorry for Claire…but I had to think of myself so, putting the newspaper on the bed, I carried on looking for something…anything that might help me.
Then I saw a phone bill. I thought that Claire had said that there were no phones in the house. Did she say that? I was so confused, I couldn’t remember.
I got on my hands and knees and I couldn’t see any socket; then I looked behind the bedside table and there it was in between the table and wall, a phone socket!
I gasped at that and then I used my head. If there was a socket, perhaps there was a phone hidden somewhere!
Claire’s bed had a drawer in the base; I assumed that it would be for spare pillows and things. Pulling it open, I saw that there was a blanket and pillow in there. I lifted them up, being careful not to disturb anything too much, and my hand touched something hard, smooth and plastic. It was a phone!
I pulled the phone out of its hiding place, moved the bedside table to the side and plugged it in the socket. My hands were shaking so much, I had difficulty in pushing the plug in, but eventually it clicked home.
I took a deep breath, and picked up the handset…nothing, it was dead. I felt like crying, the phone didn’t work! I feverishly unplugged it and ran downstairs. After searching about in the kitchen, I found another socket behind a pile of cookery books. Once again I plugged it in and held the handset to my ear…it was dead!
I lost it then and started to cry. I didn’t know what to do! It was getting quite dark outside and I was getting frightened. I rubbed my eyes and then sniffed a bit; then told myself that I was acting like a little kid!
I took a deep breath and started to think again. I still hadn’t searched Claire’s room properly. I grabbed a coke from the fridge took a deep gulp of the cold liquid and then went upstairs again.
I put the can on the dressing table and started looking through the drawers. Nothing much in the top one; just undies and things. The next one down didn’t reveal anything more than some slips, bras and stuff like that. The bottom drawer was full of nightdresses and PJ’s. I was just about to shut the drawer when my eye caught something small, black and shiny tucked in a corner. I pulled it out, knowing what it was as I touched its familiar shape, it was my mobile phone!
Looking at it I knew then that Claire had been lying to me. I flipped it open and saw that it still had small amount of charge left. I went to my address book and phoned Georgie for some reason. The phone made a bleeping noise and when I looked, I saw that there was no signal!
I rushed downstairs and out of the door. Looking at the signal bar, there still was no signal. Behind the cottage was a path that led uphill. It was quite gloomy, but the moon was out and though there were clouds about, the moon shone brightly so I could just about see up the path. It was a well used path as it was part of the one that led down to the beach, so I didn’t have any problems with brambles on my bare legs.
Picking my way along the path, I kept looking at the phone but the signal was just as bad. After about ten minutes, I was at the top, breathless and looking down. I could see my cottage with the lights on and the front door still open. Over to the left was a few other cottages also with lights on including Flic’s one.
It was a bit windy so I had to keep brushing the hair out of my eyes. I flipped open my phone and saw that there was one bar. I had a signal! I pressed the recall button and waited for Georgie to answer.
‘The mobile you have phoned may be switched off, please try later.’
What to do and who to phone. Perhaps if I phone home someone would be there. So I rang my home number and the phoned bleeped twice. I looked at the screen and saw with horror that the battery had gone flat!
I sobbed and put my hand to my face. Everything was going wrong. My shoulders shook as I cried my eyes out. I never remember crying this much since my mum died. After a few minutes of just standing there, crying and shivering in my thin vest top and brief skirt, I decided to go back to the cottage; I had nowhere else to go.
I don’t remember how I got down the hill without falling flat on my face. Clouds had come up and that was now hiding the moon, so it was quite dark. My mind wasn’t on the way I was going; it was trying to understand what was happening to me and what I could do about it.
Somehow, I found myself back at the cottage. I went upstairs and put my mobile back where I found it, also the landline phone and then I made sure that the place looked undisturbed.
I went back into the kitchen and sat down.
I was trying to think about things. I kept asking myself questions that I didn’t know the answers to. I was only twelve, I shouldn’t have to have things like this happen to me. Had Claire kidnapped me, was Dad a criminal, why had Claire lied to me, was it to protect me or something else? She did work for Dad and she had seemed genuinely fond of me, but why lie to me? Was she keeping me safe or was she the criminal and not my Dad?
My thoughts of my Dad made me wonder where he was and I ached to be able to hug him…
There was a knock on the door! I jumped at the sound and then silently went over to the window, pulling the nets open slightly, I could see a lady standing there and next to her was Flic!
I wiped my eyes; I didn’t want anyone to see that I had been crying and opened the door.
‘Hi, Melissa.’ said Flic excitedly, ‘this is my Mum.’
‘H…hello.’ I said.
‘Hello dear, said Flic’s mum, ‘can we come in for a minute?’
I stood aside and they both came in. I shut the door behind them.
‘I’m sorry to disturb you dear, but Claire rang me and asked me to come over. Something has cropped up regarding work…your Father or something; anyway, she said you would understand. She asked if we could look after you tonight as she has been called away. So could you get some night clothes and something to wear for tomorrow and then you can come back with us. Is that okay?’
‘Yes, Melissa, it will be great, like a sleepover or something!’
‘Shh Flic. I think Melissa is a bit upset, are you all right?’
‘Hmm, I think we need to have a chat, but first go and get your stuff and we’ll be off.’
I went upstairs and Flic followed, talking away and me not really taking in what she was saying. I grabbed a small case and put some PJ’s, underwear, capri’s and a top for the next day in it. I then picked up my toilet bag from the bathroom, put it in the case and then shut it.
‘Are you all right Melissa, you are very quiet?’ said Flic, full of concern.
‘Yes, I’m fine, just a bit of a headache.’
‘Ooh, I get those, they’re the pits. Mum will give you a pill or something when we get home.’
We went downstairs and Flic’s mum made sure that everything was switched off before ushering us out of the door and into her car.
The drive was only a few minutes and in that time, I decided that I would keep quiet about my secret. I was in agony over what I should do and I had decided that if there was any chance that my Dad was in danger, I would do all I could not to give the game away. I was hoping that I might learn a bit more about Claire from Flic and her mum and they might give me a clue as to what was going on! Despite what I had seen, I was undecided about Claire. Surely, if she was up to no good, she wouldn’t have asked Flic’s mum to look after me? I was getting a real headache now and all I wanted to do was lie down somewhere.
We arrived at Flic’s house and I wondered as I walked in carrying my case, what was going to happen next and would I slip up and say something I shouldn’t!
With everything going on and my headache getting more and more painful, I didn’t take in my surroundings too much. I was vaguely aware that the cottage was similar to Clair’s one but slightly larger.
I walked into the sitting room and somehow found myself sitting in a deep sofa. I closed my eyes and must have drifted off, jumping slightly as I was woken up gently by Flic’s mum.
‘Melissa honey, take this.’
She had some pills in her hand — painkillers I think.
‘Thanks.’ I said as I took the pills and swallowed them with a drink of water.
‘You look a bit out of it, honey; I think that you will be better off in bed. Felicity, will you show Melissa up to her room? I’ll be up a little bit later to tuck you in.’
This sounded strangely comforting and as I followed Flic up the stairs, I yawned loudly and for some reason thought of my Mum who I loved and missed so much.
Without paying much attention, I found myself in a pleasant, light bedroom. I sat on the bed which was soft and comfortable.
‘Want me to help you get undressed?’ said Flic; her voice full of concern.
I shook my head and that made it thump with pain even more. I couldn’t get my head around this.
Suddenly, I was being cuddled and I couldn’t stop crying. Flic hugged me and it was so nice. I cried and cried and then my head went onto the pillow as I vaguely heard Flic leaving the room.
I was crying for my Dad who was somewhere abroad, in hiding and my Mum,who I had lost far too soon. I was crying because I was scared… no terrified that I was losing my Dad and that I would have no-one.
My feelings for Claire were so confused. One minute I thought that she was my friend and the next that she was the enemy. I didn’t know who to trust any more. I didn’t even trust my own feelings…
The next thing I knew was I was being pulled upright on the bed and was being held by someone soft, warm and cuddly. Through my sobs, I realised that it was Flic’s mum. It was so nice being held like that. It reminded me so much of the cuddles I had from my Mum when I had fallen over and needed comforting.
After a while, I stopped crying and I felt myself being laid down on the bed and covered up. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I remembered was waking up to the sound of birds outside and the soft noise of the surf on the nearby shore.
I rubbed my sore eyes and then opened them. I gradually woke up properly. I felt relaxed and warm under the soft quilt and didn’t want to wake up really. Waking up meant that I would have to face my troubles again and I didn’t want to do that.
I turned over and shut my eyes again and then, after a few seconds, my eyes snapped open. I remembered all that had happened. I hid my head under the covers. Perhaps I could stay there forever and I wouldn’t have to answer any questions.
I heard the door squeak open and pretended to be asleep. Perhaps they might go away and I wouldn’t have to say anything.
I felt someone sit on the bed. Maybe if I snored, they might go away.
‘’Melissa, I know you’re awake.’
It was Flic’s mum.
I started to snore loudly…she laughed!
‘Come on, I have a young daughter and I know all the tricks. Sit up we need to talk.’
I sat up, rubbing my eyes as the sun was now streaming through the window.
‘Are you feeling better?’
‘Yes thanks,’ I said as I blinked at her. She looked very pretty and too young to be the mum of a twelve year old girl, but what do I know.
‘Good. Now, we need to have a little talk before my daughter wakes up and starts running around, shouting and things. I don’t know why she’s like that, but there you are. My mother said I was like that at her age, but I don’t remember.’
I just sat there looking at her.
‘Perhaps you can tell me why you are pretending to be a girl called Melissa when you are really Emma, daughter of Frank Jefferson? It was on the news yesterday and it’s in all the papers. You have changed your looks but I still recognised you. The police are looking for you; do you know that?’
I didn’t say anything.
‘I need to know what is going on, so I can help you.’
I couldn’t speak. If I said anything, I might give the game away. I felt numb with fear. If I told her what had happened and what I knew, which wasn’t much, she might tell the police and then they would use me to lure my Dad back and then he would have to come home and then be put in prison and then I wouldn’t see him again and he would be like my Mum — gone!
She looked at me kindly; a slight smile played on her lips.
