If…a short story by Lyndon Haynes

                      IF                                  Written by: Lyndon Haynes.   © All rights reserved. 

                         

Lucky

“I’ve finished your report now Mr. Donavan, and I’ve sent the file to your home email address” said Lucy, “thanks doll have a lovely weekend” Ross replied, he remained motionless his hands thrust in his pockets staring out of his office window, he could see the London eye in the distance, his athletic frame sharply dressed in a crisp white shirt and black trousers, “lucky Donavan so what goes for tonight?, a couple of g & t’s  at the sunset bar?” the voice was that of his boss Richard Grenway the hugely successful media guru responsible for Ross’s current high profile status as advertising extraordinaire at Grenways and Merryls exclusive agency, it was the only thing that seem to spark

A distracted Ross away from his gaze, “what, oh no Rich I think it’s an early one for me tonight” he replied whilst turning to face his boss, “oh well that’s fine, you’ve earned a rest after the week you have had”. Richard stepped forward to shake his hand dressed smartly as usual sporting a crème rain Mac, Richard smiled broadly his thick Gucci framed glasses teetered on the end of his nose “good job on the Dubai airlines account, I’ll see you Monday 7:15 at the club, we’re teeing off early this week” he chuckled referring to their weekly golfing exercise.

What more could be said of Ross Donavan a typical golden boy destined for only success, throughout his life there has been nothing but accolade after accolade even from his days at Ryan Brewster’s exclusive private school in Belgravia.

He had hit top marks in every field, a keen rugby player and sharply intelligent academic Ross took honours in everything he participated hence the nickname Lucky.

The strange thing was there was nothing lucky about him he was an extremely competitive and focused individual and his rise to top in the advertising field was down to long hours and hard work. He had the perfect life, a beautiful home in leafy Surbiton and an even more beautiful wife named Sabrina they had been together for nearly twelve years after meeting at university, no children yet but plenty of other home comforts to keep them busy. They were seen as the perfect couple good looking and loved by everybody friends and family alike, it was not just their wealth and ambition that made them popular it was also their relationship and personality, it was like a magnet that made sure their social circle was wide.

While Ross was hard at work most days his wife Sabrina was a modern day socialite, a typical day for her was a work out with her personal trainer at their home gym, then a brunch meeting with her sister Carmen and neighbour Annie down at Angelo’s a popular eaterie close to her tennis club, her afternoon consisted mostly of shopping, hunting for antique items of furniture or expensive pieces of artwork for that was her hobby and love.

The home they had made together was the jewel in their lives an isolated converted barn and stables idyllically hidden behind woodland gave them privacy and comfort. They were well known for throwing sumptuous dinner parties holding summertime barbeques and marquee cocktail parties.

As Ross drove home in the comfort and luxury of his Bentley coupe his mind was filled only of thoughts of spending some quality time with his wife, he lowered the radio momentarily and pressed the dial button on his in car phone, the connected ring tone reverberated around the soft leather contours of the car’s interior, “hey honey” Sabrina’s sweet voice answered at the other end, “alright sweetheart I’m on my way back do you need anything?” Ross replied, “Ooh could you get a couple of bottles of that nice South African wine darling?” she asked eagerly, “yeah no problem, but maybe I should get some champagne as I wrapped up that Dubai account!” he exclaimed, “oh that’s fantastic honey well done” screamed a clearly elated Sabrina, “see you soon” he countered whilst hanging up. Ross reclined as he turned back up the radio where ironically Kylie Minogues hit record “I should be so lucky” played, Ross afforded himself a wry smile before accelerating away.

Finally Ross arrived home and after parking his car he walked briskly towards his large mahogany wood door carrying the bags containing the requested wine,  he was about to unlock the door, before it swung open and a seductive looking Sabrina was standing in the doorway wearing a silk red and gold patterned Versace robe, her jade tinted eyes glistened with intent “I’ve been waiting for you handsome” her sweet voice enticed Ross through the door, no words were spoken before the two embraced and kissed passionately, ” I have bought some sushi which I thought we could have in the Jacuzzi with that lovely wine” Sabrina led him by his tie before he could even get his jacket off, Ross said nothing he just continued to be led whilst trying to removed his shoes stumbling and half hopping his way through the lounge clinking the bottles together as he jumped along, they both giggled like teenagers before reaching the decadent Jacuzzi area which Sabrina had tastefully set up with rose scented candles, “this is nice” oozed  Ross who was  now half dressed looking a bit bedraggled.

The bath was big and deep with the small plates of sushi deliberately placed round the sides, Sabrina picked up a remote control and pressed a button which initiated the compact disc player to silently whir into motion, Sade played softly in the background as Sabrina let her silk robe slink off of her svelte figured body before alluring stepping into the bath, Ross looked on almost hypnotised it was as if it was the first time he was seeing his gorgeous wife “pour me a nice glass of wine and then hurry  in” she commanded, ” er …yes of course” he stuttered before following her request. Both sat intertwined soaking blissfully just taking in the moment no words were spoken as the music played, it was typical of Ross and Sabrina self indulgence maybe but deserved,  that was their mantra as they had worked hard for their minutes of quality, “I’m thinking of throwing a summer party” said Ross thoughtfully, “just a few friends and our family” he mused “hmm sounds good” responded a now very relaxed Sabrina before closing her eyes and returning to contentment, “I’ll do it next weekend” Ross said as he sipped the last mouthful of wine which he swished around in his mouth before swallowing and making that ahh sound , he wiped the sweat off his forehead and ran his hands through his hair, he then slid down into the vibrating bubbles cupping Sabrina into his midriff  “I do love you…you know that babe” he assured in his cheeky chappy cockney take, Sabrina opened her eyes and manoeuvred her body enough to stretch and kiss him passionately on the lips with lasted for about thirty seconds  before she snuggled back onto his chest.

The next morning Ross was up early for a workout in his state of the art gym, he was running on the treadmill in front of a giant plasma television screen which was showing the morning news, he had an athletic frame which he kept in good shape from his days as a young rugby star at university, he glanced down at the digital clock, 3 miles 20 mins it read, Ross began to slow up and pushed the black switch pad on the arm of the running machine he was now at walking pace as he began to wind down, he took a long hard swig from his water bottle before halting the machine and stepping off. He began to dab himself with a huge white towel when in swept his gorgeous wife “morning honey” she said enthusiastically “looking good” she quipped, Ross turned and began to flex his biceps mockingly posing in body builder fashion, ” you are silly” Sabrina responded in a motherly fashion “what’s your plan for today? I thought we could look at some furniture and stuff for our party”, she continued whilst cuddling him around his taught solid waistline, Ross looked back almost forcing a smile as he knew this meant a long day being dragged around the shops, “please, pretty please!” she continued as she squeezed him tightly, “ok, babe” he chuckled as she began to tickle his sides, “come on let’s get ready” Ross conceded while pulling her towards the shower room.

That afternoon they spent their time like any other couple walking around shops and picking out various pieces of dining sets and furniture Ross was actually quite happy to go along for once as he was not the best shopper but just spending that time with his wife made it all the more worth it. Sabrina looked stunning as usual and was drawing attention from the drooling salesmen all vying for her custom, she was clever in this way as it always meant she got what she wanted, Ross was unfazed by this all as he knew their relationship was rock solid and this only heightened his feeling of attraction.

On the way back home they both were discussing the guest list and playfully arguing about the number of people to invite Ross was adamant that it should be restricted to close friends and family only while Sabrina was thinking on a more grandeur scale, “look babe” she argued “the weather will be fine and it’s the perfect opportunity for you to celebrate your success” she pleaded, Ross looked across to her and all his attempts to resist crumbled as she gave him that sexy look that she knew would melt his heart, “ok you win” he conceded “but you will do most of the organizing” he said shaking his head not really knowing what he had got himself into, “just leave it to me” Sabrina responded provocatively whilst leaning over to kiss him. That was how they were a great team on all levels young attractive rich and happy all the ingredients that were needed for a happy marriage.

The week flew by quickly and life was once again back to normal, Ross was in his office pacing up and down tossing a miniature rugby stress ball from hand to hand whilst conversating loudly on his speaker phone “just tell the client to forward me the product plans and I will get my creative team to work from there” he ordered confidently an assured man who knew exactly what he wanted “ok Ross will do” the crackled voice responded, at that moment in swept a cheery Richard Grenway “how do Lucky? I got some great news for you” he said enthusiastically as he eagerly thrust his hand onto Ross’s masculine square shoulder, “the Dubai airlines chairmen” he enthused only pausing for breath as he prodded his glasses up onto his face “wants you to fly over for the opening of their new terminal all expenses lucky boy” he continued whilst giving him a healthy pat on his back, Ross looked at his boss with a slight puzzled expression “when?”, “pronto Lucky, pronto” he jovially responded whilst taking off his blue thick pin striped blazer before laying it on the back of Ross’s executive leather chair and making his way towards the shiny chrome mini bar “fancy one?” he asked as he plonked a couple of ice cubes into a whisky tumbler. Ross stood with his hands on his hips mystified “er no thanks Richard…it’ll have to be after Saturday…garden party” he tailed off just as he remembered, ” no problem I’ll sort it” Richard replied while swishing around the large crystal cut glass quarter filled with the dark brown liquid substance, he took a large gulp downing it all in one before grabbing his jacket “anyway you can work on your handicap after Monday’s performance, they got some lovely golf courses in Dubai” he chuckled before briskly making his exit.

Ross was left standing motionless trying to fathom what just happened after typhoon Grenway just blew through, he sat down at his desk blowing out a big sigh whilst squeezing hard on his stress ball; he was just about to pick up his phone when his assistant Lucy tapped lightly against the glass door “Ross I have Sabrina on line one, shall I put her through?” Ross looked up distantly and nodded his head “thank you” he muttered “oh will I be seeing you and Hugh on Saturday?” he questioned his young flame haired assistant, “yes boss I’ll be there don’t worry” she responded, before walking out and closing the door leaving Ross to take the call from his wife.

Familiar faces

It was a fine sunny day and already preparations were in full swing, Sabrina was in her element organizing and instructing the small group of charge hands that had assembled in the vast lush landscaped garden, workmen were banging and screwing the final nuts and bolts into the large white marquee which was situated towards the back of the fine green lawn, Sabrina dressed in a pink velour tracksuit stood out vividly amongst the overalls and jeans of the hired helps. Ross was the total opposite to his energetic partner casually strolling back and forth with his phone to his ear looking on through a pair of ray ban aviator shades “honey the caterers are here!” he bellowed towards Sabrina who was so consumed in conversation that she totally ignored him, Ross strode purposefully towards her with the intention of catching her full attention, “honey” he again called sounding slightly exasperated “one moment darling” she responded before giving out some final details to the group of workers, Ross grabbed her playfully around her waist pulling her away “come on baby let’s sort the caterers, leave these lovely people to get on with their jobs”, he said while giving a cheeky wink to one of the female workers, Sabrina giggled embarrassingly “what are you like” she squirmed whilst giving him a playful clip round the ear. They both loved to entertain and today was going to be no exception everything was perfect for a good old garden party, the weather, the weekend and the guests which were mostly family and Ross’s work acquaintances, of course it was nice that they had a comfortable life and could afford to throw such an extravagant banquet, plus Ross wanted to use the occasion to spend the time with Sabrina before his weeklong trip to Dubai.

With everything more or less going to plan Ross and Sabrina decided to start getting themselves ready for the day ahead already Carmen had arrived looking like a younger version of Sabrina, she looked radiant in a red haute necked fitted dress which really complimented her curvy figure, her jet black hair shimmered down her back and the red corked pumps gave her an extra couple of inches in height, “where can I help?” she quizzed as she sashayed through the kitchen casting her eyes over the trays of food and nibbles sitting on the dolphin grey granite counter, “just help yourself to some wine” her big sister shouted as she ran towards the shower room “we’ll be down in a minute”, Carmen shrugged and eagerly grabbed a bottle of white wine from the fridge pouring herself a large glass before sauntering off to the garden.

