A storm had woken her from a night of fractured sleep. A juddering of thunder and the bedroom curtains ballooning
from a gust of wind revealed the still dark sky outside. Pat lay in bed as her mind ran lethargically over the events of the
previous evening. The row she had with Miri, followed by her storming out of the house angry and driven. She felt
disorientated and jittery from tiredness as she switched on the bedside lamp. It glowed reassuringly, but did nothing to
quell the inexplicable unease she felt.
She threw on her bathrobe and walked onto the landing. Every light was blazing, just as she’d left it last night for when
Miri returned home. Her consternation escalated as she walked down the narrow corridor towards Miri’s bedroom.
She softly tapped on the door before going in. Her bed hadn’t been slept in. The room was still in its usual state of
disarray with the detritus of every teenage girl’s life on display; discarded clothes and make up strewn across the
dressing table. Pat scanned the room frantically for a sign—any sign—that Miri had been home. Her vision fuzzy at the
edges, her nerves jangling, she stood and scrutinized the empty room.
Miri made it a habit recently of staying out late almost as if she was testing her to see what she could get away with.
There had been impassioned arguments, too many of late, culminating in a hostile silence between them that would last
for several days.
She could picture Miri, early yesterday evening standing defiantly in front of her, her shoulders back with an air of
insubordination, wearing that meticulously crafted expression of indifference that all teenagers sport. She had been
dressed and ready to go out. Too much make up, too little clothing.
“Do you promise me?” Pat asked, tired and irritable after another night of waiting until the early hours of the morning.
“Promise you will always let me know where you are. No matter what, okay. ‘No matter what’.”
She purposefully used their stock phrase, hoping it would strike a chord in her daughter who was rapidly becoming a
stranger. It was a term they used since Miri’s childhood, since Dan left them and overnight she had become a single
parent. A way of letting her know that no matter what, she would always be there for her.
Miri stared sullenly back, yet Patricia noticed a flicker of emotion pass across her face. Just a glimmer of the scared little
girl who was still there underneath the brittle veneer of the adult she was so desperately trying to become.
“Okay,” she grunted, as she turned to walk away.
“Look I’m not nagging you,” Pat shouted at her retreating figure, “but you have to be careful. That is why I bought you
your mobile phone, so you can contact me whenever. Just a text, anything to let me know you’re all right.”
“I said okay!” Miriam shouted as she stormed up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door with an echo that reverberated
through the whole house.
She was seventeen...seventeen, Pat thought. What did she know about life? Teenagers today seemed to think they were
invincible like an animated character in one of those stupid computer games she was always playing with her friends.
Now today, the same old scenario, she wondered whether anything she said to her actually sank in. There was a strong
feeling of déjà vu about this whole routine apart from the fact that she never stepped out all night before.
Pat thought how quiet the house was…too quiet as she walked downstairs and noticed the lights were also still on. She
picked up the phone and dialed Miri’s mobile number. Four rings then it clicked straight on to voice mail.
“Hi, this is Miri; I’ll get back to you.”
“Miri, it’s Mum. Could you contact me please as soon as you can? I’m starting to get worried Darling. As soon as you can,
okay, no matter what.”
Pat put down the phone, deep in thought; she could be overreacting.
She walked over to the hall window and looked out onto the street. It was only just after six in the morning, the claps of
thunder had retreated far away and now there was just a solid wall of rain falling onto the deserted street outside.
She walked back to the kitchen, picked up her address book and leafed through the pages as she tried to find Susie, Miri’s
best friend’s number, then remembered how early it still was. She threw the book back on the table; she would have to
leave it until later. Nobody would appreciate a call at this time in the morning regardless of how urgent she might think it
was. Her mouth felt dry, her head light and fuzzy from too little sleep as she waited for the kettle to boil and willed time
to speed up.
There was always the police, but she knew if she phoned them now they would just fob her off with a whole list of
plausible scenarios, imply that it was just another domestic tiff between mother and daughter and instantly dismiss it.
She sat and waited, and wished that she still smoked as her fingernails drummed erratically on her coffee cup.
Maybe she was panicking unnecessarily, she thought, this could all still turn out to have a perfectly innocent
explanation. Miri could have missed the last bus home and stayed at Susie’s house for the night. She could just be being
stubborn by not bothering to phone.
However, there were alternatives that at the moment she dare not consider.
Oh my god, what she wouldn’t give for Miri to walk in the door right now.
She lost count of the futile attempts to get through to Miri on her mobile, re-dialing every few moments and hearing the
voicemail. She stopped leaving messages after the first few calls.
She tried to distract herself with cleaning the kitchen, anything to keep her mind busy rather than let her imagination
run riot, all the time looking at the clock as the minutes then hours ticked away.
At just after eight o’clock the phone rang, she hurried to answer and gripped the receiver willing it to be Miri.
