Breaking Free – Sticky Labels

Andy was finding true love apparently.

At least that was the impression Sarah got from the latest missive that was lying on the doormat when she came home. The postcard was less crammed with writing than usual. Andy hoped she was well, that the house sale was progressing, and that she had found somewhere else to live. He advised her about redirecting her mail and ensuring that the estate agent knew where she was although he didn’t think that it was necessary to give too much information to Abigail. The last sentence read. ‘I hope you are putting your life together in the same way that as I am. I believe that I have found true love at last, and hope that the same will come to you eventually’.

Sarah threw the card down on the kitchen table in disgust, then, thinking better of it, stowed it away from Abigail’s eyes in the deepest recesses of her handbag. Whilst she was there, she found the list that Andy had so kindly put together, and armed with some sticky labels and a marker pen that she had bought on the way home, Sarah began to work her way round the house methodically labelling ever article that was hers – according to Andy. She had to admit, some of the things that Andy had allotted to her, could have been considered a joint purchase, but she had no need for kitchen chairs and a table at the moment. Andy had completely avoided itemising her CD, DVD and book collections. He didn’t have many books, had only wildlife DVDs, and only listened to her classical music CDs, but never bought his own. Trying to decide what she could put into storage and what she wanted with her at Millie’s, was less difficult than she had imagined, and using another set of coloured stickers, she then went round the house putting these on everything that had to go into storage. When that was finished, she was left with a handful of books, DVDs and CDs that she couldn’t live without, all her clothes and accessories, her TV, laptop and printer – all of which – once it was properly packed, would fit quite easily into her car and Millie’s.

The next thing on the agenda was to tell Jude all her news. Sarah had deliberately postponed doing this because she knew that she would be on the phone for ages. She could tell by the tone of Jude’s voice that she was not having a good day; as such Sarah decided to play down her news at first rather than gabble it all out excitedly. She started with the sad Marta and Peter saga; Jude began to perk up and agreed with her that Marta did indeed show a more than healthy number of the psychopathic tendencies. It was whilst Jude’s foggy brain was remembering her own stint in forensic social work that Sarah dropped the bomb.

“Jude, I’ve got a job!”

“Wow! – not at the studio?”

“Yes – working alongside Millie. I’m packing up my stuff and moving into Millie’s son’s bedroom until I can find somewhere of my own.”

There was a tense silence at the other end of the phone. Then a very small, tight-sounding voice said “I’m really pleased for you Jude, I’m sure you know what you are doing and it sounds like the right thing.”

“I do Jude. I can’t wait to introduce you to Millie, I’m sure you will love her too.”

“Oh, I expect you’ll be too busy for us once you start work.”

“I was never too busy for you guys before when I was at work. Why should I be now? Talking of which, can I come over and see you tomorrow? I need to go out and get some boxes and tape today, but I can’t do any more till Millie gets here on Saturday.”

“Are you sure?” Jude’s voice sounded a little more enthusiastic.

“Of course, I’m sure you idiot! Finding Millie again after all these years doesn’t mean that I can’t keep you and Dan as my best friends. Technically speaking, it will be easier to get to you from Millie’s as well. If you’re still keen on coming to see the show, then I’ve got twice as much chance of sneaking you in now that I’m working there.”

Jude’s voice began to take on a whole new tone, and she asked Sarah to tell her about Peter and Marta again. They chatted for a few more minutes and Sarah confirmed her arrival time the following day – after lunch so she could natter to Jude and Dan, see the girls when they came home from school and stay for a bit of dinner. Relieved that things were sorted with Jude, Sarah called Roseanne to say that she would be moving out over the weekend and would put her keys in an envelope, and drop them off when she and Millie left. Roseanne also proved to be a useful source for where Sarah could buy packing materials and who had the best storage facilities.

Armed with this information, Sarah went out and loaded her little car with flat pack boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap and a decent pair of scissors – as Andy had decided the kitchen scissors belonged to him. She also called in at the storage facility Roseanne had recommended, was gratified to find that the mention of Roseanne’s name gave her a 10% reduction, worked out how big a space she would need and arranged to bring her belongings along on Sunday afternoon.

It was dark when she came back, but she could see the unmistakeable shape of Abigail’s car parked a little way down the road. Sarah opened up the garage, and with a little bit of manoeuvring, managed to get her car inside and lock the door so that Abigail couldn’t pry.

Bed that night was very inviting and knowing that she would be seeing Jude and her family the next day, and then Millie was coming down to help her go through things and pack on Saturday made Sarah sleep as sound as a bell.

