Something is in my garden. It is not a good thing. Or a thing with good intentions. I know this because good things and things with good intentions do not hide in shadowy borders at 1 A.M. on a Tuesday night. Things that hide in shadowy borders at 1 A.M. on a Tuesday night are things with agendas. Things with purpose. And those agendas and purposes are typically at odds with your own (filling your water glass; returning to bed; counting down the minutes until your alarm announces the end of another sleepless night).
There’s something in the garden, I whisper, my words fogging the kitchen window.
I hold my breath and wait for a reply. None comes. I am alone. I remember that now. I am alone, he is with her and there is something in my garden.
I wonder what to do. I imagine that most people would call the police. But say what? That the patch of shadows by the buddleia seems thicker than usual? That I feel the same sense of foreboding that I felt on the morning that he left? That my left breast itches and that it only ever itches when something bad is about to happen? No. They would laugh at me. I would rather take my chance with the something.
I suddenly wish that I was the kind of woman who slept in a peach silk slip. I don’t want to die in penguin pyjamas. I wonder if I have time to change. If I am to face this thing, I should be appropriately dressed. Or naked. Naked would be fine.
I picture the scene: I will be draped lightly across my bed like a paper doll, the sheets arranged tactfully over my pale body, eyes closed as if dreaming. I will be more beautiful in death than I was in life. The attending officers will discover me and fall to their knees. They will curse their colleagues for not believing me. They will fall in love with me. With my story. They will weep as they give their press conference. Lonely single women everywhere will hold me up as their martyr. The police will listen to them. They will vow to investigate all reports of shadowy somethings in the future. No matter how many times the caller has been wrong in the past about such things. They will call this law Paula’s Promise.
The thing is still for a long, long time and I begin to wonder if I imagined the dark darting mass. Was it nothing more than a trick of the light? Or of my mind? It seems likely. After all, what promise could a shabby ground floor flat such as mine hold? A few tired appliances. Several predictable box sets. One tired and predictable middle-aged woman.
And then the thought strikes me – this throbbing patch of darkness is him. He has come back. When was it that he realised his mistake? As he packed? As he drew back his hand? As he drove away, leaving me alone with my purpling bloom? Maybe it was later, while they were making love. Maybe he was imagining my body moving against his. My breath against his neck. Did he push her away moments before the end and, without a word of explanation, leave her house and drive here?
It’s OK, I’ll say when he finally reveals himself.
I was afraid.
So was I.
I don’t really love her.
Of course not.
Then why did you leave?
You loved me too much.
I was afraid that I could never love you back in the way that you deserved.
So it wasn’t because I bored you?
Far from it.
Or because my body sickens you?
Your body is perfect.
Or because I have no ambition?
Money isn’t everything. I know that now.
But it is not him. He would not hide in my garden. He would not be afraid. He was right. People do avoid me at gatherings. My thighs and stomach have bloated horribly over the last few years. I do lack drive. No. He does not want me back and nor should he want me back.
If I could leave me, I would.
I begin to shiver. I want to crawl back under my heavy duvet, crush it against my face and breathe in the last of him. Hold him in my lungs. But I cannot do so without some sort of ceremony – the vigil has gone on too long. I am rooted.
I begin to count to three. On three, I will turn away.
Movement. There was movement. I am sure of it. The thing can sense that I am about to leave and does not want me to go. It needs me. It needs me to see.
And then there it is, sliding out of the shrubbery, standing as tall as a tall man. But whether it truly is male or not I cannot be sure. Its specifics are swallowed by the night.
Steadily, it eats up the distance between us. I should be afraid. I should run. I should scream and shout and cry and yell. But instead, I am calm. I am ready. I have been waiting for this moment, for this something. Then, three feet from the back door, it stops and drags its mouth into a smile.
It is time, the thing says to me through the glass.
I thought you’d never come.
I needed you to be ready.
I know. I’m ready now.
Are you sure?
Yes, I say.
I turn the key, unlocking the door.
Take me, I whisper.
Vickie McGee is a writer currently based in the South East of England. She enjoys buying notebooks that she’ll never use, hiding away in her writing nook and learning Israeli combat techniques. She also wants to read ALL the books.