Afraid and lost among strangers

Today I’m sharing an except from my novel ‘Loving Judah’; Judah was Aislin’s step-son, and since his death while trekking in Kashmir, the relationship between Aislin and Judah’s father Peter has fallen apart, both struggling with their grief. Peter blames Aislin for ‘encouraging’ Judah to go, Aislin feels excluded and alone. Thew were renovating their house, an old place they had just moved into, and Peter, while Judah was missing went almost mad, ripping up floorboards, pulling doors from their hinges, stripping out the electricity cables and most of the plumbing leaving them to live in chaos.

Aislin goes into the local town to buy groceries:

Loaded down with her purchases Aislin returned to the car; she went into the supermarket, bought what she needed but then, as she put her shopping in the car, she remembered wine. She was in no hurry to get home, she didn’t want to return too soon and interrupt Peter’s conversation with the vicar.
In the supermarket again Aislin bought half a dozen South African reds and carefully holding the cardboard carrier headed back to the car.
She was nearly killed. A sunflower yellow Subaru screeched past, missing her by inches, leaving her trembling and out of breath with shock.
“Maniac!” said an old man coming up beside her. “Are you alright, my dear?”
Aislin took a couple of deep breaths. “What a madman, thank God I hadn’t got any children with me!”
The car had rocketed out of the car park with a scream of brakes and a skid of tyres.
“Did you see the number?” asked the old man. But she hadn’t, it was yellow, that was all she could say. “You ought to tell the police!”
She assured the kindly old chap she was alright and as her heart settled back to a more normal rhythm she walked back to her own car.
Judah was standing there.
But of course he wasn’t. The man standing by her car didn’t even look like Judah; it gave her a start all the same. As she walked towards him he leant back so he was leaning against the boot and then bent over, hands on knees, head down.
Had he been hit by the car? Was he alright? She hurried towards him.
“Are you o.k.?” she called.
He stood slowly and looked towards her. His face was white, the skin drawn and taught so his glazed eyes looked huge in his face. He was clean shaven but his jaw and chin were dark against the pale skin. He looked as if he was in deep shock, every movement slow and deliberate as if he didn’t know quite what he was doing.
“Are you alright? Did it hit you? The car – did it hit you?”
“Car?” he said quietly as if puzzled, the r in the word rolling. “I’ve been mugged,” he said as if surprised.
“Are you hurt?” she put the wine down and held his arm, looking anxiously up into this face.
“Where is this?” he asked looking round as if in slow motion. What was the matter with him? “Where am I?”
“Copthwaite, Yorkshire. Let’s go back to the supermarket, you can sit down and we’ll call the police. Are you hurt?” she asked again.
He took a deep breath as if he was trying to pull himself together. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Sorry. I must seem mad.” His accent was strong, Somerset maybe.
“Come back to the shop,” she urged.
He looked down at her again and his eyes filled with tears. She thought of Judah. Judah in a strange place, Judah attacked, Judah alone.
“Look, this is my car. Sit in it for a while until you feel better and then we’ll get the police.”
She took his arm and drew him to get into the passenger seat then almost tripped over her box of wine. When Aislin got in the car he was crying, face in hands.
“Sorry,” he said “This is so embarrassing.”
“What happened?” Aislin passed him a box of tissues.
“I was flying up to Glasgow… the plane was diverted to Leeds. I couldn’t face going to Scotland… I got a taxi… the driver recognised me and kicked me out. He drove off with my things. I got in another car, I thought it was a taxi…. He said he knew a quiet place out of town… I think I slept. He stopped here, I had some money out to pay him but he grabbed it and my leather jacket…”
“Right, I’ll drive you to the police station.”
“No. No. I couldn’t face that,” his face was red now from weeping. There was more to this distress than the strange tale he’d told. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
She stared at him; in his thirties, dark curly hair cut short, straight black brows, brown eyes, a broad handsome face. He was lost. Not just physically, he was emotionally adrift somewhere… and he was frightened, very frightened.
I hope you never felt like this, Judah. I hope you were never afraid and lost among strangers.

© Lois Elsden 2018

Here is a link so you can find out what happens to Peter and Aislin, and who the stranger is – and why he’s in the car-park in Copthwaite!

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