Picture the scene: a dark and icy night. Greedy Christmas shoppers intent on ignoring the married mother of two in her lonely pound shop/post office corner vigil. A grumpy husband. A lost teenager.
Spud finishes school at ten-to-four and gets home at five, having taken two buses. One bus stops in Stockport town centre. We were in the town centre around that time, so I sent a text to ask if he wanted a lift home. Ever polite, the answer was no thanks (he’s polite but he might as well have stabbed me through the heart with that capital N he didn’t use).
We were in the pound shop at four-twenty when my phone went and it was Spud, who did want a lift after all. The line was terrible but I told him we were at the pound shop near the post office and I thought he had heard me. He hadn’t. We waited forty minutes outside the shop and he was a no-show. I made the Hub wait in the car because he’d already used up that day’s good hour, plus, he could see all the way up the road to the bus station on the horizon, and would see him coming. The Hub had come out without his phone so we had a little code going: he would put on the car lights when Spud appeared, like something out of a gangster movie; especially with me keeping watch on the corner above him.
Once I had become a human icicle and the Hub had been in and out of the car several times to fume at me (he was mad at Spud but I was closer), we decided Spud must have misread ‘stkprt’ for ‘edgly’ (no capitals for me either but that’s because I can’t use my phone properly: a lack of ability rather than a lack of will) and drove up to our next-most-used shopping centre. Stockport is not so big that you can’t walk around it in twenty minutes and he had been missing for twice that.
I’d better explain at this point that mobile phones are absolutely bloody useless in a crisis, particularly if Spud’s is faulty, mine has no credit and the Hub’s was lying at home soaking up the central heating and sipping a tequila. I sent increasingly panicky texts to Spud, as well as repeated calls. He couldn’t answer because his phone switched off every time he tried. He managed to ring me at one point and my first question was ‘Where are you?’ If he had only said where he was instead of ‘Looking for you,’ he wouldn’t have been cut off at ‘I’m near – ‘. That was around four-forty and he kept radio silence from then on.
The Hub and I drove to Edgeley at about five and he drove around the outside while I ran around the inside, but there was no sign of our kidnapped baby. We drove home, just in case Spud had the good sense to get the bus back. He wasn’t there, so I stayed while the Hub went back to Stockport. He traipsed around the town in a kitchen triangle manoeuvre (sink-stove-fridge/pound shop-pound shop-pound shop) but no joy. He came home again; I forget why because by this time I had my boy lying in a dark Stockport corner, stabbed for his mobile phone (ha! muggers! see what you get for your pains! a phone that doesn’t work). By this time Spud had been missing for ninety minutes and could have caught at least two buses home; I was wondering if I ought to tidy up for the police; the Hub came in; we discussed our next move; he left; the door went minutes later, and there they both were. The Hub had seen him coming from the bus stop. Turns out one bus hadn’t come at all and the next was late; but of course, he couldn’t tell us.
After a choking hug from me, the inevitable humdinger of an argument broke out, with me yelling at the Hub yelling at Spud yelling at both of us. One plate of egg & chips and a stiff mug of tea later, and harmony was restored.
Something I have never done is lose one of my children. I stick to the adage, keep your enemies close and your children closer. That’s it, I’m afraid: until Spud gets a new phone he’s going to be home schooled. No more anxiety, and I’ll save on the bus fare.