When the balance of fortune was tipped out of her favour, Grace Turner barely allowed the earth to settle on her father’s grave before turning tail. She walked from the funeral without a momentary glance behind her, climbed into her car and started driving west. If asked, she would say that she didn’t know what else to do, where else to turn, and it wasn’t a lie. But neither was it the whole truth. If she was being really honest, it was more than just compulsion that brought her home, it was something far more profound, and far more difficult to explain.
She drove for two hours, leaving Williamsport and the anxieties of the past nine months in her wake. It was a journey she had not made in twenty five years, not since the death of her childhood friend Christian, yet she navigated the route without consultation. She had been thinking about him a lot lately, thinking about how different things would have been if he were still alive. Would she have left town for the city? If she hadn’t then maybe her life would be simpler, less cluttered, and easier to manage. But who was to say they would still have been friends or that with the passing of years, he wouldn’t have left her behind?
There was no way to answer these questions. Christian had died and she had stood next to him while it happened. Now he was coming to her in dreams, telling her things she didn’t want to know, forcing her to confront that which she could have done without.
He came to her when her marriage was falling apart, dressed in the same clothes he had worn when he fell at her side. They were tattered and torn, and spattered with blood from where the bullets had torn through him. His skin was pale and bruised and there was a vacancy in his eyes that upset her the most. He told her that her husband was cheating and he told her who he was cheating with; he spoke of things her husband would say, niceties that he once spoke to her but were now reserved for another. And when the dream was over Grace would wake, sobbing in her bed alone, paranoid and distrustful about where her absent husband was.
Grace made a phone call at two in the morning, trying to confirm (for her own peace of mind) that James was checked into the hotel he told her about. She spoke to the clerk and apologised for calling at such an early hour, requested the name and room number.
‘Who is this please?’ the clerk asked
‘My name is Grace Matthews,’ she answered meekly; ‘I am James Matthews wife.’
And maybe it was something in the clerk’s voice that set her thinking, but she didn’t believe that her husband was alone. She thanked the voice on the other end and wrestled with her sudden mistrust, trying to decide whether it was appropriate to make the trip into Sullivan County to catch her man of eleven years in bed with some junior surveyor almost half his age.