Free to Be Tegan

By Mary Grand

Literary fiction

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18 mins


Chapter One

‘You have chosen the path of darkness.’
Tegan stood on the wooden stage in front of the Community, determinedly staring at the digital clock at the back of the room. 0730. She waited for the dull click. The numbers flipped. 0731.
In the cold, bare meeting room, a shaft of light from the London spring morning crept in through one of the high windows.
‘You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting’ continued Daniel. He stood to her right, at the other end of the stage, his hard voice echoing off the peeling cream emulsion walls. She didn’t dare look at him. The room was silent. Tegan, unblinking, waited. 0732.
‘You have chosen the sinful pleasures of the Domain of the Beast. You have grievously sinned against The High One and this Community. You refuse to repent, to curse and reject all that is of the world.’ She heard him pause. Even now he was waiting, seeing if she would break. Tegan stood expressionless, very still, apart from the slight rise and fall of her shallow breaths and the secret grinding of her right thumb into the palm of her left hand. Her shapeless clothes hung off her: a calf length dark brown skirt; plain beige blouse; bulky blue acrylic cardigan and large black headscarf, tied at the nape of her neck. The community uniform. Silence. Her eyes crept down from the clock to the tops of the bowed heads of the women at the back of the room. Along the row she saw her mother, Sarah, her hands clasped tight on her lap. She glanced forward and accidentally met her father’s gaze, a look that said that this failure was inevitable. She slowly turned her head to her right. Daniel stood, neat white hair and beard, and long loose white shirt intricately embroidered with gold thread, the earthly personification of the High One. She heard his voice, louder, more passionate.
‘Tegan Williams, you are commanded to leave this Community. From this time forth you are dead to us, to your earthly parents and the elect. You will be judged with all those in the Domain of the Beast. On the day of judgment the High One will show you no mercy and you, Tegan Williams, will be thrown into the lake of fire, there to suffer for all eternity.’
Her breathing quickened, the grinding into the palm of her hand grew harder. She felt him willing her to look at him. She could not resist. Slowly, she turned her head and met the gaze of the man whose teachings she had followed, the man she had revered and worshipped. His eyes were narrow, eyebrows down and his mouth was tight. His anger was like a volcano waiting to erupt, waiting to burn and consume her.
Then, clenching his fists, he turned, descended the steps and stood with his back to her. The elders in the front row stood and turned their backs to her also, and then the rest of the Community silently stood up and started to turn away. Tegan’s eyes darted to her mother, who was turning slowly, stiffly, around. A sharp lightning pain shot through her. This was really happening. This was their final judgment, the end.
Tegan staggered down the steps and left the room alone. The dark hallway was deathly quiet. She climbed the hard wooden steps, brushing past the cold, white, sterile walls. She had been five years old when the Community had moved into this derelict Victorian hospital. She remembered how enormous, empty and dark it had seemed and how she had excitedly run through the huge echoing rooms. It remained sparsely furnished throughout her early years, but the severity of their lives had taken a new turn with the arrival of Daniel. So much had changed then.
She entered her bedroom, the room she had slept in for twenty two years. The room now had white, bare walls apart from a lurid picture called “The four beasts”. She knew every detail: the lion with eagle wings; the bear with ribs between its teeth; the four-headed leopard with wings, and the beast with iron teeth and ten horns. They were set in a blood red sky above a stormy sea: all seemed to snarl out of the picture at her. Above it a digital clock showed the time, a constant reminder of the approach of the end of the world.
There were two beds in the room. For years she had shared the room with Esther, who had been her only close friend. Four years ago Daniel had declared Esther was to marry and now Esther’s role was to support her husband and their two children. Martha, a critical, pious girl had been given Esther’s bed. Tegan had little in common with her but at least someone was there if she woke at night: anything was better than waking up alone. She wondered idly who her bed would be given to next. Tegan turned around quickly, stood on tiptoes, and pulled down a battered suitcase from on top of the wardrobe. It should have been empty, but when she undid the catches she found a large brown envelope inside. She recognised her mother’s handwriting, and frowned. Her