Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A short story about being late home from work

He doesn’t pick up; I didn’t honestly expect anything else.

“Hi you’ve reached the voicemail of Lee Reid. I am not available right now so please leave a message.”

The knot is already starting to form but I try to leave as casual a message as possible.

“Hi it’s only Helen, just wanted to see what time you’ll be home. I’m going to try the office number now so if you get this after I’ve spoken to you ignore it.”

I’m only trying to find out what time he’s getting home tonight, I’m not checking up on Lee, not checking up in case he’s off having an affair. No one will assume that right? I mean wives check up on what time their husbands will be home for tea all the time.

“Good evening this is RSP, Martin speaking, how can I help you?”

There is nothing unusual about this phone call.

“Hi Martin, this is Helen Reid. Could you put through to my husband please?”

I sense a very slight pause, what is Martin thinking? Is he about to lie for Lee, is that what is about to happen?

“I’m sorry Mrs Reid, Lee’s already left.”

“Oh right,” I say trying to sound completely okay with it. “How long ago did he leave?”

Martin coughs very slightly, I’m fairly sure he’s telling the truth, he’s not covering for Lee, why would he? Lee is not doing anything wrong, he just left a while ago that is all.

“I’ve only just come onto my shift so I’m not sure. Can you hold on a mo while I check?”

“Yes, please do.” I say.

“Just be a minute, just putting you on hold now.”

Then it comes at me full force. It’s on me now, clawing at my neck, my hair, I can feel the blood starting to freeze in my veins, my stomach bottoms out and I feel weightless, I know what’s coming. I know what this guy Martin is going to say. He’s going to tell me Lee left hours ago and I’ve been waiting here like an idiot and they’re all laughing at me. Laughing at this pathetic dutiful wife. They won’t be laughing at Lee though, oh no, Lee’s the big man, the big man that cheats…

The big man that cheats, that lies, that betrays, destroys, hurts…

This is horrible, I can’t breath, this is horrible…I can’t think, I want this to stop, to go back. I just want him to be home and these thoughts to be out of my head for good.

It is not that easy though. It never has been.

I remember when Lee looked me in the eyes and said he would never cheat. I recall that moment clearly now, all those years ago. I asked him if he’d ever cheat on me and he gently took my hand, and looking at me with those beautiful intense blue eyes, said no. No. He would never cheat on me.

“Hi, Mrs Reid?” Martin says in a tone that suggests he is about to tell me something I will not want to hear. “Apparently Lee left a couple of hours ago.”

I manage to get out an “Oh, okay.” Just as everything is pulling me up, up and out of myself, the weightlessness makes me feel sick.

I feel suddenly very dizzy. I don’t know what to do so I just say nothing.

Sensing something is wrong Martin fills the gap with what he probably thinks is helpful background.

“Mrs Reid, apparently Lee told Mike that he was dropping Amanda off then heading home.”

“Right.” I say and then slam the phone down.

It could still be nothing… really. You know anything could have happened. It doesn’t mean a thing, well not enough that he couldn’t have rung me, he’s only a couple of hours late, just a couple, it doesn’t mean anything at all, so really I shouldn’t read anything into it.

Except of course I do. What else can I do?

I’m in freefall, panic clutches me to its breast and as the hard cold earth screams towards me I know I don’t have a safety cord anymore, it’s too late for that, I know because I’ve pulled it before and it didn’t work.

I am falling and no one can catch me.

I try to get up from comfy chair he always sits in as soon as he gets home, sits in as he takes off his tie, and then his shoes. I can’t stand, I feel light-headed, I can’t sit, I’m shaking, can’t stay calm, I’ve been such a fool all these months, I was right all along. He lied to me, he lied and lied and lied and made me feel like I was going crazy with all these thoughts, but I was right, I was right.

I look around and all I see are memories of a home I once had, which I shared with Lee, my friend, my best friend, my husband, our home, our things, this is us, this is the past six years of us and it was safe, secure, our retreat, our fortress from the violence of the world. Now the violence is here like a malevolent tumour bursting through the skin.

It is here, and everything is a complete lie.

Two minutes and everything has changed, two minutes…

I try calling Lee again. I know I should not.

I know I should not.

“Hi you’ve reached the voicemail of Lee Reid. I am not available right now so please leave a message.”

“Where are you Lee? I’ve called your work and they said you left with ‘Mand hours ago. I don’t know what’s going on, but you should have phoned me and told me. Where the hell are you? Why are you doing this?”

I’m just about to say that if he isn’t home in the next hour then he might as well just not bother when there is a brief set of sharp knock at the front door.

Before I answer the door I have a strange feeling, as if I have been tricked, but not by Lee, by something else. This sudden unexplainable pressure in my chest that tells me that I know what’s coming next, and where this has been heading, all this time.

I get to the door just as there is a second set of sharp knocks. I turn the Yale and pull the door open and there they stand, impassive but tangibly pensive, both of them, together, and I am not at all surprised.

“Mrs Reid?” The Policeman says to me.

I just nod my head.

“Mrs Reid, I’m Police Constable David Edwards and this is my colleague Police Constable Josephine Wiggins.”

The female Police Constable steps forward very slightly, “May we come in Mrs Reid?”

Then I hear the words. I’ve heard variations of them said many times over the years on TV, the radio, read them in books, all similar situations. The only difference is this time they are being said to me.

“Mrs Reid, we have some bad news and we’d rather speak with you inside.”

Lee is dead of course.

I recall only moments of the next few hours. Sitting at the dining table with Lee’s files and folders scattered all over. He was going to tidy it up when he got home. They tell me that the paramedics fought to save his life but the injuries he sustained in the crash were just too severe.

He didn’t suffer they say. Then again, they never do.

I look at the piles of paperwork in front of me and I think I cannot tidy this, I don’t know what order they go in.

Lee will be furious if I mess them all up.


Anonymous said...

Hey Herge, can you post this link and get as many people as possible to sign it? It's a petition to prevent the UK government from introducing black boxes in cars and on motorbikes to limit speed by reducing the throttle or applying the brakes.


Ma xx said...

Thank goodness it was all a dream...

Rowan said...

I can tell from reading this that you've had some experience with that horrible sinking feeling of suspecting someone. As you probably know from my blog, I was in this position last January. Interestingly, I had a "what if" moment back then, that followed your story pretty well....what if this time it was because he was in a horrible accident and that he wasn't really fooling around....I suppose thankfully, he wasn't dead.

Sniffy said...

At least he wasn't having that affair! Unless of course he crashed because Amanda was squeezing his wing wang while he was driving at speed.

Ship Creak said...

What I'd like to know is what's inspired this abrupt and un-chimplike run of posts?

I say again: WTF?

Rowan said...

*shrug* I like 'em.