It was now approaching two o clock and the guests were beginning to arrive several cars were rolling slowly into the drive; the shiny glean of custom engines purred menacingly as the sun glinted off of the gleaming alloys, the young hired valets eagerly opened the doors for the guests grinning proudly before jumping into the luxury cars and driving them to the parking bay, a silver rolls Royce phantom crept slowly across the tarmac as the drive began to resemble a prestige production line, this one had a number plate reading RG 1, it could only be one person, as the car finally halted a personal driver dressed in a black suit jumped out to open the out swinging doors, out jumped two young women dressed immaculately in fine dresses and glamorous silver and gold stiletto shoes respectively followed by Richard Grenway dressed  in his usual flamboyant garb of a pink and lime green chequered shirt and jeans, he puffed on a large Cuban cohibo cigar as the two women flanked him before making their way into the premises, the driver followed behind carrying a large box his face red and flushed from the unrelenting heat.

Classical music played in the background as guests began to mill around the front of the marquee, a mixture of old and young all enjoying the complimentary champagne and nibbles as the murmurings of conversation began, Ross’s secretary Lucy had arrived with her boyfriend Hugh, her flamed red hair standing out amongst the cocktail of colours integrated against the lush green lawn, Ross’s parents had arrived and were waiting in the kitchen to greet their son and daughter in law, Sabrina’s parents were based out in Italy so her in laws were the closest she had had to a real family along with Carmen,” Len, Marie!” an excited and now dressed Sabrina shrieked “look at you” the vivacious Mrs. Donavan continued, they all hugged warmly before Sabrina looking stunning as always in an all black knee length cocktail dress ushered them into the garden “come on let’s get a drink Ross will be down in a minute”.

Butterflies flitted in and around the well bloomed vibrant flower bed , the char grill smell of the barbeque wandered aimlessly through the afternoon breeze, the gathering was now in full swing with about 40 guests all mingling together and chattering amongst themselves as Sabrina now joined by an open neck shirted casual looking Ross played the perfect host and hostess, their neighbour and friend Annie had also arrived and was clearly enjoying the occasion laughing and dancing with Carmen, the champagne and wine was flowing and everybody seemed to be having an enjoyable time. Richard Grenway stood in the middle of a circle of guests including Ross he was re-enacting one of their famous rounds of golf, he was animated roaring with laughter whilst swinging his arms exaggeratingly, his audience lapped up his energy and storytelling as Ross stood shamed faced shaking his head.

The sun had now begun to set but the sky still had a blue and orange glow, the evening was pleasantly warm, Ross had now shuffled away from Richard who was still in full cry captivating his now somewhat diligent audience and moved towards his parents he was joined by Sabrina who poured more champagne into his glass, “easy babes” Ross said while putting his hand up in mock surrender, Sabrina giggled, she was playful and tipsy but still looked glamorous “did you tell Mum and dad about your trip?” she added whilst clasping her hand around his waist, “oh what’s this then?” Ross’s mother Marie quizzed, “well remember that Dubai airlines thing I was working on” Ross began bashfully “well..,” he paused just long enough for an excited Sabrina to chip in “he’s off to Dubai on Monday courtesy of the airlines chairman”, she enthused sipping from her crystal champagne flute, “that’s nice” both Ross’s parents replied in unison looking proud but unsurprised as they knew their son was always fortunate “it’s only for a week, still I’ll miss you all” he said jokingly looking into Sabrina’s eyes “I am lucky aren’t I” he gushed.

As the balmy evening grew older most of the guests moved into the marquee, by now the early decorum had descended into a uninhibited party atmosphere, many guests were still enjoying the food and the drinks were flowing steadily, flashes were intermittently going off as sporadic photo opportunities were being had, the sounds of  raucous laughter and shrieks reverberated around as the high spirits continued, Ross was now sat down with his parent’s Len and Marie looking a bit on the tired side, however Sabrina was still her energetic bubbly self laughing and joking with Carmen and Annie, the two young females that had arrived with Richard Grenway were sat in a corner talking to a couple of young execs from Ross’s office leaving Richard adrift alone in the garden pacing up and down while chattering away on his mobile.

The clinking of bottles being tossed into the large plastic crates signalled the end of a busy but enjoyable night  the hired help that had stayed to assist with the clearing up operation were walking around the garden picking up empty glasses and discarded plates, only a handful of guests were strewn around various parts of the marquee and house, drunken laughter and shrieks echoed through to the driveway as cars were being brought round to carry bleary eyed stragglers home, Ross was still sat surrounded by his parents and Richard Grenway , they were all deep in conversation oblivious from all of the activities going on around them, Sabrina Carmen and Annie were all dancing and singing karaoke style barefooted on the grass lawn they were clearly merry and having no end of fun swigging from a large champagne bottle it was hardly etiquette but within the confines of their own privacy it was acceptable.

It was now just past 2 am and Richard Grenway was the last guest to leave tottering out to his waiting car his two friends were fast asleep in the back of the Rolls Royce as Richard continued to chatter as he walked “have fun in Dubai won’t you” his normally loud voice was now a mere husk sounding tired from his nights exertions, Ross stood in the driveway waving him off his hands were thrust into his pockets and his sunglasses hung from the pocket of his shirt which was now hanging out of the back of his jeans, it had been a good and successful night all be it a tiresome one for Ross, his wife however was still in high spirits and clearly still in party mood judging by the laughter that still echoed from the marquee, Ross tentatively popped his weary head in to see Carmen, Annie and his wife Sabrina all sat nursing large glasses of wine cackling amongst each other, they were all in fits of giggles like three naughty school girls finding humour in the slightest thing “come and join us honey” Sabrina slurred her eyes now heavy as she looked towards her husband reaching out her hand, Ross was reluctant he clearly had other ideas as he informed ” I’m off to bed now doll” whilst grabbing her hand and kissing it “oh okay honey” Sabrina replied with doe eyes stretching her arms upwards searching for a hug, Ross duly obliged before turning to make his exit “goodnight ladies” he saluted in mock army officer style before retreating upstairs leaving the three of them lounging on the sofas.

The 7th day

 

A very relaxed and tanned Ross looked out of the window at the green patchwork shapes of land below as the plane hovered in a circle over Heathrow, the captain had just announced that a runway back up was the cause of the delayed landing, other passengers shuffled and fidgeted uncomfortably as the extra minutes of the long haul flight began to take its toll as agitated faces and huffs became apparent, Ross though as usual took everything in his stride sitting patiently and reflectively, his weeklong trip was successful he had been pampered to the highest level by his generous hosts and definitely built up and strong liaison with his newest clients which was always good for business.

Finally the plane had landed and the passengers were slowly disembarking, as Ross walked off of the vessel giving the customary plastic smile and nod to the over glammed up stewardess, he immediately checked his mobile for reception he was expecting a text or a call from Sabrina who was meeting him in arrivals, the long haul was nearing an end as he began to queue at the passport control his phone bleeped into life, he shuffled along now impatiently just waiting to get through this section of his landing, but he had received no message or text.

It was now at least forty minutes since he landed and was now waiting in the luggage retrieval area, he was showing signs of becoming frustrated as the long drawn out process of watching several suitcases rotate on the black conveyer belt was becoming tedious, whilst waiting Ross attempted to call his wife just to let her know he had landed and to see if she had made it to the airport yet, her phone was going straight through to voicemail which was out of the ordinary as he knew she would be expecting his call, Ross thought nothing of it as he continued to scrutinized each piece of luggage that was coming round hoping that he would soon spot his case.

Finally Ross had collected his luggage and was strolling through the nothing to declare section which was highlighted in a big green hexagon sign, his brown leather jacket was tossed over his left shoulder as he casually pulled his suitcase behind him, as he turned into the area where most of the waiting relatives and taxi cabbies stood holding assorted cardboard placards with passengers names etched onto them he glimpsed all of the many faces briefly hoping to spot his beloved wife, still no sign so Ross continued and thought he would wait outside. His mind was relaxed as he stood just outside the main arrivals terminal the flurry of activity around him was not concerning as he again dialled his wife’s phone, again it went straight through to her voicemail where this time Ross left a message “hi sweetie I’m at the airport I’m not sure if you’re on your way but if your late I’ll take a taxi instead so not to worry, see you soon.”, and with that Ross hailed a taxi and commenced to make his own way home.

On the drive back the chirpy Asian driver persisted to chatter about is in depth knowledge of Dubai and many other related stories which after twenty minutes Ross began to find distracting although he continued to humour the driver, he was still wondering why he could not get through to Sabrina as this was a little out of the ordinary still he was as usual very relaxed about it and was sure there was a reasonable explanation. By now after such a long flight and wait at the airport he just wanted to get home and shower then change, the driver continued to cheerily chat about his life in the Far East as Ross just nodded and smiled for the rest of the arduous journey home.

On approach to his drive Ross noticed that Sabrina’s and his car were still parked in the drive, his first impressions was that it was quite strange as he had spoken to his wife a day ago and he was sure that she knew that date and time of his arrival, it was not like her to get things mixed up, by now Ross was so tired he just wanted to get in and relax, he nonchalantly strolled past her parked car stopping momentarily before proceeding to open the door “honey I’m home!” he shouted in a mock Yankee accent hoping to see the surprised face of his gorgeous wife, there was no response once again he yelled “Sabrina babe I’m back” still nothing, he dropped his luggage and continued to walk through to the kitchen, everything was left in an immaculate state as if it had been untouched for a while “come on love where are you?” he again hollered now his tone becoming slightly strained and deflated, he was now more urgent walking briskly into each room, checking for evidence of life.

After he had gone through the whole house including the gym and sauna room Ross then decided to call Annie as he became concerned for his wife’s whereabouts “hi Annie it’s Ross” he spoke with urgency “hi Ross welcome back” her high pitched voice resonated through the other end of the phone, “have you seen or heard from Sabrina at all? Only she was meant to pick me up from the airport and did not show”, “oh… no I saw her on Thursday but not since then” Annie’s pitch now in even a higher tone replied “she not at home?”, Annie asked sounding also now bemused “no mate” replied Ross disconsolately before hanging up.

He sat down in the kitchen at the breakfast bar scratching his head, all tiredness had now evaporated his adrenaline had kicked in as his brain worked overtime. This was unprecedented this was just not his wife, she was normally reliable and communicative, so things were starting to worry Ross, before he could move his mobile began to ring and vibrate he jumped in anticipation but then saw the name Annie flashing on his blue LCD screen, he quickly picked up the phone “Annie hi” he rapidly responded, “do you want me to come over? Get you something to eat?”, ” thanks mate that would be nice”, Ross sounded a bit despondent he was beginning to really get a bad feeling in his gut, he walked slowly around the house again looking for any clue or sign of movement, there was nothing everything just seemed to be normal, all Sabrina’s things were still in the bedroom, her makeup and shoes, clothes were still in the wardrobe, even in the bathroom her toiletries were intact in fact things seemed to be left largely untouched. Ross stood baffled in the hallway he had noticed that Sabrina’s keys were gone from the key hook by the front door, so she must have intentionally left but her car was still parked in the driveway so surely she could not have gone far. About ten minutes later the doorbell rang, Ross peered through the window he could see the silhouetted figure of Annie stood on the doorstep, he welcomed her in, she looked worried her face wore a look of strain and concern, she had no makeup and certainly looked unglamorous compared to her normal impeccably flawless face “anything?” she asked hoping to hear something positive but by the look on Ross’s seriously furrowed frown she just hugged him supportively as he led her into the house.

Both sat down in silence Annie wringing her hands as she smiled painfully at Ross, ” I just don’t get it” Ross frustratingly blurted out “she’s as good as gold she would never not call or leave me a message”, he got up clearly agitated and paced up and down for once his assured demeanour began to sink into a man in despair he looked at a loss before Annie suggested he contacted Carmen and the police ” maybe it’s time to call them” she offered tentatively, ” I’ll make you a cup of tea”, just as she said that Ross’s phone vibrated signally a text message, they both froze in tandem until Ross rushed over to the breakfast bar and checked the message “it’s Richard just checking if I’m back” Ross responded his voice disappointed “I’ll call him to let him know”, he walked off into the dining room mumbling to himself as Annie looked on helplessly.