mother had obviously put this in here secretly. They had not been allowed to communicate for weeks. Maybe these were her final words of dismissal. She couldn’t bear to read them, not now. She quickly stuffed the envelope into her plastic shoulder bag. Then she started to take her clothes off the wire coat hangers and fold them carefully: more plain skirts, blouses, acrylic cardigans and black headscarves were placed in the suitcase. Next, her spare pair of brown lace up shoes, grey underwear, light tan tights and two cotton nightdresses. From her bedside table she took her alarm clock. It was a yellow, old-fashioned wind-up clock with a loud tick. Next to this lay a well thumbed copy of “The Revelations of Daniel, The Omniscient.” She stroked it, kissed it, and placed it gently in her case. With it she placed the framed verse “He Shall Come like a Thief in the Night”. She opened the drawer. She carefully took out a small piece of embroidered material, touched it lightly and packed it. Finally, she reached to the back of the drawer and found a small rectangular silver box with engraving in the top. She took it out, checked the contents, clutched it, and then wrapped it carefully in one of the skirts in her case. She took a deep breath, left her room and walked down the hall to the bathroom. It was a large white tiled room, a row of basins one side, cubicles the other, no mirrors. She found her toothbrush and returned to her room.
Tegan was just doing up the catches of her case when the door burst open. She saw Daniel and, behind him, her parents. ‘Tegan, you have filled your parents with shame. They have the right to have the final word.’
Tegan was breathing fast. She dug her fingers deep into the palm of her hand. Daniel gestured to Philip. He shuffled forward with hunched shoulders. He pushed back the round metal glasses with his forefinger and then pointed at her.
‘Tegan, you have always been a proud, rebellious child.’ His voice was flat, but underlying was the tone of perpetual disappointment he used when speaking to her. ’Your mother and I have spent many hours in vigil for your soul but to no avail. To think we have come to this, for you to blaspheme against our leader Daniel, to doubt and question him in that most proud and sinful way. From this moment we, your parents, with the whole community, disown you.’
Tegan turned to her mother for some drop of mercy. But the look of cold dismissal she saw was even harder to bear than any words.
Philip continued, ‘On the Day of Judgment you will be judged more harshly than the world for you were shown the light and have rejected it.’ Philip spat out the cruel words. He could have gone on like this for hours but somehow the words from him seemed hollow. She heard an ambulance screaming outside: any minute now she would be cast out into the world to join the damned.
Philip sneered, his finger jabbing in her face. ‘You have chosen a wicked, dark place. The animals of the world will tear you apart and feed you to the dogs and in that we rejoice.’ He stopped.
Daniel stepped forward and, as if comforting a grieving relative, put his hand on Philip’s shoulder. He bent his head, mumbled a prayer in a different language, and they all turned and left the room.
The room was silent. Tegan looked down at the palm of her left hand, dry, cracked, red raw, bleeding, but she felt nothing. She found an old piece of tissue in her bag and with a shaking hand tried to wipe it clean.
Finally, from out of the wardrobe she took a shapeless beige rain coat, put it on and buttoned it up. She picked up her shabby plastic shoulder bag and suitcase, opened the door, and, without glancing back, left the room.
She walked down the stairs and glanced at the clock that hung over the front door. 0750. Next to this was a huge white board. Every day Daniel wrote the date and a verse for them to meditate on, and the date. Today it read March 1st 2006 and underneath that the verse for the day:
“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Beast and all those in his domain.” She guessed Daniel had chosen that for her. She could hear familiar quiet droning prayers of vigil being said in the meeting room. ‘Come Quickly Oh High One’. The whole Community including the children would repeat it over and over again for an hour. Every day had started like that for her for twenty two years, but not today. For the first time in her life she was an outsider.
Tegan opened the front door out into the cold drizzly rain and descended the flight of concrete steps. She was hit by a wall of noise: the early morning rush hour. Alone she walked across the concrete forecourt and opened the iron gates. She saw a taxi driver swearing at another driver, a parent shouting to their children to hurry up. The rain added to the sense of urgency as the world rushed about its business. She glanced down at the bins on the pavement and, blinking hard, realised she had been put out with the rubbish.