‘Look, Melissa; it’s okay, I know that you are scared. Will you tell me what all this is about?’
I looked at her with terror. Could I trust her or Flic or Claire? I didn’t know. I was so confused….I just wanted my dad back.
I looked up as she spoke again.
‘I’m sorry to upset you. Look, I’ll go away and come back a bit later, perhaps we can talk then. Please Melissa, have a think about things. We need to sort out what to tell Felicity; also, I had a text message from Claire; she should be back by eleven. Let me know how I can help.’
She leaned forward and kissed my wet cheek, smiled and then got up.
‘I’ll lock the door, so Felicity won’t rush in on you.’
With that, she went out and I could hear the distinctive click of a key being turned in the lock.
I sat there as listening to her footsteps on the wooden floor recede as she went away. I was locked in. Was she telling the truth; did she just want to protect me from Flic’s questions? Or was I being stopped from leaving!
I sat there for a few minutes more. I didn’t know what I was going to say to her when she came back. My head was in a spin and I was so very confused!
I got up out of bed, looking around the room; I tried to work out what I would do. I felt a bit chilly in the early morning air and I noticed the things that I had worn last night were folded neatly on a chair.
Checking the door, I noticed that it was still locked. I distractedly dressed in the same clothes that I had worn the previous night and then sat on the bed. My legs, being a bit short, didn’t touch the ground and I started swinging them slightly as I thought things through.
So, I was still locked in the room, luckily, it was en-suite so I have had to ask for the toilet. I didn’t really believe that I had been locked in because of Flic.
Also, Claire was coming back in a few hours and she had told me lies. My Dad was in hiding and I had no means of contacting him.
Sighing, I thought of how simple my life used to be; just me and Dad. It was so sad when Mum died and he had to be father and mother to me — I loved him so much and the thought of him being in trouble made me want to cry. I didn’t know that I was such a cry baby. Looking around the room, I felt like I was in a prison; perhaps if Dad was caught, he would be put in a prison too. I had to get away. I needed to be able to do things for myself. I couldn’t trust anyone else. It had to be me and only me sorting this out!
I got up and walked to the window. Outside was the start of the beach, was the window locked? No!
‘Can I get away with it?’ I thought.
I opened the window, stood there hesitantly and then on an impulse, climbed out. Soon, I was hurrying down the short path that led to the beach. The sun had gone in behind some clouds, but it was still quite warm.
In moments, I felt the still cool sand in my toes as I moved quickly, looking behind me to ensure that no one would see me. Luckily, the kitchen was on the other side of the house and the curtains on this side were still drawn, so I was able to steal away without being found out.
My plan, such as it was, was simple; get away before I was found out and go as far away as possible. I couldn’t go around the front of the cottage as the kitchen overlooked the lane and that was why I had to go along the beach and find another way up and out of the bay. I was rather distracted with my troublesome thoughts and didn’t quite realise what was going on around me.
The sea was fairly close in shore and the spray was wetting the sand just a few feet away from me. It looked like the tide was on the turn, so I hurried to the end of the bay and went around the other side. I could see that there was another bay with several cottages dotted on the hillside and a path over the other side.
I ran as fast as I could toward the path, but didn’t realise that the tide was actually coming in rather quickly and not going out, as I first thought.
The sun had gone in again behind some rather nasty looking clouds and instead of it being a fine sunny morning; it looked as if it was going to rain. Wind started whipping against my legs and I was suddenly feeling decidedly chilly in my thin clothes. I looked back behind me and saw that the sea had cut off my retreat! I couldn’t go back even if I wanted. I struggled on, thinking how unbelievable it was that the weather could change so dramatically in such a short period of time!
The sea was now looking very angry and the waves were rushing ashore. I cried out as I saw, with horror, that I wasn’t going to make the path and I had been cut off!
Then it started raining. It was heavy; almost a cloud burst and I found it difficult to see what I was doing. In moments, I was drenched to the bone and I started shivering badly.
With increasing panic, I looked around for some sort of escape. Through the heavy rain, I could just see that immediately in front of me was a sort of rocky hill and at about ten feet, there was a small opening in the rocks. Sobbing, my breaths coming in gasps, I made my way up what was left of the fast receding beach and onto the slippery wet rocks.
I was only wearing flimsy sandals and I repeatedly slipped on the treacherous surface. I was crying in fear as I could hear and feel the waves start to crash against the rocks as I struggled towards the opening.
Then my foot slipped and my leg gave way under me. I could hear the crack as my leg broke. I felt no pain, only pressure, so I didn’t really think that it was broken until a few moments later, when I felt a stab in my leg that was the worst pain that I had ever felt in my life. I screamed and nearly fainted, but I could feel the spray from the waves and the driving, relentless rain as it fell on my unprotected body. With strength that I wasn’t aware that I had, I dragged myself a few more feet and literally fell into the opening in the rocks. I heaved myself in and then the pain took hold and I screamed and screamed until darkness took over.
I must have been asleep for some time but couldn’t tell how long. I had woken up shivering and cold. Looking outside, I could see that the light was dim, but not completely dark. I suppose I was about ten to fifteen feet inside the cave or whatever this place was.
I could see that it was raining hard and I could hear thunder and see the flickering of lightning through the slit like gap of the opening. The noise of the thunder echoed around the confined space and the noise didn’t help the headache that was thumping in my head.
My leg felt strange and I felt the place where I had broken it and could feel a lump there. It was tender to touch and a bit hot. I then started feeling all hot and clammy. I nearly fainted again and I leant back against the damp wall until the feeling passed.
My mind wandered a bit as I thought about what had happened to me. Could my Dad be a criminal and was Claire a friend or not? Flic’s Mum; was she in it or was she really just trying to help?
So many questions and no answers, my head was spinning. I felt that it was so unfair that I was expected to be all grown up and make decisions that even adults would find hard. I had gone from one bad thing to another and I was now in such a state that I didn’t know where to turn. I was angry, frightened, confused and lots of other things and the worst of it was that I didn’t know what was going on. What I finally did realise in my muddled mind was that I now knew that it was a bad mistake to run away, as it obviously didn’t solve anything. Maybe I should have waited and perhaps find out the truth some other way.
So here I was, in a cave with a broken leg and nobody knew where I was.
I was cold or hot, depending what minute it was and my leg hurt badly; added to that, my head felt like someone was banging a hammer on it. Outside, the weather was really bad; I could just see the spray from the waves as they hit the top of the beach on the rocks just below where I was. The wind was gusting and making strange whistling noises as it went through the rocks outside; it was quite scary and I wondered if the waves were going to get any higher and if I might drown here. I tried to be brave, but it was very hard.
My eyes closed as I was feeling a bit weak and light headed; before I knew it, I was asleep.
When I woke up, I could hear a scratching noise. I looked around and could see something small and furry over to my side. It was a mouse! I was glad it wasn’t a rat as I wasn’t that keen on them even though Georgie’s brother had a white one and I had held it and stroked it sometimes.
The mouse was quite small and I think that it was a brownie grey colour; it was difficult to see in the gloom.
‘Hello mousie,’ I said, ‘it’s nice to see you. This is a funny place to find a mouse. What’s your name? Oh sorry you can’t speak. Well you look like a girlie mouse so I am going to call you Minnie…’
The mouse looked up at me and I could have sworn that she understood what I was saying. She didn’t seem frightened of me and that was nice. She proceeded to clean herself as I carried on chatting to her.
‘Well Minnie, it does seem a bit nasty outside now, doesn’t it? Is that why you are here; to get out of the wet, nasty, horrible weather? I hope someone comes soon though cos I’m not very well at the moment. I have broken my leg and it hurts…lots.’
The mouse glanced up at that and I could see her looking me up and down.
‘I know, I’m all wet and dirty. I would love to have a shower; a lovely hot shower and put some nice clean clothes on. Dad would then call me down to the kitchen and we would have a nice meal…takeaway fish and chips would do or pizza. We do have some ready meals in the freezer, if the cook was out or away, so we could do that instead. You would like our cook, Mrs Murphy; she does lovely steak and kidney puddings. Yes, it would be a good idea to eat a takeaway and not rely on Dad’s iffy cooking if she wasn’t there!’
I shook my head, realising that I was rambling a bit.
Minnie then took another look at me and then scampered off somewhere.
‘Don’t go.’ I called…but she was gone and for some reason I started to cry and feel very lonely; then eventually, after a little while, I fell into a fitful sleep.
I don’t know how long I was asleep because when I woke up it was daylight outside.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and then could see that the sun was shining and the light was reflecting off the walls and little pools of water were scattered about the place. I still had a bit of a headache and my leg was quite painful, but only when I tried to move it. To be honest, I was very stiff and it hurt to move anything. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable down below as well and judging by the smell, I think that I may have had a little accident in my panties….I think that I had wet myself while I had been asleep. This upset me no end as I felt that I had no control over my body; things were going wrong and I didn’t know what to do!
I was very thirsty and I took a chance as I leaned over to the left, where there was a puddle of water and I managed to cup some in my hand. I touched the water with my tongue and it didn’t taste salty, so I took a small sip. It was fresh water, probably from the dripping ceiling! I immediately cupped my hand again in the puddle and drank thirstily.
After a few minutes of this, my thirst had gone away and it lifted my spirits a bit. I wasn’t hungry because I felt a bit sick, but having the water cleared my head somewhat and I could start thinking about what I should do.
I didn’t know if anyone would be using the beach or would find me where I was, so I had to try to do something for myself. I thought about things and realised that I might be caught by Claire or someone who might want to hurt me but that must be better than staying here with my leg getting worse and being exposed to any more rough nights alone.
I shivered, it was cold in my cave and it confirmed the fact that if I stayed there I might die.
I had to go.
Once I made my mind up, I gritted my teeth and proceeded to drag myself to the mouth of the cave. I whimpered a bit as my bad leg gave me nasty stabbing pains. My bare legs and arms scraped against the hard floors as I dragged myself painfully forward. It seemed like ten miles, getting to the front of the cave and I couldn’t believe that I had managed to crawl so far in when I first arrived here.
I stopped several times and panted like a dog as I tried to overcome the pain and sickness I felt, but eventually, I was at the mouth of the cave.