Within the hour Richard had arrived and Sabrina’s sister Carmen was also on her way it was now nearly eleven pm, Richard was fussing being his usual busy self he looked stressed as he bumbled and bounded throughout the house acting like the quintessential detective ” have you checked the Jacuzzi?” he bellowed as his stocky little frame shifted to the back where the pool and spa room was situated, the house was now becoming a flurry of activity, the doorbell rang again “it’s ok I’ll get it” Annie shouted as she played the role of calm head and organizer, it was clear from the flashing blue lights in the driveway that the police had turned up which made Annie’s heart leap, Ross stood frozen in the middle of the room his eyes wearily looking towards the door as Annie ushered in to two policemen both whom looked burly in their respective uniforms weighed down with various devices including the radios which crackled sporadically, “Mr. Donavan we understand your wife has not come home ..Do you mind if we sit down?” Ross continued to stare aimlessly before jerking himself back to reality prompted by Richards’s father like tone “Ross mate come and take a seat”. By now the shock was beginning to sink in and Ross was in a state of suspense, Annie scuttled back to the kitchen to continue making the refreshments. Ross sat calmly his hands clasped together his tan now seemed dull as his eyes were reddened with tiredness, “we just need to confirm some facts Mr. Donavan” the younger looking officer began his opening salvo of questioning “you say you just returned from a business trip and Mrs. Donavan..”, “Sabrina”, Ross interrupted “her name is Sabrina” he enforced to the young officer who shifted uncomfortably “my apologies” he continued “your wife Sabrina has not come home? When was the last time you saw her?” the question was obvious but needed to be asked although Richard took offence and chipped in “look he’s just back from Dubai, it’s been a week”, as he finished his sentence Annie came through to the lounge with a tray of tea and sandwiches placing them down on the glass dining table “I was probably last to see her on Thursday we had a coffee morning” she said confidently, “and how did she seem?” asked the second older looking officer peering over his round spectacles while the other scribbled furiously on his notepad, “she was just herself , we laughed we talked and I know she was excited to see Ross”, Annie concluded, at that point Ross put his head in his hands he was now clearly feeling emotional his normal confident swagger was crumbling as every minute went by.

The police had continued to probe and ask a series of questions Richard sat closely besides Ross offering support and constantly interjected when the questioning became intrusive, “we have alerted all the local hospitals Mr Donavan but nobody matching your wife’s description has been brought in” the young officer informed, the doorbell went again and Ross jumped up immediately from his seat, “it’s ok” shouted Annie “it’s only Carmen”, Carmen rushed in already in a state of panic and upset, Annie attempted to slow her down by offering a hug but Carmen was too upset and brushed past her wanting to get to Ross “oh my god!” she bawled, tears streaming down her pretty olive skinned face as she ran straight to Ross embracing him tightly, she was visibly shaking and quite frenzied “where is she?, why has she not called?” her questions echoing around a silent room where everyone stood statuesque unable to offer any answers of comfort, “it’s ok mate” Ross whispered as he cupped her face “it’s gonna be ok” he tried to reassure but Carmen continued to freak out, hysterically she screamed “what if she’s had an accident and she’s on her own or somebody’s hurt her” she sobbed uncontrollably, the on looking police officers and Richard signalled to Annie who stepped in calmly as she always did and ushered her away “come on babe, let’s clean you up” she looked at Ross with that knowing look as if to say what can we do.

Ross slumped back into the leather chair, while Richard showed the officers out “we’ll be in touch” they both said in unison as Richard nodded silently whilst letting them out of the front door “please” he said almost humbly “please do your best” putting his hands together mimicking a prayer.

A degree of calm had now set in as the four of them sat in silence, Carmen curled up next to Annie still clearly upset sniffing her tears back dabbing her nose with a tissue, Richard continued texting vigorously on his blackberry only stopping momentarily to sip his tea, Ross meanwhile sat staring pensively at his mobile phone as if he was willing the phone to ring and it be Sabrina, a lot was going through his mind he could not understand why she would just disappear, he was trying not to imagine the worst but at the same time what else could there be? It was a scenario he was not prepared for in his heart he just hoped she was not in any danger or pain, he got up from his seat as if to make an announcement, Annie, Carmen and Richard all looked towards him seeking some kind of direction but Ross just trudged of wearily and mumbled something about calling Len and Marie, the silence was deafening apart from the meek sounds of Carmen’s sniffling.

Old father time moved on although ponderously, Richard was beginning to get agitated his normal energetic self was not used to sitting around doing nothing “let’s call the police again see if there’s any news” he offered “or I’m going out there to look for her myself” he sounded frustrated “good idea” a tired voiced Ross chipped in ” that’s exactly what I’m going to do, because if she’s out there…” he paused choking back his emotion, this sparked off another bout of tears from Carmen who buried her head into Annie’s chest she was clearly not handling the situation well, Ross grabbed his car keys of off the kitchen counter his mood was now bullish and determined, Richard followed suit ” I’m coming with you” he said looking directly into Ross’s reddened eyes “you guys stay here in case the police call” he said with authority before bounding out of the door.

Richard insisted on driving, this time he had a black Mercedes it smelt of new leather and vanilla air freshener, Ross slumped into his comfortable seat resting his head on the padded headrest, Richard started the engine before briefly stopping to light a half smoked cigar that was sitting in his chrome framed ashtray ” you don’t mind do you?” Richard asked politely, Ross just looked ahead staring into space “where is she Rich?” Ross’s voice was strained he turned and stared intensely grabbing Richard’s arm gripping him tightly “what’s happened to my wife?” he squealed the emotion now ravaging his already overtired mind, Richard just held on to his hand his half chewed cigar hanging ominously from his mouth “we’ll find her mate, ok” he said reassuringly “come on let’s go” he insisted forcing a cracked smile at Ross who was slowly beginning to lose his normally strong self confidence.

They drove through the quiet roads and streets of the suburbs quite aimless in their direction but just scouring the orange tinged lit areas just in case they missed any sign or evidence, a crumb of possibility but to no avail, they were met with quiet streets and the odd passing motorist, Richard continued to concentrate and peer over his thick black framed spectacles slowly moving his eyes from side to side checking for any stray people wandering, “can you think of where she would normally go any spots?” Richard asked Ross hoping he may jerk some kind of memory, ” no… that’s what I mean” said Ross ” I don’t even know where she did go apart from the antique shop” he shrugged as he held out his outstretched palms. As they continued to drive they spotted what looked like a young woman crouched down on her haunches by the side of the road ahead, Ross’s heart began to pound through his chest “slow down Richard I think I see her” he spat excitedly, Richard done as directed slowly braking as the Mercedes crept slowly towards the crouched figure, Ross robustly pushed open the door as he then jumped out and ran quickly towards the person “hey Sabby is that you?” he spoke adrenalin fuelled as he approached his target, only to be stopped in his tracks when the young girl turned to look at him, it was not her this was instead a young teenager similarly built and with dark hair but who had obviously been drinking and was being sick into the gutter, Richard marched quickly towards him slightly off the pace “well is it Sabrina?” he questioned as he called out “no” Ross replied despondently ” I think she needs help” he said before checking the young girl was ok.

It was now at least two hours later and well into the morning Richard and Ross had covered most of the town, the birds were beginning to wake and twitter as dawn was upon them, Ross could barely keep his eyes open although his stamina was unquestioned and he would soldier on regardless, Richard suggested they went back home they had done enough for now and needed to also check on Annie and Carmen, Ross rested back again his face etched with worry as his heavy eyelids continued to defy gravity ” let’s go home” he mumbled sounding tired dejected and defeated.

Back at the house the three of them sat in silence, tired worried and in disbelief, Ross had gone upstairs to lie down he needed time to himself, Richard Annie and Carmen just sat stunned fearing the worst, this was so not like Sabrina there was no indication as to why this would or could even happen. Carmen was back in childlike mode curled up on the sofa sniffing every twenty seconds or so sucking her thumb Annie had thrown a blanket over her and looked at Richard with a shrug of the shoulders, out of everyone Annie seemed the most level headed she was the vital cog in the wheel that kept everyone going, just small gestures at a time like this meant a lot , like making cups of tea and sandwiches, comforting Carmen, though she must have been feeling just as fraught as the rest after all her and Sabrina were best friends but someone had to stay strong and be the level head out of the group. Eventually morning had dawned, the harsh morning sunlight pierced through the gaps of the half drawn drapes, Richard shuffled uncomfortably in the leather armchair he had substituted for a bed, he coughed unceremoniously as he attempted to clear his throat of the morning residue, he stretched his body raising his legs of off the carpet revealing his luminous orange socks as he shielded his eyes from the rays of sharp light, Annie was still up trying to keep busy by washing dishes and wiping clean the granite kitchen  surface “tea Richard?” she asked without looking up she seemed to be deliberately trying to stay busy fussing around the utensils and crockery it seemed this was her coping mechanism a way she could deflect the reality of a missing part of her life.  Shortly after everyone had woke an unmarked police vehicle pulled into the drive, out came two smartly dressed males and one female officer, Carmen now wide awake peeked the curtains “it looks like the police” she said staring back at Ross and the rest, “I’ll deal with it” said Richard taking control getting up and striding towards the hallway, the rest sat with trepidation as the officers were led into the front lounge, there was an uncomfortable silence before one of the officers introduced himself, he was short and sported a side parting in his dark black hair “my name is detective Crosby from the missing persons squad, this is also detective Ronson and liaison officer Harriet” he said formerly as he introduced the rest of his team, Ross stepped forward “I’m Ross Donavan..Have you any news?” he quizzed hopefully, “I think we should sit down if your don’t mind” detective Crosby insisted, as usual Annie was the first to be hospitable “tea anyone?” she interjected breaking the tense atmosphere, “no thanks” they all responded in unison, “well Mr Donavan we have no news as yet on your wife, but we need to just confirm some details”, Ross’s face was a tortured picture of relief and deflation I suppose his greatest fear was that they had found her body or she had been badly injured.

“When did you last see your wife?” a rather abrasive toned detective Crosby fired “last week” Ross countered “I went to Dubai on business”, “I can vouch for that” Richard chipped in “oh why is that?”  the stony faced detective Crosby swivelled round to Richard sharply, “because I’m his boss” Richard responded with a matter of fact face staring straight back at through his thick spectacles, then followed an awkward silence before Ross continued “look have you any news?”, the liaison officer a small round faced dumpy character called Harriet interjected to attempt to restored some calm “ok we just all need to relax” she spoke with a very quiet concerned voice, “we are just trying to glean as much information as we can” she said playing mediator with her hands outstretched as if she was appealing for peace.

The questioning continued but this time it was Annie’s turn, as the last person to see her she came under the most specific line of inquiry, as the younger detective Ronson scribbled notes onto his pad Crosby continued with his harsh direct approach “so Annie is it? Tell about the last time you saw Mrs. Donavan?”, he arrogantly flicked his quiff  back whilst breathing heavily as if this were a mere chore that was boring him, Annie though was unflappable as she retraced her coffee date with Sabrina, she was sat calmly next to Carmen who held her hand in support the room was hushed as she began to tell of the last time anyone saw Sabrina, ” as usual we had our Thursday morning coffee date at Angelo’s”, “Angelo?” detective Crosby interrupted “who’s that?” Annie continued “that’s the bistro in town we always went there on a Thursday for brunch”, everybody listened intently as she recalled their last few hours together it was now  Annie’s emotions began to come to the fore her ice persona was finally beginning to melt under the heat and pressure of this hardnosed unsympathetic detective, “what was she wearing?” another direct question which was now chipping away like a sculptor, Annie tried to compose herself before answering she pulled her hair back trying to remember what her best friend was wearing she looked around the room of which she was  now the focus, her hand was being squeezed tightly by Carmen who also was reassuringly rubbing her back as well, Annie was now tearing up her eyes welled as she described her best friend, “ok I think she had on some brown cowboy boots and jeans”, “you think?”, detective Crosby rudely butted in at the taut moment, “please” begged Harriet “take your time”, she rolled her eyes at Crosby who loosened his tie frustratingly and for once almost looked embarrassed, “yes brown boots, a white vest and brown bomber jacket” Annie felt relieved, as she recalled, tears slowly trickled down her face, “she was going to buy some food to prepare Ross’s favourite meal when he returned…I’m so sorry” Annie now let her pent up feelings flood out as she stretched her hands out to Ross, “look will this take much longer” a bullish Richard spouted in an exasperated fashion, everybody was now beginning to lose control the tension and emotion was at a crescendo ” how about we have some tea now?” the soft voice of  Harriet broke in, “I need a photograph” the gruff detective Crosby demanded still fully switched on in hound dog mode as Carmen scurried upstairs too upset at the thought of her sisters demise. Ross walked towards his bookshelf located in the corner if his lounge and fumbled through some papers until he found a picture of his wife his hunched shoulder began to jerk as he held the photo, his barrier could no longer hold as he stared longingly at his beautiful wife’s face in a picture that represented better times, Richard rushed to his aid throwing his arm around his shoulder “come on lucky it’ll be alright” his words compensated for nothing as the realization hit home hard Sabrina had been gone now for possibly three days no contact no clues she was now officially missing.

