Sat here on a Saturday morning, trying to think of something to write for my blog post, my mind was blank. After a night of The Raven Boys type dreams (always the danger of reading a powerful book at bedtime) I couldn’t pull together a story. I started flicking through my Reader, catching up on my favourite bloggers, like Miss Fanny P, looking for inspiration.
And then I came across a post that stopped me like a punch to the stomach. On Wednesday this week, over the border in Scotland, a three year old boy went missing from his first-floor flat, some time between bedtime and morning. The kind of story that twists inside you as a parent and makes you rush to hug your child.
I’ve been following the story with latent hope, as the people of Edinburgh poured out in their hundred to search for the missing boy. As is usual in such circumstances, we discussed whether our children could leave the house by themselves (they could) and whether there was more to the story than a boy running away from home (it seems there possibly was).
So, when I saw in my Reader this post by a resident of Scotland, whose children were involved in the search for the missing boy, I felt physically sick. We all want a story to have a happy ending. As an author (an author who lives for the HEA) I can’t bear a story that doesn’t end as I think it should. One that involves the death of a small child is the worst there is.
It’s not the only story that has wrenched at me this week. There’s the case of a child who died within hours of their first day at nursery, or Jordon, the autistic boy who locked his mother in the house and disappeared on 9th January.
The latter story, like the story of the missing three-year old boy in Edinburgh, was one I discovered first on Facebook. I always share missing people or pets messages because Social Media ought to be good for something. In the case of Jordon, the story had a happy ending, with the boy being found alive and well. But during my internet search to see if he was okay, I discovered another dozen stories of missing children found dead.
They haunt me, these stories. Not just as a parent, imagining something happening to one of my children (which I can’t imagine, or I’d never let them leave the house again). I think of the families blown apart. The scars that won’t heal. The blame, the recriminations, the guilt. Of all the people touched, all the people searching with hope in their hearts. The policeman holding back tears as he breaks the terrible news. The assumptions that will be made, as the authorities search for the truth.
Mostly I think about the mother (who is often the first one questioned). I no longer judge mothers. No matter what we see from the outside, we have no idea and we must not judge. I am sure there are evil people in the world, but there are just as many desperate, overwhelmed, frightened people and we cannot know the truth of their lives.
As a writer, I live these stories with full emotion. It isn’t just a news story, it’s life in all its messy detail. There aren’t heroes and villains, winners and losers. Just the complicated horrible terrible beauty and tragedy of life. And it’s why I write love stories, women’s fiction, journeys of self discovery. The world needs hope and Happily Ever After. It needs to make sense of life and wrap up the loose ends, to have themes and symbolism and resolution.
Because life doesn’t. Life has sadness and questions and fear. It has grieving families and worried parents. We’ll all hug our little ones just a bit tighter today, and maybe we’ll look for escape in a book. I know I will.