The Returners by Liz Breen

Patricia Wright was not like most people and she had learned to accept that. When she was nine, she walked along Brighton Pier holding her daddy’s hand and felt the excitement of being among all the amusement rides and daytrippers. “Look Daddy, that lady is wearing her hair like Granny in that photo from the war.” Patricia was confused when her daddy said he couldn’t see the lady. 

It continued like this. There was the man on the bus who disappeared. The girl who stood at the end of her bed and hummed while brushing her hair. The ginger cat that nobody else saw. She was visited regularly and she knew when the returners were coming. She’d bite her lip and feel shivery. 

Patricia lived in a flat in a suburb of London where bins got attacked by foxes and car alarms went off nightly. She had a boyfriend called Carl who fixed people’s boilers and would get ‘double bubble’ as he called it, if he was available on weekends. “I’m on call, like a doctor, when a boiler goes into cardiac arrest.” Patricia loved Carl. He was kind and funny and made fantastic curries. 

It was a cold January night. Patricia and Carl were cuddled up on the sofa watching a film. Carl’s phone pinged. “Where are my keys?” Carl looked everywhere but couldn’t find them. He wouldn’t find them. Not if Patricia had her way. She had seen Carl, face down on the steering wheel, blood dripping onto his lap. She’d warned him about texting while driving. 

“Someone else can do that job. You’re staying here with me.” Patricia said. “You hid my keys again, didn’t you? What was it this time? Did I slip on fox shit and make friends with the pavement?” Carl laughed.

Published in Issue #8

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