The Long Straight Road
“I don’t wait to sit in here anymore. I don’t like being spied on by everyone going past.”
Two large red spots had appeared on Rebecca’s cheeks – yet Jim ploughed on.
“But it’s what we agreed. You’d have the front sun room, and I’d get the one at the back to use for my office.”
“No Jim, you agreed. The back room was the one you wanted, because it was quieter without the sound of traffic, and you could avoid interruptions from anyone coming to the door. You just assumed that I’d agree, because I always do. But I don’t like it, I really, really don’t. I hate it in fact! Why don’t you give it a try and see how you like living in the village fishbowl?”
This time, there’d been a worryingly high pitch in Rebecca’s voice, far higher than her normal register – yet all Jim gave in return was a sigh. Without another word, Rebecca left the room. Shortly afterwards, there was the muffled sound of a door’s bang somewhere upstairs.
Jim wondered what on earth was going on with Rebecca. Normally so calm and measured, this wasn’t like her at all. With a shrug, Jim went back to his office where he heard the extension give a reassuring “ting”. Thank goodness, he thought, she’d be calling one of her friends so he could get on with some work.
Rebecca had seemed better at dinner, and even checked the details of his next trip to the London office. They’d passed their usual evening in front of the TV, and Jim hoped it was just a blip in their otherwise quiet and peaceful life.
A week later, Rebecca dropped Jim at the station, where he caught the early train to London. Jim called out a farewell as he left: “See you at six!”
And at six, there she was, waiting in the usual spot. But as soon as they pulled into the driveway, Jim could see something was amiss. The front sun room was…. wrong. Going in, he’d gasped aloud, for Rebecca’s sun room was now filled with the furniture from his office. As he turned to rail at Rebecca, he saw instead her friend Jenny in the doorway, hands on her hips, and with a look that dared him to say the wrong thing. Seeing which way this was going, Jim decided to accept things for now, and prove to Rebecca that there was nothing wrong.
His desk faced out through the big picture windows, which gave him a nice view looking right down the long straight road that ran up to their house. That road then rounded the corner and on the village main street. Apart from the odd delivery, which Rebecca dealt with smoothly and swiftly, there were remarkably few disturbances in fact, so Jim thought he was going to win this disagreement hands down.
Except, whenever Jim looked up and out of the window, someone was walking towards their house and they would look right into his office. Jim didn’t know whether to ignore or acknowledge the walkers. He’d tried both, but never got any reaction – something he’d found odd to be honest. Unsettling even.
Summer and then Autumn came and went, and Winter was well on it’s way. The clocks having changed, it was dark more of the time, so Jim had the lights on in his office. Now the people walking along the road were hidden in the shadows and he couldn’t see who they were, but he knew his desk lamp put him into a spotlight. He started to pull the blinds, but it felt odd, not knowing who was out, yet knowing they would be looking in.
He stopped sleeping properly, and had taken to having an extra drink or two before bed to try and relax. Rebecca had tried to ask if anything was wrong, but he’d brushed her away. He decided to book an appointment to see a doctor in London, even though he felt foolish, but he didn’t want anyone in the village knowing his business. Hopefully he could get some sleeping pills and everything would return to normal. The problem he couldn’t avoid though was how much he was drinking – so much that the glass recycling box was positively overflowing, and he’d noticed that Rebecca barely touched a drop these days.
Unexpectedly, he’d broken down when describing what was happening to the doctor. He turned out to be someone who’d known Jim a long time – an old rugby friend in fact – so although it could’ve been awkward, he’d shown Jim genuine kindness. He’d sent him away with a prescription, and gave him the telephone number of a therapist. Jim had cried that night as he told Rebecca about it.
“My doctor said what I’d experienced was paranoia” she told him, “but it all stopped once I moved out of that sun room. I think we should regard that room as out of bounds for us both.”
“Or move house?” suggested Jim, surprised to realise that he meant it.
“Yes, let’s. It could explain why it was below market value.”
© Debra Carey, 2022