“Miri…Miri is that you?”
The sound that came over the line was vacuous and hollow with a faint sound in the background of what sounded like
someone moving boxes, she could hear slow measured footsteps gradually fading out as if someone was walking away
from the phone, then a bang of a crate or box, something heavy being dropped onto the floor. The footsteps grew louder
again, nearer to the phone and there was the sound of the receiver being picked up and then soft shallow breathing.
“Hello, hello,” she shouted down the receiver. “Miri Mi…”
There was a soft click and then the dial tone. She put the phone down, lifted it again and dialed 1471.
The robotic voice came on the line, “You were called yesterday at one forty one …” she slammed the receiver down and
dial again. “You were called yester…”
Why was the call not registering? She sat slumped at the table her head cradled in her hands.
The shrill ring of the phone woke her. She felt bewildered for a moment and then disgusted and ashamed that she could
fall to sleep at a time like this. She picked up the phone and looked at the caller display. ‘OUT OF RANGE’ was spelt out in
capital letters. She held the receiver to her ear then immediately pulled it away holding it at arms length. A shriek-like,
high frequency static was coming down the line, it fluctuated softer and then was ear splittingly loud again. She waited
for what seemed like minutes before she realized it wasn’t going to stop, then put the phone down and redialed 1471.
“You were called yest…”
She slammed the phone down as she burst into uncontrollable tears.
Where the hell are these calls coming from, what is going on? She thought. She ran upstairs, suddenly realizing that there
could be something wrong with the landline, grabbing her mobile from her bedside table she dialed Miri’s number again.
“Hi, this is Miri; I’ll get back to you.”
She pressed the button and disconnected the call.
She keyed in Dan‘s number on her mobile, just on the off chance he might know where Miri was, it was highly unlikely,
they hadn’t had much contact in the last few years but it was worth a shot. She knew that Miri missed him terribly,
although she would never admit it. There was a slim possibility she could have gone to him.
She waited as the ringing stopped and the answering machine clicked in, holding back something between a sob and a
groan she hung up without leaving a message. He was never there when he was needed, never had been throughout their
entire marriage, what had made her think that he would be now. Anyway, he would just try to lay the blame on her, she
thought, everything had always been her fault.
She glanced at the alarm clock next to her bed, just after nine thirty. She could ring Susie now. Her battery was low on
her mobile so she went downstairs again hoping the landline would work. If anyone knew anything, Susie would.
Susie’s Mother answered and she had to go through the usual pleasantries while trying to keep the strain from her voice
before she was passed over to Susie.
“Susie, it‘s Pat Wentworth, Miri‘s mum?”
“Yes…is anything wrong?”
“Well, I’m not really sure. I’m just trying to find out where Miri’s gone, she didn’t come home last night and it’s not like
“No, no it’s not. My god, do you think something’s happened to her?”
“I hope not, but when did you last see her, Susie?”
“Well, it was a couple of days ago…”
Pat’s heart sank in her chest.
“A couple of days, well who did she go out with last night then?”
“I…I don’t know. I didn’t know she was planning on going out last night, none of us were going out last night.”
Pat struggled to keep a grip on the phone, her hands were shaking so badly.
“Okay,” she said trying to keep her voice on an even keel. “Well, I better get off the line and try and phone her again.
Thanks for your help Susie.”
“Could you let me know if…I mean…when she gets back home?”
“Definitely, I will let you know. Goodbye for now.”
She put down the receiver almost wishing she hadn’t called, it would have been better just still imagining she was safe
and staying with one of her friends.
Now is the time to contact the police she thought as she picked up the phone again. The voice that answered at the police
station sounded bored and complacent.
“Hello, I would like to report a missing person,” she said.
There was a sigh from the other end and a rustle of paper.
“Yes Madam, could I have your name and address please?”
“Pat Wentworth, 22 Willow Lane, Middletown.”
“Right, Mrs. Wentworth and who exactly would you like to report missing?”
“It’s my daughter Miri; she didn’t come home last night and…”
“You saw her last night, Mrs. Wentworth?”
“Yes, but she should have been home by now.”
“And do you know where she went last night?”
“No, I have no idea. I’ve just phoned her closest friend and she hasn’t seen her for a couple of days, that’s why I’m so
concerned, she’s only seventeen, she’s never stayed out all night before.”
“Mrs. Wentworth, I’m sorry, but officially she is not a missing person until she has been gone for forty-eight hours, so
really we can’t do anything until then.”
“Nothing at all? But there must be something.”
“I’ll tell you what. I shall make a note of her disappearance and if you give me a brief description, we will keep a look out
for her. But you’ll probably find that she will turn up soon, we get this all the time with teenagers. Maybe she is staying
with a friend you don’t know of. Was there any sort of disagreement with your daughter, any rows or anything?”
