The grandfather clock struck seven. Snuggled up on the sofa as I was, I slowly sipped my glass of port, while I attacked the Daily Mail crossword with determination to get even one question right. The fruity flavour of the port lingered in my mouth like an old friend, soothing and relaxing me more with every sip. But, as hard as I tried, my concentration was lacking, and my attention was quickly drawn to the colourful flames in the fire place in front of me. Hypnotising my emotions, sending the imagination to a happy place. The orange flames quivered in anticipation of the moment, changing their ever florescent colours, devouring the moment like a long lost friend. The burning logs, chortling their ever forgotten tales, while the sparks danced, crackling and hissing their objections to the occasion. Damp wood spat in annoyance. Time was standing still.
Rain poured down outside, and the wind banged at the back door wanting to be let in. Lighting and thunder joined in not wanting to be left out. Soft back ground music played soothing melodies, adding to that Miss Marple sort of atmosphere.
It had been an unexpected sort of day where nothing had gone to plan. Four of the kittens had now gone to a new home, a sheep farm as it happened. The whole estate being over a thousand acres, I felt this was the right home for them, their freedom and happiness were guaranteed. The farmer, Mr. Pennings and his beautiful wife Sally, where the kindness people you could wish to meet, and living on such a big farm, always needed good rat catchers. I felt confident the kittens would grow up happy there. I had kept two of them, Cenny and Charlie. They had been the weakest out of the litter, needing that special one to one care. These two were not rat catchers. (Charlie was the sort of cat that would probably invite the rat in for coffee, have a bored meeting with him, exchanging emails, as you do, then send him on his merry way, with a subtle PS, 'Do say hello to your 120 wives for me!'
Suddenly, my day dreaming was interrupted by the phone ringing.
'James, how are you?' I had replied cheerfully.
'Tired. That’s why I'm ringing. I need to call in that favour you owe me'
'Ah'. My mind starting going 'walkies' when ever James asked for a favour, you could quarantee it would be something that either took all day, or a couple of days, and I would probably feel pretty knackered by the end of it.
'I want you to drive me to Yorkshire. Mum and dad are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary, and they want me to be there for a party on Saturday night.'
'Ok, what next weekend?'
Their was a brief silence. 'James you've gone very quite on me!'
'Well, it's a bit sooner than that'
'Like tomorrow morning. I would like to leave yours at 6.30 am prompt'
I was supposed to be riding a new horse for a friend in the morning, and putting
jumps up in the afternoon. Goodbye to that idea!.
'Jax, I wouldn't ask you unless it was urgent'
'Yea, of course I'll help you.'
'Brilliant thanks a million. See you tomorrow.'
Saturday dawned, the alarm woke me at five thirty. As I came to, I had a terrible sense of dread that engulfed me. I tried to put it to the back of my mind, busying myself with getting dressed and having some strong coffee, and toast. It was a frosty morning and the car windows would need to be wiped clean, but as I walked toward the car, it was as though my body had refused to move. The thought of driving was sending cold shivers through me. What ever was wrong with me.
Suddenly, James arrived, he was his usual cheerful self, terrible apologetic for getting me out of bed so early. While he drank some coffee, we looked at the map to see which route was going to be the quickest.
As we got into the car, a dreadful sense of utter fear filled inside me, my hands were now shaking, my heart beat so fast I thought it would explode. I felt sick. Something was stopping me from driving this car.
'Come on Jackie' said James impatiently, we have a long way to go, and we have got to be at my parents house by one'
'I can't drive James. Something is stopping me'
'Don't be stupid Jackie, your over reacting, your probably been over doing it at work. As I told you yesterday, and just now, I have been doing van deliveries all night. I'm so tired. If I was to drive I'll probably fall asleep. What's got into you woman'
'Please James you must drive, just for a bit, help me.' A sense of loss came over me. I felt ashamed that I was letting him down, but in a sense I felt out of control of the situation, and unable to explain why I was feeling like this. I was at a loss to know what was causing me to feel such fear inside me. Little did I realize, that shortly, everything was going to become clear.
