The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden
Based on my experience of village life, I am serialising my novel, The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden, in Rosy’s Ramblings. If you have any comments, please get in touch. Enjoy!
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Boden’s Funeral Directors is located at the top of High Street and bizarrely was one of the first things you saw when entering the village of Little Twichen. The frontage had changed several times over the years and the most recent was in keeping with the ecologically friendly funerals that everybody seems to want these days. The gated entrance leads on to a golden pea gravel courtyard with a modern New England-style building and the tranquil setting draws you in. From wicker caskets to woodland burials, Guy Boden and his small team of professional staff were on hand to help guide the families of those recently departed through the maze of arranging a funeral.
Coppice Lane Surgery was down and across from Boden’s so when relatives had to call into the G.P. Surgery for a death certificate, they had a short drive into Mudlowe to register the death at the Registrar’s and then back to meet with Guy or one of his team to plan the funeral. The wheels of local commerce were oiled and in turn, Boden’s recommended the small and friendly firm of Blacks Solicitors in Mudlowe to deal with the estate of the deceased. Just as they in turn recommended Ashcroft Estate Agents to all their clients for clearing out a property and/or putting it on the market for sale. That’s how it was in small communities; back scratching at its best.
Marsha carefully placed her purchases from Tiddy’s in the cupboards and put the Fever Tree tonic in the fridge. Placing the walnut cake in a rucksack, taking care not to squash it, she put on her walking shoes and reached for Jasper’s lead and the Golden Retriever magically appeared wagging his tail and dancing as if practicing dressage.
Careful not to take the same route to Lloyd’s every time she walked Jasper, Marsha took the circuitous route down High Street and up Laburnum Lane before turning off towards Dovecote Farm. Sometimes, she cut across the fields, and on other occasions, she went through the woodland which was carpeted with a breathtaking display of lavender bluebells at this time of the year. Whichever route she took was just as beautiful and although she was risking bumping into people by taking the route through the village, she was walking her dog. She was a great believer in being assertive and if you look as though you know where you’re going and stride along with purpose, people are less inclined to think that you’re up to no good. As far as she was aware, her liaisons with Lloyd were secret and word hadn’t got out in the village.
Kate’s parents sat down opposite her on the three-piece suite chintz sofa in their immaculate sitting room and looked at one another and then back at her.
“So, how long have you known you were a lesbian?” her father asked, spitting out the word as if expelling a cherry pip.
Kate looked down into the glass she was holding and swilled the malt whisky around as if by magic a genie would appear and wash away all her problems. “It’s not a case of flicking a switch, Dad,” she said wearily. “Zelda and I felt an instant attraction to each other and one thing led to another.” She swallowed a slug of her drink and winced as she felt the burning sensation of it passing down her gullet.
“What bloody kind of name is Zelda? Where is she from?” her father demanded as if he were reprimanding a five-year-old Kate.
“Does it matter, Dad? She’s a wonderful person and we love each other. That’s all that matters. She’s from Sussex originally but her family moved to Mudlowe when she was a teenager.”
Kate’s mother was too shocked to speak but eventually, wringing her hands together she said in her small voice, “What’s going to happen to the boys?”
Kate sighed. “Mum, I’ve got no idea. Nigel and I have to sort out something between us. I don’t even know if I can keep my job. The villagers might get up in arms and oust me when this all gets out. You know how small-minded people can be sometimes.”
Mrs. Bevan, her neat and orderly world blown to smithereens, wondered how on earth she was going to break the news to her friends at the W.I. It was all too much to bear, finding out her daughter was a lesbian and then possibly being fired from her role of Headmistress – she would never be able to look them in the face again.
“I’m going upstairs for a lie-down. My head is spinning.” Kate got up and placed her tumbler on the side table by the chair and left the room, leaving her parents staring blankly into space, neither one of them knowing what to say to the other.
When Marsha reached her lover’s tryst, she was surprised to find the farmhouse empty. Lloyd must have got caught up in some animal emergency; a sheep that had rolled into the river and couldn’t get up or had got caught on some barbed wire fencing. Farming was full of surprises as she had learnt over the past year or so, listening to Lloyd telling her that most people think it’s an idyllic lifestyle living in the countryside surrounded by cute little animals. The reality is very different: extremely long hours, physical hard work, and an unpredictable income that could fluctuate from one day to the next, whether it be the French farmers burning lambs at the port in protest of low prices or the war in Ukraine which had impacted on the price of animal feed, not to mention the skyrocketing of oil and diesel prices.
As Marsha was setting out the walnut cake on a plate and fishing around for mugs and plates, she heard Lloyd’s pick-up truck pull up in the yard and her heart skipped a beat.
“Sorry I’m late, darlin’ but I had an errand to run.” He placed his cap neatly on the peg next to the Aga and gave Marsha an enveloping bear hug and kissed the top of her head.
“Are you alright, Lloyd? What’s up?”
Releasing her, Lloyd moved a stack of Farmers Weekly and lowered himself onto the window seat. Looking out across the beautiful Shropshire hills, he said “It was three years ago today that Mum and Dad died.” He looked so sad and his broad shoulders sagged in his checked work shirt.
Marsha remembered hearing the news in the village which went round like wildfire. A couple had been found dead in their tent up on the hillside near Dovecote Farm. Villagers speculated as to the cause, some cruelly saying it was a suicide pact and others too shocked to comment. It was all terribly sad.
Mr Peterson had turned in early as he wasn’t feeling well and left his wife sitting on a log by the small campfire because she had wanted to listen to the nightlife and hear the sounds of the owls, foxes and any other sound that she could identify. She would note them all down in her little book. She was a keen naturalist and loved sketching things she had seen: a fallen rotten apple in the orchard, a butterfly settled on a stone window-sill, a Rose hip fallen on the tarmac after a rain shower, a big, brown shiny conker with its green spiky casing alongside it. The sounds she noted down helped with the imagery when drawing.
She was, in fact, a very talented artist but had never felt that her work deserved a wider audience other than her husband, son and a handful of close friends.
Eventually, she had joined her husband in the tent and feeling that it was chillier than she felt was comfortable, brought in the barbecue coals in their tin foil tray that they had cooked sausages on earlier, and placed it on the narrow strip of grass between them. Her husband was snoring loudly as she snuggled down into her sleeping bag.
Neither of them woke up to the beautiful Shropshire countryside surrounding them. They died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The entire village was in shock and Marsha can remember thinking that it was so sad and she would have done the exact same thing, thinking that the residual heat from the coals would help warm the tent. She had no idea that the consequences could be fatal.
“I’ve been sitting in the church for the last couple o’ hours tryin’ to make sense of it all. Even now, I think they’re goin’ to walk through that door.” He looked up soulfully and nodded at the back door. His voice was cracking as he spoke.
Marsha’s heart bled for the man she loved as tears threatened to spill over from his brimming eyes, but he quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand, as if crying was a weakness. She poured some hot, sweet tea into a mug and passed it to him. He declined the cake and she placed it in a cake tin and put it in the pantry. She sensed that Lloyd needed time to himself to reflect, so she would leave him in peace.
He drank his tea in distracted silence and continued staring out of the window. He was so preoccupied that he didn’t notice Marsha slip out through the back door and although he didn’t know it at the time, it would be the last time that he ever saw her.
To be continued.