The Community – SC Richmond 2015. ISBN 987-1-84914-785-9
‘Jack still mourns his lost love but now he has more to worry about. His friend has died and Charmsbury’s local journalist ‘Alexandra Price’ is getting closer to discovering the community.
Alex has no idea as to the identity of the woman’s body that has been found in the park, but it leads her on a journey of discovering more about her home town than she ever could have ever imagined.
What connection could an unknown body, an abandoned baby, missing people and a triquetra have? She sets out to find some answers, unaware of how it will affect the people she loves most.
A mystery and a love story that spans fifty years.’
It’s late July and hot; Charmsbury Park is looking spectacular with its beautiful floral displays of which the town is so proud. The cordoned off area to the side of the bowling green is the only thing that spoils the view. According to the news this morning on the local radio, a man walking his dog had come across the body of a woman. The official line was that it was natural causes and no-one seemed to have any idea who she was.
Jack knew who she was and was just relieved that the body had been found. He had placed her gently alongside her favourite flowers Geraniums and now her body had been discovered she would get the proper burial that she deserved. She’d been a lovely, kind person, a good friend to him and he was already missing her. He had waited and watched as the police arrived to check the scene and take her body away and he was grateful they had treated her with respect. He had also heard the news play out on the gardeners’ radio which was perched on a fence post; it was tuned to a local station that was blaring away whilst he was working diligently at painting some fencing a lurid shade of pink. Now Jack was happy that everything had been taken care of it was time for him to head home and relay the news.
He would have to walk about four miles out of town and get back home without being seen, it seemed like a long walk now that he was almost seventy years old but it would also give him plenty of time to be alone, think and grieve for his friend. He walked past places he knew from his childhood but no one recognized him, he was just another face in the crowd which was the beauty of this being a tourist town and that suited him fine. On his right was the road leading down to the beach, he rarely went there anymore but in his younger days he had enjoyed the beach and on hot summer nights he had slept under the pier, lulled by the sounds of the waves lapping at the sand. Over to his left was a new building that was going to house the new town library, he had read about it in one of the local newspapers but he hadn’t yet found out what the old library building was going to be or when the changeover would take place. He supposed it didn’t really matter anymore anyway as it had been years since he had needed to use it.
He smiled to himself as the memories came flooding back.
Jack had been born in Charmsbury on 3rd September 1945 into a wealthy family. Charmsbury was only a small town but being close to the sea it was a popular place for tourists with its hidden coves, sandy beaches and pretty gentle rolling hills just a short distance inland. As a boy it always seemed to him strange and difficult meeting people and becoming friends, then after their two weeks holiday they went out of his life, forever. There was one boy, Peter with whom Jack became the best of friends and they would spend weeks together every summer exploring and doing all the things young boys did, they would write to each other throughout the rest of the seasons but Peter was from way up North so couldn’t visit as often as he wanted to. Jack thought of him fondly, they had shared some great times together in fact it was with Peter’s help that the doorway had been discovered. It was Peter that got them through the door after working out …..
A horn blasted…. “Get out of the road old man!” The shout jolted him back to reality; he had been daydreaming whilst crossing the road. Not a great thing to do. The driver of the van glared at him in a ‘daft old sod’ kind of way whilst raising his eyebrows and carried on. Jack knew he really should be more careful not to draw attention to himself, he looked around to see if anyone was watching, just a few concerned glances that were quickly turned away when he made eye contact with them. When he was satisfied no-one was taking any more notice of him, he carried on down the road.