Drastic measures

” I want all the ad campaigns running with all the major networks within 48 hours max” an agitated voice bellowed throughout the clinical glass offices of Grenways and Merryls, phones rang simultaneously as all of the young office executives rushed around each other’s desks and tables, Richard Grenway appeared in his smart tailored grey suit as always he had a half smoked cigar lodged in the side of his mouth, by his demeanour you could see he meant business, as he stomped through his arty corridors like a man on a mission, Ross’s assistant Lucy trailed behind him with a mobile phone stuck to her ear, “Richard I have county radio on the line for you”, her breathless voice steeped in anxiety, it seemed to be all go as the manic pace gathered, it was a all hands on deck. Before Richard grabbed the phone out of Lucy’s hand he screamed at one of his interns who just happened to be casually talking on his phone, “I hope that call is about our Sabrina Donavan campaign or your fired!” , relentlessly he continued to march on through to his boardroom as Lucy who’s pale skin was now awash with a red flush as she  trailed in his wake, when she eventually caught up with him he roared again like a bear with a bee in his bonnet, ” I need coffee and get the posters from the creative team pronto will you”, Lucy spun on her heels without a word and followed his command without batting an eyelid, this was what you would call a machine in full motion Richard did not get to where he was in life by being nice in business. It had been just over ten days now and no word still had been heard from Sabrina, Ross remained at home with his parents Len and Marie who had come down to show support and look after him, Richard meanwhile had instigated the biggest promotional campaign he had undertaken he was hell bent on helping his friend and associate and had the financial muscle and client connections to do just that, everything was directed at raising the public awareness of Sabrina’s case he even put up his own money to act as a reward one hundred thousand pounds for any information leading to her direct finding, this was something that he felt personally, he had been working tirelessly to gather all his resources and contacts to rush through television commercials, radio adverts, billboard posters, online bulletins you name it and it was beginning to gather momentum, newspapers and radio were beginning to smell a big story here and the cogs in the wheels of public interest were growing by the hour.

It was now early evening and for Ross and his family it was another tough time getting through the absence of their beloved Sabrina, the mood in the house was quiet and sombre the obvious vivacious energy was missing and Ross was now looking drained and almost defeated his usual cocksure posture was now tense and uptight as he paced alone in the lounge his hands plunged deep into his pockets as he continued to walk aimlessly back and forth, Carmen, Annie and Marie sat in the kitchen at the breakfast bar all wearing worried frowns talking quietly almost in a hushed whisper as if not to distract or disturb Ross unfortunately the calm was not to last as the doorbell began to ring persistently interrupting the fraught yet serene atmosphere, continuously the sound drilled hard reverberating around the house, Ross peeked out of the window before exclaiming “don’t answer it’s the press”, he quickly jolted in action by drawing the curtains swiftly as everyone began to panic, Len came down from the bedroom “what’s all the racket”, he growled somewhat bemused by all fuss, “look let them ring I’m not seeing anyone today” Ross vehemently spouted his demeanour imposing as he gestured with flailing arms, it was quite shocking really for both his parents plus Annie and Carmen, they had never seen him lose it like that before and it was clear that his patience was beginning to crack.

The press were unrelenting in their pursuit for a hot story as a scrum had now gathered out in the drive, Len was in bullish mood “I’m going to tell them to clear off” he said stomping towards the front door  looking as if he was about to use all his army experience to dispose of the enemy attempting to cross into his territory, “Len leave it!” screamed a stressed out Marie to everyone’s astonishment signally a moment of silence before the relenting ring of the doorbell continued, Ross quickly dialled through to Richard on his mobile as Len was being cajoled back to the lounge by Marie.

The media pack had increased in numbers causing even more furore outside the home of the Donavan’s the family now began to feel like prisoners trying not to create any sort of movement to give away the fact that they were in, Ross meanwhile seemed angry and was having a heated exchange with Richard which was most unusual “why didn’t you warn me Richard I now have a circus on my doorstep!” he exclaimed, gradually it seemed Ross was losing his charming happy go lucky personality the tension and strain of the last week was now beginning to seep into his consciousness, the loud cackle of Richards voice was audible through the mobile handset so much so that Ross was holding the phone away from his ear gesticulating arrogantly to his watching audience who all looked on with much surprise, “ok I’ll talk to them but you should have warned me Rich” Ross continued sounding frustrated, Len began to walk over to his son as the anguish increased “it’s ok son” he spoke calmly “we’ll talk to them together, it may help”, he shrugged whilst offering a comforting arm around the shoulder to his distressed son.

About an hour later and with hordes of various media types including paparazzi photographers reporters and news camera’s Ross appeared on his front porch alongside his father Len, they stood both shoulder to shoulder the genetic athletic frame mirrored as they boldly faced a hungry media pack, flashes simultaneously sparked as the clicks from the cameras snapped into action, microphones were thrust into their faces as they both stood almost in shock at the amount of attention the disappearance of Sabrina was generating, the hacks were vicious and unfriendly with their direct questioning which came from all angles “Mr Donavan…Mr Donavan” they all screamed at once, Ross looked around at all the faces it was a dizzying blur his throat was dry and closed, his jaw seemed to lock as the frenzy continued, “can you tell us where your wife is?” a young unsympathetic reporter snorted from the midst of the baying crowd, Len rubbed his sons back and whispered “it’s ok son”, Ross slowly unfolded a piece of paper his hands shaking with fear he tried to composed himself before declaring in a soft voice “I have prepared a statement and will not be answering any further questions” he cleared his throat as the multiple voices went down to a hushed mumble, the photographers still continued to flicker as the bold bright lights beamed into their faces from the powerful lamps that accompanied the video cameras “my wife Sabrina has been missing for ten days, if anyone has any information or as seen her then please…” Ross paused as the raw emotion filtered through his voice; Len stood steadfast willing his son to continue “please get in contact with the police and Sabrina if you’re out there…come home” he pleaded as he stared straight into the microscopic lenses of the cameras that were aimed directly at him “thank you” Len bellowed before bundling Ross back through the front door as the hacks all began to shout and jostle for position while snapping frantically to grab any last pictures, the door slammed shut amid cries of “Mr. Donavan” repeatedly.  On the other side of the door a relieved Ross stood shaking in the arms of his father as Annie, Carmen and Marie also came forward to offer their hugs of sympathy and support, this was not an easy time for any of them and the cracks were beginning to appear as the mystery of the disappearance began to shake the foundations of this close knit family.

The next few hours continued in the same vein of the day constant activity in and around the home of Ross, the police had arrived, detective Crosby and his assistant fought their way through the hounds of press that had now set up camp in Ross’s drive eagerly awaiting any morsel of news, it was obvious that Richards campaign was picking up momentum but this was not to Detective Crosby’s liking, as soon as he was through the front door he began to shout the odds at Ross, “you should have contacted me instead of releasing a statement!, I had to find out via the wireless” he snorted pacing aggressively up and down the hallway, “now just a moment steady on” interrupted Len “don’t you come in here shouting the odds” he fumed  waving his finger in the detectives direction, the rest of the family including Annie stood back in the doorway as the feuding continued, “this should have been an official statement in conjunction with the police” Detective Crosby still insisted, the younger fresh faced officer Ronson attempted to officiate some kind of calm by getting in between the warring counterparts and meekly appealing for restraint, only to be beaten to it by a screaming Carmen “shut up will you just all of you shut up!!” she cried in emotional anger which stunned everyone into silence, she ran back into the lounge crying hysterically while everyone else stood motionless staring at each other, “I’m sorry I was out of order” an insincere apologetic detective Crosby offered, Ross just stood with his hands on his hips looking like a lost soul in his own home he shuffled uncomfortably backing away holding in his obvious distain before turning sharply to go and comfort his sister in law.

Over the next few hours every single news bulletin on the radio and television ran the story, the picture of a beautiful smiling Sabrina was beamed to millions of households up and down the country; it was beginning to turn into a massive story with some journalists creating their own take on it, the question was being asked, why would a successfully married woman with all the trappings of a good life suddenly disappear?, the media began to sensationalize a simple story, the images of a distressed Ross stood on  the doorstep of his home were being analysed , “was he hiding something?” some so called experts quizzed, as they began the hunt in which the Donavan’s lives became stripped and bared for all to see. Every minute the phone would ring or the doorbell would go, the hacks outside banged on the windows for further requests of interviews and shouted questions through the glass panes, Detective Crosby also held court outside their home, being his own charming self he delivered the standard police lines that everything was being do to trace and find Sabrina safe and well, in front of an ever growing press pack and paparazzi feeding off of any scraps of information, Richard Grenway arrived at the house  which sent the flashbulbs into a frenzy, the scrum he created descended around his silver Rolls Royce clicking away it had now become out of control.

After a series of “no comment” shouted back at the eager newshounds Richard finally bustled his way into the Donavan household, looking dishevelled and relieved Richard entered a taught strained atmosphere in only the way he could “blimey!” he exclaimed “I have whipped up a storm good isn’t it?”, he declared feeling pleased with his efforts,  his voice trailing off as soon as he saw the strained expressions staring back at him, he removed his crème Mac revealing a grey striped shirt with his customary red braces, “any news?” he quizzed hopefully his tone now more sincere, Annie as always chipped in to calm the mood “come on in Richard I’ll make you a drink”, this seemed to quell the tension as everybody congregated in the lounge.

Over the next few hours a sedate state finally reigned throughout and outside the house everyone was in bed except for a fidgeting Richard who constantly stared at the large widescreen television flicking to each news channel watching over and over again the rotation of bulletins almost spot checking everyone contained an item dedicated to Sabrina’s plight he was almost obsessed as the repeated reports all flashed  up the picture of a happy smiling Sabrina then cut to a downhearted Ross delivering his statement in front of the massed press hordes outside his home, Richard grunted in disapproval shaking his head in disbelief, he took his glasses off and rubbed his weary eyes before switching off the set plunging him into darkness he mumbled to himself the word “terrible” several times before he eventually fell silent only the sounds of his heavy breathing signifying he had finally switched off.

In the days that followed there was a huge amount of interest generated Richard was driving forward in the only way he knew how, he had been tireless in his quest to raise the profile of such an unexpected turn of events, he had attended radio shows, placed billboard signs asking for any information gave impromptu television interviews it was as if he was a one man crusade, of course he also had to deal with the fake sightings and false information as devious members of the public plotted to gain the vast reward.

Of course all of this was not to a certain detective Crosby’s taste he was ardently opposed to the glitz of such overblown publicity instead advocating the strong sense of goo old police work to fish out clues and leads and in his indomitable way he made it known he was not supportive of the tycoon almost over glamourising a serious missing persons case.

Poor Ross was stuck somewhere in the middle, he understood Richard was only doing what he knew best but at the same time he was definitely not coping with all the demands and was trying his hardest to keep his family life firmly out of the tabloids and daily news features, on the other hand he was not appreciative of the abrasive way detective Crosby was dealing with things either, he was becoming withdrawn his lucky streak seemed to be coming to an end, he was no longer the chirpy confident hotshot in fact his demeanour of late transcended exactly the opposite, he was moody, quiet and ashen faced, his usual pep had diminished, most days he barely got dressed instead just stayed in his dressing gown in the bedroom that he used to share with his wife, the rest of the family did their best to try and keep things as normal as possible but the cold reality began to set in earnest, Sabrina had vanished probably never to be seen or heard from again, why? This was the question of everybody’s mind, from a distressed and frequently emotional Carmen, Len and Marie who were sympathetic but also finding it hard to believe, Annie whose ice cool veneer was starting to show signs of exhaustion and stress and Richard who relentlessly refused to give up he could only imagine how his pal was feeling and showed his support by raising the profile of this tragedy, meanwhile Ross was sinking into a dark abyss his mind replaying happier times but not being able to calculate exactly why his love of a lifetime had vanished into thin air.

