Dougie heard the heavy thud of the front door closing from his upstairs office and frowned.
Normally, when working, his mind would dive too deep into the worlds he was narrating to hear even a bomb going off.
That’s what he called his work. He wasn’t writing or creating worlds, he was documenting all he heard or witnessed in those places he was lucky enough to tread.
So, to hear the door was novel.
He checked the time on the laptop clock. It read 19:38.
‘Hello!’ He called.
‘Hi,’ Janey replied.
‘What are you doing home so early?’ Asked Dougie. ‘You were supposed to be working until ten.’
‘I managed to get off early,’ she said as she reached the top of the stairs.
‘REALLY?! That’s not like Alfie to let you out before time. Was he high on gas and air again. You didn’t find him in a cubicle talking to god about the Teletubbies again, did you?’
‘No. You daft sod,’ Janey laughed as she stepped into the office. ‘You had a productive night, sweetie?’
‘I think so. Got another rejection earlier.’
‘Oh, sweetie,’ she said, sitting on his knee.
The rickety swivel chair they’d picked up cheap from a sale-room rocked under their combined weight, though, he noticed, didn’t groan in its usual way. He was also a little surprised the sterile aroma of the hospital that normally filled his nose when she was close after work appeared absent.
Although those things didn’t dance around his mind for too long as she kissed his lips.
‘You okay?’ She asked.
‘Yeah. It’s just, you know, am I wasting my time with this writing crap?’
This wasn’t a question of ego boosting. She had taken the decision to be the sole provider to allow him room to catch his dreams. Sometimes, however, when the rejections snarled into his inbox, he felt guilt rising against her decision.
‘No! Don’t you ever give up, sweetie. It’s your gift. I can honestly say that I know you’ll make it one day. Promise me you’ll believe in yourself and never give up, love.’
‘All right, chicken,’ Dougie began. ‘But I…’
‘No buts. Promise me.’
‘I promise,’ he said, as the doorbell chimed.
She stood away from his lap, kissing his lips one more time.
It was the softest kiss she’d ever given him. It contained a certain urgency in her light touch.
‘Can you answer that,’ she asked. ‘I need the loo.’
Dougie watched the sway of her hips through her uniform as she made her way down the landing to the bathroom. It was hypnotising.
The doorbell chimed again.
He smiled at the wonder of her presence, before heading downstairs.
As he reached the bottom of the stairs, the chime rang three more times in quick succession, irritating him.
‘All right,’ Dougie muttered. ‘For fuck’s sake.’
He opened the door to two tall police officers and a bracing early winter chill. One male and the other female.
‘Yes?’ He asked.
‘Mr Douglas Ellison?’ The male asked.
‘We are sorry to say we have some bad news, Mr Ellison,’ the male continued, looking sheepish. ‘Do you mind if we come in?’
‘What’s it about?’
His brother and father had both been unwell.
But why would the police come and tell me about them? Wouldn’t I just get a call? He thought, feeling sick.
‘It’s about your fiancé, erm, Miss Jane Coleman,’ the female told him. ‘There was a terrible accident at the hospital.’
‘Janey? He asked, feeling relief flood his mind. ‘Ah! Come in! Janey’s upstairs.’
What a knob I am, he thought. The accident’s at work and they need her back to help.
It has happened a previous time, when a colleague was off sick and a twenty-car pile-up had mangled into one on the M62.
He stood back allowing the officers to enter the front room.
They stepped inside as if the house may collapse around their ears.
‘Erm,’ the male began. ‘You misunderstand, Mr Ellison.’
As they cleared the doorway, Dougie noticed their panda car on the driveway where Janey’s should be.
He rushed out. Confusion speeding his limbs.
Her Citroen wasn’t on the drive or against the pavement beyond. He bolted back inside. His head spun. His stomach flipped.
Dougie hardly heard the male trying to grab his attention as he shot up the staircase like they were one step.
‘Janey!’ He hollered. ‘Janey! Come on, love! Stop fucking about, love! She was just here! Janey was just here! You were just here!’