I put my hand on the door to the living room, then hesitated.
What if someone's still here? What if they've only just got here?
Quietly I took my handbag and backed out of the front door. On the path, safely away from the house, I took out my phone, uncertain whether to call the police or to wait for Matt. I stared at the house. Apart from the hallway, it was in darkness. The house attached to mine was dark, too; Sheila and Ray, our neighbors, had told me they'd be away until Sunday. The house on the other side had sold a month or two ago and its owners had long gone. A new couple would be moving in soon, but it didn't look as though anyone was there yet; the rooms were empty and there were no curtains at the windows. Opposite us was the wide entrance to another road; the houses there were bigger, set well back with high hedges to stop them from having to view the rest of the estate.
There didn't seem to be any movement in our house. Slowly I walked across the lawn to the living room window and looked through into the darkened room.
At first I thought the television had gone. That would definitely be burglars. Then I froze. The television had gone; that was true. Matt had bought a massive flat-screen when he moved in. It had surround sound and a huge fancy black glass table, and to be honest, it took up half the room. All of it had gone.
Now in its place was the old coffee table I'd had for years, which I'd brought with me from my parents' house when I left home. On it was my old television, a great big useless thing that used to shine blue and flicker if there was a storm. It had been in the spare room all this time, waiting until we had the energy to chuck it out. I'd hardly noticed it in all the time it had been up there.
My face was so close to the living room window that I could see the mist of my breath on it.
A car braked sharply in the distance and I jumped and turned, thinking it was Matt. I don't know why I thought that.
My skin suddenly felt very cold, though the evening was warm and still. I took a deep breath and pulled my jacket tightly around me. I went back into the house, shutting the door quietly. In the living room, I put the overhead light on, then quickly went to the window to draw the curtains, even though it was still light outside. I didn't want an audience. I stood with my back to the window and looked at the room. Above the mantelpiece was a huge silver mirror and I could see my face, pale and shocked, reflected in it. I moved away so that I didn't have to look at myself.
On either side of the fireplace, white-painted shelves filled the alcoves. Our DVDs and books and CDs had been on them. On the big lower shelves Matt had kept his vinyl, hundreds of albums, all in alphabetical order by band, the more obscure the better. I remembered the day he moved in, how I'd taken dozens of my books from the shelves and put them in boxes in the spare room so he'd have space for his records.
Those books were now back there, looking as though they'd never been away. Most of the DVDs and CDs had gone. All of the vinyl was gone.
I turned to the other corner. His record player was no longer there; neither was his iPod dock. My old stereo was back; his had gone. Gone, too, were the headphones he'd bought when I'd complained I couldn't watch television because of his music.
I felt as though my legs were about to give way. I sat down on the sofa and looked at the room. My stomach was clenched so tightly I almost doubled over.
I didn't dare go into the rest of the house.
* * *
I took my mobile from my bag. I knew I shouldn't call Matt—what was the point? He'd sent me the clearest message he could. At that moment, though, I had no pride. I wanted to talk to him, to ask him what was happening. I knew, though. I knew exactly what had happened. What he'd done.
There were no missed calls, no new messages, no new emails. Suddenly furious—he might at least have had the decency to let me know—I clicked on Recent Calls and scrolled down to find his name so that I could call him. I frowned. I knew I'd called him a few nights ago. I'd been in the car, just about to leave work; my friend Katie had sent a message saying that she and her boyfriend, James, might come round and I'd phoned Matt to check we had some drinks in. There was no record of that call on my phone. I scrolled down further. Months of calls flashed by. None of them was to him or from him.
I closed my eyes for a second and tried to take a deep breath, but I couldn't. I felt as though I was going to faint and had to put my head down on my knees. After a few minutes, I looked back at the screen, clicked on Contacts and typed M for Matt, but nothing came up. Panicking, I typed S for his surname, Stone. His name wasn't there.