Chapter Two

Despite the rain Tegan staggered across the road to the park and through the familiar wrought iron gates. This was her secret sanctuary, a place she would occasionally visit for a few, precious moments of privacy. She found a wet metal bench, put down her bags and perched on the edge. In an effort to calm her mind she made herself focus on her surroundings. The blossom on the trees above her was still in tight bud, but the daffodils strutted proudly, defying the dreary morning. Commuters clasping umbrellas and briefcases, parents with pushchairs, dog walkers being pulled by their dogs: all hurried past. A group of teenagers proudly underdressed in dripping wet navy school sweatshirts were shouting over their plugged-in iPods. Then she noticed in a quiet corner a woman standing with a toddler, holding the child’s upright arms. The little girl, wearing bright pink wellingtons, was splashing in the puddle and giggling. They were in their own blissful world.
Tegan looked over at the Community house and realised for the first time that no one would be missing her. She had ceased to exist to them. She swallowed hard, looked away. Defiantly she picked up her bags and stiffly stood up, aware that the rain had soaked through the back and shoulders of her thin coat. It was time to go.
Tegan left the park, walked quickly down the High Street, past chain stores and cafes, down side streets, past boarded-up shops, small grocers’, and sari and charity shops. Her eyes scanned the shop fronts: he had said he lived above a shop, a Spar. There it was. Yes, there was his name on the metal intercom, “Steve Crocker”. She hesitated, feeling sick with anticipation. He had no idea she was coming, but he had told her to do this, hadn’t he? He had said that she needed to “find herself”, be more independent. The last time they had talked, he had touched her arm, kissed her on the cheek. She shivered at the memory. Of course he would be able to help her, tell her what to do.
She took a deep breath, and pressed the intercom. ‘OK’ a disembodied voice answered. She clenched her teeth with anticipation at the sound of his voice, and heard the door release. Tentatively, she pushed it and went inside. The hallway was grey concrete. She started to climb the stone steps. She could see a front door open on the landing, hear the radio blaring “Soldiers’ wives have asked for a meeting with Tony Blair.”
As she neared the top she heard Steve shout ‘One day you’ll remember your bloody keys.’
Puzzled, she approached the open door, and stood in the doorway. She could see Steve sitting at an old wooden table, a mug in his right hand, the other holding open a book lying flat on the table. There were books and old newspapers strewn everywhere, a tatty sofa; on the walls framed maps and a poster for a production of Hamlet. Steve glanced over casually but, on seeing her, clumsily put his drink down, spilling it over his book.
‘Tegan. My God.’
‘I’m sorry.’ Tegan stammered and looked away, deeply embarrassed.
She watched him register her embarrassment, then realised he was only in his boxers.
‘God, sorry,’ he said, and rushed into the bedroom.
She heard him stumbling around as he shouted ‘Come in.’
Her stomach twisted with embarrassment. She stayed in the doorway.
Steve came back into the room wearing a crumpled checked shirt and doing up his jeans. Still she blushed, aware of the intimacy of the situation. She hadn’t imagined it like this.
‘Come in,’ he repeated impatiently.
Tegan took one step forward. He took off his red-framed glasses and, with the other hand, rubbed his forehead, ran his hand over his close shaved head.
‘So what – I mean, how? God, Tegan, why are you here?’
