There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.
Hannah – Finding a way to move on…..
I sat in a corner of the pub nursing my sparkling water and lime juice. The Sunday lunch crowd was growing by the minute in this popular country inn; already there was loud laughter and raised voices of the customers competing with the background music.
We had first frequented the pub to sample their renowned Sunday lunch buffet over thirteen years ago, shortly after our marriage and move to the area. Two years later when our son Michael was born, he had been seated in one of the oak high-chairs supplied by the pub for their younger patrons. I smiled as I remembered the look on his face when handed his first roast parsnip. Distrust swiftly followed by a smile of delight as the crispy outside gave way to the soft sweetness. He was never a picky eater and I loved watching him discover new foods and tastes once he moved onto solids.
It was an ‘all you can eat’ buffet which was highly dangerous, especially for my husband Tom, who could rarely resist the temptation. As he sat contemplating his empty plate; I would run through the desserts up on the blackboard in an effort to move him on from the roast potatoes, but rarely succeeded. He always had room for apple and blackberry crumble; especially with piping hot custard poured liberally over the top of it. Michael was into ice- cream and usually opted for a scoop of all three flavours available. In the early days the evidence of his dessert was clearly seen around his mouth and down the front of his shirt.
As his sixth birthday approached I brought up the subject of a party for his friends and was firmly put in my place. ‘Mum,’ he looked firmly into my eyes. ‘I want to go to the pub with you and dad for my birthday like every Sunday.’
I rang ahead and reserved our usual table and having mentioned that it was Michael’s birthday, the manager offered to have a birthday cake made. When we arrived there had been helium balloons attached to the backs of the chairs and a banner on the wall behind the table. I have never seen such delight on my son’s face as the assembled Sunday crowd sang him Happy Birthday. Most of them had seen him grow into this fine young boy, and it was just the perfect day.
The noise from the bar interrupted my train of thought. The pub had changed hands about four years ago in my absence. I had been surprised when I had walked through the door to see no food being served and a completely different atmosphere. There were few families; just a four deep crush around the bar area and loud music playing discordantly in speakers at each corner of the room. Something had not changed however, and I recognised one tall man who stood head and shoulders over those he was drinking with. He looked like the life and soul of the party, and it was clear that his enraptured audience of middle-aged men were very happy for him to keep putting his hand in his pocket to pay for another round. Raucous laughter created a moat around this particular group as other patrons, excluded from this select few, moved further away towards the tables along the walls.
The man had been here on the day of Michael’s birthday party and had been the only discordant note of the day. Loud and brash he had dominated the crowd at the bar as he was doing today, knocking back several neat whiskies in the space of an hour. In fact it was his behaviour that had encouraged us to leave earlier than usual, having indulged in birthday cake topped with Cornish dairy ice-cream. The staff kindly packaged up the remaining half of the cake, and with one very happy birthday boy clutching the box in his hands, we headed home.
I remember that drive as if it was yesterday. My son strapped into his booster seat behind us still clasping the remains of his cake. My husband humming along to one of the CDs playing some jazz; turning occasionally to smile at me. The weather was not great with freezing rain beginning to coat the dry roads. Tom was a careful driver and slowed down as we navigated the narrow country lanes between the pub and our village five miles ahead.
Suddenly there was a blast of a car horn behind us and Tom looked into the rear view mirror at the vehicle that had suddenly and rapidly appeared around the curve in the road. Tom rarely swore and certainly not in front of Michael so his ‘What the bloody hell….’ both shocked and scared me. I looked over my shoulder to see a long sleek Jaguar sports car almost on our bumper; Tom slightly eased ahead as he approached the next bend. We had nowhere to pull into as a wall of granite stretched up on one side and there was zero visibility ahead. That however did not deter the driver behind us as he accelerated passed us across the solid white line and into the curve.
Tom and I saw the oncoming car at the same time and I screamed as it swerved to avoid the Jaguar and slammed straight into us at speed.
I was in a coma for five days, watched over by my devastated parents. My first words as I regained some form of coherent thought were to ask for Tom and Michael. I remember my father’s ashen face as he held my hand and told me that I was the only one that had survived. Despite my injuries I insisted on attending the funeral of my husband and beautiful son. I did not cry.
I did not cry at the inquest; or the subsequent trial of the man who had caused the accident. I had been able to give the police enough information about the distinctive car for them to track it down to a house at the other side of our village. This was not the driver’s first offence but armed with an expensive and clever lawyer he claimed mitigating circumstances. Including putting the blame on Tom’s slow and careless driving. In the end despite his blood alcohol level and his dangerous driving he only received a seven year sentence and a driving ban of ten years.
I had moved away from our home as I couldn’t live with the memories we had created together. I moved to the city and went back to work as a chemist in a large pharmaceutical company. I lived in a sterile flat with just the photographs of my husband and son and rarely sought out the company of others outside of work. I knew that Tom would be disappointed in me and that he would only wish that I would go on with my life and find love again. But there was no space for another love until I had received justice for those I had lost.
I came back to the present as the tall man at the bar threw back the contents of the glass of whisky and slammed it back down on the counter. He slapped a few of the men on the back and sauntered to the main door. I left my half-filled glass of water and lime juice and followed him out into the car park. I knew which car was his as I also knew which direction he would be taking. Although I had moved from the village my neighbours had kept me in touch with his movements; including the party he had thrown himself when he had been released two years early for good behaviour. It was clear that he had not taken his punishment seriously or the fact that he was still banned from driving for another five years.
I had counted every whisky that he had drunk this lunchtime and as he fumbled for his keys beside his car I approached him from behind.
‘Excuse me,’ I smiled as he turned to face me. He showed no sign of recognition despite seeing me in court every day of his trial. My long dark wig and sunglasses were more than adequate a disguise considering how drunk he was.
‘How can I help you sweetheart,’ he leered at me suggestively.
‘I know there’s a police speed trap around the first bend out of the village,’ I lied through clenched teeth. ‘I thought you might like a spray some of this breath freshener just in case they pull you over.’
‘Thanks babe,’ he held out his hand for the small aerosol. He opened his mouth wide and winked at me as he squirted a healthy dose onto his tongue. He handed the spray back to me and I headed to the car that I had borrowed from a friend. I sat behind the wheel and watched as he too slipped into the driving seat. After a few minutes I started my own engine and as I slid passed the Jaguar I smiled with satisfaction. He was slumped back in the seat clutching his chest and gasping for breath. I carried on driving out of the car-park and onto the road that would take me back to the city.
Two days later the paper carried the story about a local man convicted of dangerous and drunk driving that had killed a father and six year old son; found dead from a heart attack behind the wheel of his car outside a popular public house.
Three months later I sold my flat and moved to the West Country where I bought a coffee shop with the proceeds called Hannah’s. On Sundays I served an ‘all you can eat’ buffet with a wide selection of Cornish ice-creams. At last I could move on with my life.
©Sally Cronin 2017
One of the reviews for the collection.
Romance,” had already been written. Needless to say, I’ve already purchased my copy.
You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews
I hope you will join me next weekend for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.