It was as if the bad weather had never happened. The beach was clean and dry and the tide was a fair way out. The sky was blue and the sun’s rays felt warm against my body. I wiped my hand across my face, which felt gritty and salty after my ordeal.
I could see my leg more clearly now that I was out of the gloom of the cool damp cave. About six inches above my ankle on my shin, there was a huge livid bruise and a nasty swelling. I didn’t want to touch it so I kept my hands away. I looked along the beach for as far as I could see; it was empty. I didn’t know what time it was as I had lost my watch somewhere. I leant back against the side of the cave and fell into an exhausted sleep.
I dreamt that I was playing on the beach with Flic. We had a beach ball and we were throwing it to each other. It was fun and we had to keep retrieving the ball from the sea.
Flic was shouting at me, but I couldn’t quite catch what she was saying…………………….
I opened my eyes, smiling as the dream faded and receded in my mind.
I could hear her calling; it was Flic! I looked around and saw with dismay that Flic was on her little boat. The tide had come in and her boat was quite near where I was, bobbing up and down in the gentle sea. She was pulling down the sail so she didn’t shoot past me.
She was waving like mad and shouting at me. It was hard to hear but I just caught, ‘Wait there.’
I smiled at that. I wasn’t going anywhere!
The boat shelved on the soft sand and Flic pulled it up, with some difficulty, out of the water.
I watched her, slightly detached as if I was still dreaming. I shut my eyes for a second and suddenly she was with me.
‘Melissa! Ooh what have you been doing to yourself?’
‘I…I broke my leg.’
She looked down and went a bit pale.
‘Oh no, it looks terrible. Are you hurting much?’
I nodded, unable to avoid the tears forming in my eyes.
‘Everyone’s been looking for you. You’ve been missing for two days! What have you been do…oh that can wait. I have to go and get help. This bay is cut off from ours by the tide. I’ll have to leave you and go back by boat. I promise I won’t be long. Will you be okay?’
I just nodded and closed my eyes…too weary to do anything else.
I felt her kiss my wet cheek and then heard her scrambling over the rocks to the beach.
‘Don’t fall over,’ I whispered, ‘you might break your leg.’
Time seemed stand still; I kept waking up and going to sleep again. The pain woke me up sometimes and my exhaustion made me drift off again.
I could hear the sound of an engine coming from a long way off. I couldn’t be bothered to open my eyes. I licked my lips; I was getting thirsty again and could have murdered a coke! The engine noise grew louder and I cracked opened my eyes. I could vaguely see a helicopter, quite a way off, coming closer to where I was. I couldn’t help wondering where it was going and whether if I waved hard enough, I might get a lift. Perhaps they could take me away and help me hide somewhere away from Claire and everyone else who wanted to hurt me.
I closed my eyes again and nearly drifted off, but the noise from the helicopter was now getting quite loud. I was getting annoyed with it, as all I wanted to do was sleep. When I was asleep, all my aches and pains went away. Why couldn’t it just go away and leave me in peace?
I could feel a strong wind from somewhere and looking up I could see that the helicopter had landed on the beach just a little bit further down the tiny bay. The tide had gone out a bit and it had landed on wet firm sand. The blades were still turning and making a lot of noise. Some side doors slid open and three people in funny looking wet suits and helmets got out and ran towards me. I gently waved at them and one of them waved back. Two of them were carrying a stretcher and wondered who it was for….perhaps it was for Minnie…
Then I smiled; I was being silly. I remembered that I had seen Flic and she had promised to get some help…it wasn’t one of my dreams then!
They ran up to me and I smiled up at them. I couldn’t see their faces as they had the helmets on and the sun was in my eyes, so being a polite little girl, I just said ‘Hello, I’m Emma, I mean Melissa!’
‘Hello Melissa,’ said a man, ‘we’re just going to have a look at you; you’re safe now.’
He started feeling me all over; and another one, a lady just asked me how I felt and where I was hurting.
I kind of gave them some sort of answer, but to be honest I was paying more attention to the third person. I didn’t even really pay much attention when someone injected something into my leg.
There was something about the man…He was taking his helmet off and having a bit of a struggle with the straps. It was quite funny and I started giggling a bit and then suddenly, I recognised him and gasped, my heart going madly….it couldn’t be….it was…
I looked at his face, he had aged a bit…more lines and a few grey hairs, but he was my lovely Dad. Then someone moved my leg and I felt a sharp pain as if I was being knifed. I could hear myself scream and then thankfully, it all went black.
After a bit…I have no idea how long, I woke up and could hear an incredibly loud engine noise. I was on my back and could feel a sense of movement. I wasn’t in pain anymore and I felt strangely floppy as if I couldn’t move and didn’t particularly want to. As I opened my eyes, I could see someone leaning over me. I couldn’t speak for some reason and my head felt as light as a feather. It was all too much effort to stay awake and I shut my eyes; as I did so I could hear Dad speak.
‘Please do something, she’s turning blue!’
As I drifted off, I wanted to ask my dad so many questions, but it was all too much effort…
I could hear a beep, beep, beep; it was very annoying. All I wanted to do was sleep. I could sense some light outside my eyelids, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I could hear someone talking and eventually I realised who it was…Claire; she was talking….what was it? I tried to move but couldn’t. My eyes refused to open. I listened to what she was saying…
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’[
__]‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.[
__][_ 'I don't much care where -' said Alice. _][
__]‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.[
__][_ '- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation. _][
__]‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”
I wanted to open my eyes…but couldn’t and after a while, I went back to sleep…
It was like this for a few times, the bleep, bleep noise, me trying to wake up but not able to even open my eyes…once I even heard my favourite band, Coldplay. I wanted to sing along but couldn’t.
One of my favourite times was when I could hear Dad; he was reading to me too; more Alice in Wonderland, I think. I wished I could speak to him…
Sometime later, I could feel an itch in my nose…and I sneezed.
My eyes opened and I gasped; choking on a pipe that was down my throat. I could hear alarm bells going and then after a frantic few minutes when I was almost sick, someone took the pipe out and I could breathe okay. I coughed and coughed then I was given a sip of water by someone who I thought must be a nurse. Although the lights were dim, I still squinted at the light. I could see figures moving about and then someone shone a torch in my eyes.
‘Emma; it’s okay, just relax a bit.’
After a few moments, the light went away from my eyes and I could see a bit more clearly. A doctor in a white coat was looking at me and saying something.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Melissa…Emma.’ I croaked.
‘How old are you?’
‘13 no 12.’
‘Who is your best friend?’
‘What’s your father’s name?’
‘Where is he, I want my Dad!’
‘He’s just outside; I promise he can come in very soon; just tell me his name?’
‘What’s your name?’
I could feel a warm wet cloth over my face, cleaning my gungy eyes. I felt very weary, but I was determined not to go to sleep.
I could hear a squeaky door open and steps coming towards me. I tried to lift my head from the pillow, but it was too heavy.
Someone swum into my vision and my eyes finally focussed.
‘Hello, honey; how are you feeling?’
‘Like an elephant has stamped on me.’
‘Well, by the look of you, one has!’
He was holding my hand and smiling down at me.
‘Dad, what happened?’
‘Don’t you remember?’
‘It’s a bit like a bad dream, but I thought you were in trouble.’
‘No…it’s a bit complicated and the doctor has said not to get you too worked up. We’ll talk later but what I can promise you is that I’m not in trouble and you are going to be all right. You have been through a lot and you need to have some rest. It’s quite late and you need to have some real sleep, not drug induced. I promise, I’ll be here before you wake up tomorrow and if the doctor says it’s okay, I will tell you everything.’
As he finished speaking, I could feel my eyes closing. I so much wanted to find out about things, but I was just too tired…
When I woke up, I felt a bit better and not so woolly; although my throat hurt a bit and my chest felt tight. As I opened my eyes, I could see that it was daytime and the sun was streaming in through the window.
I turned my head and there was Dad, sitting at the side of the bed with a book in his hands.
‘How are you feeling love?’
‘That’s good. You had us all worried for a while.’
‘How long have I been asleep?’
‘’Four days, on and off; what can you remember?’
‘Erm…I remember running away and finding myself cut off on the beach. I scrambled up some rocks and hurt my leg…oh Dad it was the worst pain! Then I somehow got into a cave and then there was a mouse and she didn’t stay long and I was sad when she left me. Then I hurt some more and I fell asleep then when I woke up, I saw it was light and then I dragged myself to the front of the cave….That was really painful too…then when I looked out I saw Flic on her boat. She saw me and came to me. She said that I had been missing two days; is that right?’
I was wheezing a bit after that and had to catch my breath as I listened to Dad.
‘I’m glad you haven’t lost your voice you chatterbox! Well, you ran away on Friday morning; was missing all day and Felicity found you on Saturday afternoon so I suppose technically it was two days…long enough because you were in a bad way.’
‘You nearly died twice…but us Jefferson’s are made of strong stuff and you made it through.’
‘Am I still sick?’
‘Considering that you have a broken leg, suffered from exposure and shock, you are in remarkably good shape, but you won’t be able to play football for a while.’
‘That’s a shame, I like football.’
Just then I coughed a bit and it hurt my chest.
Just then a nurse came in and took my temperature and did other things. My leg was suspended up on some sort of belt like thing and it was covered in plaster from my ankle to the top of my leg. I was wearing a white hospital gown with teddies of all things on in. It was uncomfortable having my leg up like that and it itched a bit under the plaster. I hoped that I wouldn’t have to have it on for long.
‘How are we feeling?’ said the nurse.
‘A bit sore and thirsty and I can’t breathe very well.’
She took a jug from the side table and put some in a plastic cup.
‘Right, sip this. The doctor will be seeing you soon and he’ll give you the once over and also say if it’s okay to have solids…mind you, the food here isn’t very exciting…we don’t do McDonalds!’
We all laughed and after plumping up my pillows, she left the room.
‘You promised to tell me what happened.’
He brought his chair closer to the bed and then held onto my hand.
‘Yes, I did. I spoke to the doctor earlier and he said that you should be okay to talk about it when you woke up, but if you get upset or don’t feel well enough, I must stop; okay?’