‘I’ve been cast out. I’ve left the Community.’
‘It’s complicated, but I’ve been told to leave. It was awful – but you said it would be good to get away, didn’t you?’
‘In theory,’ he said evasively, ‘but you said it would be very difficult.’
‘I know it’s a big thing, but I thought you’d be pleased.’ Tegan searched his face but there was no reassuring smile.
‘But what will you do?’
‘I don’t know. I thought you would tell me.’
‘Why did you think that?’ he asked. Then he looked perplexed. ‘How did you know where I live?’
‘You mentioned the Spar.’
‘Right –’
‘I thought you’d be pleased,’ she repeated. He didn’t reply. She put down her bags.
‘I know I haven’t any money but I can get a job. Of course, I wouldn’t want to move in –’ Her voice was getting more desperate. ‘You said it was the right thing to do. We can be together now.’
She heard the downstairs door open, and saw Steve’s eyes dart to the front door, which was still ajar. The look of consternation on his face was turning to panic. A female voice called breathlessly.
‘Sorry it took so long. I had to wait for the croissants. Still they are really hot.’ Steve stepped forward just as a woman appeared in the doorway. In an abandoned gesture she kicked the door fully open and flung open her brown fake fur coat proclaiming ‘Just like me!’
Tegan stared in horror as the woman revealed skimpy scarlet underwear. What kind of world had she come into? The woman, however, seemed unabashed.
‘Shit! Didn’t know we had company,’ she said, glancing at Tegan and laughing.
Steve turned to Tegan and spoke in harsh tones she had never heard before. ‘This is Alice. She is my fiancée.’ It was brutal.
Tegan blushed and looked down. She dug her nails in to her hands.
‘Alice and I are getting married.’ Steve enunciated the words as if he was speaking to a child.
‘I’m sorry,’ she stammered, still not daring to look up. ‘I didn’t realise –’
The room was spinning. Steve’s words were echoing far away. Tegan grabbed hold of the back of the chair. She swallowed hard, and then forced herself to look at Steve. Their eyes met.
‘You are getting married?’
He nodded.
‘But what about us?’ she asked quietly.
‘There is no us Tegan, there never was.’
Tegan glanced at Alice, who had pulled her coat together, and was walking towards Steve.
‘Who is this?’ There was no anger, just total bewilderment in Alice’s voice.
‘This is Tegan. I met her a few times at the library.’ He smiled at Alice. ‘There’s nothing going on.’
‘Well, obviously,’ Alice grinned, ‘but why is she here?’
As Steve and Alice both turned and looked at her, Tegan remembered the time she had found an enormous toad in the garden. Captivated by the beautifully ugly creature she had looked at it in the same way they were looking at her.
‘She’s in a bit of bother, says she has left this religious group she’s been living with, you know, the group who live in that big old building by the park.’
‘Oh God, well, would you like a coffee or something?’ asked Alice, obviously not sure what to do with Tegan. She reached forward and touched Tegan’s arm. ‘Shit, you’re drenched. Hang on. I’ll get you some dry things. Have some croissant or something.’
Tegan shot a look at Steve, but she saw an infinitesimal shake of his head: his eyes were pleading with her. She couldn’t ignore the fact that he was desperate for her to go.
‘No, no thank you,’ Tegan said, as she started to pick up her bags and walk to the door.
‘You will go back to them won’t you?’ said Steve.
She couldn’t answer. Steve came and stood between her and the door. ‘Go back. You must, you know that.’
She pushed past him, stumbled down the stone steps and out into the street.

