It’s five years ago this September that I published my book ‘Flipside’. It’s set in 1989 and Jaz moves to Oldham to be with her recently bereaved brother. Unexpectedly she finds love with David a man who is suffering from things he saw and did while serving with the army in various conflicts. Jaz is at home in her flat; David has gone to meet up with her brother , Kiran who is his business partner but there has been a massive falling out. Jaz hears someone outside and when she goes downstairs she sees it’s David…
Someone was standing in the entrance of the passageway between the shop and the disused spiritualist church next door. He was outlined by the oblique light from the street lamp on Thomas Street, silhouetted in the orange glow. I stopped, startled and then alarmed.
It was David. I was dismayed he was back so soon, things hadn’t gone well with Kiran. I called his name but then he was gone. Things must have gone disastrously. I ran up the passageway and turned into Thornbrook Street but he’d vanished.
I was frightened. He was alright when he left the flat, so what had Kiran said or done? I ran past the shop front to the corner and glanced up and down Thomas Street. It was deserted, but I saw David moving away from Lees down past the cemetery.
He was walking swiftly, head down. I only hesitated a second and then began to run after him. I was out of breath by the time I passed the other deserted shop on the corner of Spring Lane, but I had to catch him. I trotted down the uneven pavement past the row of houses on the other side of the road, and then the big red brick house which had some connection to a vanished mill. I couldn’t see him as I came to the end of the cemetery wall and Hopkin Mill Close. I passed the old cottages which looked down over the pasture where horses grazed.
We’d walked down here a couple of times, holding hands and he’d told me about disappeared mills and farms and dairies and the history of this little green pocket.
I walked as fast as I could. It must be bad, it must be really bad. There were lights on at the farm, the house was on one side, a barn on the other; I continued down the narrow, pitted lane, taking care of the rough bumps and deep pot-holes in the unpaved surface.
I wasn’t going to catch him unless he stopped but I couldn’t leave him while he was so upset. I was nearly at the ford and I was the only one out on this foul damp night, not a single jogger or dog walker. I was very cold.
It was hopeless. I’d have to go home and wait until he came back. Why had he run away from me? It could only be that something so awful had happened between him and Kiran that he couldn’t face me and I wondered how fragile he really was.
I wearily stepped onto the little metal footbridge over the stream, the small beginning of the River Medlock. There was no sign of him continuing up towards the main road or striking either way along the footpaths through the Medlock Valley. I stood shivering, feeling sad and alone. I was overwhelmed with grief and lifted my face to look up into the misty sky as if to seek some comfort. All my feelings of loneliness and desolation returned and I had an urge to go back to the flat, pack a bag, find a taxi and go to the nearest station to flee south.
I turned back. Standing in the middle of the road staring down towards me was David. Suddenly, unaccountably I was frightened, I was frightened of David. Things Kiran had said, scraps of venom which had seemed impossible, unthinkable rushed into my mind. Angry, violent, frustrated, trained to kill.
I called his name again but he didn’t answer, just stood staring at me. I was really scared; he was so still, so motionless, standing ready and alert, on the balls of his feet. He stood beneath a light but I couldn’t see his face, shadowed and hidden by his hood.
Hood? David hadn’t got a hood on his jacket, I couldn’t think of anything he had with a hood. He only wore a cap and had gone to meet Kiran bare-headed.
This man wasn’t David, I could see now that he wasn’t. He was slimmer, perhaps even taller, but his legs were thin.
He’d been in the shop, or round the back, or in the hall leading to the stairs up to the flat and he’d stood looking at me standing in the passage. He’d hidden somewhere and watched and followed, and now he was standing in the road, staring at me.
I looked round. The road continued up towards Holts Lane where there were houses with lights on. I couldn’t run up there, even if I was being chased, it was too steep. I didn’t want to leave the road, it would be madness to follow the footpath by the stream, there were bushes and trees to be dragged under. Anyone out on the open grassy areas at this time of night in this miserable weather wouldn’t be bothered by a man and a woman, even if he was chasing her, or had hold of her, even if she was struggling and crying out for help… I was weak with fear, petrified, frozen, unable to move or run anywhere.
The silence split with shouting and raucous laughter and on the sky-line a group of youngsters were running around shouting, yelling, chasing, they must be from Holts Village. The headlights of a car bobbed down Sunny Bank, silhouetting the waiting man, illuminating me.
I leapt off the end of the bridge and into the ford and splashed along the stream and slipped and slithered my way up the bank. I ran up towards the noise of the teenagers, a welcome racket in the night. Falling and stumbling I struggled up steep steps towards them.
“Help! Help me!” I screamed.
© Lois Elsden 2018
… and if you want to know what led up to this, and what happens next, here is a link: