Chapter 1 – Christmas Eve, Perth, Australia
Paul was in a hurry to finish packing and get out of their house before Jessie came back. Too much of a coward to tell her to her face, he had already left a hand-written note on the kitchen bench, where he knew she would put her handbag down before putting the kettle on.
He dragged the two plastic bags across the floor, stuffed with clothes, only to catch the Christmas tree and knock it over. He swore as the pine needles punctured one of the bags, and underwear spilled out. All he needed. If he didn’t hurry then she might get back before he had escaped.
He contemplated whether to stand the tree upright again but his fear got the better of him. Gathering up the underwear, he staggered out of their house and slung the lot onto the tray of his Ute, behind his plumbing gear.
Hurrying back in to get his electronic gear, iPad, chargers, DVD’s, he paused to look at their wedding photo on the dresser shelf. Take one? No, what was he thinking! Let her stare at them and reflect on how she had ruined their marriage for him.
A beep from his phone, a text. His hair stood on end, not Jessie saying she’s early surely? But he relaxed when he saw it was from Sarah:
R U out of there yet?
Nearly, last lot, I’ll meet you at 5.
He had thrown his gear into a case. One last look at the Christmas tree, feeling guilty. How daft was this? Walking out on his wife on Christmas Eve, and here he was feeling guilty about the tree for Chris’ sake. Should he put it back up? He stupidly imagined her saying to the family on Christmas Day “well at least he did pick up the Christmas tree again, he didn’t leave me a mess to sort out”. As if that would be the first thing on her mind.
Get a grip. He grabbed the case, headed for the door. Then he paused, returned to the kitchen bench top, undid the house keys and left them on it, before heading outside. As he tossed the case onto the tray, he felt a surge of relief. He took in the street properly, for the first time. The old woman across the road was watching him, no doubt as to what was going on. The flowers in the garden were in bloom, looking colorful and the hot Australian Sun was shining on the house wall. It all looked too nice to be leaving but no time to dwell on that.
In his van, he turned the key and as the engine roared into life, he engaged first gear and pulled away as though he was in a race. Yes! Packed and out of there and never having to see Jessie again. The thought of Sarah waiting for him, and their planned Christmas at the beach down south, made him smile, and then laugh, as their plans kicked off.
Jessie was doing the last of the Christmas shopping, with a trolley stacked full of food, in Innaloo shopping center. She loved an Australian Christmas, the heat, the sunshine, the Perth beaches. Though it seemed strange to plan a cooked Christmas lunch, it was a family tradition from the days when mum had left Croatia for that distant land down under.
She stood in the long checkout queue at Coles supermarket. She’d chosen the self-checkout line, or as the store called it, assisted checkout, hoping to get through quickly. What was assisted about it? Unassisted was more accurate as it meant you scanned and packed everything yourself. Musing, she looked at her full trolley. Chocolates! She’d forgotten the chocolates! She wasn’t going to give up her place in the queue, maybe she could get them elsewhere. Anyway, chocolates would melt tomorrow.
The forecast for Christmas Day was a warmish 27 degrees, not as hot as last year but ok. Why couldn’t they go down the beach and have a salad and chance to dip in the water to cool off? Now that sounds more like an Aussie Christmas but no, the family tradition had to be followed, though no-one was entirely sure why.
Hopefully Paul had remembered to pick up more wrapping paper for the last of the presents. He usually helped her on Christmas Eve and it felt strange not to have him with her today. “I’ve had some last-minute plumbing jobs come in, have to be done before Christmas, you know what folks are like so you’ll have to manage by yourself babe” he’d said. She usually helped him with planning the jobs and sometimes went out with him. Strange that she hadn’t seen the job requests but that’s how it often goes at Christmas, people phoning the plumber direct, desperate for last minute fixes.
She’d texted him earlier, “Love you honey, don’t forget the wrapping paper” and he’d sent a curt text back “OK will do”. He was probably too busy to write more.
Was this Christmas going to be ok? It had been a strained few months. She had the feeling Paul was drifting from her. She used to be able to feel the love in him, the little things he did for her, but they seem to have fallen away of late. He’s probably just tired from being so busy. He seems to get lots of last minute jobs in, and jobs that take longer than expected so that he was often very late getting home. And at weekends, when he got time off, he seemed to want to go fishing with the lads, instead of them spending time together. She didn’t like to make a fuss over it, she knew how hard he worked and one day it would settle down. But even so, she had a strange feeling inside.