 

Empty

Ross sat on the edge of his bed he scratched his bare chest scraping hard on his skin hard enough to leave red marks, he yawned heartily before turning to his bedside table and reaching for a quarter filled bottle of whisky, it was dark outside although the first signs of dawn were beckoning as through the blinds the moon induced topaz sky filtered shedding a scant of light into the room. Ross took a gulp from the bottle twisting his face grimacing as the toxic impact burned through his throat; he coughed loudly trying to control the venom as he wiped his mouth aggressively, he looked over at the large digital display clock it read 4.54am in bright blue quartz symbols, it was quiet in the house he was now alone, his parents plus Carmen and Annie had returned to their respective lives. It had now been two months since the mystical disappearance of his wife, the commotion of all the press interest had waned it was no longer headline news although the hunt still went on.

Ross was now feeling the impact of this great hole in his life as all that was left was him, no one but him, it was difficult to be plunged into such a position for a popular successful man, he sat on the side of his large bed feeling behind him as if to reach out for his wife’s soft hand but there was nothing except the sheets he slept on, he scratched his chest again remarking the pink lines of skin of where he scratched before, he picked up the bottle and walked towards the window separating the blinds with his fingers, outside was quiet no signs of life except for the sound of the lively young birds first tweets of song, he stared aimlessly leaning forward straining for sight as he rubbed his eyes.

This was a different man he was not lucky Donavan the man the advertising genius, he was just a man with a broken heart and a tortured mind, once again he swigged heavily from the bottle choking hard in the process coughing and spluttering making sounds that resembled an old cold engine trying to get started dropping the bottle in the process, he bent down attempting to pick up the vessel but his athletic frame bumbling around off balance he fell to his knees, it was an excruciating sight a grown man with as much coordination as a small baby, he sat sobbing crumpled saliva hanging from his mouth, sniffing back the snot from his nose, he wailed unashamedly the high pitched sound of a  man crying in a big house full of nothingness.

Ross sat in the foetal position his back against the wall listening to the early morning chirps of life in the trees it was as if he had now conceded Sabrina was not ever going to return and he was dealing with it badly, the feeling in the pit of his stomach gnawed away chewing into his mind, he sobbed uncontrollably mumbling over and over again stirring himself into a solitary frenzy of emotion and anger.

His mind raced with pictures of happier times flashing through like an old black and white movie he could see them sitting together smiling having dinner, fooling around as young lovers carefree and happy, he could smell her scent wafting from the pillow she once slept on her hair shampoo, “why babes?” he wailed banging his fist onto the wooden floor “that’s not fair” he continued pointing angrily as if his wife was in front of him “no it’s not” he answered his own question now talking to himself as if he was the second person in the conversation “oh god why?” he screamed in anguish knocking the bottle and the remains of the whisky onto the floor, Ross scrambled in a dazed drunken stupor trying to stop the liquid from spreading he looked pathetic on his hands and knees dressed only in his boxer shorts grunting and sobbing like some kind of animal, it was a sad demise but only he could know the pain that was eating through his mind and body for he was just an unsuspecting victim in this unfortunate mystery.

It was hard for Ross to pull himself up each day Annie would regularly visit to make sure that he was ok and that he had some food but on this day even she was becoming really concerned by the state Ross was beginning to fall into, “Ross you have to get yourself back on track, I know it’s hard” she said as she mixed some eggs in a bowl, Annie herself seemed to be coping well enough she came across as her usual self, ever the stylish woman she was similar to Sabrina in style, always well to do, wearing her dark hair back in a pony tail and casual in an orange tunic blouse and jeans, “life must go on” she said in a whimsical tone, clinking the bowl as she whisked frantically, she had this way of being almost robotic with her emotions as if she could not be affected by anything but behind her eyes the pain was there even if not for show to everyone, Ross sat slumped over the breakfast bar with his head bowed “life goes on eh?” he asked his voice broken with emotion he sounded hoarse “my wife has gone and I’m supposed to just carry on huh?” he retorted spoiling for an argument looking up twisting his face at Annie, “nobody knows how this feels!” he shouted pointing to his heart his bloodshot eyes began to bathe with tears, “ok I’m with you I want to help find her too” reassured Annie reaching round to offer a hug which Ross accepted “we should get you out of the house, some fresh air will do you good” she continued as she patted his back, “no! the press” Ross responded in a panic “they will follow me they think I killed her” he got up sharply pulling Annie’s embrace apart, “Ross that’s nonsense” she said quickly readjusting in time to turn down the frying pan as the smell of overheated oil began to surge into the atmosphere, Ross marched off in a huff towards the window sweeping the curtains shut “I can’t go out there…I can’t” he reiterated forcefully, Annie stood exasperated hands on hips “I’m going to call Richard” was all she could offer to which Ross’s response was just to storm out of the room slamming the door firmly behind him, “what about your food?” she yelled furiously her only real sign of breaking her ice hardened feelings she felt like pulling her hair out but just banged her fist on the granite counter as her frustrations finally began to seep through.

Many more day and nights had passed only a fleeting visit from detective Crosby broke into Ross’s state of nothingness there was no good news to report no sightings no new leads even the local newspapers column inches had shrunk reduced to a small news in brief section daubed “no new links in missing angel disappearance“, that’s what the press had labelled Sabrina the missing angel due to her whiter than white background. It was hard for anyone to now get through to Ross, Annie had practically removed herself after the constant bickering she was more than upset and tried to get on with her life even though she still brought food round to a now hermit figure of Ross, he did not leave the house he became more and more paranoid thinking everyone blamed him for his wife’s absence, the press campaign initiated by Richard had started off in positive fashion but then even the hacks began to turn the story into something more sinister than a mere missing person, they had begun to probe into Ross and Sabrina’s personal life trying to dig up any dirt on the past and their relationship of course there was not much of that around as this was the fairytale couple in every sense of the word.

Richard had arrived and was trying to talk some sense into Ross who was still very subdued and childlike in his sulking, of course although attempting to be caring and compassionate Richard really had the personal touch of an elephant trying to tiptoe, “you need to get back into the workforce start making deals again lucky” he enthused to a very inattentive Ross, “the Dubai lot can’t wait to get working with you again” Richard continued as he played with his personal blackberry pressing buttons, “Dubai lot!” screamed Ross his voice strained in his exasperation “if it weren’t for that damn trip I would have been here with Sabby!” he screamed, Richard stopped playing with his device his jaw dropped away from the rest of his face, Ross then got up from his seated position and walked around the lounge with his arms flailing, ” what’s the use is all of this eh” he continued pointing to his boy toys and mod cons that he had assembled throughout his large home, Richard was struck unable to offer a respectable response as Ross continued to spout off dramatically ” It won’t bring her back will it? Bloody going to work is not going to bring her back is it!” he yelled in Richard’s direction furiously, his face was enraged veins were protruding from his forehead his eyes bulged, the broken blood vessels stood out like lines on a cracked clay track it was clear that he was no longer emotionally stable, Richard sat back and was frozen almost in fear he was shocked he had not seen this Ross before a crazed aggressive lost man it took him by surprise “ok mate steady, take it easy” he tried to reason standing with outstretched hands to offer some kind of sympathy, as he edged closer Ross was still boiling with rage his chest puffed out like a cockerel hands on hips as he strutted around the lounge.

Richard approached cautiously attempting to avoid another explosion “lucky” he spoke softly almost childlike “listen to me, we have to get you some help, there’s people you can talk to”, Richard again stepped closer by now Ross’s back was turned he had his head in his hands the whimper of crying was audible yet muffled through the sleeves of his shirt, Richard continued to take small steps until he was right close to Ross, “come on son, why don’t you sit down I’ll fix us a drink” he tenderly offered, but Ross who was clearly going through unlimited turmoil just dropped to his knee’s he began crying out loud his voice was weathered and strained “why did she do this to me?” he sobbed loudly “where did she go?”, Richard not known for his emotion or compassion fell to his knees to and grabbed Ross into his chest he took his spectacles off and rubbed the trickling tears from his own eyes whilst hugging Ross tightly comforting him by rubbing his back “come on now big fella we’ll sort you out, let it out if you need”, it was a tender moment between two grown men almost father and son like, Ross’s anger and frustration had melted like snow on a warm mountain peak, he was now seriously broken both in spirit and in heart Richards face was also flush with emotion his body shaking uncontrollably proving even hardnosed business men can have a softness to their edge.

The tapping on the window broke the embrace as the two dragged themselves up almost exchanging almost embarrassing looks at each other “go and sort yourself I’ll check who’s at the window” said Richard  dusting himself down, Ross walked slowly in the direction of the bathroom and Richard went to see who was persistently tapping away on the window, “hold on” he shouted as the person continued to annoyingly tap away, as he peeked through the blinds he could see the outline of a figure resembling Carmen, “is that you Carmen?” he quizzed squinting his eyes still without his spectacles, “yes it is hurry up I need to use the loo!” she shouted back through the pane of glass her high pitched squeal jolting Richard into action.

Carmen’s burst of energy combined with her tangy orange outfit was just what was needed to break the emotion of the evening she dragged her Ugg booted feet around the kitchen sauntering slowly as she made food and drinks for both herself and Richard, Ross still had not appeared from the bathroom, Carmen looked at Richard and mouthed the words ” go and see if he’s alright”, as young as she was Carmen had a good head on her shoulders she seemed to be a lot calmer as well seeing as it was her sister who had disappeared too. Richard ambled his way towards the bathroom giving Carmen a stare as he passed, it was clear that Ross was vulnerable and it was not certain exactly what his mind was thinking he was certainly on edge and cut a figure of a disconsolate desperate man.

After about twenty minutes both Richard and Ross returned you could see from Ross’s bloodshot eyes that he had been crying his whole demeanour was screaming out victim his once strong body now gave a wilted posture as Richard cajoled him to take a seat in the lounge, “a cup of tea Ross?”, Carmen enquired trying to sound upbeat but Ross just curled up once again into his now familiar foetal position without a word or acknowledgement to anybody, Richard again gave Carmen that look as if to say just leave him be for the time being but Carmen was determined to try and get through to her brother in law, she casually walked over to him and crouched in front of where he was laying “hey Ross” she whispered gently whilst stroking his arm her jet black hair swept back revealing her sparkling green eyes as she coaxed Ross “come on mate I’m here to help, we can help each other” she continued to talk in a hushed tone “I’m going to visit my parents in Italy are you coming with me?”, Ross twisted his body almost childlike in frustration of all the attention “how can I face them?” he whimpered his voice croaked with emotion, Carmen equally felt the emotion as a single tear rolled down her olive skinned face “please Ross you need the break, you need to be away from this place” Carmen continued to plead hoping her request would be acknowledged, at this point Richard walked slowly over “sounds like a good idea Lucky, I’ll hold the fort” he chipped in his undeniable eccentricity for once humbled, Ross faced Carmen his eyes glassed over by tears welled, his breath still smelt of liquor as he huskily uttered back “your beautiful” he cracked a smile though it was more a grimaced clench “you remind me of Sab…” he stretched his hand out to wipe Carmen’s solitary tear from her cheek before letting out an anguished cry, the pained expression he released took Richard and Carmen by surprise they both looked at each other both at a loss as to what to do next Ross continued to weep loudly covering his face with his hands, Richard stepped back slowly until he literally fell back into the chair he was occupying earlier, he looked astonished and helpless he removed his glasses and rubbed his face almost in shock as Carmen collapsed into Ross’s muscular midriff her sobbing muffled as she buried her head. 

Better days?