I nodded, wondering if, at last I would know the truth.
‘First though, tell me about what happened to you.’
I took a deep breath and told him about being met at school by Claire and what she had told me about what had happened to him and how I ended up where I was now.
‘Oh Emma you have been through it, haven’t you! Well what actually happened to me was slightly different to what Claire told you. I have to tell you this from the beginning but I’ll try to keep it simple; if you get tired or you feel unwell, you have to promise to tell me.’
I just nodded.
‘Right; as you know, I head up a multi-million pound company. We have offices all over the world and have our fingers in many pies. We have factories making everything from machine parts to toys. We have an investment company, a travel company and many other things. Because I am in charge, it means that I am open to the possibility of threats and kidnap; especially as I travel the world to do our business. Are you with me so far?’
‘You know that Henry is not just my chauffeur? Yes, Claire told you about that, didn’t she? Henry is the head of my security. He likes to be as close as possible to me as he knows that I am always a target. He heard a whisper on the grapevine that worried us both. Now I want you to be brave about this.’
I looked at him, wondering what all this was about. My heart was in my mouth as I listened…
‘A contract was put out on my life…and also yours; that means that unknown people would try to find us both and eliminate us. The person behind this was Dave Evans, my finance director and second largest single stockholder after me. Evans had been taking money out of some of the smaller companies for years and taking funds out of the companies’ pension funds as well. Being the finance director meant that he was the one looking after the books and he had been able to shield what he had been doing by some creative and highly fraudulent accountancy. I know this is complicated but do you understand what I’m saying?’
‘Not all of it but I suppose he was putting his hands in the till?’
Dad looked at me and laughed.
‘You are a bright girl. Yes, he had been putting his hands in the till. The problem was that he knew that I was on to him. I had a secret audit done on two of the companies he had been taking money from; that means a check on the books to see what money comes in and goes out.
‘Henry had been investigating some irregularities regarding unexplained losses in those companies and with the help of his staff, had unearthed some nasty stuff including problems with the pension funds. We were both surprised that the trail ended at the door of Evans. Somehow, Evans got wind of all this and panicked. He thought that if I was eliminated, he would naturally take over from me and then be able to limit the damage by doing some creative accountancy.
‘ One problem for him was you. Since your mother died, you are the major beneficiary in my will. If I died, I had in place a number of executors that would look after your interests until you came of age. Those executors are well respected businessmen… accountants and lawyers and they would, if you inherited, take a great deal of interest in the running of the company. If you died, Evans hoped that he wouldn’t have many people looking over his shoulder and those that did, would be his cronies and therefore no threat to him.’
‘Someone wanted to kill us…Mr Evans, I mean?’
‘Yes, Evans. Now, I was in Liverpool when I heard about this. I must admit, I panicked. I was okay because Henry was with me. He said that I should get out of the way as soon as possible until the coast was clear. On no account was I to go near you as then you as well as I would be easier to hit. Henry said he would get in touch with the school and the police to try to get you away from harm, but as I say I panicked and after agonising for a short while, I came up with an idea. I rang Claire and told her to collect you from school and that your life was in danger. I said get to get you away and somewhere safe and make sure that you didn’t panic or worry. I said I would contact her with details as soon as I was able and that on no account was she to tell you that you and I were in danger. I told her to do literally anything to make you safe.’
‘She lied to me.’
‘She knows that you are bright and she didn’t feel that she could hide the truth from you so she changed the facts so that you would accept what you heard and not be too frightened for my safety and yours. She had to make you understand why you had to run; it was frightening for you, but less frightening than telling you that there was a strong possibility that you might get hurt or killed.’
‘I had to change the way I looked.’
‘I know; that was her idea; she thought that no one would recognise you if your hair was changed and you wore different clothes to what you normally wore.’
‘I didn’t know what was happening I had no phone and Claire didn’t want me to hear the radio or see the TV.’
‘She said that you were a criminal!’
‘That’s my fault, in my hurry to talk to her and get you safe, I told her about the problem with the pension fund. I rang her on my mobile and the line kept braking up. She thought I said that I was the one who took the money not Evans. Also she heard about the contract being put out on both of us, but not that Evans had arranged it. She assumed that it was someone who I had swindled money from. I wish now that I had spoken to her on a land line, but I didn’t know if I would be overheard or if the office phones were bugged.’
By this time I was crying and Dad was sitting on the bed and cuddling me.
‘I…I…I saw pictures of you and me on the TV in the supermarket. Then when we got back to the cottage, I found my mobile and it…it didn’t work. There were phones in the house but they didn’t work. I thought that she had kidnapped me. Then when Flic and her mum came to the cottage I thought I was safe and Claire couldn’t have kidnapped me because she wouldn’t have asked Flic’s mum to look after me. Then…then,Flic’s mum locked me in the bedroom and I thought that she was in on it too. I had to get away and that’s why I ran off.’
I sobbed in my dad’s arms and then I heard the door open. With everything that had happened, I was getting close to hysterical. I felt I slight prick in my arm and could hear Dad saying something about talking again and then everything went dark.
Over the next few days, I felt quite bad. I kept waking up and falling asleep. My breathing was very bad and I had to have an oxygen mask on. I kept coughing and feeling very weak. I found out in one of the short periods that I was properly aware, that I had pneumonia. What with that and my weakened state from my ordeal, I was very sick.
I kept having vivid dreams and in most of them I was running away and then getting caught by some very bad people. I was roughly put in a cave and chained to a wall. The tide then came in and I found myself drowning. This happened time and time again.
Eventually I began to feel better and the nasty dreams went away to be replaced by more pleasant ones.
Eventually I started taking more notice of what was going on around me. Dad was in the room with me a lot and from what I could gather, he spent a lot of time in the room even when I was asleep. We spoke occasionally of the things that had happened, but he didn’t say much, just that the doctors wanted me to be a stronger before we talked more about things.
All Dad said was that everything was okay now and I shouldn’t worry. Of course I did worry but I didn’t want to say anything to Dad as he had a lot on his mind.
The one thing about hospitals is how boring it was. I was getting better now and I wanted to go home and see Georgie and just be normal.
Only things weren’t normal any more. I had nearly died and came close to losing my father. I tried to put in the back of my mind everything that had happened, but I couldn’t. I wanted to be the best girl that I could be for my Dad and I was determined not to add to his worries.
I was in the hospital for a total of one month. Then Dad found a place where I could have some convalescence and physiotherapy. I was there for another four weeks. About six weeks after the accident, the plaster was removed and I could finally scratch myself! My leg was very weak and I had to do exercises twice a day and also use a special swimming pool to make me strong.
The convalescence home was nice; it was part of a posh health farm and had all sorts of modern equipment. My room looked over a golf course of all things and I used to watch overweight people slicing their shots and missing the balls entirely.
One high point was when Georgina visited me!
I was watching cartoons on the TV when a warden…I mean nurse came in.
‘Hello Emma. I have a visitor for you.’
She stepped aside and there was Georgie!
‘Hi Em’, how are you doing?’
There she was large as life and twice as ugly!
She came over and sat down beside the deep armchair I was sitting in.
‘This looks nice…it beats double maths!’
‘I would rather do that than have a leg broken!’
The nurse brought us a couple of cokes which was nice of her and then left us alone.
‘So, Emma; what happened?’
I took a deep breath and told her all about it.
‘Wow, you must have been scared stiff!’
‘Yes, it was awful. I…I…thought I was going to die.’
‘So, how’s school?’ I asked.
‘Okay, I suppose.’
‘Has anyone missed me?’
‘Not really.Tammy Dyson wanted to see you, cos you owe her some chocolate. Other than that, and a few remarks from teachers, nothing has been said.’
‘You know that the school has been giving me homework.’
‘Wow, that sucks!’
‘Tell me about it. Mind you I’m bored out of my skull here and at least it’s something to do.’
Georgie stayed for another hour and then had to go as her mum was taking her to see a film.
‘See you soon then?’ I said.
‘Yes, when you get back to school, I suppose.’
She tapped my arm and then went off with a little wave. I was sad to see her go and also sad that I hadn’t really been missed at school.
The trouble with not being active was that it gave me too much time to think. Although I only knew her briefly, I thought that I had more in common with Flic than I ever did with Georgie. Thinking about it, I was really only friends with her because neither of us had any other friends and we sort of came together as no one else was particularly interested in us. I wondered if it was possible for me to transfer to Flic’s school. It sounded nice and at least I would have a friend that I had more in common with.
I didn’t want to add to Dad’s worries by telling him how I felt, so I kept it all bottled up inside.
Eventually it was time for me to leave. I had to use crutches as my leg was still not strong enough to take much weight. As I sat in the waiting room for Dad to pick me up, I wondered about the future and how things might turn out for us.
The door opened and I looked up. I smiled as I saw Dad and then my smile wavered a bit when I saw just behind him, Claire.
As they walked in, I could see that Dad looked a bit upset. I couldn’t quite work out the expression on Claire’s face but it seemed like a mixture of worry and happiness…strange that.
Hi Emma, ready for the off?’
‘Yes Dad.’ I said that while looking at Claire. She had a handkerchief in her hands and was gripping it tightly; it looked a bit wet and I saw her eyes were red too.
‘Hello, Emma, how are you feeling?’ she asked with a strained voice.
‘Okay, I guess.’
It went quiet for a moment and then after clearing his throat, Dad said. ‘Look love we all need to talk a bit about things. The administrator has kindly let us use a room, so I think we ought to go there and then we’ll have some privacy. Do you need a hand?’
‘I’m okay,’ I said as I struggled to get up.
I felt awkward to say the least with Claire being there. I grabbed the back of a chair and hauled myself up. Dad picked up my crutches and handed them to me and Claire opened the door.
The room was just across the hallway. It was a sort of lounge with seats dotted about and a TV in the corner. With some relief, I plopped myself down in one of the armchairs. Dad and Claire sat on a sofa.
I could see that Claire was bursting to say something.
‘Look, Emma. I’m so sorry that I did all those things to you. I doubt that you trust me and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. All I can say is that everything that I did, I did for you and your father. I’m not saying I would do things the same way if ever, God forbid, it happened again. Misleading you was stupid and not keeping you informed of what was going on was unforgivable. But at the time, I was trying to do things to keep you safe.’