However, last night had been different. He had seemed to desire her again, and had wanted to take her to the bedroom. It was the first time that they had been intimate in… oh, gosh, must be a couple of months. It’s a wonder she remembered how to do it!
But it was welcome. He seemed to really enjoy it and was in a happy, jocular mood afterwards. It seemed like a new Paul and she was glad of it. She hadn’t realized the pressure of work on him had been that bad. The change was welcome. She had been worried about Christmas and how to get him through it. Maybe this meant that Christmas would be better. It’s a good start anyway.
I’ll make this Christmas the best ever for him, she thought. A stock of his favorite beer, some nice T shirts for presents, she’ll spoil him and remind him how much she loves him.
At last she was through the checkout. With the car boot piled up for the holidays, she checked her watch. 4:25 pm. A bit late, better text Ally. They were supposed to meet for a coffee and catchup before Christmas at 4:30. Joining the traffic, which seemed frenetic, she headed for the Hobart Street Deli in Mount Hawthorn. What was it with Christmas Eve traffic? It’s like everyone suddenly woke up, going OMG it’s Christmas Eve I’d better get the shopping in or we’ll starve!
Ally had texted back:
No biggie sweetie I’ll c u here soon
She smiled, Ally was her bff. They were so different, Ally wasn’t married, actually, she had just gotten out of a lesbian relationship and was single at the moment. Although Jessie was straight and in a long-term relationship with Paul, though not married, they seemed to have been friends forever, since their days in High School and they would do anything for each other. Ally seems to have a great life, parties, clubs, lots of gay girlfriends, and her career running an aged care facility. Sometimes she looked at Ally with envy, when she was doing her usual home routine, cooking for her and Paul, watching tv in the evening. But being married, having a stable life, and a man who loved her, that had to be better than being gay didn’t it?
Not that she had anything against being gay. She felt quite attracted to some of Ally’s friends at times, but she’d tell herself it was silly. That’s what comes of hanging around gay girls. Though it didn’t seem to work the other way, Ally never sounded envious of her married life.
She liked it that Paul loved her. A little thought poked itself up in the background… does he love her? But she pushed it away. He liked making love to her, she was sure of that. Though that seemed to have faded lately, he was so tired from work. Not that she minded, to be honest, it starts to feel a bit routine after a while and she was often tired by the time they got to bed. But, after last night, maybe she ought to make a bit of an effort and show more interest in Paul.
She walked past Bras’n’Things, looking at the sexy underwear. Should she buy some, see if she could spruce up their love life? Hang on, Paul might well have bought her some for Christmas. If not, better to wait for the sales after Boxing Day.
What is it like when women do it, she wondered? Not that she had the courage to ask Ally though she’d be happy to explain, probably want to demonstrate. She laughed at that thought. Anyway, that isn’t somewhere she was going to go.
There was a plenty of parking outside Hobart Deli. Good choice, all the late shoppers were elsewhere. She headed into the cafe where Ally was already seated. Soy latte and a vegan salad, yep, that’s Ally for sure.
Ally and Kirsty
Kirsty and Ally were lying on the day bed together. Halfway through the afternoon on Christmas Eve, a hot day in Perth, empty wine glasses on the side table, they felt too lethargic to do much of anything.
‘Got plans for Christmas?’ asked Ally.
‘Not much,’ replied Kirsty, ‘going down the beach, do my duty and see the old folks tomorrow, got a few bitches coming over tonight to hide from the season. You should come as well, there’ll be Jan, Brooke, Sherry, Chugger, Nikki, Tammy plus god knows who else… maybe I’ll get lucky and you can have one of the leftovers.’
She saw Ally’s face twitch at the mention of Nikki and smiled. She knew Ally had a thing going for her.
‘Sure, sugarface, I’ve nothing else to do tonight, apart from catching up with Jessie four-ish for coffee before she goes home and does the wifey bit with her guy.’
‘Jeez, why you hang around with that bitch beats me. She isn’t gay and she’s boring. You’ll hear all about her shopping list, and which relatives will be at each other’s throats on Christmas Day,’ said Kirsty.
‘Come on, Kirsty, don’t call her a bitch. You know she isn’t gay. She’s about my only straight friend. We’ve been besties since we were eleven years old, at school,’ replied Ally.
‘OK, you bastard, no need to bite my ear off. But you must admit, she isn’t exactly a ball of fun.’
