“Eighteen today? A big boy now,” said June.
“Yes, mum, does that mean you’ll allow me out?”
“Jimmy, we’ve been through this. You can go out, you always could.”
“I mean, on my own,” said Jimmy through clenched teeth.
“Open your gift. Do you like it?” his Mum asked.
“Thank you. It would be better if I had somewhere to wear it,” he answered, lobbing his new jumper onto the sofa.
“Have you any schoolwork to catch up with?”
“Most people my age have quit school by now. Why do I have to keep learning?” asked Jimmy.
“We’ve been through this too, you were a late starter, you need to catch up now.”
Jimmy started schooling at the age of just under five. Unfortunately, he stopped at nine. Fortunately, he didn’t know why.
“What are you doing, Jimmy?” June asked.
“Just researching my authors. The home school told me to,” he answered, closing his laptop.
“Let me see!” his Mum asked angrily.
Red-faced, Jimmy handed it over.
“When did you open a Facebook account?” she asked.
“I was just looking,” he stammered.
“You’ve had this for weeks, you’ve got ten friends already. Eight of them are girls. What are you up to?”
“Mum, everybody has Facebook.”
“Maybe, but it is no good for you. From now, you can only use your Apple when I’m with you.”
“Mum, I’m eighteen, I want to go out with other people my age.”
“Get your shoes on, we are going for a walk.”
June grabbed Jimmy’s hand as they rounded a corner, “Ah, how sweet, holding your Mum’s hand,” “What a pretty boy,” “Come and hold this,” laughed a gang of teenagers.
Jimmy ducked his head but smiled at one girl.
June pulled him harder as she pressed a doorbell. ‘Dr Siriwan, Hypnotherapist’, boasted the label. The receptionist showed them to the waiting room. June poked her head through the door and whispered.
“We need your help, doctor.”
“The same problem?” he asked.
“Yes, and getting worse, I’m afraid.”
“Come and make yourself comfortable, Jimmy,” signalled Dr Siriwan.
Jimmy knew the routine. He slid across the leather seat until relaxed, laying back in the upholstery.
When the session ended, “Sorry, but I must charge you more, it’s taking longer to get the message across. Also, I’m not sure if I can continue with this treatment. It is against all ethics,” said the Doctor.
“What am I going to do?” said June.
“Why not let him grow up?” said Dr Siriwan.
June shook her head, grabbing her son. Jimmy skipped home.
Jimmy had some cocoa and went to bed. June grabbed his laptop.
“Facebook… What has he been looking at?”
June deleted his new ‘pals’. She half-closed the top, then changed her mind.
She scrolled through pages of home-schooling work, “What is this? Family search? That won’t help him. He doesn’t know I changed our surname,” she worried.
She suddenly bolted up, knocking her chair backwards.
“Please no, ‘Family Tragedies’, oh no, please, please, don’t let him find out,” she wailed. Tapping local news pages, flipping page after page, what other articles had he researched. “Thank God we moved,” she said.
She stormed upstairs to quiz him, bursting through the door, she stopped, “Ah, look at him, sleeping like a baby.”
Changing her mind, she returned and flicked the kettle on.
Upstairs a ‘young’ eighteen-year-old boy opened and closed one eye, then the other. He reached under the bed and pulled out three A4 sheets he had printed earlier. Rereading for the third time.
“Could this be me?” he asked himself.
“You seem sleepy. Did you not sleep well?” his Mum asked.
“Funny dreams, that’s all,” he answered.
“There is bread in the toaster, can you manage? Don’t overdo it with the peanut butter. I must pop out,” June said.
“And get on with your history lesson. I won’t be very long.”
Grabbing her handbag and snatching her car keys from the shelf, she left him.
He left the bread sitting cold; he sprinted upstairs. In her wardrobe was a metal box tucked under a selection of old shoes. It should be secure, but wasn’t. Her son would never pry, would he?
He opened it.
“I’m home, how are you getting on?” she called, noticing the bread untouched and, unusually, the top was on the Sunpat Peanut Butter jar.
