The Last Place You Look
Ian looked up from the telly when he heard the loose door-chain rattling, indicating that Ellie was home – but his attention was back on the game by the time she stuck her head into the living room.
“Hullo, love. Want a cup of tea?” He said without looking up from his spot on the floor, back resting against the sofa.
After a few seconds of silence, he raised his head to see her glaring at him.
“What?” He said, defensively.
“Have you seen the news?”
“No. Why? Has somebody died?”
Ellie swept up the remote, and changed the channel – prompting a “Hey!” from her husband – surfing until she found a news station. She ignored his protests, and when he looked up at her irritably, she waved the remote at the screen for him to pay attention, though the way she swept it past his general direction carried a threat that he could easily read.
The news story was about some political thing going on in the US – fast cuts of the new president doing… stuff… interspersed with footage of demonstrations – but she had muted it. There was a ticker running along the bottom of the screen, full of emotive and urgent sounding journalistic flamboyance.
“What?” He repeated, though he already suspected that he knew what might have her so agitated.
“‘The Swedish media have today released reports that the small mountain town of Astervad isn’t responding to attempts to communicate, and has been completely visually obscured by anomalous weather conditions…'” She read from the screen. “Apparently there’s some sort of fog, or something, that stops people seeing it from every vantage point.” She told him. She raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for a response.
“Oh. That sounds a bit… odd.”
“You don’t know anything about that, hm?”
“Why would I know anything about that? Since when have I been an expert on Swede… uh… Swedish weather things?”
Ellie kept her gaze on him for an icy age, before continuing.
“Apparently, they’ve trained satellites on the area, but there’s some kind of atmospheric interference messing with the picture. And the choppers and people on foot that they’ve sent into the affected area have found themselves unable to navigate properly, coming out the other side without ever seeing a sign of the town.”
Ian threw down the game remote, and pushed his arms into a knot, looking up at her properly for the first time since she had arrived. He tried to pout, but realised that he didn’t know how to do it properly if he had to think about it.
“I don’t see why you always think that…” He began.
“I think that you might have something to do with it, hon, because you were in Sweden on business not two days ago. And because when you called me from the hotel, you kept going on about how beautiful the place looked from your plane.”
“… And because it wouldn’t be the first time.”
“… And because you’ve put the padlock back on the shed door, and you’ve changed the combination again.”
“It’s… well… if you just…” Ian found that the English language was failing him, just when he needed it most. He fell silent.
After a few seconds, he bowed his head, ashamed.
“Oh, Ian, how could you?” Ellie exclaimed. She moved to sit on the sofa next to him, her leg resting against his shoulder. Once she sat down, she deflated somewhat, resignation sapping the anger out of her. “After the mess in France, you promised.”
“I know. I’m sorry, love.” He stroked her leg, trying to relax her further. “But I spotted Astervad as we flew in, and we had to drive past to get to the factory that we were auditing, so…”
He faltered again, and they sat in silence for a few more minutes.
“You’ll have to fix it.” She said, after a while.
“Seriously, hon – you’ll have to put it back. And soon, while it’s still just a minor ‘and finally’ story! They’ll have sent in the army-proper within the next couple of days, and then you won’t be able to do it without someone noticing.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Ian said, and gave her knee a sideways peck. “I’ll go down to the shed after tea.”
“Thanks, hon.” Ellie said, and closed her eyes, relief staving off the headache that she had felt nuzzling at her. “You’re a good sort, really.”
“It seems a shame, mind,” he said, “I thought you’d love it.”
“I love the sentiment, hon, but we just need to think about it practically. And, you know, legally.”
“Well, then, the town will be back in place by tomorrow morning.” He promised. He sighed. “Still, we’ll always have Paris.”
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