Mary closed the door behind her, the third chime from the grandfather clock was just a memory from her hall. She walked down the front path into the darkness. It was cold, so cold. Her gloved hand held them tightly; the reason for her torment.
A tear trickled down Mary’s cheek. The icy wind caught it and began to nip at her face. She walked along the street to the corner where her beloved church stood.
“No answers there,” she sighed, “I’ll need to sort this one out myself.”
As she turned the corner, she thought about how many times she had prayed and asked for guidance. She received none. Mary had too much faith to doubt so she reasoned that God had given her the decision to make. She had been faithful to the church all her life even when her problem flared up she still went. Surely God would stand by her because of her loyalty.
Mary carried on down the street in these early hours of indecision. The yellow tape on the door of the Reynolds house was the next thing she saw. “What a terrible business,” she whispered to herself, “How could any man do that to his own children?” The thought of John Reynolds abusing and mutilating his family gave Mary an extra chill.
She continued on her journey. Two cars headed towards her. She ducked into the shadows just before they sped by. Mary’s hearing was as sharp as a pin. On many of her early morning walks, she had avoided ‘Them’ because of her ears. Mary knew she had a problem, a phobia she had been told. She classed all of ‘Them’ alike. Only a few family and very close friends Mary considered as people. These people she loved and cherished very much but she trusted no one else. This was why she took so many walks early in the morning, she didn’t have to come into contact with ‘Them’. Mary enjoyed her walks, but not this one. She had been wandering for over ten minutes and she realised she had not been focusing on her problem. Mary had just began to think when she was interrupted. “Oh dear,” she thought, “those cars again.”
She moved quickly into a shop entrance. The windows and door were boarded up. The shop had been gutted by fire many weeks ago. The cars travelled past, slower this time. She prayed that they did not see her. They were too busy to notice her. Mary turned her head with disgust. A naked young lady was sitting on top of a boy on the back-seat of one of the cars. The other car’s side window had been smashed and the young thugs were passing a bottle around. Mary jumped as she heard the siren. A police car pulled out from a side street. Tyres screeched, a bottle smashed and she could smell the burning rubber.
“Fuck You Copper!”
Mary remained where she was for a few seconds and then glanced from the shadows. A broken bottle of whisky lay on the road.
“One of those tearaways must have thrown it at the police car.”
Mary walked further down the street, it branched right. To the left was a cul-de-sac which brought you back onto the main road. She would never walk round that street during daytime let alone now. That place was known locally as the Pin Cushion. There had been many news reports, both locally and nationally about police raids in that one specific street. She walked on around the slight bend in the road. Tenements stood directly in front of her, she never liked walking past as there was a good chance of meeting someone. Young boys to be exact. This area was the prostitutes haunt. The closes of the tenements were dingy, dark enough for them to sell their trade. Most young boys ended up in the closes at some time in their life for one thing or another but she didn’t want to think about that… For some reason, to her, that seemed even sadder. The thought of using or being used wasn’t something that she was entirely comfortable with.
Mary was lucky tonight as no-one was about. She heard a few muffled groans as she walked along. Mary quickened her step to get away from the area. After a further four hundred yards she took a right turn and headed towards the main shopping area. The sound of someone vomiting startled her. An old drunk grunted something before directing a blood stained globule of phlegm at the pavement. Mary gave him a wide berth. He waved his arms and began shouting. She hurried along. Even though the drunk was in no state to follow she looked back two or three times to make sure.
Mary shook her head slowly.
“There used to be over a dozen shops in this area.”
In her memory she could see the little tea room in the middle of the street. There had been a rather useful drapers next door and the next again was a haberdasher. Mary knew that half the kids now-a-days wouldn’t even know what those shops were. She sighed as she took in the sight of the remaining stores. There was a chip shop, bookies and newsagents. The bookies was boarded up and the boards were decorated with a rather crude yet expressive drawing of a penis. The newsagent had those horrific metal grills and the chip shop was also covered in graffiti. Any other buildings on the street were either derelict or condemned. Walking a little further on she came to the turn in the road which would take her home. The pub was here. The smell of urine and stale beer made her gag. She held her breath and moved on until she was out of range of the stink.
