As Kate lay on her bed a few days after bumping in to Martin, recovering from that day’s patrol, her mobile rang. It was a number she didn’t recognise so she answered cautiously.
“It’s Martin. You said to give you a call sometime.”
Kate brightened immediately, aches and pains disappeared.
“Martin. Yes, absolutely, how are you?” She hoped she wasn’t gushing too much. That wouldn’t be good tactics; far better to play hard to get; but sod it!
“I’m fine. I wondered if you fancied going out one night.”
“That would be great. When were you thinking? Let me grab my diary.” Not that there was any reason to check when she’d be free; she didn’t have any engagements planned.
“I was thinking Saturday?”
“That’s good for me. What did you have in mind?”
“Dinner, maybe on to a club afterwards?”
“OK, I’ll pick you up at say 7.30? Where do I come?”
Kate gave him directions then kissed the phone when he’d rung off.
The next day she booked a hair appointment for the Saturday afternoon. Driving up and down the A1 didn’t do much to keep it looking its best. Then on impulse she added an appointment for a manicure. One way or another, she was going to make Martin forget Zoë.
Dancing together on the Saturday evening, Kate held Martin close and purred when his hands wandered below her waist. She pressed herself closer and turned her head to Martin inviting him to kiss her. She wasn’t disappointed.
When he dropped her outside her barracks, she was tempted to invite him in but there were rules about officers having affairs with other ranks. She wasn’t actually sure whether that applied between different services but it was a risk she didn’t want to take. She was, however, a very willing participant when he kissed her passionately and his hands fondled her breasts.
Both Kate and Martin slept well that night after reliving the embraces they’d enjoyed and anticipating taking matters further in the future.
It wasn’t many weeks before they did consummate their relationship with a weekend away in a country pub.
Both felt a bit guilty about Zoë but it wasn’t their fault that she’d left. In any case, what was the old saying? “All was Fair in Love and War.”
Pat had never recovered from the attack. Zoë had reported the murder and rape to the authorities but knew full well that there wouldn’t be the resources to investigate — there were just far too many similar incidents these days.
They buried Danny then carried on as far as possible as they had before. Danny had struggled to find work but the loss of his meagre income was still noticeable. Pat slid into a deep depression. She struggled to do anything and her lethargy impacted on her work so she picked less and, consequentially, was paid less. Zoë did her best to support both of them but it was hard, so very hard.
She wept each night as she tried to sleep. “Martin, Martin, where are you? Help me PLEASE, Martin.”
But Martin couldn’t hear her and couldn’t have done anything even if he had heard her cries for help.
At least the days were getting longer and warmer as the days slipped by. By early May, Zoë was able to spend fifteen hours in the fields, earning a little more than they needed to survive. She gradually built up a tiny surplus for when the winter returned. Zoë had given up taking Pat with her. She left her at the caravan each day.
Trudging home one night, she hoped today would be one of the days when Pat had found the energy to produce something for them to eat. Some days the depression lifted just enough.
As she reached the caravan, there was no sign of any activity. She called out.
“Mum. Where are you?”
Then she saw blood seeping underneath the bathroom door. It took all her effort to force the door open as Pat’s body was sprawled against it but she finally managed it.
Pat was dead.
Zoë went to her own room and slumped onto her bed, pulled her legs up into a foetal position put her head in her hands and let the tears flow, her mind a maelstrom of emotions. Guilt that she hadn’t anticipated her mother’s suicide; sadness that her mother had left her alone; anger at her father’s decision to bring them to the coast; despair at being trapped and defenceless; resolute that she would do something about her situation — whatever it took.
The next morning, Zoë sat on the edge of her bed still wearing the clothes she’d fallen asleep in. She stood up leant her head back and lifted her eyes to the ceiling, took a deep breath and went to the bathroom. She pulled her mother’s body into her bedroom and lifted Pat’s emaciated frame onto the bed.
Zoë then showered and dressed and prepared a frugal breakfast using the last egg and a slice of stale bread which she toasted.
She searched in the bookcase in the lounge for Ordnance Survey maps covering the area to the west of Skegness which the family had used in happier days for cycle rides when on holiday at the caravan. She also found the compass and a hand-
Spreading the maps out on the dining table, she planned a route across country to the border fence. She knew she had to avoid gangs like the one that had raped her and her mum and killed her father. The best way would be to travel at night. She also wanted to avoid habitation as far as possible — she didn’t know if locals would report strangers heading towards the controlled areas.
Examining the maps, she realised there were some water barriers, rivers or large dykes, she’d have to cross, forcing her to use bridges and they would be in areas of habitation. It was far from ideal but the alternative would be to swim across and she would have no means of drying off. So bridges it would have to be.
Zoë, Kate and Martin had all been members of the combined cadet force and she still remembered some of the training she’d received and the experiences of tactical exercises they’d taken part in at annual camps. Avoid shine, shadow, silhouette and some others, she recalled.
She wasn’t sure just where the actual border lay but she knew it was near the A15 as Wessex had kept possession of several key airfields. She would try to get across country keeping to the edges of fields where she hoped to find the cover of hedges or ditches. She had at least forty miles to cover and thought she’d be lucky to manage more than five per night so it would take her at least eight nights to get to her objective. What did they call it? Lying Up Position, that was it, where she’d observe the zone sanitaire and the approaches before attempting to cross.
Realising she would need to be flexible with her route, Zoë entered a few key waypoints into the sat-