Melanie and Gareth Draper had waited so long. Years of trial and failure had started to fray the edges of their relationship, and the desire for a family had become an overriding passion for them since the wedding ten years earlier.
Now, when all hope seemed to have been lost, the last session of IV treatment had held out not just the chance of a family, but also the bond which looked set to re-establish their marriage once more.
Then the dreams began. At first, Melanie had put them down to the stress generated by her failure to become pregnant, but with each passing month the intensity had increased. When she told Gareth for the first time of the substance of the latest images, the horror of the transatlantic plane crash was almost too much to bear.
With the birth of their son, Simon, the nightmares, for that is what they had become, abruptly ceased. It seemed that their problems were over, and for three years they lived in a state of almost utopian bliss. On his fourth birthday, the boy told them of a strange dream that he had had the previous night…
Isabel stared out of the window for the umpteenth time. She looked at her watch and was becoming convinced that the minute hand was moving ever more slowly with each passing hour. She walked from the lounge and into the kitchen again, pausing to peer out of the back window and into the garden.
She sighed deeply; it had only been a day but she felt so desperately alone with no-one to talk to. The television wasn’t much help – the news and all of the other programmes seemed to merge into one another in a mish-mash of irrelevance.
“What am I going to do?” she asked herself. “I can’t go on like this. I feel so isolated.”
The rattle at the front door had her hurrying from one end of the house to the other. It was just a batch of junk mail, but if she hurried and opened the front door she might be able to pass a word or two with the postman. She was too late – by the time she’d found the key and unlocked it he was gone. Isabel shook her head and retreated once again into the sanctuary that was becoming more like a prison.
She looked at the hall clock as she passed it – half past eleven. The morning was still meandering its lazy way towards midday; was it time for another coffee? How long had it been since the last one? Where was he? She sat at the kitchen table and then stood up again, remembering the reason for coming into the room. The kettle; yes, the kettle.
“Take your time,” she said to herself. “Shall I have a couple of biscuits with it, or indulge in a piece of cake? Decisions. Decisions.”
She opted for the cake; pity he wasn’t here to share it with her – that would have been nice. She could have made it a larger piece for the two of them. Reaching the tin down from the cupboard, Isabel placed the piece of cake meticulously in the centre of the plate and replaced the tin. Hearing the kettle whistling away, she turned to the cooker and made the coffee that was the final highlight of her morning. She looked at the kitchen clock.
“Where are you?” she asked, her voice beginning to betray an increasing sense of desperation. Leaving the coffee and cake, she walked again to the kitchen window and stared outdoors. Shaking her head in disappointment, she retraced her steps to the lounge window and gazed expectantly once more out into the street.
“Perhaps there’s been an accident…” Her words went unfinished as there was a noise at the back door as the cat flap closed, and a ginger tom came strolling nonchalantly down the hall.
“Oh! There you are, Thomas. What a naughty boy for scaring Mummy so much. Come on; let’s get you a nice saucer of milk. You can sit on my knee and we’ll shut this nasty virus out.”