I’d had another distressed phone call from her the day before. I felt for her, I really did. She was so afraid. Afraid of herself and the very world that surrounded her. I offered to help. After all, it was my job to listen to people. How could I turn down her proposal to meet me? I couldn’t. If I didn’t help her, who would?
At the time I had been working for the Samaritans for five years. I joined after graduating from University with a Psychology degree in my back pocket, so to speak. After leaving my student life behind, one thing I was sure I’d learnt was the importance of listening to people. The most important things God blessed us with are our ears and I had learnt how He meant for us to listen to people in times of hardship.
It was a warm summer’s morning as I sat alone on one of the many benches in Beddington Park. My offices lay just further along the high street and my flat a duration up the hill that was in view on the horizon. My meeting with Katherine, or should I say Katie, had caused much unwanted conflict among my work colleagues. Most were strongly against my meeting with her. My boss had called me into his office as though I was a disruptive child who played up in class. He made me perfectly aware I was taking my job into my own hands, when not required to do so. Well, not directly anyway. I stopped still, looking impassively at him, nodding my head at what I considered the right moment, drearily answering “Yes, Sir”. I disliked my boss; he went by the name of Bill. ‘Big Bill’, we used to call him. He was a harsh old man, not exactly the sort one would expect I would be working alongside. He had only been with us a few months, and if you ask me, he thought he was still at the army head quarters, training the men up, preparing them for battle.
I glanced at my watch. I was twenty minutes early and I was sure she would not be in sight for a while yet. As I thought more about Katie, I slowly glanced around, taking in my surroundings. The air was crystal clear and had an early morning freshness to it. Although it was only half past nine, the skies were blue with the odd clump of cotton wool and the park busy. There were small crowds of adults, families and children in almost every direction.
Two young women strode past on the tarmac path, proudly showing off their infants as they fed the ducks in the large lake. Ripples skittered across as three ducklings swarmed towards the riverbank where the bread had landed, and danced around the lake, which was tranquil before.
As I hid in the shadow of the great willow tree, I could see the playground in the distance. The bold colours and squeals of delight reminded me of my stolen childhood. I wish I could have gone on trips to the park with my mother and father; I used to wish for it every night before I went to bed. The first time I ever got to visit the park was after my father had died. His death was due to alcohol and drug abuse and he left my desperate mother alone to bring up seven children on her own.
I had often wondered in recent weeks if it was why I had been so keen to listen to Katie. So much she talked about reassembled my feelings as a teenager and this is why I wanted to find out more. I wanted to learn about her family and her life and make sure I could help her, the voice of experience and such like. If I’d only had someone to talk to when I was younger…maybe things could have been different.
However, little did I know just how different Katie’s story was going to be.
A shadow cast over the hill in the distance, as a fluffy cloud hid the sun from view. I noticed strange stares I was receiving from passers by and suddenly, realising what a foolish person I must have looked, reached in to the back pocket of my Levis and pulled out the day’s newspaper. ‘The Daily Mail’, not really a paper I had considered reading before going to University, but I try to make the effort to look well educated.
After checking the time again (only four minutes had passed), I opened it to the centre page and began to read. Not that I could read at that moment. I mean, I could obviously, but just couldn’t put my mind to it and concentrate. I kept wondering why time always went so slow when you were waiting for something important. The seconds were like minutes, minutes like hours, and the hours would have been like days.
As I got to the end of the article about thugs in London, and realised I had taken little of it in, I began to wonder if she would ever turn up.
I don’t know why I felt so nervous and unsettled, I was hardly doing the difficult thing. It made me think how terrified she must feel. She hardly knew me. We’d spoke a few times on the phone, but then, maybe that was all she needed.