A Drop in the Mercury
I could not believe how cold I felt. The weather had closed in on the second half of the ride wrapping us in her cold embrace, but we were used to that. Our cycling club trained every Tuesday morning throughout the year, including this dark, brooding November one. It was something more.
The near miss on my penultimate right turn had evoked an all too familiar terror. They say that, when you are about to be hit by a vehicle that you feel it, even before impact, and I knew this to be true. The fresh, clean wind is replaced buy a sickly warm blast, the evil hiss of the engine becomes a vendetta of noise looking for its victim and hands stiffen under gloves like premature rigor mortis. So far I had been lucky.
I turned, the van screeched to a halt and she, Mother Nature, blew cold, welcome breath across my face again. I rode on.
From the side road, I glanced round, briefly. The van had stopped, the driver, by the side of his vehicle was surrounded by my club-mates but instead of the usual hot headed, all too familiar shouts of accusation and burning indignation, there was only an inexplicable and eerie silence.
My hands, numb with cold, had to be coerced, like operating an unfamiliar puppet, into turning the key of the front door. The warmth of the house hit but bizarrely did not seem to penetrate and I felt like I was watching the experience of a warm room from out in the cold.
A warm shower would do it.
The hot dutiful water almost hissed as it hit my body, steam rose from me like a blacksmith’s plunge pool and as I dried myself my towel seemed deathly cold, as if refusing to accept my body heat.
As I dressed I heard the sharp sound of gravel under rubber and a car door slam; I raced downstairs.
My Wife’s all too familiar shadow appeared in the door’s frosted glass, shorter seeming than normal, and the two out rigging smaller but unusually still shapes telegraphed that the girls were with her too.
I glanced at the clock, 11.35, It must have stopped this morning when I was out on my ride but even so I knew it was far too early for them to be home, normally.
The door flew open and what hit my eyes pulsated warm but poisonous fear around my cold body. My wife, usually so immaculately made up had only a few traces of mascara left, tear after tear had purged her face of it. The whiteness of her face in an instant told me these were the very real tears of sorrow, not anger. My girls, behind her, clung to one another in mutual support, their faces buried within each other. They all walked past, not looking in my direction or acknowledging me in any way. As I reached out to touch Beth, my youngest, I felt her body give an involuntary shiver.
What was so wrong? What had happened? What?
My wife’s job? No. My girls? Not my girls, my beautiful girls, what could have happened to my babies?
I went to cry out to them, my wife, stood by the mantelpiece head bowed, and my girls sobbing on the sofa, but no sound would come. Why would they not talk to me or even look at me?
Then, very slowly, my wife lifted her head, fixed me with an icy stare and moved towards me. I readied myself for her warm touch and embrace, for the comfort that that would bring, but as she reached me and raised her hand, it passed right through me and turned on the light.