Crying is not an emotion I tend to share; I generally keep myself to myself and even then do little to deal with them. My best friend Chloe, God rest her soul, had departed this world as if in a puff of smoke. I felt aggrieved that I had not spent more time with my friend, there was so much I didn't know about her new life. Chloe was a Fundraising Executive. She was constantly following world disasters, droughts, tsunami's, earthquakes, you name it Chloe was always at the centre of chaos. I often thought how so much different to Chloe I was. Quiet, reserved, not an ounce of the confidence Chloe portrayed and yet I knew her as softly spoken, fiercely angry with the human race, insecure. All this before she became consumed with saving the world.
In her part time apartment in London I felt suddenly wary, uneasy, nothing about this apartment resembled my friend. The flat recently renovated was showroom perfect. No pictures, no laundry, toothpaste not used. If she had been home for two weeks it most certainly was not here. Chloe’s wardrobe contained one hold all, a rainproof Mac, shoes and a framed picture of her and me graduating.
My own job as a Corporate Advertising Executive meant that Chloe and I usually met in the cafe at Knightsbridge. We were usually in a hurry, Chloe for a plane and I for a meeting. I would catch my reflection in the coffee shop window wishing for something more..... What it might be like to dash across the world co-ordinating, prioritising, ultimately saving lives, and then I would dismiss my reflection with all the excuses I could find not to be so adventurous.
I had flown over from Ireland to finalise her affairs. I’m not sure what it is I am supposed to do, it is all so urgent and rushed. Where has she been for the last two weeks? Where are all her belongings?
It’s late and I make a mental note to see her lawyer in the morning. Returning to my hotel in the dismal rain my eyes find their tears and I am immediately filled with a sense of grief not only for my friends’ untimely death but for the little she seems to have left behind. Bereft of parents since she was nine I was her only true friend. There are no children I know of and her last relationship ended because she was never in one place long enough for him to propose. In short, she couldn’t stand still for long and her job was the love of her life. Soaked with rain the desk clerk did not notice the tears, I accepted the key, tagged my door with a do not disturb sign and ran a hot bath.
Another mental note, I find myself doing that allot lately, buy an umbrella. I ordered dinner up and listened to the news. I turned my attention to the hold all and was struck with overwhelming sadness. Common sense told me she had put her belongings into storage and I was being silly. I would get all my answers in the morning and be back on the next plane home.
Opening the hold all I removed the matt red stilettos, typical Chloe. I tried one on and pondered, quite simply pondered. I removed the Mac and checked the pockets. War Time Red lipstick, her favourite, she never went out without it. Chloe always said a bit of lippy can make it look like you made an effort. Smiling I try it on and tip my imaginary cap to Chloe, ‘girl that is striking!’ The picture of the two of us together made me smile. I didn’t have a copy. So many years ago and yet in my mind as fresh as the day it was taken. I lay on the bed with the picture in my hands and drifted back to graduation day.
My mobile woke me it was Ireland wondering what flight I was returning on. I had no idea so agreed to call them late morning. I called the lawyer and agreed to meet at 11.00. I picked the picture up from the floor and felt something on the back of the frame. Tracing over it with my finger it felt like a key and it was wrapped in something. I eased of the brown backing paper and gently removed the small paper wrapped parcel. It was a piece of newspaper concealing a small key. I turned the paper over all the time wondering why Chloe would conceal it.
I met with the lawyer promptly. Seems he didn’t know much about her personally. He was able to inform me there was a garage she had recently moved some of her belongings to temporarily, a letter I was to read alone and a request to take her ashes back home. Having come from her funeral I was not sure how I could do this.
I went to the cafe we usually met at in Knightsbridge intrigued by the instruction to read the letter alone. And the key, it was hot in my pocket were I had constantly traced the outline on my way for that coffee. Sat in a corner, flat white in front of me, my hands trembled as I played with the letter. For a mille second I imagined myself as a spy and then dismissed it as quick as the silly thought entered my head. Smiling I hurried as I opened the letter.
The key fell from the envelope. Chloe had uncovered a plot by Money Wizards and as her only friend in the UK my life was in danger. I was to pack a suitcase and follow her instructions to her last destination. I was to lay low until someone met up with me there and help me map out a new identity, new life.