‘Conceded. If only she’d been gay she might have had more of a life. I sort of feel sorry for her. I mean, thirtieth birthday coming up, and she’s done nothing much since university except hang around Paul, watching him do his plumbing work. But you shouldn’t criticize someone for adopting an alternative lifestyle to yours, it’s a free world and it’s her choice.’
‘Good grief bitch no need to go all PC on me… and since when has getting married been an alternative lifestyle. I thought it was us friendly girls, lesbians, who had the alternative lifestyle.’
‘You know what I mean,’ replied Ally, thinking how typical it was of Kirsty to blow things out of proportion.
‘Somethings I never understand,’ mused Kirsty, ‘I mean, if she’s into men, sure, go find all the sex you want, but she doesn’t look the type. Why do so many women look bored when they are married? She helps with his work, cooks the dinner, all the stuff them wives do, yet she never looks happy, you know, really happy.’
‘They’re not married,’ said Ally, ‘they’re living together, though it doesn’t make much difference these days. She comes out clubbing with us for a dance, once in a blue Moon.’
‘Yeah? Name the last time. I’ll bet it was a couple of years ago, and she got totaled and was sick for two days after.’
‘Probably why she’s never been out with us since,’ said Ally, laughing. ‘She’s good for me. If I ever get fed up of living alone, I just look at her life and think, there but for the grace of God…’
‘I doubt God’s got anything to do with it, but I know what you mean. Anyway, if you don’t like living alone, what’s stopping you from moving back in with me, bitch? You know how much I miss your ugly mug around the place.’
Ally sighed. Was this a moment to complain about Kirsty being so un-feminine, she wondered. Best not, she wasn’t in the mood for an argument.
‘Never go back, always go forward: the sort of thing you used to say, remember?’
‘Did I?’ asked Kirsty, at a loss for a moment.
Ally stirred, then stretched, standing up to get her things together.
‘Anyway girl, come back after you’ve caught up on all the news from Jessie. We’ll have a party while all the other women are fussing in the kitchen and around their Christmas trees.’
‘OK,’ agreed Ally, ‘I’ll bring a bottle or ten. Want me to bring anything else? Food? Nibbles?’
‘Oh bring a plate if you like, whatever leftovers you can find in your fridge, to throw into the mix.’
‘No worries, see you later.’
‘Sure thing, bitch.’
Ally frowned as she walked towards the door. She hated being called names. Splitting up with Kirsty, it was one thing she didn’t miss. In fact, thinking about it, she was hard-pressed to name anything she did miss. What had she seen in her, I mean, really?
Ally and Jessie
Ally had time to herself, while waiting for Jessie. After a frenetic session in bed with Kirsty, she was glad of a few quiet moments.
Ally and Kirsty had been in a lesbian relationship for nearly two years before splitting up, about five months previous. Kirsty had never quite understood why they had broken up, except that lesbians frequently did, and Ally complained of needing space which, as far as Kirsty was concerned, was code for “we’re done, bitch, I’m outta here”.
Kirsty was the butch girl in the couple, though she’d punch anyone who called her butch, which kind of proved the point. She worked as a security officer in Garden City shopping center, off of Riseley Street, which in reality meant walking around all day spotting shoppers thieving from shops. The good side was she walked 20 km or more every day, so she was tough and fit, and in her black uniform, black trousers, shirt and jacket, and her short grey hair, she could almost pass as a man, which she was proud of. She didn’t like the girly stuff that Ally did. She hated her job.
At home, she was quite the mechanic, with a welding kit in the shed and a wood-turning lathe. She enjoyed fixing and making things. The wooden chair and tables under her patio were designed with scrolled legs and a curved table edge that spoke of the tree it was made from.
She was proud of her work on it. The wood had been sourced from the logging of the Karri trees down south, near Northcliffe, which she’d come across when camping nearby. Ideally, she often thought, she’d own her own garage in the country somewhere, fixing cars and agricultural machinery. Or she’d be a master artist at making furniture out of reclaimed wood from the forest.
But dreams always cost money, and so far in her life, the money hadn’t arrived, so here she was stalking yet another shoplifter.
She seemed to take pride in outdoing men in her rough behavior, her swearing a constant source of annoyance to the more lady-like Ally. It was something they’d argued about, time and again, and was one of the factors that led to their breakup.
Ally understood the range of women in their circle, from sexy hot young women, through to some who were more masculine than most men, into camping, metalwork, motorbikes, you name it. At first, it was kind of interesting, seeing Kirsty as the more masculine one in the relationship, without having to actually be with a man. Of course, men would think, what’s the point? If you’re going to be with a masculine woman, why not just be with a man? But they missed the point of course. There are still differences… at least Kirsty knew how to use deodorant, for starters.