“In here,” he called.
“That doesn’t look like school work?”
“No, it isn’t. I have a question, who is James Jameson?”
She collapsed into the chair. Slowly regaining her wits, she peered up at her son looming and leaning over her.
“And June Jameson?” he continued.
“Uh, I, I mean we,” she looked hopelessly at her son. “I changed our surname,” wondering how much he had found out.
“Yes, but why?”
“Would you like your toast now?”
“No, why did you change our names?”
“My dear, it was a long time ago, we had to move,” she said, realising he hadn’t mentioned moving. She bit her lip.
“So, we moved, did we? And you changed our names? Why?” he asked. He had never shouted at her before.
She studied him warily, trying not to say more.
“Well?” he screamed, clenching his fists.
“Have you taken your medication, dear,” she asked.
“Forget the pills, forget the toast. Just tell me,” his fists slammed into the coffee table. She was quaking. Old memories flooded back.
“Okay darling, okay, you had a… a kind of breakdown. We had to move away from our old house.”
This calmed him, but only briefly, he was thinking.
“Let me make you something to eat?”
She nipped to the kitchen. Her hands shook as she opened a tin of beans. Suddenly, Jimmy stood behind her.
“Who is my Dad? Where is he?”
“Your father is no longer with us,” she answered.
“Did you change his name?”
Wondering why he had asked that question, she puzzled what had he read?
“No, I’m sorry he died.”
“Was he sick?”
“He had er a… an accident.”
“Oh, I wondered why you kept a newspaper clipping,” he sneered.
The beans hit the floor, spilling tomato sauce across the tiles. His slippers slipped as he grabbed her throat.
“I did it for you,” she cried.
“You killed my Dad? And my little sister?”
She could no longer speak as his fingers dug deeper. She shook her head as his grip eased.
“I read the newspaper, tell me the truth,” he said.
Rubbing her bruised neck, “Let’s sit down. I’ll tell you about that day.”
He kicked off his sticky slippers before he walked on the carpet.
“You are a good boy,” she said.
Behind him, she grabbed a plastic bag from the counter and flipped it over his head. This time it was her small hands gripping the plastic to his throat. She kept a tight hold even when his knees buckled. She moved with him. Right down onto the floor.
She put a cushion under his neck, as any Mum would. Leaving the bag tightly in its place. She sprinted to her bedroom, grabbing the yellowing newspaper, and jogged back to her son.
“You want to know what happened? I’ll read it to you.” Unfolding the paper, she cleared her throat, “Listen while I read, ‘A cold but dry evening last week saw a tragedy unfold in our small village. Mr Jameson had tidied up his garden. He lit a fire to burn leaves when an argument broke out between his children. ‘Dreadful it was,’ said his wife Mrs Jameson, who witnessed the event from her kitchen window. ‘My husband tried to stop Jimmy and his little sister fighting, Jamie was consoling Lulu when Jimmy struck him with a rock, my husband fell onto the flames. Jimmy grabbed a can, thinking it was water, and threw it over both Lulu and Jamie. I was too slow’ she said through tears. The police are unsure if the boy knew it was petrol or water in the can. They took Jimmy away for questioning.’ So dear son, now you know what happened. You spent three years in a secure hospital, treatment and counselling. They said you could leave into my care. Goodnight, sweet boy, sleep well.”
“No Mum could have done more,” she thought.
She’s a liar. She’s a stalker. She’s in your house.
When Claire sees Hannah Wilson at an exclusive Manhattan hair salon, it’s like a knife slicing through barely healed scars. It may have been ten years since Claire last saw Hannah, but she has thought of her every day, and not in a good way. So Claire does what anyone would do in her position—she stalks her.
Me and Will. Will and Me. A perfect match. He said he would always be there for me, but it’s been a year since he drained his coffee, walked out the front door and vanished.
Did he leave me? Or did something terrible happen? I’m scared someone finally found out about what happened on the drive home that night…