The roller coaster we've been experiencing since the beginning of the year continued this week when we woke up on Wednesday morning and found that David had gone.
He'd left no note but had taken his rucksack, some food and his sleeping bag. Neither Libby nor Stephanie had any idea where he might have gone and they went through his Bebo site to see if there might be any clues. He had been communicating with lots of people his own age and older, both locally and from across the world. He seemed to have a particularly frequent contact with Bethany, a girl from San Francisco, who had gone through many of the same experiences as David, although she had lost both her parents and was caring for her six year old sister. We discounted any possibility that he might be trying to get there as air travel had been suspended very early in the crisis.
We heard nothing for the rest of that day – I’d decided to wait at home in case he came back but the girls went into school. That night I got a phone call from David in Fife. He had decided to walk to Stonehaven to see his granny. In that instant it all became clear – he didn’t say as much – but I could hear in his voice that he just wanted some normality – his granny had always been very special to him, ever since we used to go and stay with them on their farm outside Stonehaven. David loved going up and staying on with them after we came home: whether it be collecting eggs, picking strawberries, or sitting beside his grandfather as he drove the tractor – he just loved it. He’d never been able to adjust to the death of his grandad, or even worse when the farm was sold and granny had to move into the home in Stonehaven.
It was as if he felt it his duty to look after her. With Graham no longer here he had taken it upon himself to set out and walk to Stonehaven. He’d phoned me from near Perth – and had found an old barn to sleep in for the night. He tried not to show it but he was obviously very scared. He told me his phone was running out of a power but that he would phone me the next day.
I spent all that night trying to find someone who could give me a lift up to Stonehaven but no-one had any petrol. The public transport system was still shut down to prevent spread of infection – a bit late! – and Jennifer couldn’t get access to a police car for a journey of that length. Early on Thursday morning I set off for on foot, leaving Libby and Stephanie to look after each other.
The next two days were like living in some futuristic film. Although the city was a dangerous place, at least the police and army ensured some degree of safety and control. The city was also a very quiet place with so many having left in the early stages of the outbreak and so many others just holed up at home. As soon as you left the city it became a different world. There were campsites everywhere, and burnt out homes seemed to be around every corner. I tried to skirt away from any groups of people but that added miles to my journey. I can’t bring myself to go into the details here but I didn’t get to Stonehaven until Friday afternoon. In the course of my journey which I did without really stopping or eating properly I was nearly raped by a man who said he wanted to help me – he broke my nose (I think) – and had my sleeping bag and mobile phone stolen.
I can’t describe the feeling when I eventually got to granny’s new home and was welcomed by David. I didn’t blame him – it had been my fault – I’d been so focused on myself, the school and how I was getting over Graham and Kristy’s deaths that I’d quite ignored David and Libby just because everything seemed to be alright on the outside.
I’d phoned home last night and Libby explained how Jennifer had been trying to get in touch with me. Superintendent Mike Harper had been in touch with her and explained that I was to be regarded as “key personnel” in my role at the school. She arranged for a police car to take us back to Edinburgh this morning. David said he wouldn't leave his granny and that she had to come home with us or he would be staying with her. It was quite obvious that this was not a matter for discussion - Granny Browning agreed to come with us - she had been separated from her friends when the home had been split up so hadn't anything to leave behind. My only pang of guilt was the fact that we were taking her home and I'd left my own mother alone - on reflection I knew this wasn't really the case as mum would never have left her own home.
We all got back an hour ago and the relief and joy of being home and having the kids with me is wonderful. I’ll not make that mistake again! Sorry.