Jamie McEntee’s Life as an Innocent Bystander
5 a.m. on a Monday morning in mid-January, Jamie wakes up to a gray sky, dim streetlights showing him his way around. Groggily, he puts on a pair of faded dark blue jeans and a long-sleeved black t-shirt with the A/X logo on the upper left side. On his way to the bathroom he trips over some books scattered all over the floor, some of the titles read “The American Short Story”, “All Quiet on The Western Front”, “Great Victorian Railway Journeys”, “Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You: A Guide to the Universe”, “Le Rose nere di Firenze”, “An Unsocial Socialist”, and “The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language”. He picks up an old volume of Joyce’s Ulysses and throws it on the unmade bed, he stares at it absentmindedly, sighs and walks out of the room. Looking at his reflection in the mirror he combs his dark chestnut hair with his fingers, pushing it aside to keep it away from his sleepy evergreen eyes. He splashes cold water on his face and dries his hands on his jeans, walking briskly towards the kitchen, forgetting to turn the bathroom lights off.
He pours himself a cup of old coffee, heating it in the microwave, despite his better instincts not to do so. Jamie takes the white envelope he left on the counter the night before, opening it with his free hand while taking a sip of coffee, burning his tongue. With the taste of burnt dirt still on his mouth he empties his cup on the sink, eating the last two jaffa cakes left in the box. He takes the letter and reads it. It’s the itinerary the company sent him so he’ll be in time for the activities of the day. It is his first paid job as a writer and, even though he dislikes waking up at the crack of dawn, he’s excited to start this adventure. He reads the name on the envelope, Mr. Jamie S. McEntee, before folding it in two and putting it on his back pocket, taking his keys and leaving his flat in West Kensington –a graduation present from his parents– the bathroom lights still on.
On his way to Heathrow Airport Jamie checks he has everything in order: wallet? Check. Plain tickets? Check. Passport? He places his right hand on his chest, feeling the small rectangle inside the left breast pocket of his charcoal Diesel jacket. As the taxi drives down the M4 and as they cross over Heston Road a twenty-something-year-old-girl jumps at them from a short metal railing at the side of the road, the driver swerves violently and the girl lands on the hood of the car, rolling to the floor before getting to her feet and forcing the back door open, sliding in next to Jamie and ordering the driver to start the car. As the driver does what he’s told and gets back into the M4, Jamie moves farther away from the blonde girl with the dark eyes and blood stained lips, fidgety hands folded on his lap as she looks behind them and commands them to go faster. Not wanting to call much attention to himself, Jamie pulls out his iPhone and tries texting his best friend Anna Lorris, but to no avail, the message ends up saying “hrlp loomitiv in tazi n4 cakk the bill”.
Suddenly the girl breaks down in sobs, her small and frail frame shaking uncontrollably. The driver looks quizzically at him from the rearview mirror urging him to do something about it. Jamie takes an unopened water bottle from his Superdry Aviators haversack and hands it to the girl who takes the bottle without meeting his eyes. After a few minutes of self-soothing, the girl turns to Jamie and pleads in a small voice “Please, don’t let him get me.”
“What?” Jamie asks unsurely, scratching his arm nervously. A tear runs down the rosy cheek of the delicate-looking girl, and Jamie reaches forward trying to wipe the tear but the girl flinches away from him. He notices a bruise at the back of her neck, the shape of fingers printed on her skin in greens and faded yellows. “What’s your name?”
“Lille Fairchild,” The girl stutters, looking younger by the second. Jamie smiles at the sound of her name, it seemed to fit her perfectly.
“Hi Lille, I’m Jamie McEntee,”He introduces himself, extending his hand, which she takes hesitantly and shakes slightly. “How can I help you Lille?”
The girl’s eyes widen, shining ochre under the morning lights, full of hope and then helplessness.
“Just let me go wherever you go, I promise I won’t get on your way.” She says solemnly.
“Well, I’m actually headed to the airport. I’m going to Cebu on a business trip.” Jamie says apologetically, bracing himself for the girl’s disappointment and probable follow-up tears. But she only says “That will do.”
As they turn into the Heathrow Airport parking lot they realize someone’s waiting for them, a tall man with broad shoulders, looking like a hooligan. Lille shrieks in horror as the man approaches the car, and Jamie, without thinking it twice, opens the door opposite from him and smashes it on the man’s face, tripping out of the car.
“Ger Out,” The driver orders angrily, fed up with the day’s events, and starts throwing Jamie’s stuff out of his car. Lille picks them up frantically and takes Jamie by the right elbow, helping him to his feet while at the same time trying to pull him away from the man on the floor. The taxi speeds away, the man stands up, and though Lille is halfway to the door, Jamie is still feet behind. The monstrous beast of a man sizes Jamie by the jacket and pins him to a car, and as the man pulls out an army knife Jamie sees his twenty-six years of life flash in front of him. Finally, as a last act of providence, Jamie takes his old copy of Ulysses from his haversack, the one he almost left on top of his bed that morning, and takes a swing at the man’s head, knocking him backwards.
The Airport’s security guards come running at Lille’s hysterical cries for help, and she tells them what happened with Jamie and the man in that parking lot, as they pull Joe –that turns out to be the man’s name– up and into an ambulance which takes him to the nearest medical faculty and into casualties while being escorted by five police men.
Lille hugs Jamie tightly against her and kisses him softly on the cheek, thanking him wholeheartedly for saving her from her boyfriend’s unjustified wrath. Crimes of passion or who knows what, but facts are facts and Jamie McEntee is no longer an innocent bystander but a hero. Lille Fairchild’s heroe.
–Adriana Martinez Traslosheros.