She shook her head. How could this be happening to her? One minute she was in love, her passion reciprocated by the man she had fallen for, and the next think she knew, she was being tossed in a corner and dumped for another woman.
She had to admit, nothing serious had happened yet. She had never seen him with another woman, nor had he mentioned anyone. He told her he loved her and everything was normal, until he left at those absurd hours, while she was sleeping.
She groaned and pulled her pillow over her head. She was once again, now the third night in a row, waking up to an empty bed, where all that was left of the full-sized human from the night before, was a small handwritten note: See you after work, love and a heart.
Angrily, she ripped it apart. She knew men were cheating bastards, but this wasn’t the way to go about, was it? He had literally left her in the middle of the night without so much as a goodbye. Not even a polite explanation of why she was no longer good enough.
She growled as she put on her office suit. Grabbing her coffee mug and bag, she took one last look in the mirror before she left. She looked an angry woman, red splotches in her face, and her eyes and brows pulled together in a hard stern look.
She worked as a journalist, a finance journalist to be precise, and the endless meetings she was occupied with all day cleared her head and allowed for logic to take over. He wasn’t unfaithful, she rationalised; he simply wanted to spend the night in his own apartment. She didn’t blame him. She preferred her own apartment too, to his small, foul smelling and forever dirty one. He had promised that once they got married – because they would, they had told each other – they would move into her apartment, or else rent out a new, bigger place.
She walked back to the station slower than usual and missed her train by seconds. As the six minutes crept by, she wondered whether he would be at home already. He was usually done with work earlier than her, though occasionally he still had a late meeting. Was it really a meeting?, she considered. Maybe he had been meeting up with another woman, disguising it as a work meeting. She felt disgusted. Something had to be done. The first night he had vanished, she thought that she had merely overslept, and consequently forgot to confront him in the evening. The next night when he had vanished again, she could not find the right moment to mention it. He said he loved her and she wanted it so badly to be true.
The train halted with a shrieking noise, much like the one she had uttered that same morning, when she realised that he was gone. One of the men elbowed her on his way in and instead of an apology grumbled about “people these days”. Standing amidst the mass of people crammed into the small apartment, she grabbed the handhold above her. She was so lost in thought, she nearly missed her stop, until the man who had grumbled at her, began pushing from behind, muttering curse words under his breath.
Was there no friendliness in this world?, she thought bitterly. Was everyone selfish? She thought herself to be a quite selfless person, pleased by pleasing other people. Other people’s happiness brings happiness to oneself, and so on.
When she reached her apartment, she took a deep breath, but then realised he wasn’t even home yet. Perhaps he was still with the other woman at his own place. She picked up the phone to call there, but put it back immediately. It was all wrong.
She made herself a cup of tea and sat down on the couch, her feet pulled up close to her body.
An hour later or so – she must have dozed off – she was shaken awake by a noise at the door. It was already dark outside, only the street’s lantern illuminating the heavily falling snow. He shook himself out of his dripping wet cloak, placing it carefully on the hanger beside the door. She sat on the couch, motionless, gripping the cold empty cup with both her hands, until her knuckles turned white.
He did not turn on the light, but when he saw her silhouette in the darkness, his surprise was clearly visible.
“Why are you sitting in the dark?” he asked, his voice rough and tired.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said the words she had heard often enough in movies, but he did not respond to it, not taking the hint.
“There was no need to do that,” he said, turning towards the stairs. She wanted to run to him, shake him and shout at him, but she stayed glued to the couch, as if some huge iron hand was clamped around her. She couldn’t do it. He offered no sign to confirm her suspicions. Instead of looking flushed and happy, like perhaps he should have, he looked merely grey with fatigue.
“Please,” he said, as he turned back and looked at her. “I can’t talk tonight. I’m exhausted. We’ll do something nice on the weekend. Tomorrow’s Saturday,” he said. She still said nothing, but after a while, she got up and followed him up the stairs.
He had already headed off to the shower, so she was left alone again. She made herself ready to confront him, but something about his genuine exhaustion made her want to comfort him instead.
When he got out of the shower, he barely spoke to her, just slipped into his pyjamas and lay down on his bed. She got up reluctantly, telling herself that she would confront him after the shower. Her determination of confronting him was already crumbling, and she wondered whether she would ever even manage to leave him, once her suspicions were confirmed. She loved him too much, she supposed.
On return, she saw him lying on his side of the bed, lost in deep sleep. She stopped in the doorway, watching him. He looked weary even in sleep and she wondered whether his own infidelity was exhausting him. Maybe he had come to the realisation on his own and there was no need to confront him.
Sighing and slightly annoyed with her faltering decisiveness, she slipped into bed beside him. She tossed and turned, but sleep would not come to her. She knew she was tired, but somehow her thoughts troubled her so much.
At 4am, still only half dozing, she felt a sudden vibration. It was barely anything, but it startled her. She felt him stir beside her. Oh no, she thought. Hadn’t he said they’d spend the weekend together nicely? She cursed in her head, but pretended to be asleep while she heard him dress quickly and in silence.
She nearly shrank back when he suddenly kissed her forehead and softly whispered I love you in her ear. Was that his bad conscience?, she thought bitterly.
When she heard the door shut quietly, she moved quickly to the window. She could see his slim figure on the street below, heading towards his apartment through the twirling snow. She cursed and threw on her clothes and grabbed her cloak from the hanger.
Hurrying down the street, she followed the footprints that he had left in the snow. He had already vanished into his apartment when she reached it. She stopped for a second, the snow settling on her cloak and hair. She realised that she was shaking.
She had his key, but the door was unlocked. It was pitch black on the inside. She suspected he had gone immediately upstairs. Was the other woman waiting for him upstairs? Had they met in front of the house or had they met inside?
Unsure, she decided to switch on the light. It would reveal her, but she knew there was a large glass vase somewhere in the entry corridor and she did not want to break it.
When she hit the switch, she took in a sharp breath.
His body was spread on the carpet in front of her, blood still seeping out from a wound beneath his shirt. He wasn’t breathing.