Steve went to the window and watched Tegan walking away. From up here she looked even more fragile and vulnerable. Swamped by that long shapeless brown coat and enormous headscarf, she walked in flat brown shoes like a clumsy school child.
‘Poor girl,’ remarked Alice. ‘Has she got learning problems or something?’
‘Actually, she’s bright. She’s just led this very strange life.’
‘She obviously had feelings for you.’
‘Rubbish.’ Steve looked away, hiding a spasm of guilt.
‘Steve, she wouldn’t come here for nothing. You said she came to the library. There must have been more to it than that?’
‘We did go for coffee. I was interested. Her life in the community is fascinating, and I’d never met anyone like her.’
‘And how did she know where you lived?’
‘Apparently I mentioned the shop. I don’t remember that. Mostly she told me about her life in the community.’
‘So you found her interesting, a novelty?’
‘No, not just that. I felt sorry for her,’ insisted Steve.
‘Did you say you’d help her?’
Steve squirmed. ‘No, of course not. I may have suggested that she should leave the community –’
‘And that she could come to you?’
‘No, No. For God’s sake, Alice. I never said that, it was nothing. I never thought she’d leave. Look, enough of the interrogation, she’ll be alright. Come on, let’s have some breakfast.’

Down below, Tegan was staggering blindly down the High Street. What had she done? People impatiently pushed past her. She stepped off the pavement.
‘Move, you stupid cow –’ shouted a driver over his horn. Tegan got back on the pavement and went and sat on a seat in the nearest bus stop. Pigeons pecked close to her feet, looking for crumbs among the cigarette butts. She pulled her feet back. She hated birds. They were always waiting to peck and scratch you. She wanted to curl up and die. Tears poured down her cheeks. She felt so ashamed at how she had behaved, what she had seen. To have loved someone like that. She had trusted a heathen man. She had ignored all the warnings.
“No pure thing can exist in the Domain of the Beast.” Steve had deceived her. She had thought he was a good man and that he would tell her what to do.
The rain grew heavier. What was she going to do? She sat chewing hard on the quick of her thumb. She was hunched up, rocking slightly. Dreams of proving to the Community, to her mother, that she could come out here in the world and live a pure, good life were crumbling. She was alone: no money, no food, no friends, nor anywhere to stay. “A valley means a wrong turn.” That’s what they said. This was all her fault.
What was she going to do? Daniel knew her heart; he would never let her back in the Community. She stared at the traffic. Then she remembered the envelope from her mother. She pulled it out of her bag, and opened it, numbly. It contained a letter and two envelopes. She took out the letter. It was written on a scruffy piece of lined paper.
‘Tegan, I am writing this without permission. For this I shall pay penance. You have chosen the world over your own family, rejected those who have loved and cared for you all your life. I fear for your soul. This is the last thing I shall do for you as your earthly mother. You must resist the temptation to live in sin with this heathen man. On the back I have written the address of my sister, Aunt Hannah, and her husband, Uncle Ellis, and their phone number. Contact them. I believe they will give you shelter. Be warned. These relations are not of the elect. Trust no one. You will need what is in the larger envelope. I am ashamed of it. I am glad to get rid of it. Despite the terrible hurt and suffering you have wilfully inflicted on us I will do vigil for your soul. Yours in Him, Your Mother.’
Tegan stopped reading. Despite the harshness of the words, this letter must have been very difficult for her mother to write. Her mother must still care. She turned over the page, glanced at the address and grimaced. That was ridiculous, how on earth did her mother expect her to get there? She replaced the letter. Full of curiosity, she pulled out the thicker envelope. It had the name “Sarah” written on it in fountain pen. It was held together by an elastic band. She took this off and put her hand inside. Frowning, she started to extract the contents. As they were revealed, her eyes widened, her hands started to shake. Alert, she glanced around at the people around her. Had anyone else seen? She quickly shoved the contents back in, re-tied it with the elastic band, and returned it to the envelope. Quickly, she replaced the whole lot back in her shoulder bag, zipped it up, and squashed it tightly under her arm protectively. What on earth was she going to do?

