“You must ring me every day, you know.” Laura gave her son the sort of stern look that had always worked when he was little.
“Yes, Mum.” Shaun nodded wearily.
“And if you have any problems, of any kind, ring me straight away, won’t you. Whatever time of day or night it is.”
“It’s only the Lake District, Mum. It’s the middle of summer. And they have Mountain Rescue and everything. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’m fifteen. I can look after myself.
“Yes, I’m aware of that, but you never know. I’m sure you’ll be careful, but you might have ... I don’t know, a rockslide or something. It can be quite dangerous up on those fells. So promise me that you’ll let me know if anything bad happens, and that you’ll give your friends my number so they can ring me if anything happens to you. That way, I’ll know that no news is good news, won’t I?”
Another wry smile. “All right, Mum. I promise.”
“Thank you. I guess I’d better let you go and join your friends now, hadn’t I? Have a lovely time, but be careful. I’ll see you on Tuesday.”
“See you, Mum. Have a good weekend.”
She waited for her son to walk to the station door, where his friends had already assembled. She was pleased to see him turn and wave before they went in. She waved back, and kept waving until they had disappeared.
Back at the house, Laura tried to busy herself with housework, but she couldn’t concentrate. This wasn’t the first time Shaun had been away from home, but it was the first time he had been somewhere where there was real risk, where something bad might realistically happen. And of course, it was the first time since she had been separated from Robert, the first time since her mother had died. They were no longer part of her life. Now there was only Shaun.
You never know with teenage boys, she muttered to herself. “Our Shaun is a sensible enough lad, but I can’t speak for the others. Who knows what stupid things they might put each other up to?” And on those narrow ridges and crags. If they weren’t careful, somebody could get killed. She must tell him not to let the others make him do anything stupid. She began punching his number into her mobile phone, then stopped.
This is foolishness, she told herself. I have to stop preaching at him. I have to trust him to live his own life. She knew this was right, but still she couldn’t get the thought of all those terrible accidents that might happen out of her mind.
Laura decided to go out to the shops, not because she needed anything but just to take her mind off things. And it seemed to work. When she returned, she was able to make her dinner and sit in front of the TV without giving Shaun more than a passing thought. But then her phone rang.
“Oh my God, what’s happened?” She rushed across the room and picked it up.
“Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation if you took out Payment Protection Insurance on a financial product. We can help you find out ...”
“Oh, bloody hell!” She threw the phone angrily down on the sofa. “Those blasted nuisance callers. Every time I block the number, they call me from another one.”
Now her peace of mind was shattered again. She tried to continue watching the TV, but she couldn’t concentrate. What if Shaun or one of his friends had tried to ring during the nuisance call? She told herself they would ring again if it was important, but it was no good. She rang Shaun.
“Hello, love, I thought I’d give you a quick ring in case you’d been trying to ring me. I had one of those damned marketing calls again. Is everything all right?”
“Yes Mum, it’s all fine. We’ve just arrived at the hostel, and I’m sorting my stuff out before we have dinner. We’re going to climb Helvellyn tomorrow. Really looking forward to it.”
“Well, be careful, won’t you. Don’t do anything silly, and make sure you ring me when you get back, so I know you got down safely.”
“Yes, Mum, don’t worry. I can look after myself.”
Shaun’s voice had more than a hint of irritation about it, so Laura decided to leave it there. She wished him goodnight and put down the phone.
The following day was uneventful. Laura had arranged to meet some friends for lunch, and the company helped keep worrying thoughts out of her mind. She had arranged a hairdressing appointment for the afternoon, then she went home and cooked her dinner, so it was only when she finally sat down to eat it that her thoughts turned back to her son. And by now it was half past five He would be ringing soon, wouldn’t he?
But for the next hour the phone remained silent. She tried to tell herself it was nothing to worry about. It was a long walk up Helvellyn, wasn’t it? It might be quite late when they got back to the hostel. She tried hard to put the nagging thoughts out of her mind, but they besieged her like biting insects. At seven o’clock, she rang Shaun’s mobile. It went straight to voicemail.
“Hi, it’s Mum. Just checking all is OK. Give me a ring as soon as you can. And be careful. We don’t want you having an accident.”
An hour and several worried calls later, Shaun had still not rung or answered his phone. Laura tried to call him one more time, and once again, it went straight to voicemail. By now, she was very agitated indeed. “Why won’t he pick up his phone?” she exclaimed. Perhaps he couldn’t? Perhaps the worst really had happened?
There was nothing for it. She would have to drive up herself to the hostel and make sure that he was all right. Shaun would be embarrassed, and would hate her for it, but that would teach him to ring when he was supposed to and pick up his phone when she called him.
Laura collected a few things and got in the car. She felt calmer, now she was doing something rather than merely waiting. Within twenty minutes she was on the motorway. It was only a couple of hours from here. She could put her mind at rest and still be home at a reasonable time.
Just then, her phone rang. “Shaun!” She reached out towards it, then took her hand away.
“I shouldn’t, not when I’m driving.” But the phone kept ringing. What if he was in trouble? What if he’d had an accident?
“Dammit!” She picked up the phone and pressed the green button.
Laura never saw the lorry brake hard in front of her. The car struck it a glancing blow and somersaulted three times, coming to rest upside down on the hard shoulder.
From the mobile phone came a cheerful pre-recorded voice.
“Hello, this is Mary from Paramount Injury Lawyers. We’ve heard that you’ve been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Is that right?”
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