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Short Story From A Local Author - The Sins Of Emily Watson

Published on Wednesday 8 January 2014

Local Author Neal James has kindly provided us with another one of his short stories.

Find out more about Neal on his profile page

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the story :)


Emily Watson had never considered herself to be bad. She had, it was true, been involved in some dubious matters in her youth, but at the age of thirty-six that was now well behind her.

“Morning, dear.” The cheery voice of Raymond, her partner, preceded him into the dining room like a warm summer breeze.

She smiled over the top of her newspaper in reply and went back to her coffee while he prepared his breakfast. Raymond Martin was, on paper, a millionaire, and had made his money in the boom years of the Thatcher revolution in the 1980s. From relatively humble beginnings with a string of northern market stalls, he had expanded operations on the back of some shrewd wheeler-dealing. He bought his first high street shop in 1986, and by the end of that decade had a further six.

“You’re in the news again.” She laid the daily paper across the table and tapped a section of the financial press. “Looks like the new trainee management initiative’s going down well.”

Martin had taken a calculated gamble six months earlier by placing an advert in one of the Sunday broadsheets. The company was offering a five year apprenticeship to university graduates holding a business qualification, with a guarantee of full-time employment at the end of the term. It had been a resounding success, and had gained him and the firm widespread approval, with a slot on prime time television as the scheme achieved national publicity. Sales, of course, moved sharply upwards as a result.

“Yes.” He smiled. “It was a rather a good idea after the weeding out process had ended, wasn’t it? Good job I employ you.”

The idea had been Emily’s, but there was no conflict between them over the success or failure of the gamble. As a team, they had been working in this way for a number of years, and the future was looking very bright.

“We’ll have to float the company to generate the cash for the extra shops you’re going to need for your team of managers.” She drained her cup and poured another.

“Already taken care of, sweetheart.” He sat down opposite with his tea and toast. “I’m seeing Miles Underwood this afternoon. “Barkers will underwrite the issue, and should make a killing for their trouble. We’ll have all the funds we need, and more.”

Emily had begun to think that life was passing her by, and the relationship with Raymond, though satisfactory, occasionally left her with a feeling of unfullfillment. He was fifteen years her senior, attentive to her needs, but never satisfied her physically in the way that she thought she deserved. A number of younger men had crossed her path, but loyalty to her partner and the company which they ran had always held her back from anything more than social flirting. That had been before the arrival of Daniel – a twenty something who had seriously turned her head.

Daniel Thorpe was a university graduate who had successfully applied for one of the aforementioned positions. He was clever, handsome, and carried himself with an air of supreme confidence. From what Emily could make out, there were no girlfriends in the picture, and he had responded to her flirting in more than merely a social way. From his standpoint, there would be no harm in playing along with her as long as things did not get out of hand – he needed the job, and Raymond Martin was not a man who would take kindly to his private life being invaded. The young man had come to London on a quest of sorts, and any major distraction caused by Emily could not be allowed to divert him from that path. They had met socially on a few occasions at events organised by the firm, and on one other at a private location when Raymond had been out of town.

---

Thorpe’s relocation to London had been an emotional wrench from his native county. He had lived in Derbyshire for as long as he could remember, and the dales town of Bakewell, with its markets and busy retail sector, had been everything that he wished for. Once out of school, however, finding a job had become problematic and he had gone away to university more as a means of delaying the inevitable until economic conditions improved than with any clear idea of where his future was to lie. A post graduate course at the Manchester School of Business had given him a firm grounding in the cut and thrust world of the British economy, and it had been with this qualification that he had been able to find his way down south and into the company run by Raymond Martin.

This, however, had not been his true quest, but was more a way of sustaining himself whilst the mission continued. He had left his parents’ house with a heavy heart at the end of his education, but remained focussed upon the true reasons for his journey to the capital – it was here, he had been informed, that the end of his quest would materialise.

“Penny for them.” The voice of Emily Watson stirred him from his concentration on the project on which his day was focussed.

“What?” He replied. “Oh, nothing; just a few thoughts on this.” He pointed at his computer screen, where the current files were on display.

“It’s not good to work as hard as you do all the time.” She smiled. “Raymond’ll start to think you’re after the company.” She paused. “He’s away this weekend, if you have the time.”

