Happy New Year! And 'Gone', a Story.
Happy New Year to all of you!
I wish you health and happiness in 2023, aided by lots of great reading!
Do you make New Year's resolutions?
I have one big one: to finish editing the 5th book in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series and get it published and launched. It would be great to have a spring launch. The challenge for me is assigning time! There are always so many things to do on the farm. Wish me luck!
This is the story I wrote for the Writers' Circle word challenge in December. The words I had to use are in italics.
I follow it with a picture of the snow we got last month. It has almost all gone now, and the horses are finding blades of grass to nibble on (they have free-choice hay, but weather-beaten grass seems to be more appealing!?).
Magazines were strewn across the bed as if they’d been thrown there. The large, thick, area rug was rolled up to reveal a dark wooden floor with two broken boards that lay beside a metal box. James was shaken. His world had fallen apart and wouldn’t be easily glued back together—unlike the floorboards.
His hands trembled as he picked up a couple of the magazines and scanned their salacious headlines. He tossed them back onto the bed and walked towards the desk. The laptop was gone. His son must be obsessed with pornography, as he’d feared.
Stale, musty smells irritated his nose. This expansive bedroom in the west wing hadn’t been cleaned regularly. The door was always locked. James believed that his son should have his own space and be left alone to sort out the challenges of adolescence—the difficult period between childhood and adulthood.
James opened the door to the dressing room. He was bemused by the fact that it was much tidier and more organized than he’d expected. A sweatshirt emblazoned with the golf course logo, that James had given him, lay on the floor, but otherwise, everything seemed to be in place.
James entered the ensuite bathroom. The basin and shower weren’t growing furry stuff and the taps, although dull, weren’t crusty with lime and soap scum. His son’s favourite black water bottle sat on the marble top. James had noticed that he took this to college with him every day. It had been filled, but the cap hadn’t been screwed on.
James kicked something with his foot, and it skidded across the grey granite tiles and hit the base of the toilet. His son’s glasses. James’ heartbeat quickened. This was his new pair with the thick, dark frames and his son wore them constantly. It was odd that they were on the floor.
But he couldn’t bring himself to phone the police. He’d had too much to do with them in his past and even recently. They thought he was involved in a pyramid scheme called the Burton Triangle, set up by his childhood friend, Mike Burton. But James had enough sense not to have anything to do with Burton or his scheme. It had ended their friendship.
James was now convinced that his son hadn’t left willingly. And this was a relief. There was a chance that his son would return. All he’d have to do was pay the ransom. Nobody needed to know anything about the pornography.
But many puzzling questions muddled his thinking. Who would want to abduct his son and why? Money, he supposed. He fumbled around in the room looking for something to go on. He found several items under the bed, including a football. That surprised him since James had banned his son from playing sports and didn’t allow any college friends to come to the estate. His son had said he didn’t want to ask them anyway, probably because he was embarrassed by the family’s wealth and enormous mansion with its necessary staff.
James Bartholomew II, or Bart, as he was known to his friends, was meanwhile reveling in his freedom. He was in high spirits as he rode his thoroughbred hunter across his father’s fields. Once he reached the edge of the estate, he dismounted, tied the reins in a knot over the mare’s neck, slid the stirrups up the leathers, and turned her around. He yelled at her to go back to the barn. She obediently took off at a gallop, flinging clods of sod up into the air behind her. The stable boy wouldn’t tell. His father would hold the poor lad responsible if he thought he knew anything.
Bart had figured out how to unlock his door some time ago but wanted to ensure his escape worked. He obtained some porn magazines to leave in his room. Bart let drop that a teacher at his school had been arrested and charged for his participation in an online pornography ring. He made sure to take his laptop, hoping that his father would suspect he was somehow involved—knowing this would cause his father acute anxiety and that he wouldn’t want it to become public. It was curious that his father had never checked his laptop, but he was sixty years old and scorned technology. Bart wouldn’t have been permitted to have a computer, except that he was required to have one for college.
To strengthen the impression that he’d been abducted, Bart made it clear he loved his black water bottle. He also gushed over the hideous sweatshirt his father had given him. Perhaps he went over the top with that, but his father had grunted his approval. He left both behind, as well as his new glasses which he dropped on the bathroom floor. He wore his old pair.
Bart had diligently saved money over several years, including cash given to him by the few remote relatives who visited at Christmas. He kept it in a metal box hidden in a space under the floorboards. He broke a couple of the boards to make it look as if his abductor had stolen from him.
He knew the ruse wouldn’t hold up for long, but he hoped it would give him enough time to get far away while his father waited to hear from his captors.
Bart wouldn’t have to endure any more painful silences in the chauffeur-driven car to and from college. No more solitary hours in his room. No more dreaming of playing football and dribbling his ball around the area rug.
Having access to the internet allowed him to eventually find his mother and connect with her. She’d been a maid at the house but was fired after Bart was born. The baby was raised by an autocratic nanny who finally left when it became obvious that James would never, ever marry her even though his wife had died when Bart was about three years old.
Bart had arranged to meet his mother in France. He stepped onto the rolling ferry with alacrity, thankful that he had a passport. His father had planned for them both to attend a business convention in Switzerland, which Bart had dreaded. He shook those thoughts out of his head and watched the squawking seagulls swirling and dipping around the ship. The English Channel represented the final hurdle between him and his future as a free person.
Meanwhile, the stable boy found James hanging from a rafter in the barn. James had watched Bart gallop away on the mare. His despair and grief became unbearable. He hadn’t prevented his son from becoming a sex addict as he had once been. He’d done all he could but had failed. He couldn’t control his son, the only precious possession that meant anything to him.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
This photo will give you an idea of the amount of heavy, wet snow that fell at the farm! I couldn't open the kitchen door fully to take this photo. It took me 2 1/2 hours to shovel the deck and the back patio.
Martin spent several hours blowing out the snow that fell on our driveway and on the path to the barn.
The dogs loved it and the horses didn't seem to mind. The cats...another story!
It has nearly all gone now.
I know I'm in the minority, but I'd like some new, fresh snow!!