The theme for this short story was “The Return”.
There’s only so far I can be pushed. And Vanessa pushed me too far.
“Do you expect me to believe you’re not having an affair after what I saw, Piers?”
Wow, my fiancée had shown jealousy before, but never quite like this. Why couldn’t she believe that Anabel was my long lost cousin? Vanessa knows Matthew and Ida aren’t my real parents, even though I tend to call them Mum and Dad. Why couldn’t she see that I might have relatives I’ve never known, or that my reaction might be… extreme if I met them?
“She had her arms around you, Piers!” yelled Vanessa. “You kissed her!”
OK, to be fair Vanessa didn’t know who Anabel was, or how we knew each other. Alright, Anabel might have thought up a more subtle approach than pouncing on me with that photo and those documents, just as I was waiting in the café with Vanessa’s usual espresso and brownie. But when is the best time and what is the best way to tell a person they’re part of a family they never knew about?
“You know something, Piers?” Vanessa went on. “You may as well return this.”
She pulled off her engagement ring and tossed it across the bed at me. I felt it bounce off my forehead as I ducked. It felt like a slap.
“I’d sooner die alone than marry such a liar!”
“Then maybe it’s better you do!” I retorted, as I tore open the wardrobe and started stuffing clothes into my overnight bag. “You turn every disagreement into a shouting match, you spend our money with abandon when we need it for restoration work, you don’t show me any respect when I found and paid for this house…”
“It’s a wreck!” Vanessa shrieked. “A real man would have bought me a house that holds together! And just where do you think you’re going?”
“Mum and Dad’s,” I said as levelly as I could. “I don’t believe I should go, but I can’t be around you when you’re like this, Vanessa. When you’ve simmered down, come and find me.”
I closed the now full bag (jamming the zip twice in my anger), grabbed my keys and wallet and stormed out of the bedroom. But Vanessa pursued me wrathfully onto the landing, hissing like a snake.
“You can’t fool me, Piers! You’re off to see her aren’t you? You’re using this as an excuse just to go and… Will you stand still when I’m talking to you?”
At this point she seized my arm and swung me round with such force that I overbalanced and collided with the landing rail.
Oh no! Why hadn’t I been quicker with the restoration work? The bolts on the landing rail were loose and the wood was rotten. This meant that the rail broke away as I struck it. My overnight bag went flying as I began plunging through the gap!
A fraction of a second before I fell, my left hand shot out and I grabbed the more secure rail next to the one that had broken. Still, I wasn’t at all safe. My toes were now slipping on the ledge and my wheeling right arm couldn’t reach any handholds. The patterned tiles two storeys below on the hallway floor spun through my field of vision, as I fought to right myself.
“Vanessa!” I screamed. “Help me, please!”
Vanessa’s anger now vanished. An eerie calm overtook her. A look came into her eyes I didn’t care for much. I cared even less for her expression as she leant forward and reached out towards me.
“Of course, Piers,” she smiled. “Let me send you on your way.”
Didn’t I say Vanessa pushed me too far?
She lied to the police, of course. Oh, what an actress she was! She even managed to cry as she described the unfortunate accident; how I leant back on the faulty rail only to have it collapse under me.
“If only he hadn’t held off those repairs!” she wept.
She’s in bed now. I watch her as she sleeps soundly, not losing a wink of it, not even tossing and turning.
Just you wait, Vanessa. Go ahead; gloat over my grave. Cry crocodile tears in front of my family. Console Anabel for having lost me as soon as she found me. You pushed me too far. But I’m back, and I’ll have my revenge on you. I can wait forever if I have to.