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Fri Mar 18, 2011 11:37 am

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Mr Jennings had suffered a blow, one which appeared to shatter every living cell in his long, slim-framed body. He received this blow in the form of news of his youngest daughter’s death, the sharpest of its kind ever to hit a father. This news he encountered was in the form of a telephone call, at approximately 03:47am three days from the present, by a man named Detective Sergeant Matthew Crawford. Mr Jennings took a long time to answer the telephone, when its offensive ringing tone started to intermingle with the content of his dreaming. Blurry-eyed and with a slight edge to his voice, he reluctantly answered the phone.
“Jennings household, who’s calling please,” he sleepily addressed his caller.
“Mr Jennings? My name is Detective Sergeant Matthew Crawford,” a pause. Mr Jennings immediately straightened his back.
“This is Mr Jennings, what can I do for you Detective?”
Mrs Jennings also sat up straight.
“I’m afraid I have some very bad news sir, and I am awfully sorry to have to deliver it over the phone. Unfortunately there has been an accident involving your daughter.”
Lucy. Where was she? Had she not come home last night? Mr Jennings was certain that she had, she always called to let them know if she was going to be late. Unless...
“What on earth has happened Detective?” He replied, with more urgency. Suddenly he felt hot, his T shirt started to stick to his skin. He felt the beat of his heart quicken into a thud in his chest. Mrs Jennings put a cold hand on his shoulder.
“I’m afraid Lucy has been involved in a car accident. She was alone, and we found her car crashed into a wall on the A 167 near Livingstone. I’m afraid it was fatal.”
Fatal. The word made his stomach flop and then twist so tightly inside him, he was fearful he might suffocate.
“Oh God. Oh God. At what time Detective? How did this happen?”
“We’re not entirely sure. Our enquiries suggest that she might have crashed her car on her way back from a party, around midnight. We’re busy making further enquiries now Sir. We’ll let you know as soon as we have any more details. I am so sorry Mr Jennings. Please, pass on my condolences to Mrs Jennings and the family.”
“Oh God. What am I supposed to do Detective?” Mr Jennings’ mouth went dry. Threatening tears collected in their ducts, awaiting their moment of inevitable release. An overwhelming numbing sensation snaked his body, seizing each of his limbs one by one. He struggled to win the battle against his frozen hand that still held the receiver.
“I shall send an officer round first thing in the morning Mr Jennings. In the meantime, here is my number...”
Mr Jennings did not find the strength to move from where he was standing to his desk a few metres across the room, where a pen and some scrap paper provided him with the means to record the number.
“Thank you Detective.” Mr Jennings rang off. He heard a loud ‘click’ and then the soft hum of the monotonous dial tone in place of the Detective’s voice. He held onto the receiver.
“Peter! What has happened! PETER!” Mrs Jennings screeched into his ear, whilst grabbing onto his dampened T Shirt. The force of his wife’s pull nearly knocked him over. Somehow he found the energy to spin round and to grip her wrists tight. She yelped in pain, but did not struggle.
“She’s dead, Molly. Lucy is dead. A car accident... midnight...” Mr Jennings could say no more. Mrs Jennings pulled him down onto the floor with her, where she buried her petite figure into his, and they wept. Wept until the first light crept through their window, and filled the room with morning.

The next few days were torturous for Mr Jennings. All he wanted to do was to find a deep, dark hole to crawl into. Hide, however, he could not. He had responsibilities, and he realised he would have to rally whatever morsel of strength he had left to notify the rest of the family members, contact his solicitors, battle with the press, arrange a funeral, organise her possessions and belongings, whilst consoling his eldest daughter and his wife, all before he could steal time to grieve himself. His son was not helping, pestering him like some poor desperate child for money, as usual. When did he ever give up? Was he not yet old enough to look after his bloody self? Sure, his wallet had wavered slightly in the past. He was his son, after all. His secret son, and he was to keep it that way. They told people Carl was a distant nephew. You know of Cousin John? The one down in Torbay? Yeah, his son’s cousin. Hopefully, nobody was familiar enough or interested enough to realise Cousin John’s son’s cousin did not exist. Remarkable isn’t it, how the big brown eyes can travel that far in a family tree! Yes! Ha ha ha. Carl was nothing much more than a nuisance in Mr Jennings’ life, and he was proving to be an expensive nuisance at that. Mr Jennings found himself paying for a flat in Central London for Carl, a nice car for Carl, a couple of pairs of designer shoes for Carl, more than a few bribes for Carl, and now Carl’s new heroin habit. The Financial Department at Mr Jennings’s carpet company has begun to draw his attention to the frequent and anonymous withdrawals of fairly large sums of money. There were only so many times Mr Jennings could publically dismiss them. His own joint account with his wife could definitely not be of assistance, as Mrs Jennings tended to regularly scour statement activities in the same way a hawk scoured the ground for fat rodents from the skies. Carl was becoming a problem, and becoming a larger one by the day.