“Well, not really no…well, nothing major.”
“Could be she’s just trying to make you worry, any sort of argument with teenagers and this is what they do, believe me I
know, I‘ve got two of my own.”
“Okay, I shall call you back later today, is that all right?”
Pat didn’t need to waste time on the line; Miri could be trying to phone her.
“Err…the description, Mrs. Wentworth.”
“Sorry….yes…she‘s about five foot two, slender build, blond, shoulder-length hair.”
“And what was she wearing?”
Pat looked across to the coat stand in the hall, “I think she would be wearing a black duffle coat, that was her favourite
and it's not here so I suppose she‘ll be wearing that with a pair of jeans, I think.”
“Right, I think I’ve got all that, we shall be in touch if there are any developments. Goodbye now, Mrs. Wentworth and
don’t worry, she’ll be back soon: I can guarantee it.”
“Thank you, yes Goodbye.”
She sat wondering where she went from here when the phone rang again. The display showed Miri’s mobile number.
“Oh thank god…thank god,” she muttered under her breath as she picked up the phone.
There was silence at first and she shouted down the phone.
“Miri, Miri, where are you…”
Then the scream of static came over the line again but in the background, she could hear a voice, muffled but getting
“Miri, oh thank god. Are you all right?”
Her voice sounded strange, fragile and far away and broken up by bursts of static.
“Mum…always meant to phone…always…”
“Yes, darling and you have. But where are you, come home. Come home Miri, where are you?”
“No Mum…” her voice was fading, becoming almost impossible to hear.
“Can’t…too dark here…can‘t get back.”
Pat looked out of the window, it was broad daylight now, what did she mean ‘too dark’?
“But where’s ‘here‘, where are you? Tell me and I’ll come and pick you up in the car.”
“Told you…I’d always phone Mum…no matter what.”
There was a click at the other end of the line and the burr of the dial tone.
“Hi, this is Miri; I’ll get back to you.”
Pat felt something warm trickling down her forearm. She unclenched her fist to see four crescent shaped gouges in the
palm of her hand where her nails had pierced the skin, the blood running in slender ribbons down her wrist and onto her
arm. She got a tea towel and wiped away the blood before wrapping it round her hand. She redialed Miri’s number
repeatedly, but got nothing but the voicemail message.
Pat sat and waited.
An hour passed and then there was a knock on the front door, she pulled her dressing gown tightly around her and
smoothed her hair down in some sort of semblance of respectability.
Standing at the door were two police officers, their faces grave and their uniforms soaking wet from the downpour
“Thank God you’re here,” she said. “I’ve just had a phone call, from Miri, but I don’t know where she was calling from.
How can I find out where she is? I just keep getting through to her voicemail?”
“Wait, just calm down a moment, Mrs. Wentworth. A phone call, you say?” the police officer looked across to the other
“Could we come in please, Mrs. Wentworth?” the other police officer asked, rain dripping from his hat onto the doorstep.
“Why yes, of course, I’m sorry you‘re getting wet.” Pat stood to the side as they walked through to the kitchen. “I don’t
understand though, I was told that you cannot start any sort of investigation until some ones been missing for forty-
“That’s right, Mrs. Wentworth we can’t, but we have had some developments since your call.”
“Developments; you mean you know where she is?”
“Well, yes, Mrs. Wentworth, we do. I think you’d better sit down.”
“But if you know where she is why didn’t you bring her home?”
“Please sit down, Mrs. Wentworth,” he said as he waved an arm towards the nearest chair.
“No, no please,” she said, “I would rather stand. Just tell me what’s happened. Why didn‘t you bring her with you?”
“I’m afraid that isn’t possible. You see, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, Mrs. Wentworth, but your daughter was
found early this morning in the old warehouses down by the canal.”
“It can’t be her. What on earth was she doing there? She would never go there. I don’t understand; is she in some sort of
trouble? Has she done something wrong?”
“No, Mrs. Wentworth, she’s done nothing wrong and it is most definitely your daughter, she matches the description you
gave us and we found identification in her wallet. I am afraid your daughter is dead. She was found in the warehouse as I
said and we are treating it as a murder case. From what we can make out she died late last night, but our forensics team
will be able to tell us more.”
“But no, I mean that’s impossible, she’s just phoned me. I heard her voice.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Wentworth but that’s out of the question, the estimated time of death was about ten o’clock yesterday
evening. She couldn’t have phoned you.”
The police officers looked across at each other. Pat’s face turned paper white and she looked unsteady on her feet.
“But she did. Don’t you see? She did. No matter what, she still remembered to phone me.”
One of the police officers quickly stepped forward to catch her, as he saw her legs buckle and she sank to the floor.
|No Matter What
By: Brigitte Branson