This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 1015 words.
It only took around an hour to sort out a new phone, but there was no record of the missed call that was ringing at the time it fell from her bag. Anita was concerned, and knew it could have been the police, Claudia, her Mum or Jill, perhaps even Mike. She drove home and unpacked the shopping, then sat waiting with a cup of tea.
The house phone rang first. It was Sergeant Dawes. “Anita, I would like to come and see you tomorrow. The searches on Mike’s laptop history and phone usage have thrown up a lot of names. It would help if we could go through them, and you tell me what you know about them”. It was agreed that she would come round about ten the next morning. Still very peeved that she hadn’t heard from her Mum, Anita rang her mobile, intending to leave a message. When she answered, she sounded very distracted. “Can I call you back, dear? Only David is here at the moment, and we are rather busy, if you know what I mean”. Furious, Anita shouted. “My husband is missing, his parents have been killed in a car crash, I can’t get hold of my best friend, and I am six months pregnant. But as long as you get your shag with some random bloke, that’s okay then! Just forget it, Mum, I don’t know why I bother with you, I really don’t!”
She hung up before there was time for any reply.
When her Mum rang back immediately, she dismissed the call.
Over two hours later, Claudia finally rang her mobile. “I was worried, Nita. I rang you earlier, and your phone went dead. I tried loads of times after that, and got nothing. Anita was still very pissed off, and launched into a verbal assault about how her supposed best friend in the world had left her in the lurch. She went over everything that had happened, hardly pausing for breath, or to allow her friend to speak. Then she added about finding out she was off work due to some domestic crisis, and how she couldn’t believe Claudia hadn’t told her what was going on. When she heard crying at the other end, she stopped. “Claude, sorry Claude. I didn’t mean it. I’m just so wound up I feel I might explode”.
There was some sniffing at the other end of the line, and then Claudia came back on.
“Nita, it’s Betsy. She’s in a coma. She had a heart attack and then a stroke. I have been by her bedside since it happened, but they told me to come home and rest. They can’t say if she will ever wake up, Nita. I don’t know what to do. We should never have moved up here, everything was fine in London. I’m sure it was the stress of the move that caused this, I will never forgive myself, never.”
Anita took the phone away from her face. It was shocking news indeed, and terrible for both Betsy and Claude. But at least she knew where her other half was. Mike was missing, his parents dead, that had to be worse, surely? Reluctant to play some game of ‘My news is worse than yours’, she consoled her old friend as best as she could. Sounding positive, making the right noises, and offering to be a shoulder to cry on. But in the back of her mind, she had some thoughts that made her feel guilty.
At the time she needed Claude the most, she would be stuck in Manchester, dealing with her own shit. Her own Mum was selfish and useless, and though Jill was around, she really only wanted to get drunk and complain about how useless her ex was. Urging Claudia to ring anytime of the day and night if she needed to talk, she told her to get some rest, and hung up.
She was on her own.
That night, she had a nice chicken salad, then ate two oranges. It was time to concentrate on keeping her and the baby healthy, she decided. Too much stress and heartbreak in such a short time, who knows what that could do? If everything else failed, she would get through the pregnancy, and have a healthy baby to look after. Time enough to worry about all the rest later.
Using the notepad facility on the mobile phone, Anita started to jot down things to remember, including names and phone numbers. She had started to realise just how heavily she depended on Mike. She didn’t even know what day the bins had to be put out, and hadn’t a clue about the bills that might need paying, as Mike did all that online. She made a note to ask Jane Dawes about his laptop tomorrow, and ask how she could access those accounts. As she got ready for bed, she became increasingly annoyed with herself.
How had she let so much slide? Why had she just presumed it was alright for Mike to take care of everything from the broadband contract, to the mortgage and insurances? And she was going to have to forget about going to look at that new car next weekend. That would have to be put on hold for sure. Shaking her head, it dawned on her that she didn’t even know how to adjust the central heating controls. And she had worked for the gas company that supplied their gas. After brushing her teeth, she spoke to her own reflection in the mirror.
“Nita, girl, you’ve got to shape up!”
With no idea how long she had been asleep, Anita woke with a start to the house phone ringing. Reaching over to Mike’s side of the bed, she answered the call, her voice raspy from a dry throat. It occurred to her that she must have been snoring. The voice at the other end was female, and the accent wasn’t English.
“Hello. Hello, can you hear me? I need to speak to Mike Hollis please. It’s urgent”.