From the shadows, a figure watches the foursome climb into the Uber. He’s been spying on them all night; in the restaurant, he almost got caught when one of the woman looked his way. Their gaze connected for a fraction too long. Her face crinkled in confusion. But she looked away and their alcohol intake ensured she didn’t notice him again.
Now, the Uber pulls into traffic, he wonders where they’re going. He likes to imagine other people’s lives. He imagines they’ll tell the driver to take a detour on their way home, maybe they’ll stop at a club and pretend they’re 30 years younger with no children at home being babysat by a teenager.
He sighs and walks into his house. The weight of his responsibilities is waiting for him at the door, like a winter coat. He walks into the bedroom, where his wife of forty years lies in their bed. She’s asleep, the nurse sits in the chair next to the bed.
‘Alright?’ he asks.
‘She’s been fine, Len. She’s had her dinner. I’ve bathed her. She’s in a clean nightie and she’s wearing her night-time nappy.’
‘Thanks Mandy. You can head off now. I’ll see you in the morning.’
‘Night, then Len. I hope Shirl has a restful evening.’
He closes the door behind Mandy. He hears her car door slam; she cranks the engine of her car, giving too much pressure on the accelerator. He grins. She does that every time.
Len walks back to the bedroom. He stares at Shirl as she sleeps. His heart aches for her. For the woman she used to be. Vibrant, lithe, active. Now confined to bed, mute, motionless. Communicating with blinks and slight nods. She wouldn’t want to live this way, he knew.
Or did he?
Perhaps it’s just the exhaustion talking. Perhaps it is he who doesn’t want to live this way. He collapses on the bed, flat on his back. He gives into the tiredness and sleeps.
Hours later he wakes, cold. He changes into his pyjamas, brushes his teeth. Thinks of the foursome he saw earlier while on his nightly escape. He wonders what horrors lie in wait for them, as age takes hold. They’re all so goddam blind to how fragile life can be. In the bathroom, he chokes on mouthwash as he sobs. Snot and tears collect on his upper lip. He rips off toilet paper to wipe them away.
He’s going to do it. Now. It’s still dark out. 2.45AM. Back in the bedroom, he kisses Shirl on her lips, lingering, sobbing. He smooths her hair and gently caresses her cheek. With his other hand, he grabs his pillow and holds it over her head until her last breath shudders through her body.
He falls to the carpeted floor next to the bed, crying with guilt and relief.