FWR tells a tale ghostly goings on in Jericho Lane
Now I lay me down to sleep.
Jonathon was a nice kid. Schoolwork always handed in on time, polite almost to a fault and a willing, if not very talented, member of the soccer and rugby teams. All in all, he was an average eleven year old boy, anonymous amongst the hundreds of other kids at school, unremarkable but nice.
Just three things marred Jonathon's anonymity; firstly his hair was so blond it was, in a certain light, almost white, sitting awkwardly on his head like a wonky halo. His close friends had nicknamed him 'Granddad' which Jonathon took in good nature, mimicking a crouched, walking-stick-aided gait whenever he set foot on the playing fields, much to the amusement of his peers and teachers alike.
Secondly, whilst his friends opted for woodwork and metalwork lessons, Jonathon, surprisingly chose Home Economics, stating shyly that he wanted to be a chef when he grew up and travel the world, cooking for the rich and famous in the restaurants of London, Paris and Milan, quite an ambition for a boy from the docklands of North West England.
Finally, Jonathon's normality was to be well and truly shattered in the autumn of his eleventh year, the year in which his father was laid off, the family house repossessed and then that fateful move into a small but pleasantly furnished rented flat.
Within two weeks of the move Jonathon changed. His bubbly personality replaced by lethargy. Regular reports to the Headmaster's office for falling asleep or daydreaming in class became the norm. Jonathon's face took on the pallid, dark eyed mask of an insomniac. His parents offered the excuse that Jonathon had not coped well moving from the family home and was finding it hard to settle in his new bedroom, unfamiliarity giving rise to sleepless nights and frequent nightmares. Worry about his father's unemployment was probably playing on the poor boy's mind, such a sensitive soul.
Jonathon began to ask his friends if he could sleep over at their houses, almost begging to be allowed to stay. Playtimes at school often found him curled up on the brightly coloured asphalt, catching a precious couple of minutes sleep. His diet changed drastically, parents of his friends shocked when he asked for coffee heaped with sugar rather than the juice and milkshakes offered as treats.
Things came to a head when the bruises on his arms were noticed at school. Initially passed off as playground bumps and grazes, the marks were duly noted and a closer eye kept on the troubled boy. When the PE teacher saw the state of Jonathon's back, however, concern escalated. Social Services were contacted and Jonathon and his family were interviewed at length. The unwanted attention made the downward spiral accelerate. Jonathon's physical and mental health were at crisis point, his welfare became a matter for the State and wheels were put in motion to arrange temporary foster care whilst investigations continued into his home life.
The day they found the bite marks and scratches brought everything to a head. Jonathon’s parents were arrested on suspicion of assault. A care home was provided and the school gave the rest of our class a lecture in coming forward with even the slightest evidence of bullying, abuse or victimisation of any pupil or their siblings. Reminding us all that 'you don’t have to suffer in silence, please tell an adult if you know or are experiencing anything like this'. Sadly all too late it seemed for one of our number.
I went to visit Jonathon in his foster home just after his father had been sentenced. We talked in hushed voices about what was happening in school, the latest football results and which boy had kissed which girl. He seemed a little brighter in himself but still carried that haunted look of one forced to face life’s dark side way too young.
I asked if he would be going home soon. Tears filled his eyes. "That is not my home. It’s hers." He said simply, then whispered “people think my Dad is a bad man, he’s not you know. I've tried to tell them about the Lady, but they think I made her up to stop him getting into trouble”. Jonathon hugged his knees to his chest. "My Mum's found us another place now. I’m glad we don’t have to go back there. The Lady doesn't like us living in her house".
With that the visit dwindled into awkward silence. I said my goodbyes and left him rocking to and fro, cheeks wet below that lopsided halo.
Six weeks later another family moved into the pleasantly furnished little flat on Jericho Lane.
In the still of that first night the silence was shattered when the young daughter awoke to find she was not alone under the sheets.
An old lady kicking at her and screaming for her to get out of her house.....