In the unlikeliest of places

She puffed up the pillow for the umpteenth time while somewhere on the periphery of her vision the clock blinked 03:30. A week had drained by since she buried her Mother but the fitfulness had taken root long before then. She tried to lay her head down on what had become a punch-bag for every disjointed thought stalking her imagination. Try as she might she couldn’t knock them unconscious.

Uncertain whether it was just the wind or an engine, she held her breath as a car slowed and rolled up over the kerb. One… two slammed doors. No click of a heel. No car-locks clicked shut. The groan from the nudge she gave her husband coincided with the ring of the bell.

“What the fuck?”

“Jesus!”

And other profane one-worded queries ushered them downstairs to the hall where they panicked themselves into fumbling for the front-door keys.

Two uniformed Gardaí.

“Are you the owner of a black Toyota Corolla registration number zero nine….?”

“Yes”, she shakily responded, her heart somewhere it wasn’t designed to be.

“And who are you, Sir?”

“My husband”, she cut in.

“What’s this about?”, her husband demanded to know, his characteristic affection for law enforcement officers waking up before the rest of him.

“Were either of you driving the vehicle this evening?”

“No”, they replied in unison, “why?”

“It was involved in a very serious incident earlier. Can you tell us when you last saw it?”

That fucker, she mused accusingly. She was back behind the wheel of her imagination breaking the speed limit. The fucker being the mechanic she had left her car with days previously. A man she had never met before that week. Try as she might she couldn’t escape the mental leap from one heinous crime to another. Not a burglary surely. God, no. Oh no, Jesus, please let it not be a sexual assault. Or worse.

“What is it?”, they pleaded.

“I’m afraid we can’t disclose any more details at the moment. We ask that you give us the name and number of the man you believe has the car”

They only knew him by his first name. Reluctantly, her husband scrolled through his phonebook. He kept accidentally dialling the number as he went to read it out, the ringing tone invading the tension.

“Please. Just read the number out”

“Zero..eight….”

“Thank you. If you call the Garda Station tomorrow, they will explain what happened”.

The clock blinked 04:05. Both of them punched the living day lights out of their pillows until worry got the better of them. At 10:00, she lifted the phone.

“OK. Thank you for letting me know”, she signed off, as her husband hovered over her having given up mouthing a string of “wells?” she batted away with her one available hand.

Days later, they parked up on the kerb. Fresh flowers for her mother’s grave in hand. A cigarette ready to be lit in his. To the left of her mother’s resting place, synthetic grass lay across another freshly dug grave signalling someone’s barely born but silent grief. Tufts of lime green adorned with wreaths left by folk with whom she would form an unavoidable remaining-lifetime bond. She had already struck up a companionable silence with the mother of the teenage girl laid to rest on the right. Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. The last time she spent time in this woman’s company was in the primary school yard of their girlhood.

“Oh my God. Look”, her husband shouted inspecting the neighbouring grave closer. “It’s him”.

Rest In Peace.

A child of the ’80s. Date of death the same as the night she was awakened from her sleeplessness. He had chosen somewhere remote to put an end to the unbearable hurt he was under.

They stood silent for a few minutes; keeping their own private thoughts just that before strolling back to the car.

“It’s awful”

“Yeah. Tis”

“You know they thought it was you that night. They were coming to break the news to me”

“I’m here though, aren’t I?”, he wrapped his arm around her.

“Just as well. My Mum would’ve twirled in her grave if she thought she’d have to lie beside you for eternity”

 **************

Inspired by a story told to me by a friend over Christmas. Car details etc. have been changed.

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