The minute I got home I rummaged in my bedroom chest of drawers until I found my passport. That chest of drawers is my favourite piece of furniture ever, Craig and I bought it together at the Barras years and years ago, when we very first started going out. It’s ancient and giant and kind of ugly but in a brilliant way, and it always reminds me of that first ‘couply’ Sunday we spent mucking about the market then going for an afternoon tea just because. My passport was there in the top drawer where I always keep it, and sure enough it expired last June. I haven’t been to America.
I went to bed then, but I sat up for ages in the darkness, just thinking. It was an unusually clear night, moonlight streamed into the bedroom casting an eerie silvery glow that suited my mood perfectly. I couldn’t get the wee guy I’d given such a fright to out of my mind.
Cara said he didn’t talk much, but she had a theory he’d been a soldier, maybe with PTSD which might explain why he was so out of it. That would also explain why he’d been so shaken to see my bashed up face, I thought – but there was something else niggling at me and I couldn’t put my finger on what. After a bit I gave up even pretending to sleep, so I got up and I’m now wrapped up in a throw on the couch writing this in an attempt to get it clear in my mind.
I’m drinking Ovaltine. Craig always used to take the piss out of me still loving Ovaltine, but it’s my comfort drink. It reminds me of rainy afternoons doing jigsaws with Granny, or pouring my heart out to her if a teacher had told me off or Cara got me in trouble. Craig took the piss out of me quite a bit come to think of it. Always in an affectionate, jokey way, like ‘you’re as daft as a brush but I love you’, but in light of what Cara said earlier I’m starting to re-think it.
In a strange way, even though it still feels like just a few days for me, at the same time the breakup seems a long time ago. Maybe it’s just with everything that’s happened since, but Craig feels very far away. Maybe he has been for a while and I just didn’t notice.
I just heard something come through the letter box.
I nearly dropped the laptop and spilled my Ovaltine in a oner, and I was about to run to the door and see what’s on the mat, but something stopped me. I’m scared. I’m suddenly not 100% sure that I locked the door before I went to bed, even though of course I did, I always do.
But what if I didn’t.
It looks like a piece of paper. I can see it glowing white against the plum mat we got at Debenhams last January sales. It’s light, just a scrap torn from a notebook or something, it took seconds to flutter to the mat.
So it can’t hurt me.
I ain’t afraid of no paper cut.
And whoever pushed it through didn’t try to open the door, didn’t even knock.
But still my heart pounds.
I’ve always loved being scared. I’m a right one for a good scary movie, the gorier the better, even Craig would get squeamish before I did. He sometimes grumped off to bed moaning that it was boring, but really I knew that he’d just reached his wuss-limit. But being fun-scared by something I know isn’t real when Craig is snoring in our bed and I can go and cuddle up to him at any minute is one thing. Sitting here all on my tod when an actual serial killer tried to attack me and someone’s just put something through my door in the middle of the night, is quite another.
What if he’s standing behind the door waiting for me to approach it?
I didn’t hear his footsteps retreat.
I didn’t hear them approach either, come to think of it.
Or maybe it was Mrs MacPherson from up the stairs and the note is about remembering to put the bins out on Thursday instead of Tuesday, or something. She is always complaining that she doesn’t sleep well.
My choices are that I either go back to bed and forget about the note until the morning, or I go and get it. Or, I suppose, I sit here and stare at it for the rest of all time.
I’m going with number two. I am, after all, the Girl that Survived, am I not? Even if he’s behind the door, if he didn’t finish me off in the middle of nowhere, he’s sure as hell not going to tick off his incomplete murdering in my own hallway. All the same, I really wish that Craig or I were American enough to have a baseball bat lying around.
What’s the use in being sporty if you don’t have a baseball bat when you need one?
Even a tennis racket would do right now.
I got it.
I raced over to the front door and at the last second slipped and skidded and stubbed my door on the hall skirting and yelled so loud that Mrs Macpherson thumped on her floor. If this isn’t an angry note from her, I suspect I’ll get one by the morning.
I really hope it’s an angry note from her.
I open it.
It’s not from Mrs Macpherson.
It’s from the American. Cara’s American. The soldier, or whatever he is. The one that nearly had a fit when he laid eyes on me. It’s written in pencil, in beautiful handwriting, the kind you used to get taught in school, all precise lines and elegant loops.
He wants to meet me. Is desperate to explain. Begs me to listen.
Almost involuntarily I look through the bedroom door at my grand old chest of drawers, where my expired passport still sits. I’ve not been to America. I can’t have been to America.
But what if I have?