Released – a bit of flash fiction

It’s early. Still dark. But the dog is insistent and if I don’t crawl out of bed now she’ll probably make a mess on the floor. She’s getting old now and her bladder isn’t what it used to be.

As I flip-flop down the stairs, I remember what day it is and a shiver passes through my body.

‘Someone walking over your grave’ my mother would have said.

I open the back door on to a world of white. Another dump of snow in the night. The dog almost disappears as she leaps into it with glee, her paw prints criss-crossing the garden in a crazy zig-zag of joy.

I leave her out there while I put the kettle on and try to liven myself up.

Sipping my tea and watching the slow glow of day creep in through the closed curtains, I try not to think too hard about the day ahead.  I’m supposed to be happy.  It’s supposed to be a red letter day. My husband is coming home.

He’s been away for four years.  Getting out early for good behaviour. I wonder if he’s going to be able to get here with the weather as it is.  I’m not going to pick him up. No. He understood. I’m sure he understood.

The dog comes in and unsuccessfully tries to leap on to my lap shaking snow from her coat and nearly spilling my tea as she does so. I shout at her, probably more fiercely than I should have and she slinks off and sits in her basket looking at me with her unblinking soulful eyes.

‘Sorry’ I say out loud, and pat her on the head.  That’s all she needs.  That’s all it takes sometimes, even with humans. Just a quick and heartfelt ‘sorry’, and the equivalent of a pat on the head. I dunno, a hug maybe, or just a smile.

I drag myself up the stairs and stand under the shower for a full five minutes, washing off the night with my ‘Japanese Spa’ shower gel.  I don’t know what’s so Japanese about it, I got it from the supermarket up the road. Anyway, it does the trick, I feel fresher once I’ve dried and put some clean clothes on.

I wasn’t sure what to wear. Should I try to look nice? Be welcoming? Or just look myself, in my old jeans and tatty jumper? I decide on the latter. It’s how he’ll remember me.

He’s not coming until the afternoon.

‘not sure what time’ he said, in our brief phone conversation ‘depends on the trains.’

I don’t know much about the trains. Haven’t been on one in years. I get a bit claustrophobic on public transport, it’s why I love my little car so much. She’s been a godsend.  Oh yes, it’s a she. I feel safe in her, comfortable and in control.  In fact, some times, on the bad nights, I go out to the drive and just sit in her, lock the doors and turn on the radio.  She is my mother ship..

The morning slips by in a haze of dog walking, dusting, changing the bed, and hoovering. Before I know it, it is lunchtime, but I can’t eat anything, the mere thought of food sends me dry heaving over the toilet.  It won’t do me any harm I suppose, I could probably do with losing a few pounds. It’s easy to eat rubbish when you’re on your own, and I’m sure my shape change won’t go unmentioned.

I watch the news at 1:00.  To my mock horror they don’t mention the imminent release of my spouse.  Amazing how such momentous events in a life can go completely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

I switch off the TV and let the dog out in the back garden again.  There’s a weak sun and the dogs paw prints are losing their shape as the top layer of snow begins to melt. The cold is refreshing and I suck in the dry winter air as if it’s my last gasp.

I don’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the afternoon. I try to paint, but the inspiration isn’t there and the paints won’t move on the paper as willingly as they usually do. Then I pick up my kindle.  That’s been a godsend, I read so many books, mostly psychological thrillers and murder mysteries.  It seems a bit counter-intuitive, but I enjoy those more than the foolish romantic stuff women of my age are supposed to read.  Nonetheless, today I find the words swim about and even though I read the same page umpteen times, I can’t make sense of it.

It’s half past three, and getting dark already.  I prayed and prayed that he would arrive in daylight, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.   But then I hear a car grinding to a halt outside. It’s a taxi.

Should I go and open the door, or wait for him to knock? I don’t want him to think I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting, like I have, so I leave it and listen for the once familiar four raps.  I stand in the kitchen, my legs feel numb, my breath is sharp staccato, and I feel slightly dizzy.  Then the doorbell rings.

I reach out to the worktop to steady myself, take a deep breath, before walking as calmly as I can to the door.  I can see his shape through the glass. Instantly recognisable.  He’s tall, quite lanky really, and I can see a halo of curly hair outlined against the setting sun.

‘Took yer time’ he says, as I open the door.

I see him briefly appraising me.

‘Put on a bit a weight, Christ, I’d fergotten how bloody old you are’ he says, as he tries to push past me.

Instinctively I put my hand up against his chest, in a ‘halt’ motion. My body is on auto pilot.

‘yeah, pleased to see you too’ he says in his old familiar sarcastic way. ‘get outta the way woman, and go and get kettle on’.

I look him straight in his steely eyes, my body definitely in auto pilot, and say ‘No’.

Just like that.

‘No’.

It confuses him.  Of course it does. He snatches at my wrist to tug my hand away, but all of a sudden I’m quick and nimble. The dog is snapping at his ankles and he looks down and kicks at her. It gives me enough time to deftly bring my other hand up, the one with the kitchen knife in it, and slash at his turkey neck.

As he crumples, he looks surprised.  He shouldn’t be.

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