This was not what he wanted or expected.
His life had changed, finished university with a degree, a job, not well paid, but a decent start. He found a house, old and tatty, but it had all the furniture he needed. And a first steady girlfriend, not any old girl, a beautiful, classy young lady. They had been seeing each other for five months. Tish was her nickname, he thought her real name was Patricia but had never asked. Everyone knew Tish, but not her real name. His name was Mike, everyone knew his real name. Names summed them up. One exciting and unpredictable, the other, well, boring, steady and plain.
“Is it too early to ask her to move in?” he wondered, as he planned a romantic date.
They had been to see the latest Bond movie, both enjoyed it. Then he pushed the boat out, they went to a five-star Italian restaurant. Fantastic food, dearer than he had hoped. But, it was not every day.
He even opened the car door for her. She got in without a word.
“Anything wrong?” he asked.
She peered out of the side window. He scratched his head.
“Have I upset you?”
She turned her head around and turned her lips down.
“Why did we go to a Bond movie?” she asked.
“It’s the latest. Didn’t you like it?”
“Yes, it was fine.”
“But?” Mike asked.
“Why not take me to, something arty or underground, something no one else has seen?”
“Oh, I thought you’d like Bond?”
“You don’t understand.”
She looked out the window.
“What about the food? Was that not good enough too?”
She humphed and shook her shoulders, locking her arms across her stomach.
“You haven’t got a clue, have you?” she said.
“I guess not. What do you mean? That meal cost me a fortune.”
“That is the point, I’m not interested in how much things cost. I like things that are unusual, different.”
“So Italian is drab, is it?”
“No, I mean why didn’t we go vegan for a change?”
“Christ Almighty. I don’t work all month to eat lettuce.”
He slammed his hands against the steering wheel.
“Let me out. Now!” she screamed.
“I was going to ask you to move in with me tonight.”
“You have got to be having a joke. Stop this car.” She moved to grab her bag. The seat belt held her firm. Unclipping it, she reached between her ankles.
He was shaking with rage, trembling, quaking, fuming. He turned to face her grabbed her throat, then as quickly released her.
“Sorry,” he said.
The car hit the kerb and bounced across the road. He righted the steering, but an oncoming vehicle skidded, blasting its horn. Mike sideswiped a postbox and slid to a halt.
His shaking was fear now.
“Sorry about that. We were lucky, I guess?”
Tish was crumpled on the floor, her head was at an odd angle.
“Darling, are you okay?”
No answer. He ran to the passenger door.
“Oh, my God,” he said.
He felt for a pulse. He noticed the growing lump on her head.
“What do I do?” There was nobody in sight, no vehicles, nothing.
“Should we go to the hospital? Will I be in trouble?”
He shut the door and went back to his side. “Let’s go home, then I can get a good look at your injuries.”
Pulling into his driveway, he was pleased he hadn’t trimmed back the branches. His neighbours had no lights on. No curtains twitching. “They must be in bed?”
He cursed the dent and missing paint on the car door. He eased it open. “Are you awake?” He shook her gently.
Draping her arm across his shoulders he dragged her to the front door. Struggling to unlock it, then twisting her through. He pushed her onto the sofa. Catching his breath, he went to the kitchen for a glass of water.
He dabbed the lump on her head. “No blood, thank God for that at least,” he said to himself.
He sat in the armchair, head in hands.
“If we go to the hospital, I’m in trouble, drinking and driving, dangerous driving etcetera etcetera. But if we wait here, I’ll only be in trouble with her,” he smiled at his thought.
She was breathing, but still not moving. “She’ll have to sleep here. Her dad will go mad. I was going to ask her to move in, so what?”
“Has her phone got a tracker set up? Yes, bound to, with a father like him.”
He dabbed her brow with a wet cloth. “Back soon, don’t go anywhere,” he smiled.
After jogging for five minutes, he hurled her mobile into the canal and hurried home.
She was groaning, eyes still shut. Her head had flopped to an odd position on her shoulder. As he tried to straighten it, she screamed.
“Shush,” he said.
Fear gripped her, her whole body shook. Then nothing. No movement, no sound.
“Tish, Tish, wake up.”
He collected another glass of water and some painkillers. Then he waited and waited.
She stirred, her head was locked to her shoulder.
“What have you done?” she whimpered.
“I have done nothing, you started the argument. I wanted to ask you to move in.”
“Take me to a hospital, now. I can’t feel my toes, I can’t move my legs. My head feels like a ship’s anchor, it hurts to talk. Get me to a doctor.”
Bang, bang, bang, the front door thumped. Ding-dong, went the bell.
“Christ, it’s your dad.”
He stuffed her mouth with a folded newspaper. Shut the living room door, and answered the front.
He rubbed his eyes, yawned and said, “Oh, hello, what can I do for you?”
“Where’s my daughter? She’s not answering her phone.”
“She’s at your place, surely?”
“Where is she?”
“I dropped her off ages ago.”
“No, you didn’t. Is she here?”
“No, I was watching a movie, I must have nodded off.”
“Tish, Tish, are you in there?” he shouted.
“There is no one here. I told you. Now, I’m going to bed. Goodnight.”
Mike slammed the door.
“I’m getting the police,” the father called behind and stamped down the drive.
“Now what are we going to do?” Mike asked Tish.
There was no answer. He felt her brow. He lifted her arm; it flopped to the sofa. In a panic, he ran from room to room, hoping for a clue. His small suitcase was grabbed from the wardrobe, a pile of clothes stuffed inside. Left by the door. He crept back into the living room.
“I’d better say goodbye,” he thought.
Kneeling he whispered, “It is not what I planned. I’m sorry, we would have been a perfect couple.”
Her eyes opened.
His carotid artery was lashed with her door key. Tish collapsed after the effort. Mike’s blood pumped across the carpet. He ran to the door, picking up his case, he staggered through the front door and into the street. He waved side to side, glimpsing the sun rising at the end of the street.
Sirens screamed, police and ambulances roared behind him.
He toppled, then stood and looked out at the new horizon.