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JOSEPH FREEMAN

H

e was turning the car away from the high street where Christmas hung above the shops like icicles when the phone started to ring. With a curse, and a cursory glance in the mirrors, he set about disentangling himself from the rush of traffic he’d just waited five minutes to force himself into. Horns competing with one another for hostility and duration threatened to obscure the mobile’s tinny fanfare, and by the time he’d managed to pull up beside the sea wall, they had. It had fallen silent. He’d missed the call, and simply because he had, he knew just who it would have been. Marshall groaned as he dug in his coat, slung on the passenger seat, to drag out the phone and reward himself with the sight of his ex-wife’s name, glaring just as silently and disapprovingly as she’d used to do in their later years together. He caught his reflection in the rear-view mirror. No matter how age ravaged him, it never seemed to take much for him to revert to feeling as inept and guilty as a child. Hating his weakness, he turned away from his own gaze to stare at the black void beyond the promenade where the sea and the sky presumably were, and summoned up his ex-wife. She’d only just called him, so presumably making him wait so long before answering his call was some kind of punishment, and he had a feeling it was the least of what he was putting himself in for. By the time she answered, as tersely as a slap, he’d broken out into a sweat. ‘Yes. Hello.’ She said, two words that somehow between them failed to make a greeting. ‘Michelle. Sorry. It’s me.’ Her silence could be inviting him to elaborate upon that, though it felt almost totally uninviting. He felt pressured into mumbling ‘Roger.’ And felt he’d walked into another of her traps when she snapped ‘I know that. I was beginning to think you didn’t want to speak with me.’ ‘I did earlier. I do now. I was driving.’ When all of this failed to bring any kind of a response he asked ‘Didn’t you get my message?’ ‘I did. That’s why I was calling.’ Her silences were making him itch and squirm as much as her unflinching gazes ever had. He stared out at the cars crawling home along the promenade, at the town centre in the rear-view mirror closing itself down for the day. A clot of teenagers peeled themselves away from a nearby fish-and-chop shop and wandered past, pointing and laughing at him. No, not at him, at the car, at the slogans he’d painted on the doors to advertise himself. ‘What’s so important that you have to miss your son’s - 95 -

Estronomicon Christmas 2008  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

Estronomicon Christmas 2008  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

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