Laura Crossley stared at the photograph on the hall table. She looked at it every day. It was her beloved Ray. It would be twenty two years in March since he went missing and vanished without a trace. She blamed herself of course, they’d argued a few days before. About something stupid. Orange peel!
Orange peel for god’s sake. She’d bitten his head off for leaving orange peel on the kitchen table after he’d eaten the fruit. He’d snapped about her being so picky and it had turned into a full scale row. How stupid. He put on his running clothes and went out for a run. He came back an hour later when everything had calmed down.
She’d often wondered if he’d gone out to meet someone that day. Maybe it had all got too much for him indoors and he’d decided to run away with someone. She didn’t want to believe it, but she knew he wasn’t dead. She was sure of it. Something deep inside was telling her so.
Even when the Police were looking for him and told her to expect the worse, she refused to believe it.
In her mind there were only two possible reasons why he was missing.
Maybe he’d fallen while he was out running, hit his head, and lost his memory. Maybe someone had picked him up, driven him somewhere to get help. Maybe then he’d ended up living rough somewhere not knowing who or where he was. Maybe he was still out there roaming the streets somewhere far away.
Or, the most likely, was that he had run off with another woman. Maybe the argument they’d had a few days before had triggered it off, or maybe he was under a lot of pressure at work and was having some kind of breakdown, maybe he thought that by running away and making a new start somewhere all his troubles would go away.
Lots of maybes, but one thing she was sure of. He wasn’t dead. No way.
For fifteen years she kept the faith. She kept hoping he’d come back or be found somewhere, but then she met Jim Crossley. A good man, a kind man. He was forty six and a widower. His wife had died from breast cancer when she was only in her thirties. They’d started going out and after a few years decide to move in together. Stacey liked him, which was a major factor in her decision. They’d now been together for seven years.
When Ray first left, Stacey was only three, she was now twenty five. Still single and living in her own flat just up the road in Brentwood. A career girl, with a great job at Barclays. Just like her dad, she was a winner. She had to be the best at everything she did. She didn’t remember her dad very much, just a few distant memories of him taking her for a walk in the park.
In a way, Laura was pleased, this meant that she wasn’t too distressed that he’d gone. Now she thought of Jim as her dad and that was a good thing.
She and Jim had tried for a baby in the first few years, but nothing happened. After a while they just accepted that it wasn’t to be. They were happy together and thats all that mattered. Life was good. Jim had a good job in the City in reinsurance. They had no mortgage, a large house, a nice two bed apartment in Spain and plenty of money in the Bank. Jim was due to retire at sixty which was only a few years away. They intended to have six months in England and six months in Spain. It would be ideal.
She poured herself a coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. Her phone rang.
“Laura? It’s Jane, you okay?”
“Yes, fine thanks, why what’s up?”
“You haven’t heard anything from Romford Police then?”
Laura stood upright. She thought she was about to hear the worst news possible. News that she’d dreaded for years.
“Well, John came home from the station yesterday and said that someone from up North was claiming to be Ray.”
Laura let the information sink in, then sat down again.
“Jane, I’ve heard that a lot over the years, but it always turns out to be a false alarm.”
“No, he said this was different. It was a young guy about thirty, dressed in running gear. He was found out in the cold in the early hours of the morning”
“Well then, that proves it. It couldn’t be Ray. He’d be over fifty now.”
“ Laura, he said his name was Ray Samuels and he lived at 278 Malvern Drive. Your old house.”
Laura dropped the phone.