Ross writhed dramatically on the huge deep brown leather couch his athletic frame shook and twisted with force, beads of sweat splayed down the side of his now bearded face he groaned out loud and spoke in a mumbled dialect as if he was speaking in tongues. His arms went through the extremities of flailing to tightly clasping across his chest, his fingers locked tightly enough to protrude the bones without piercing his skin. This violent act continued for another few minutes before a calming voice interjected “Mr Donavan open your eyes please”, the soft female tones continued to coax “I’ll count to three Mr Donavan…one, two, three”, she clapped her hands hard shattering the silence, Ross let out a painful cry before bursting into a childlike sob curling up into the corner of the padded couch, “it’s ok Mr Donavan you’ve done well, it’s ok” the voice continued. Ross quickly came to his senses before sitting upright looking around him at the blazing log fire; he wiped his face placing both of his hands over his eyes “Oh my god” he snivelled clearing his nose by sniffing in hard rubbing his nose, “do you want some water?” the soft female quizzed, “no I’m ok” Ross replied meekly scratching his beard which now made him resemble Tom Hanks in the castaway movie. The female voice who was actually a counsellor called Teri Bingham walked over to Ross “may I sit beside you?” she asked, she was about forty years old wearing a smart blue pinstriped suit with black patent high heels, her shoulder length blonde hair swayed as she approached a desperate looking Ross, who in turn continued to shudder as if he was freezing cold. “Let’s talk about what you just experienced” Ms Bingham asked her tone upbeat as if to encourage him, but Ross sat silent still with a spooked look on his face this once intelligent strong ambitious man now reduced to a whimpering unsteady mute sat in a scruffy old rugby tee shirt and jeans, “ok just tell me what you’re thinking now?” she asked again in a more casual expression,

The fire crackled in the background illuminating an orange flamed glow around the dark bricked coved fire place the flickered reflection of the flames danced across the pale cheeks of the Ms Bingham as she removed her black framed spectacles revealing her bold blue eyes which were filled with compassion “please we need to get this out in order to move forward” , Ross folded his arms defiantly and rocked back and forth as he tried to contain his emotions he began to stroke his beard and slightly chuckled to himself as his recalled his thoughts, ” I saw her” he stammered his once confident and eloquent speech now was a nervous unsure stutter, “she smiled and then ran away”, he giggled again maybe an expression of nerves, “ran away where?” an intrigued Teri Bingham probed as she scribbled away hard on her notepad “what did you see?” she continued to quiz, at this time a shaky looking Ross just stared blankly towards the floor fidgeting as his head shook, it was as if he was telling himself to stop but he had no control over his body’s movements.

This was someone who had no remnants of his cheeky chirpy persona; it had been six months since Sabrina’s disappearance a rollercoaster of emotions and activity which had now led to Ross becoming an outpatient at the Green leaves therapy unit, the high powered bustle of the advertising industry was now a far cry from the calm sanctuary of Teri Bingham’s room where Ross continued to look despondently into space as he attempted to recall his latest dream, a solitary tear trickled down his cheek nestling into his dark facial hair unashamedly Ross continued his recollection questioning his vision “why would she do that?”, he offered rhetorically “she just keeps running away” he sounded defeated as he shrugged his broad square shoulders almost laughing at the mere suggestion this could at all be possible.

Ms Bingham continued to scribble pausing just to give herself time to digest, she waited just making sure he was done before asking “do you think you could have stopped what happened to Sabrina?” her voice was soft and filled with tenderness hoping to encourage an answer from an emotionally fragile man, Ross thought hard before offering an answer “I could have been there…then she would have not have vanished” he spoke frankly and definitely as he shook his head once again in disbelief, “ok how can we move on from here Ross?, I want you to absolve yourself of blame”, Ms Bingham again spoke with care, her young fresh face obscuring her depth of profession, she placed her notepad onto the coffee table besides her, “stand up for me please” she demanded, Ross looked up confused, “come on stand up” she repeated now sounding more enthusiastic and perky, Ross stood up belatedly and sighed heavily as he did “ok what next?” he said, ” now I want you to think about who you are and why for yourself you have to start looking forward..Ok?” Ross stood motionless his eyes were painfully red and overtired plus vacant his shoulders were hunched “I’m Ross Donavan” he again giggled “this is stupid” he conceded, “no!” Ms Bingham shouted whilst grabbing both of his hands “you are Ross Donavan successful advertising executive…” her voice trailed off and she encourage Ross to continue, he soon clocked on to the point of the exercise and began slowly and coyly speaking “I am Ross Donavan” he coughed clearing his throat “successful advertising executive” he looked at his therapist for reassurance, Ms Bingham walked away motioning her hands as if she was conducting an orchestra “keep telling me about yourself” she shouted back whilst sitting back behind her pine desk and taking a sip of her cup of tea.

The therapy sessions had been a welcome distraction for Ross, there were still lingering press stories and reporters calling Richard for interviews and information but on the whole the news was now old and the story did not command as much attention as it did originally however this did not deter a determined Richard as he was still commanding the campaign to bring Sabrina back home safely continue through news features and online columns, there had of course been the hoax callers and false sightings but mainly to no avail.

The police had literally given up and had more or less written it off as a domestic dispute between consenting adults, Ross meanwhile had taken Carmen’s advice and sought solace in Italy for a short holiday visiting his in laws. It was about one month later when he finally arrived back and return to his once family home which was now lacking that homely feel, he looked refreshed gone was the beard and tired expression, as he entered his large home he looked around reflectively obvious thoughts of happier times flashed through his mind, he sighed heavily and his feet crunched onto a pile of letters and various leaflets pile on his doormat, his face had colour back in his cheeks but behind his eyes was still an emptiness and pain, he walked towards the kitchen tossing his bags onto the large sofa along the way, the first thing he did was to check his answer machine which was flashing seven messages, Ross pressed the playback button and sat in anticipation, the high pitched bleep tone pierced the airwaves before the first message played ” hi Ross this is Annie just checking how you are? Call me when you get the message”, Ross smiled curtly to himself as the next messages played, there were three from Richard sounding businesslike and urgent, Ross got up from the breakfast bar stool and walked over to the kettle, he turned to the sink about to turn the taps and a message from detective Crosby played “Ross this is detective Crosby, I need to come and see you, please give me a call back ASAP thanks” his abrupt nature was evident in the harsh tone of his voice, it made Ross momentarily pause, he turned around and stopped the answer machine not bothering to listen to any of the other messages instead picking up the cordless  phone and directly calling the police station, “hello this is Ross Donavan can I speak with Detective Crosby?”, he now sounded urgent and business like as he waited to be put through, whilst on the line he filled up the shiny chrome kettle and casually began preparing to make a cup of coffee, ” Mr Donavan, thanks for getting back to me” came the gruff voice of detective Crosby “look I’m going to need you to come in we have…” he paused clearing his throat “we have found a body that we think fits your wife’s description”, Ross dropped the coffee jar smashing it onto the grey slate tiled floor “what?” he exclaimed “no…are you sure?” his tone was now wavered and barely audible the blood drained from his cheeks leaving him looking pale, “Mr Donavan please I understand this is hard but we need a positive ID, when can you come in?” an insincere and official detective Crosby asked only to be met by the heavy breathing from Ross as he struggle to hold back his emotion “ok I’ll be there within the hour” he managed to force out before hanging up the phone, “oh my god” Ross gulped as he held his hand over his mouth, he stepped back from the phone crunching onto the broken glass from the coffee jar as the kettle also began to steam nosily as it came to the boil, he again picked up the phone and began to dial frenetically, pacing up and down his kitchen waiting for the call to be answered “come on” he spoke out loud “Annie…Annie it’s Ross, yes I ‘m home I need you to come to the station with me they think they found Sabby’s body!” by now the news had just hit home and Ross became quite hysterical spinning around with his hands on his head his face was aghast with disbelief “ok I’m on my way” Annie’s voice resonated through the phone line.

The thick rubber tyres of Ross’s black gleaming Bentley spun ferociously against the wet tarmac the loud roar of the engine signalled the intensity of the moment, Annie was stood at the bottom of the leafy drive her presence magnified by the fluorescent pink umbrella that was sheltering her from the unrelenting downpour as the heavens opened unmercifully, typically encapsulating the English summer. As Annie climbed into the car she and Ross exchanged a steely stare followed by as quick kiss on the cheek from Annie, acting as an Olive branch as they had not seen each other since the last fraught encounter, no words were exchanged as Ross accelerated away using all the horsepower the supercar allowed, he drove fast and at times dangerously as the rain lashed against the windscreen faster than the thick windscreen wiper could clear, ” slow down a bit Ross” Annie pleaded politely whilst gripping her arm rest vice like, Ross continued to speed away staring wide eyed at the road ahead consumed with the thoughts that he may be viewing his wife’s dead body.

Finally they arrived at the police mortuary, Ross braked harshly into the moss covered concrete, before getting out he paused switching off the engine, he looked scared and stressed as Annie just looked relieved that they had arrived safely after an erratic journey, “just give me one minute” a visibly nervous Ross requested, Annie placed her hand onto his shoulder “it’s ok I’m with you” she reassured as usual ice cool Annie keeping her emotions in check.

On entry they were greeted by a young constable on the reception desk he seemed to recognize Ross’s face as he immediately stated “I’ll call the detective for you” before any verbal exchange commenced, Ross nodded as the young police officer dialled eagerly, Annie and Ross stood side by side attempting to dry off from the monsoon conditions outside, Annie swept her black hair back into a ponytail offering a half a smile to the young officer, within seconds Detective Crosby appeared alongside the liaison officer Harriet, as usual detective Crosby appeared ashen faced and uncompromising “thank you for coming so promptly” he stretched out his hand for a token handshake, “you remember officer Harriet?” he ushered her forward, his uncouth manners still at the fore as he turned his back impolitely and began to trudge through the grey cold corridors towards the mortuary, all three stood in silence until Annie mouthed the words “are you ready” to a dumbfounded Ross who shook his head before following behind the obnoxious detective.  “Next of kin only” detective Crosby insisted looking directly at Annie as they all stood outside of a large blue metal door, “I want her with me” Ross countered defiantly mustering the strength to forcefully demand Annie’s inclusion, detective Crosby sighed as Officer Harriet gave him a cold knowing stare “ok” he conceded before pushing open the large door.

Upon entry the room was clinical and cold no wonder it had the nickname of the meat locker as several file like drawers were stacked beside one another, as short fat mortician with extra big round black rimmed glasses stood beside the body that was unceremoniously laid out on a steel trolley covered by a single green cotton sheet, Annie squeezed Ross’s hand they braced themselves as the mortician nodded as to indicate the reveal was about to happen imminently, as the chubby hand of the mortician clasped the green sheet Ross’s golden brown tanned faced suddenly was a ash grey as he inhaled and held his breath, everyone in the room stared intently almost statuesque as the sheet was dragged back revealing the embalmed porcelain sheened stiff body, Ross immediately broke down letting out an anguished scream, Annie also gagged as if she were about to throw up whilst cupping her mouth with her hand, Ross gripped Annie’s hand tightly as he peered down and the lifeless torso below him ” oh my god!”  He squealed loudly “it’s not her…it’s not her!” he repeated in relief “that’s not my Sabrina”, Annie clasped her hands together as if she were praying thanking God and wept silently turning into Ross’s manly chest as the tears streamed down both of their faces. Detective Crosby looked defeated as he walked slowly down the corridors, his lips were pursed as he scratched his chin looking at the floor he walked towards the car park where Ross stood waiting battling to compose himself as the detective approached, “sorry to put you through that but we had to be sure” a more impassioned sounding Crosby spouted, Ross just stood hands on hips emanating a man that had enough “ok where do we go from here?” he asked searching for some kind of positive reassurance, detective Crosby grimaced as he looked back at Ross knowing that only bad news would follow ” I’m afraid we may have to close the case, if there’s no further leads or information”, his declaration seemed pretty definite, he tried to stare Ross directly in his eyes but the fact he had to concede defeat clearly did not sit well as he could only managed a fleeting look before casting his eyes towards the wet puddle laden floor.

Ross stared into space unable to offer a solution, he looked over at Annie who was sat on her own in the comfort of his car watching through the steamed up windows the body language of two men who had maybe come to the end of the line, whilst at the same time trying to digest the fact she had just seen the dead body of a stranger.