I could see the tears in her eyes and it was strange that Dad was holding her hand and sitting close to her. What was going on here?
‘Look love, I said we need to talk about things and we do. You have been through a lot and you deserve to know about what has happened and what is going to happen.’
I was looking at Claire still; she had stopped crying now and was looking at my Dad with a worried frown on her face. I hadn’t said anything and had decided to keep quiet until I knew more, then Claire just spoke up.
‘Look Frank; do you want me to go out?’
‘No Claire, if Emma doesn’t mind I think you ought to stay. It concerns all of us.’
I just nodded, not really understanding.
‘Okay Emma you have been through a lot and now it’s time for me to give you a full picture…no more secrets. The only reason why I haven’t spoken about things was on Doctor’s advice. They said that you needed to get a bit better before we talked about what is happening. Right, you remember what I said about Dave Evans?’
I nodded; how could I forget; he was the one who started all this.
‘Well, he was arrested last week and is in custody. He is being charged with fraud and conspiracy to murder. That’s just for starters; there are a number of other charges pending.’
‘Good, I hope he goes to prison for ever!’
‘So do I, but we still have a problem. As you know, contracts were put out on both of us. They were done separately. Harry, my security head and the police have been able to track down and arrest the person who was contracted to kill me, but as yet, we cannot find the person who was out to kill you. We hope and pray that he is not stupid and has been looking at the news. It’s been all over the papers and the TV about this case and we think it probable that there will be no threat to you. But and this is a big but; until Dave Evans confirms who he put the contract out to, there is a remote possibility that you may be targeted.’
‘Does that mean someone might still want to kill me?’ I asked, dreading to hear the answer.
‘Yes; as I said, it’s a remote possibility, but still possible. The police are putting pressure on Evans for information…it may help him when he is being sentenced, but at the moment we need to put you somewhere safe.’
‘Well, we have been able to keep a lot of things out of the press; there has been what is called a gagging order about most of your part in all of this because of your age. So where you are now has been kept a secret. We also know that Claire’s cottage is pretty safe. No mention of your accident has been in the press and anyway, you were Melissa there…not Emma.’
‘Does that mean…’
‘I know it’s hard for you love, but would you mind going back to the cottage and staying there until the coast is clear?’
‘Do I go as Emma, or Melissa?’
I thought for a moment. ‘What about Flic and her Mum, won’t they be suspicious?’
‘No; they know everything. We had to trust them and they are supportive and think that you are very brave girl for going through all this and pretending to be a Melissa.’
‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ I said after a few moments and with reluctance.
‘Well done Emma; you are a really brave girl! Now just in case, one of my security team, Amanda will be there as well as Claire. Also the police will be keeping a discreet eye on things. I won’t be around much as I need to sort out the mess that Evans left, but I will get down to the cottage as much as possible. That leads me to something else you need to know about?’
Dad looked at Claire, swallowed and then looked at me with a slight smile on his lips.
‘I chose Claire to look after you for a very good reason. You know that I loved your mother very much, don’t you?’
I nodded; they were very happy and in love.
‘When your mum was ill, she knew that she wasn’t going to live for long. She worried about me and how I was going to cope and also about you. She made me promise that if I found someone else, I should not be worried or guilty about it. Claire and I have been getting closer for a while now. I haven’t said anything as we wanted to be sure of our feelings before we spoke to you.’
I remembered vividly how ill Mum had been. She had never been strong and when she got breast cancer they caught it too late and she died just three months after being diagnosed. I tried not to think too much of the time she was ill, only the times when she was happy and loving.
I looked at Dad and could see that he was finding it hard to explain things.
As Dad looked a bit upset, Claire took over.
‘We haven’t made a very good start have we? I suppose dragging you away wasn’t an ideal way to start a relationship! What we both want you to know is that no way do I want to take the place of your mother. She is so special to both you and your father. I also had a marriage that ended in tragedy and I lost my daughter too. I don’t want Frank or you to take the place of my ex-husband and daughter. This would be a new beginning for all of us. We had hoped to gradually come together and get used to things but everything has changed because of that man Evans. One thing I do want you to know is that if you don’t want Frank and I to get married, I will walk away, because the last thing I want is to break you two up. I’m going for a walk now and Frank will let me know what you think in a while.’
She had tears in her eyes…well I suppose we all did. She got up and walked over to the door. It flashed through my mind in a second, all that she had done. Taking me from the school gates, taking me to her cottage in Cornwall; hiding me away and sheltering me from real harm…yes she had made mistakes…Dad had too…they should have trusted me, but maybe we all make mistakes. I loved my Mum more than life itself and nothing was going to change that. I could see that Dad and Claire loved each other and that was good enough for me…
She turned back, a puzzled look on her face.
‘I don’t have to call you Mum, do I?’
‘Not if you don’t want to; Claire would do nicely.’
‘Okay Claire. When is the wedding?’
We all had a hug then and it was nice to feel their warmness, smell Dad’s aftershave and Claire’s perfume. It would be nice to be in a whole family again. I think Mum was looking down at me, approving and that gave me a nice warm feeling inside.
Sometime later, we were at a hotel, Dad and Claire had a room and I had the one next door. It had a door in between and it was kept open. The hotel had been chosen as it was reasonably close to Claire’s cottage. The reason why we were there was so that Dad’s security team could upgrade the alarm on the cottage and do a few other things to make it safer. We were to stay the night and then go down to the cottage the following day.
Dad had gone out to meet with Henry and a couple of the security team to finalise the arrangements needed for when I went to stay at the cottage, so it was just me and Claire.
‘Now, Emma,’ said Claire, ‘Are you okay with being Melissa for a bit?’
‘No, I don’t mind.’
‘Okay, do you need a hand getting changed or can you manage?’
‘I’ll be okay.’
‘That’s good. I’ll be next door. I’ve left some clothes on your bed. I tried to choose stuff you can easily wear with your leg. Does it hurt much?’
‘No, it’s just weak, well it aches a bit I spose. I was glad to get the plaster off though, as it itched like mad before and I could only scratch it with a knitting needle and that didn’t reach everywhere!’
‘Well you can scratch it all you like now! Give me a shout if you need me.’
She kissed my cheek, which was nice and then left me to get dressed.
I pulled off my t-shirt and shorts and was just about to dress when I heard a shout from Claire in the next room.
‘You had better have a shower before you get dressed. Use a shower cap as you want to keep your hair dry.’
‘Okay.’ I shouted as I limped into the shower, carrying the clothes over my arm.
It was nice feeling the warm water go down my body. There was some nice smelling shower gel…I think it was strawberries and I loved the way it made my skin feel soft as I cleaned myself with it. I was careful where I had a scar on my leg from the operation and made sure I didn’t rub it there because it still hurt to touch.
Once I had rinsed off, I dried myself using a big white fluffy bath towel. Once I was nice and dry, I put on a nice cream long sleeved hooded top that was really cool looking. Finally I pulled on a short denim skirt that went about four inches above my knees. I had some white sandals to put on but had a problem.
‘CLAIRE!’ I shouted.
Claire came rushing in with a worried look on her face. When she saw me holding the sandals she breathed a sigh of relief.
‘Gosh, Emma, I mean Melissa, don’t give me a heart attack shouting like that; I thought you were being murdered…oh God; what a poor choice of words; sorry honey!’
I laughed at the look on her face.
‘That’s okay…sorry I shouted. I can’t get my shoes on as my leg still hurts a bit; can you help me?’
‘No problem,’ she put the sandals on my feet and then did the straps up.
‘There you go; you look lovely. Have you been taking the pain killers, by the way?’
‘Well, what with everything that’s been going on, I’m not surprised. Stay here, I’ll get them. Oh and what about your iron tablets? The doctor says that you are still anaemic.’
She laughed as she went into the bathroom for the pills. A few seconds later she came out holding a glass of water and the pills.
‘’If you were a real blonde, I might have to start calling you a dizzy one. Now take these and don’t forget to take them in future.’
I swallowed the pills and then holding on to a bed post, stood up.
Claire looked at me with concern.
‘I wonder if we should have let you stay at the convalescence home a bit longer for more physiotherapy.’
‘Oh Claire, but it was soooooo, boring!’
‘Hmmm; I’ll speak to the doctors, maybe we can arrange someone to call at the cottage.’
‘But it hurts when they do that physio stuff.’
‘I know, but you don’t want to end up with a limp, do you?’
‘I know.’ I sulked.
‘Okay, your father should be back soon, and then we’ll order up some dinner.’
‘Can’t we go to the restaurant downstairs?’
‘It would be best to stay here; less chance of being seen.’
‘But I’m dressed like this.’ I waived vaguely at myself.
‘I know hon, and very nice you look too; but we can’t afford to take chances.’
‘Spose.’ I said sadly.
‘Look, I’ve got some stuff for you; wait here, I won’t be a sec.’
She went to her room and then came back carrying a carrier bag.
‘Here you are.’ she said handing the bag to me.
I looked in and saw a box. Pulling it out, I saw that it was a mobile phone!
‘I hope you like it; the man in the shop said that it was a great phone and music player too. You will need to be very careful who you ring on it as we don’t want your identity to be broadcast…I have put your Dad’s mobile number in the address book, together with mine, Henry’s and also Flic’s…I don’t know Georgie’s number.’
‘Wow; it’s the latest iPhone; thanks Claire!’
‘That’s okay Melissa. Your old phone had a battery problem and your iPod was an old model that ran on gas, so we thought that we would kill two birds with one stone….oh God I’ve done it again!’
I took one look at her and started giggling. In seconds, we were rolling about on the bed, unable to control ourselves.
Once we had calmed down a bit, we noticed a very puzzled Dad standing just inside the door.
‘What is going on?’ he said smiling.
‘Just girl talk.’ I said and that started us off again.
He shook his head.
‘I don’t think that will ever understand women. Let’s order Dinner, I could eat a horse!’
‘Yuk!’ said Claire and me together and that started us off giggling again!
It was with mixed feelings that I first glimpsed Claire’s cottage, as we drove towards it in Dad’s car on the following morning.