Mary put the key in her door at around four fifteen. She always returned home at the same time. She had solved her problem. Mary knew what had to be done. It had been a sudden revelation; it was so obvious. She heard Jack’s weak voice coming from the bedroom, “Mary! Is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me.”
She walked down the hall, opened the bedroom door and went in. She smiled at the emaciated remains of her husband. Her eyes filled with tears.
“Have you decided?”
Jack tried to lift himself up the bed, she leaned forward to help him. He was so light.
She stroked his cheek, “Could you not sleep?”
“I’ve had all the sleep I’ll ever need. Have you decided?”
His eyes seemed to brighten, “Well?”
Her voice croaked, “When?”
His smile was sincere and natural for the first time in a long while.
“Thank you Mary! I love you and always will. You look after things here and if I’m able I’ll be looking out for you. I’ve written some letters to explain…Only to the people that matter though.”
He respected her silence until she began to nod.
“Let’s get it over with.”
The old man swallowed hard. His Adams apple nodded in acceptance. Jack closed his eyes, a tear ran down his cheek. He couldn’t tell her that it wasn’t fear… But the thought of them not being together tore at him. Mary had to get out. She ran into the kitchen and shut the door. The sobs came. Why had this happened to her lovely, caring husband? Jack had always been the picture of health. He was her life. For forty-eight years they had lived and loved together, sharing everything. He began to take ill eighteen months ago. Cancer! Incurable cancer! He was in constant pain and had become a shadow of his former self. This had helped her decide.
Mary took the pills that she still held and sat them beside a bottle of Remy Martin. She took off her coat and gloves. The contents of the pills she divided into three large crystal brandy glasses. She quarter filled the glasses with Remy Martin and half filled the other glass. She sat the four of them on a try. The water from the kitchen tap was ice-cold. She sloshed her face four or five times. Mary took a deep breath. She was as ready as she would ever be. She knew that she could not dwell on this as she was liable to change her mind.
Jack opened his eyes as she entered the bedroom.
“I’m going to go with a smile,” he said as he looked at the tray of brandy.
She sat down beside him and handed him a glass, she picked up her own.
“Jack… I want to… ”
He held his hand up, “There’s no need! There is too much to say for the sake of it. We don’t need to… We know!”
She nodded. The ache in her belly spread through her whole body. Jack pointed at her drink, “And your even joining me.”
He grimaced a little as he struggled to pick up his glass.
“Cheers my darling!! I love you so much!!”
She wiped her eyes with her other hand as they touched glasses.
“Cheers!! I don’t know if that is very appropriate. I’ll miss you and you have been my life! I love you!”
Her sobbing had started again. She was disappointed with herself as she didn’t want Jack to see her blubbering before he went. Two deep breaths and a rub at her eyes helped her gain some control. There were no words as he drained the first glass and picked up the second. He smiled and nodded to her. Brandy had always been a particular favourite of his. As he lifted the second glass he thought, “… An appropriate way to end. With fine brandy and a finer lady!”
The third glass was lifted as soon as he had finished the second. His eyes were becoming heavier and his actions slower. His words were slurred as he asked, “I must know… What made you decide?”
Mary managed to control her sobs.
“I’ll admit I was scared… For both of us. I thought that it was a mutual sin and we would both be punished. That was until this morning. I had a close look at what this place has become, I had always known but never accepted. There will be no punishment for either of us as the worst type of hell is here on Earth.”
Mary touched glasses with Jack and she drank her brandy. Mary lifted Jack’s glass as it rolled onto his lap. She kissed him on the lips and then his forehead.
“Sleep well Jack… I’ll see you again.”
“… When you look up I’ll know that you are thinking of me… ”
For the last time she lay her head on his chest and tried to sleep.