“Hi! It’s just me…”
I click the message off again, but my finger hands over the button and I can’t force myself to move it, paralysed by her voice. It’s been a week now, and I still can’t get through it. I breathe, and tear myself away, back to the safety of the sofa once again.
I should have gone out that night, but we’d argued over something stupid, the washing up or the laundry or something else I can’t even remember and so she’d taken the car and gone out anyway and I’d stayed at home to stomp around the flat, grumbling. I mean, we’d had a fight over nothing, and she’d gone out to enjoy herself, and that was unfair because she should be at home, with me, being grumpy and sullen, until one of us made the first move, and said the right thing, or smiled just the right way and it would be over and back to normal.
Outside the autumn winds howled and the rain hammered at the windows, which suited me down the ground. I hoped it was putting a damper on her evening.
“Hi, It’s just me. Traffic’s awful, and the….”
I can’t sleep and I can’t get to the end. Each word feels like it’s been fired from the machine straight at my heart, as if its been taken from the tape forever, and if it listen to it all the way through then it will be gone and I’ll never hear her voice again. I rewind it and play again, and again, but I can’t finish it. I can’t.
I don’t know if she decided to come back because of the fight. On another night I’d have called her and told her to stay at her friends, not to make that trip in the howling dark. You can’t trust other people in those sorts of conditions, I’d have said. Play it safe. And she’d have laughed at me, for being “a worry”, but taken the advice. But I didn’t call because we’d fought, and I no matter how many times I thought about it, I couldn’t find the words to start the conversation.
So I had a couple of beers and went to bed early, with the duvet over my head. I never heard the phone ring. And when the police officer with the sympathetic eyes got my out of bed a few hours after midnight I never saw the message light blinking. I only saw it when I got back from the hospital, only once I had said goodbye to her.
And its a week later, and only now can I listen to her, to hear what she has to say, to know if she still felt that anger from the fight as she set off into the night to come home. I steel myself for whatever is held in the machine, and press the button again.
“Hi! It’s just me. Traffic’s awful and the weather is coming in, so don’t wait up, cos I’ll be late back. Love you. Bye”.