'The Morning After' by Faye Williams
When she got into work, after an early and cold commute in the January frost, the message light on her phone was flashing. An insistent red reminder of the night before. Her mobile, if unanswered, forwarded to her desk telephone. She ignored it and went to the canteen to buy a cup of tea and some breakfast.
Back at her desk, feeling bolstered by the caffeine and sugar, she breathed in deeply and picked up the receiver. The office was still empty.
There were three messages.
I'm calling to say goodbye... I'm sorry... I love you.
The message system beeped and she waited for the next one, her heart heavy and sore.
I... just... goodbye...
There were some muffled sobs. Then, the final message. This time the voice held no sorrow. No anguish. It was cold, hard and angry.
If I ever see you again I am going to kill you.
Her skin rose into goosebumps. Tears threatened. She deleted all the messages, awash with embarrassment and shame.
Her co-worker walked past and dropped his rucksack at the side of the desk next to hers. He called out breathlessly, invigorated from his bike ride to the office.
She mustered a smile from deep inside and met his enthusiasm with some of her own.
Hey! How are you?
They chatted briefly before he mentioned coffee. She shook her head. He smiled and rushed off, leaving her sat at her desk, alone again.
The messages were from her boyfriend. Happy and self-assured on the surface, he had turned out to be a needy, gaping wound of a person. A child of angry parents, raised mainly by his grandmother, he had witnessed the worst side of his family for most of his childhood. His parents had divorced and fought physically over custody. His grandmother was harsh and matronly. She used her hands instead of her words to correct his childhood misdemeanours. The years had turned him into a volatile and unpredictable adult.
Eighteen months in and she was desperate to escape, before his actions caused her permanent physical damage.
So last night, she had. She'd threatened to leave him, then walked off, in public, where he couldn't harm her. And he had sensed his control of her slipping.
But she knew he'd never let her leave. So while he was making those stupid phone calls, drunk, after the pubs had turned out, she had waited.
He had stood unsteadily on the south bank of the River Thames. She'd heard him leave message after message. Then she ran at him, out of the dark, as hard as she could.
With the cumulative strength of every time he'd laid a hand on her, she shoved him off the bank and into the freezing cold water.
She looked at her desk phone again. The message light was off. No blinking. No crying out for attention. No disturbing her thoughts.
The phone sat there peacefully.
And finally, so did she.