The Long Walk Home
Tue, 24 Nov 2015
Eerie...the dimly lit alleyway, but it was quicker. Her car was in dry dock after its MOT...awaiting one of those infamous, illusive ‘spare parts’ so she was forced to ‘hoof it’, tonight at least.
Fumbles in her bag for a torch; where was the damned thing? She remembered picking it up that morning – knowing she’d be late home; parents' evening at a local comprehensive where she taught ‘A’ level Psychology. A drag, those sessions; the parents of under-achievers rarely came, but those with bright kids, invariably showed. Crazy! Her first term, and she was fast discovering she’d more to learn about the human psyche than her pupils.
Rejoining the main drag, her route takes her past a couple of antique shops, the inevitable estate agent’s, a butcher’s and one of those ‘twee’, housing developments. A country girl born and bred, the allure of rural life would never diminish, and she frowned on the numerous residential estates springing up like Topsy in the area.
Leaving civilization behind, she heads for her own, personal Utopia; marvels as bats flit here and there. They roost in the old mill with its redundant mill race, and she pictures what it’s like inside. Buildings fascinated her – especially those with history. Another bat swoops low – brushes her hair. Instinctively, she ducks. Bats are supposed to have fantastic radar, but she’s not taking any chances, and it’s then she hears them; the footsteps – way in the distance, but footsteps nonetheless.
Uneasily, she continues her journey, then stops to listen again. Not a sound, save the rustle of leaves and the occasional bark of a vixen guarding her cubs. Almost there, and the welcome sight of her porch-light, at the head of the lane, like a beacon, beckoning. Hers was the only house lit up; the neighbours considering it ‘a waste of electricity’. Already, she tastes that customary gin and tonic she invariably treated herself to; a quick shower, slippers on...Pavarotti belting out, full volume. A brilliant find, her tiny cottage, adjacent to open farmland, in a hamlet of four similar properties. It was rented, but she’d own it, one day. Pie in the sky, but she could dream, couldn’t she?
Fishing in a pocket for the door-keys, she hears footsteps again; the crunch of gravel. Only now they’re far closer, and gathering momentum. ‘Get the hell out of there!’ her instinct tells her. Kicking off her totally impractical, but much-loved stilettos, she prepares to break into a run.
“Hang on!” A shrill voice splices the darkness like a switchblade. “Never meant to startle you, only...you dropped your mobile phone, way back there. Here it is, Miss. You should be more careful, you know.”
Of course...it must have fallen out of her handbag searching for the torch, and thinking about it, that voice sounded kind of familiar too.
“Isn’t that just like me?” she muses, turning to thank whomsoever her ‘Good Samaritan’ was, immediately recognising it to be one of her students...the one she’d kept behind for detention at the beginning of the week...one of the ones whose parents hadn’t been that evening;
a lone figure illuminated by a solitary streetlamp – lit the ‘T’ junction, hand outstretched; something glinting in the ice-blue, neon light. And in that split second she sees her mobile phone; on the breakfast bar, by the bread-board, and knife catching the first rays of sunshine, where she’d left it that morning.