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3 A.M. Magazine



Michael Petrie

Copyright © 1999
All Rights Reserved


"Each morning," Anne said, "is the dawn of nothing."

So, she was leaving.

He had seen it coming for a long time: the awkward silences over the dinner table, the day-long sulks, the occasional annoyed shrugging when he tried to put his arm round her shoulders. But he had done his best to ignore the signs, putting it down to his imagination or her hormones. Now he knew.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" he asked without looking up from the morning paper.

"No children, no future," she said. "Every day like every other, going nowhere. The sun shines, but I'm in darkness."

He told her not to be stupid and rustled his newspaper, pretending to read it.

She grabbed the top of the page and crumpled it down, forcing him to look her in the face. "For once in your life," she said, "you're going to listen to me, you bastard." She stared straight into his face and he could see her eyes moving as though she were reading his face like a book. "I'm leaving you," she said. "I can't live like this any more," she said. "What have you got to say about that, David?"

Anne had shoved her face so close to his that he could see the open pores in the skin around her nose and under her eyes and the blotchy pimples on her forehead. She hadn't put her make-up on yet; it was still only seven-thirty in the morning. While she was talking to him he couldn't take his mind off those pores and pimples and the way the skin around her eyes crinkled up as she narrowed her gaze.

"Is there any more toast?" he asked.

Business was slow at the office that morning. Yvonne, his secretary, spent most of her time boiling the kettle to make endless cups of muddy instant coffee for him. His mind began to wander. He felt as though his life, which until that morning had seemed solid and secure, had slipped away from his grasp and become alien and distant from him. Once, he found himself looking at Yvonne and wondering what kind of wife she was to her husband, what it would be like to wake up with her long brown hair tousled over the pillow beside him. To his mild surprise, he still felt no desire for her.

"More coffee?" She had seen him looking at her.

"No thanks, Yvonne. Any more and the boss will think I've got Parkinson's." He held his right hand up palm-down and trembled it. They both laughed.

At twenty-three minutes past two in the afternoon, the phone rang.

"I'm Joan of Arc," a voice said. "You've piled up the kindling at my feet and you've thrown a burning brand onto it."

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