Reluctantly, James drove for an hour and a half, then pulled into a lay bye.
'Sorry I can't drive any more, your going to have to take over, I'm exhausted. I drive any more I'm likely to have an accident. We're not far from my parents house, probably another half an hour, to an hour, max'
Luckily the road wasn't that busy, and the sun was trying it hardest to come through, but as he had said those words, 'I can't drive' a cold sensations swept through me. That feeling of terror was coming into me again. I drove, but with a sense of dread.
As we came across the Sowerby Bridge, that’s when it all happened. A little boy of no more that eight who was riding his bike and clearly not looking where he was going, cycled right in front of me, and I hit him, knocking him straight of the bike into the middle of the road. Slamming on the breaks, I had screamed at James to wake up. We both ran over to the boy. He lay so still, his eyes closed.
I quickly took him my arms, my voice shaking, said ''Please open your eyes' His little body felt cold and limp. He was dead.
Tears now streaming down my face, I cradled his tender young body in my arms as though he were my own son. I sobbed uncontrollably. 'No, no, please god help me'
Suddenly, his eyes slowly opened, For a few seconds, it was as though time was standing still, and then as though by magic, he very slowly got up, and turning to me, smiled. Brushing himself down, got on his bike, and rode of into the distance.
Friday, 6.am. I had woke with a start, The alarm was going of. I sat up with a jolt. Sweating profusely, and feeling very clammy all over, I quickly realised I had had a terrible nightmare. I tried to rub the sleep out of my eyes. In my head I could see the little boy as clear as though he were standing in front of me. He was smiling at me. It was almost as though he wanted to be with me. I could hear his soft child like voice ' thank you' Who was this boy, and why had he come to me in the dream. Why was he saying 'Thank you' to me.
The warm sun shone through the bedroom window, the two kittens, Cenny and Charlie basked in its entirety, purring for England.
Quickly, I showered, then made myself some toast and a mug of strong coffee, trying hard to put the horrid dream out of my head, busying myself with chores. Going upstairs I tidied the bed, and the Daily Mail crossword I had been doing the night before caught my eye, especially one of the clues. 2 down, ' Live beside it, and take from the file what you can' 4 letters. (anag). The answer had to be 'Life'. Why did it seem so relevant.
Unexpectedly, the phone rang, and to my utter surprise it was James.
'Hi Jackie, so sorry to phone you up this early'
'That's ok, I have to be at woke for eight any way. What can I do for you?
'I need to call in that favour you owe me'.
Those words, my heart missed a beat, my body felt like it was in shock.
James continued, 'I need you to drive me to Yorkshire tomorrow morning. Have to be an early start mind. We'll have to leave yours at 6.30 am, so we can be at my parents house for lunch. Its their fiftieth wedding anniversary, there's party in the evening, and I have to be there, but working nights as I am at the moment, I shall be in no fit state to drive, can you help me?'
Silence. The line crackled.
'Jackie, can you help me? His voice now inpatient. I had tried to speak, but nothing came out.
'Jackie, hello, can you hear me. Are you able to help me or not?'
I wanted to say no, but when I thought of all the help he had given me recently, what with the house move and all, I didn't have the heart.
' Yes, yes I'll help you' A sense of utter dread filled me.
'Thank you. That wasn't so hard was it. Be with you tomorrow morning at 6.30am. Be ready to leave when I arrive. Oh, and make one of your delicious milky coffees in a flask, and get some sandwiches, we can eat while we travel. Talk tomorrow. Sorry gotta go, at work' The line went dead. I slowly put the phone down. I had a terrible sense of deja vu, and as I was going to discover, my life was about to change, forever, and there was nothing I was going to be able to do to stop it.
By Jackie. Pin no: 500285
Next time: 'Time' discovers truth.