This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 952 words.
Gillian found the holdall in the wardrobe in her own room. It was her turn to clean upstairs, and she had been careful to do it properly. He obviously hadn’t expected her to dust the inside of the wardrobe doors. It seemed like he was packed and ready, there was even some dirty washing in a plastic bag, and a set of car keys right at the bottom.
Was he planning to leave today? Her mind was racing, so she sat on the bed for a moment, thinking about what to do.
Make him want to stay. That was her conclusion. Look nice, make an effort, don’t mention the holdall.
Hurrying to finish the cleaning, she then ran a bath. The long hair she now loved was carefully washed and dried after, and she chose a nice satin slip to wear. Time was spent doing her best effort at make-up, trying to remember how that professional woman had done it. Then she painted her fingernails and toenails, sitting nervously on the bed until they dried.
Thomas was downstairs preparing a nice lunch for his last day. Saturday seemed to be a good choice to depart, with the area reasonably crowded, and nobody noticing a very average man walking to a car that looked like so many others. He had already unlocked the back door, planning to leave via the back gate, then up the alley behind the houses until he came to the end of the street. His plan was to suggest she went up to the bedroom after lunch, and wait for him to join her on the bed. He would tell her he was just going to use the bathroom, before retrieving the holdall from the wardrobe and quietly exiting the house.
She looked very nice when she came down. Nice enough to make him think about delaying his departure by thirty minutes.
With everything chopped and prepared, he reached into the cupboard and took out the wok he had bought a couple of weeks ago. Gillian had never seen a wok before, and thought it was a very deep frying pan. “The eggs will get lost in there, Paul”. That had made him smile. But she had really enjoyed the beef strips stir-fried in oyster sauce, with the shiitake mushrooms and baby corn. The thick udon noodles had amused her. “They look like white worms”.
Today he would be serving chicken in a black bean sauce, with beansprouts and pak choi, accompanied by fried rice.
Before starting to cook, he sat opposite her at the table. A compliment wouldn’t hurt. Might soften the blow when she found he had left. “You look very nice, Gillian. Beautiful, in fact”. She blushed poppy red. Nobody had ever said anything like that. She knew enough to be aware that she was far from beautiful, but if he thought so, that meant everything to her.
Stir-frying the meal wouln’t take long, so he heated the oil on a high gas, enjoying the strong aroma of the sesame oil he was using. The smell of the food being prepared was making Gillian feel very hungry, so she laid the table with spoons and forks, adding the thick cotton napkins he had bought last week. He had tried to show her how to use chopsticks, but she had just dropped the food on the table, or in her lap.
No sooner had he dropped the chicken pieces into the oil and grabbed the long chopsticks to stir it, the door buzzer sounded.
Kirsty was outside again. Thomas spoke loudly, his voice raised above the sound of the sizzling in the wok. “Just ignore it, or the food will spoil!” When there was no reply, Kirsty stomped off, shaking her head and glaring at the camera. A few moments later, Thomas brought the bowls of food to the table. “Who was at the door?” Gillian didn’t want to tell him, but didn’t want to lie either. “That Kirsty again, probably wanting to complain about the bin bags”. He smiled, and started eating. Then he stopped and looked serious.
“That woman is a real pain. She really spoils my enjoyment of staying here, truth be told. It’s such a shame that she bought the house next door to you”. Inside, Gillian was fuming. Anger, mixed with panic. It was all that bloody Kirsty’s fault. No wonder he had packed a bag and was thinking of leaving. It made it hard for her to enjoy the meal, and she just shovelled it in without tasting it. Thomas stopped for a sip of his Tsingtao beer, the perfect accompaniment to a Chinese meal. Then the buzzer sounded again.
He wasn’t expecting what happened next.
Jumping up from the table, Gillian headed for the door with a speed that belied her bulk. Then she unclipped the chain, turned the key, and flung the door open. Thomas turned to look at the camera monitor as she launched herself at Kirsty, leaping off the front step and flattening the surprised woman. The door rebounded and closed shut behind her, as she raised her fight arm again and again, striking Kirsty repeatedly.
But the fork was still in her hand.
He moved quickly. Grabbing the holdall from the wardrobe, he was out the back gate at lightning speed. By the time Gillian was sitting panting on the front lawn, and Kirsty was no longer moving, a fork handle protruding from her left eye socket, he was in the street where his car was parked.
Wiping a blood-soaked hand across her face to move the hair from her eyes, Gillian smiled. She wasn’t dizzy or scared. Then something else made her laugh.
She was finally outside.