Primrose and I want to get married, but we can't. We haven't got any money. Even if we were married and lived together it would cost more money than we have.
Working as the Curate to the Parish of “St Swithins within” and “St Swithins without” I receive a little pocket money and a free single room in the vicarage. And a single room it is, room for my huge pile of books, a tiny desk and a small bed – that's it.
Primrose, my darling fiancée, is a trainee Teacher at the local school. She has a room, it costs almost nothing, even smaller than mine. So we have to wait until we both get better paid jobs – Primrose says that it is worth waiting for. This fills my heart with joy.
Although the pay is poor there is plenty of work in the parish – services, weddings, funerals, prayer groups, visits to the sick and dying, Sunday schools, and more and more. Without the help from the Vicar's wife and of course from Primrose, the Vicar and I would sink. Primrose has a full-time job, but plays the organ in church and helps with visits to old people and schools and still finds time for me.
The Vicar is helpful to the two of us, he lends us his car, and we go for trips in the countryside. Sometimes we take the Vicar's two young children with us, to the woods, the zoo, along the river. Oh, happy days! Sometimes we babysit the two children in the Vicarage.
We know the two young children well, Alice and Christopher, but not the other two. The eldest, Mary, is far away studying to be a, oh, I've forgotten. John is a fifteen-year-old problem. He is always playing computer games and we never see him much. He doesn't like us, he doesn't like the church, he doesn't like anything much. He is difficult, we pray for him.
One evening in the Vicarage we had put the two young ones to bed and had made ourselves cosy in front of the TV and were watching a very nice program. We did not know that John had come home until we heard ten year's worth of swear words in ten seconds at high volume from John's room.
He ran into the room, still swearing, his TV had exploded, perhaps he had thrown a remote controlled brick at it, right in the middle of his favourite crime program. He dumped himself on the sofa between Primrose and me, switched the TV to the crime program, and turned the volume up.
Primrose and I said nothing, we were a bit shocked. We are also tolerant and sometimes you just have to learn or experience something new, even if it hurts. It did hurt, it was loud, it was violent, it was unreal.
No scene was longer than two seconds, it was terribly confusing. I think it was about kidnapping. A young girl was taken away and hidden in a locked room. She was tied and taped up for days. It was no fun at all, but John enjoyed it.
When it was finished I said to John, it's not like real life, is it? Oh, yes, he said. That's what real life is like, even in this dump of a town. You'll see! He jumped up, left the room and banged the front door shut.
Two days later I received a text message from Primrose in the middle of the morning. This was unusual. We often send each other messages, it is not so expensive, my mobile telephone belongs to the parish and Primrose's was a present from her parents. We were both normally very busy at this time.
meet me scool gate at 11
It was an odd message, but I went to the school gates at 11 o'clock but she was not there. I tried to phone her but no answer. An hour later:
go 2 square at 1
She wasn't in the Town Square either, though I waited an hour, her phone was switched off, strange! Was someone watching me? Then:
meet me station now
I went to the bus station and:
look in garbage
Just next to me was a big rubbish container, I was just walking past it, somebody was watching me, I was sure. It was empty except for a paper bag. I reached for the bag. Did I feel a fool diving into the bin! In the bag were all Primrose's papers, ID, purse, driving license, and a picture of me. This reminded me of something, but what? Her phone was still off-line, what should I do?
I phoned the Vicar, he said to try the Police and keep calm.
The Police didn't want to know, she's just playing with you, just a bit of fun. I told them that I may be the Curate, but I'm not too serious, but Primrose was not that sort of girl. Then:
get money redy or i will b killd #primros
This was definitely not Primrose's style, she never wrote primros without an e, always pv for Primula vulgaris. I was taken to Inspector Jones, a young man, who asked me many questions. He said that it was serious and I put my phone on his desk.
The Vicar phoned; the school had phoned him to ask where Primrose was; she had not been seen at the school all day. Where was she?
There were no more messages or calls that day; the Vicar and the Vicar's wife were very comforting to me; I slept badly; I dreamt of bad TV programs. Where was Primrose?
The Police, that is Inspector Jones, told me to go about my work as usual, but to report secretly to them whenever something happened. I tried to do my work, today was visiting day, but who was following me? And where was Primrose?
At the Police station this message arrived:
get 10000 redy or end of primros
After this I did not want to do anything. So what did I do? When I need to think, to pray and ask questions, by myself, I climb to the top of Swin, the bell tower of “St Swithins within”. From this little room, just big enough for two people, you can see all over the town and the fields beyond. It is a good place to pray and think, for me anyway. Where was Primrose?
I was deep in my thoughts when I heard someone coming up the stairs, very quietly but fast. Who? It was Inspector Jones. He had been following me. Perhaps I had hidden Primrose in the bell tower. Perhaps I had done something nasty to Primrose.
No, I said, there is no room here for anybody else, but I do understand that you might have thought that way. You have to expect the worst in your job, you learn that fast, I am sure, but it is the same in mine. But that is just one side of the story. We expect the worst, but but but, at the same time we hope for the best. But, but...
But what? said Inspector Jones.
There, I said, look at the top of the school. It has a flat roof and on the roof is a small wooden hut. You can't see it from the ground, only from up here. I think it is used to hold old furniture, but but but, I've never seen it with curtains before.
Curtains, said Inspector Jones, curtains, they are not curtains, they are old blankets. What is going on there?
I have never run down those stairs so fast in my life, though Inspector Jones was faster. We were up on the roof of the school in no time. Inspector Jones kicked the door in and there was Primrose, tied up with duct tape, just like in that awful TV program. We freed her by cutting the tape. What was the first thing Primrose could say?
I'm hungry, she cried. I had nothing to give her, I felt so unhappy about it. Inspector Jones pulled his sandwiches out of his pocket and made her happy.
The Police found nothing, no finger prints, no evidence, no one came, end of story. But not for Inspector Jones, we became the best of friends, we help each other in our work, and I have even persuaded him to come to church.
And Primrose, I'm so proud of Primrose, she did not lose her nerves, I knew you would come, she said. It was I who panicked. The Vicar said that these things are sent to try us; but always hope for the best.