Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Absence

‘Hello, is that Luke?’

‘Yes.’

‘It’s Ali.’

‘Who?’

‘Ali, Ben’s friend.’

‘Umm…’

‘Sixth form, best man at Ben’s wedding?’

‘Oh, er yes, so why are you calling?’

‘Have you heard from Ben?’

‘Not since Christmas was cancelled.’

‘Oh it’s just that I, we were wondering… we haven’t been able to contact him.’

‘Why do you need to contact him?’

‘We don’t, we just wondered why none of us had heard from him and they missed the quiz evening again.’

‘I didn’t know my brother was so popular.’

‘Perhaps I could ring your mother?’

‘I hardly think so as she’s been dead for eight months.’

‘Oh er I am so sorry, she looked fine at the wedding.’

‘She was fine at the wedding, anyway, I must cut you off, conference call coming up…’

‘Hi, Ali?’

‘Yup.’

‘It’s me.’

‘Who’s me?’

‘Louise, Tina’s sister, chief bridesmaid, top table?’

‘Louise, of course, sorry I didn’t get back in tou… answer your messages.’

‘That’s not why I’m calling. Have you seen Ben?’

‘No. I’ve been ringing round everyone, no one’s seen or heard from him, phone’s dead.’

‘Oh Ali, I’m really worried now, same with Tina, she hasn’t been on Facebook for weeks.’

‘You were right to call me, but don’t panic; what about your parents?’

‘They’re worried, I mean we’re not one of those families who call all the time, but she’s not answering in our WhatsApp group or anything.’

‘Has anyone been round their flat?’

‘No, Mum and Dad are isolating and I’m on a Scottish island.’

‘Oh so you did get that croft? What about her work?’

‘She’s furloughed.’

‘Now don’t worry, I’ll get in contact with Ben’s company, even if he’s still working from home they would know if he’s on leave. ’

‘Tina would have said if they were going on holiday, she was always talking about going on a proper holiday again.’

‘TG Services, how can I help?’

‘Can I speak to Ben Chambers please?’

‘Chambers, chambers… ben? Chaos here, everyone working from home, except me… I don’t know the name, what department?’

‘Actually I’m afraid I have no idea, can’t you look him up on the computer records?’

‘No, confidential records cannot be shared with members of the public…’

‘Tom, it’s Ali, have you had any luck? No, nor have I, not a trace of either of them. Have you been round their flat? No of course not, you would have popped round last week if you weren’t in Belfast. I’m a hundred miles away so who’s nearest… Gemma’s in hospital, what happened to her? Call the police? I don’t think it’s that serious yet, I mean they could have gone on holiday, stuck isolating goodness knows where and we’re panicking for nothing. Okay, okay, I’ll drive down tomorrow morning make a day out of it. Have you got their new address? No, nor have I, have to message Louise, no I didn’t see her again and now she’s on some bloody Scottish island.’

‘Louise? It’s Ali again. I’m in their road, the neighbours are already regarding me with suspicion. I couldn’t even get in the building let alone find their flat, yes used to be the old asylum, very smart. I have been lurking to catch anyone going in or out, no luck so far, nobody seems to know them, so not likely to find a friendly neighbour with a spare key, not that you can just go waltzing into someone else’s home uninvited… and what did the police website say? Surely the only option is to have them break in and … no I’m sure they are fine, but there could be a clue where they have gone on holiday, somewhere warm knowing them. Not that warm, no, I’m sure they didn’t end up on a Mediterranean island with a wildfire raging. You call the police then, more likely to take notice of a relative, and you will have to give permission for a search…  ’

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO READ BEN AND TINA’S STORY?