All of which seemed so long ago now, even if it was less than a year. Since the Incident, time had passed at a strange rate – at first, it had seemed to go so slow, every moment seemed to last an eternity. But then, probably around the same time that he began drinking, the passage of time began to skew and increase in speed until, suddenly, here he was, over a month later, still a free man.
She seemed cold still, but his queries as to whether she would like more coverings were met only with blank stares and a persistence of concentration on the television, so he decided not to pursue the matter. Instead, he’d have another drink – although this would mean getting up again, as he recalled the bottle were all but dry, now.
Staggering, uncertain, he made his way to the kitchen. The one he loved was familiar enough with his routine by now, he reckoned, that she’d quickly request something if there were anything she desired, so he didn’t even waste time with asking. The lights in the kitchen hadn’t worked in around a month or so, much like the lights in the rest of the house, so to see where he was going he had to light a candle. The scratching of the match against the rough edge of the matchbox brought some memory almost to the surface, but the vodka swirling in his system quickly washed it back down. Placing the candle on the kitchen worktop in such a way that it would illuminate the cupboard housing the numerous bottles of vodka in his collection, Pete opened the door and clinked through the selection.
Flavoured or non-flavoured? Hmmm. Always a difficult choice. Standard vodka, or black vodka? Black, this time, for a change. Right.
Turning on his heel, almost losing his balance and grip on the bottle in the process, he ambled his way nonchalantly back to the living room, a task he almost completely failed to achieve by way of tripping his own feet. Thankfully the woman he loved was clearly too involved in the show to notice, and he collapsed heavily back into the chair next to her.
It was, by turns, both a blessing and curse that his memory recall functioned so well even under the effects of two litres of vodka. It meant that he could recall the good times, but also meant that the bad time of the Incident crowded its way into his brain all too readily, and, much like the pink elephants of old, once a train of thought was engaged it was almost impossible to make it stop. He remembered every detail of the Incident all too well – it was raining that night, as it so frequently did nowadays, and the water from his coat dripped steadily on to the cracked tile flooring of the entrance vestibule, gathering in puddles and running as if rivers through the grout lines.
He was late home that night, not through any fault of his own, but through the inabilities of the other people on the road to recall the most basic rules of wet-weather driving. On more than one occasion he’d had to swerve suddenly, or hit the brakes excessively, in order to avoid some kind of collision. He was quite surprised he’d made it home alive.
Removing his coat, and hanging it on the hook nearest the radiator, he’d slipped off his shoes and stepped directly into the puddle of water he’d only recently created. Cursing slightly under his breath, he’d made his way into the house proper, heading for the kitchen, and the call of freshly brewed tea.
It wasn’t unfamiliar to him that the rear door of the house should be open – after all, contrary to how the address might sound, 17 Park Lane, Briddleton, was in fact quite a rural location and their nearest neighbour was at least a mile away. With the rain, however, he would have thought that the woman he loved might have closed it, lest the wind did sweep the rain into the kitchen, creating its own puddles of water, this time on the chequered linoleum. Causing his feet a further soaking, he’d pushed the door closed, and turned the key, which resounded with a solid clunking noise.
Which was when he first saw the blood, and when he first heard the noise.
The vodka bottle was empty again and he couldn’t recall how. The television was still on, and the one he loved still sat staring at it blankly. Now, it was informing the viewer of the dangers of drink-driving. Pete had to snort slightly with laughter at the very though, knowing full well that at this moment he wasn’t sure if he could reach his car and remember how to start it, let alone drive anywhere. Clearly, this particular piece of programming wasn’t aimed at him.
Standing once more, he decided that perhaps a change of liquid was in order, and found he was craving a cup of tea. Almost as soon as the thought entered his mind, however, his sluggish synapses burst into life and took him back once again.