Ross’s mobile began to vibrate vigorously interrupting the awkward silence, before he even answered the call Detective Crosby began to walk away into the shower like conditions towards his waiting car, “we’ll speak soon”, a throwaway comment before he hastily trotted to his vehicle, Ross seemed very distracted as his phone continued to buzz violently in his hand, he look at the flashing digital screen and saw Richards name flashing brightly “hi Rich” a disconsolate and confused sounding Ross answered, “Lucky where are you? I’ve been trying to get you for day’s” Richards loud enthusiastic voice sounded, “I’m at…” he paused not able to confide at this inappropriate time “look meet me at the Sunset, I’m with Annie, say half an hour?”, he began to walk slowly back to his car the grey thunder clouds still colliding as the heavens opened relentlessly, the heavy drops splattered onto his face as he braved the elements back towards his car, “is everything alright?” Richard asked, “We’ll see you in a bit” Ross responded before cutting the line.

For a few moments both a wringing wet Ross and Annie just sat silently together in the warmth of the comfortable car only the faint hum of the heater blowing out warm air coupled with the constant patter of the raindrops interrupted any calm, the smell of damp clothing mixed with the leather of the interior wafted as the heat swirled round the car. In a poignant gesture Ross reached across to a shell shocked Annie and touched her hand “thank you for being here, I know that was not easy”, for once Annie’s defences had been breached, she turned to Ross her pale pink chin quivered as she attempted to keep a stiff upper lip but the redness of her eyes coupled with that glassy look that one blink would caused the floodgates to open “that was horrible” she said returning the sentiment by rubbing his hand, “but it was not Sabby” she continued even breaking into a relieved laugh, Ross just put his head back against the seat “no your right, there’s still hope right?”, he closed his eyes wiping away the remains of water that slinked slowly down his face, “let get out of here I could do with a drink”, Annie looked back smiling whilst also wiping away her tears “god look at me!” she giggled quite amazed that she allowed her emotions to come to the fore taking a tissue to clean up her face then tilting down the mirror in the sun visor to fix her makeup and apply some lip gloss, while Ross started the engine and pulled his seatbelt across his broad chest, this time he peeled away slowly and carefully with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on his chin still the thoughts were there, the unanswered questions gnawed away like a mouse chewing through cardboard, it just would not go.

The sunset bar was busy despite the dismal weather, the trendy London public still managed to get out and enjoy the affluent atmosphere, the fun dance music and lively patrons stood in a very stark contrast to the three figures that were tucked away in the quietest corner, sat on the comfy red leather sofas and stools were a despondent looking Ross, Annie and as usual a very talkative Richard, who was annoyed that Ross did not answer his calls or call him to attend the viewing, “hey I know I may be busy but you have called Lucky” he reiterated again taking large swills from his oversized wine glass, Ross did not even respond he just nodded to acknowledge the comments casting his eyes around the bar whilst Richard continued to ramble on “how can they say their closing the case, she’s still out there!” he carried on pointing his stubby finger towards the window as if to indicate that Sabrina could be anywhere “well I for one will not give up that easily” he stated defiantly. Annie by now looked tired and worn out nursing her glass of wine slowly running her index finger around the rim of the glass, as usual she stayed calm and quiet not rocking the boat or opposing Richard’s enthusiastic rant instead she turned to Ross seeking guidance, Ross just looked confused not sure what to make of it all, he was just relieved he did not have to witness the dead body of his beloved wife but was obviously still haunted by the person’s body that was lying in the mortuary “do you know?” he interrupted Richard sounding philosophical “that was somebody else’s loved one, and they don’t even know she’s there”, he said gripping his wine glass to his chest shaking his head in sheer disbelief, while the bar’s young energetic bar  flitted in and around clearing tables and gyrating to the intensely pumped music, that statement quelled the conversation in their corner, instead they all just sat quietly contemplating to themselves, each having different thoughts and takes on the situation.

Time to move on

“Welcome back Lucky”, the sentiments echoed throughout the offices of Grenways and Merryls as Ross strode through, the other members of staff were all lost in admiration for Ross as he casually continued his forceful steps towards his empty unused office. One person who was standing waiting in anticipation was his P.A Lucy who stood almost on tip toes anxiously waiting for her boss to arrive. Ross smiled politely at all the colleagues who threw words of encouragement at him, he seemed confident and back to himself, dressed smartly in a three quarter length blue cromby coat which covered his grey pinstriped Saville Row cut suit “good morning Lucy” he winked and smiled just like he used to, that old swagger was creeping back, Lucy grinned delightfully her flamed red hair contrasting her crisp white blouse  grey skirt and fuchsia orange shoes which completed the neat look, she could hardly contain herself and swiftly walked towards him offering a hug with her arms outstretched “so good to see you she gushed” unashamedly whilst the rest of the office stood and watched, “let’s go into the office” he whispered into the side of her ear inhaling her fresh light fragrance as they clinched in close.

Ross was back at work once again in his familiar domain, he tossed off his overcoat and stood looking around checking if all his creature comforts were still in place, “nothing’s been touched, it’s as you left it” an eager to please Lucy stated proudly, “thanks doll”, Ross responded letting out a huge sigh of relief as if to finally confirmed he was back and ready for his challenges ahead. “Lucy we’ll have a briefing at ten, then we’ll start cracking on ok?”, Lucy smiled she was delighted to have her boss back and looking in such a good state as well, “whatever you need boss” she saluted mockingly while turning for the door, “Lucy” Ross stopped her in her tracks” how have you been mate?” he asked with a genuine and sincere tone, “who me? I’m fine” she said brushing the question off as if she did not matter at all looking awkward and embarrassed as she made for the door. Ross’s first port of call was to contact Teri Bingham maybe just a courtesy a sort of progress report, for she had been instrumental in his recovery over the last few months.

Ross tapped out the number on his loudspeaker phone resting back playing with his old rugby stress ball, as he swivelled playfully in his chair he saw a picture of himself and Sabrina which was still in its place on the chrome drinks cabinet in the corner of his plush office, he reflected for a moment staring longingly at the photo before his gaze was interrupted by the clam professional voice that answered  through the loudspeaker “green leaves therapy centre” the young sounding female spoke, ” Ross jerked back to reality “er yes Teri Bingham please” he stuttered out “it’s Ross Donavan”, “ok I’ll put you through” the young receptionist replied, Ross spun towards his huge glass window and took in his city wide panoramic view, “hello Mr Donavan what can I do for you?” the calm serene voice of  Teri Bingham sailed down the phone, just as Ross was about to speak Lucy returned pushing ajar the office door “coffee boss?” she peeked her head inside, Ross beckoned her inside while indicating he was on a call, while Lucy place the large steaming mug onto his desk Ross continued with his conversation, “my apologies Teri” he said casually ” I just wanted to let you know I’m back at work and feeling good he enthused, “I’d like to arrange another session if possible?”, “sure, well that’s great to hear, I can see you this evening if your free?”, that would be great Ross chirped back whilst taking a small sip of his coffee sounding enthusiastic, “ok I’ll see you at say five o clock?” Teri Bingham sounded just as pleased, ” five o clock it is then” Ross confirmed his cockney wide boy confidence was back in his tones as he heaved out a big relieved sigh before grabbing his favourite miniature rugby stress ball and tossing it from hand to hand.

It was not long in the day and just a Ross was beginning to find his feet again back in his surroundings that Richard bounded into his office, as usual he walked in with the air of a sure fired hardnosed business man something that his fashion sense did not reflect, the flamboyant and often eccentric advertising mogul was decked in a crème suit complimented with a lime green shirt and orange tie, “Lucky Donavan so glad to see you back in that chair” he came through with force and in bullish mood, “did you get dressed in the dark today?” Ross said with a cheeky grin, “I’ll have you know this whistle cost a fair few” Richard responded brushing down the lapel’s and straightening his sleeves, “anyway good to see you back, so what’s on the agenda today?”, Ross stood up to shake Richard’s hand as the pair greeted each other ” well not much I’m just easing myself back in, by the way thanks for recommending me to Dr Bingham” Ross replied “I’m going to see her later” he continued as he grabbed his coffee mug, “as long as she is helping you move forward and she isn’t bad either” Richard winked at Ross as if to suggest to him he should take her out or something to which Ross gave a frowned expression he certainly was not ready for that type of relationship yet far from it.

Ross sat at his desk clicking his mouse going through some accounts when he came across the work Richard had done on Sabrina’s campaign momentarily he paused as he looked through the various pictures and literature attached to her posters, he shook his head as he viewed the amount of work the agency had put into trying to find his estranged missing wife, it was a hard and harsh lesson for him but something he was now able to look at in a different light, he still got that horrible feeling in the pit of his gut whenever he saw her beautiful face sprawled across a missing person poster, but he was strangely satisfied that those around him had worked their hardest to raise awareness and find his wife. Lucy interrupted his flow when she came through on his phone “Ross I have Sheikh Ramah from Dubai airlines on the line, shall I put him through?” Ross snapped back into life while closing down his computer, “ok Lucy thank you” he quickly responded before preparing to take the call.

The round clock that was built into Ross’s Bentley dashboard read four twenty as he sat stuck in the city traffic trying to make his way over to the Green leaves therapy centre which was across the other side of London, he had not experienced the raw hustle and bustle of the rush hour for some time and was slightly annoyed that it was taking him so long just to progress a few miles. He fiddled with the radio switching channels until he found a news station which helped to take his mind off of the bumper to bumper clog of cars and exhaust fumes that choked the air.

It was definitely different for him to be watching all the people outside rushing around going about their business knowing that months ago they would have all been tuned into the news watching him on TV talking about his missing wife, it really brought home the reality that life just seems to go on regardless of his personal pain, finally the road ahead of him seem to clear and he was able to put his foot down and make better progress through the murky grey streets to his destination.

Teri Bingham sat opposite Ross on the comfortable sofa in her ambient office; she was relaxed as was Ross who had taken off his coat and suit jacket, “you seem to be quite content at this moment, how was your first day back?” Dr Bingham calmly observed as she sat forward engaging directly, her striking blonde hair was swept back revealing her soft skin and clear complexion, as usual she was dressed smartly a fitted white blouse hugged her demure figure as she probed, “It was interesting to say the least” Ross replied looking and sounding much more confident, “I had a call just before coming here” he continued eagerly “and I wanted to ask your opinion”, now Dr Bingham was intrigued this was certainly a shift in personality to when Ross had first visited her all those months ago , he was more assured and business like “ok well fire away” she said smiling brightly. Ross stood up and walked towards the window, Dr Bingham watched silently but with anticipation, “well…” Ross began still peering outside “I’ve had an offer from the president of Dubai airlines” he continued sounding pretty casual, “an offer? Tell me more” a now very interested Dr Bingham coaxed now herself sat up her whole demeanour shifted, “they want me to be their director of commercial and advertising affairs”, Ross declared sounding excited as if he could not believe they had chosen him, he turned to Dr Bingham with his palms outstretched, “wow! That is something congratulations” she exclaimed her calmness for once replaced by a genuinely excitable tone “I sense a but coming along” she continued cautiously, at this point Ross sat back down and scratched his head before taking a sip from his glass of water, “it would mean me relocating to Dubai” he stated as he rested back in the large sofa.

Teri Bingham sat for a moment her blue eyes widened as her mind ticked thinking deeply before giving her considered opinion, “why not?” she said simply “I think it would be a great choice, a new start perhaps?” she offered, her expression remained neutral she stared blankly back at Ross awaiting his response, “that’s what I was thinking but how can I leave? She may still be out there” he exclaimed the tone of his voice now contained grains of emotion when he referred to his wife, he became now slightly withdrawn as he pondered to himself. ” I think it’s time for you to draw a line and start thinking about what’s best for you” Dr Bingham offered “who’s knows what kind of opportunities this may bring?” she continued sounding ultra optimistic, “yeah but how can I leave Richard after all he has done?” Ross questioned his mind clearly confused he scratched his head again a frustrated gesture; “it’s all about you now” was Dr Bingham’s answer as her beautiful blue eyes sparkled as she spoke. Ross sat digesting her words the cogs of his mind turned you could see the way he was fighting with his conscious as this was a major decision and could be the turning point in his life.

