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Fishman Chapter Six

The Missing Piece

Kathleen left everything to Ruth when she died. She had already given me all her video games before she became poorly. It’s been years since I stood in front of this house. I can feel an eerie breeze down my neck as flock of leaves blow by my chest.

They leave as quickly as they touch me, unlike Todd. He’s like the gum stuck in your shoe – you just can’t get rid of him. Now I get this warm aura around him as if I can trust him. I don’t think he’s going to leave me anytime soon.

I can see it happening; Todd and Ruth are going to fight. Todd insists that he comes anyway.

“Do you think Ruth will be in this time?” Todd asks me.

“The lights are on, so it’s worth a try.”

We knock on the door. I can sense from the way Todd is smirking that he might have hope of seeing Kathleen. That smile goes when Ruth opens the door. She looks no different to when I last saw her. Red wavy hair and freckles. The floral dress she’s wearing looks like it weighs more than her. Her body is worn down by a hyperactive kid by her waist.

“Hello,” Ruth says to me, forcing a smile. “Long time no see Bobby.” She looks over at Todd. “Oh hey there, who is this?”

I contemplate on saying either I don’t know or some person who keeps following me. No, Todd wouldn’t be happy about that. “This is…my friend.”

“Hi!” Todd waves at her. “I’m Todd. I’m going out with your ex.”

“Anita?”

He shakes his head. “No, Kathleen.”

“Huh?” Ruth picks up the child and he falls asleep in her arms. “How is that possible?”

“Is it okay if we come in?” I ask. “I have some questions.”

She nods. “Sure you can have a sit down here Todd.” We follow her into the lounge where a couple of more kids are snoozing on the sofa. She pops the child in her arms with her brothers and sisters. “Follow me Bobby.”

Todd’s too fixated at the pictures of Kathleen instead of anything else. Ruth takes me up to her room and closes the door. Throwing herself on the bed, she takes a deep breath. “What’s going on, Bobby? Where did you meet this psycho?”

“In Amsterdam.”

“Right. That explains it.”

“He saved me. I…”

“I see,” she interrupts as if she knew what I would say. “I thought you looked pale.”

“He’s being deceived. Someone is using Kathleen’s email, phone and her social media accounts to get to him.”

She gasps, clinging onto the edge of her bed. “Really? No way.” Her shock seems genuine with the sudden change of colour in her face and rapid breathing.

Maybe I’ve been selfish all this time. Ruth’s been carrying on where Kathleen left off, adopting some of the children they fostered together. It wouldn’t surprise me if she still fosters. What have I done that’s great these past ten years? Nothing. Perhaps now is the time to do something great in real life.

“I know Kathleen left everything to you. I want to prove to him that Kathleen is really gone. But he won’t believe me.”

“Take him to the cemetery.” Ruth sobs. “Let him see it for himself.”

“I would, but he’s scared of cemeteries.”

“He’s a typical man; always making excuses.”

“That’s why I came to you. I thought maybe you had Kathleen’s death certificate?”

“Why would you want that after ten years?”

“It’s the only way I can prove to him that she’s gone.”

“Are you sure you can trust him? Maybe it’s all a trap.”

“Yes.” I may not trust his intelligence that much, but I trust his character. He’s loyal.

“This person has been talking to him for ten years. And whoever’s responsible knows me and you quite well.”

“I’ll have a look. Make sure that bloke downstairs doesn’t steal anything or damage any of Kathleen’s stuff.”

She crawls under her bed and pulls out a suitcase as I leave the room. Making my way down the stairs I see a black teenager playing on his Nintendo 3DS. It sounds like Animal Crossing. He’s a spitting image of my granddad when he was at school. I’d say hello, but he would think I’m weird. I mean I can tell just by looking at him that he’s my uncle.

Todd waits for me at the bottom of the stairs. “What was that all about?”

“I asked her to look for Kathleen’s death certificate.”

“You won’t find it because it doesn’t exist.” For goodness sake. Lord, have mercy on his simple mind. “So this used to be your house?”

“Yes, I lived here. See that kitchen. That’s where I found my dad – dead.”

“Surely you have positive memories of this place.”

“The bathroom upstairs, the same as it’s always been.” The house triggers bad memories and my pulse rate. I cannot shake the feeling of failure out of my head. “My mother died in that bath.”

“Stop!” Todd pulls me down the stairs and grabs my shoulders. “Calm down! You’re having a panic attack.”

“Yes.” Hissing, my head rolls from side to side. “I am having a panic attack. You don’t have to tell me.”

Ruth runs down the stairs and sighs. “Sorry guys, the death certificate…it’s gone.”

“Gone?” I didn’t mean to shriek the way I did.

“I don’t know how.” Nothing but panic comes from her shivering lips and frustration from her clenched hands. “I’ve kept all those documents secure. The only thing that’s missing is the death certificate.”

“That’s cause she’s still alive!” Todd decides to roar at the top of his voice. Great, just what we need. More noise to upset the neighbours and the kids.

“Todd don’t…”

It’s useless. “She never died. You’re just upset because she dumped you.”

Her head droops as her torso collides with the stairs. She’s holding something in. She pushes herself up with the bannister and goes back upstairs and taps the little gamer’s head. “Go to sleep now.”

“Ruth?”

