This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 767 words.
“Okay, my name is Ben Halliday, not Benedict, and I am doing this interview to just explain our part in the story of Gabby Parker. Is your camera running?”
The man nodded.
“My wife Michaela wants no part of this, so I will not be answering any questions about her. She is seven months pregnant with our first child, and I don’t want her bothered. I will only be making this statement based on the questions you supplied me via email, and that’s it. Okay?”
The man nodded again.
“So we met Gabby that first week at uni. You could hardly fail to notice her, with the cropped hair that so many girls have now. She was good-looking too. Confident, clever, with an interesting life story, none of which was true, as we know now. She was good to be around, everyone thought so. Was I in love with her? Yes. Was everyone she met in love with her? You bet they were. She knew what she was doing from the start, but we had no way of knowing that five years ago”.
He stopped to drink some water from a metal flask.
“Were we fooled by her? I don’t know about that. We were just happy to be around her, and didn’t judge, or ask questions. Kimberley Lau was certainly fooled by her. She thought they were a couple, gave her a huge amount of money, and ended up where she is today, in a mental institution. But for myself and Michaela, we escaped, I suppose. After Mikki finished teacher training, she got a job in a primary school here in Canterbury. I transferred with my Banking job, and we bought this small house you are sitting in”.
The man adjusted a light behind him, then Ben continued.
“After the disappearance, there was the book. We were described in that book as ‘love-struck losers’. I’m not denying that, and neither is my wife. But we have moved on, we have our own life now, and Gabby is not a part of it. We didn’t bother to see the film, and I was pleased that it didn’t get any Oscars, despite three nominations. But now Gabby is the face of child abuse, reporting on the BBC about child abductions and sex-trafficing, and she appears on telly every day as part of the Loose Women team. We cannot avoid her in theory, but we do in practice”.
After another swig from the flask, Ben continued.
“Then there was the second book, and after that the third. She was consulted as some kind of expert on child abuse every time something similar happened. Meanwhile, five people were serving terms in prison after she gave evidence against them at their trials. Those who escaped that have no career left. I mean, so many people, young girls and boys, have abusive childhoods. That’s horrible. But Gabby used hers as a springboard to fame and fortune. Do you know that she lives in a five-bed house in Hampstead? She has her own driver for the car she owns, and her agent got her onto Big Brother, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and she was even a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing? She got to the final of that, but didn’t win. Sorry, I need a pee”.
When filming resumed, Ben remained calm.
“Do I resent her? Actually, no. She got me together with Michaela, and claims that was her intention all along. Either way, we are happy, and loving the idea of becoming parents. But she was so hard on people, so harsh. Even now, she has never had a boyfriend, never contemplated marriage or children, and revels in her huge following on social media. I understand that alone makes her ten grand a month, on top of all the telly stuff and books. She doesn’t travel, doesn’t spend her money on much other than the house and car. Is she remotely happy? I really doubt that”.
There was a pause. The light in the room necessitated a change of direction for the white umbrella.
“Okay to continue? Well my take on it is this. Gabby embraced the cult of celebrity by making herself a celebrity based on a youth of abuse and neglect. She has earned a lot of money, ruined many lives, and become a household name on the back of it. That is an example of everything that is wrong with society in the twenty-first century, in my opinion”.
After some camera adjustments, Ben raised his hand.
“That’s it, I’m afraid. You need to leave now”.