The Piper 27


At first there had been disbelief, then tears followed by the inevitable sense of betrayal.

Had it not been enough that she had been subjected to ridicule, had her life turned upside down and been dispossessed of her belief in love? No, obviously some god, a god of snide remarks and practical jokes thought it fit to visit one more assault upon her attempts to live a normal life.

Michael hated her, that was obvious from his diary. She had a vague memory of him starting it just after his father’s death. Had equally dim memories of him slinking off to his room to compose his fetid little thoughts and now she remembered each of the very sly looks he thought she had not seen him give her.

She had sat there in the coming light of the early morning reading his ramblings, digesting every morsel of malcontent, and wondered how she could ever have given birth to such a thing. And then, when she felt the dark curtains start to draw together, she had retreated to the garden once again, the garden that belonged to their first marital home and she had let the morning sun rise  sweep across the grass, bringing its solace and…

And then she had felt the thing kick within her.

It was the baby, the child that would be Michael, the one who harboured only hatred in his heart. And she realised that this was not the morning, that the sun was not rising in the east, but was setting in the west, and the shadows were chasing away the light, bringing cold and loneliness. And the thing inside her was kicking, screaming, ranting like a creature of the moon, harnessed and strapped, furious for its release.

She had closed the diary, snapped shut the pages as if she was cutting off all that had happened. She had then hidden it, somewhere very safe where nobody could see or ever find it. That was when she heard the sound from the steps and knew who it was. If she had something to strike him with, she would have clasped it and used it as a weapon. Instead she forced a smile upon her lips, an expression that would not show her deep disgust of him and his plans.

Most of this, she told to Anne, the woman whom she had initially distrusted. It had come out in a flood. One minute she was making tea for the others in the office, they had been chatting their normal weekday talk, then a cup had smashed. Recalling the incident, Laura had used the passive tense as if the cup had accidentally broken. In reality, Laura had thrown the thing against the wall of the office, had thrown another, and was attempting for a hat trick when Anne had restrained her.

Anne the older woman, who was elegant and slim, had held her, pinioned her arms together quietly and without the others noticing.

They had all been sitting there in stunned silence, the cups not having only broken themselves but having also snapped that thread of sanity that connected the morning’s proceedings.

Laura had been in tears, she had brought forth a cacophony of curses and had screeched with the frustration of a life that had been blighted by something more than bad luck. Laura, ‘the lunatic’ as she knew she would henceforth be known, was led into the adjoining office which had been, thankfully, empty.

And it was there that she unleashed the anguish that had formed into the black reservoir of resentment that lay at her centre.

Anne had listened, allowing the tide of Laura’s emotions to abate. She finally placed an arm around the younger woman and pulled her close. Laura fell into its comforting embrace and continued to weep, the slow, deep, heavy shudders dredged up from the very core of her being.

The smell of the older woman’s perfume, a clean distant aroma, took her back to a childhood, one that had not been without its pain and tragedy, and one that she had locked away in a place where nobody could visit. Now she was back there and the heaving of her soul seemed to cleanse the guilt.

“You need somebody to talk to,” Anne said. “Somebody who knows how to help you through this. If you don’t mind, I can find somebody. He’s a consultant here and he is a specialist in this type of thing. I could get him to speak with you, if you would like.”

In this condition, Laura would have agreed to consult with Lucifer if he could get rid of the blackness. She had been stripped of anything that resembled dignity.

The older woman gave her one last hug, a final crumb of comfort, before rising and moving to the door.

“I think he is still in his office. I’ll be just a few minutes.”

Then she was gone.

Laura sat in the sterile surroundings, the various desks before her all had their own personal monitors which were standing unemployed, their screens blank in the fading daylight. She felt as if her own plug had been pulled and lay in this sensation which provided her with some solace. She would not go to the garden, she would be fine here.

“Mrs Andrews?” The rich voice came from around the doorway. “Are you still here Mrs Andrews?”

Laura shifted quickly bringing herself back. She made a movement of her hand towards her hair, straightening it where she had cradled against the other woman. She sat upright and wiped away the last traces of her recently fallen tears. The voice, deeply rich and resonant of professional concern, made her think of her old headmaster’s voice. It was not that it had any tonal characteristics in common with that other voice, but that there was some undisguised authority within it; when it spoke, she knew that people listened.

“Ah, Mrs Andrews. Is it good for us to speak?”

Yes it was good. She needed to speak. She needed somebody to open up her dark places and let the light in. So, she sat and talked. She let the good doctor use his professional skills, his lock-picking, his smooth-talking talents upon her until she did feel better.

“So, are you feeling better, Mrs Andrews?”

Yes, she was feeling better. She was feeling much, much better yet she could not remember a thing they had spoken about.

“And remember to take two tablets a day. It will make you think better. Clear the confusion so to speak.”

How she got home, how she had remembered to pick Pete up, how she had driven Brian was a mystery. However, if life could be this simple, she would accept it any day of the week. There was somebody waiting for them when they returned.

Pete saw the man first and found it difficult not to show his happiness.


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