The suggestion was clear, and after their first encounter some weeks earlier, Daniel had recovered from his earlier reservations about becoming involved with a woman much older than himself. Emily had been quite a catch in more ways than one, and stirred feelings within him that girls of his own age simply could not match.

“Need to be discreet.” He frowned in mock concern.

“Oh, yes.” She pursed her lips. “As discreet as you were last time, I suppose. There’s no going back now, young man. I need you.”

---

Raymond Martin’s trust in his partner was not entirely justified, and he knew that. Nevertheless, despite what she had told him of her past during the years which they had spent together, he had believed that their relationship was on solid ground. He retained an open mind on most things, but where Emily was concerned he was not a man to compromise. He had seen the looks which passed across Daniel’s face each time she was in the general office, but never for one moment believed that any feeling which he had would have been reciprocated by her. To that extent, Emily believed herself to be free from his scrutiny as long as she and Daniel kept their assignations out of the London area; they were travelling back from the latest of their trysts when all of their careful planning came to nothing.

They were travelling north on the M20 near to West Kingsdown on a dark and rainy Sunday evening, and visibility was down to less than fifty yards.

Dariusz Banaszewski was tired; he had made the trip from his home town of Wroclaw, picking up a load in Munich and had turned his rig around immediately after making delivery in the West Midlands. One brief stop during his southwards journey on the M40 at Cherwell Valley was all that he allowed himself in order to make his ferry crossing at Felixstowe on time. He was squinting hard through his windscreen, trying to filter out the pounding rain and the hypnotic sweep of his wipers. It was becoming harder and harder to remain awake, and he shook his head in order to refocus his tired eyes.

The atmosphere in Emily’s Audi A7 could not have been more different. Allowing Daniel to drive whilst she caught up with some work on her laptop, she was completely unaware of the worsening weather and the speed at which her younger companion was driving. On a clear day, and in good conditions, his control of the car would not have been compromised. However, youth, overconfidence, and a powerful engine lulled him into a false sense of security as they sped north and back to the capital. The distance between them and the rapidly tiring Polish truck driver was diminishing by the minute.

Banaszewski tried everything to revive his flagging concentration. He switched stations on his radio, desperately seeking something which would keep him from falling asleep at the wheel. His command of the English language was very limited, being restricted to the vocabulary required to make a return trip after dropping off a load in a foreign town. Nothing on the airwaves made much sense to him, and he switched the radio off.

A blaring car horn alerted him temporarily to the fact that he had begun to stray across two lanes of motorway, and he pulled the wheel over to the left in order to avoid a collision. He cursed loudly and shook his head once more. There was no time for another break in the trip – he would barely make the ferry as it was, and Folkestone seemed a long way away.

Emily looked up from her laptop and cast a glance at the Audi’s speedometer. “Slow down.” She frowned. “What’s the rush? He’s not back until the morning; you’ll get us both killed at this speed.”

“Chill out.” Daniel replied. “I can handle this car.”

The reproof and reply were given in good humour, and she returned to her files. Neither of them saw the oncoming artic on their side of the motorway. In his confused and tired state, Dariusz Banaszewski had fallen asleep. He had crossed all three of the south bound lanes, knocking out a line of rubber cones marking a temporary gap in the barrier, and was now barrelling down the northbound overtaking lane. Daniel Thorpe had a matter of seconds to take evasive action, but with vehicles in both of the lanes to his left he had nowhere to go.

“Oh, sweet Jesus!” He shouted, and Emily had time only to look up and see the rig heading directly for them.

The impact took both vehicles, and several others, crashing across the hard shoulder. Most of the others involved ended up in the relative safety of the grass banking. The Audi, however, taking the full force of the Polish driver’s truck head-on, was rammed backwards, and steamrollered into the reinforced concrete support of a flyover. Emily’s last memory was of excruciating pain as the car concertinaed around the two of them like a metal coffin.

---

“How bad is she?” Raymond Martin had hurried to the trauma unit at London’s Kings College Hospital.

“Critical.” Came the reply from Luke Bradbury, emergency medicine consultant. “There was a lot of internal bleeding, and she may not even survive the night.”

“When can I see her?” His voice was trembling, and he was fighting to retain control.