Breaking Free – Remembering Schooldays

The Chinese takeaway tasted almost as good second time around.  The bottle of Riesling they picked up on the way home vanished very quickly, and it was only the thought that Millie had to go to work the next day that stopped them from opening up a bottle of mulled wine that Millie found lurking in the back of the cupboard from last Christmas.

Sarah had signed the contract before they left the studio. She had agreed to start on Monday morning, on a very respectable salary according to Millie. The hours seemed rather strange compared to her social work hours of nine to five, but having seen a little of the way the aftercare team worked, Sarah understood why there had to be this flexibility.

Slightly tipsy and full of takeaway, Sarah and Millie sat on the sofa, both of them wearing silly smiles, and still a little shell-shocked from the events of the day. When they had returned from getting coffee, Al stopped them in the corridor to confirm that according to airport security Marta was safely on the plane and barking orders at anyone who’d listen.

“They promised me that they wouldn’t offload her unless she actually hit anyone, and all the staff have been briefed to be mega tolerant and get her arrested at Schiphol when they arrive if she plays up too much.” said Al.

“Well, we have some more good news Al.” said Millie. “Sarah is signing the contract and joins the team on next Monday!”

“Brilliant!” said Al, blushing slightly. “I mean, welcome Sarah, it’s really good to have you on board – although I hope we don’t have any more Martas for you to deal with. See you later.”

Millie waited until Al had disappeared round the end of the corridor. “I think you’ve made something of a hit there my dear!  He is one of the nicest men I know, and gorgeous to boot.”

He does have rather gorgeous blue eyes, Sarah thought, and lovely dark hair.  A total opposite to Andy with his pale green eyes, ginger hair held back in a manbun, and silly goatee beard.

She gave Millie a very old-fashioned look. “The last thing I need right now is a man in my life.”

Three hours later, warm, fed and mellow, Sarah had unwelcome thoughts intruding about Marta, and whether she would come back to haunt them all when the programme aired.  Thinking of Marta made her think of Al, and she was stunned to find that those thoughts made her feel rather warm inside. She sat up straight and put the thoughts down to wine and silliness. Millie was looking at her in a peculiar way.

“You were thinking about Al, weren’t you?”


“I may not have seen it since you developed a crush on Steve Horgan leading up to the Graduation Ball, but I’d recognise that little smile anywhere. Now you’re blushing.”

“No, I was just thinking about how glad I was that Dave – and Al – were there to make sure that Marta went home. I wonder if she kicked off when she got off the plane?”

“I doubt it. Peter was telling me that the Dutch police are far stricter than ours are – and Marta knows that. She won’t want to run the risk of getting locked up in her own country. The penalties for what she’s done are fairly hefty.”

“It’s a shame that we couldn’t find out more about her childhood and youth. I know she came over here and married a builder when she was in her late teens, but all she would tell Peter was that her ex-husband was a bad man who beat her.  After all she said, he might just have been a really nice man who wasn’t prepared to put up with her lying and fantasies. Anyway, enough of Marta. I need to start packing up my stuff. Are you sure I can stay here for a while Millie?”

“Of course. You go home tomorrow and start sorting out the stuff you need on a day-to-day basis, and box up the rest. I’ve been meaning to clear out that boxroom for years. Once it’s done, I can move Tom’s stuff in there so that he has a room to come home to. He’ll have to have a single bed again, but a double bed is a luxury for a teenager anyway. I’ll drive over on Saturday, between us we can take the boxed-up stuff to a storage unit, and then on Sunday we can bring the rest of your staff back here and get you settled in.”

“Abigail will go bonkers. I don’t think I’ll tell her where I’m staying.”

“What about your post?”

“I don’t get much. I’ll get it redirected to here in the meantime if that’s okay? I’m sure Roseanne can deal with any post that turns up before the redirection starts. To be honest, the only post I’ve had since I left work have been Andy’s postcards. I’d imagine that Abigail gets identical postcards and reads them over and over.”

“And you don’t?”

“Good Lord no! Andy is a sweet man but he writes the most boring postcards ever. Oh, did you just hear what I said? For the first time in seven weeks; I actually referred to Andy as a ‘sweet man’ I must have stopped disliking him then.”

“And that means?”

“I’m over him – after ten years. It’s funny though – you mentioning Steven Horgan – I never felt about Andy the way I felt about Steven Horgan. All through my final year I dreamed about being in his arms at the Graduation Ball. I should hate him if I hated any man. He copped-off with Amy Loomis and I never saw him again.”

“Amy Loomis! She was such a floozy. She’d worked her way through most of the people we knew by the time we got to the ball. I wonder why she left Steven till last?”

