My day ended later than usual. I felt extraordinarily tired after having moved into a new office. You know me, as soon as it was available, I couldn’t bear to wait for anyone official to assist. In my eagerness to ensconce myself in a place I could call my own and shut the door on the noise and bustle, I hefted heavy files across: one pile at a time. My books followed next. Then my photographs and the pot plants I had purchased earlier in the day. A few pictures on the wall and a couple of flowers filched from the garden to decorate my desk made me feel comfortable at last and ready to go.
It wasn’t the self-moving that made me late, although my weariness could partly be attributed to that. After all, I am more used to shuffling papers and dealing with people than lugging heavy things around. That is what Joshua does.
What made me late was the management meeting that dragged on long past its usual run. It would happen that on a day when weariness had settled on my shoulder, was caressing my neck and waging war with my eyelids, the agenda – already long – was lengthened by so many additional items I felt ready to scream in frustration. Why can’t people think of things to discuss beforehand, I fumed inwardly while trying to prevent my eyelids from drooping.
Listening to the same people spooling the same arguments led me into a reverie about the weekend when Nellie and David would be visiting. That meant getting in extra food, making up the beds, and airing the spare room that remained shut for months at a time. Our daughter seemed to live on the edge of disappearing from our lives we saw her so seldom.
I was already half way home in the next village when it dawned on me that I had forgotten to draw money. So intent was I on that mission – I needed something to focus on anyway – that I drove straight to the ATM near our village shop.
The sun had already set when I arrived. I grabbed my purse and car keys and walked briskly towards the ATM. I could feel my pulse pick up a beat as I sifted through my mind for ideas of something quick and easy to make for supper. While I waited for the two people ahead of me in the queue, I mentally ticked off what was left in the fridge and freezer: not much at this time of the month!
My fingers shook involuntarily as I pressed the buttons. Having drawn more money than I had intended made me feel on edge. I stuffed the notes into my purse without counting them and strode towards the car. Out of habit, I pressed the remote to unlock the car well before I reached it. No orange lights flashed. Not a peep of the sound of unlocking doors. How odd.
I looked around cautiously, aware of only a sandy-haired young man standing next to his bakkie, deep in a conversation on his cell phone. I walked up to the car, pressed the remote again and tried the door. It wouldn’t budge. I stared at the keys in my hand as if they would give me an answer. Even though they stared back at me without giving anything away, I could feel their metallic laughter for they knew the alarm would shriek if I tried to unlock the door. Monsters!
A cool breeze lifted the dust at my feet. I shivered from more than the cooling air: my cell phone lay in full view on the passenger seat along with my handbag! The sandy-haired man was about to enter his bakkie. “Excuse me!” I almost sprinted towards him in spite of my high heels and narrow skirt.
He must have caught the note of panic in my voice for he happily handed over his cell phone and watched me quizzically while I punched in Joshua’s number. There was no reply. I kept my face as neutral as I could when I turned towards the man. “Thank you,” I said calmly and waved as he drove off. The slight shake of his head and barely hidden smile set me off. ‘He thinks I am just a stupid woman!’
Oh dear! So focused had I been on being the epitome of calm that I had forgotten to leave Joshua a message. Stupid woman indeed! The horizon was already glowing with streaks of peachy golden clouds when it dawned on me that Joshua may be concerned by the missed call from a strange number at a time I would normally have been at home.
The parking lot was deserted as the shops had long since closed. What if Joshua had tried to phone me? I couldn’t tell if he had for my phone was lying face down on the seat. It was conceivable that he might drive along my usual route home to look for me. He would never dream of passing the ATM on his way. Why do we always think the worst? I had visions of him scanning the sides of the road in the fading light, imagining me trapped helplessly in the twisted wreck of my car.
That spurred me on. I set off briskly, high heels and all, along the roughly tarred road that wound up the hill towards our home three blocks away. By the time I reached the gate my carefully pinned hair had come loose, I could feel the perspiration on my forehead, and my feet ached. Joshua must be so worried about me. His bakkie was missing from the driveway so he must surely be out looking for me.
I let myself in through the kitchen door. The house was gloomy so I switched on the lounge light as I passed through. I immediately noticed the sliding door to the patio was still open: Joshua must have left in a hurry. My legs felt like jelly.
“Hello love.” Joshua! There he was, sipping a beer next to the pool, his binoculars and bird book on a stool next to him. “You’re home late. Long meeting?” He gestured towards the chair next to him. “Sit down and I’ll pour you some wine.”
Joshua, sitting there without a care in the world. How could he? “I ‘phoned,” I said primly while trying to control my breathing.
“Thanks love, but my ‘phone is charging in the bedroom. I didn’t hear it. You’re here now though so all is well.”
“Everything is not all well!” My voice was sharper than I meant it to be. I couldn’t rid myself of the image of him sinking a beer while I thought he was out looking for me. I slowly told him about my predicament, using measured tones to suggest I was fully in control. “Let’s drive to the ATM with the spare keys,” I concluded.
“Not possible my love. The bakkie’s still at the garage having the windscreen repaired.”
My mind clicked over rapidly. It was late and I was feeling tired, sore and dirty. I certainly didn’t feel like cooking supper after all of this. “Then we will walk to the car and drive straight on to the restaurant.”
Why had I worn my new high heels to work? Had it really been that important to impress Gillian Flynn, the fashion queen on our staff? She had been impressed, but now I regretted the move: my toes felt squashed and I doubted if my hamstrings would ever feel the same. A blister was surely forming on my heels and, worst of all, Joshua was humming under his breath as I stumbled next to him along the rough road! For some reason I was still clutching my purse with a sweaty hand. Why hadn’t I left it at home?
I couldn’t hide my panting by the time we reached the car park, deserted except for my truculent vehicle. Joshua was smirking when he pressed the button on my remote as we neared the car. Nothing happened. My ball of anxiety disappeared in a flash as I looked at his puzzled face and felt myself smiling for the first time in hours. A sense of relief and satisfaction flooded through me: all that anxiety had not been for nothing. “You see? It doesn’t work.” Would he detect the triumphant crow in my voice?
Joshua tried the remote on the spare keys: no reaction. I wanted to giggle at the frown that knitted his eyebrows together as he pursed his lips. He glanced at the emptiness around us. “We’ll just have to use the key then.”
I braced myself for the shock of the alarm renting the quiet air. Instead, the door opened without a murmur. As we settled into the car I could feel my spine losing its rigidity. Joshua’s large hand squeezed mine. “Food!” He laughed, nosing the car in the direction of our favourite eatery.
At last, with a plate of food and a glass of wine in front of me, I could relax and enjoy the company of my husband. He looked up from his feast of mushroom ravioli with parmesan cream sauce and winked at me. “I prefer the dishevelled you,” he said simply.
“It’s been a hell of a day,” I admitted after my second glass of wine. It felt for a moment like an early date: everything about Joshua in the soft candle light seemed fresh and exciting. We held hands as we returned to the car.
Both remotes worked this time! “Perhaps someone blocked the system but couldn’t unlock the car,” he muttered reassuringly. I no longer cared: life was back to normal and that is all that matters.