by Sylvia Patsalides
last one for the road, brandy)
He stood in the shadows by the open doorway. She had told him not come today. He didn't know why, but looking into the hall caught sight of an overnight bag. Odd that the door was open, she was pretty hot on security usually. The alarm was off as well. What was going on?. He tiptoed upstairs. The bedroom door was open too. The counterpane on the bed was slightly crinkled and one of the pillows was hollowed where her head had been That was odd too, normally there was a rigorous routine of pillow plumping and smoothing and architectural style eyeballing to make sure all were perfectly aligned. He lay down, wrapped in the remnants of her perfume and feeling his toes flex under the the goose-down, dreaming of those times when they were transported from icy cold to a warmth that belied degrees centigrade.
For a while now she had been making lists. Not just to log appointments, make sure that she knew her pincodes, renewals and payment dates, but to be able to use them to remind her of those moments that had been special. To capture the times she did not want to fade into obscurity forming the part of the haze that was now everyday living. She had been thinking about their experiences. Which elements would make it into her life top ten? It wouldn't be the exotic destinations, suites with the infinity pools, Michelin starred restaurants. She smiled with a fondness overlaying the sadness now brushed over her face. The most precious; it would be his grey salted chestnut hair curling into his neck as he inclined his head towards her, the way he put his eternally cold hands against her body till they warmed and they lay together glorying in the glow that came with that sort of closeness.
It was time now. She didn't want him to see her with parchment thin skin, faded, and tired. She was surprised that he had not noticed the ranginess of her body, the slightly defeated angle of her shoulders. Good make up and clothes - she guessed, or maybe just male lack of observation. Anxiety did bad things to the body. .What to say to him though. How to end it. A dilemma. Tell the truth, tell a lie, compose a good story that spared the feelings of all parties. Still not sure. She had set up a timed email to send. If she changed her mind there were a number of drafts she could choose. Which one, would surely become clear but she had to be certain that he would not come after her.
But now it was time to activate the plan. Goodness, she had invoked enough disaster recovery exercises in her time. Stress testing. It was for real now. Move on. Plan A/Plan B. Hypothetical. This was the reality check. Now she wasn't quite sure if being the archetypal completer finisher was a good thing. I's dotting and T crossings.
She shook her head to clear it, slightly dizzy as she picked up the bag and clicked the door behind her "Don't look back - you are not going that way!" If only she could. go back, turn back the clock with the benefit of hindsight. All the platitudes flooded in.
The plan had been decided for quite a while. Even before the final confirmation. Her oldest friend Daphne was going with her. They didn't see much of each other now, but as only true friends know that didn't matter and whenever they met it was if they had never been apart. Meeting in airport check in queues, to go away for a weekend to chat and eat and drink, they would link arms and pick up mid sentence about a topic that they were discussing a year or so ago. They instinctively knew how each other was feeling, whether they were fit or fat, whether they preferred lime or lemon or grapefruit with their gin and tonic. It was simply that ease of friendship, even in a serious scenario.
She was driving to pick up the paperwork - that would make things easier in general. She had arranged to leave the car and Joe the mechanic would pick it up, under the guise of taking it for a service and MOT. In fact it would be stored for the time being. The keys would be at reception desk in an envelope with all the documents and change of keeper completed. There were a few explanatory notes.
Then it would be to head the airport to meet Daphne, The tickets had been long since bought and it had been agreed that Daphne would travel back by train, if only to cover her tracks. That sounded like a joke - train and tracks. Once they got to Switzerland, it should all be simple.
She only had a few things with her, but had included a note to be mailed about the crucial papers in the chocolate box. How many times had she joked about the beauty of the Edwardian chocolate box - silk and velvet and gold leaf to showcase the confectionery. That was so the way to make a gift special .. borne out by the fact some hundred plus years later it was still in existence, albeit slightly faded but now about to hold another set of secrets. These days chocolate was so everyday, Green & Blacks, Hotel Chocolat, lactose free aka plain, high percentage cocoa, novelty eggs, truffles, shells, belgian, free trade, organic. Bring back the elusive man who delivered Milk Tray - what had happened to that. How appropriate that Switzerland was such a choco capital! Trivialities - always useful in a life threatening situation. She smiled. It was time to get on with the final journey.
He woke with a start. it was dark, how long had he slept for? He shook his head to clear the fuzziness. His phone bleeped - an email.