Sarah pulled a face. “Because she knew that I was after him. Every time I let it be known that I liked someone – Amy was in there – sitting on their laps, big hugs and kisses. ‘Oh, please teach me how to play the guitar/poker/backgammon – you are so clever and I am so silly’.”

“Oh God – that was such a good impression. Amy with her little girl pigtails and big wide eyes.”

“And those satin blouses!”

“And the fake fur coat.”

Sarah leaned over conspiratorially. “I have a confession to make. Do you remember Derek Draper?”

“Class dweeb. I do.”

“He had a bit of an unrequited love thing for me. Followed me everywhere.”

“Then he stopped suddenly – and didn’t he drop out?”

“No, he went to another Uni nearer home. I let slip that I really fancied him, and of course Amy made a play for him. Rumour has it that she actually got him into bed.  It lasted a week – until a mutual friend told her that I’d been lying. Oh my God – that’s a psychopathic tendency!”

Millie roared with laughter. “That was a wonderful moment when you got the researcher checking out the Hare list. I overheard a couple of the runners using it to analyse Oliver.”

“No, Oliver is a pain but he isn’t a psychopath. I wonder what happened to her.”


“Mm. I wonder who she ended up with.”

“Google her.”


“Go on – if you don’t then I will!”

Sarah slowly made her way out to Tom’s room.

“Come on Millie! I’m not doing this on my own!”

“Just a minute, I need to get something first.”

By the time the laptop was up and running, Millie had appeared in the doorway proudly waving their graduation programme. There was no sign of Amy Loomis on Google. Sarah tried Amy Horgan and Amy Draper but the lack of hits made her more relieved than anything.

“Time for bed now, I think. You have to go to work tomorrow and I need to drive home, acquire some large boxes and find out the best rates for storage. Jude will be gobsmacked when I tell her.”

“She’ll be pleased for you though?”

“Oh yes, all the time we were working together she kept telling me to leave Andy and get a better job. She’s always been polite to him, but she didn’t like the way he stopped me from doing things.”

“That’s the thing that I’m most confused about. You are an incredibly intelligent woman, you have remarkable insight into other people’s issues, so why did you let yourself get stuck in such a rut?”

It was a question that Sarah had been asking herself over and over since Andy left.

“I lost all my confidence when Dad died. Andy was there and he picked up the pieces, he supported me and as I began to feel better in myself, I also felt that I couldn’t manage without him. That’s the way it started in the beginning anyway and we grew apart over time until it was a strange kind of companionship. Before you ask – yes, we did do it, to start off with anyway – then it became mechanical and after that non-existent. A peck on the cheek, a little hug; I got tired of my overtures being snubbed. I often wondered if he was gay – or at least bisexual. Or maybe it was me – I just didn’t turn him on. I hope he sorts that side of himself out in Thailand.

“Oh no! We’re back to ladyboys again.”

“Goodnight Millie! Do you want the bathroom first or shall I?”

“I’ll dive in first then you can take your time. Do you want me to wake you up before I go?”

“No, I’ll be awake. See you in the morning.”

Millie hugged her and was gone.

Sarah sat back down at her laptop and did a few more searches until Millie yelled that she was finished in the bathroom.

Curling up in Tom’s bed, still a little happy from the food, the wine and the success of the day, Sarah smiled to herself as she pulled the duvet up round her ears and wondered what Andy was doing.

It was thinking of Al that banished Andy from her mind however

Breaking Free – Gainfully Employed

It was with a great surge of relief that Sarah followed the two security guards back to the car.

“Umm. Do you mind if I sit in the back Sarah?” said Dave. “I’m used to driving and Al’s driving makes me feel sick.”

“Not a problem.” said Sarah, “I prefer to sit in the front if I’m not driving anyway.”

Dave made himself comfortable and Sarah got in next to Al. He smiled, a little shyly for such a large and imposing man. He did drive a bit fast but she didn’t mind that, and it was nice to sit back and relax after all the rushing around.

“Do you think that she’ll come back?” asked Al.

“I’m afraid so.” said Sarah. “She as good as told me that she would. I have a bad feeling about that woman; she seems to have little remorse for what she’s done, and although she expresses concern for her son, she is the only person in her life that she cares about.”

“Airport security said that they would confirm once she was on board the plane.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll go home today but I think she’ll come back again. She’s looking for another source of easy money, and now that she can’t blackmail Peter, she may target someone from the show.”

“We’ve been careful. There have been at least two people with her all the time except for between eleven last night and eight this morning. There was a CCTV camera outside her room though, and she didn’t know where Peter and his friends were staying.”

Sarah grinned. “Hopefully she’ll content herself with suing Security at the airport for manhandling her and disregarding her human rights.”

