It wasn’t my fault he died, Edward Tarling, but everyone believed that it was; the finger of blame was pointed directly at me. He was a horrible man and I’m not in the least bit sorry that he’s dead. Had he lived, he would be the villain, but he died and was therefore the victim.
I had loved him once - at least it felt like love. I was sixteen and smitten by the handsome boy who was showing an interest in me. But he broke my heart, and as the years went by I began to despise him.
He grew into a ruthless, cold hearted, womaniser with very few friends. His father, chief executive of one of the national newspapers, was well known for greasing palms in order to free Edward from whichever scandal or libel case he got himself into. Lawyers, judges, victims - anyone could be bought.
Despite our paths crossing numerous times over the years we never spoke again. My father also worked in the media and would often be invited to the same events. One such occasion was a maiden voyage of a newly renovated tall ship, Utopia, restored to her former glory, was to sail from Poole to Guernsey, returning later the same day. Edward accompanied his father as he often did, as it was the day of my fathers seventieth birthday, I went along with my parents.
The journey started well, Utopia looked magnificent and a huge crowd gathered on the dock to watch her set sail. But less than an hour after departure disaster struck, when a fire broke out below deck.
Within minutes panic was soaring across the deck as everyone scrambled to grab the life jackets from the safety areas. With so much commotion I only managed to get hold of two, but that was enough, as long as my parents each had one I could do without.
Amongst all the commotion there was one moment in time that, by pure chance, was captured on camera and would change my life forever. The photograph showed a scene of chaos; twenty or so people in the forefront, fear etched onto each of their faces. To the left of the shot the lifeboats could just be seen approaching in the distance. To the right of the frame were myself and Edward, both clinging to the same life-jacket My face twisted in anger as I tried to prise it from him, his expression was one of shock.
The picture was plastered across the front pages of all the local and national papers. I was slaughtered in the press, branded an evil liar because I dared to speak out against a dead man. I was the coward, I was the one tearing a life jacket from the arms of the great Edward Tarling; a man about whom it was common knowledge could not swim.
Despite my best efforts both my parents lost their lives that day, the cold water and shock was too much for either of them to recover from. They were the only people who could have backed up my side of the story.
I did take the life jacket from Edward, then I elbowed him in the face and broke his nose. Thirty minutes later, he was dead. The last image I have of him, is him holding his bloody nose and calling me an evil bitch.
Had he kept the life jacket maybe he would have survived, does taking it from him make me responsible for his death? Maybe.
That one photograph ruined my life, one more photograph could have spared me years of abuse. Had a picture been taken three seconds earlier, it would have shown Edward snatching the life jacket from my mother’s frail arms. Three seconds later, a photograph would have shown me giving it back to her.
Cameras don’t lie, but they never tell the whole story either.
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