This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 980 words.
By quarter past seven, Anita could wait no longer. She rang Mike’s mobile. There was no ringing tone, and no answerphone message. Just a long beeping sound. She tried again, then again. Scrolling down her contact list, she found ‘Office. Mike.’ After two rings, that went to answerphone, with a message about opening hours being from nine until five-thirty. She didn’t leave a message after the tone as the voice suggested.
She was getting hungry now, but couldn’t face cooking the meal she had prepared. She covered the dish with foil, and put it in the fridge. Then she ate two bananas and half a packet of chocolate biscuits, washed down with a cup of tea. Her mind was exploring possibilities.
Maybe the car had broken down?
Maybe he had dropped his phone and broken it?
Maybe he was held up with a client, and unable to make a call?
He had definitely said he would be home about six. If there had been a late meeting, he would have known. He always knew.
Maybe one of his parents had been taken ill?
Maybe he had to rush down to where they lived?
They lived over two hundred miles away, retired to the coast. He would have called her first, and told her he had to go.
It was after nine now, and she had a bad feeling.
Maybe he had been mugged, and was lying in a back alley somewhere?
Maybe there had been a terrible car crash, and they were fighting for his life in a hospital?
Anita rang the police non-emergency number. The young woman who answered sounded friendly.
“Hello, my name is Anita Hollis. My husband Michael hasn’t come home from work. He is three hours late, and I’m getting worried. He’s a salesman you see, drives long distances in a car. His phone is dead, and I’m worried he might have been in an accident”. Even as she spoke, she knew it sounded rather pathetic. So she added something. “And I’m six months pregnant, all alone”.
The woman was kind, but unimpressed. She went through a similar list of possibilities that had occurred to Anita, then suggested ringing Mike’s family and friends, then her own family and friends. If she got no joy with that, she could ring the hospitals to see if he had been admitted. There were only three emergency hospitals in almost a sixty mile radius, so it shouldn’t take long. She concluded with the obvious. “He might just have gone out for a drink or meal after work, Mrs Hollis. Perhaps he forgot the time because he is with colleagues or friends”.
That wasn’t working for Anita. “Sorry, but you don’t know him. He would never do that without telling me. He’s not that sort of bloke. He is always home for dinner, always. I think it best if you report him missing. Then you can look for his car, trace his phone, do whatever it is you do”. There was a stiffness in the police operator’s voice as she replied. “I’m afraid I cannot do that until he has been missing for twenty-four hours, Mrs Hollis. He is an adult, and free to come and go as he pleases, even if that is upsetting for you. If nobody sees him or contacts him until tomorrow night, and he fails to come home or turn up for work, then you can call us back and we will take an official missing persons report. That’s all I can advise you to do at the moment”.
As she hung up, Anita got a bad taste in her mouth. She dropped the phone and ran upstairs to the bathroom, vomiting onto the floor before she could get the toilet seat up.
The tears had started to flow by the time she got back into the living room. She switched the TV to a rolling news channel, in case there were reports of a big accident on a motorway somewhere. But it was all about a film star dying, and some big argument in parliament. Taking her i-pad from under a sofa cushion, she checked out the numbers of the hospitals that had been suggested, and started to call them.
Close to ten forty-five, all three hospitals had confirmed that no Michael Hollis had been admitted, and no unidentified man fitting his age and description was in their departments.
Perhaps she should ring his parents anyway. They might have spoken to him at some stage. But it was getting late. They might be in bed. A call like that would worry them, and Dorothy had a bad heart.
After five hours, Anita started to consider the thing that she hadn’t wanted to think about. Could Mike be with another woman? It didn’t seem possible. He had always been so loyal and loving. He never went out alone, not even for a drink with friends, or to the various birthday drinks or office parties at work. Since the day they had become engaged, she had never had a single reason not to trust him one hundred percent.
Even though it seemed hopeless, she carried on ringing his mobile. Time after time, she just got that continuous tone, until she could bear it no longer.
It was close to one in the morning when she started to actually hope that he was with someone else. Anything would be preferable to not knowing. They could have a huge bust-up, talk it through, and sort things out. That almost made her feel calm, to consider the fact that her husband might be having an affair.
In the kitchen, she moved a few pans in a cupboard, then reached into the back with some difficulty.
With the wine open, and a glass in her hand, she started to feel much better.