All Stories, General Fiction

Through the Curtain by Diane M Dickson

The police showed her his watch. His watch and wallet, and his wedding ring. No matter how much Amy asked to see her husband’s body, they dissuaded her. None of them actually said that he was unrecognisable because of his injuries but, through the shock and horror of it all, the message was eventually received. She picked up the timepiece she had bought a couple of years earlier. The engraving on the back ‘All My Love Stuart – your Amy’ left no room for doubt. His wallet held some money, his bank cards. His driving licence was missing, that was how they had found her.

Words would not come. Choked by tears she nodded and turned away. In the quiet room in the hospital there were a couple of brown chairs, a chipped coffee table and a sad box of toys tucked into the corner. The young policewoman with her was uncomfortable and embarrassed. After the offer of tea or coffee had been refused, she had drained her meagre reservoir of comfort and sat in silence, now and then dredging up something approaching a smile.

“How long will I have to wait?” Amy asked. “Why do I have to be here? There are things I have to do, people I need to speak to.”

“It shouldn’t be long I don’t think. We just need to make sure we have all the details we need. There will probably have to be an inquest. The lorry driver has been arrested for dangerous driving. I’m sorry this is awful for you, and there are some other formalities. I think.”

Now Amy felt obliged to reassure that woman that it wasn’t her fault, that she understood. A Pleaser. That’s what Stuart had called her, “Why don’t you get angry, why do you think it’s your job all the time to make people feel better.” But she was and so that is what she did.

The next question was dragged from somewhere deep inside, almost in spite of herself she heard the whisper leave her lips. “Where will they take him, do you know?” It was an acknowledgement, a step which changed her life. Wife to Widow.


“I think to the morgue here and then you can make arrangements. They have people, it’s their job. Someone will come soon, and you’ll be able to ask them.”

It was no good, the girl didn’t know enough, and Amy didn’t know what she should be asking anyway. The silence fell on them again.

Later, sometimes, a scent would take her back, remind her of the smell of the place. Hospitals didn’t smell as they used to, clean, medical. It seemed now it was the smell of coffee and people. Like a shopping Mall. Maybe in the wards it was different, but she was never taken to a ward, there was no bed to sit beside, no hand to hold. Just his watch, and his wallet and his wedding ring. In a paper bag, on her lap in the quiet room with the chipped coffee table and the toys in the corner.

They took her to an office. There were some forms to fill in and they gave her a certificate, as if he’d won a prize, and then there was another police car which took her home.

It was dark now, she was cold even though she had on her wool coat. The heating in the house had turned itself on while she’d been away but she shivered. The lights in the kitchen were lit. The police constable, another one this time, a man – asked if he could make her a cup of tea or something to eat. She thanked him and told him no. He didn’t seem to know how long he should stay with her, he asked her a few times if she was alright and she told him, a few times that ‘yes, she was fine’ and ‘No there was no-one he could call to sit with her’.

What else was there to say. She wasn’t dead, she wasn’t lying in the mortuary waiting for a van from the undertakers.

She was home, in their house with the mug from his breakfast still on the draining board and his overcoat on the hook in the hall. He should have taken his overcoat, it had been cold in the morning. She should have reminded him.

After the policeman left, and the front door was closed, she stood for a minute with the sleeve of his overcoat in her hand. He’d turned hadn’t he, at this door, this morning. He had turned and shouted goodbye and she had waved from the kitchen table. She didn’t bother to get up, it was an ordinary morning. He had given her a kiss, walked down the hall and then he’d left. She lifted a hand to her cheek. It had been just a peck really, his hand on her shoulder, a passing embrace, their last one.

In the living room she sat in the dark. She could see the glint of light from outside reflecting on the lenses of his reading glasses where they had been left on the chair. She reached across and picked them up, folded the arms and then put them in the case. Safe.

She should ring someone, tell people what had happened. Her mother, Stuart’s brother, probably his boss, she should explain that he wouldn’t be in work tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow.

She began to cry.


Diane M Dickson

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19 thoughts on “Through the Curtain by Diane M Dickson”

  1. The detail of the public toy box is especially poignant. How often have I seen one of those in the waiting rooms of doctors’ clinics, the hospital and even in the ICU from which my mother never emerged, I don’t know. But this piece brought all of it back, keenly.


  2. No sorrow. Good writing brings forth strong emotional responses. That and its ability to stimulate something invisible makes writing relevant. And it is those little details, like the toy box. which bloom in the mind, and add depth to the story, as has happened here with yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the small details — the toys, the mug, the reading glasses and so on. The details accumulate. The weight of them grows and is finally too much for the woman to bear. Very nice.


  4. Hi Diane,
    A rare treat from you. Too rare!
    A total lesson on stripping everything back and just giving us realistic emotion through very simple writing.
    The images that you leave the reader with are heartbreaking.
    Even for a cynical and black-hearted Scotsman!


    1. Thank you so much Hugh. I think perhaps that Scots heart is far less midnight than you would like us to believe – but there – I’ll keep your secret if you make nice comments like this on my scribbles.


  5. Captures the sense of detachment when experiencing the unexpected. You never know what is going to happen next. The recall of the final parting is poignant and very true for those of who understand.


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