Karan O’Keefe’s life is based around fund raising. An orphan as a child, from the age of eighteen he has focused his time on persuading people to part with a portion of their salaries. By way of direct debit, into the coffers of various charities. And he arranges events, such as today’s fundraiser for Human Rights in front of the Town Hall, Old Market Square, Nottingham. Which hasn’t gone well. Constant rain closed the live music stage half-way through at midday and Karan was let down by his door person. Which meant loads of people got in free. It was three quid entry into the pop-up festival arena. It has a creche. The entry fee was to be the main source of income. People put loose change into the buckets, mind. But these buckets don’t seem particularly heavy. A shit day, really.
Now, at three o’clock, his ex-girlfriend shows up. Beth was the love of Karan’s life. Or so he thought, four years ago. That was when they broke up. Since then he has struggled to get her out of his head, really.
He could always sense when she was near, without needing to actually see her. A sixth sense. He just got this feeling again. He turns around. As she approaches, dressed head to toe in black, she appears pale and gaunt. Her pink bobble hat seems far to big for her head. It’s like she has lost weight.
He has just began to think of other things, too. He’s moved on a little.
Karan nods, and smiles suspiciously. ‘Beth.’
She smiles back. She really does look thin. Beth looks to her right, sniffs and gets straight to the point. ‘That boy, playing over there in your creche, is your son.’
A pause. She was always blunt, not one to waste words, people told her.
‘How can it be? We broke up four years ago.’
Another pause. Another sniff. The rain is dripping off the tip of her nose.
‘He arrived eight months after we broke up.’
‘Who is that he is with?’
‘Josh. My boyfriend.’ Again, no words wasted.
‘Why didn’t you tell me before?’
‘I was mad at you. You put your charity work before me every day. So I left you. Another pause. ‘Then my life hit the skids.’
‘I got kicked out by my parents when I found out I was pregnant. I was still mad at you. I immediately met Josh, he let me live with him. We kind of drifted together. Then I got cancer.’
Karan’s eyes are wide open, and he looks at the boy in the creche.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Not really. My chemo is finished and I still have the cancer and it’s spreading.’
Karan can’t believe it. At three o’clock, he was having a shit day. By ten past three, he has been reunited with Beth. Who has a child. Apparently by him. She has a new boyfriend. And cancer.
‘You and Josh are the best two people I’ve ever come across. Josh has been so good to me, and you only ever want to help people. However much it pissed me off back then.’ She smiles almost apologetically.
Karan puts his box of soggy Amnesty International leaflets on a bench and sits. Beth puts her hand on his shoulder.
‘Do you believe me?’
‘Do I have any reason not to?’
Beth gives a half, but sincere smile. She has deep hazel eyes.
‘Does Josh know about me?’
‘Yes. He knows about our history, my cancer obviously and that Eddie is your’s.’
Beth crouches down so her eyeline is level with Karan’s.
‘If the cancer beats me, it’s not fair to expect Josh to bring Eddie up on his own.’
Karan nods silently.
‘I was hoping we could all get together. To talk.’
Karan gulps, and runs his wet hand through his wet hair.
‘I know this must be a lot to take in. If we get on, should you agree to a get together, I’d love you to help Josh with Eddie.’
‘What, like…two Dads?’
Beth smiles. Weakly this time, and with desperation. She finally nods in confirmation.
‘ I don’t know what to say to that,’ Karan replies.
‘Here’s my number Karan. And address. Take a little time and get in touch if you can.’
Karan looks Beth right in the eye. The phone number is different to the one he has for her. No wonder she never replied to the hundreds of texts he has sent her over the past four years.
‘Don’t be too long though, I may not have that much time.’
‘You might, Beth.’
A tear appears in the corner of her eye, and escapes down her cheek. It merges with the rain.
‘I’m not sure, Karan.’ She kisses Karan’s cheek, gets up and heads towards the creche. Karan watches her every frail step.
He watches Josh greet her with an outstretched arm. Eddie runs towards his Mummy, shouting out as only a three year old can. The creche has great toys, apparently.
Karan was an orphan. It was tough. There is no way he wouldn’t help Eddie. And he would always do anything Beth wanted him to do. Even after all this time.
Charity isn’t just Karan’s job. He cares. Too much at times. It lost him Beth. But it is his best trait.
Luckily for little Eddie.
Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ has recently been completed. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.
Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This will focus on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.