“Phew, I got between her and Oz at one stage, but never put a finger on her – and it was all on camera anyway.”

“I think she may try and blackmail the producer by alleging that we have told lies about her, and the final edit has made her look bad. That’s not going to happen until she gets to see the episode though. Do they have it in Holland?”

“Probably, but we do send out a DVD of their episode sometimes.  Depends on their contract. Talking of which, are the rumours true that you’re coming to work with us?”

Al was smiling as he drove and cast a sidelong glance at her, she smiled back taking in a deep breath.

“I think I might accept the offer – if the terms are agreeable. I need to find somewhere to live as well. I can’t keep crashing at Millie’s on a permanent basis.”

“You don’t live up here then?”

“No, I’m about 17 miles away, but my partner and I broke up about seven weeks ago and the house is being sold, so it makes sense to move to the city if I’m going to be working here. I love Millie’s flat. It has incredible views. That’s what I’d like because it is so different to what I’ve been looking at for the past ten years. I saw some lovely old mill buildings that have been converted to flats.”

“I’m sorry about – you know – you and your partner.” Al looked a little embarrassed.

“Don’t be. We’ve been drifting along aimlessly for years. The past seven weeks have been the most exciting since I graduated from Uni with Millie.”

There was a comfortable silence whilst Al negotiated the busy city streets and drove into the underground car park at the rear of the studios.  Sarah couldn’t help but cast a few sidelong glances at her companion.  Very tall, dark hair kept short, clean shaven, and she had a feeling that his eyes were blue. Very blue.  She must remember to look more closely when she had the chance.

“Wake up Dave, we’re home.” said Al.

“What! Has she come back? Where are we?”

A very drowsy Dave came back to the world of the wide awake. “Oh, we’re back. Do you think Oz needs both of us to go to the mop up session? I’m liable to fall asleep again and I could do with something to eat.”

“I have to take Sarah along anyway, so I’ll go. You owe me one though.”

“Cheers, mate. Welcome aboard Sarah.”

Dave headed off to the cafeteria, and Al led Sarah upstairs to another meeting room. He knocked first then opened the door for her. The room was smaller than the meeting room she had been in that morning. All heads turned to the door as she and Al walked in. Oliver grinned.

“Tell me that she’s no longer our problem? Please?”

Al and Sarah looked at each other and grimaced. With a nod of her head, Sarah indicated that she felt Al should report back first.

“We saw her go through to security and the guards there picked her up. They said they would phone in once she was safely on the plane. The plane is due to depart in about an hour’s time.”

“Do you think she’ll get on the plane, or will she escape security?”

“I told them that although she wasn’t a terrorist, they should use her to practice their high security techniques on. Sarah has a theory about what she might try to do next.”

“Come on Sarah, I have a contract ready and waiting for you to read and sign.” said Oliver with a wink to Millie.

“Thank you. I think she will go back to Holland on the plane. They’ve reserved a nice seat with plenty of legroom for her, and she knows she’ll get free food and drink on the trip. At the moment she has more to gain by returning home than she does by absconding. “

Oliver beamed. “Excellent!’

Sarah shook her head. “I’m not so sure. She hugged me goodbye, and said that she would be back, that she never gave in. I need to check it out but I’ve a feeling that she may be a borderline psychopath.”

“Flippin’ heck!” said one of the runners who had spent most of the day with Marta having met her at the airport when she flew in the day before.

“Tell me more, Sarah?” said Oliver.

“I’d need the Hare twenty-point check list to be sure. I don’t carry it with me.”

Without needing to be asked, one of the researchers was already checking for the list on the Internet.

“Got it!” he cried triumphantly and passed the tablet over to Sarah. She read through the list a couple of times before saying anything.

“Bear in mind that all of us may have two or three of these tendencies but a true psychopath will have them all. A couple of them are linked to a past history of offending and I can’t check that out, but looking at some of the others ……”

“Come on Sarah!” said Oliver, craning over to see what was on the list.

“Right, if I read out the tendencies that I’ve spotted from the research notes, and from meeting her, let me know at the end if you agree? She appears charming, has a very good opinion of herself, gets bored easily, and is attention-seeking. She tells lies and believes that they are the truth, is cunning and manipulative, shows no remorse for her actions, doesn’t appear to have a typical reaction to usual emotions, has a complete lack of empathy with others, is parasitic, has no control over her behaviour, and can be promiscuous with a variety of different partners, is impulsive, irresponsible, can’t accept responsibility for her own actions, and lives in a fantasy land.”

“You said there were twenty.” said the researcher.