It was a bright and sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky. The cove was just the same… small, curved with lovely white sand. The sea, as blue as the sky, was lapping gently up against the shore…it was totally different from the violent storm that I experienced so painfully at first hand just a short time before.
Looking along the shoreline, I saw Flic’s cottage just above the beach. I wondered if she was there or away at school. I knew that it was half term now and in theory she was on holiday for at least a week, but then she may have gone away with friends or something.
I had spoken to Flic a few times on my mobile, but she hadn’t said anything about her holidays and I was too shy to talk about what had happened the last time I saw her. I wasn’t sure how she felt about me. I knew that I was being a bit paranoid and Claire had assured me that Flic thought that I was very brave but perhaps a bit stupid to do what I had done.
It was strange coming back to the cottage. I wondered whether all this hiding was really necessary. Was my life really in danger?
As we drove up in front of the cottage. I tried to put my worries to the back of my mind as I got out of the car and noticed that there was another car parked just across the road in the tiny lay-by.
‘Oh,’ exclaimed Dad, ‘Amanda is here already.’
I remembered that this was one of Dad’s security team and it kind of reminded me that this trip back to the cottage was not going to be a picnic and reinforced the fact that was hiding from someone who might want to kill me.
We grabbed the cases from the boot and as we walked up the short path, the door opened and there stood one of the most beautiful women that I had ever seen.
She was tall, thin and had dark long straight hair that went half way down her back. She had lovely large eyes and a small button nose. She smiled gently as she stood there waiting for us. She looked so pleased to see us and I immediately felt that she was someone who would do anything to protect me. She was wearing black silky dress that went down to her calves and it looked very classy and suited her fashion model looks. I wished so much to look like her someday!
Whatever was happening to the tom-boy Emma?
‘Hi Amanda,’ said Dad, ‘have you been here long?’
‘Only about an hour; I took the liberty of opening the windows and freshening the place up a bit. Was that okay Claire?’
‘Yes, I did say make yourself at home. It’s nice to see you again.’
Amanda looked at me and shook her head slightly.
‘Wow Melissa, you look wonderful. Who did your hair?’
Before we had left the hotel, Claire had cut my hair again and retouched my roots. She was really good at it and I was beginning to like being a blonde!
‘It looks wonderful and so are you. I can’t get over how pretty you are! Anyway, enough of that or you will blush even more than you are now. I’m here to protect you and you don’t have to worry about a thing. I have a pink belt in judo, you know.’
‘Wow…hang on, is there a pink belt in judo?’
‘Oh no.’ She laughed, ‘you’ve caught me out. I’ll have to use my black one instead!’
As we all laughed, Claire and Amanda hugged and gave each other one of those air kissy things that I hate. We all went inside and I made my way a bit stiffly with my leg, upstairs to my room.
It was with a strange feeling that I walked back into the room that I had last seen some weeks ago prior to my great escape. It looked familiar and nothing had changed. The pale pink walls and light blue bed coverings were the same and I smiled as I picked up the small pink doll propped up against the pillow.
Holding the doll, I went over to the window and gazed out. It was a lovely view of the cove and the sea beyond. The beach was empty, as it was still fairly early in the morning. Not that it was a very busy beach anyway, as there were no facilities nearby. It tended to be used by locals mainly and for that, I was glad.
I turned at the sound of Claire’s voice coming from below.
‘Yes?’ I shouted.
‘Want a drink?’
‘Yes please, can I have a coke?’
‘Okay; can you come down for it?’
I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. Dad was talking on his mobile phone over in the corner and Amanda and Claire were sitting at the table with cups of coffee steaming in front of them.
I sat down in an empty seat and Claire handed me a cold can of coke.
Amanda was looking at me with a slight smile playing on her lips.
‘Nice doll,’ she said, her shaped eyebrows rising slightly as she spoke.
I looked down and felt my face go red as I realised that I had the pink doll in my hand.
‘Don’t worry honey; it all helps with the disguise.’
‘Spose.’ I said, a bit unconvincing even to my ears.
‘So,’ said Claire, changing the subject, ‘is it nice to be back?’
I looked around. It seemed a much nicer place now that I hadn’t the worry and fear that attached to it when I had originally been there all those weeks before. Okay, I knew that there was a slim chance that I might still be in danger, but it seemed very unlikely and anyway, I had people looking after me who I could literally trust with my life.
‘Yes it’s lovely here.’
‘You’ll be pleased to know that Flic is on her half term and you can go over later to see her, if you like.’
It was strange; I wanted to see her and yet dreaded it. I didn’t know what she was going to say to me. Would she laugh at me or be angry at what I had done?
‘Okay.’ I said unconvincingly.
‘What’s wrong Melissa?’ said Amanda, picking up on my discomfort.
‘Well…I just hope she won’t laugh at me.’
‘Why do you think she will?’ exclaimed Claire.
‘Well, I sort of left her house because I didn’t trust her mum.’
Claire came over and gave me a hug.
‘Now don’t you worry about that; she and her mum understands why you ran off. As for now, I told you that she thinks that you are a very brave girl to do what you are doing now, especially after all you have been going through.’
‘What’s up honey?’ said Dad walking over and looking concerned.
‘It’s okay Dad, it’s just me being silly.’
‘Emm… I mean Melissa, you aren’t silly and I think that you are really brave, but you don’t need to worry about anything.We are almost sure that the person who was after you has escaped abroad.’
‘I thought that Evans wouldn’t tell you who he was?’
‘Yes, but I’ve just talked to Henry and he’s told me that they have traced a payment from Evans to a bank account in the name of A.W Wright, where £20,000 was transferred to the account. It didn’t take too long to trace this A W Wright and records show that this person left the UK last week heading towards Brazil. So it appears that he has disappeared with the money and we don’t have worry too much about him.’
‘Does this mean that we can go home?’
‘Not yet, love. Henry is in Brazil, hoping to track him down, he’s good at that sort of thing, as soon as he traces this man, he will make sure that you will not be bothered anymore.’
‘He won’t kill the man?’ I said with alarm.
‘No,’ laughed Dad.’ You’ve seen too much rubbish on the TV by the sound of it. No, there are legal ways of sorting these things out, so don’t worry. Though why you do worry, I can understand, as the man was out to kill you.’
‘It’s just not right to kill someone.’ I whispered, feeling a bit embarrassed for some reason.
‘Come here, love.’
Amanda got up and left the room, mumbling something about sorting her case out as I got off of my seat and ran over to Dad, who gave me a big hug. He felt all soft and warm and it was delicious, if you know what I mean.
‘Look love, I feel very guilty that you’ve been though all this and I think that you are one very brave girl. Now about your concerns; I wouldn’t allow anyone to take the law into his or her own hands if they work for me. What this man could have done to you was very wrong, but if I went outside the law to deal with him; that would mean that I would be no better than him so I won’t do that. But to keep you safe, I would do anything else. Do you understand?’
I nodded, still hugging him tightly.
‘That’s good, now if you can put me down for a minute, I need to look at the boiler; it’s playing up a bit.’
I reluctantly stepped back and Dad looked at me and then shook his head.
‘One day, I’ll show you a picture of your mum when she was about your age. You look like her twin, dressed like that. You’re so pret…oh I’m being silly, now where is that cross head screw driver?’
I sat down and drank my coke, not really listening to what the others were saying. So I looked like my Mum? I thought that was rather nice, my Dad saying that. He never had before.
Claire’s mobile phone rang, making me jump slightly as it was rather loud; Claire went over and picked it up.
‘Hello? Oh hi, Flic…yes…okay…hang on.’
‘Melissa, Flic wants to know if you fancy going down to the beach in about twenty minutes. She tried your mobile, but there was no reply.’
‘The battery’s flat and it’s on charge. Can I go?’
‘Yes, you’ll be okay.’
‘’Erm…okay, say I’ll meet her there.’
‘Hello, Flic…about twenty minutes then…okay, goodbye.’
I was apprehensive to say the least as I walked down the short path to the beach. It was getting quite warm now and the sand felt quite hot between my toes as I walked barefoot across the sand, holding my sandals in my hand. In the distance, near the shore, I could see the distinctive red head of Flic as she sat in her beached boat looking out to sea.
‘Hello,’ I said hesitantly as I walked up to her, nervously brushing the hair out of my eyes and afraid of her reaction to me despite all that I had been told.
She looked around, squealed a bit, jumped up and threw herself in my arms.
‘Melissa! Ooh it’s nice to see you. You look great. Does your leg hurt? You look thin; are you alright? I think you are great and so brave. I would have died if it was me doing what you did.’
She went on like this for a few minutes and then ran out of steam.
‘So, you’re pleased to see me then?’
‘Of course I am, why shouldn’t I be?’
‘Well…I was a bit stupid.’
‘What about it?’
‘You don’t mind.’
‘Nah, come and sit over by these rocks.’
We sat on the warm sand, our backs against the rocks. I glanced over to the cottage with eyes squinting with the sun. I could see that Amanda was there by her car, looking down at us with binoculars and that was great because it made me feel a bit safer.
I turned my attention to Flic.
‘Right Melissa;Mum doesn’t mind and I don’t. Mum feels guilty about locking the door on you and we both understand why you ran off like that. It’s the past now, let’s forget it.
‘Okay.’ I said quietly, feeling much better.
I looked over at the cottage and noticed that Amanda had gone, but a police car was now parked next to her car. It looked like the police were doing what they promised to do. I felt a lump come up in my throat for some reason my chest felt sort of tight and my eyes started to water a bit. I felt a sort of pressure behind my eyes and my heart was thump…thumping. My hands started to shake and I broke out into a sweat.
‘I bet Claire and your Dad are very proud of you too…My Mum says that you are marvellous to pretend to be a different girl and to go into hiding…what’s wrong Melissa, why are you crying?’
I was suddenly in her arms and I had my eyes closed as I sobbed onto her shoulder.
I sobbed and sobbed, I couldn’t stop. I remembered when I was much younger, going into the kitchen at home. Mummy was doing something at the kitchen table and then there was a sudden hiss coming from the cooker. It made me jump. Mummy said that it was only the pressure cooker letting off steam and that was how I felt. For so long, the pressure had built up inside of me and now it had been released, making me cry my heart out.
