Brighton Road

When Lindsey, leading a secluded life in a small city starts worrying about her sister Kate, where will her curiosity lead her and what will she find herself falling into?

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5. Paul's Newts

               Steve was prompt on arriving, after calling the police and an ambulance on my behalf. He found me, cowering in a small pile at the end of my hall, facing the open front door and gazing wildly at the dead man, whose fingers were still trailing along the edge of my door frame, and whose twisted figure seemed to grasp, flailing at the hopeless air above him. Steve stepped carefully over him, ran along to me and practically scooped me up in his arms, letting me sob into his musky shirt. He didn’t talk to me, just rocked me gently from side to side and subtly turned me so that I was not facing the corpse on my doorstep. Only a few minutes after that did the police car come wailing around the corner, and a small band of officers rushed into my house, prizing me from Steve to talk to me whilst another team from somewhere, who I hadn’t even seen arrive, started examining the body in question. I couldn’t move, flapping from officer to officer and ever more frequently returning to my front door in a horrified manner and to pester the people involved there.

              Unfortunately, I had to explain to the officers exactly what had happened, trying to avert any suspicion from me. Luckily, the moment the forensics team arrived, the master in charge took one look at the body, let out a cry and announced that this was another murder: mysterious, untraceable and almost certainly a dead end. They could see that I was in no way connected to the man, and after a few more questions agreed to leave me alone.

                 But that didn’t mean they took him away. The dead man lay on my doorstep all day, shielded from public view by the mass of bodies around it, and a small tent which had been erected, completely blocking the front access to my house. Not that I cared much. I spent most of the day quivering on my sofa, making cups of tea and trying to talk to Steve, but I was in shock.

                 Steve reminded me later in the day that I ought to get hold of Kate. I blew him off, saying that she probably already knew.

“Fine!” Steve exclaimed, “But I am getting you out of this house. Don’t argue, but we’re going to Paul’s.”

“No, don’t bother,” I insisted, “We can’t get them involved.”

Steve had already found my keys and was holding out my coat for me to take. He grabbed me by the arm, gave a heroic effort and pulled me out of my foetus shape sunk into the cushions of my sofa into a half standing position. I shook my head and he half grinned.

“Paul’s. Now.”

We went out via my back garden, but had to painfully make our way back to the front of the house on the road, seeing as that was where Steve’s car was. I was vaguely aware of the fact that I was still wearing my tracksuit bottoms and slippers and that I hadn’t used a hairbrush or even considered doing my makeup. I self-consciously hid my face and waited a good twenty yards from my house whilst Steve got the car, slipping quietly into it and letting him drive me all the way to Paul and Maggie’s house without much more complaint. I would just be happy to get away from the chaos and into some kind of home. Mine hadn’t really felt like one that day: it was a crime scene.

                Steve helped me out and gave my shoulders a quick squeeze as he hammered on Paul’s perfectly painted and varnished front door, a box of petunias embellishing the front window. A half dead strand of confetti was still clinging humbly onto the door and a large crate of empty wine and beer bottles left by the gate. I felt so bad intruding like this at such a happy time of Maggie and Paul, but I was past the stage of caring. I needed somewhere quiet to lie down and I needed some kind of salty and processed snack to eat.

                Steve hammered for a few minutes before stopping, peering through a window and continuing the banging. The lace curtains were drawn closed and only a dim light could be seen into the sitting room beyond. After a few more minutes, Steve stopped, still supporting me and pulled out his phone. We heard Paul’s phone ring in the house and listened as it went through to the answer phone. There was no noise or movement from within. Paul and Maggie were obviously out.

                Both Steve and I jumped a mile into the air when the letter box suddenly started to rattle, and a clink of chains was heard as someone unlocked the front door from within the house.

“Paul?” Steve called into the door, “It’s just me and Lindsey.”

I very distinctly heard Paul’s voice answer, but he had not undone the safety latch, with the door now open an inch or so. I couldn’t even see his face.

“We’re busy,” Paul said, “Maggie’s not well.”

“Can we come in?” Steve asked, trying to prize the door open further, “Lindsey’s house has been turned into a CSI episode.”

Paul made a noise of questioning before clearing his throat,

“Sorry,” he said, lightly kicking his side of the door impatiently with his toes, “but Maggie’s really not well and it’s very contagious. You can’t come in and I can’t go out.”

“It’s alright, Paul, we…”

“Sorry. Bye,” Paul closed the door suddenly and forcefully, locking it again within ten seconds and the house was once more silent from within. Steve turned to me in indignation and threw his hands into the air.

                We trudged forlornly back along the garden path, and Steve led me to a bench there, facing a little pond which housed a number of green and ugly newts. They jeered at us as Steve continued to gaze at the house, scratching his head,

“I’ve no idea what’s wrong with him.” He said,

“I’ve no idea why there’s a body on my doorstep.” I said,

“Fair enough.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes,

“I don’t even know what’s up with Kate.” I continued, starting to feel like my insides were tearing apart, opening up to this man, “I mean, why was she seeing Frank last night? Is it him she’s seeing? Is that what’s making her so strange?” I was fumbling around with my questions, throwing them almost forcefully at Steve. He shuffled closer to me and put his arm around me,

“Not your problem, Lindsey.” He said, “You’ve been worrying for too long. It’ll be alright.”

“No, it is my problem!” I tried to argue.

The next moment I found his lips pressed against mine, his arms wrapped tightly around me, comfortingly. I let myself cling to Steve in a childlike manner, and even when Steve broke away, I carried on hugging him, my head falling softly against his shoulder and burying myself within his engulfing embrace. It was nice: it made me feel better.

                Steve stood up shortly afterwards as a light rain started to drop apologetically on our heads. Steve tried to smile at me, but carried on frowning at his brother’s house.

“I’ll talk to him in the morning.” He said, “But don’t worry. We’ll just go back to mine. My sofa’s really comfortable!”

I laughed at his kindness but slight rudeness,

“I think you’d find the sofa a lot more comfortable than I would,” I said, pinching him playfully.

Steve lived on the other side of Bristol, which is why he had stayed at Paul’s for the duration of the wedding. Now, he had me pressed to his side, supporting me almost frantically. He was being such a friend and the way he had kissed me made me feel light and happy and as though all the weight was gone, just for a moment.

                But as Steve turned from me to unlock his car, I could see something briefly flicker across his eyes and the seed inside me started to sprout. For I knew, and so did he, that Steve was in love with another woman. He didn’t love me, he just adored me. The woman he did love was very much like me, who he loved and adored. I should have seen from the start that it was Kate.

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