Clare was late. Not in the ‘sorry I missed the bus so had to walk halfway’ kind of late, not in the ‘I thought you meant 10PM’ kind of way, but in the ‘God giveth and God taketh away’ kind of way. The kind of late from which you don’t ever catch up. The kind of permanent late which…. oh you get the gist. Dead. Clare was dead.

Of course, she’d been late a lot when she was alive too. so much so that those who knew her well would text her half an hour before their arranged meeting time to see quite how late she was likely to be this time, and then invariably forgive her when she still turned up later than the revised time, simply because she was such a sweetheart, and was usually late because she had been waylaid doing something kind, thoughtful or even heroic. Like the time she sat on a park bench in the snow for 3 hours with an elderly Polish man upon whom she had stumbled in the park on her way to coffee with with Kim, crying salty tears into his already salty herring on his dead wife’s birthday. She had almost paid with a toe over that one because, as well as being consistently late, was also perpetually underprepared for any kind of weather.

Or the time she got so excited about finding and rescuing an abandoned herb garden in a forgotten plot at the allotment that she completely missed her shift at the falafel stand. Gerald was not as forgiving as her friends sadly so that was the end of that job.

Or the time she had found that kitten and had walked for 4 hours knocking on every door in town until she found its owner, a broken hearted Annie look alike called Sophie. Sophie had been so grateful and Clare so smitten with both the young redhead and her feline companion that they had sat and played teddy bears’ picnic until Sophie’s bedtime. Luckily Tom, her long suffering fiancé, had a soft spot for cats and kids too so had let her off missing their lunch date, again.

That day, that fateful day, Tom had once again found himself stood up. Sipping his third flat white and trying for the tenth time to call her, he had felt a wave of forboding and cycled home to see if she was still there. He had let himself in and there he had found her, a dark pool of dried blood around her still body at the foot of the stairs, her phone a few feet away, text half composed ‘sorry sweetheart on my…’. He had been sitting there for an hour trying to come to terms with it, to get his fingers and his voice working enough to call the necessary parties. Who even were they? He picked himself up, and went into their kitchen, their breakfast dishes still piled by the sink, and at the sight of their porridge encrusted bowls, the tears finally flowed.