With every step he took the town gradually thinned out and the peace and calm of the Charmsbury countryside started to open up before him, the hills looked like a luxuriant emerald carpet, swaying and dipping in the summer sunshine with just the occasional cloud passing in front of the sun, changing the surrounding colours to a dull olive colour, before releasing the full force of the sunshine on them again. Jack was feeling a little sad for Ruby, she would now have a proper funeral but her friends would not be present to send her off. Although Ruby had known that this was the way it must be, she had seen all of her friends before she passed and she had loved her life, eventually. Ruby had been the sixth person they had put out for burial over the years he’d like a better way to describe it but that was what it was and it always made him wonder if there could have been a better way, that wouldn’t eventually lead to their downfall as he knew it most surely would. How many bodies could turn up without someone putting it all together and discovering them? Maybe if his family had been more kind and accepting life could have been very different but they weren’t and his life was what it was.
He carefully climbed over a stile, it was rickety with jagged edges from years of use and weather, it had certainly been there as long as he had been alive and probably for many decades before him, he wandered alongside an untidy hedge that bordered the field that for as long as he could remember held numerous sheep. How many times when he was young had he walked here with Mary, holding hands and feeling like he was the luckiest man in the world? Mary had been sixteen, one year Jack’s junior when they met in 1962. They played the penny slot machines in the local amusement arcade, he remembered he had tried to tell her that there was a secret to winning on them and then went on to lose all her pennies, he had to take her out to make it up to her; he smiled to himself. The amusement arcade was long gone it had been redeveloped into a pound shop selling cheap gaudy items but life must move forward even if it hadn’t changed much for him. Had it been up to him there would be a blue plaque on that wall, the building preserved in the name of romance. He thought then as he still did now that she was the most beautiful, precious thing he had ever seen and she had adored him in return. They thought they would get married and have hoards of children and live happily ever after in a pretty little rose covered cottage but Jack’s family had made damn sure that it wouldn’t work out that way and Jack was still bitter about it, even after all this time.
He had come from a wealthy family and the relationship had been very much frowned upon from the first moment as Mary was from a local farming family and not a rich one, they considered her not good enough for their boy. They wanted him to marry money and probably wanted to see him married off to the local Solicitor’s daughter, there was always money to be found in other people’s misery, and for him to keep the family home and textile business going. By 1964 they had made life increasingly difficult for Jack and Mary and she felt she could no longer take the pressure from his family.
He remembered that day like it was yesterday Mary had asked him to meet her in this very field, when he arrived she was leaning against the stile wearing jeans and a pink blouse but her beautiful blue eyes were red from crying, she ran into his arms, pressed her head against his chest and sobbed, she smelt of ‘Chance’ and it suited her, they held each other for what seemed like an age as if nothing could tear them apart but sadly it already had. They talked for a while and Jack realized he had to grow up and he had to understand that it was too much for her to cope with, his family was making life difficult, trying to stop them from seeing each other and at one stage even offering her family money to stop the relationship but they had liked Jack and wouldn’t go along with any of it, instead of accepting the payoff they threw Jacks father out and told him never to return, saying they were not for sale. The pair talked about running away but Mary had been far too sensible for that, there and then he had realized he must allow her to go; her happiness was the price he had to pay. Silent tears rolled down his cheeks as she turned her back and walked out of his life. It was the last time he had seen her; it had been in May 1964.
Heartbroken he stayed in the field all day not knowing what to do or who to turn to, eventually he returned home in the darkness and buried his head in a book and that pattern lasted for months, all he did was read and the only person who could get through to him was his friend Peter, Jack didn’t see enough of him for it to make much of a difference. Jack lost interest in anything to do with his family or anything connected to their business, he certainly didn’t want a life sitting behind a desk counting the family money. They believed he’d get over it and come back into the fold so they left him to work things out for himself but he never managed to. He spent every spare moment reading English Literature to escape from his real existence. He ploughed through Dickens, Kipling, Stevenson and all of the Bronte’s. With his head in a book nobody disturbed him and he could be any character he wanted to be, it was the perfect escape.
He shook himself, reliving all this emotion would help no one, it still made his heart ache viciously in his chest even after all these years the emotions were still as vivid today as they had been then. He wiped away a lone tear from his cheek and kept moving.
The Community – Click this link and get your copy.