As the policeman pulled back the sheet she knew immediately that he had come. The sound of his voice had woken her from the darkness.
In contrast, Anna now stared up at the white ceiling. She could hear her lover talking; to another man she didn’t know. His voice was tight and clipped, lots of short sentences. They were talking about a date, a time, a location of an event that she did not know what.
The lights above her were clinical and she had to shut her eyes to stop them from aching. Squeezing them tight shut, the way you do when merely closing your eyelids isn’t enough. But still the light was there blinding her.
She went to move her hand, using it as a shield to protect her eyes from the light. Nothing happened. Growing frantic, she furiously tried to lift her arm. Her brain sending urgent commands to her eyelids, her arms, her hands, asking them to move. But still they ignored her, remaining motionless.
Aware her lover was in the room, she started calling his name. Shouting it, screaming questions about where she was, why she was here and when she could go home. He appeared to ignore her, continuing his conversation with the stranger. Her eyesight rendered useless by the light she focused her other senses. She listened to her lover closely and heard his tone change. The tight, clipped voice was replaced with soothing sounds as she heard him say,
“It’s OK, baby. It will all be over soon.”
She practically felt her heart lurch. He had heard her, knew how scared she was and had come to explain everything. She screamed his name silently. Then she heard the sobbing. The soft, delicate cries of a woman desperately trying to keep the tears at bay.
Simultaneously she was plunged back into the darkness. The light above her had gone off like a light switch. As she tried to focus she realised, not like a switch, just blocked, blocked by somebody.
Judging by the dark silhouette above her it was the woman she had heard crying. As she made out the shape of her hair, styled into big bouncy curls, the diamond earrings and the tears, louder now, she recognised her sister.
Oh shit. Has she found out about us?
All thoughts of her current situation flew from her mind as she saw her. Anna had been having an affair with Mark, her sister’s husband for the last three years. Seeing her, tears streaming down her face she wondered if her sister had found out.
“I just wanted to see her one last time.”
The innocent voice of her sister pulled Anna from her guilt-ridden thoughts.
“That’s normal,” the other man said stiffly, as though it wasn’t normal at all. “We have already performed the post-mortem so Anna’s body can be released back to you tomorrow.”
Anna heard the sound of footsteps coming towards her and the rustling of fabric. The bright light above her dimmed as she was covered by a thick cream sheet.
A post-mortem? Can’t they see I am clearly alive? Yes, I’m just paralysed. How did this happen? How did I get here?
She was lounging on the bed, a glass of red in her hand when she heard the door. Mark was walking out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist.
“Did you hear that?” he asked, his voice tight.
The sound of keys jangling against the pretty silver bowl they had in the hall way followed heels tapping against the polished floorboards. Anna heard her sister calling, calling for Mark. She laughed whilst she spoke, something about forgetting to take her lunch and guessing that he had done the same.
In the bedroom, Mark had dropped the towel and was pulling his shirt over his still wet body.
“Quick, hide in the bathroom, I’ll distract her.” he whispered, thrusting the half full wine glasses and empty bottle of red at her. Anna hesitated, for months he had been promising that he would tell her sister the truth. He would break up with her and finally he and Anna could be a proper couple. Whilst it wouldn’t have been the way Anna chose it to happen, maybe her sister finding them like this would be what she had been waiting for.
“Move,” he hissed, his blue eyes were hard, their familiar warmth replaced by ice. Her hesitation vanished and she grabbed the wine glasses from him. In her haste, the wine spilled out, leaving a large stain on the cream carpet. He swore at her and hurried out of the room, closing the door of the spare bedroom behind him.
Downstairs, her sister was in the kitchen. Her back was to him as he walked in, her attention focused on finding food in the fridge. He could hear the kettle boiling, the frantic bubbles over flowing from the spout because she had filled it too high. He hated it when she did that.
Anna sat in the spare room wondering how long she was to hide here, she had an important meeting that afternoon and had to get back to the office. The house was big, if they were in the kitchen she could sneak out the front door without being seen. Carefully, she gathered her things and holding her breath gently opened the door. Barefoot she tiptoed towards the stairs. Luckily the house was modern; it would be such a cliché if a dodgy floorboard gave her away.
She heard their voices, he was explaining how the new intern had spilled coffee all over him and his lunch and he couldn’t sit at work with a wet crotch and stained shirt so he just decided to come back for a shower and because he was already here he might as well have lunch here too. He barely stopped for breath, laughing at the incredulity of it all, ha ha ha.
Anna rolled her eyes at the flimsy story but successfully made her way to the hall without being noticed. She was unsure as to how she would get back to work as her car was still at the office but that was something she could figure out later. For now, she had to get out of the house. Mercifully, her sister had not locked the door behind her.
Breathing a heavy sigh of relief Anna let the front door slam behind her.
“Someone’s here,” her sister said, “I heard the front door.” Getting up to look she moved towards the front door. She had long suspected that Mark had been having an affair and wondered if this was the moment she was going to catch him out. Mark called after her, claiming that it was something outside but she ignored him. Opening the front door, on the pavement outside her house, a woman was tapping into her mobile phone.
Anna was searching for the closest taxi company on her phone, somebody who could get her out of here quickly. Finding one she bent down and put on her stiletto sandals, cursing herself for choosing those shoes. She couldn’t really walk in them at the best of times but she had needed to look smart for this meeting, and they were sexier than her usual work ones. Buckling up the last strap she looked up and saw her sister, standing, staring at her.
Her sister’s delicate features were twisted in rage. Confusion, realisation and anger had coursed through her in a matter of seconds. Anna, seeing her running towards her took a step back, one foot on the raised pavement, the other now in the gutter. She felt the force of her sister’s hand as it smacked across her face, her cheek fizzing in pain. As she raised her hand to her stinging face she took another step back, her legs wobbly on their Prada stilts.
Shocked, her sister pulled her hand away quickly. She was surprised at the strength her anger had given her. She watched as Anna desperately tried to balance on her ridiculous shoes whilst her cheek reddened. She almost felt sorry for her. Hearing Mark’s calling behind, irritation surged within her. He was apologising, telling her lies about it being a one-time thing and how it didn’t mean anything. The anger inside her blocked him out, all she could focus on was her sister, and the oncoming car. No hesitation, without thinking, she lunged forward.
I remember what happened now. She pushed me. Into the road, the car was coming. She saw it and she pushed me. I remember the high pitched squeal of the brakes, the smell of burning rubber and the darkness as my head hit the pavement.
The driver got out the car, his face white.
“Sh-she just stepped out,” he stammered, “I had no time to stop.” Mark was beside his wife, holding her hand. He nodded, confirming that the driver was correct in what he saw, Anna had stepped out. He held his wife in his arms, pushing her head against his chest, pretending to soak up her non-existent tears. He would protect her from this, it was the least he could do.
I’m not sure how long I spent lying under that sheet, but when it was finally pulled off the previous white ceiling and bright lights were replaced with something softer. My sister was hovering above me talking to someone, it sounded like she was making arrangements for my funeral. Her voice soft, answering questions politely. I heard a door open and close.
“Hello again,” she said to me, “Dead and you still find new ways to torture me.” Her tone had turned cold and unnatural as she continued. “Mark knows what I did, he is lying for me, on the condition I stay with him. Apparently he loves me and can’t live without me.” She spoke to me like she knew I was listening, bragging about Mark, knew that I was inside my body, trapped inside this place between heaven and hell.
“Typical,” she said offhand, “you’re the dead one, but I’m the one in purgatory.”
Thank you for reading! 🙂
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