Yet another chapter of the dumped ‘ Waterlow park’. My God, I really did do a lot of work on this. If you’re following at all you’ll notice that there are a lot of chapters missing. This is because I jumped a little forward in writing it and intended to go back and fill in the blanks later. I never did. I’ll have those words carved on my gravestone: ‘HERE LIES IAN. HE NEVER DID’.
The house is quiet when I get home which is a bit odd because Sofia usually gets back before I do. She goes to Coleridge Primary School and it’s only 0.75 miles on foot. I know this because I used to go to Coleridge and most days Sofia and I would walk to and from school together. I sort of miss doing this. In fact, I really miss Coleridge. The new school is so much tougher and more serious. At my old school we didn’t get any homework but at William Ellis we get some almost every night.
I go into the living room and switch on the TV. I flick from channel to channel but there’s nothing on but the news so I go upstairs to my room. As I enter I find myself instinctively feeling behind the boiler to see if bag of money is still there and of course it is. Except there isn’t much left of the £10,000. I decide to count it and lay out the money on my bed, keeping an ear out for the sound of anybody coming into the house. There is exactly £3,275 remaining. This means that I’ve managed to get rid of £6,625; of course, I gave a lot of it to dad but it’s still pretty frightening to discover how quickly you can get rid of money. I lay on my bed and try to remember everything I bought with the money.
I soon lose track of time and begin to get bored all alone in the house. Mum and dad should be home some time around 8.00pm and even though most of the time Sofia irritates me I’m missing her company. I can’t remember if she has joined an after-school club. She hates after-school clubs but mum and dad are always putting pressure on her to join one; same with me, actually. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t so I decide to call her. She has my old phone, which is an iPhone 4s. I got this when dad upgraded and gave it to Sofia the next time he upgraded. She’s lowest on the mobile phone food chain so she always gets the worst. I ring her but it goes straight to voicemail. I try a second time time and a third but the same thing happens. I leave a message: ‘Answer the phone you little idiot. Where are you?’
I go downstairs and try the TV again. I watch an episode of Futurama which is ok but not very realistic. Then I go upstairs again and play The Sims for a while. ‘I’m lost in the game when I notice that it is beginning to get dark outside I check my phone. It is 5:45pm. Sofia is more than two hours late. This is getting really strange. I call her again but she still doesn’t answer. By now I would normally have cooked her dinner – beans on toast tonight – and I’m starting to feel hungry myself. This makes me angry with her. How could she be so late? What does she think she’s playing at? The spoiled little brat!
I have a brainwave: I quit The Sims and launch Safari on my iMac. Because it’s such as old iMac – dad got it from his office for me – it takes ages to load. I drum my fingers on the desk in irritation until it’s finally ready. On Safari I go to Find My Phone – this will allow me to trace the location of Sofia’s iPhone – and type in her user name and password. I know the user name and password of everyone in our house. I study the computer screen as a map appears with a small red dot that represents Sofia’s phone. I watch for a few moments as the dot slowly moves along a road. She’s heading west along a road I’ve never heard of before called Bayswater Road. This puzzles me so I zoom out of the map only to discover that it’s 6.8 miles away from our house. What’s Sofia doing so far away from home?
I sit quietly for a moment wondering what to do next. It’s going to take Sofia ages to get home and she’ll probably miss her dinner. She’s really going to be in trouble when dad gets home. I move closer to the screen again and scrutinise the map. And it suddenly occurs to me that Sofia is heading away from home; she’s actually going in the opposite direction. Why? Why is she doing this? I can feel myself starting to get worried; I can feel my face redden like I’m embarrassed. Then I realise that Sofia sometimes gets invited to birthday parties and I feel a bit better. Yes that’s it: she’s been invited to a birthday party at someone’s house. But I don’t think that Sofia knows anyone who lives so far away from us. And Sofia has never been invited to a birthday party on a Wednesday evening. They’re always on the weekend. Now I feel bad again.
I call Sofia for the fourth time and again I get nothing but her voicemail. I call her a fifth time. And then a sixth. But then, as the phone is ringing, something weird happens. Without warning the little dot moving along Bayswater Road disappears. I frown and quickly refresh the page and as I’m doing so I get put through to voicemail again. I leave a second message: “Sofia it’s your brother. You better come home right away. Dad’s gong to be very mad if you don’t!’ I frown and refresh the web page and when the little dot doesn’t reappear I refresh it again. My heart begins to pound like a little drum in my chest. I don’t know why it’s pounding but the house is so quiet that I can even hear it. Then I have another idea. Sofia’s phone has been stolen and she must be at school. She must be there right now, waling for me to go and get her. She’s probably crying because her phone’s been stolen and she thinks dad will shout at her.
I drop everything and put my coat on and leave the house. I half run and half walk to the school and I’m there in under ten minutes. The gates are still open and a few kids are playing on the swings; I rush into the main building. This is the first time that I’ve been here since I left Coleridge last summer. It looks identical but there are no people around at all and the inner doors are locked. I move into the playground and then walk around the grounds looking for Sofia. Without really noticing that I am doing it I begin calling ‘Sofia! Sofia!’ at the top of my voice. Some of the kids stop playing on the swings and look over in my direction. I ask them if they know where Sofia is but they’re in a different year than her and have never heard of her. I leave the school and run back home full pelt. By the time I get there I’m out of breath and my lungs are burning. To make matters even worse, I fish around in my pockets and can’t find my front door key! In my rush to leave the house I must have left it on my computer table, which is where I always put it when I get home.
Now I have to fight to stop myself from crying. My lip is trembling and I’m suddenly freezing cold. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I call Sofia again and again again but she still won’t answer. As I stand by the front door to the house it starts to rain. This is no gentle shower either. It really starts to bucket down. The rain is like shards of ice; it cuts into my face and burns my skin. I’m cold and wet and miserable and I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know what to do. For a moment I think about calling Debra. Debra used to be out childminder when we were babies. She only lives in the next street and she would probably invite me indoors and keep me warm until mum and dad get home. Then I remember what dad said to me: ’Stephen, you must never – I repeat NEVER – mention to any adults that you look after Sofia when we’re not at home. We could get into big trouble if you do that. And if we get into to trouble that’s nothing compared to the trouble you’ll be in…’
I put my phone back into my pocket and sit down on the cold front step. The rain beats down on me like it will never stop as I wait for mum and dad to get home.