Megan Matthews stops on the step at the front door of the bungalow before pushing the key into the lock.
‘I’m home,’ she calls, knowing full well no one will answer. Not anymore. Never again.
The place is silent; there is no irritable retort from behind the door to the room on the right, no ginger tom snaking around her ankles, yowling to be fed and stinking the place out. No more demands on her time to bring this, take that away. No more guilt dumped on her for being ten minutes late; no accusations that she must have a man on the go if it took her more than the usual twenty minutes to walk from the shop to the house.
As though she’s ever had the opportunity to form a relationship with anyone, when she’s surrounded by a shopful of silly young girls, who flutter their eyelashes at any man who sets foot through the door. Not that she’d ever want to, she thinks, taking off her coat and hat, checking her hair in the mirror; men are far too much trouble. She’d found that out years ago, much to her cost.
She looks around. Nothing looks any different and yet it is. She pulls in a deep breath. A smile almost curls the corners of her mouth. Walking into the living room she sits down and pushes each of her shoes off with her toes, giving a sigh of relief, before leaning back for a few minutes, listening. Silence. Perfect silence.
It had been a hard day. The staff junior is the worst she’s had to train in a long time. The other girls hadn’t helped, whispering and giggling behind her back, egging on the stupid girl to ask stupid questions about the way to arrange the shelves, use the till. They’d got on her nerves all week.
Pushing herself up from the sofa. Megan wanders into the kitchen, relishing the rare opportunity not to be rushing around. She fills the kettle and takes the coffee jar out of its secret place in the cupboard. No need to hide it anymore; she can have coffee whenever she wants now, she thinks, absently staring out of the window at the dustbin in the back garden. No cat sitting there. But she hadn’t put the lid on properly in her hurry to tidy everything up that morning.
The water is almost boiling; she switches the kettle off and spoons coffee granules into a mug and stirs, the sound loud in the utter silence. Taking the bottle of milk from the fridge, she sniffs at it and screws up her nose. Black it is then.
It’s only when she’s drunk the coffee that she realises it will look odd if she delays any longer. The neighbour across the street was peering through her curtains when she arrived home. And everyone knows how devoted she is, how her life is ruled by her demanding invalid mother.
Megan opens the bedroom door. ‘I’m home, Mother.’
The pillow is still over the old woman’s face. When she takes it off, her mother’s eyes are open. Accusing.
‘Now, can’t have that, can we?’ Megan gently closes the lids. She tucks the pillow under her mother’s head and straightens the duvet.
‘There!’ Megan puts her hands on her hips, head tilted to one side. ‘Think you’ve been there long enough, Mother. Time to raise the alarm.’
CRIME CYMRU FESTIVAL: Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival.
I’m a member of Crime Cymru, an ever-growing group of crime writers in Wales. It’s an eclectic collection of authors who create stories from investigative thrillers, domestic noir, to historical crime and cosy mystery genre.
The Spring of 2022 will see the launch of Wales’s first crime festival, the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, a weekend-long event in Aberystwyth.
Because of COVID 19, between April 26 – May 2, 2021 there will be a smaller online festival: Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol.
It’s FREE and tickets are available on the website: www.GwylCrimeCymruFestival.co.uk