Lucy had been a dancer. She was an exceptionally good dancer, attractive, well-liked, an up-and-coming phenomenon of the dance world. She had made career-lifting appearances at award ceremonies, well-anticipated press hot-spots, and important social events for the high society, the majority of which she attended on the arm of Daniel Lucas, an aspiring actor and mediocre celebrity. He was not right for her, she had even said so many times herself, but this was how you move yourself up in the world, she claimed. Just like you climb that stepladder in a bank, you have to do the same in the system of fame, only with a different kind of ladder, she explained. Mr Jennings discovered that there were several different ladders Lucy had tried to climb in this world, some of which involved semi-naked photo-shoots, a pool of unsuitable men whom he often would recognize in a copy of his wife’s OK magazine, and tragically, the use of alcohol and drugs. The latter kind of ladder had only recently been mounted, but unfortunately news had spread like the plague that she had already fallen off it. A terrible fate for a wonderful young girl, one paper remarked. Another suggested she had been sucked into a cyclone of failing stars, and ended up with more bad habits than Ozzy Osborne. Mr Jennings had been horrified at these remarks, however. As far as he was concerned, she had been forced into taking these alleged drugs. She was only nineteen, how on earth was she supposed to have known what they were? It wasn’t her time to go.

A few weeks prior to the fateful accident, Carl Byford met Lucy Jennings outside the Black Boy. They were standing outside, side by side, smoking a cigarette in one of those potentially awkward situations in which it could be either appropriate or inappropriate to initiate a conversation. Lucy was not one of those who concerned herself with awkwardness, however. She began the exchange. She thought him to be incredibly attractive, in a dark and mysterious way. Unfortunately, she enjoyed chasing inhabitants of the dark and mysterious. But what was perhaps even more unfortunate was that Carl had enjoyed being the victim of this young, attractive blonde-haired woman. It wasn’t often girls like Lucy were after a guy like Carl. There was no doubt he had been attractive, perhaps a few years earlier in his young life. He had a lengthy scar that extended in a line from his right earlobe to the ball of his cheekbone, and his nose was ever so slightly crooked to the left. His eyebrows were thick and dark, and made his soft brown eyes look menacing. He had a wild and seemingly uncontrollable mass of black hair that mopped his head and neck, and a thick stubbly chin was so not in this year. But Lucy found him irresistible. And Carl was of a similar mind. Activating this potentially awkward situation, the girl turned her head and gave him a good look.
“Having a good night?” she asked, with genuine interest in her voice.
Carl had fallen for her before he gave her a second glance. That little voice of hers had seen to that. It wasn’t very often he felt this much attraction to somebody he found ‘cute’.
“Not bad,” he replied, his head studying the dusty cement below them. He had found a particularly interesting piece of rock, and wondered whether he should kick it into the road.
“Not bad?” she asked quickly, her eyes wanting to meet his so badly.
“Aye. It’s alright. You?” He continued his debate about the interesting rock. He wondered what her eyes looked like.
“It was average, but has got considerably better since,” again, she silently pleaded for him to look at her.
Then he did. Then there was that dangerous explosion of fireworks neither of them had ever suffered before now, and both never believed existed. A flash of desire attacked both in their lower stomachs, as they simultaneously explored each other using their eyes. Wow, those eyes, they thought, what a stunner. They could be the death of me. Simply enough, they responded with a polite smile.
“You been ‘ere long?” he asked, wanting to subsequently kick himself for this boring sentence. However, remarkably her smile widened, lighting up her entire face. She is gorgeous, he thought, that desire starting to roam deeper into his body.
“I’m thinking of staying longer,” she turned her body towards him, tilted her head slightly, and surveyed him with those wide brown eyes. He suddenly felt queasy. How on earth could a girl he had just met have this effect on him? He was Carl Byford, for God’s sake. He was hard-hearted, the type of guy who preferred to make enemies rather than friends. He got into more fights than Mike Tyson. Girls were used for sex and drugs, nothing else. Something told him that this girl could not be exploited for this purpose. She made him unfamiliarly nervous, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.
“But that depends...” she lowered her eyes to the ground, waiting for him to figure out what it depends on. To Carl, this made her look irresistible. She looked innocent, yet there was an element in her voice was telling him that innocent, she definitely was not. He was almost sure he knew what she was implying, but finding an appropriately humerous Carl-like response was proving difficult.
“...on the staff changing this stupid music? I’m with you on that one,” Carl eventually unlocked the relevant witty corner of his mind. He evidently was not on top form tonight. Perhaps he’d had a few too many beers...but he still had another trick. He hit her with his dazzling smile. Despite his slightly unsymmetrical facial features, his smile was pretty perfect. Full, kissable lips lined a row of straight white teeth. Fortunately for him, a year of drugs, fights and self-neglect had seemed not to have touched his knashers! The girl giggled. He fell deeper.
“True that!” She looked up into his eyes again. “What’s your name anyway?”
“Carl. Yours?”
Exchanging more glances and smiles, they finished their cigarettes, and went back inside. Each rejoined their original group, yet fireworks continued to erupt across the room as Carl Byford and Lucy Jennings began to fall in love.

