• Gina Fegan

Chapter 27. What to do?

Steve had found something interesting in the file, something that might help him create an opportunity for some time with Maeve. He didn’t want to share it just yet, not until he had sorted the logistics. He could feel himself tapping to the beat of Dave Brubeck’s Square Dance, he liked it when a plan started to come together.

Maeve had had enough. She needed a change and something as normal as possible, so she arranged to meet her friend Kim for a coffee that afternoon. You could still exercise with one other person from another household, so technically they wouldn’t be breaking any rules. Maeve knew that Kim was shielding and she would keep her distance so they would probably be fine. Everyone was missing seeing friends and family. There was the hope that Christmas would be the time for family, the government plan was for up to three households to get together for up to five days. Ada had been planning to come over and stay with Maeve. Maeve wasn’t so sure, particularly right now. Just this minute Ada was the last person she wanted to see.

Kim, who referred to herself as ‘the crazy cat lady’, had known Maeve since the first film festival where they had both been volunteers. They shared a love of film and good coffee and had stayed friends ever since. She was the very person that Maeve needed to talk to right now. Grounded and practical, Kim was also digital tech savvy so a good person to work out what Maeve might do re Ada and Tik Tok.

The sun was still shining, but already low in the sky, the atmosphere was heavy from the rain last night giving the sky that strange luminescence particular to this time of year. Coffee’s bought, they took a back route past the shop RockPaperScissors.

Peering through the windows it did look like Ada’s prints had all gone.

“That’s annoying. I was hoping that she had been exaggerating.” Maeve sighed. They walked on towards Greyfriars Gardens. Past the Canterbury Punting Co’s cafe and access point to the river Stour. The pleasant walkway linked Stour St with the gardens by crossing two branches of the river. They stopped on the second bridge to look at the tiny Greyfriars Chapel that straddled the river.

Sipping their coffee leaning on the railings, they were enjoying each other’s company, Maeve was laughing and it felt good.

“Did you know that Saint Francis of Assis himself sent the monks over who built that building? Doesn’t it feel as if you can touch the past sometimes?” She didn’t register the irony of the fact that she frequently talked directly to the past. Buildings are solid and somehow that made it completely different, no one doubted a building.

Kim who was more of a keen gardener said,

“And those are the Franciscan gardens.” Shifting to more contemporary thoughts adding, “I think that they do weddings in the gardens in summer now. What a romantic place for a wedding, if the sun was shining.”

Somehow that sounded funny, the idea of relying on the sun in an English summer, they both started laughing.

Maeve was watching the water flow thinking that it might be fun to play Pooh Sticks, when she felt that pull again. The desire to get into the water. This time she reacted instantly, held onto Kim’s arm, and said,

“We have to move now. Urgently.”

The tone of her voice meant that Kim didn’t hesitate, she walked Maeve over to the seat in the park.

Keeping her back firmly to the river, Maeve told the story of her experience in the river at Fordwich.

“Well it is the same river.” Kim’s logic seemed to have a meaning, which neither of them fully understood.

“I’ve never had an experience like that. But whenever I have had a problem, something I can’t control I have found that I have to face it directly.”

They had the kind of easy relationship which meant that Kim wasn’t preaching, she was sharing, and Maeve appreciated it. “The more I put things off, the worse they get. When I turn and deal with stuff head on, it may not go perfectly but I am in control. That makes a big difference.”

Maeve had recovered, they put their paper coffee cups into the bin and walked on.

“Hmm, I like the sound of that, not sure how....” Maeve was thoughtful as they passed through the narrow passageway between the houses heading towards Westgate gardens.

“My real issue is that I don’t know what it is.”

Kim laughed, “Sorry, but abstractly that sounds funny. Clearly it is a river.”

Laughter is infectious, she was making Maeve smile too, “Laughing about it is helpful, it seems to make it less important.”

Maeve was thoughtful and then began to look excited, “Actually I wonder if that is a way to do it. When I was laughing I didn’t have that connection with the water.” She was now very pleased with herself. “It may not be the answer, but at least it gives me something to try.”

The sun was setting as they came to Westgate, reflecting off the main branch of the Stour, the sky now full of startling oranges and deep pinks merging into the deepening blue. The water level was high, it was so close to bursting the river bank here, that the access steps were almost fully submerged.

Crossing the river Maeve said,

“Jokes, I need jokes, as a safety precaution.”

Kim offered, “What’s a cat’s favourite dessert?” Pause, “Chocolate mouse!”

Feeling comfortable enough to be a bit silly Maeve was enjoying herself, which in itself seemed to have the desired effect.

“See, nothing, I felt nothing. That is such a relief.”

They were about to go their separate ways when Maeve remembered that she was really looking for help with Ada and her online fame.

Kim didn’t hesitate,

“With Ada you are on your own. She is a special case. This has nothing to do with technology, it has everything to do with personality.”

Ada could turn the charm on but over the years Kim had seen through the charm and knew that Ada was good company when you were doing what Ada wanted. Ada was not interested in cats, gardens or films, and mainly drank tea. Not much common ground. And Kim had always felt that Maeve was by far the more responsible of the two, Ada had a habit of getting herself into situations that needed some kind of rescuing.

That evening Steve called Maeve. He had enjoyed their last late night call. Warmth and intimacy without interruptions. Plus he had news. He had by now heard the Ada drama, which he thought was quite funny till he realised that she might do something with all these fans to kick off another media storm. Getting out of town for a few days could be a good idea.

“I went back over the details of that poor family’s experience. And it was a dog walker who came across the terrible results. The witness was so traumatised by the experience that they moved away from the area, as far as they could get.”

Steve was enjoying himself, he had made some progress, but how to put it so that Maeve would be as keen as he was.

Maeve jumped in and retold their experience in the woods that morning.

“Was there anything in the file about the child’s shoe? I can’t figure out if she is using it to communicate something else, or if she is actually upset about the shoe itself.”

This was just the entree Steve needed.

“Interesting that you should ask that. There is someone who might have some answers.”

“Well don’t leave it there, what do you mean?”

“The dog walker now lives in Scotland, in Cromarty on the Black Isle. Which I gather is a lovely place. Anyway I got in touch and he was a little cagey at first but was willing to talk to us, but only on the condition that we went up in person to see him.”

“What! All the way to Scotland and we don’t even know if it will help.”

“Well, I’ve got permission this end for us to go on official business. And I have found a lovely bed and breakfast in Cromarty. Given what Ada’s been up to, it might be a good idea to get out of Dodge for a few days.” He waited to hear her reaction. Softly he added,

“It would give us some time on our own.”

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