My Husband's Girlfriend - Sheryl Browne
‘Wake up!’ A woman’s voice, fraught with anxiety, floats on the edge of her consciousness. Ignoring the excruciating pressure in her chest, she continues to search. Desperately. Blindly. She can’t find him. She has to.
‘You need to wake up!’ She feels a hand on her forearm, shaking her, trying to drag her back.
No! she screams silently. I can’t! He’s here. I can feel him. I need to find him.
‘You have to get up!’ the woman hisses. ‘You have to …’
A strange whooshing, gurgling sound drowns out the agitated voice. The pressure increases, causing her blood to pump frantically. Her head begins to throb. Her heart thrashes – thud, thud, thud – a dull drumbeat in her chest.
‘Can you hear me? I know you can hear me. Wake up, will you?’
No, please … I can’t leave him. I won’t leave him. She blinks wildly around, but the grit and the dirt someone is shovelling into the water burns her eyes. She can’t see. Nothing but deep, dark, impenetrable red. Panic engulfs her. And then he’s there, an arm’s stretch in front of her. He’s moving away, floating, swirling; dancing like a fragile anemone. She tries to follow, but her lungs, bursting within her, scream at her to draw air. She can’t reach him. She tries to hold on to the essence of him, but he’s drifting further away, fading into the distance like a soft white djinn.
And then he’s gone. And the voice is right next to her, insistent, a demented buzzing bee in her head. ‘For God’s sake, wake up! The police are here.’
She chokes out a strangled sob, snapping her eyes open as the quilt is stripped from her body.
‘You need to get dressed.’ The woman she thought she knew, but doesn’t know at all, scans her eyes urgently, her own tear-filled and anguished, yet holding a warning. ‘They want to talk to you.’
She watches her leave, tries to hold onto the fragments of her dream, which hover tauntingly on the periphery of her memory. Scrambling from her bed, she searches for her dressing gown, but it’s not there. Not anywhere. Glancing quickly around, her heart thrashing, she grabs a sweatshirt from the bedroom chair, tugs it on and reaches to pull her hair from the back of it. It’s damp, hanging in rat’s tails, as it does if she showers and goes to bed without drying it. But she didn’t do that. Did she? Her mind is fuzzy, a headache forming, pinpricks of sharp white light scorching her eyes. She can’t remember. Why can’t she remember?
With trembling hands, she reaches for her jeans and pulls them on, then pushes her feet into her slippers. Muted voices drift up from the lounge as she slowly descends the stairs: a male voice, a woman’s voice; wretched with grief. Her legs leaden, her chest pounding, she places the flat of her hand to the partially open door and pushes it open.
A female police officer stands. ‘Hello.’ She offers her a smile as she takes a faltering step inside. ‘We’re told you took a sleeping tablet last night.’ Her eyes are kind, curious, assessing. ‘Are you okay to talk to us?’
She nods, tries to smile back, but her facial muscles are as frozen as she feels inside. Goosebumps rise over her skin as reality sinks in.
She wasn’t dreaming.
Sarah could feel Joe’s eyes on her as, stunned, she reread the text she’d just received from her ex. ‘Problem?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she said evasively. ‘Not really.’ Trying to digest the words, she glanced over to where her little boy was throwing his soft football across the pub garden and galloping gleefully after it. ‘Careful, Ollie,’ she called. ‘Don’t go too far from the table, sweetheart.’
‘I’ll get him.’ Placing his pint down, Joe was on his feet as Ollie charged on. At three years old, coming up to four, he was definitely a handful. ‘Come on, mate.’ Scooping him up, Joe headed for the ball and kicked it back towards Sarah. ‘Let’s go and have another drink and then we’ll practise some goal kicks. What do you say?’
Despite the worrying text, Sarah laughed as Ollie answered with a giggling ‘Yes.’ This was her and Joe’s first date since they’d gone out together years ago at school, and she didn’t want to spoil it, which going on about her failed relationship certainly would. They were just having a casual drink together, each of them preferring not to read anything too serious into it. They’d broken up at