She had often thought about this question, before having decided it was nothing to do with sex, at all. She did not like men, pure and simple, and was happy with her large circle of women friends. It was the same for many other women, as she’d discovered in many a chat over a bottle of wine. Some loved sex, some didn’t, but what mattered was they loved each other’s company and cared about each other.
Even though she’d split up from Kirsty, they were still good friends and she would see her often, whereas with a man… well, if you dumped him and weren’t having sex with him, you’d never see him again. Although they were all lesbians, except for Jess and a couple of others who were straight but liked hanging around with them, they preferred to call themselves “friendly girls”. Guys were gay, girls were friendly… their little secret.
Why did Kirsty have to try and be so masculine anyway, that’s what Ally could never really understand. Ally was very much a girl, she thought, a little princess. What was the point of not liking men, then trying to be one? That was the main reason she’d dropped Kirsty. She’d rather be with a woman who enjoyed being a woman.
Ally was the service manager of an aged care facility in Leighton Beach, in charge of it all. Since university, she had done well, starting there as a nurse and working her way up into management. These days, she had no direct role in caring for the residents, which she was glad of, since they were in high-care dementia and hard work. Her day was spent keeping on top of the staff, hiring and firing, and making a name for herself in dementia research. She was studying a Masters in Dementia and Palliative Care with Tasmania University and was regarded as the expert in WA, Western Australia.
She had purchased a stylish apartment in Cottesloe, not far from the beach, although it didn’t have beach views. She’d purchased after the mining boom had taken hold, when Perth house prices were rocketing up. Then, the mining boom ended and prices fell just as fast, but she counted herself fortunate the apartment was still worth considerably more than she had paid for it. Cottesloe was one of the fashionable western suburbs. It would always be in fashion, no matter what happened to the economy.
After all, Ally thought, I like being a woman, I love looking hot, wearing beautiful, fashionable clothes, being admired. She had gotten used to the single lifestyle… with so many friends she was never lonely.
Dave, the COO of the healthcare company, had the hots for her, she knew, though he could join the queue. She had no interest in him, or any man, though she carefully concealed the fact of being a lesbian, at work. She should be open about it, she felt, but business is business. She had achieved her present position solely on her own merit, but it didn’t do any harm to have men above you in the company who wanted to be helpful to her career and she had no qualms about using them. In a world where men at work looked after each other, she needed every advantage she could use to get ahead.
Her apartment in Cottesloe was close to the beach, the best beach in Perth where they would hang out on summer evenings. She loved her summer wardrobe. In the hot summer months, her Masai dresses were light and airy, comfortable and cool to wear while looking the height of fashion, as they were.
“I’m with Portia de Rossi on this one,” she thought, Her and Ellen, good on ‘em. Why do we have to be stereotyped into some sort of “lesbian” mould? Sometimes she was just a girl who avoided the company of men, sometimes a full-on lesbian hungry for sex with her girlfriend.
A flashback came to her: the Cott, the tavern on the beachfront in Cottesloe, late Sunday afternoon, the crowd getting progressively inebriated (not for her such words as “drunk”, though Kirsty would have said “bloody pissed”), two guys at the bar, one of them coming on to her. When she said “no”, he said “must be a lesbian” to his mate. If only he’d known how true it was, but he couldn’t face the alternative, he wasn’t attractive to this woman.
Then another one, this time a personal development course she’d attended in Lovina, on the north coast of Bali. It had gone well until Saturday afternoon, when a young man from India led a session for the men on how to pick up women. She had been shocked: what was this doing on a spiritual course? It was naked sexism, how to get your leg-over and walk away. He was talking to the sort of man who was never successful with women, who couldn’t score in a bar, and teaching them techniques to con women into believing they weren’t some useless nerds living with mum but a desirable sexy leader of a man.
What really annoyed was, none of it was about how to relate to a woman, show love, understanding a woman’s needs. It was all about how to persuade an unwilling woman to have sex. To her mind, this was only one step removed from rape. The only good thing to come out of it was she could now recognize a guy in a bar who had been trained like this, the angle of attack, the body image portrayed, the “dick-waving” as Kirsty would call it, the chat-up lines. She’d made sure to share this information with her friends.