Chapter Three

‘Bloody Daffodil’ muttered Ellis Davies, trying to pin the drooping flower on his jumper: St David’s Day again and a hectic day ahead. But he was excited: so much work had gone into this concert. Of course, it was a far cry from the professional concerts of his life before retirement, but the thrill was still there. He stood in the music room of the Georgian Manor he had moved into with his wife Hannah on his retirement five years before. He looked out of the long patio windows, and mentally shut out the sounds of the builders above with their radio. Out there were his Cambrian Mountains. Over thousands of years they had remained miraculously unchanged. Today the distant hills were blue green, traces of the remnants of ice and snow on the highest peaks. He saw a red kite, enormous flashed wings, soaring high in the sky. His face relaxed. Further down the valley was a small cottage, “Hafan”, his childhood home. That was his reference point. He still went down to the cottage to work sometimes, and revelled in its remoteness. Of course, the manor was a beautiful old building. He could understand why Hannah had wanted to live here. Also, the farmhouse on the land was perfect for his daughter Cerys. He had been pleased she had her own place. Tucked away in the garden, it was perfect for her. But, for all that, his heart was down there in that tiny cottage.
‘You struggling with that daff?’
He turned to Ruth. Petite with short brown hair, Ruth was the wife of the village publican. She idolised Ellis, choosing to imagine a far greater level of fame and prestige than he had ever actually attained. He knew she found his appreciation of her work organising the choir and concerts deeply flattering. The bulk of his fortune had actually been made, not from solos in great opera houses, but in the royalties received from his chance involvement in music for some major films. However, he did nothing to dispel the myth, and Ellis, for his part, thoroughly enjoyed this more glamorous version of himself.
Ruth put down the programmes she was carrying. ‘God, Ellis, the poor thing is completely mangled.’
Ruth plucked a fresh daffodil from a vase and broke the stem. Even though he was broad rather than tall, she had to stand on tip toes to pin it on his jumper. Her hands were shaking but she pinned it perfectly.
‘What would I do without you?’ he asked.
Her dark brown eyes shone with pleasure. ‘You know Martin has dropped out? Well, I was thinking, why don‘t you do it, you know, sing “Maffanwy”? People would love to hear you: it would be the highlight of the concert.’
He smiled, but shook his head. ‘No, I won’t sing, not in this concert. You know that I never do it on principle. It’s about discovering new talent. Actually, I have given the solo to James.’ He spoke the words with an air of martyrdom. It seemed a long time now since he’d enjoyed the applause of an audience and he missed it more than he cared to admit.
He picked up the programmes for the concert. The layout was not particularly inspired but the contents were accurate. He saw Ruth watching him anxiously, waiting.
‘Marvellous.’ She beamed in response.
‘I hope we fill this concert hall, it’s so much bigger than any other place we’ve used.’
‘Oh we will, thanks to you. When I think how amateurish we used to be before you came. You know, already three quarters of the tickets have been sold.’
‘Fantastic. Let’s hope the rest go as well.’ He heard the house phone ring and grumbled, ‘Not more last minute changes.’ He picked it up.
‘It’s Sarah.’
‘Sarah?’ He was trying frantically to remember who she was and what was she doing in the concert.
‘Yes. Sarah, Philip’s wife.’
He gripped the phone, his mind erasing any connection with the concert. ‘Duw’ he said, sitting down, his hand shaking. He started to scratch at his greying beard, coughed, and cleared his throat. ‘I didn’t recognise your voice. It must be more than twenty years. How are you all?’
‘It’s Tegan,’ Sarah said.
‘What’s happened?’
‘She rebelled, Ellis. She’s been cast out.’
Ellis was aware of Ruth standing close by, looking at him curiously. ‘Coffee?’ he mouthed in a bid to get rid of her. She nodded obligingly and left the room.
‘Sorry Sarah, what do you mean?’ he asked, trying to speak more slowly, more reasonably. However the answer did nothing to assist him.
‘She’s been shunned by the Community, put out into the Domain of the Beast,’ came Sarah’s reply.
‘Sarah, what the hell are you talking about?’
He heard Sarah tut irritably. ‘She has been made to leave here.’
‘Let me get this straight. She has been living with you and Philip in the Community but now she has been thrown out?’ He spoke as one translating a foreign language.
‘That’s right. She refuses to repent, to curse the world and the works of the evil one.’
Ellis couldn’t believe this was the Sarah he used to know. She had always been serious, but now she sounded so intolerant.
‘It all sounds very traumatic,’ he said, ‘but she must be twenty seven or so now. I guess she‘ll go and live with friends, get a flat or something?’
‘The only person she knows in the world is this man who worked in the library. I pray she will resist the temptation to live in sin with him.’
‘But what do you expect her to do? Has she friends from work who can help?’
‘We have kept her pure from the world. She has never been to school or worked in the world.’
‘I didn’t realise.’ He felt overwhelmed. ‘So I assume you and Philip will be leaving as well. Do you want to come here?’