“Not for a while. We need to stabilise her, and she’s been sent for a complete body scan. Once we’ve seen that, we’ll know more. There’s nothing you can do right now.”

Martin was not to be put off, and took a seat in the reception area to await developments. Daniel Thorpe, in a separate ambulance, and about half an hour later than Emily, had been taken to a different part of the Accident & Emergency department. She had, somehow, been thrown clear of the car as her side of the vehicle exploded outwards as it came to its final resting position. Thorpe, trapped behind the steering column, had to be cut free by the Fire Service. Raymond was completely unaware of his presence at the hospital.

He was awoken from a fitful slumber by Luke Bradbury at the end of his shift. The consultant told him that Emily was stable, but not yet out of danger.

“She’s asleep at the moment, and I’d leave her like that if I were you. We’ve done all we can, but with a bit of luck and a lot of recuperation, I think she’ll make it. She was very lucky, though. Shame the same couldn’t be said for the young man in the car with her.”

“Young man?” Martin suddenly snapped back to full attention. “What young man? I thought she was alone in the car.”

“Sorry, have to go.” Bradbury was already on his to the main door. “The day staff will fill you in.”

It was whilst this conversation was taking place, that Emily stirred from her recuperating sleep. As her surroundings came slowly into focus, the memories of the journey northwards, and the ensuing accident, began to return. An attending nurse spotted the movement on the bed and summoned the on-duty resident, Paula Summers.

“Back with us, then?” Her smile was genuine, her voice reassuring.

“Yes... where am I?”

“Kings, in London.” Came the reply. “You had us very worried for a while there.”

“All these tubes…”

“Have been keeping you alive, but we’ll soon have them off now that you’ve regained consciousness. You lost a lot of blood – rare type, too.” Summers said.

“AB negative. Both my parents were the same.” She replied automatically. “Only one percent of the population share it. Look…what happened to…?”

“The young man?” The resident’s face turned suddenly grave. “There’s no easy way to tell you this – I’m afraid his injuries were far too serious. We did all that we could, but we just couldn’t save him.”

“Oh, no.” Emily buried her face in her hands.

“He wouldn’t have suffered.” She continued. “He never came round, but the two of you exhausted our supplies of blood and more had to be flown in. We didn’t realise that you were even related until then.”

“Related?” Emily stiffened, all thoughts of the crash momentarily forgotten. “What do you mean? That’s not possible.”

Summers pulled up a chair and sat at the side of the bed. She was puzzled at the reply, and went on to explain how unusual it was for two people in the same accident to be unrelated when they shared the same rare blood grouping.

“We naturally assumed that he was your son. That must make it doubly hard for you.”

Emily needed some time alone to assemble her confused thoughts, and was relieved when the doctor smiled once again and left the room. Daniel Thorpe…her son? She shook her head; how was that possible? Suddenly a number of facts fell into place. He was on a quest, he had said, but did not elaborate. Could it be that he had come to London in some search of his real mother? That single thought sent a shock wave through her, and dim memories of a time from twenty-two years earlier resurfaced.

Her pregnancy, as a schoolgirl of fourteen, was the talk of the village in her native Devon. Her parents, though initially supportive, had bowed to family pressure and persuaded her to give the child up for adoption and carry on with her education. At the time she had not developed any feelings for the baby, and acquiesced to their wishes with little resistance. They were never told of either the baby’s destination or its adoptive parents. It had been a boy.

A sudden wave of shame hit her with all the force of a demolition ball. She had flirted with this young man, had courted his attention… and had ended up in his bed. She felt nauseous, but dare not call out for help. Swallowing deeply and struggling to hold on to any sense of reality, her feelings were interrupted by the opening of the door. Raymond was standing there, his face ashen and devoid of any clue as to the thoughts inside his head. What was she to believe? Did he know? Had someone on the medical staff told him the very same facts which had only recently been revealed to her?

Emily Watson had never considered herself to be bad; not until this very moment had she believed herself to be a sinner. Now she knew that she was. From the first sin of giving away her baby, to the final chapter in that person’s life when she committed one of life’s cardinal sins. In her own mind she was now irredeemable, and any explanation offered to the man now standing before her was never going to be enough.

 




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