Times of Trouble
by Victoria Rollison
Wrapped in her huge fur coat, face hidden below the soft hood, she marched angrily along the street. She hadn't realised it was freezing until she got outside, but she was too proud to go back. Slamming the door was her final word in their latest argument.
Ever since the text message arrived, she had tried to get him to talk about it, to come up with a plan to make this problem go away. How could he be too arrogant to admit they were in trouble? He didn't want to be told he should have listened to her in the first place. So they just ended up yelling at each other. When he said everything was fine she wanted to believe him, and probably could have if there wasn’t so much fear in his eyes.
As she strode through Battersea Park, her phone rang again. He’d been calling every couple of minutes since she left, and was no doubt getting angrier and angrier when she didn’t answer. It was one of their worst arguments. He totally freaked out when she said money wasn't everything, and she wanted to stop working. When she screamed that she planned to leave London, he looked like he was going to throw something at her. It wasn't just the text message, or the heat of battle, prompting these threats. This damp, cold city wasn't exciting anymore. Her life used to feel sophisticated and special. But lately it just felt lonely.
She crossed back over Albert Bridge, turned away from the wind, and rubbed her nose to warm it. She could picture him pacing the apartment, shoulders hunched, phone pressed against his ear, cursing her for not answering. He hated it when he lost control of her, when she wasn't doing what she was told. She would stay with Katie tonight, give him time to calm down and start thinking about how he might fix things.
As she glanced at her phone, he rang again. This time she answered, and said abruptly: 'I'm not coming back tonight Danny...'
'Where are you? Just come home babe.'
'No, I'm tired of this. I'm so stressed out and...' Her outburst was interrupted by the sound of the intercom bleep in their apartment.
'Did you forget your key?'
'No, I told you, I'm not coming back tonight.'
Through the phone, she could hear the speaker next to the door crackle, and could just make out a male voice saying: ‘I’ve got a delivery for the penthouse’, and louder, her boyfriend replying, ‘Ok, I’ll buzz you up’. Then he was back on the line.
‘There's a delivery. Are you expecting anything?’
He sounded tired and tense. Maybe she should go home, and try to make up. She heard his footsteps cross the foyer, and the clunk of the deadlock clicking open. Then there were two sounds in quick succession. The first was the crack of a gunshot, deafening through the phone. The second was the clatter of his mobile hitting the floor. Her heart seemed to turn in her chest, and her hand trembled, as she heard two voices echoing in the apartment.
‘Where is she? ...Check the bedroom... She isn’t here.’
She could hear them stamping on the polished floorboards. Finally the door slammed, and then there was an eerie silence. She screamed into the phone for a few seconds, but he didn’t reply.
She stood momentarily frozen to the spot. Was there any chance he was still alive? She couldn’t risk going back to check. She focused on her phone, ready to call an ambulance. But she didn’t want anyone to know who she was. She didn’t want people asking questions. She threw the phone away from her as hard as she could. It ricocheted off the bridge railing and splashed into the water, hardly noticeable in the vast Thames murk. Then she turned, and staggered towards a phone box. Barely able to control her panic, she dialled 999, and gave the operator the apartment’s address. There was nothing more she could do for him. She had her purse, and the clothes she was wearing. She had to run. First she would warn Katie. Then she would disappear.