Ringing Roger – Jenny Bridge

When Roger disappeared it was a huge shock to everyone. Roger was such a stable person and he and Emily had always seemed the perfect couple. It was unthinkable that he had left voluntarily. But what was the alternative?

They had met as students and had matured together, supporting each other as they each set shaky feet on their respective career ladders and later sharing the care of their two children. It was a partnership envied by many. Even when conferences and business trips forced them to spend time away from each other, they were constantly in touch, always aware of the other’s whereabouts and activities. It became a standing joke amongst Emily’s friends. Whenever they went out with her there always came a point in the evening when Emily would withdraw from the group and could be seen in a corner, her phone at her ear.

“Guess what!” someone would cry, “Emily’s ringing Roger!”

It was following one of their enforced separations that the disappearance took place. Roger had been to Paris on business and Emily was looking forward to meeting him at the airport with news of

the children’s latest escapades and achievements. Leaving them in the care of a babysitter, she set

off in plenty of time to meet the flight.

But Roger was not among the weary looking group who spilled into the arrival hall. Emily had spoken to him as he travelled by cab to Charles de Gaulle. He was in good time and there had been no mention of any delays. But travelling is a precarious business. A traffic jam, too many red lights – anything can upset the most efficient plans. And making calls from airports is not always easy.

Maybe there was no signal or perhaps Roger had run out of credit or let his battery get too low.

Emily waited for the next three flights from Paris. But Roger did not arrive.

From the very start, Emily was rattled. Roger was steady, reliable. He planned everything and made sure his life ran smoothly. This was not like him at all.

Of course, the police had to be involved, Interpol too. The next few days seemed unreal. Emily felt she was in a film and not an enjoyable one. There were his parents to be told, her parents, employers, colleagues, brothers, sister, friends, neighbours. Everyone’s reaction was the same.

“This is not like the Roger we know”

But did any of them know the real Roger? Emily was beginning to wonder.

Of course, he could have had a terrible accident. He could have fallen, bumped his head and lost his memory. But she had spoken to him as he travelled to the airport. He would have been surrounded by people. He would have his passport, his computer, and work papers with him. And, of course, his phone. Someone, surely, would have contacted her.

Ringing Roger became Emily’s obsession. Always, his phone rang and always his voice answered, promising to get back to her if she left a message. She lost count of the messages she had left.

Strangely, although the phone was always answered, the police had never been able to trace it and were completely unable to give an explanation for this.

As the months passed she began to adjust to living as a single parent, trying to comfort her distraught children and to give them some sort of normality and routine in their lives. She herself could not adjust, however. She had lost her soul mate, her partner, her friend, her lover. She was almost shocked at the way her children began to pick themselves up and get on with life. As far as she was concerned there was no more life – just an existence. Although she loved her children dearly and was fiercely protective of them, she shamefully admitted to herself that they alone were not enough. She needed, she craved Roger.

“I do would anything, give anything, anything at all, just to have him back., to be with him again.

Nothing else is as important to me,” she told herself daily and, indeed, she told Roger too in her many many phone messages.

The months became years. The children were growing into normal teenagers and becoming more independent. Despite the trauma she had suffered, Emily was still an attractive woman and there had been no shortage of men showing interest in her. She had to confront the possibility, however impossible it seemed to her, that Roger had left her for another woman. But she knew that she could never have feelings for another man.

Until she met John. He was kind and thoughtful and she found his company soothing. He understood that she still loved her absent husband, that she would do anything to have him back, but his feelings for her were strong and he was prepared to wait patiently. And wait he did. He waited until almost seven years had passed since Roger’s disappearance. During that time he noticed a gradual change in Emily’s attitude towards him. She was more trusting, more affectionate, more relaxed. He felt sure that eventually she would love him and that they could have a future together.

Gently, gradually he began to talk to her about marriage, to suggest that she should go to court and have Roger declared legally dead once seven years had passed. Then they would be free to marry.

At first shocked by the idea, Emily began to feel that it was, perhaps a possibility. Ringing Roger had never ceased to be a constant occupation, a habit almost by now. She still left messages saying she would do anything to be with him, but she no longer believed that he would answer.

Was it coincidence that she received the call six years and three hundred and sixty four days after his disappearance?

She was out shopping when her phone rang and answered distractedly. It was a man’s voice. A man she did not know.

“We are now able give you the chance to be with your husband” said the voice, shocking her into stillness in the crowded supermarket. “He has finally become a fully integrated member of our group” it went on, “Soon he will be a high priest in our order. He is glad to note from your messages that you are willing to do anything to be with him. His wish is that you give up your children, friends, family and life to join him. You have 24 hours in which to decide and to return this call.

After that, the phone will be destroyed and ringing Roger will not be possible again.”

The man whose trolley collided with hers was unprepared for her dramatic reaction. Throwing herself to the ground she burst into violent sobs. Her eyes appeared focused on her scattered groceries but all that she could see were images of her husband, her new lover, her children, her family and her friends.

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