Dr Bingham walked over and sat herself right besides Ross on the sofa, her fresh perfume tantalisingly oozed past Ross’s nose, she smelt fresh and her pale skin was even better close up as Ross tried to focus on the matter at hand “why did you come to see me today?” she asked, Ross shifted uncomfortably as he stared directly back at her remaining poker faced, “what do you mean?” he questioned back, Dr Bingham placed her notepad and pen on the glass table in front of her before reclining suggestively on the cushioned furniture “let’s be honest here, you came for my professional opinion correct?” she directly asked, Ross nodded in agreement ” yes I did” he responded leaning forward towards her, his heart began to pound as Dr Bingham grabbed his hands rubbing them as she spoke “well I think you should go, you owe it to yourself” she spoke sincerely “what do you have here to lose?” again she spoke softly before getting up quickly and walking back to the large wooden desk leaving Ross quite flustered “right well thanks for the advice” he hastily spoke as he got up too grabbing his jacket clearly embarrassed and on edge, Dr Bingham smiled at him “I think you’re a good man Ross, keep in touch won’t you” she looked a little disappointed her expression could not hide the sorrowful look in her eyes but she remained professional thrusting out her hand for a handshake as she flicked her blonde hair away from her face, Ross too responded by shaking her hand “thank you” he muttered before making his exit.

It was two weeks on and Ross had invited everyone round to his house to make his big announcement he thought this was the easiest way rather than telling people especially Richard individually, his parents were also on their way to be part of it although Ross had just told everyone it was a dinner party. Annie was first to arrive looking radiant as always in a slinky simple black dress, her hair was out and draped down her back as she elegantly walked into the house clutching a bottle of wine, “hi you” she kissed Ross on both cheeks as she stepped into the lounge “what can I help you with?” she asked making herself useful which was her formality “no it’s fine I have everything under control”, commented a much more calm and confident Ross “I actually ordered everything in” he giggled as he opened the bottle of wine and handed a glass to Annie, just then the doorbell went “chill out I’ll get it” he ordered Annie before rushing to the hallway to answer the door, he seemed to be in a positive upbeat mood which left Annie with an inquisitive look on her face. All the guests had arrived except for Carmen who was still spending time in Italy.

Richard, Len and Marie were all sat in the lounge talking as Ross frenetically attempted to lay the table and serve the food, “sure you don’t want a hand in there Lucky?” Richard shouted out sarcastically as the sound of clinking plates escalated from the kitchen “no I’m fine be with you in a minute” a flustered sounding Ross responded before Annie joined him to give him a much needed hand “come on let me help otherwise we’ll never eat” she said jokingly and as usual being her helpful self. Finally the meal was in full swing and everyone seemed to be enjoying the food and wine as the conversation flowed, the only person who was quiet was a nervous Ross probably thinking too hard about when the right time was to make his big announcement, he sat picking at his food giving the odd smile or head nod to acknowledge the dinner table topic, “lovely dinner tonight darling” Marie commented ” I know you put in a great effort” she said winking at him knowing that he had in fact not cooked but ordered in, “that’s ok Mum” he responded by raising his glass “anyway” he continued hesitantly “I got you all together because there’s something I need to tell you all”, with that everyone stopped chewing and drinking as the sound of cutlery clinking onto the plates preceded a silence “ooh this sounds interesting” sneered Annie as the spotlight was well and truly focused on Ross, “ok, well basically” he started cautiously “look with everything that’s happened in the past year, I need to move on” Ross stated as his audience watched on glued to every word he uttered, he drew for breath before declaring “I’ve been offered a position in Dubai which I’ve accepted” he stopped abruptly before gulping down a large quantity of wine, an awkward silence filled the room as the faces of each of his guests told their own different story, Richard just stared ahead no emotion but obviously shocked for the first time into silence, Annie was the first to smile and mouth the word “wow!” although by her expression she looked surprised whilst Len and Marie looked at each other astounded “so you going to live in Dubai?” Marie asked sounding quite impressed by her son’s latest feat. “Sorry Rich” Ross consoled Richard by getting up and offering his hand for a handshake ” Well Lucky it is a surprise but it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy and while you will be a big loss, we’ll just have to get on without you” Richard this time unusually understated considered, “I was not looking” Ross made sure he reiterated to Richard “it’s just an opportunity that came up and Teri thought I should go for it” he continued, “who’s Teri?” Len interjected “oh that’s my therapist” Ross stated quite proudly

as everyone just looked around at each other before Richard stood up and grabbed the half full bottle of wine “top up for a toast?” he begun whilst pouring the contents into each glass “to Ross “Lucky” Donavan may your new life and adventure be a successful one, and we are still here for you if it goes belly up!” he joked bringing some well timed humour into the shocked atmosphere “to Ross!” everyone shouted in unison as Annie hugged Ross giving him a kiss on the cheek, for the first time in months a genuine smile broke across Ross’s face he looked relieved and happy that finally the weight was off of his shoulders and he could now look forward and plan the next phase of his life.

“I’m not selling the house mum I’ll keep it as my UK base, anyway Annie has a set of spare keys” Ross spoke hurriedly as he tried to juggle speaking on the phone with packing clothes and sifting through various pieces of paperwork in his bid to organise himself before his flight. There was a lot to do and Ross was in hyper mode trying to tie up all his loose ends, for once he was excited as he continued to speak to Marie she could hear the change in his voice, he had not been this excited in a long while. He was definitely motivated by the challenge and the prospect of becoming as successful in a different company and country “don’t forget mum tell dad they have the world’s best golf courses!” he chatted happily, while staring around his bedroom which still bore the hallmark of Sabrina, bottles of perfume, shoes and various cosmetic instruments strewn around the place as well as all of the antique pictures and ornaments, he did not want to throw any of it away just in case his wife returned. It was continuing to be a hectic morning as he prepared manically for his departure; his phone would not stop ringing, different people wishing him the best as well as various business calls , but this was Ross in his element moving and shaking doing several things at once, he had a renewed spirit about him a certain swagger that had been missing through the last tumultuous year, of course he was not about to simply forget everything and run off into the sunset he also knew the catalyst for this enforced change was because of Sabrina.

“Hello anyone home?” the recognisable dulcet tones of Annie shouted through the hallway,”I’m upstairs be down in a sec” replied Ross as he bumped and knocked around on the landing “Richard’s on his way let him in will you” he again sounded strained as he yelled his latest instruction, Annie could be heard faintly replying as she looked around at the huge black and grey Gucci luggage sets which sat boldly in the lounge surrounded by bits of loose paper and folders, his passport, phone and car keys sat openly on the granite kitchen counter as Annie moseyed around looking just as eager to get going as anyone, her black bomber jacket matched with her black leather boots, she always made the effort, a fashion victim and today was no different.

Ross then made his entrance himself looking smart in a plain Ralph Lauren polo tee shirt and jeans “hi mate, I think I’m just about ready” he said whilst giving Annie her customary kiss on the cheek his fresh zesty smelling cologne wandered behind him “any sign of Richard yet?”, he continued walking up to the window and peering out from behind the drapes, his phone once again began to buzz violently as it vibrated against the hard surface, Annie grabbed it to hand over to Ross looking at the large display screen “it’s Teri Bingham” she said with a cheeky grin whilst passing it to Ross, “very funny” Ross countered playfully as he took hold of his handset, “hello Teri how are you?”, Annie rolled her eyes in mock disgust as she pretended to inspect his designer suitcases but was trying hard to eavesdrop as Ross sat down to take the call.

Not more than ten minutes later the sound of a heavy engine could be heard approaching up the driveway, Annie took a quick look outside and could see Richard cruising towards the house in his large silver range rover, another selection from his expensive car collection, he tooted the horn as if to sound his arrival as Annie twisted around and gestured to Ross, ” he’s here” she whispered as he was still talking to Teri Bingham, “ok Teri well thank you for all your help and remember you have my details” Annie again looked on disapprovingly as she swiped her hand across her neck in a gesture which told Ross in no uncertain terms to cut the call which he did literally seconds after, “what are you like?” he playfully pretended to strangle Annie as he tossed the phone onto the cushion of the chair, “come on let’s getting this stuff ready to ship out”, he now spoke in a serious tone.

After an hour they had finally loaded all of his luggage and equipment into the car, Richard who was playing chief coordinator dress casually himself in a black sweatshirt and jeans sat at the drivers wheel doing a verbal checklist making sure Ross had all his necessities “you got your passport and stuff?” he asked Ross as he opened the heavy metal passenger door “yes mate I’m ready”, he said while looking back at his beautiful home for which he was about to leave for pastures new, he reflectively stood and gazed forlornly maybe memories of when he first purchase the home he built with his wife, pictures of when it was empty and new, when they had their first dinner party and the subsequent barbeques and garden parties that followed, the many evenings he sat in the spa room and Jacuzzi soaking skin to skin smelling Sabrina’s fresh rose petal scented candles, he shivered as he remembered all of the good times if only nothing had changed, he got quite emotional and choked back the pain and tears that produced a lump in his throat, Richard and Annie sat silently in the car allowing Ross his last moment, he shook his head in disbelief and rolled his eyes up towards the sky it was as if he was asking God why, “come on Lucky you have a plane to catch” Richards commanding voice soon broke Ross’s gaze “ok let’s go” he said climbing up into the vehicle clearly distressed as he sat back and closed his eyes resting his head as Richard pulled off quietly peeking at Annie in the rear view mirror.

Upon arrival to the airport where as usual the throng of crowds busy harrying in and out of the building, other cars jockeying for available parking positions revved and honked, Ross stood patting his pockets, “oh no” he declared looking a bit flustered, “what?” both Richard and Annie answered in unison “I’ve left my phone on the sofa!”, he banged his head with his fist “damn it” he continued clearly agitated, “it’s too late now mate , there’s no way we can go back and get back in time for your flight” Richard stated pointing to the rows of cars tailing back to the entrance of the airport, “not to worry Annie will get it couriered to you first thing” he continued ever the organised business brain, Ross stood depleted and reluctantly conceded that there was not much he could have done it was a minor irritation which could not be undone for now, “you was not expecting a call was you?” Annie teased him playfully injecting some humour into the moment, as Richard struggled alone to unload the cases onto the grey metal airport trolley.

Ross collected his boarding pass after his luggage had been checked in, he was flying first class Dubai airlines flight DB7593, he was soon to become their employee and part of the executive team so his passage was a smooth and very accommodating one, with no hitches, no expense was being spared as the well polished and smartly dressed well mannered staff smiled cordially as they acknowledged the importance of their latest passenger, “well this is it then” Ross turned towards his two closest confidants both who now just stood speechless as the realisation began to seep into their minds, Richard stepped forward first giving Ross a hearty hug “I’m very proud of you Lucky, you’re like a son to me” Richard’s emotions poured out as he shook Ross’s hand endlessly gripping and hard as he could, his glasses bent back onto his face such was the force of his hug “you practice that handicap as I’ll be coming to play a few holes in the sunshine mate”, he continued slapping Ross’s broad shoulder “and the campaign will never stop” he nodded in  an assuring way before backing off as Annie stood with her arms folded, her eyes were welled up with tears “I’m going to miss you too now” she squealed referring to the fact she had already lost her best friend, “come here” said Ross pulling her towards him with such force her head was buried into his hard taught chest, “thank you so much for everything Annie, don’t know what I would have done…” he stopped looking back at Richard over her shoulder, grimacing as he tried to hold back his own emotions as Annie attempted to compose herself slightly embarrassed with letting her hardened exterior of a guard down in a moment of vulnerability.

As this was all happening a few miles away from the airport back at Ross’s empty home the vibration of his forgotten mobile phone was strongly buzzing on the sofa moving frenetically, the same place where he had left it in amongst all of the melee of discarded paperwork the one sign of life that was active amidst the silence of emptiness, the bright screen illuminated the darkness of the unused now unoccupied room, it continued to flash and crave for attention yet none was ever going to come. It then went quiet the activity stopped but the light still shone brightly as the device adjusted signalling the missed call, just before the screen faded the words “Sabrina missed call” was seen in bold black letters across the face of the phone before it went out and the room was once again plunged into darkness.

If…

The end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by authorlyndonhaynes

Writer and two time published author. Originally from North London I am a former musician/rapper who know prefers to write books, screenplays and theatre plays. Recently achieved my Masters in writing for screen and stage at Regents University London. Ambitious and serious about my craft looking forward to creating future masterpieces. Have recently published my third novel called ROSA in July 2021 and have completed some screenplays and short film ideas which I am hoping to have realised onto screen. I am a spiritual being and believe in all things the universe as well as having a passion for inspiring young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their dreams and aspirations.

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