‘Philip and I will not be leaving. We will have no more to do with Tegan.’
‘Duw, you can’t mean you are not going to look after her?’ He was stunned. How could Sarah act in such a callous way?
‘We have taken care of her all her life, but now she has shown she neither respects nor appreciates anything that has been done for her.’
‘I’m sure that’s not true, but in any case you can’t abandon her to the streets of London. You can’t just disown your own daughter. How do you expect her to cope? How much money does she have?’
‘She has some cash, no bank account of course.’
Ellis took a deep breath. Exasperated and shocked, he said ‘It sounds to me that her only realistic option is to go to this man then.’
‘I have urged her to resist a life of sin. Actually, there is another option. I have suggested that she contacts you.’
‘Contacts me?’
‘You do see that you and Hannah must provide her with shelter, don’t you?’
‘You can’t possibly expect Hannah to help after the way you’ve behaved.’
‘That was different. I have told Tegan to come to her aunt and uncle. I have provided her with enough money to travel to you.’
‘But it would be so difficult and, in any case, she doesn’t know us from Adam.’
‘Ellis, it is your duty to help.’
‘Oh Duw.’ He could see there was to be no reasoning with Sarah. ‘You say she has money. Does she know how to get here?’
‘She has your number. She must contact you and sort that out.’
‘I think you’d better give me her mobile number,’ said Ellis reluctantly.
‘She is not allowed to own a mobile phone.’
‘Bloody Hell, Sarah. She’s so vulnerable. Anything could happen to her.’
‘She has chosen to rebel. She must bear the consequences. She is very fortunate I am helping her at all. I really shouldn’t be doing this,’ said Sarah, her voice tight.
‘So she will have to find a phone box then. Hope she can find one that works. Otherwise, what will she do?’
‘She must find her own way now.’
‘Aren’t you at all worried about her safety?’ he asked desperately.
‘From this time forth she is dead to us.’
‘Sarah, that is a terrible thing to say,’ he said quietly. She didn’t reply. He sighed and said, ‘So I just have to wait and hope she gets in touch.’
‘I have done what I can. Listen Ellis, Philip must never know I have phoned. Don’t contact us. I shouldn’t have used his phone. I’d get into terrible trouble if he found out.’ The voice that had been so stern sounded like it was verging on hysterics.
‘You don’t even want me to tell you she’s safe?’
‘No, I want nothing more to do with her. And there is one more thing Ellis –’
‘If she does come to you, you must keep your promise, you must say nothing. Tegan knows nothing. You mustn’t tell her.’
’Of course, you know you can trust me Sarah.’
‘I don’t trust anyone in the world. I will go now. I can do no more.’
With that she had gone. He sat shell-shocked. How could the Sarah he had known speak, behave, like this? She’d had a wonderful singing voice but there had been no hint of beauty or music in her voice today. He guessed life married to Philip would be pretty tough. A hard, fanatically religious man, Philip had the gift of crushing any hint of joy out of life. What had life been like for Tegan? He guessed she would go to this boyfriend. Sounded like she’d finally had enough of the community place, wanted to make her own life. How prepared was she though? He couldn’t help being worried about her. What if she didn’t phone? It was terrible to feel so helpless.
Ruth came back into the room carrying coffee.
‘Hope you put something in that’ he said.
‘What’s happened?’
‘That was Hannah’s sister, Sarah. Hasn’t spoken to us for years. Apparently her daughter is in some kind of bother. She was asking me to help if the girl contacts me.’
Just then he received a text. He took a deep breath.
‘What now?’ asked Ruth.
He sighed with relief. ‘It’s only Hannah wishing me luck.’
‘I’m surprised she remembered. I mean, she’s busy enjoying New York isn’t she?’
‘I guess so. Actually, maybe it’s as well she’s away at the moment. Anyway, come on. Let’s get on with the concert, eh?’

In London Tegan thought about the money. “Mammon will burn your soul.” Five hundred pounds! It was sinful to even handle this amount of money. Her mother would never steal, but how on earth would she have got hold of this amount of money? It was extraordinary that she should have such a sum. Tegan started to walk aimlessly down the street. She saw a young girl lying in an old sleeping bag in a doorway.
“A valley means a wrong turn” she heard again. What had that girl done? What sin was in her life to lead to this? Tegan looked at the girl: cold, alone. People skirted round her, looked the other way, and treated her like some unpleasant mess on the pavement to be avoided. She would not end up like that girl. She was stronger than that. But what would she do? Could she live out here, away from the Community, stay pure? People pushed past her. The rain got heavier. She had to find shelter. She started to walk down the street, and saw a large, rather squalid, Bed and Breakfast with vacancies. She swallowed hard. Could she really go in there on her own? Would she be safe? She thought about these people in Wales. Maybe it would be safer with them at least for a few days, but how would she get there? Why on earth did her mother suggest people so far away? She was getting very wet and tired. What was she going to do?



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