Be careful what you wish for.
Sarah and Ben Stephens had it all. Attractive thirty-somethings, upwardly mobile; good careers in the city, a sizeable house in the suburbs.
To all concerned it was the perfect picture of marital bliss.
Or was it?
Years of infertility treatment have taken its toll on their marriage. Barely speaking, they’re strangers who share the same bed.
Then the fallout from a surprise birthday party and a lifechanging discovery send Sarah fleeing to the West of Ireland. And there, at Martha’s Cottage, a tiny stone house by the wild Atlantic Ocean, she licks her wounds and must decide on the course of her future.
The sun hung high and hot, shining across the Liffey. Through the open office window the sounds of traffic competed with the seagulls soaring above the quays, and on the pavement below pedestrians passed in an everchanging pattern, merging and separating.
Ben finished his sandwich and threw the crumpled wrapper into the wastepaper basket. He yawned and stretched out his legs beneath the desk. He ran a finger around his collar, trickles of sweat had already began to form despite the open windows in the office. Just a few more hours, he told himself and he’d be slipping into the driver seat and cranking up the air conditioning.
The lunchtime sounds of the city had almost lulled him to slumber when the phone in his pocket began to vibrate.
When her picture flashed up on the screen Ben grinned and warmth flooded through him. In his mind’s eye he saw her curled up on the couch in the living room, a book lying beside her. Had she woken from a noonday nap and just wanted a chat? Or did she need him to bring her something back from town? He was already mentally juggling meetings so he could nip out for a bit when he pressed answer. His “Well… what is it now?” was full of laughter. He waited for her answering laugh, eager for the sound of her voice.
But that was all gone now.
Afterwards everything happened with a swiftness that made the following moments seem almost dreamlike.
He managed to hail a taxi and as it pulled away he pulled out his phone and dialled. His call went straight to voicemail. He flung the phone onto the seat where it silently mocked him. Another glance at his watch told him that it was now ten minutes since he had heard anything and the taxi had travelled barely a half mile of the journey. His head was a torment of ever-changing scenarios. What was happening? Was he too late? Please God, don’t let him be too late.
“Can’t you speed up? Please?” He called through the partition.
The taxi driver helpfully pointed out they were in lunch time traffic.
Ben wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt and looked out the window, the lanes were bumper to bumper, he watched a motorcycle courier weaving between cars and wished he was on the back. Even the pedestrians seemed to be making more headway. They were crossing O’Connell Bridge, crawling and stopping. The journey was taking too long. He should be there, he needed to be there by now. But the taxi was crawling, the meter the only thing moving. Crawl, stop, crawl, another red light.
Ben yanked open the door.
“Hey, man, what you doing? You can’t get out in the middle of the road,” the driver yelled.
Ben pulled twenty euros out of his pocket and thrust it at him. He leapt out, already running down Westmoreland Street as the cab drove past. The street was thronged, he pushed his way through the crowds, shirt tails streaming, arms and legs pumping. He urged his legs to work more efficiently as he navigated hordes of tourists and workers heading out for lunch on Dawson Street, just people going about their everyday activities whilst he raced past trying to stop time. He paused for a moment, bent over, lungs burning.
Then he was off again racing past Merrion Square until, at last, looming large and grey in front he saw the corner of Holles Street. He reached the edge of the pavement and with a cursory glance either way launched himself across the road, willing himself up the steps to the hospital and to her side.
He failed to see the van turning in from Mount Street or hear the sharp blast of the horn before he was flipped across the bonnet and came to rest on the pavement beside the steps to the hospital.
About the Author
F. B. Hogan is a writer, blogger and poet living in the midlands of Ireland. She masquerades as a sensible adult and mother to five children and cat but lives and breathes purely for horror.
Fiona writes in a mix of genres and you can also find her collection of humorous and supernatural tales – The Lights Went Out and Other Stories on Amazon under the name Fiona Cooke. Her novella, a romantic comedy set in Kerry, Ireland – What Happened in Dingle, is also available to download on Amazon.
She scribbles random thoughts about nature, her work and anything that amuses her at her blog https://unusualfiction.wordpress.com/