The strange way of things

I press my fingers to smooth the lines on my forehead. A glimpse of white at the edge of my hairline catches my attention. I yank my hair back. A half inch of white hair is coming from the roots, in sharp contrast to my natural dark brown hair. I check all over my scalp, and the half inch of white hair is everywhere. What is THAT about?!

Something rears up deep inside me. I notice the frown on my face in the bathroom mirror. I exchange it for a smile and head back into the bedroom. I decide to make the bed. Jake’s side is not particularly rumpled today so it’s an easy job.

I think about Jake. And Megan. I’ve only just woken up, so Jake must have left the house before I did, taking Megan with him. Jake teaches at the highschool so it’s easy for him to drop Megan off at her primary school on the way there.

I sit down on the freshly made bed. That’s when I notice the phone is off the hook. Well, that explains the faint buzzing I’ve been hearing – I was wondering if it was my ears acting up. I grab the receiver and slip it into its cradle. But immediately a feeling of nausea comes over me. I whisk the handset off the cradle again and my stomach settles down.

Very mysterious, really. The body is a puzzling thing. I’ll think about it later, I say to myself.

I go downstairs into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. I glance out the window; I do NOT want to see Grace’s car there again, and fortunately it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, Grace is my best friend and I love her dearly, but she’s been so lachrymose lately that she’s been impossible to be around. In my mind I replay the conversation we had yesterday just before she left the house.

She’d looked sideways at me and said, “Darling, you should get out more. It’s not healthy for you to stay at home all day. It’s time you got out more.”

And I’d said, “Darling yourself, there’s so much to do here. I need to keep things shipshape.”

Grace looked unhappily at me (what else is new?). I have the thought that she’s probably always been negative about my relationship with Jake. She likely thinks I’m over-reliant on him, and maybe she’s right. What’s the phrase? – co-dependant. Yes, well, maybe we are.

The coffee’s ready so I pour myself a cup. As I take my first sip, I notice that the morning paper is in the magazine slot. I slip out the door and reach to grab out the paper. I’m surprised to see that there are several days’ worth there. Funny that we haven’t picked them up. I take them back with me to the counter to finish my coffee while catching up on the news.

But I can’t open the paper. The thought comes unbidden to me: newspapers are not my friend. I slide off the stool to toss the papers into the recycle bin.

That’s when I see the black and white turning into the street, causing a familiar feeling of panic to arise in me. Why is it that we have that reaction to policemen? And sure enough, he pulls into my driveway. I’m really not in the mood to talk to anyone anyone right now, so I slip beside the fridge where he can’t see me through the window. He knocks loudly, calling my name a couple times, then walks away back down the drive.

I berate myself. Who doesn’t answer the door when a policeman knocks? Policemen are not my friends, I laugh unsteadily.

I sit down at the counter again with my neglected cup of coffee, feeling shaken by the policeman’s visit. I glance at the telephone and notice that the light is flashing on the main handset. Five messages, it says. I remember the phone has been off the hook, so that explains why there’s so many messages. My finger hesitates over the Play button, then I hit it. I want to see if there’s a message from Jake, who sometimes calls me through the day.

An unwelcome voice comes on line. “Mrs Mackie? It’s Dr Kohl here. You missed your appointment this week and I’m wondering if you’d like to…”

Not important. I hit the Delete button.

The next message is a man’s voice. “It’s Detective Stephens here, Mrs Mackie. I just wanted to let you know I’m dropping around later this morning. It’s…ah…about the accident…”

I have no idea what that’s about. Delete!

“Gemma, pick up please!” Ah, Grace’s familiar voice again. “Have you got the phone off the hook again? That’s not healthy, darling. I’m worried…”

Delete! That woman is obsessive.

“Gemma, it’s John at Midway Insurance. I…uh…I just wanted you to know we’ve finally finished the paperwork and we’ve posted you the cheque. For the car. Uh…call me.”

Bizarre; wrong number. Delete.

The last message must be one from some time ago, because I know I’ve heard it before. My heart leaps a little. “Hey Gems, just about to head off home. I’ll pick up Megan on the way, so don’t leave the house. See you shortly, sweetheart.”

This one I don’t delete.

The queasy feeling comes back; I shouldn’t have listened to the messages.

I wander over to the fireplace with my coffee. I look at the photo of Gemma, Jake and me that sits on the mantle. How precious they are! I could not live without those two, I reflect, running my fingers over their smiling faces.

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