Under the Arches

She senses him opening the front door, coming in, taking off his shoes. She listens as he removes his clothes, his belt buckle knocking, then silenced in a fist. She hears him padding up the stairs like the cat after waking. He pulls back the covers and when he’s lain back down it’s as if he never left. Every Thursday. They go to bed, he reads his manual, she turns off her light and settles down. He kisses her shoulder, breathes goodnight on her skin. They never mention the quiet box room or the dark stain growing over the mantle. A few hours later he’s up and out. Several full moons come and go and every Thursday she lies in their bed listening to the soundtrack of his movements. They sit and eat breakfast and she looks for it in his eyes, but she can’t see it. She turns out his pockets, but it’s not there. In his toolshed, in the glovebox of his Rover. Not there, not there. Tonight, she dresses once he’s gone and leaves the house minutes after him, staying close to the privet so he can’t see. He walks down to the culvert and crosses the bridge, then heads in a zigzag down the steep embankment by the double arches. If she follows any further he’ll hear her pursuit. She stands still, tastes the sharp air, pushes her hands deep into duffle pockets. The Tubes stopped hours ago, the night so still. Then she hears him scream, a low tired scream like he’s been having his teeth drilled for days without anaesthetic. He screams for a minute then he comes back the way he came. She follows him home and wonders what he will say when he finds the house is empty.

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