I was wrong, of course I was, to say those things to him, but what comes to me now is that I wasn’t unreasonable to be angry. I had every right to be angry, didn’t I? We were trying to have a baby – shouldn’t we have been prepared to make sacrifices? I would have cut off a limb if it meant I could have had a child. Couldn’t he have foregone a weekend in Vegas?
I lie in bed for a bit, thinking about that, and then I get up and decide to go for a walk, because if I don’t do something I’m going to want to go round to the corner shop. I haven’t had a drink since Sunday and I can feel the fight going on within me, the longing for a little buzz, the urge to get out of my head, smashing up against the vague feeling that something has been accomplished and that it would be a shame to throw it away now.
Ashbury isn’t really a good place to walk, it’s just shops and suburbs, there isn’t even a decent park. I head off through the middle of town, which isn’t so bad when there’s no one else around. The trick is to fool yourself into thinking that you’re headed somewhere: just pick a spot and set off towards it. I chose the church at the top of Pleasance Road, which is about two miles from Cathy’s flat. I’ve been to an AA meeting there. I didn’t go to the local one because I didn’t want to bump into anyone I might see on the street, in the supermarket, on the train.
When I get to the church, I turn around and walk back, striding purposefully towards home, a woman with things to do, somewhere to go. Normal. I watch the people I pass – the two men running, backpacks on, training for the marathon, the young woman in a black skirt and white trainers, heels in her bag, on her way to work – and I wonder what they’re hiding. Are they moving to stop drinking, running to stand still? Are they thinking about the killer they met yesterday, the one they’re planning to see again?
I’m not normal.
I’m almost home when I see it. I’ve been lost in thought, thinking about what these sessions with Kamal are actually supposed to achieve: am I really planning to rifle through his desk drawers if he happens to leave the room? To try and trap him into saying something revealing, to lead him into dangerous territory? Chances are he’s a lot cleverer than I am; chances are he’ll see me coming. After all, he knows his name has been in the papers – he must be alert to the possibility of people trying to get stories on him, or information from him.
This is what I’m thinking about, head down, eyes on the pavement, as I pass the little Londis shop on the right and try not to look at it because it raises possibilities, but out of the corner of my eye I see her name. I look up and it’s there, in huge letters on the front of a tabloid newspaper: WAS MEGAN A CHILD KILLER?
Wednesday, 7 August 2013
I WAS WITH THE NCT girls at Starbucks when it happened. We were sitting in our usual spot by the window, the kids were spreading Lego all over the floor, Beth was trying (yet again) to persuade me to join her book club, and then Diane showed up. She had this look on her face, the self-importance of someone who is about to deliver a piece of particularly juicy gossip. She could barely contain herself as she struggled to get her double buggy through the door.
‘Anna,’ she said, her face grave, ‘have you seen this?’ and she held up a newspaper with the headline WAS MEGAN A CHILD KILLER? I was speechless. I just stared at it and, ridiculously, burst into tears. Evie was horrified. She howled. It was awful.
I went to the loos to clean myself (and Evie) up, and when I got back they were all speaking in hushed tones. Diane glanced slyly up at me and asked, ‘Are you all right, sweetie?’ She was enjoying it, I could tell.
I had to leave then, I couldn’t stay. They were all being terribly concerned, saying how awful it must be for me, but I could see it on their faces: thinly disguised disapproval. How could you entrust your child to that monster? You must be the worst mother in the world.
I tried to call Tom on the way home, but his phone just went straight to voicemail. I left him a message to ring me back as soon as possible – I tried to keep my voice light and even, but I was trembling, and my legs felt shaky, unsteady.
I didn’t buy the paper, but I couldn’t resist reading the story online. It all sounds rather vague. ‘Sources close to the Hipwell investigation’ claim an allegation has been made that Megan ‘may have been involved in the unlawful killing of her own child’ ten years ago. The ‘sources’ also speculate that this could be a motive for her murder. The detective in charge of the whole investigation – Gaskill, the one who came to speak to us after she went missing – made no comment.
Tom rang me back – he was in between meetings, he couldn’t come home. He tried to placate me, he made all the right noises, he told me it was probably a load of rubbish anyway. ‘You know you can’t believe half the stuff they print in the newspapers.’ I didn’t make too much of a fuss, because he was the one who suggested she come and help out with Evie in the first place. He must be feeling horrible.
And he’s right. It may not even be true. But who would come up with a story like that? Why would you make up a thing like that? And I can’t help thinking, I knew. I always knew there was something off about that woman. At first I just thought she was a bit immature, but it was more than that, she was sort of absent. Self-involved. I’m not going to lie. I’m glad she’s gone. Good riddance.
I’m upstairs, in the bedroom. Tom’s watching TV with Evie. We’re not talking. It’s my fault. He walked in the door and I just went for him.
I was building up to it all day. I couldn’t help it, couldn’t hide from it, she was everywhere I looked. Here, in my house, holding my child, feeding her, changing her, playing with her while I was taking a nap. I kept thinking of all the times I left Evie alone with her and it made me sick.
And then the paranoia came, that feeling I’ve had almost all the time I’ve lived in this house, of being watched. At first, I used to put it down to the trains. All those faceless bodies staring out of the windows, staring right across at us, it gave me the creeps. It was one of the many reasons why I didn’t want to move in here in the first place, but Tom wouldn’t leave. He said we’d lose money on the sale.
At first the trains, and then Rachel. Rachel watching us, turning up on the street, calling us up all the time. And then even Megan, when she was here with Evie: I always felt she had half an eye on me, as though she were assessing me, assessing my parenting, judging me for not being able to cope on my own. Ridiculous, I know. Then I think about that day when Rachel came to the house and took Evie, and my whole body goes cold and I think, I’m not being ridiculous at all.