• Gina Fegan

Chapter 12. What next?

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Safely back home, Maeve thought about Steve. She was so grateful to him, but at the same time she didn’t know what to say or what to do about him. She wasn’t sure what she wanted, what kind of relationship she wanted. Steve had been perfect in a crisis, but Maeve had been going through such a whirlwind of emotions she wasn’t sure if her feelings for him were real or hormonal. Can you put something that hasn’t really happened on hold? Would he understand? As she had done so many times before when she wasn’t ready to face her emotions she turned to the practical. There were urgent things to sort out, to be able to bring Ada home. A camp bed in the sitting room, bed linen and towels, bedside table and light, nightlight, TV moved into the breakfast/dining room which was a precaution to avoid the kids potential complaints. Plus online research into Ada’s condition and best after care, Marieanne and Orla took that on and did a great job. They had even colour coded menus and exercise sheets for Ada, which Ada would, of course, hate! 

The relief that Ada had come through, and that they all had a role in giving back some of the care she had given them boosted the energy they needed to finish the preparations that night. A Chinese takeaway was ordered in and of course they overindulged, all three ended the day exhausted, overfed, but happy. Reports from the hospital were good, she was still due to be discharged around midday the next day.

The next morning the first thought in Maeve’s mind was trying to work out what to do about Steve. Probably better to try to cool things for the moment, let her get her emotions more under control. When in doubt ‘wait and see’ was always a good policy.

Sometimes personal crises bring people together, sometimes the gratitude causes awkwardness and sometimes the crisis acts as a reminder of a bad time best forgotten. Steve wasn’t sure which camp he fell into. He also didn’t know what he wanted. Having a relationship was great in the abstract, but after so many years he had got used to his own company and wasn’t sure that he was ready to have someone around all the time. He needed his own space. He needed time to think but he didn’t get it.  

By the time he had arrived at the station word had gone round that he had a new woman, bint, bird, or bit on the side. Steve was known for not rising to the bait, teasing him was a normal part of station life and this was too good to miss. True to his reputation he ignored it all getting back to unfinished paperwork. It didn’t mean that he didn’t care, in fact it bothered him how much it annoyed him and how much he wanted to deny it. He had given Maeve his personal mobile number, but she hadn’t called. It seemed ridiculous to him but having decided that really he needed his own space he now began to feel like a teenager again, should he call her? Was she waiting for him? Thinking it through, Maeve would have a lot to deal with today, best leave it for the moment, and laugh off the ribbing. Putting his phone on his desk, he saw the message. 

Maeve started the day with a spring in her step. The house was ready, she would do the grocery shopping on her way over to the hospital in Ashford. What to feed Ada? Start with comfort food, baked potatoes and homemade coleslaw, no grated cheese or minimal butter, should be okay and easy to prepare. Or something an invalid could eat, homemade brown bread with a boiled egg? That would do it, it was Maeve’s own favourite food when she needed to recover from anything. Decision made, she had the morning to herself. Time to go for a walk in the University grounds, lovely open space, and unlikely to meet anyone, time for a morning coffee up at the Gulbenkian cafe, plus pick up a spinach and feta pastry takeaway for lunch. She would send Steve a message, as soon as she had worked out what to say. Walking is a good way to work through things. She decided not to deal with all the ‘other world’ requests from the hospital spirits until she had spoken to Ada. I mean, do you just phone people up and say I have a message for you from your dead aunt or dead brother? Seemed a bit brutal and they probably wouldn’t believe her. There must be a protocol to follow. 

Steve held up the piece of paper and shouted out, “am I the only one allocated to dealing with this?” No reply. “Christ!” It was a report on a missing person dated yesterday, it had been phoned in while Steve was out. He had to contact the family, ideally he would shoot out to see them asap. He needed to do a risk assessment, meaning work out how likely they were to come to harm. He liked to do it in person and see the environment that the missing person had left. It should have been done as soon as the report came in. He should have been there to do it. Shit! It was a young woman, called in by the family. These often sorted themselves out. It was coming close to exam time and sometimes the stress made kids do crazy things, sometimes they run away from one parent to go to the other. Anyway it needed to be sorted right away.

