“Debilitating drudgery,” grumbled Shona. This is how it felt, she couldn’t pinpoint a time when it all started, this sense of meaninglessness. She went about her daily chores robotically, cooking, cleaning and organising her daughter’s room.
She walked up the stairs till she reached the landing, in front of her was the terrace, a vast expanse of cement with what seemed like a tiny granny flat at the other end. It seemed strange that she hadn’t noticed this room before…. She entered the rickety door and found what looked like a fully furnished room. Though dusty it was a paradise for an antique collector. She didn’t touch a thing but walked into the connecting room with a door which almost seemed to be an extension of the wall. Blue paint was peeling off as she pushed open the door. Was it the muffled cry or was it her imagination? To her utter dismay she had knocked a toddler down on his face, she bent and tried to lift the child but was rudely stopped by a man with a bell in his hand ringing shrilly…
Was that the doorbell? She sat up confused on her bed, realising it was that recurring dream… Hurriedly she got out of bed and ran to the door, “Sorry Em, mum was having a nap,” she explained to her ten-year-old daughter, “how was school?” Shona was grateful for the mindless chatter that followed.
Next morning after Emily left for school, she decided to go for a stroll to the grocery store and pick-up snacks for afternoon tea. Walking down the cheese aisle at Woolies she felt someone’s glaring gaze on her. Looking up she spotted him, she fumbled past him and rushed out of the store without any groceries. She had to get away, he mustn’t know where she lived. She had worked very hard to disappear, she knew that an AVO wouldn’t keep him away for long, he must not know where she lived.
She kept checking over her shoulder to ensure that no one was following. Maybe she should spend some time at the local library, she thought. She walked in past the librarian and to the ‘new release’ section. Skimming through the books, unable to focus… She must get herself together, she scolded herself, for Emily. She couldn’t continue with this fear and looming uncertainty. What could she do? She tried everyone and everywhere, and he kept turning up out of nowhere!
Her part-time job as a waitress hardly provided financial stability, they just got by. She was out of options and had to stop running. Checking her wristwatch nervously she decided to return home, it would soon be time for Emily’s return. She took a shortcut through the park checking regularly over her shoulder. Letting herself in she shut the door behind her and heaved a sigh of relief, she was quite sure that she wasn’t followed. She fixed herself a cup of tea and sat down on her favourite couch to savour the moment. The doorbell rang, who could it be it was only 1pm, it couldn’t be Emily. Should she ignore the doorbell?
“Mum what’s wrong, why did you take so long to answer the door? Why are you so upset?” asked Emily. “Something at work?”
“Yes…Yes just a nasty conversation. Nothing to worry…” she lied, wanting desperately to protect Emily. Emily needn’t know, she rationalised.
“Okay mum”, said Emily, hugging her mother reassuringly.
“How are you home so soon? Its only 1pm.”
“The clock has stopped mum; it is half past three.”
She sat down on the couch, smiling nervously.
Should she inform the police, after all she had to protect her daughter. Pacing her tiny apartment, she couldn’t decide if calling the police would mean them dropping by and then the volley of questions that both she and Em would be subjected to… Was it worth it?
“Mum I am hungry”, Em’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Oh yes, darling I will fix you a sandwich”.
“Mum can I have noodles instead?”
“I should have a two-minute packet in the pantry, let me check…”
Emily’s face brightened at the thought of noodles. She chatted about her school day excited about a new girl in her class whose family had recently moved from Sydney.
Later that afternoon after Emily returned to her room to complete her homework, Shona finally called the local police station.
“Matthew Summerfield, how can I help you?”
“Hello, this is Shona McPherson… I saw my ex-husband, James McPherson in the grocery store earlier today. He has turned-up despite the AVO… please help me… I don’t want him turning up at my doorstep again… I have a ten-year-old daughter… I can’t have him harassing us again…”
“Calm down Ma’am, I am a trainee just give me a moment to take down the details and record your complaint”
Shona could hear another person’s voice in the background, probably the mentoring officer.
“Mrs McPherson… This is David Reynolds; we understand your predicament but according to our records James McPherson died in a car accident earlier this month.”