It started with a clock that was facing just slightly the wrong way. Of course, I didn’t think of it like that until much later. At the time I was sleepy and confused because the streetlight outside glinted off the clock’s shiny plastic surface and I couldn’t see what time it was.
I swiveled it to face me. 6.30am. Dylan was asleep beside me and the alarm would ring in half an hour anyway, so I slid quietly out of bed and shuffled downstairs to make the tea.
I wouldn’t have thought any more about the clock if it hadn’t been for a few other strange little things; the salt cellar that had disappeared reappeared inexplicably beside its replacement like a reflection; a new picture frame smashed before I could add the photo from Becky’s wedding; the grill, alight when we came back from a late lunch, Dylan swearing he’d turned it off after making the toast.
Dylan called it ‘Susanna’s little ghost’, wrapping my forgetfulness in a sheet and casting it in the role of a mischievous spirit.
But I was beginning to lose my cool with him too. Could he not remember to shut the attic when he’d been up for his camping gear? Or put the empty milk bottle out when he’d finished?
Our usually happy marriage was beginning to sour. We started snapping at each other, silently building up a little cache of resentment that seeped into even the happy spells.
It all clicked into place when Dylan was away camping. I was happily starfishing in our double bed when I noticed that he had, once again, left the attic hatch in our bedroom open – not all the way, just a few inches, but how hard was it to pull it all the way and fasten it shut? I felt the now familiar surge of irritation bubble up in my gut.
Honestly, he knew I worried about rats up there and the last thing we wanted was for them to get into the main house. But the bed was warm and I found myself drifting off to sleep before I could see to it.
I woke to slow, deliberate footsteps making their way across my bedroom floorboards.
“Don’t worry about creeping, Dyl,” I slurred, sleepily “I’m awake, just get into bed.”
The footsteps stopped and I felt a weight beside me on the mattress. The weather must have been awful if they’d left the campsite in the middle of the night to come home, I thought, smugly pleased that I had never been a camping person. And I fell quickly back to sleep.
When I woke the bed beside me was rumpled, but empty. My phone flashed with three new messages. I slid upright, rubbing my eyes and unlocked it to find three beautiful sunrise photographs from Dyl and a message ‘Morning beautiful. Bet you wish you’d come with us after all!’.
Sent at 6.22am today.
Downstairs the hob top kettle began to scream.