Calling Neil had been difficult.
Neil sounded worried, he didn’t believe that Brian had thought it through.
“But don’t you understand? I’ve had enough of thinking things through. I want to act. I want to live a real life.”
“Well come back here and live your life with people that really care about you.”
“Please, you need to trust me. I don’t even have a job there anymore, there is nothing left for me there”
“So you’re just putting all of your hope into this idea?” Neil had to give-up, “Just do me a favour Brian. Just sleep on it, would you please just consider it once more.”
Brian could only hope that Neil’s worries were unfounded, he closed his eyes that night with a sense of excitement that he hadn’t felt in years.
He could hear Sasha and Scott talking in the next room, their words muffled by the walls. Debriefing one another on all of the happenings, big and small, that had transpired since the last time they were together.
Brian thought it would be nice to have someone to miss when they were away. Someone who could bring you silly, sentimental gifts from the places and people who were present while you were not. Someone who would rush into your arms at the airport or train station. Someone who couldn’t wait to tell you about all of the amazing and mundane things that they had seen and done.
Brian rolled onto his side, the guest bed that Sasha had hurriedly made up was not like his mattress at home, not too soft or too hard, ergonomically correct but somehow always feeling slightly uncomfortable. No, this mattress was altogether too soft, lumps and bumps seemed to envelope his body. Yet the sheets were crisp and they smelt of lavender, the pillows were fluffed and the blankets inviting. Brian didn’t know if it was just that the bed was exceedingly more comfortable than his economy plane seat or if somehow the bed, like Sasha and Scott, was welcoming him and wanted him to be comfortable, whatever it was, Brian quickly found himself dreaming the dreams of a man who feels peace in his life.
The smell filling his room was definitely bacon.
With anticipation, more for the future than for the breakfast meat, Brian dressed with the speed of determination.
His hand was on the doorknob and he was about to step out of the room when he felt a tingling on the back of his hand. Making the bed had been an automatic morning task since Brian had been placed in his first foster home. Brian believed the woman, however misled and damaging, had meant well, although he could still feel the sting of her thin, metal hairbrush across the back of his hands whenever he didn’t perform the basic chores she believed to be essential. Brian paused and, rubbing the imagined pain on his hands, looked back at the dishevelled mess that was the spare bed.
He dutifully made the bed, smoothing out the creases as he tucked away the painful childhood memories, remembering the excitement that the new day held.
Out in the kitchen Sasha stood, apparently ready for work, sipping orange juice from a tall glass with one hand as she expertly used a spatula to flip pancakes with her other hand. Wearing a spotted apron to protect her business clothing, she managed to look as in control as ever, “Good morning Brian. Bacon, eggs and toast are on the table, and I’m just making a man sized pile of pancakes. Sit down and help yourself. Scott’s got a busy day planned for you.”
Scott, sitting at the table, looked up from the paper he was reading with a grin, “Well let’s not get his hopes up too high, it might be quite slow really. How’d you sleep Brian?”
“Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in years,” Brian didn’t need to exaggerate, his sleep had been full and complete, he felt refreshed. He started piling food onto his plate, “Whatever you need to know or you want me to do today Scott, I think I’m up to the task.”
Scott looked over to Sasha with raised eyebrows, “Well I guess I could get him to do some filing?”
Sasha threw a tea towel at his face, “Or you could just get on with it and show him what you’ve got,” to Brian, “I don’t know, young men these days, can’t do anything with them.”
Sasha strode over to the table and tidied the newspaper back into order, as she folded it in half Brian could see a small collection of printouts wedged under a plate of toast. He paused, a fork full of bacon and dripping egg yolks just centimetres from his mouth. He gulped down the lump that was clogging up his airways and quickly shoved the fork into his mouth. Chewing to alleviate the odd sense of panic that was gripping his body. On the printed paper he could see her name, over and over again. It was popping off the page. She was so close.
Sasha caught Brian’s eye and recognised the panic, “It’s going to be fine. Better, even. It’s going to be fantastic.” He started nodding, allowing Sasha’s calm to wash over him. Sasha was looking at her watch and standing up, she kissed Scott, “I’ll see you later”, to Brian, “Maybe I’ll see you later too. I’m going to be late for work, but Scott will give you our phone numbers and you know that you are welcome here. Tonight, tomorrow, whenever. Goodluck.”
She ducked to give him a quick peck on the cheek, snatched a slice of toast and then she was gone.
Scott didn’t waste any time, “So I’ve got four candidates here for you Brian. Given the information you gave me last night I was able to get the location and a brief recent history of all of the 4 women. There is also a photograph of each of them.”
Brian nodded along, “Who’s first then? I assume they all have the same name?”
“Well no, actually,” Scott glanced at the pages, Brian thought he looked uncomfortable, “Two of the four have the same name, the other two have taken the name of their husband.
Brian blinked away his shock, it was after all understandable. They were in their mid-thirties. He didn’t expect her to be pining away for her long lost, not quite, high school sweetheart. “Well lets start with one of the two that are the same. Please.”
Scott handed over a print out. The name and age were right but the description seemed all wrong, He turned the page over to look at the picture.
Definitely not his Sarah.
For the second candidate he looked at the picture first. The face smiling out of the photo was kind and warm, but she was not the person that Brian was looking for.
Brian felt his stomach drop, so she was married. He felt like a page had been shut in his book, and then that book had smacked him hard across the face. His eyes started to smart.
“Number three please Scott.” Again Brian turned straight to the photo and there she was, her hair still red, her eyes still shining. It was a copy of her drivers license.
Sarah Munroe, 5foot5inches, needs to wear glasses for driving and lives at number 8, Riverford Lane.
“Scott, where is Riverford Lane?”
“D’you know, this is crazy. That’s not twenty minutes away from here.”