Sandra stood motionless by the window in the dark. She’d hardly moved all evening aside from occasionally glancing at the clock, her back straight, every muscle in such anticipation of what she hoped she’d see, it was as if an invisible energy was emanating from her.
She’d been there since twilight, and now it was well into the night, with the stillness that marks those dark hours devoid of much activity.
“Where are you?” her deep voice, husky from not much use, sounded breathlessly in the dark room. Had something happened? What should she do if it had? A sigh escaped her with the last thought and finally, she turned away slowly from her position and sunk into the lone chair, she’d not much else in the way of plan B...
The tiny room was shabby, but clean. She had checked in such a rush and flurry of emotions, she had not even bothered to look it over. There was the threadbare armchair she was currently occupying, a sad looking bed that drooped towards the middle and a desk over in the farthest corner with an old, dusty telephone.
A dead, naked bulb hung from the ceiling and near the main door, and a second door led to the bathroom that she used and not bothered to judge its sorry state. It was the quintessential, low-end motel room.
Sandra’s eyes wandered back to the window that faced the only road in and out of the miserable dump, her mind sifting through the events of the past 24 hours and how she had come to be here.
“Will you come?” his voice was raspy, his tone tight and clipped as if he were right at the edge of his control.
“Why? What…?” she started to seek an explanation, her mind deep in the fog of confusion, but he cut in roughly.
“Will. You. Come?”
He had been in some legal trouble, that she knew. But this? Why would he suddenly need to run? Her hands shook slightly as she packed the essentials she thought they would need. But as she did, the panic began rising. Where were they going? What would happen?
Sandra sunk to the floor, a pair of socks in her hand, sobbing. Huge racking cries rocked her slender frame for a few seconds, then the panic passed and suddenly everything was as clear as she needed it to be, for now. Nothing else mattered, she would run with him.
The afternoon was balmy, the sun shone brightly and white wispy clouds ran on ahead of a welcome wind. Sandra slipped quietly through the back door, a heavy satchel slung across her back, and made her way through the garden and into the side-street. There, she put her head down and walked quickly away from their house, hoping no one had seen or paid much notice to her.
She walked steadily and quickly to the bus stop, hopping into a bus immediately it pulled to the curb a minute later, having timed it perfectly. Only when she was seated did her mind rev up again, panicky thoughts and what-if scenarios played out in her mind’s eye, yet nothing but her fidgety hands betrayed her distress.
The bus meandered through the quiet neighbourhood streets, idyllic in the afternoon sun, before joining the noisy, bustling traffic headed into the city.
Nearing the final bus stop, Sandra alighted at a busy market as per his instructions and ducked into an alley filled with rotting vegetables, a few shady looking characters and two bony, old men huddled over a smoky fire lit from discarded boxes.
She hurried past their curious stares, turned right into another alley and came out onto a small street where minivans were parked side by side waiting for passengers headed into the countryside.
She must have had luck on her side that day as she got the last seat in the van, sat back with a sigh, and watched the city scape morph into green, rolling hills interspersed with wide stretches of lush, flat plains that touched the horizon.
It was incredible that all this was out here, just a few minutes from the noise that had not let her breathe easy since she had left like a thief through the back door of their home.
“Madam,” a gentle hand on her shoulder roused her awake. She had been so frayed, she must have fallen asleep.
Mumbling a thank you and stumbling out into the cool evening air, Sandra found her feet, stretched her back, arched her neck and quickly got her bearings. She was in a small town, with hardly anybody about now that dark was falling.
There was a hotel not too far off, along the main road near a large fig tree. He had said she should go there, so she squared her shoulders, adjusted her satchel and slinked off into the twilight.
Alone with her thoughts now, Sandra wondered again what she would do if he didn’t show up. Could she simply go back home? The thought filled her with a deep sense of despair.
Closing her eyes to the tears that were burning hot and salty against her eyelids, she inhaled sharply and stood suddenly. Well, there was no use pretending anymore. He wasn’t coming. Either they had got to him first or he had ran without her.
Her steps were heavy as she moved slowly to the door, dragging her satchel off the bed and slinging it on her back. Then, before turning the knob, she cried quick tears that dulled the pain knifing her chest.
“He’s not coming.”
The flat, empty sound of her voice in the dark room roused her to mechanical motion. She opened the door, walked the length of the dimly lit corridor past several rooms, down a flight of stairs, out into the courtyard and turned right towards the road.
Sandra concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. She would get home, then, and only then, would she allow herself to think. It was a dark night with no moon to serve as a guide, but the stars shone brightly, lighting the sky with their incandescence.
The fig tree by the main road loomed in the distance, and she sped up, then stopped short as the still night was broken by a distant rumbling that grew louder by the second.
“It’s him,” she breathed even as he suddenly appeared on his motorbike.
“Sorry I’m late,” his voice was breathy, soothing, “They surrounded me at the courthouse after the hearing. Denied me bail, said I’m a flight risk,” he smiled at the irony and held out his hand.
Sandra grinned, slipped her hand into his and climbed onto the back of the motorcycle.