I don’t know how long I was like this. I had lost all sense of time. I vaguely remember being picked up by strong arms and I could tell somehow that it was Dad. The next thing I remember was that I was in bed. I rubbed my salty eyes and looked around. My bedside lamp was on and the pink doll was by my side. I felt warm and relaxed.
‘Hello, honey are, all right?’
I turned over and saw that Claire was sitting there reading a book. She looked a bit strange because she was wearing glasses…I hadn’t seen that before.
‘What happened?’ I asked sleepily.
‘Well, I think you got a bit upset and everything that has happened caught up with you. Amanda was watching out for you and raised the alarm. The doctor said that it was delayed reaction and the shock of what happened to you all rolled into one. He gave you something to help you relax. Are you feeling any better?’
‘Yes thank you. Sorry to be a bother.’
She held my hand, hers felt warm and soft.
‘You are no bother, honey. All we want is for you to be happy. Your father was here all afternoon but has had to pop into town to arrange a few things. He’ll be back later to see you. Amanda is downstairs and to my knowledge, the police have gone past here every hour or so. You don’t have to worry about anything. You look tired and should try to get some rest. You know that if there is anything that is worrying you, we are all here for you? I’ll turn the light off now and then you can sleep a bit better. I promise that your Dad will come up later.’
She kissed me on the forehead and stroked my hair. It was nice and helped me forget my troubles, for now.
‘Night, night…don’t let the bed bugs bite!’
I smiled sleepily and closed my eyes…
I woke up in the morning feeling more refreshed but still worried about everything. I got up and limped over to the window. As I drew the curtains back, I saw that lovely view of the bay. It was another fine late summer morning. I shivered slightly, remembering what had happened the previous day, and felt the need to use the toilet. After I finished, I had a quick shower, using a shower cap as I didn’t fancy drying wet hair. Once I had dried myself with a towel I felt a bit more with it. Putting on my dressing gown, I went out into the hall, nearly jumping six feet at the cheery, ‘hello,’ coming from behind me.
I turned around and there was Amanda in a track suit, sweating slightly and a bit breathless but still looking like some sort of model.
‘I’ve just been for a run down to the beach. It’s a lovely morning.’
‘Yes, I love the beach.’
‘How are you feeling?’
‘Much better, thanks.’
‘You gave us all a bit of a turn yesterday.’
‘Sorry about that.’
‘Don’t apologise. It must have been really hard for you. If you ever want to talk, you know where I am.’
‘That’s okay, honey. I had better have a shower now before anyone else gets up. I smell a bit stinky!’
We both laughed and I went back into my room. Sitting on the bed, I wondered what I should wear today. Sighing at all the decisions I had to make like dress, shorts or skirt and top; what colours would be nice and the thorny problem of shoes? Sighing again, thinking, ‘is it worth it;’ I got up, took off my dressing gown and walked over to the wardrobe.
I opened the wardrobe doors and looked at my choices. I decided that as it looked like it would be a warm day, I’d wear white Capri’s and a lemon top.
Finally, sitting on the bed, I put on some white strappy sandals with some difficulty as I had problems doing up the straps. I ran my hand over the scar on my leg, still a bit vivid and painful and I wondered if I would always have that as a reminder of the horrible night I spent in the cave.
Going over to the mirror, I picked up my brush and tried to do something with my hair. It was a bit tangled from my sleep and it took some time to get my locks into some sort of order, but luckily it had been cut quite well and finally I managed to make my hair look quite pretty. I was pleased that I hadn’t got my hair wet in the shower as it would have taken ages to dry.
I smiled ruefully at my reflection. It seemed like my tom-boy stage was near enough over as I actually liked looking and being a bit more girlie. All the things that had happened to me lately had changed me in more ways than I thought.
I stood up, but yelped slightly as my leg stabbed with pain. Rubbing my leg, I realised that I still had a bit of healing to do before I could join Amanda on her beach runs!
When I went downstairs, it was quiet, as no one except me and Amanda were up this early and she was in the shower or making herself look even more pretty, if that was possible. I vaguely remember Dad coming into my bedroom last night and I think he said that he had to go to London today. I was sad at that and hoped that he might be able to find a bit more time to be with me once this mess had been sorted out. I looked out of the kitchen window, wondering why the seagulls were being so noisy this morning, just in time to see a police car going off into the distance. They certainly were taking no chances. Mind you, I wasn’t that worried any more as the man who was after me was now abroad and I felt that I could relax a bit.
I went outside and took in a deep breath. The sea air was lovely and helped me to wake up a bit more. Going over to the wall in front of the house, I looked around. There was Flic’s house, near the shore and her boat, beached safely up above the tide line. There was a man and his dog walking along the beach. Every so often, the man threw a ball and the dog chased madly after it. I wanted a dog, but I wasn’t allowed to have one as I was away at school a lot and Dad said it wasn’t fair to have a dog in those circumstances. Looking to the right, I saw the steep path leading up side of the hill and remembered my mad run up there to try to get a decent mobile signal on that horrible night that seemed ages ago now.
I had been told by the physio at the hospital that I must try to exercise and walk every day so that my leg would get stronger and I intended to walk up that path every day until was strong again, if I could, that is.
I heard a noise behind me and turned around.
‘Feeling better, love?’
‘Yes, heaps better thanks.’
‘That’s good. Now I have to have a quick breakfast and then Claire is taking me to the station. I should be back by this evening hopefully, if not early tomorrow. Will you be all right while I’m away?’
‘I’ll miss you.’
‘Come here.’ He opened his arms and I went for a cuddle.
‘Someone on the phone for you.’ I looked up, annoyed at being interrupted by Amanda holding a phone. Would I never have time to be with my dad without interruptions?
‘Sorry love, I’d better take that.’
He walked back in followed by Amanda who mouthed, ‘sorry,’ as she went in.
I turned back to the wall and leaned against it. I hoped that when Dad and Claire got married that he would be home bit more.
A short while later, I said a said goodbye to Dad and he was driven off by Claire in her BMW to meet the next train to London. It was an hours’ drive away so I wouldn’t be seeing Claire until nearly lunchtime, I supposed.
My feelings for Claire had grown stronger and deeper in the short time that I had really got to know her. She was a very loving person and bit unsure of herself, like me, I suppose. She had lost her family in a freak car accident and had felt pain like Dad and I after we lost Mum. She was fun to be with and we sometimes acted like sisters, which was nice. She helped me with my hair, clothes and makeup and it was nice when we had girlie evenings, watching films and crying with the sad bits while we ate popcorn and chocolate! She wasn’t my mum, but I loved her and I was sure that my mum would have approved of her.
That left just me and Amanda at the cottage. I helped her with the washing up as there wasn’t enough stuff to mess about using the dish washer. She kept chatting about this and that and to this day, I can’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember laughing as she told me a few slightly silly jokes.
After the dishes, I went up to my room. Amanda said that she had a few phone calls to make.
‘Perhaps we can go for a walk up to the cliffs when I’m finished. Would you like that?’
‘Yes please. I was told that I needed to exercise my leg.’
‘Okay, give me twenty minutes and then we’ll go. You might want to put on some trainers.’
‘Okay.’ I said as I went up.
I quickly texted Claire about me going for a walk with Amanda, just in case she wondered where I was when she got back from dropping Dad off at the station. Then I took some pain killers as I had a feeling that the walking might cause me a few problems and I was due to have two tablets anyway.
When I got downstairs, Amanda was just getting off the phone. She looked up at me and smiled.
‘Ready? That’s good, let’s go then.’
We left the cottage and Amanda picked up a rucksack then closed the door and locked it.
‘Okay Melissa are you strong enough to go up there?’
She pointed towards the path leading up to the top of the cliffs. Not wanting to appear weak, I just smiled and nodded.
‘Good girl, come on then, onward and upward. If you feel bad though or you want to come back, you will promise to tell me won’t you?’
‘Yes, I promise.’
We went up the winding path quite slowly. It wasn’t that steep, but a gradual climb. I stopped several times, but my leg was holding out okay and anyway, as far I was concerned, coming down would be a lot easier and I could cope with a little bit of discomfort for a little while. Anyway stubborn is my middle name and I wanted to impress Amanda and show her that I was nearly as strong as her!
As we got higher and higher, I could see more and more of the countryside. Looking back at the bay, I could see our cottage, now small in the distance and slightly obscured by the heat haze. It was getting hotter now as the sun moved up in the sky. It was one of those days that didn’t have a cloud in the sky. Amanda kept up a constant stream of chatter, telling me about a horse that she once had and how she fell off it three times before she managed to hang on for dear life as the mad thing bucked about.
Finally, we got to the top and stopped for a few minutes to have a breather. I rubbed my sore leg and was glad that I didn’t have to do any more uphill stuff. Then we walked along a grassy path that led away from the cove and to the cliffs that bordered it.
There wasn’t anyone about and it was so nice and peaceful. I picked some flowers for Claire and they were yellow, pink and blue. There was a nice cooling breeze coming off the sea and it helped dry the sweat…sorry, girls don’t sweat…perspiration off me. We sat down on some grass about ten feet from the edge of the cliff, just to have a breather.
Amanda fished out two bottles of water from her rucksack and gave me one of them. I drank the cool liquid and loved the way it quenched my thirst.
It was nice up there on the grass, looking out to sea. I saw a couple of rabbits in the distance playing in the long grass.
‘Look Amanda, rabbits!’
‘Oh there’re nice. I love rabbit stew!’
‘Yuk!’ I said laughing.
‘Sorry, that’s just my weird sense of humour. Drink up and finish the bottle we don’t want you to get dehydrated in this heat.’
‘Yes, it is very hot,’ I said as I finished the bottle. For a few minutes, I looked at the seagulls circling above us, making their strange noises and squabbling amongst themselves.
I lay back on the grass and relaxed. It felt good to be in this peaceful place, listening to the birds and the wind. The sun was on my face and it felt really nice. I didn’t really feel like moving and I wished that I could stay there forever. I noticed that someone was talking to me but felt too relaxed to really pay too much attention. Then I saw Amanda leaning over me, I concentrated really hard, trying to listen to what she said.
