top of page


Amelia Pasch

Ron slips his arm round Elizabeth’s waist tilting her chin toward him. ‘You OK with this, love?’

            ‘No I’m not, not really, but we promised Simon, and Jane and Liz have been looking forward to it as well.’

            ‘You’re such a push-over for your grandchildren.’

            ‘Well, like it says on the car sticker ‘If I’d known grandchildren were so much fun I’d have had them first.’’

            ‘OK, when Becky and Ruth arrive we’ll set off.’

            ‘I don’t understand why those two are always late.  They don’t take after us: we’re always punctual: I don’t like it. They drive too fast when they’re behind schedule. Both of them do it. It’s an accident waiting to happen.’

            ‘Stop worrying love. Let’s be happy,. We have a day with the family and horses to watch, what could be better?’

Horses are Ron’s great passion.  When he suggests a family day at the races Elizabeth is as enthusiastic as he is.  Somewhere along the line her enthusiasm simply disappeared.. Now that day is here. Becky, Ruth and the grandchildren arrive five minutes after the arranged time, nine o’clock.  Ruth is driving her husband’s Chelsea tractor, her sister and their children spread all around the seats.

‘Our fella’s have gone to the match in my mini.  It’s easier to park at the Hockey Stadium,’ says Becky.

‘When are the Don’s going to get their own stadium?’ asks Ron

‘When pigs fly,’ says Ruth with a grin. ‘Can we go now?’

            It’s not a long drive to Towcester but the road is busy with weekend traffic including traffic for the racecourse. Ron admires the Land Rovers and horse boxes that he sees en route but Elizabeth is very quiet and subdued.  Attempts at cheering her up are to no avail.  Even the lovely picnic she’s prepared seems to cause her anguish.

            The car park is full.  Well, the weather is perfect for a day out and Arab Horse racing attracts a big crowd.  Ron is directed to the overflow car park and loses sight of the car with the girls and grandchildren in it.  It doesn’t really matter.  They all meet up again at the entrance gate. The grandchildren dance about with excitement ooh’ing and ah’ing at everything they see.  This is their first trip to a race meeting.  This brings a smile to Elizabeth’s face but it’s a sad and wistful smile.  Becky has a horse of her own so she takes more than just a passing interest in those she sees.  Ruth is more interested in the stalls selling country clothes, horse tack and all sorts of related art and craft items.

            Ron leads the way to the saddling enclosure and they watch the grooms with their charges, pampering them until their coats gleam in the sunlight. The grooms are nearly all young girls.  They have neat jodhpurs and shiny black boots with mahogany tops.  Their hair is either in a cowl or pleated like their charges mains.  The jockeys stand to one side while their mounts are prepared for them.  With their racing colours and white breeches the group looks like a flower bed. 

            The first race is announced and Ron has a look at the runners and riders then goes to place his bet.  He somehow feels Elizabeth’s eyes follow him. Turning to wave he sees  a look of despair in them that is almost frightening.  The horse that Ron backs wins the race.

            ‘Told you it would.  Am I a good judge of horseflesh or what?’

            ‘You didn’t help me look for my horse,’ says Becky.

            ‘That’s ‘cause I didn’t think you could afford one.  That man of yours is no millionaire.’

            ‘He does very nicely, thank you.  Anyway, you don’t need to be a millionaire to own a horse.’

            ‘You do to pay the vet’s bills,’ chimes in Ruth.

            The friendly arguing goes on for a minute or two until Elizabeth interrupts.

            ‘I wish you two wouldn’t argue, not now, not today.’

            ‘Sorry Mum.  We’ll try and be nice to each other.  Maybe that’ll cheer you up.’

            Elizabeth turns away.  Her daughters can’t see it, she has tears in her eyes. Ron can see it. Simon tucks his little hand in that of his grandmother.

            ‘Don’t be sad, Nanny.  Mummy and Auntie Becky don’t really mean it.  They love each other really.  And we all love you and Grampa.’

            Elizabeth holds Simon’s hand tightly and turns to the other grandchildren. ‘Liz, Jane, let’s go and see if we can find you some cold drinks to have with the picnic.  I didn’t bring any.  They get so hot in the car.’

             Grandmother and grandchildren wander off. ‘What’s upset Mum so much?’ asks Becky.

            ‘I don’t know. When we went to bed on Wednesday night she was talking as enthusiastically as I was about today but on Thursday morning she wouldn’t talk about it at all.  She didn’t say she wouldn’t come but she certainly isn’t happy.’

            ‘Oh well, maybe she was just worried about whether we would all enjoy it. I not much into horses, at least not like you and Becky.  I like the gear though.’

            Elizabeth comes back with her hands full of cans and bottles.

            ‘Let’s have our picnic now.  Then we can watch some more of the races.  We don’t need to go home too early, let the traffic ease off a bit.  That OK with you, love?’ says Ron

            Elizabeth nods and they all sit down on the grass to eat.  The grandchildren eat everything that’s on offer.  Becky and Ruth eat slightly less but Elizabeth eats nothing at all.  After a while Elizabeth stands and says she’s going to the Ladies room. She’s gone a while. Ron sends Ruth to look for her. They return together and Ron can se that Elizabeth has been crying. ‘Are you OK,’ he asks knowing full well waht the answer will be.

            ‘I’m fine,’ says Elizabeth but it sounds like a lie.

After an afternoon of watching horses race the family are ready to go home. ‘Can I ride with you and Grampa,’ asks Simon.

            It’s agreed and the daughters and granddaughters pile into Ruth’s car laughing and squabbling as usual. Traffic isn’t heavy so they reach the first roundabout quite quickly.  It has traffic lights and they’re at red.  Ruth’s car is at the front of the queue, Ron and Elizabeth in second place.  The traffic lights change and Ruth’s car moves off.  An articulated lorry coming from the south fails to stop at the red light but brakes hard when its driver realises his mistake.  The lorry jack-knifes.

            Ron watches, Elizabeth watches, neither with any hope of a happy ending. Ron sees terror on his wife’s face. As the nightmare unfolds just as it had three nights ago, but in slow motion, Ron understands. He always knew Elizabeth had premonitions.

 To the sounds of crushing mettle and fracturing glass, Ruth’s car is tossed and then crushed by the lorry.  Behind them Ron, Elizabeth and little Simon can see in horrifying detail, the faces of the girls as they die. The air is rent with heartrending terrifying sound. Simon is screaming in the back of their car. It’s Elizabeth’s nightmare, her premonition - but real. Elizabeth’s breaking heart ceases to beat never to restart.  Now there are only the men left to bury the dead – and little Simon’s scream is the last sound to reach Elizabeth.

Amelia Pasch is the pen name of E Amelia Johnson, wife of the artist Stewart Bowman Johnson. Amelia was born and raised in Glasgow of a Jewish mother and a non-conformist father: the couple married in 1963. As a mature student, Amelia achieved a degree in law and worked in the legal profession for twenty years. Frequent house moves finally brought them to Cyprus in 2004 where their creative careers have run in tandem. Endeavour Press published Amelia’s debut novel, Murder in Mind, in 2013. She is now working on a second novel, either a sequel or the second in a short series. 

Amazon: Murder in Mind.

bottom of page