This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 988 words.
Both women were squealing like excited schoolgirls at the sight of Mike on TV. They were making so much noise, neither heard any of the segment. “Look! It’s Mick too! Steeden’s with him, Nita!” Claudia was hugging her friend, and Anita was crying happy tears, as well as sounding like a playful piglet at the same time. The next report was about a politician who had resigned his seat after an allegation of sexual misconduct. Claudia grabbed her laptop from the weekend bag, connected to Anita’s wi-fi, and brought up the BBC News website.
Anita was rocking back and forth, fists bunched, and looking down at her baby bump. “He’s coming home, your Daddy is coming home!”
The report had come from Sydney, Australia. Although the video clip wasn’t up on the website yet, the story was marked as ‘Breaking News’. Claudia read it out loud.
“Man who leaked aircraft glue scandal comes out of hiding. Mike Hollis left Britain for Australia, terrified for the safety of his family if he stayed. Aircraft manufacturers and Airlines around the world are rushing to refute his leaks about the use of unsafe glue that has caused numerous crashes resulting in hundreds of fatalities. He now plans to return to Britain after his wife exposed the story online, also alleging that his parents and a private investigator he hired have all been killed as part of a conspiracy to try to silence him.”
With her friend still hardly able to take it in, Claudia shook her by the shoulder. “Nita, get your phone and try Mick Steeden’s number. If he’s with Mike, you can talk to him. I’m so excited, I’m going to ring Betsy and tell her, I don’t care how late it is”.
Mick’s phone rang out, with no answering message. Anita was disappointed, but not about to let anything get her down. They left the news on, hoping that the report would be shown again. But a discussion feature started, so Claudia went into the kitchen to make them both a cup of tea. Then they sat and worked out the time difference, with Anita checking on Google. “It says that if its almost one am here, then the time in Sydney is midday”. Claudia was about to bite into a chocolate biscuit. “So by the time we wake up tomorrow, it will almost be the day after down there, or close to it. That stuff does my head in, Nita. At work, we have like six time clocks on the wall, always checking on New York Time, Moscow Time, L A time, and China too. It’s a pity there couldn’t just be one time”.
As soon as she had said that, she realised how silly it sounded, and they both began to have a fit of the giggles.
Claudia went back to her laptop, and reloaded the BBC News website. “Look, Nita, there’s a clip now. See? That’s Mike’s face!” As she watched the short video of Mike talking to some reporters in Sydney, Anita felt more joyful tears running down her cheeks. She had instantly forgiven him for all the stresses and strains of the recent events, as she was so overwhelmed with relief that he was alive. When the clip ended, she played it again, and once more after that. Mike seemed so strong, despite his appearance. And what he was saying made her heart leap.
“I now just want to get home to my wife, and make sure she and our baby are well. If she is watching this, I love you Anita, and I am so sorry for what I had to put you through”. One of the reporters pushed a big microphone in his face, and asked a question that they couldn’t hear. Mike nodded. “Absolutely. I will be seeking justice for my parents, for everything that my family has suffered because of this, and I will also be urging the police to investigate Ian Hope’s death as a murder”. Mick Steeden leaned forward, and said something close to Mike’s ear. He turned back to the reporters. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen, but I have to go now. I have a plane to catch”.
She could hear Claudia snoring in the guest room, but Anita didn’t feel as if sleep was ever going to come that night. Her mood fluctuated between sheer joy at seeing Mike alive and well, and overwhelming sadness about Ian Hope, and Mike’s parents. It had all been so pointless, and she started to convince herself that nobody would ever be held to account for any of it. That thought made her angry, and she tried hard to calm down, not wanting to transfer any stress onto her unborn baby.
Positive thoughts made her feel better. A baby in a nursery, sleeping peacefully in a lovely crib, with her and Mike looking on from the doorway. Beautiful baby clothes, tiny, and so soft. A new life that they would love without hesitation, and protect until their dying day. Her first day at school, her first boyfriend. Teenage tantrums, then mother and daughter bonding when she got older.
A wedding perhaps, with her as Mother of The Bride, and Mike looking handsome as he walked his daughter down the aisle. Much better to think about all that, than the bad stuff that had been happening.
She woke up feeling the need to pee. It was still dark, with no morning light peeping through the curtains yet. Feeling sleepy still, Anita shifted in bed, and threw back the duvet. Her nightdress was wet, and she was annoyed with herself that she had already peed in her sleep. She would need to change, maybe put a towel over the mattress for now, so she switched on the bedside lamp.
The red stain sent shivers down her spine. It hadn’t been pee at all. It was blood.