An hour and a half later the few thespians who had stayed late filtered out of the ‘Queens Head’ into the night air, their breath clearly visible as swirls of white dissipated before reappearing again. Hebe and Jackie walked behind Mike and Jason, the others having gone in the other direction toward the bus stop or the Tesco express carpark. Two blocks down and Hebe stopped to say her goodnights, the propped open and broken gate marking the entrance to her parents’ home.
‘Night Hebe, see you next week!’ Mike didn’t pause but kept his head down against the wind and Jason lifted his arm to wave to her ‘Nice to meet you!’ he added, breaking into a jog to catch up with his dad. Mike lived about three blocks further down and presumably Jason would be staying there until he found digs of his own.
‘Do you want a hot chocolate?’ Hebe moved from one foot to another in an effort to keep warm, the tiny sparse gravel crunching beneath the soles of her boots.
‘Nah, its late lovely. You go on in. I’ll catch the boys up and grab a cab I think at Needle corner. Too bloody cold to walk. Night!’ and she was gone, a reducing shape into the gloom. Secretly, Hebe was glad to be able to grab an early night. A hot bath and maybe she’d take her hot chocolate in with her.
* * *
With her hair in a towel, twisted up high on her head Hebe pulled the fluffy yellow dressing gown tightly round her waist, and scolded herself not for the first time for losing the belt. She lay her script for ‘The Fisherman’ out on the bed, or what was left of the well-handled pages and glanced over the green highlighted lines. The play centred around a fictitious harbour during the 1940s, light in headcount due to war years and the lives of the few resident characters attempting to make the best of what life could offer. Eustace and his wife Esme ran the only pub in the harbour, once a thriving trade house for anything coming in off the seas, but now suffering from lack of trade and custom. Eustace liked to fish and had convinced himself there was money to be made from his increasingly frequent trips out in his trawler, much to Esme’s despair who needed him back home to repair windows and plumbing. The script revealed a love-affair between Eustace and a mermaid and his efforts to keep her a secret.
‘I’ve wanted to do a Margo Spalding for years, and now is the perfect time.’ Mike had explained to the group the previous autumn, handing round copies of his script they would be working with. ‘Sadly Margo passed away this summer and lots of companies are adapting her early plays at the moment. I’ve been working on her first play for some time ironically. It was a story I always enjoyed and I’d like to you to take a look now. Vera, are you ok to prompt again?’ he sat back into the leather armchair having clocked Vera’s eager nod, and flicked through his copy of The Fisherman as he went through the parts he had allocated to members.
Mike had gone on to explain the intriguing true story about a family who had gone to a seaside resort back in the 1930s during which time their six year old daughter had gone missing. Although a police search was carried out at the time, a week or two later with their daughter presumed dead, the family had no choice but to return to their lives in the Midlands never to return to the fateful place which had taken their daughter. Hebe and the cast members listened to his description of Margo Spalding, a playwright of high esteem who had written this, her first play, in the 1970s after she had seen a newspaper article covering the story of the unsolved mystery about the family from the Midlands.
Hebe had not heard of Margo, but had became fascinated by her work and discovered that Margo’s original title for her play was ‘The Child from The Sea’. She opened her laptop and googled Margo’s name and scrolled down until she found a list of plays. She found what she was looking for and another link led her again to the source for the play, the very 1970s newspaper article which she took time to read.
Forty years ago in the quaint english harbour of Bosham Hoe, a young girl went missing. Her body never located, her family from the Midlands continued their lives without her. F.B. Boatbuilders, managed by the proprietor Frederick Broomfield for over a decade in the same harbour has this week admitted he is the missing girl’s brother and an ex-minister. He has one son who helps him in the yard and they are presently building a boat which they plan to name “Elsie”.
With goosebumps crawling across her skin, Hebe sent a text to Jackie, ‘What’s Keith surname, do you know it?” and the reply was almost instananeous; “Yeah … its Broomfield”