‘Emma, can you hear me?’
‘I’m Melissa for now, not Emma,’ I mumbled.
‘Whatever… Listen honey, I haven’t much time… Oh I can’t talk to you like this…’
I felt myself being picked up and carried by Amanda. I saw her hair wave in the wind. She was so pretty and I so much wanted to look like her…
I was put down and found myself leaning against a rocky outcrop. My legs seemed so long; just sitting there stretched out before me. I was glad that I was too young to have any hairs on my legs; when I got a bit older I would have to start shaving them, like mum used to do…Amanda was talking again. It was funny that I was finding it hard to pay attention. She had such a nice voice…
I was slapped around the face and it jolted me out of my dreams a bit.
‘Listen to me Emma. Can you hear me?’
I nodded, as tears started going down my face. She had hit me!
‘Good, I have your attention. I’m only going to say this once. I want you to know that it’s nothing personal. Mr Evans has paid me two hundred thousand pounds to do this job and if I don’t finish it, others will get to know and I will lose my credibility. It’s only fair that you know what is going to happen. I promise that it will be quick. One quick push and then you won’t feel a thing. As I say it’s not personal. I think that you are a very nice girl. But, if I don’t finish the job that I have been paid to do, then I won’t get any more jobs. Call it professional pride if you like. The water I gave you was drugged. I also mixed in a few more things which help with the speed and effectiveness of the drug and also numbs you a bit so you shouldn’t feel any pain, well not much anyway. As a matter of interest, the police were called off surveillance on my instructions, so they wouldn’t have helped you much or come to your rescue. Claire and your father about now are probably history. I put a timed device, that is a small amount of explosives, under the bonnet and it was due to go off long before they reach town. You see, I don’t like loose ends. Very soon, I will be well away from here and will disappear as if I never existed. Which is true really as Amanda isn’t my real name. Now, honey, I’m sorry but it’s time to end all this.’
She picked me up and walked towards the cliff edge. I was like a rag doll, completely relaxed and not able to do anything about it. My limbs felt like rubber and I couldn’t even lift a finger. I wasn’t really worried though as I was in Amanda’s strong arms…She had gorgeous hazel eyes. I wondered if I could get some of the eye shadow she used, it was lovely…
We got closer and closer to the edge. My thoughts were jumbled. I kept thinking about how lucky I was to have Amanda look after me and looking forward to Dad and Claire’s wedding; where I would be a bridesmaid…
I heard a shout from far off; I think the voice said ‘Stop’ or something. It was very confusing and then I saw a funny thing. Amanda grew another eye in the middle of her forehead. Her mouth opened and she dropped me on the grass. She just sort of collapsed in a heap and a few seconds later, I felt a little prick in my arm and I wondered why someone would do that to me, as I hate needles…
‘Emma…Emma, can you hear me?’
The voice was coming from a distance…it was Dad, was it time to get up?
‘Emma, wake up, please…’
I opened my eyes and saw that Dad was there, his worried face just inches from mine.
‘Hello Dad, is Amanda okay?’
‘Erm…yes, we’ll talk about that later. Are you all right?’
Then I remembered and started to cry. Dad hugged me and I felt safe again…
Things were a bit confusing for a little while. My doctor has told me that I should write down everything as I remembered it and I’ll try my hardest to do that.
I recall that Dad picked me up and I was carried to a helicopter. As we moved away from the cliff edge, I saw a white sheet with a long lump under it, lying on the ground. The sheet had blood on it and I wondered vaguely if someone had cut themselves or something. Claire was with us and I could see that she was crying for some reason. When we were in the helicopter, she held one of my hands and Dad held the other. I wished that I was more with it, as I really wanted to enjoy a helicopter ride…Anyway I fell asleep and then after a while, I woke up and I was in hospital…again! I had a slight headache but not much else. Dad was there and so was Claire. They were sitting on a sofa, holding hands and whispering to each other.
The hospital room was nice, much nicer than last one I had and the bed didn’t have lumps in it. Anyway, I looked at Dad and Claire and I thought that they might be interested in me being awake.
‘Hello,’ I said.
They both jumped at that and I thought that Dad might have a heart attack…
‘Emma!’ shouted Dad as he rushed towards me, with Claire following closely behind.
‘Are you all right Dad?’ I said, worried that he might need an emergency bed; the way he looked, he needed one more than me!
‘I’m fine love, how are you?’
Then it all came flooding back. Pieces of a puzzle clicked into place. In a moment I remembered what happened.
‘Oh, Dad….Amanda….she said…she said…’
I was in his arms and I cried quite a bit. I didn’t know that a person could have so many tears. Claire was hugging us both and I felt, even while I was sobbing, that I couldn’t be closer to these people as long as I lived, as I was now.
After several minutes, we all settled down and blew our noses.
‘What can you remember?’ Claire asked as I sat up drinking some bottled orange juice through a straw while they had coffee. The nurse had been in a few minutes ago and had sorted the drinks out. She had extracted a promise from Dad and Claire not to upset or excite me too much.
I told them all that I could remember. I broke down a bit when I recounted what Amanda had said about the bomb in Claire’s car and the fact that I vaguely realised that Amanda wanted to kill me and then the final moments when she fell down on the ground.
There was yet another round of hugs and it took a while before any of us wanted to continue. Dad wanted to stop there, promising to talk tomorrow, but I had to know what had happened or there was no way that I would be able to sleep, so he told me what happened to them.
‘After we left you, we drove towards town. After about 40 minutes, Claire was complaining that the car felt a bit funny and the steering was stiff so we pulled over. I opened the bonnet and saw what looked like explosives and some sort of timer towards the back of the engine. I screamed at Claire to get out of the car. She got out and I grabbed her hand and we just ran as fast as we could away from the car. A few seconds later the car went up in flames, the blast knocking us over. Then my mobile rang; it was Henry calling from Brazil. He had, with the help of the authorities and a few well positioned bribes, been able to track down the man he was looking for. To cut a long story short, the man confessed that he had been paid by a woman to take the flight and his reward was twenty thousand pounds. Henry managed to get a sketch of the woman he had spoken to and it was quite accurate. He recognised straight away that it was Amanda and he rang first the police, and then me. He was distraught that he had chosen her to protect you and immediately said he wanted to resign. I refused to accept it. You don’t know this Emma, but he has saved my life twice. I’ll tell you about that some day and I know that he would never knowingly let something like that happen again.’
‘Wow!’ I said.
‘Yes, wow. Anyway it was obvious that you were in great danger and we wondered what to do. Then Claire got your text and we knew that Amanda was going to do something nasty and soon. I phoned the police and they picked us up on the way and we rushed back to the cove. I nearly had a heart attack at the speed we were doing through the bendy lanes. There’s a road leading up to the top of the cliff and we managed to get up there in time to see you sitting there with Amanda bending over you. A helicopter had been scrambled and had landed in the next cove with a police SWAT team on board. They managed to get there before us. Police marksmen had been deployed and the marksmen are highly trained and had quickly circled around where you and Amanda were. Amanda’s mistake was that she took too long to get going and that gave the police enough time to get into position.’
‘Then they shot her.’ I said with tears in my eyes.
‘Yes mate, I’m sorry, they had to. It was her or you. They did warn her but she didn’t listen.’
Things went quiet for a minute. My headache was going away now and I felt a bit more alive and not too fuzzy.
‘So it’s over.’
‘Yes love. You are safe now. You can go back to being normal again.’
I looked at Dad and Claire and was so pleased that they were both okay.
‘Are you feeling a bit better now?’ said Claire.
‘So,’ said Dad smiling. ‘At least you won’t have to be Melissa any more. Isn’t that great?’
I looked at Dad and then Claire. They were smiling.
I was once again Emma and that was great, no more pretending.
I suppose that’s near enough the end of my story, but a few things changed for the better.
The news of Amanda’s death and the swindling of the company funds by Evans was headline news for a few days. Many of the details were withheld from the media because of little me, but Dad was exonerated from any wrongdoing and a lot of the funds stolen by Evans were recovered by the fraud squad and the company auditors and the shortfall paid for by Dad.
Evans was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for his various crimes and I hoped sincerely that he has a bad time in there. I was disappointed to find out that prisoners don’t spend their time breaking rocks or sewing mail bags any more.
Amanda was a bit of a mystery, as no one could find out who she really was. It appeared that she had taken on the name and identity of a child who had died in infancy. I didn’t understand the details, but the police told Dad that it wasn’t uncommon. So we will never know who she really was and I was strangely sad about that. She was nice to me until she tried to kill me and my family. Weird or what?
Dad and Claire got married in the local church in Porthhadden, a fishing village close to where Claire cottage was. It was a small wedding and things were kept fairly quiet as the last thing anyone wanted was publicity.
The bride wore a lovely long cream dress and looked beautiful. For those interested, I wore ripped jeans and a t-shirt….Nah, only kidding. I was the only bridesmaid and I looked cool wearing a sky blue calf length lacy dress. Dad scrubbed up okay, wearing a white suit of all things!
I stayed with Flic and her mum while the newlyweds went on holiday to some exotic island that Dad happened to own, but I knew nothing about. I will speak to him about that when he gets back!
I would be seeing more of Dad as he is going to take more of a back seat in running his companies and he will be around when I’m back from my new school. I would be transferring to Flic’s school after the summer holidays and I was looking forward to that as I was never really happy with the old one.
We would be spending a lot of time in Cornwall in the holidays as Dad and Claire are to keep the cottage and it’s a long way away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s nice being part of a family again, now I had a new mum, Claire. I still miss my real mum and always will, but I consider myself very lucky to have Claire and I love her to bits, apart from the times she tells me off, of course, when I hate her. Being thirteen now I have to do the teenage thing and throw a stop sometimes. Well it’s my job, isn’t it?
Emma is mixed up in a web of mystery, intrigue and plain terror! It all started when she was picked up from school by someone she didn't expect. Her father, a high flying executive, has disappeared and she has to trust this woman who she hardly knew with her life. Could she trust Claire or was she being manipulated for some strange reason? Where was Emma's father? Was Emma really in danger? Was she being kidnapped? Emma was 12 years old and she had to make decision that no girl should have to make...