Leeds Magistrates Court 1998
“This isn’t over, BITCH! I want my son.” Shouted Darren as he was led away. He struggled against the restraints around his wrists and tried to pull away from the guards leading him from the courtroom but they were too strong for him, despite Darren’s huge frame. Spittle flew from his mouth as he continued his threats: face burning with rage.
Kate stared at her ex-husband as he was led from the dock, before grabbing her bag and fleeing from the oppressive courtroom.
“Kate, wait.” Called DI Ziggy Thornes. But Kate wasn’t stopping for anyone. Her desire to escape was all encompassing, and drove her forward. Racing down the courthouse steps she faltered for a second as she saw Ryan leaning against a plinth, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. He casually waved but she ignored him.
“Kate!” Ziggy was still chasing after her, urging her to stop or least slow down but Kate continued on her way, ignoring the shouts. She hurried to the main road and jumped into the car that was waiting.
Once inside she let out a deep breath. She turned to her son strapped into his booster seat. “You OK sunshine?” She asked, leaning through the gap and rubbing his leg. Joe nodded his head as he sucked furiously on the lollipop that was rammed firmly in his mouth.
“Are you OK?” asked Fiona. Kate didn’t answer her sister immediately, not really sure what to say. Fiona pulled away from the kerb.
Kate loosened the scrunchy that was holding back her unruly red hair and tried with little success to neaten it up. “I’m fine, I just need to get home.” Kate slumped down in her seat, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm her racing heartbeat and stop her hands from shaking.
“So what did he get?”
“Shit, did you know?”
Kate was instantly alert. “What do you mean ‘did I know’?”
“That he would get that long?”
Kate exhaled.”Oh right, yeah his solicitor said it might be longer though.”
Fiona turned onto the ring road, heading towards North Leeds where Kate and Joe currently lived. “So what happens now?”
“I’m not sure. I need to get home. Ziggy is meeting me there.”
With little traffic around, Fiona made the journey in no time and pulled up outside the two-bedroomed terrace that until recently had been home to Kate, Joe and Darren. Fiona was shocked with how quickly events had progressed but she fully understood Kate’s reasons for needing to leave.
The three of them exited the car and made their way to the front door. Kate hesitated and turned to Fiona. “I think it’s best if we say goodbye now.”
Fiona was taken aback. “Really? Don’t you want a hand?” She was reluctant to leave until she knew her younger sister and nephew were safe.
“Yeah, honestly Fi. You’ve been brilliant and I can’t thank you enough but it’s for the best.” Kate was fiddling with the front door key, torn between wanting to enter the house and prolonging the goodbye to her sister. “Joe, give Aunty Fi a kiss, she has to go now.”
Joe had been standing in the front yard, hopping from foot to foot. He was desperate for a wee, willing his mum to open the door. He stepped forward and threw his arms around his Aunt. Fiona leant down and kissed the top of his head whilst returning his cuddle.
“Be a good boy for mummy OK?” She squeezed him a little tighter and Joe feared he would wee right there and then.
“OK, I will.” He released himself from the bear hug and looked up at his mum. “I really need to pee.”
Kate looked down at her son, smiled and opened the front door. Joe pushed past her and headed straight for the downstairs loo. She turned back to her sister. “Don’t cry Fi, if I start I’ll never stop.”
Fiona shook her head and wiped her face with her coat sleeve. “Well I guess I’ll see you soon then?”
“I’ll let you know when we’re settled.” Kate took a step forward and held onto her sister tightly not knowing when or if she would see her again. “Come on, go. You know we both hate goodbyes.” She playfully pushed Fiona away.
“Please take care of yourself,” she whispered as she returned Kate’s hug then turned away.
Kate pushed the front door open and stepped inside, closing it slowly behind her. The glass pendant light in the hallway flickered into life, illuminating the narrow corridor which housed a myriad of shoes and discarded coats. The house felt empty, lifeless. She walked down the hallway and trailed her hand along the flowered wallpaper. The smooth journey of her fingers along the wall was interrupted with the fist sized hole that had torn the paper and dinted the plasterboard. She studied it, as though it was the first time she’d seen it, which of course it wasn’t. It had been there for the last 7 months. A lifetime ago, she thought.
“Mum, I’ve finished.” Came a little voice from the end of the hallway.
Before Kate had a chance to respond there was a loud banging on the front door.
“Kate? Kate, are you there?”
Kate recognised the brusque voice and the slight Liverpudlian accent and threw the front door open. “Of course I’m here, where the hell else would I be?” Tension and stress spilled over into her voice. She took a step back, allowing the imposing figure to enter.
“Mum, I’ve finished!” demanded Joe again. At the sound of her sons voice she softened.
“OK sunshine, wash your hands then.” She turned back to the visitor and gestured for him to enter, closing the front door behind him. Kate led the way into the kitchen.
“We don’t have much time I’m afraid.” Said Ziggy.
“Yeah, I figured.” Replied a resigned Kate as she leaned her back against the cool granite worktop. She hadn’t realised how clammy her hands were and the cool surface felt good and provided an anchor to reality. Having removed her coat and hung it on the back of chair she tugged at either side of her woollen grey cardigan and wrapped it around her, hoping to find a sense of comfort and security.
“How long do we have?” She asked.
“Oh wow, you’re kidding me right?” Her Yorkshire accent coming out stronger for some reason. She wanted to slam the brakes on this rollercoaster ride she had unwittingly boarded with her son. Everything she thought she knew, everything she had believed in had been tipped on its axis and if she wasn’t careful even the tiniest piece of control would escape her grasp.
“Fraid not.” Said Ziggy. “You’ll just have to grab the basics and replace the rest but it’s imperative that we get a move on. There’s a car waiting outside for you.”
Joe, having wandered into the kitchen, looked up at his mummy. “Where are we going?” He asked.
“Good question sunshine.” Said Kate as she pulled him to her and held him tightly.