As Maeve left the house, she turned to go up to the University, when suddenly Susan came into her mind and she felt bad, she hadn’t tried to contact her and it was all due to Susan that Maeve had met Steve. Maybe a quick walk to Beverly Meadow would be just as good. She had been drinking too much coffee anyway. As she walked purposefully down the hill she wondered how do you get in touch with a spirit? Apart from a seance or one of Ada’s gatherings she really didn’t know. When she got to the park she thought ‘this is easier than I imagined’. Susan was standing there waiting for her. On reaching her Maeve started with, “can we sit down on the bench, I have a lot to tell you? I wasn’t sure you would be here.” Susan nodded adding, “Well you shouldn’t be surprised, I called you, that’s why you came!” Actually very disconcerted at the idea that the spirit had called her, Maeve filled Susan in on her meetings with Steve. She skipped out the episode with Ada. Susan had been nodding slightly throughout as though she knew all of it already and was politely waiting for Maeve to finish. But Maeve still had questions, “who are you? I mean what were you doing in Canterbury? What about your family? You didn’t ask me to do any of the normal family things the others asked, why?” Susan smiled, “I knew you were a ‘friend’ when I first saw you. You are. But we don’t have time for this at the moment, one day I will, but right now you must talk to Steve.” This time Maeve was ready, notebook in hand, Susan went on, “ Steve is looking for someone, tell him that it is serious and that he must look harder, not too far from here” and she waved her arm in a general direction away from the city centre and that broadly covered Maeve’s house, the University and a good 20% of the North West of Canterbury. “What has happened? Where exactly?” Maeve was getting better at thinking of the specific info that she would need when reporting back. Susan looked vague “I don’t know, I am feeling negative energy, distress, and I know it is connected to me. It’s that way, over there somewhere.” She followed with the same pretty unspecific wave. “Right now that’s all I know. There is a person who needs Stephen. I hope he gets there in time.”

Without hesitation, Maeve picked up her phone and rang Steve. When he answered he was sharp and to the point, “I can’t talk, I am on my way to a job. I’ll call as soon as I arrive, in about ten minutes.” He rang off. Maeve was about to relay this to Susan when she realised that she was on her own again. Feeling helpless she thought ‘what now? Nothing I can do till he calls’, so she headed home.

It turned out Steve’s job was at the house next door to Maeve’s!

As Maeve arrived she saw Steve getting off his police motorbike parked outside of Anne and Ray’s house. What was going on?She caught his attention just as he rang the doorbell. “Coffee when you are done?”, Steve nodded ‘yes’ as Ray opened the door. Maeve, not wanting to be nosey slipped out of sight behind the giant rhododendron between the two houses.

Maeve got on really well with her neighbours. Lots of garden chat over the fence. They both liked growing their own veg often swapping whatever was in abundance like cucumber for garlic, or handing on any excess seedlings in spring, these were the best kind of neighbours. A retired couple, Anne and Ray, they had put up with Maeve’s family over the years with tolerance and good grace, running the gamut from Marieanne and Orla’s rumbustious play as small children to their adolescence scenes now. Without any bad intentions the girls were the source of ear splitting shrieks of laughter shattering the neighbourhood peace, the climbing of the neighbours trees threatening to break branches or limbs, and loud music at unsociable hours. The girls would probably have annoyed Maeve but it was all tolerated without complaint by next door, not a peep. “Children have to grow up, and it's lovely to see and hear the young ones”, was all they ever said.  Once a tennis ball shot straight through a pane of glass in their greenhouse door and the only comment was ‘no one was hurt’, and when Maeve offered to pay to repair it, Anne said ‘it was old and needed new glass anyway, this will make Ray do it at last’, as she handed Maeve another cucumber.

By the time Steve rang the bell, Maeve had imagined any number of scenarios, she was sufficiently worried about next door and Susan’s warning that she didn’t have enough time to wind herself up about Steve. Cafetière at the ready, she waved at the mugs, biscuits, milk and sugar with a ‘help yourself’ gesture as she launched non-stop into “ I have just seen Susan again, in the park, she called me because she has a message for you. I wrote it down. Susan’s message is, ‘regardless of what you think, this is really serious, you must look harder and whoever they are, they are near here, and it's urgent’.” Maeve ended with a flourish, stabbing her notebook. At first Steve didn’t reply. He fiddled with the coffee as he thought about what he should do, then he said, “I think you should go next door and talk to your neighbour. At the moment I can not tell you why I am here. He may tell you and then we can talk.” 

In spite of the intel Maeve already had, whether from Susan or somewhere else, Steve knew he had to do this by the book. If something went wrong Maeve might become a suspect. Putting that unpleasant thought aside Steve tried to return to more normal conversation, “How’s Ada? Are you going to pick her up today? If so why not meet me on your way over if ‘Ray’” Steve looks down at his notebook for confirmation of the name, “if Ray, tells you what happened.” Maeve working out the timing said, “sure let's meet at the Lunch Box on Dover St, I’ll text you when I’m en route.”

Maeve really didn’t want to ask Ray what had happened. Putting two and two together, with a sinking feeling she was developing an awareness that Anne was the person that Susan was trying to help. 

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