At least part of Jess’s reluctance to discuss campus life was because at that time the City of York was gripped by a massive police hunt for a woman employed at the University library, who’d disappeared inexplicably, leaving detectives without a single clue. She was an attractive young woman in her thirties, and from a ‘good family’, which meant the police and public were taking a keen interest; if it had been a tramp or person from the wrong side of town there wouldn’t have been half the excitement.
These kind of cases are almost as if an invisible alien spaceship has descended on our ancient and beautiful city, beaming the young woman onboard in a flash of blinding light. A more likely explanation is usually an ex-boyfriend, a member of the family, somebody known to the victim, or less commonly – abduction by a stranger.
Jess had naturally taken an interest at first, but had then gone quiet on the matter, preferring to maintain her private thoughts. The media had gone crazy, and not just locally, because she was/is a very nice girl, for whom even the splendid Archbishop of York was praying regularly.
From time to time these kind of perceived or real threats from men would grip the campus, as some attractive young student was attacked on a back lane near The Retreat ‘mental’ hospital, or chased coming out of a college bar late at night. We are always reminded that York is a very safe place, and it probably is compared to the larger cities; yet these kind of events can have a major impact on the psyche of those in a smallish community, and particularly on women, and even more so for those closely involved.
We had another recent case in Yorkshire where a young girl went missing and the outcome looked extremely grim, until one day she simply turned-up unharmed; it emerged that the mother and a male accomplice had actually arranged her abduction, with the child spending a few weeks hidden under a bed only a few miles from the family home. They had hoped to cash-in on a large financial reward for returning her safely, but only ended-up with long prison sentences and universal condemnation.
The case of the missing library assistant did not look as though it would have a positive outcome, and it was no fun to watch the father appearing on television and becoming more and more distraught as the weeks passed with absolutely no evidence as to her whereabouts.
Jess knew deep down, like everybody else, the sad fact was she had most likely come to harm at the hands of a man, either one known to her or a stranger. Bad things happen in this life; many millions can’t even afford to put food in their mouths; and even in our so-called ‘developed’ nations we cannot protect ourselves from all the sorrows.
Yet there is still some joy to be grasped, like that relished by Jess and me, still so early in our love relationship – the honeymoon period, a long, long way from any estrangement that might, or might not happen, in an uncertain future.