“I did, but the others relate to early behaviour difficulties, juvenile delinquency, and any prison history.  Hey, seventeen out of twenty is scary enough. We could contact Peter and check if she ever told him about her childhood, but given her ability to fabricate and believe her own lies, I wouldn’t think she would have told him the truth anyway. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think she is liable to kill anyone, but she is fully able to wreck lives and careers. I think there will be repercussions once the show goes out. In her fantasy, she is attractive, intelligent, charming, and totally in the right. From what I saw this morning, that is not the image that the public is going to get of her.”

Jenny leaned forward. “Should we scrap the show? It would be a shame to. It really was good.”

“You have a moral obligation to Peter to let him clear his name but I really won’t be surprised if you get bombarded with threats – does she have anyone’s email address?”

Several of the researchers nodded and began to look very worried. Sarah tried to be reassuring.

“Check the content of any correspondence you’ve had with her. Al tells me that no one was left alone with her, so there is no chance of allegations about anything untoward happening. Believe me though, if there is a chink in the armour, she’ll find it.”

“How come you know so much about psychopaths Sarah?” asked Oliver. “I thought you were a social worker?”

“I am, but I spent six months attached to the forensic social work department and got to know quite a few clients with psychopathic tendencies. No one with quite as many as Marta though.”

“I think we need to get legal to go through everything connected to this woman.” said Jenny. “All correspondence is to be brought to me, no matter how trivial, and if anyone remembers any incidents that might be vaguely troublesome, let me know. Thank you, Sarah, your input has been invaluable. If you can stay behind when the meeting ends, I’d like to discuss the possibility of you joining our team permanently.”

Sarah blushed as a rousing cheer went round the table. The cynic in her wondered if the accolade was more for the end of the meeting than for her employment. The other staff filed out of the room, some of the younger runners were already checking out the psychopath tendencies to see how many of their mates would also fit the profile; Millie stayed behind and moved up the table to sit beside Sarah.

“Was she totally horrendous when you left?” asked Millie.

“Not really. I gave her some advice on the way to the airport – pointed out the possible repercussions of refusing to go, the impact on her son and the rest of the family. You know the stuff. I thought she had accepted it until she hugged me goodbye. I really felt chills when she looked me in the eye and said that she would be back.”

“Oh well,” said Jenny “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now for more pressing matters. We’d like to offer you a job on the show in the aftercare team with Millie. I have to say that we were very impressed with your CV. Miles handed it over very reluctantly; said he could have found employment for you a dozen times over – but those would have been temporary whereas this is a permanent contract – subject to performance of course – but that is put in everyone’s contract. You’ll find that the pay scale is quite generous, certainly above par with your previous post and there are various perks, but I’ll let Millie explain those to you. “

Sarah sat in a daze. Things were happening so fast. She looked at Millie with an expression of barely disguised terror.

“Jenny, would you mind if Sarah and out went out to have a coffee and look through the contract – just to give her a bit of time out.”

“Of course, Millie, take all the time you need but I’d be grateful if you could get back to me before the end of the day.”

Jenny left the room, and Sarah felt her hand shaking as she sat there trying to focus on the contract.

“Come on mate, we’ll go and hit the coffee shop where I first spotted you. You look like you need some sustenance, and our cafeteria will be full of researchers and runners trying to work out whether they are psychopaths or not.”

Sarah allowed herself to be led back to Millie’s office, where she picked up her coat and handbag. The wind was quite bitter as they walked across the concourse to the half-empty coffee shop. A very sweet and strong latte restored Sarah’s equilibrium but Millie was careful not to start in too quickly.

“First things first – what is worrying you.” she said.

“Umm – can I do the job? Where will I live? When will I start? Can I cope with Abigail’s glee when she finds out that I’m moving out? That sort of thing really.”

“Number one – of course you can do the job. There will be things that you need to learn about working in media, but you’ll soon pick those up. Number two – you can stay with me as long as you like. I can clear out the boxroom, put Tom’s stuff in there for now, and you can make his room your own for as long as you need it. Number three – they were asking if you could start next week, but that has to be negotiable considering that you have things to wrap up with Andy’s house. Number four – leave telling Abigail until the last minute. You can rely on Roseanne not to tell her. If you have too much stuff to bring here, I can come over at the weekend and we can put your non-essentials into storage. There! Have I banished your problems?”

“Looks like it.”

“Come on then, drink up your coffee, and we’ll go and put Jenny out of her misery. You did so well today Sarah. You may not realise it but you’ve probably saved the company a huge amount of hassle, not to mention the money. Fancy coming home with me again tonight – we can finish off the takeaway?”


Walking back to the studios, Sarah felt very proud of her accomplishment, terrified but proud.