Lauren Jennings sat herself down in her favourite chair, and viewed herself in the cold, shiny mirror. She looked herself in the eye, and searched for the answers she so desperately needed. Except her eyes in the mirror were blurred. She felt tears start to sting the corners of her eyes, but they were not of grief. She knew that much. Ashamedly she was aware she had not felt a pang of grief since discovering her sister had died two weeks ago. She had engaged in the usual mourning actions to keep herself away from suspicion, she cried a lot, hugged a lot and all that. She kept her head down and tried to get on with life as best she could, just like the rest of her family. But however hard she tried to grieve for her baby sister, there was something stopping her.

Ben kept silent, as he watched Lauren from her bedroom door. She was sat elegantly on the chair in front of her dresser, and she appeared to be crying. Ben stood for a moment, and whilst deciding whether or not to disturb her, he took this opportunity to look at her. She was undeniably beautiful, he thought. Her hair was almost black, thick and long. It skimmed her back, and hovered just above her hips. Her skin was always lusciously tanned and smooth this time of year. Evidently summer had been kind to her. Ben would have given anything to run his hand over her bare shoulders and arms, just to find out whether his heart would flutter as much as it did when he saw her. He was certain it would... Just as soon as he was about to knock on her already half-open door, she stood up whilst angrily wiping any remaining disobedient tears and began to undress. She was wearing a white strapless mini-dress she usually had on to sunbathe, which easily suited her delicious bronzed skin. But with one harsh tug it fell down to her hips, revealing round white breasts that had clearly not received the same treatment from the sun as the rest of her body. Ben dutifully froze. He knew he should leave, he must leave, but he could not summon the guts to move. This is ridiculous, he thought, she only needs to turn her head slightly to the right and I’m a goner. She grabbed the sides of her dress and forced it to her ankles, fully exposing her slim frame in a tiny pair of white knickers. Ben could not believe his eyes. Rooted to the spot, he then watched her step out of the dress and kick it across the room to a small pile of fellow discarded clothes. As if she suddenly became aware of a pair of eager male eyes, she turned her head sharply to where he stood. She found him in her doorway. He gasped. She screamed. He ran. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, down the stairs and out the front door to his shed in the garden. His little safe haven Mr Jennings had granted him to live when he had employed him three years ago.

him to live when he had employed him three years ago.
There was no stopping the tears now. She leaked like a broken water bottle. Usually, she did not mind the attention from Ben. He was always watching her, loyally perving on her in her little dresses and skirts. She secretly enjoyed the fact it was always her he chose to look at, and not her little sister, who was indisputably the more attractive. She revelled in the thought of him in his little shed, late at night, safely sipping his beer and fantasising over her. During the day she often teased him when he was hard at work in the garden. She would sit on her deckchair in her little white dress, and when she thought he was clearing weeds in the patch stationed opposite her she would open her legs a little wider, giving him full knowledge of the fact she did not sunbathe with underwear on. That garden patch tended to accommodate a lot of weeds in its small region... Lauren pulled on her dressing gown and made her way back to the mirror. Suddenly her crying ceased and she began to laugh, a little at first. Then a lot. She could not stop laughing. For minutes she fought to breathe enough air into her lungs quicker than it was being forced out with ferocious laughter. She wondered for a moment whether she would die like this. Eventually the laughter started to subside and breathing became easier once again. She sighed with relief and exhaustion whilst drawing her eyes back to the centre of her mirror, where she continued the interrogation of her soul.



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