He’ll be back soon. About another hour and I’ll hear his key in the lock. I’ve time to finish my tea, wash the cup and get back in bed before he arrives. I don’t want him to know I’ve been waiting for him to come home. Mind you, that’s exactly what I do all the time. I don’t go out much. I order my groceries on line and get my news from the telly.
I remember that first day, the day Richard moved in next door. He was throwing stones at tin cans on the wall at the end of his garden while I watched him from my bedroom window. He always seemed older, much more sophisticated.
I think I loved him from the beginning. Maybe he felt the same, I don’t know. When we were nine, as we stood under the apple tree at the bottom of my garden, he bound a blade of grass around my finger and told me that one day he’d buy me a ring. I never doubted he meant it, though it took him almost forty years to make good on his promise. I shall never forget his face staring out of the back of his parents’ car as they drove away to some new home in some unknown city. I was devastated.
Dad said Richard was the sort of boy to pull the wings of butterflies and he was glad he’d gone.
There was never anyone else for me. I piled on even more weight and I never did work out what I was supposed to do with make-up. Stacking shelves in Tesco was all I had.
And then there was that chance meeting in the street all those years later. It sounds ridiculous when I put it into words, but at that moment, my heart almost stopped. I could barely breathe for the crushing pain in my chest. He pulled me to him and said nothing but my name, over and over and over in my ear. I moved in with him the next day. My parents disapproved of course.
It was just a feeling at first. He isn’t a man given to extremes of mood as a rule, no big highs or lows. Yet, there were mornings when he seemed to want – I suppose the best way to explain it is, he wanted to celebrate. He brought me breakfast in bed, a rose in a vase and a glass of Buck’s Fizz. When I asked him what it was all about, he said he didn’t need a reason to tell his wife how much he loved her, though he’d never actually said that and of course, I’m not really his wife. She lives in Wimbledon with their two teenage children.
And then I found a bag I didn’t recognise at the back of the wardrobe. There were three shirts inside and they were all stained. I tried washing one of them, but the marks wouldn’t come out. When I went to put it back, the bag had gone so I threw the shirt in the bin.
I take a bit more interest in the news these days. I match the dates up with the nights he comes in late, those mornings there’s a newly stained shirt tucked into a strange bag at the back of the wardrobe. I hear the appeals and I know what I’m supposed to do. I’ve even picked up the phone a couple of times, once I got as far as dialling the number, but I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do it. I remember what my life was like without him. I can’t volunteer to go back to that.
I don’t expect anyone to understand. He’s killed eight so far and no doubt one day they’ll catch him. Meanwhile, I live each moment as it comes.