The course happened a decade ago. She was in her early twenties then, hadn’t started university, and still had an interest in men, had just broken up from a boyfriend in fact, though she liked women too. It seemed natural for her and Jess to be besties then, since the gay thing wasn’t an issue. With a start, she remembered turning away from men afterwards. If you were in a relationship with a man, he expected sex, it was a given. Try telling him you love him, want to live with him, but you won’t have sex: see how long he stays around!
Maybe it was the start of her becoming full-on lesbian. She still didn’t like labels, though, lesbian, bisexual. She was herself, Ally, and who she was attracted to was her business, not anyone else’s. She liked relationships where love came first, not sex. True, with many of her girlfriends, she had enjoyed the sex, but it had to be in the context of attraction and love.
It hit her then, maybe it could be the reason she had gotten into a relationship with Kirsty. At the time, Kirsty seemed to offer the best of both worlds, a woman who love her, but with the greedy sexual attitude of a man, strong and protective like a man. “Though protective can also be seen as possessive,” she thought. But after a couple of years, the novelty had worn thin and she started to see Kirsty as just a rude and bossy woman with low self-esteem.
Then she’d met Cate, three years younger than her, no doubt about her sexuality. She smiled as she remembered those first days. She just wanted to be with Cate every moment. Lying in bed next to her, not a straight line on her body, she was all curves, delicious lips and snatch, so inviting, slim yet comfortable, small breasts with large nipples.
She felt a stirring as the picture of Cate took over her mind, cuddling up together in bed, after making love, holding that gorgeous body. It had been the best year of her life. But they drifted apart, mainly as Cate left her for another woman, younger still. They were still friends though, Cate was one of the friendly girls and maybe she would be at Kirsty’s place tonight. Now there was a good reason to go. She wondered who was holding Cate in her arms, now.
Ally sat with her soy latte, expecting Jessie any minute now, catching up on PM’s to her girlfriends. She felt a bit out of sorts. It would be her first Christmas alone in a long time since she’d split up with Cate and it felt a bit odd. True, she’d made plans for the holidays. Don’t let things get on top of you, always plan ahead, new situations are opportunities to grow and make your life better. But it still felt odd.
She had wanted to meet up with Jessie later for pre-Christmas drinks, but this year everyone was going to Kirsty’s for drinks, so the best she had managed was an early coffee with her. Actually, that’s a bit cruel, she really loved seeing Jessie, but, well, this isn’t her ideal way to spend Christmas Eve. She had her modern apartment in Cottesloe to go back to. Maybe go down the beach and hang around the hotel for a drink. But no, that was just asking to be bothered by men after a pre-Christmas root and it gets annoying having to fend them off like flies.
Sitting by the window on the bench at the front of the cafe, her green eyes reflecting the grass in the school opposite, when she saw Jessie parking her sensible Honda Jazz, a contrast to her own Peugeot convertible. Dear Jessie. She smiled a little.
Jessie was taller than her, well, everyone is taller than you when you’re only 160 cm; that’s what comes of a little Mediterranean mother. But she knew she made up for her height in looks, drop dead gorgeous was the phrase she lived with and she could affect a blasé expression about it, as she knew it was true.
Jessie, on the other hand, well, it’s not fair to call her plain. She was taller and quite slim. If she only scrubbed up a bit and stopped looking like a harried housewife she could be quite attractive. Witness the guys who would chat her up when they were out. At least, they’d chat Jessie up after having a go at her of course, Ally being the best one, Jessie being the “friend”. Actually, a pity she isn’t gay. Being at a loose end, she could quite fancy Jessie if she was her own woman and acted a bit more independent. She did have a nice body and attractive auburn hair cut shoulder length.
‘I’d tell her to get it cut short, pageboy style…’ her thoughts were interrupted as Jessie entered, and she got up to give her a kiss… mwah mwah.
‘Sorry I’m late, the shops and the traffic, not sure I can stop too long as I have to get all the Christmas food sorted.’
Ally took charge. ‘You’re my only company right now so you’ll stay for a gossip at least. We’d be downing a bottle of wine if we weren’t both driving. Now you order a drink and then tell me what’s new.’
Jessie always did what Ally told her, it’s the same for everyone, Ally is one of those women who just walk through the door and everyone knows she is in charge.
‘Your man not with you today?’ It was always ‘your man’ not Paul.
‘Busy working on last minute jobs. I really shouldn’t stay too long in case he’s back early.’
