Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 26 October 2012

Parallel Lives Chapter 10

Karen had been in about thirty minutes when the doorbell rang. Scooping up some of Josh’s toys as she breezed to the door she checked her hair in the hall mirror. Upon opening the front door she found herself facing a scruffy, if vaguely familiar, man about her age. If he had been clean shaven and less pale she might have been drawn to such a man, certainly if she wasn’t married with two kids. He stood there for a fraction of a second longer than Karen would have liked, and she looked closer into his dark eyes, sensing that they were changing rapidly despite a surface glaze. Karen spoke:
‘Yes?’ The question seemed to waken the man.
‘I’m looking for Jack Howells. I’ve been told that he had left work, they gave me this address.’ Karen started to feel a little vulnerable, not sure how to handle this man. Deep down she felt he was safe, but on the surface he had an air of unpredictability about him. She couldn’t fetch Jack, he wasn’t there, but did she risk hinting Jack was going to be back soon only to find the stranger on her doorstep inviting himself in to wait; or should she tell the truth and risk letting him know he had several hours to play with, should his intentions be bad. She decided to stick with the truth, but resolving to not let the man in and to call her father as soon as she had closed the door. She put on as bright a voice as she could muster.
‘Jack’s away for the day, he’ll be back later.’ Then she braced, inwardly. The man looked crestfallen, and Karen knew he truly had wanted Jack, not her. Deep relief and, perhaps perversely, slight disappointment flushed through her. Embarrassed by her secondary response, Karen closed the door on the man, who had turned apologising, slurring several words as he went. Fitting the chain on the door she hurried through to the lounge to watch the man walk up the street, dragging his feet slightly as he moved slowly along. Eventually she was relieved to see him turn the corner, without any attempt to look back. Holding Josh to her chest Karen phoned her father.
John had found the strain of dragging his weary body along the road to the corner, resisting his inclination to turn and look again at Karen’s house, almost insufferable. Once he had turned the corner he sat on a low, angled wall that had been whitewashed many years earlier and was now a testament to domestic neglect. His body ached and his muscles felt heavier than he could ever remember. The fog that served for a memory was thickening as he urged himself to find his way home, but the shock at seeing Karen again, after all this time, was overwhelming. He had looked for her after the memory of the accident, had hung around her parents’ home, had passed them in the street, but he hadn’t seen her again until today. More importantly her parents hadn’t shown any flicker of recognition when he passed them, which fitted in with his ‘new’ memory that she wasn’t a part of his life any more, wasn’t a part of this life at all. That absence, more than any other factor in his memory, was the single most compelling reason for not revealing his story to anyone. A part of John could not believe that anything that strong, that consuming, could disappear without a trace; it caused him to doubt his own beliefs, yet to deny it was to throw away all hope, something he had refused to do completely. And there she was, married to Jack Howells. Karen, John’s lover. And part of him knew she recognised him, her eyes showed that light reserved for long lost acquaintances.
Standing with difficulty, steadying himself against a gate post, John continued on the journey that had taken all morning and part of the afternoon. Inside he knew the journey had taken longer than that, it had started when he had arrived home the previous evening, weary after the rough night in the hospital and the two long days following the accident at the works. Feeding the cat while the kettle came to the boil, John had decided to take the prescribed sedatives a little earlier than he might of, to try and catch up on his sleep. He remembered surprise as the chemicals in the tablets rushed around his body, sapping energy and motivating him to turn to his bed within minutes. He had managed to make it up the stairs, but that’s as far as his memories for Tuesday evening extended, with John waking up at eight o’ clock Wednesday morning still half dressed and without a single dream to recall. Brushing his teeth he had resolved to have a quiet day, to breakfast, shower, perhaps dress, perhaps not; then sit and read the newspaper and watch some daytime TV. After preparing his cereal John had walked through to the living room to eat it sat on the sofa, a luxury he rarely allowed himself (a throwback to Karen, he believed). Sitting down he had realised that the notebook was missing from the bookshelf and, after a cursory glance around the room and on the floor immediately adjacent to the bookcase, he’d surmised that Jack must have taken his request more seriously than he had expected; he’d assumed that Jack had been humouring him in the hospital.
The revised plan had been to catch the bus to the works, pick the book up from Jack at his office then to drive the car, sat at the works’ car park since Monday, back home. As it happened he had missed Jack by minutes, then had abandoned driving the car when he came close to striking the boundary wall, recognising that his judgement wasn’t up to scratch. More bus journeys on routes less familiar, and a reasonably aimless wander around a maze of Victorian streets had sapped John’s remaining energy. Eventually a helpful newsagent directed him to the address Jack’s receptionist had furnished. And then he had met Karen.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

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