Was watching on ER tonight, and the episode was all about a woman whose son was missing, he was aged 12 years old I think. It was horrifying seeing the woman go through the emotions of worrying about her kid. Lately in the news in UK there has been several cases of children around 3 and 4 years old being abducted and sexually abused, which is just terrifying to even try to understand the fear and panic that their parents must suffer.
My daughter went for a day when she was only nine years old.
It was an ordinary day, I was through in Edinburgh, it was June 1995 and I was checking a flat that I was going to be staying in at the forthcoming Fringe Festival. I had mates in Edinburgh and had lunch and hung out with them.
Ashley was on school holidays and her dad was looking after her, we had just recently left our old home and pub and my husbands family, who were …I suppose gangsters, I don’t like that word, but we were found with guns and stuff in his fathers house less than a year before in October 1994.
We had moved up the West End of Glasgow for a fresh start, we left his family behind, they didn’t even know where we were and they separation from them had been pretty acrimonious.
There had been in fighting over his late fathers will and his six brothers were as deceitful and underhand as any Shakespearean story. We had no contact with them and I was embarking on my comedy career.
Ashley was a very independent girl and was allowed to use the underground on her own; she had been using it everyday as she travelled up to her school in the West End. Her school was a lovely fee paying establishment set in beautiful affluent tenements and grand houses with a small high street that she loved browsing.
That day as I had been out with friends sitting in a fancy bistro that was at the foot of the ominous Edinburgh Castle, Ashley was out on her own up the Byres roads near her school, spending her pocket money. Her father had instructed her to stay out for an hour then call to let him know what her movements were.
Two hours passed and she hadn’t called, he began to worry, it wasn’t like her to be forgetful as she was always so mature and diligent about her responsibilities. The added background worry, secreted in his head was that one of his late father’s old gangster enemies may have picked her up…maybe as an old unsettled score.
I called him and he never wavered once on the phone, he never blurted out that Ashley was late and hadn’t called, he knew that me being in Edinburgh would result in me jumping on a bus and that hour drive back to Glasgow would be like a scene from the famous film ‘Speed’, trust me that fucking bus would be held to ransom and it would have been driven at 90 miles per hour as I got home in hysterics.
Finally I sauntered home, my walkman plastered to my ear…dancing up the stairs, desperate to tell my husband all the news about my mates and the flat I would be staying in and the stuff I have been doing….nothing about my daughter even crossed my mind and by this time she was missing five hours.
As soon as I entered the flat, I felt a distinct creepy fear, I ripped the earphones out of my ears and ran into the living room and saw my Step mum and dad standing there looking over at the far side of the room. I followed their eyes…
My husband was lying on the carpet face down, his body completely stretched out and he was making a noise that didn’t make sense, nor had I heard that sound before…was he crying?
My brain went into overdrive, what was going on? Was my brother dead? Well he was a heroin addict who has HIV, was my sister ill?
Why then was my husband upset? He cares for none of his own family, less for mine…then it hit me…ASHLEY, the only reason he would be screaming.
I immediately ran into her bedroom, her wee bed was untouched, her teddy lay on the floor, her coat was missing, and her presence was gone…where was she?
My dad came through to me and explained quickly that Ashley had gone out for a walk up the Byres road, but she had not come back in five hours and she hadn’t called.
I felt as though I had been punched in the heart, my breath left me and I slumped to the floor. My husband came running in and held me, he told me the police were out looking for her, they had a picture of her, they knew what she was wearing and all we could was wait.
My dad, who has a bad heart and various other problems with his health, immediately threw his coat on “I am going up the Byres road, I will take a big photo of her and go look for her”
He grabbed the photo we had on the wall, shoved it under his arm and made off down the stairs.
My step mum told me to sit and wait, but my brain was racing, in my minds eye she was walking up the road near her school, she was laughing at the play ground, she was standing looking in the famous Sentry Box toy shop, deciding what to spend her cash on…she was being dragged into a car, she was being held against her will…my heart beat hard in my chest. Why had this happened?
My husband was pacing the floor.
“It’s not like her not to phone, I always let her go out, I have never over protected her” he was talking to himself.
The police came back up to the house and asked more questions
‘Would anyone want to take her?’
‘Would she go with anyone she didn’t know?’
It went on and on, I threw up in the toilet, I cried in the room, I drank tea and threw it up again. Where was my child?
Then the most amazing thing happened, my dad had been out about fifteen minutes, this was before everyone had mobile phones remember, he called from the call box outside the toy shop and told us he had just met her in the street.
Ashley and my dad came back, she was looking so sheepish, she came running into my hallway and straight into my arms crying “Mummy I didn’t know the time, I am sorry I caused all the worry, I was playing in my friends garden, she lives beside the school and I didn’t know the time, and her mummy told me it was getting late and I should go home, then I met grand dad in the street and he told me the police are looking for me…and look mummy” she lifted up her trouser legs and showed me these red welts and bruised on her shins “I can finally go a bike”
The relief was so overwhelming, my husband picked her up and held her close and wouldn’t put her down, her wee legs dangled as he buried his head in her long thick hair.
The police arrived and Ashley was interviewed, it was ascertained that her explanation was true, she had simply met friends in the sunshine and went to their garden with their parents, had a barbeque, played for hours and then slowly realised that she hadn’t called home and was late.
I am sure we have all had days where you have such fun and forget the world, and that’s what kids should have in their life, but the worry had taken at least ten years off my life. I felt for my husband though, as I had my family there, he couldn’t even call his for support and to be honest he never did have their love or help, it made me realise how alone he was.
Ashley sat down and told us all about her adventure, as we all tried to not let an ulcer form I our guts with fear.
My father was the hero of the hour, as a child I was abused, and he never knew and this haunted him for years, he may have never saved me but he did find his grand daughter and that made his day.
Ashley did scare me that day to death. She did have fun though, and we as a family will never forget the day she learned to go a bike.