Susannah pressed the key with an air of decision. Her finger had been hovering over it for some minutes now – then suddenly – BANG – one stab of the digit and the message was gone.
Like most folk these days, she didn’t have much time for socialising, always busy busy busy, so millions of lonely people used the internet to meet new friends. Using the various social networking websites, she had enjoyed some very interesting chats with a variety of people she would never have met in the usual run of things; young, old, rich, poor, all eager to chat at the most odd times of day; people on the go non-stop during the daytime feeling lonely in the quiet after-work hours.
Already tonight she had chatted with a flight attendant just back from the US, the time lag making it impossible for her to sleep. Then she exchanged a few words with a city financier called Richard; he seemed rather nice but obviously had something on his mind, and he was called away before they had finished their conversation.
Then Harry’s name had popped up. They had been corresponding at intervals for a week or two now, and she had learned a little about his army career and Far East tours, and the area he was staying in now. He seemed pleasant enough, so, tonight, when he had suddenly sent the message – just one word – ‘Meet?’ -, after a little hesitation she messaged back ‘Yes’, and suggested meeting at a café she knew, at a time convenient for her.
So now she sat, looking nervously at her reflection in the mirror behind the monitor, trying hard not to chew her recently manicured nails, awaiting the reply.
Harry sat at his computer in the nearby town, anxiously awaiting Susannah’s reply. He too was filled with doubts – was it too soon? Would she be offended? And would she like what she saw when they met face to face? It was one thing chatting through the ether, but quite another meeting someone in the flesh!
His musings were interrupted by a loud bleep. He had mail!
Harry hardly dared look at the message displayed. He didn’t know whether he was more pleased or scared when he read ‘Yes. Starbucks Lyneham High Street 10.30 a.m. Saturday. OK? Both wear red buttonhole LOL!’
He gulped. ‘In for a penny….’ He thought as he sent back ‘Great – see you then’.
Susannah was up early on Saturday, carefully surveying her wardrobe. She eventually chose a pair of smart jeans and a black top. Thankfully her nails were still presentable and her hair and makeup immaculate.
‘Here goes’ she thought, making her way to the bus stop outside the block of flats where she lived.
Harry had arrived early at the rendezvous. It was a half hour drive and he didn’t want to be late. He managed to park quite nearby, and was nervously sitting in the café sipping a strong coffee.
Crossing the road, Susannah had time to get a good look at him. ‘Not too bad’ she thought, taking in the good head of swept-back hair and craggy features. Making sure her red carnation was in place, she smoothed her hair and pushed open the door.
Harry too had seen her coming; and stood to welcome her, leaning heavily on the table. ‘Don’t trip over my sticks’, he said, pointing to two walking sticks propped up against a chair.
Susannah shook her head, thinking of the fold-up floral number stashed away in her handbag, in case the arthritis got the better of her and she needed something to help her along on her way back to the retirement village where she had lived these last five years. ‘Only to be expected at our age’, she smiled, ‘When did you say you will be 80?’
‘Next month’ came the reply ‘My kids have arranged a family gathering. Maybe you would like to come? It gets a bit lonely going to these things on your own.’
For the next hour they sat over coffee and croissants, telling each other their life stories so far.
Harry told of his career, and his long happy marriage to Josephine. The kids
were good to him though, and one or other of them dropped round every week. But he missed his dear wife so much.
Susannah patted his hand sympathetically, and told him she understood just
how he felt, for her dear Fred had died some ten years ago, and although she had 2
wonderful daughters and four grandchildren she doted on, it didn’t make up for the
long lonely evenings. Which, she said, was how she had hit upon the idea of Evening
Classes, where she did the Silver Surfers course and eventually joined up to several
Social Networking websites, just as Harry had done.
Now here they were chatting away like old friends. They reminisced about life in the Sixties, and found they still both enjoyed the music from that era.
Susannah said ‘Would you like another coffee? My turn I think’.
‘I don’t think my old bladder can take much more, but if you don’t think I am
being a bit cheeky, how about coming back to mine to listen to some music? I have
a huge collection of 50s and 60s stuff, Country and Western as well. I could probably
find us a sandwich and a bit of cake too!’
Half an hour later they were back at Harry’s place, looking through his large
music library. They settled back to listen to a Dusty Springfield CD, one of
Harry looked at her thoughtfully.
‘I feel as if I know you already, Sue. I am not just shooting a line, but could
we have met before?’
‘Not that I can remember, but maybe we passed each other in town some
Harry nodded, and sat down with a glass of brandy, for Susannah had assured
him she would not need a lift home, as there was a convenient bus she could catch just
over the road.
Sipping the brandy, Harry became more and more mellow, and began to doze
off. After all, he was almost 80!
As Susannah sat and watched him, toying with her untasted drink, her
expression of kindly interest began to change into a twisted snarl. With a look of pure
hatred, she reached into her bag and drew out a small but deadly sharp craft knife.
She had worked out which type would be best from a short Art Course she had done
at the local College.
Harry watched her through sleepy eyes as she walked over to him, knife in
hand. He tried to call out and desperately tried to fend her off, but the herbal relaxant
Susannah had brought along specially for him (she learned to make this after a very
interesting talk given recently at the library), which she had slipped into his drink
while he was in the bathroom, rendered him both helpless and speechless, as she lifted each of his hands in turn, and deftly slit both wrists.
Looking straight into his terrified eyes, she said:
‘Do you remember me now? My name is Mandy Williams. I was 14 when you raped
me. You beat me up so badly I had to have plastic surgery on my face. You made me
pregnant. I had a miscarriage because of my injuries. It messed up my insides so I
could never have children of my own.’
A look of shocked recognition crossed Harry’s frightened features.
‘All these years you have been having a lovely life with your wife and kids;
I could not settle down with any man, barren as you had made me. I was glad when
they sent you away for eight years, but my nightmares began again when they let you
out early. I had nothing to live for; there were no Swinging Sixties for me; I took
to drink and drugs, and went inside myself for a while. When I came out and got
clean, the only thing keeping me going was the thought of revenge on you. But it has
taken me until now to track you down. Thank God for the Internet. I planned and
baited my trap and you eventually walked into it. I have worked and lived only for
this day. You stole my life. Now I am claiming yours’.
And there she sat, enjoying every moment of his fear and pain, watching
intently until at last the blood stopped flowing and his eyes flickered and his face
twitched. He was dead. No 80th Birthday celebrations for him!
Following her well rehearsed plan, she stepped over to his computer and typed
a carefully prepared suicide note, detailing what he had done to Mandy all those years
ago, and how he was filled with remorse. This would be news to his family!
She printed it off and laid it beside him for them to find. Then she wiped
everything she had touched (a few tips from reading Crime novels at Book Club came
in quite handy here), placed the glass and plate she had used in her handbag, and went
out, closing the door quietly behind her.
Back at home, she removed the brown wig and wiped away the carefully
applied makeup. Dressed in her usual trousers, with her greying hair swept back
from her face, no-one would recognise her as the smart and fashionable woman who
had left Harry’s flat an hour ago. That Beautician’s course was a real find!
One more job to do. She deleted everything from her PC, closed all
Susannah’s internet accounts, then smashed the PC to pieces. She placed the remains
in her shopping bag to be disposed of tomorrow when she joined an over
60s trip to the seaside, and put another computer in its place.
On Monday she would be leaving her flat and moving abroad to a smart
apartment on the Costa Blanca. She had already learned Spanish!
His life was over. Hers was just beginning.
Adult Education is a wonderful thing.