She doesn’t speak until the boy goes into his room. “He’s right and wrong.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She shrugs her shoulders and bangs her fist against the rails. “We did break up, but I stayed with her till the end. Nothing can bring Kathleen back. We never told anyone about the split. I didn’t want Father District acting all smug.”

“He still talks to you?” I remember him well. Hard not to with that sly grin and judgemental glares.

“Yes, he’s always asking about you. He wants you to come back to church.”

“I’m not ready for that.”

“Oh and by the way, Kathleen did leave you something in her will.”

“Really?” What would Kathleen leave for me?

“Yeah. I’ve kept it for you all this time. Hold on. I’ll go and fetch them.”

As Ruth leaves us again, I mutter into Todd’s ear. “You’re a right arrogant git, Todd.”

“Why?”

“Kathleen loved Ruth. You can’t disrespect her like that.”

“But they broke up.”

“Hush, her kids are asleep.”

Ruth brings a red storage box from one of the rooms and takes it down to us. “Here you go, Bobby.”

“What is it?” Todd asks, stroking the box. “Open it.”

I pull the lid and we both smile. “It’s all her handheld consoles. There’s her Gameboy, her PSP and her gamegear.”

“Look at all those cables and memory cards.”

“I think her games are at the bottom,” Ruth says. “I’m sorry it took me so long to send it. I lost your details.

“Wow!” Todd’s distracted by the retro gadgets. “Look at this stuff, it’s amazing.”

“I’m sorry Todd,” Ruth says.

“What for?”

“Kathleen’s a wonderful person. I hope you can one day accept the truth.”

“Thank you.”

“You should let Bobby take you to the cemetery.” I didn’t expect her to say it. It’s weird that even though we both visit Kathleen’s grave on a regular basis, we’ve never crossed paths there.

He shakes his dead. “I hate cemeteries”

“Bobby hates socializing but he still does it.”

“You wouldn’t understand. He tried to kill himself three times this week.”

“You should watch your tone,” Ruth barks at Todd like an angry schoolteacher. “Kathleen liked people with high sensitivity. And with a friend like you, I’m not surprised.”

“You bitch!” he growls. “Look! This is her Facebook account.” He shoves his phone in her face.

“What?” I thought her old Facebook account was gone. I thought the catfish made a new one.”

“And her email is still the same.”

“Whoever is behind these profiles must be someone who knows us very well,” I try to explain without Todd trying to pull something stupid. “We went to Annie’s house. She only has the computer for her Romeo – so it can’t be her.”

“Annie’s the only one crazy enough to do something like this. She might now know her son and Father District might have helped out.”

Todd pats my shoulder and says to me. “I’m not going back to her house again, Bobby.”

“Annie and Father District are always taunting me,” Ruth squeals. Finally hitting the ceiling before crouching over and crying. “They keep saying that Kathleen’s death was karma for her sins. When I told them I’m an atheist the letters only got worse.”

“Where are these letters?” I asked.

“I THREW THEM ALL OUT.”

“Why?” Todd buts in. “You should have called the police.”

“I did, and they did nothing.”

“So you’ve had no access to Kathleen’s accounts at all?” I ask.

“No. They all seemed to vanish except I’m only able to see her profile when I’m logged out of Facebook. The same goes for everyone else.”

“She obviously blocked you,” Todd declares as if he was in a verbal match.

“It sounds like the account has been hacked and the hacker blocked everyone who knew Kathleen.”

“Why would Kathleen do that?”

“She would never do that because she’s dead,” I reply.

“She’s not dead.”

“You have to listen to Bobby,” Ruth begs. “We were both there when she died.”

“I doubt it was her. Maybe Annie and this crazy priest has Kathleen locked up somewhere. Or a mix up with the hospital. Maybe they swapped Kathleen with another patient in the hospital and Kathleen got better.”

I have no words for Todd’s sudden sprout of verbal madness. Nor does Ruth who passes out with her face crashing on the wooden surface. “Ruth?” I turn her around and shake her for a response. There’s nothing. “Todd, get an ambulance! Quick!”

Flashback: Grandad

Grandpa wasn’t always the wrinkly party goer he is today. He finished work at the station at eight o’clock and he would be home by half past in time for a bedtime story.

I’d sit on his lap and he’d rock on his chair. He stopped reading to me when Grandma became ill.

I overheard Kathleen and Granddad talking about putting her in a home for the last days of her life. I’d never seen him so angry.

I never saw Grandma as much as Grandpa, but I still cried when she died. A part of Grandpa’s soul went with her.

Sarah, the cute little girl with blonde pigtails liv3d next door. She came up to me one day when I was on the swings.

“Cheer up, at least your granny is with your mum and dad.”

“I know, but I don’t want anyone else in my family to die.”

“But people have to die to make way for people to be born.”

It’s hard to believe that there was a time that I wanted to avoid death. I might have been just a child, but all I knew what that my life sucked.

“We should get married,” Sarah said to me. “It will be great.”

“But we’re too young.”

“I don’t mean now, I mean when we grow up.”

“Don’t you have to like each other first? And I want to become a priest and I don’t think we’re allowed to get married.”

“Times are changing. I’m sure if you ask the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury very nicely, I’m sure they will let us get married. And we do like each other don’t we?”

“I guess.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes.”

“Prove it!”

That was my first kiss. I don’t remember much of it now. There might have been a feeling of love, but all I really remember is the taste of cold baked beans on her lips.  

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