Things had not been good for a good couple of weeks. New friendships were being made, best friends ever. Talk of moving in with the new friends. Then, spectacular fallouts. Stories of threats and fights. Then nothing. Then a new friend. Tom went to stay with the new friend. I wish I could name this new friend, but I can’t, so will call him Paul. For no reason.
Tom had stayed the Friday night with Paul. He came back anxious, hyperactive, like he was stepping on hot coals all the time. Tom was home on Saturday, but itching to go out. We agreed he would across and see Paul on Sunday, but that he would definitely be home Sunday evening as Tom had an important meeting on Monday morning.
After lunch, Tom left. It was two o’clock. I knew it was around then, as his brother was away for the night and due back, and we had some friends calling in on their way home.
Our friends arrived shortly after two, followed by James, my other lad. James had had a good time away but was tired. Our friends are the type you don’t see for ages, and then you just catch up from where you left off. We caught up on all our news, about our parents, about the kids, about their dogs. They had a look around our new house. It was lovely catching up. We shouldn’t leave it so long. All that. It was lovely to see them.
James was shattered, he went for a bath.
I don’t know how James can stay in a bath so long. He spends HOURS in there. My thoughts are compounded by the fact I hate baths. I just don’t like them. Too hot, then cold, then uncomfortable. Then I can’t get out. Then it’s freezing…Anyway…
We had tea as James was STARVING. I saved some to put in the microwave for Tom when he got back.
It was only seven thirty when I felt that anxious feeling. I don’t know why I get them. They just appear. The heart rate goes up. I get a feeling that something is happening. I got a text message from Tom. He’s stopping out. He will go to his meeting from Paul’s. I reply no, he needs to come home. I can collect him. He replies he is not coming home. He will go to the meeting in the morning. I reply I have said no. It’s final. He replies he will come home, but he will walk.
Paul lives about 45 minutes away when walking, no more. After an hour I call Tom. Straight to voicemail. I text. Nothing.
I leave it a further hour. I ring, voicemail. I text. Nothing.
I find Paul on Facebook – Tom had added him a few days before when he met him. I ask if Tom has set off. He replies, yes a couple of hours ago. I ask Paul to let me know if Tom appears. He said he would.
I call Tom again. Voicemail.
I called the Police support line. I wasn’t reporting him missing, I wanted some advice. The police call handler was lovely. We had a chat. I shared my concerns. How Tom was vulnerable. How he kept meeting new people. How worried I get about him. She stopped me.
“Do you know where Tom is?” She asked.
“No” I replied.
“He’s missing then” She put me through to Police, who took down our details, asked the usual questions. They would come back to me to let me know what the officer in charge was going to do. 5 minutes later, she called back. She was calm and efficient. Yes, they were classing him as missing as a vulnerable young person. They had some details and would start looking around the area. Some officers would come round.
James came down. He couldn’t sleep. I told him I had spoken to the police. They had Tom as missing. They would be coming round. James went to get a blanket. He wrapped himself up on the settee.
“It’s going to be a long night,” he said.
Cars going past the end of the road got less and less. Then they stopped. A cat went past, turning the outside light on. We both looked. It wasn’t Tom.
I called several times. Straight to voicemail. I sent a couple of reassuring texts. Nothing.
I messaged Paul again. No, he hadn’t seen Tom.
It was about 2 am when the police arrived. They came in. They looked concerned. The had looked at our records. They knew the back story. They were pleased we had not needed them for some time. They asked about the chap from The Chat incident. No, we had not had any further contact from him. The police said they would go round anyway. We all sat in Tom’s room. His computer logged straight onto Facebook. The police called Paul. No, he had not seen Tom. The police did not know Paul. Although they were concerned that he would not give his address at first.
Just before they left, the police officer asked, when did I actually last see Tom, two o’clock. I hadn’t seen him for 12 hours.
James and I settled back into waiting and watching. James curled up on the settee. His breathing slowed. He was asleep. I found myself staring at the clock. It didn’t move.
I closed my eyes. I became aware of all the sounds of the house. Faintly, I could hear the clock ticking.
Five o’clock. Nothing.
I phoned the police. They had not found any trace of him. They had been to Paul’s, but it appeared there was no one there. They would continue their search.
Six o’clock. It was light. Cars started to head off to work. I went round the house to empty the bins. It was Monday. Black bin day.
James woke at 7. He was going to college. Would I email his tutor? Would I promise to let him know as soon as heard anything? I would.
8 am James left. The house was empty. Utterly empty.
9 am I tried to call Tom again. I hated the woman who asked if I wanted to leave a message. I absolutely hated her.
Tom was meant to be at his meeting. I called the people running the meeting. No, they had not seen him. Yes, they would let me know if he turned up.
I found myself staring out of the front window. Willing him to come around the corner with that teen swagger.
10 am I called again.
His phone rang. It sounded so loud I nearly dropped the phone. It was ringing. It rang. Then went to voicemail.
I rang again. And again. And again. Each time to voicemail.
Then Tom answered. He was at Paul’s. He’d got lost so he went back there. He was really tired. Yes, he knew he had missed the meeting. No, he didn’t want me to collect him. The phone cut off. It went to voicemail.
I called the police. They would go round to Paul’s.
I went to the dentist. It was a surreal sitting there. Waiting.
A text from Tom asking me to stop sending the police round. I called him. he answered. He was really angry. Paul didn’t like the police coming round. I told him to simply talk to the police. Then they would know he was OK. He hung up.
I went to do a grocery shop. I felt utterly exhausted. Another call from Tom. He would come home that night.
James came home. We had tea. I had a call from Tom. I went to collect him.
He was hungry. He didn’t know why I was fussing so much. The police hadn’t caught him.
I know it wasn’t long for someone to go missing. I know some people go missing and are never found. I don’t know how their loved ones survive.
It was 36 hours since I had seen him.
As always, names have been changed.