‘Don’t be silly, if he’s finished his jobs he’ll do his best to avoid doing any work at home. He’ll find the boys in a pub somewhere and be back late.’
Jessie wanted to protest, Ally could see that, but knew better. She looked down at the table as the waitress brought her green juice out. ’What about you, no new company for the holidays?’ She meant a new girlfriend of course.
Ally’s face clouded for a moment, then cleared. ‘You know me, something always comes along. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to a relaxing holiday for a change. I’ve organized to go on a meditation retreat at Dhammasara, the Buddhist nun’s monastery in Gidgegannup for a few days, then I’m heading off to Ubud in Bali for the rest of the hols and new year. I’ll focus and plan out my goals for next year. I’m sure it’s going to be the best year ever.’
That was Ally all over. Jessie was watching her as she spoke. Looking at that beautiful thirty-one year old woman, full of confidence, it was impossible to believe that anything bad happened to her. Why had she split up from Cate if she was so good, though? Jessie didn’t like to ask, though she had left spaces open for Ally to jump in and explain. But that wasn’t Ally’s style. Anything negative was to be dumped in the trashcan and then it was… Next!
‘I’m so envious. Dhammasara would be heaven. Here I am, nearly thirty and I haven’t done half the things you have.’
‘But you’ve been married since you left uni, living with the love of your life.’
If there was a touch of irony in there, Jessie missed it.
‘I know. It’s not that… well… Paul is lovely, and it’s nice that I can go to work with him and help him with his business, but… I suppose I didn’t imagine it turning out so ordinary. He’s working and tired all the time, I haven’t had any children yet, and the clocks ticking. Sometimes I think, is this it? Maybe I should have waited a few years before committing to someone. All those things you’ve done that I haven’t.’
Ally shifted her gaze to the wall, as if browsing the collection of children’s books for a moment, weighing up what to say. Then she plunged. ‘You haven’t sounded so happy with him lately.’ Him, not Paul. ‘Is there something wrong, something you want to talk about?’
Jessie looked down at the floor, embarrassed, before looking up and smiling at Ally. She replied quickly but her voice was higher than normal, reflecting her inner fears.
‘Oh no, there’s nothing wrong. Paul loves me, it’s just that he’s been working such long hours and is so tired that he never seems to have the energy to be… affectionate, lately.’
Ally privately thought that Jessie was daft to hang on to him. From what she’d seen of Paul over the years, he didn’t look different to any other guy, and “long hours and tired” was often code for “having an affair with someone else”. You could never trust a man. She so wanted to instruct Jessie on what to do, but Jessie always prevaricated, hoping that things would work out somehow. That isn’t how life works, you make things work out.
‘Anyway Ally, it’s Christmas. He’ll get a break, we’ll spend the day tomorrow with my family, then his family on Boxing Day. He’ll relax and I’ll treat him special. I’m really looking forward to this holiday, we’ve needed it. Everything will work out ok I’m sure.’
Ally had a feeling about this, but it was Christmas Eve and she wasn’t going to spoil it with an argument.
More small talk, then they got up to go, kissed and with smiles, a little bit forced, said ‘Happy Holidays’ to each other and went their separate ways, not expecting to catch up again until the new year.
Chapter 2 – Christmas Eve, News
Jessie parked in front of their townhouse in Joondalup, plenty of room, Paul wasn't home yet. Just when she needed help with a boot full of shopping. She got out of the car, stood and paused for a moment as she gazed at their house, modern if a bit small, in a new estate. This was a moment she loved, getting home after a days’ work. She allowed herself to breathe and relax. The garden was in full bloom. The day was starting to cool as the Aussie Sun was sinking into the west. It would be a nice evening down the beach, but no chance, too much work to do on Christmas Eve.
She was mentally listing all those she needed to phone about the arrangements for Christmas lunch, mum first of course, as she turned the key in the door and went inside.
The lounge was cool and much darker than outside as the blinds were drawn to keep out the heat. She opened the blinds and took a few steps towards the compact kitchen before stopping, uncertainty catching her.
Had Paul been here? Things didn’t quite look right. The Christmas tree had fallen over. Had she not balanced the decorations properly? Wait… the radio was missing, a large music unit that Paul loved with big speakers.
Puzzled, she was getting an uneasy feeling with the hairs raised on the back of her neck. She walked towards the kitchen bench-top and as she put her handbag down, noticed that there was a piece of paper on it in Paul’s handwriting.
She picked up the message, and as she read it, started shaking in horror, opening her mouth and closing it without a word.