Your looking tired? she said. Busy day? Yes it was, but I didn’t want to admit it. A long drive across the moors, then a quick rest at the hotel. Now I was sitting in a quiet pub waiting for the meal I’d ordered.
The waitress spoke again. You look a bit peaky, you must look after yourself. She looked closely at me, her face expressing surprise, fear and astonishment…
You’ve gone a funny colour!
Hot coffee with cream, a slice of black forest gateaux. She sat and stirred the cup, hearing the spoon tinkle against it.
Only an hour ago she had been running to catch the bus into town. She’d told Al that she was meeting a friend….
This isn’t a trashy romance story, she told herself. Just a meeting with an old friend. But she couldn’t help feeling excited. He’d sounded just the same on the phone as he had all those years ago at college.
The cake was delicious, but she only tasted it, she was too nervous to eat. Too many butterflies in her stomach, too much anticipation and anxiety.
Oh god, she thought. I’m too old for all this, what will I say? Should I put some more lipstick on? She was also thinking about Al. How could she tell him about this. No it would be her little secret.
It was half an hour later, he was 20 minutes late… He promised he would be there. She remembered a tall young man. Long hair, a leather jacket and jeans. Black doc marten shoes….. Where is he? She thought.
Just then the glass door opened. She saw a once tall man, now stooped over. A bald head, what hair that was left was grey and in a ponytail. A walking stick, a gold medallion.
She decided not to say hello. As he walked into the room she went to the counter to pay her bill. On the way out of the door she felt mixed guilt and grief. Had she done the right thing?
She looked in the window and caught her reflection. Her once slim body was wider now, her hair not just grey, but white. Oh well she thought. At least I have Al.. …
Who is that man staring at me? Why is he staring? I have never met him before. Never spoken to him. Trying to hide behind a magazine, I peeped out. . Still staring directly at me! How rude and somehow frightening too. Like when a cat stares at its prey, ready to strike? Or a snake catching your scent … Who was he? How did he know me?
Oh no, he’s coming over. Sitting down opposite me at the cafe table. .
Excuse me? You have ketchup on your face. He grabbed the napkin and wiped my face, like I was a child! Then he got up and walked away. I’ve never seen him again since!
I had walked into my bedroom and seen the shadowy figure of my partner sitting in a chair by the window. I tried to see his face but the full moon in the window behind him cast darkness across his face.
“What’s up with the lights?” I asked, trying to keep my voice calm.
“I took out the bulbs” he replied..
That was something I had not thought of. “Why?”
“I need the dark” was all he would say.
I felt the chill air seeping into my body, something was wrong with the heating, it had been playing up before I went out to choir practice. Now it was as cold inside as it had been out in the night.
“It’s cold” I said simply. “Do you want a coffee?”
I was getting worried and scared, Henri was usually a happy, talkative man. His manner now was just not like him.
“I’m going downstairs” I said,
“Well this is stupid” I started to edge towards the door.
Then he opened his eyes….they were glowing gold….
I ran. Down the stairs, tripping and falling but catching the bannister I managed to halt myself. I felt a bone crack in one of my fingers, but I found I felt no pain, I just wanted to get out. Get back in the car, get away……
(To be continued…..?)
It’s been suggested that I carry on with this, so I will try…
I closed the front door and reached for the light switch. Nothing, the house was in darkness. My partner was not about. I used my phone to light the livingroom while I tried to find the fuse box. But when I checked none of the fuses had tripped.
I tried the light at the other end of the room, but it was the same. Normally we leave a table lamp on if we go out, but this was off too?!
What was going on? The room was freezing and dark, the curtain was open on the side window of the house so a glimmer of sodium street light trickled in.
I walked past the barometer. The pressure had dropped. The snow was starting to drift past the window again. I could see snow flakes falling silhouetted by the street light.
I realised that I still had not heard my partner. I moved back to the front door and opened it. Any foot prints on the pavement had been covered by the drifting snow. What next? I walked through the kitchen to the back door. It was locked and the key was still it. Even so I opened the door to look out. I was not surprised to see a cats eyes reflecting back at me, there are always stray cats hanging around for hand outs.
But the eyes looking back at me looked larger than normal, bright gold, glinting. Perhaps a fox? I slowly closed the door, not daring to take my eyes off the steady gaze until it was locked shut.
Feeling dizzy and worried I used the light from my phone to climb the stairs. Thinking all the time that maybe I should have knocked on my neighbours door? The memory of people walking upstairs in horror films also crept into my mind.
“Hello” “you’re home early” my partners voice came from a chair by the window …..
(I’m not carrying on with this tonight, leaving it as a bit of a cliffhanger).
As we came out of choir group tonight it was cold and icy. The snow that had fallen earlier had turned from slush on the car park to hard ridges and furrows and ice.
I walked across to the car, managing not to slip. The car started reassuringly. The cold air from the heater took a few minutes to warm up. Then the screen started to demist. A car flew past in the dark. It’s headlights were not switched on so I flashed mine to try and get their attention.
I carefully drove off the car park and onto the road. Luckily it was wet but not slippery. The gritter lorries had clearly been past. Up to the traffic lights, turn right. Now I was on the main road, safe for a moment to drive at normal speed. But I live in a hill so I wanted to park up facing downhill. The only way to do that was to drive up the other side of the hill But I had a plan. Drive halfway up then take a short, flat, side road through the housing estate to get to my street half way down the hill. .. Well I got to the side road, and it was covered in a thick icy snowy layer. Solid, slippery. A steep slope to one side. I dropped into a lower gear. I did not want to slide across the road, on black ice. Keeping to the centre of the road, I drove at the slowest pace I could. Parked cars on either side made me fear hitting their wing mirrors. Nothing happened. My car slid and glided past, slowly and gently. My heart was thudding and I felt my neck tensing. Half way. A road bisecting my slippery route…. Anything coming fast up the hill and I would not have been able to stop safely. Now the road started to twist and turn. The slope increasingly downhill. The grip between the tyres and the asphalt was reducing. I applied the breaks gently. Close to the hill where I had to turn down onto my street. Nothing coming. The snow transformed into moisture, salted and defrosted. Slow turn. Almost in slow motion. It was too dark to see any frosty patches. So I carefully drove down hill in first gear. I got home slightly shaken.
I got my partner to read this. He said “it’s a bit boring” which is honest.
Cat out in the rain, dripping wet, Shivering, sad. Waiting to get in that house I visited. Are you safe and warm now. Did your owners come back or let you in? I would have taken you myself, blacks whites browns and oranges. If you were mine you would be snug and safe.
At least the rain stopped and the sun came out. Then, miracle, you sat in a pool of sunlight, rainbow hued, content with warmth.
Now wash yourself dry, find a quiet place and lie down and wait for them.