Short story: read our NEW three-parter!
Anna’s glamorous life in London is brought to an abrupt halt by a tragic accident
The conference room door opened and a timid young receptionist said: “Someone to see you, Miss Merrick.”
“Someone for me?” Anna Merrick looked up from the minutes she was taking of the senior managers’ meeting. “But I asked not to be disturbed.”
The girl glanced apologetically at the managing director who was chairing the meeting. “I know, Miss, but it’s the police and they say it’s very urgent.”
Anna’s boss, Glen Riddle, nodded at her: “Go ahead, Anna. We are all due for a tea break, anyway.”
Anna hurried from the room, trying to hide her concern as well as her annoyance at being interrupted. The girl pointed to a small empty meeting room: “They are waiting for you in there.”
Wondering what on earth the police could possibly want with her, she introduced herself briskly: “Good morning. I’m Anna Merrick. How can I help you?”
Five minutes later she returned to the reception area, staring numbly into space, her face waxen with shock.
“Are you all right, Miss Merrick?” the receptionist asked, pulling up a chair and gently guiding Anna towards it.
“Not really,” Anna managed to answer, still in a trance. “It’s my sister – she’s been in a car accident.”
“Oh dear! Is she hurt?”
Anna gulped and blinked back scalding tears. “No, she’s not hurt… she’s dead,” she whispered just as Glen stepped out of the meeting room. He saw at a glance that something was very wrong and, taking her by the elbow, led her to his office on the seventh floor. Stumbling over the words, she told him what had happened. Glen frowned: “You should go home at once, Anna. You’ve had a terrible shock.”
“I will have to go to Wales. My sister was a widow with a four-year-old son. There is nobody to take care of him and there will be the funeral to arrange and…” she stammered.
Glen’s frown deepened, assessing this unexpected turn of events. Surely Anna couldn’t be expected to take the child on? She was ambitious – he couldn’t visualise her giving up all that she’d worked for to become a surrogate mum.
It was too many months since she had made time to visit her sister and nephew
“Well, I’m sure you’ll manage to sort something out,” he mumbled awkwardly. “Just take as long as you need off work. I’ll get someone to step in while you are away but, don’t worry, your job will be waiting for you when you get back. And Anna – I’m so sorry this has happened.”
She rose, her legs feeling as though they had turned to jelly. Wordlessly, she stumbled back to her own office to collect her coat and briefcase.
As she left the building and stepped out into the busy street, the familiar sights and sounds of London assaulted her. The roar of the traffic, the crowds – everything was just as it had been that morning and yet nothing would ever be the same again.
She hailed a taxi and within an hour was back in her bright, modern flat hastily packing a suitcase. She scribbled a note for Libby, her cleaning lady, then realised she needed to contact Justin as well. They had been invited to a cocktail party in Chelsea that evening, but by then she would be on the M4, well on her way to deepest, darkest Wales as Justin always called it.
Justin would not be very pleased, but right now that was not her main concern. His phone went straight to voicemail, so she left a garbled message as she hurried down to the ground floor to let Fred the doorman know that she was going away for a while. She couldn’t bring herself to tell him the reason, but explained that she didn’t yet know how long it would be for.
“Don’t worry, Miss, I’ll keep an eye on the place for you,” he told her with a
friendly wink. Anna made her way down to the underground car park and was soon steering her red BMW towards the North Circular to pick up the M4 at Chiswick.
Her mind filled with thoughts of Kat, her sister, who would have been 36 on her birthday next month. Although Kat was four years older, the sisters had been very close until Anna had decided to pursue her career in London.
She knew nothing about children and their upbringing – and had no wish to learn
Kat had never fully approved of her new lifestyle, telling her younger sister that there was a lot more to life than fast cars, designer handbags and a highpowered job. But Anna had never looked back, loving every moment of her life in the big city.
To be fair, Kat had never been jealous of Anna’s glamorous world – she was perfectly content with her choice to marry her teenage sweetheart, Steve. They had bought a derelict farmhouse in rural Pembrokeshire and spent every spare minute renovating it with the intention of filling it with a large family of children. Tragically, Steve had died from a rare form of cancer only two months before their son, William, was born.
Since Steve’s death, Kat had devoted herself to bringing up their son. And now, unbelievably, Kat was gone. It was too much to take in.
Anna’s mind went back to the day of William’s christening when Kat had asked her to be godmother. She could see Kat in the little village church, her blonde hair in a neat chignon, her blue eyes shining with pride. Anna felt a terrible stab of guilt, remembering that it was too many months since she had made time to visit her sister and her young nephew.
What was she going to do about William now? Steve’s parents lived abroad and her own parents were dead so she was his only living relative, but she knew nothing about children and their upbringing – and had no wish to learn. Motherhood was not for her.
Anna thought, ‘I’ll ring social services. Perhaps they can find someone to foster him. A nice local family’. But before that, she had to concentrate on other matters; there was a funeral to organise and Kat’s estate to sort out. Had her sister made a Will? Did she have a solicitor?
She drove on, feeling she was in the grip of a nightmare. Crossing the Severn Bridge, she told herself that one thing was for sure, she wasn’t going to stay away from London or Justin for a moment longer than she had to!
■ In the next issue, out on December 4, find out what happens when Anna arrives to find her young nephew alone in the world