I peered out through my kitchen window. With daylight all but gone, the evening was turning rapidly to night.
I strained my eyes, watching, waiting. Nothing so far. Nothing beyond the sentinel of standard roses, lavender and seaside daisy.
By day, the garden was delightful. By night, it was full of despair.
The children were tucked up, safely off in dreamland before their father came home. It was always my plan. It meant they would not bear witness to what might happen, if or when he found fault with me.
I glanced at the clock hanging precariously and fleetingly re-lived the boot, hurled across the room, that had caused the insecure angle. Stretching up to straighten it, I realised it was over an hour past the time he usually rolled in.
Noticeably drunk. Hating the world. Despising me.
He was late. What did that mean? Could I stand here and treat myself to my inner most fantasy? A story line I so often imagined. Wished for, even.
No. Don’t do it. You’ll jinx yourself.
I run through the check list in my mind. Kitchen, spick and span. His dinner in the oven. Spare wood stacked neatly beside the heater. The fire gently heating the lounge. His newspaper folded beside his chair. Cushions plumped. Remote at the ready. Children not seen, so therefore not heard. All was in readiness for his home coming.
Mesmerised by the bleakness of the night I stood by the window my palm cupped over the ache in my jaw. The warmth relieving the pain somewhat. Not wanting to, but helpless not to, I wonder what might lie ahead. What I might succumb to tonight.
I spy the headlights in the distance. My pulse quickens. An automatic response. A car turns off the main road to venture down the lane.
It is always his fashion to hoon up the lane and swing wildly through the gate, pacing to the open garage then slamming on his brakes, just in time. I knew that action inside out. Had witnessed it a million times. Could even tell the number of pints he’d drunk by the speed in which he took the corner.
My eyes narrowed watching these headlights. This car was moving more cautiously.
I swallowed a lump of fear forming in my throat, wondering what this action might mean. Was he more drunk than usual? Not able to handle the car? I checked the time. It was near on three hours past his usual arrival.
My heart beat jumped up a notch. What would that mean for me?
The headlights swung into the driveway, crept up and came to a stop near the front entrance. Eyes wide, I realised it wasn’t his car.
Then who could it be this time of night?
Doors opened simultaneously. Two burly shapes stepped out. Police.
Funny the things you think of at the most inopportune time: I wondered if they rehearsed their precision timing and how long it took them to get it just right.
My heart in my throat as their shoes crunched along the gravel path leading up to the front door. Their knock louder than I expected.
It jolted me from my stillness and filled me with dread. I moved as if in deep water towards the front door.
Another knock. Even louder this time. ‘Police.’ Spoken, loud and clear. A force behind their authority.
I pushed myself to reach out and switch on the front entrance light. Lighting up the darkness between me, and them.
On this side of the door, my hand rested on the handle. I waited for one more knock. As if that third knock meant business and demanded action.
It came. Louder still. ‘Police. Open up.’
I opened the door and drew in a breath at the sight before me. The strong arm of the law dressed in freshly pressed uniform. Boots shiny. Badges gleaming.
It was in that instance that I knew. My fear drained away. They took my details then asked if I knew the man whose licence suggested he resided at this same address.
‘Yes,’ I said.
I had bruising and internal injuries, emotional trauma that would never find solace and children who lived in fear.
I knew him.
They told me he had been killed in a single-vehicle accident. I imagined his car wrapped around a poor unsuspecting tree.
They said they were sorry for my loss. That life wasn’t meant to be like that.
I nodded, unable to speak. Drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Tears escaped. Trickled down my face. I could taste the saltiness.
One thought came before all others.
I hadn’t jinxed myself.
© Tropical Writers Inc 2024