Martin rang Kate.
“Put on your glad rags tonight, darling, we’re celebrating.”
“What? What are we celebrating?”
“You’ll find out later, I’ll pick you up at seven.”
Kate stared at the phone after Martin had rung off. What ‘surprise’ was he planning?
Before she left the caravan, Zoë looked in on her mum lying there on the bed; a bunch of wild flowers placed in her hands. She steeled herself for what she had to do.
“I’m sorry, Mum. Really I am. I wish I could do more for you but I can’t. I just can’t.
“I can’t report your death to the authorities; I’d get caught up in their bureaucracy and I have to get away while I can. I need the dark nights without moonlight — so I have to leave tonight or wait another month.
“I can’t even tell the farmer in case he reports it and I get held up.
“I’d dig a grave for you if I could spare the time and effort; but I can’t. I’ll need every ounce of energy and every minute to get to the border.”
She wiped away a tear.
“You abandoned me, Mum. I know you were hurting but so was I. You took the selfish option; now I have to do the same.
“You and dad shouldn’t have dragged me over here. Why couldn’t you leave me with Martin and Kate?
“I hate you both.
“No I don’t. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. But I do hate what you did.
“I’d set fire to the caravan to give you a funeral pyre rather than just leave you lying there — but that would attract attention and I can’t afford any delay.
“I’m so sorry Mum. But you look at peace now; almost like you did before we came here. Since the rapes, you’ve been just an empty husk.
“I hope you like the wild flowers; I picked them specially for you; they’re your favourites.
Zoë leant forward and kissed her mother’s lips.
“Bye, Mum. Please forgive me.”
Martin picked Kate up from Syerston for a dinner at the country pub where they had first made love. Kate sensed that Martin was nervous and, as they waited for their drinks to arrive, she held his hand across the table.
“What’s wrong, Martin? You’ve hardly said a word since you picked me up.”
“Nothing darling. Quite the contrary, in fact. I’ve been promoted to Flying Officer.”
“That’s fabulous — so why are you so nervous tonight?”
Kate screwed up her eyebrows as Martin looked at her. Was he being posted away from Waddington or, God No, it couldn’t be that he was trying to find a way to dump her, could it?
Martin pushed back his chair took a step towards her then dropped to one knee.
“Kate Evans, would you marry me, please?”
The restaurant fell silent and a dozen faces turned towards them.
“Get up you fool, yes. Oh YES!” she told him standing up and pulling him to his feet.
Applause ran around the room as Martin took her in his arms and kissed her. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box which he opened to reveal a platinum solitaire diamond ring. He took it out and slid it on to Kate’s finger.
As they took their seats again, the waiter brought a bottle of champagne to their table.
“With the compliments of the lady and gentleman in the corner,” he told them.
Martin and Kate picked up their glasses and the bottle and walked over to the couple.
“Thank you, but I hope you’ll share a glass with us,” Martin said.
“With pleasure. My husband and I are here celebrating our fortieth anniversary today and we hope that you will have the same happiness that we’ve enjoyed. I’m Janet and this reprobate is James.”
“Thank you, I’m Kate and my fiancé’s is Martin.”
“Well, Kate, I can see Martin is wearing an RAF tie. I was in the service myself so I’m doubly pleased to be able to treat you to the fizz. Where are you stationed Martin?
“Waddington. You’ll understand that I can’t say what I do.”
“Of course not. But is Guy Dixon still Officer Commanding there? I was his CO when he was on Tornados.
Zoë closed the caravan door behind her. She left a note with her mother for anyone that might find her. It explained how she had found her mother and that she was going to the regional offices in Boston to report the death.
She anticipated that the farmer she worked for would notice that she was missing on the Monday. He’d probably assume she was unwell or that her mother was ill. When she didn’t turn up again the following day, he might come looking for her. It wasn’t likely that he would force entry to the caravan — he’d probably think she had taken her mother for help.
She hoped he wouldn’t investigate further for at least three days.
The story about going to Boston might give her at least another day’s grace. Would he then report the matter to the authorities? Probably not; but even if he did, it was likely to be at least another day or two before they started to look for her. She calculated, therefore, that she had the eight nights she needed to get to the border.