We follow the journey of Sophie Fraiser. It is her fortieth birthday and her ex-husband, Paul Mitchell, agrees to a day out at the fair with their daughter in order to celebrate. However, it is not long before the fun of the fair is over, and Sophie finds Amy has been kidnapped: on her ‘watch’. She panics and rings the police. Her daughter, and now her husband are nowhere to be found. When Detective Inspector Martina Ward arrives at the scene, she asks if Paul might have returned to his house. Sophie agrees this is a possibility. When they do find Paul at home, worryingly for Sophie, he denies ever having been at the fairground, and instead accuses Sophie of drinking whilst she is meant to be looking after their daughter. He claims to know nothing of the fairground or a day out to celebrate her birthday.
Aberystwyth University, September 1991
The party – organised by some fellow third years – was heaving, the house overflowing with students and drink. I ignored everything but Bethany, as she moved her hips with ease to the bass: sensually, rhythmically.
‘Are you listening?’ Oliver shouted to me over the music. I nodded and he smiled. ‘So, what did I just say?’
I furrowed my eyebrows and focused on Oliver, his face expectant. ‘You were talking about your match…’ My voice trailed off as I quickly realised I hadn’t actually listened to more than a few sentences before I had spotted Bethany. She shifted effortlessly from side to side, her arms winding gracefully above her head, a spliff in her hand. A guy, tall and blonde, edged his way closer to her. I pushed down the flutter of jealousy in my chest as he snaked himself around her body and they started to writhe sexily to the R and B track. The blonde guy leant down to her and whispered something. Bethany tilted her head back and flashed him a smile and wink.
I stood rigid and Oliver followed my gaze.
‘Have you and Beth fallen out or something?’ He turned back to me and swept an arm around the curve of my back, pulling me into him. ‘Or is it because you want to show them how to dance?’
Oliver was known for his two left feet and for once, I realised guiltily, I wished I wasn’t with him. Why couldn’t I have one night where, like Bethany, I’d be confident enough to dance alone and have guys approach me? I gently pushed Oliver away and feigned being too hot.
‘I need to go outside, get some air.’
He nodded slowly, his face creased with hurt. ‘Okay, want me to come?’
I shook my head. ‘No.’ I half-smiled apologetically. ‘Sorry.’
He gave a small shrug to his shoulders and I turned, aware that I would have to make my way through the throng of students dancing in the front room in order to get out. I started to make my way when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and saw Bethany. She shot me a quizzical look.
‘Where you off to?’ she shouted.
‘Need some air.’
The blonde guy clearly didn’t take to the interruption and tugged on Bethany’s elbow. She shrugged him off, shouted something in his direction. He jerked his head back in surprise and sauntered away. Bethany pulled me toward her. We stood inches apart. I could smell her perfume, just like the night we first met: the scent of wild flowers on a sweet, spring breeze. Bethany’s face glistened with sweat and I thought how alive she looked. How beautiful she looked.
‘Dance with me.’
Panic gripped me. ‘Me? Dance? I’m not as good as you.’
She smiled. ‘Course you are. Come on.’ She took my hands in hers and put my arms around her waist. Slowly and gently she started to sway to the music. I tried to relax but I was all too aware of the touch of her skin against mine, the heat from her body. She drew me even closer and whispered in my ear, ‘Feel the music. Close your eyes.’
I did as I was told and breathed deeply. I felt her take my arms from around her waist and drape them around her neck. I opened my eyes briefly and I found myself looking into her dark hazel eyes; their colour so rich, I thought I might like to dive in and never come up for air.
‘Have some?’ Her voice in my ear.
I opened my eyes once more and Bethany held the spliff up to my mouth. Nodding, I drew the smoke into my lungs and smiled gratefully. Minutes later, I felt my body relax against Bethany’s and I started to feel the music, my limbs looser. The beat of the music pulsated through the floorboards, the temperature grew warmer and as Bethany pressed her hips against mine, my breath caught. My heart beat wildly in my chest and I wondered if she could feel it. She smiled, as she held me, her eyes never leaving mine. She moved me around and around, the room spinning, other students pushing into us.
Out the corner of my eye, I saw Oliver watching me. Watching us. A momentary twinge of guilt sat unsteadily in my stomach and I started to turn my head, blocking him out of my vision. He couldn’t understand this. How could he? I barely understood it myself. We had a need for each other. A hunger: a storm of emotions so impossible to define.
As my face reached Bethany’s once more, I felt her lips on mine: soft and light. Bethany brought her head up momentarily, smiled and kissed me again. This time, her tongue explored my mouth with a greater urgency. A tingle spread through my body and a trickle of sweat moved between my shoulder blades and down my spine. I gasped with delight and she stopped suddenly, frowning. It was that flicker of sadness again – a shadow falling across a sunny field.
‘What? What is it?’ I said. I needed to know I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Bethany gave a small shake to her head. ‘Nothing. I’m just going to…’ She didn’t finish her sentence. She turned and moved off. I watched her make her way, past Oliver and out toward the kitchen. Oliver put down his pint glass, on a ledge, and headed in my direction. I smiled, put my hand out to him but he walked straight past me through the wall of dancing people. The other students were oblivious to me, oblivious to Oliver, oblivious to Bethany.
I stood there, adrenaline pumping around my body, my head started to pound; unsure of what I had done.
Copyright © Charlotte Phillips 2012