Two Before Bed by Nils Durban

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Alison had lost track of time again. Physically, she was sat at the big wooden table in the kitchen, staring into the untouched mug of tea which had long since turned stone cold. Mentally, she had been in a place which was now forever divorced from reality. A place in which Graeme would return home from work, occasionally bad tempered, and demand to know what was for dinner. A place in which she would yell incessantly at Robbie for him to get off the Xbox and get started on his homework. "I'm waiting for Dad to get home. I need his help," had always been the stock response. But Dad wasn't coming home tonight, or ever again. And Robbie wasn't bumping around upstairs.

The quietness of the house closed in on her in a way that she had never previously experienced. It enfolded her in a claustrophobic shroud that forced her, in moments like these, to gasp out loud. Even breathing was something that her body and mind seemed to labour with now. She rose from the chair and drew a glass of water, sipping it gradually as she gazed out of the window at the garden. Grass needs cutting, she thought, catching herself from making a mental note to mention it to Graeme. He would never have let it get so long, she knew. She should do something about it, she told herself, and immediately dismissed it as just one more inconsequential fact that she could no longer bring herself to acknowledge, let alone act upon.

In the hallway, just inside the front door, Robbie's sports bag caught her eye as it had done every morning and every night since....since it had happened. It bulged with the football kit that had been packed into it so hurriedly all those days ago. it had sat there ever since, waiting for her son to grab it and rush off out the door for his Saturday practice. How many more times could she bear to look at it, knowing that this was never going to happen? She gritted her teeth as she strode towards it, bent to grasp it's strap and then hurriedly climbed the stairs. She opened his bedroom door slowly, careful not to peer within, knowing fully the effect that the unchanged appearance of the room would have upon her. Alison placed the bag inside the door before quickly shutting it and slumping against the wall, sobs rising in her chest. She took a deep breath and then another in an effort to get herself under control. Perhaps I should take a lie down, she wondered and headed for their...no, her...bedroom.

She steadied herself against the frame of the door and contemplated the unmade king-size divan that always felt so empty now. Beside it, atop the bed-side table, sat the small brown bottle of tranquillisers that had been prescribed for her at the hospital. She reached out for it, at once craving the oblivion that she knew the pills would swiftly bring, whilst filled with the dread knowledge that they would, if only temporarily, erase from her mind the bittersweet thoughts of her dearest husband and beautiful son. She clutched the bottle, its printed white label proclaiming that she should take two before bed.

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