Today's Reading

My fingers were suddenly hot and damp, slipping on the screen as I scrolled down the list of text conversations. Again, there were none to him and none from him, though we had sent a few each week. We tended to do that rather than call lately. There were still messages to friends and to my parents and to Sam at work, but nothing to Matt. I'd bought that phone at Christmas with my bonus. I sent him a message then, though he was only in the kitchen, asking him to bring a bottle of prosecco into the living room. I could hear him laugh when he read the message and he brought it in with some more chocolate mousse. I was lying comatose; the agreement had been that I'd cook Christmas lunch for his mother and us, but wouldn't have to do anything else for the rest of the day.

I double-checked now and looked at my texts to Katie. It took a while to scroll through them, as we sent several a week—several a day at times—but eventually I found the first one, wishing her a happy Christmas and telling her that Matt had bought me a Mulberry bag. She'd acted amazed, but I knew he'd asked her advice on it. I don't know how she'd kept it a secret.

My mind whirled. What had happened to Matt's texts and calls?

I switched the phone off and on again, hoping that might do something. There were text messages from Katie, sent yesterday afternoon, asking me about my trip to Oxford today. She'd phoned me just before the training started this morning, too, to wish me luck, knowing how much the day meant to me. I'd spent a few minutes talking to her in the car park before I had to go in. There were texts to and from Sam, my friend at work, and Lucy, my assistant, as well as some from my mum and a few from my dad, including those exchanged in Oxford just hours ago. There were also messages from Fran and Jenny, old friends who I run with sometimes, and some from university friends that I still saw occasionally. There wasn't anything from Matt at all.

Of course I knew what was going to happen when I opened my emails. No new messages, but that wasn't a surprise. I tried to think of the last time Matt had emailed me; usually he'd text. Back when we first met we'd email several times a day; we both used to have our private emails open on our computers while we were working, so we could chat to each other throughout the day. You'd think that would have made us less productive but the opposite happened and we found we were firing on all cylinders, working fast and furious and making great decisions. We were so fired up we both got promotions and it was only when Matt's company started logging network accounts after some idiot was found to be looking at porn all day that we had to stop. My heart sank now as I looked at the folders; the one with all his emails in it was missing. I opened a new message and entered "Matt" into the address bar. Nothing came up, not even his email address.

I could hear myself breathing, short, shallow breaths. There was the beginning of a red mist around my eyes and I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate.

I had no way of contacting him.


Chapter Three

For a while I couldn't move. I sat on the edge of the sofa, holding my stomach as though I was in labor. My mind raced and my palms were tingling. When the lights of a car came to our end of the street and shone through a gap in the curtains, I jumped up and before I knew it I was flat against the wall next to the window, pulling the curtains slightly to one side.

If it was Matt, I wanted to be ready for him.

Someone had come to the empty house next door. Car doors opened and slammed; I heard a man say something and a woman laugh in response. I looked through the gap in the curtains and saw a young couple standing at the boot of their car. I watched unnoticed as they unloaded suitcases and boxes and took them into the house. They must have just left them in the hall, as within a minute they were back in their car and driving off down the road. My new neighbors, I assumed. I looked at my watch. It was after eight o'clock. It seemed an odd time to move in, but then I remembered my other neighbor, Sheila, saying that it was a local couple who had bought the house; maybe they were moving their things themselves.

I gathered up my courage and made my way through to the kitchen. I pushed the door open and pressed the light switch. When the light blazed on, I saw a flash of the room and closed my eyes.

He'd done the same thing here.

Gone was the maroon Rothko print, which had glowed above the oak fireplace. Gone, too, was the white metal candelabra that Matt had brought with him and lit on the night he'd moved in. I remembered him blowing out the candles before taking my hand and leading me upstairs to our bedroom. He'd smiled at me, that easy grin that had always made me smile back, and pulled me toward him in the darkened room, whispering in my ear, "Let's go to bed." My heart had melted and I'd hugged him, right where I was standing now.

I shuddered.

The back of the house was one room, with a large marble island dividing the kitchen and dining areas. French doors led out onto the patio and large windows sat on either side, with potted plants and photos on their deep sills. Of course, the photos of Matt had vanished. There were still photos of Katie and me with our arms around each other at parties and one of us that I loved where we were wearing Santa hats and holding hands, aged five. There was one of my mum and dad that I'd taken on their wedding anniversary and another of them with me at my graduation, their faces full of pride and relief. Photos of my friends from university, shiny faced and bright eyed in bars and clubs, were still there and one of me finishing my first half marathon, holding hands with Jenny and Fran as we crossed the finish line, but all the photos of Matt had gone. It was impossible now to see where they'd been.
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