One Day in Fratton: Roushonara Khan

Earlier this year, our Editor in Chief Sarah Cheverton judged entries to the Fratton Big Local writing competition, One Day in Fratton. Over 3 weeks, we are publishing the winners and runners up. In our final week, our adult runner-up Roushonara Khan tells a thrilling tale of crime and kidnap in a stunningly local tale of Fratton. .

Runner-up, adult category

The Kidnapped Queen by Roushonara Khan

The smell of raw meat had polluted the air around me. My eyes were drawn towards the streaks of rich, dark, red blood on the chopping board. It took one look, before I closed my eyes, hoping it was all a dream.

I am back at Fratton road, which was part of my daily route to work. From stoned walls and a high tower, the north-facing church clock hand would strike ten every time I crossed the traffic lights. Walking towards Grandeur Church, my gaze would always fall upon the left side of the road – it was the first school I attended in England; the City of Portsmouth Girls School. The grand corridors always seemed never ending, and the classrooms had a comforting atmosphere. Reminiscing over my first day at school, my memories remain vivid, especially of the time when I was first introduced to a Bengali girl, who very kindly, translated terms and phrases whenever needed. I loved school. Whenever anyone would ask, ‘What were the best moments in your life?’, I would respond that the best moments of my life were spent in school. The teachers were kind, my classmates were cooperative and the subjects I studied, I thoroughly enjoyed.

As I walk on, I see Carnegie Library on my right. This is where I spent a lot of my time reading books with my ESOL teacher. He was very patient with me and understood I needed extra support because of the language barrier I experienced, which he happily gave. My reading level was above average, even though I did not understand what I read. My weakness may have been having a language barrier, but it did not take long to develop, with thanks to Carnegie Library.

‘The Queen will be moved after dark, boss.’

I heard no reply to this deep, husky, and unfamiliar voice which interrupted my thoughts. Whilst trying to listen in to the conversation, I felt my body being restricted by a harsh material which could only be rope. The adrenaline pulsed through my body,  making me shake uncontrollably. Before I knew it, I could taste salty water from the tears that streamed down my face. The only thing I could think about were my children. What will happen to them? Who will look after them? My head started to fill with all these unanswered questions and memories of my children and I; the holidays we went on, the day trips we took, as well as staying at home – cherishing the times I can never get back.

My mother must already be wondering where I am. She has a habit of checking up on me every hour. She would first call home to check if I am there, and if not, she would then call me at my work place. There are times when I am at neither of these places which she would then call everyone I associate with to pass on messages to contact her. One would wonder it must be urgent, only to find out she just needed to know where I was to assure herself I was safe. Over the years my brother and I have come to terms with having an over protective mother. Only once we became parents, we started appreciating her and her anxious behaviour.

My parents had an arranged marriage, which took place before the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. Twelve years later, at the age of 27, my mother was widowed and lost my father to cancer. Living in a male dominated society, the law did not give a mother the rights to keep her children if she wanted to remarry – the children would have to be left to the paternal side of the family. My mother fought against all odds to keep my brother and me. The British nationality law of 1983 gave us the rights to British citizenship as overseas born children of a British father.  My widow mother, who came from a deprived village in Bangladesh, never once visited a city, or travelled alone, but she travelled to the UK on her own in order to give us a better future. This shows her strength of character and her courage to overcome anything for her children. She happily lived a widowed life for us. We are her reason for living and her life revolves around us.

Deep breaths were the only thing that suppressed  my urges to scream for help.

‘Be strong,’ I kept telling myself.

I put my brain to work; who could do such a thing? My mind is blank. This place has been like a second home for the majority of my life. No one comes to my mind, for them to carry out an unlawful crime – kidnapping. Anyone I have ever met in Fratton Road has never been less than caring, homely, and affectionate. These strangers I am used to seeing every day have become my family. My infamous title as the ‘Queen of Fratton Road’ shows the kindness and appreciation I received. My charity, MMN (Minority Mother’s Network) has done nothing but help people around Portsmouth. My ideas and ongoing projects have benefited the society in many ways and could only have developed with the help of Fratton Big Local.

Fratton Traders’ Association is where all the traders meet quarterly and make plans on improving Fratton Road. I have just started working with minority communities, especially with women, to end isolation and encourage social interaction by holding stalls for Fratton Family Festival day. It was a major achievement on the day we obtained the permission from Portsmouth City Council to close the whole of Fratton Road for a day once a year. This was one of the many plans for the future, which I enjoyed working with Anna, the Community development worker for Fratton Big Local very much. And not to forget, Nick from Vinyl Records who is also the chairperson of traders Association.

Looking at the state of the room I was in, it seemed like I had been held in an abandoned butcher’s shop kitchen. I could hear the noises of the ongoing busy traffic from the main road. The smell of freshly cooked, spicy kebabs made me realise the location I was held at, which I knew cannot be too far, because many of the shops on Fratton Road are kebab restaurants.

I was  trying so hard to untie myself, whilst trying to remember how I ended up in this room. All I remembered was walking through the alleyway of the back of my shop and felt a sudden hand grabbing me from behind, putting both of their hands around my face, making me unconscious.

Just then, two scruffy looking white men walked in.

‘Please let me go,’ I begged.

I started screaming for help. They were reluctant to let me go and kept my mouth shut, taping my mouth and blindfolding me. I was trying so hard to  fight against them, but they were too strong for me. They carried me to a van, which shortly started moving. I was so frightened, but I keep telling myself that it is going to be OK. I believe nothing bad happens to good people, and believe I am one of them. I have never done anything wrong to anyone, so I will be OK. I will be found.

I did not know how long I was unconscious for. I woke up to a familiar voice asking me if I was alright. I felt small droplets of water being sprinkled on my face, and with utter surprise, I saw a man of colour with a huge, toothy grin beaming at me.

‘Hello queen! You did not think we were going to let anyone harm you, did you?’ he said with a broken English accent.

It was Duffer, the vegetable guy who delivers fresh vegetables to all of the shops on Fratton Road. I was still in shock and confused about what just happened. As I looked up I could see everyone’s joyful and happy faces.

‘What happened?’, I asked with a shaky terrified, but relieved voice.

‘Nothing to worry about now, you are safe. All thanks to all the CCTV camera recently installed around Fratton Road. From this, we captured the kidnappers and they are now in police custody for questioning which will help find their boss’, replied a policeman.

It seemed I was kidnapped by a gang of drug users who recently relocated from London.  Their plan was to hide me somewhere far away from Fratton, and ask for a ransom from my family. Apart from being a business woman, I am also an important figure to my family and to my local community. My mother alerted everyone about my disappearance.

I was overwhelmed to see how everyone from Fratton Road came together to help with a rescue plan to save me. Seeing the community spirit and love, I felt like I lived as the name the community gave me – The Queen of Fratton.

Judge’s comment, by Editor in Chief, Sarah Cheverton

Roushonara’s story of a kidnapping in Fratton keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout, while her descriptions of the people and places of Fratton makes the reader want to visit for themselves.

One Day in Fratton is an annual writing competition run by Fratton Big Local for residents of all ages. S&C is publishing the winners across three categories: 9-11 years, 12-16 years and 17 years and over, and you will be able to read all winners here as they’re published.