There was nothing else to do but drive home. Suzanne had left the lights on in the living room so the house would be warm and welcoming.
Despite the early hour, she poured a glass of red wine and carried it through to the kitchen. The thought of eating, on her own, was depressing. She would freeze it and save it for when they were all back together.
At first, she didn’t notice the dish. The baguette was on the board on the worktop and there was something not right. She didn’t remember taking the end. It was something she often did. That lovely crusty bit with a chunk of cheese or just a big spread of butter but she just didn’t remember doing it with this loaf but it was gone. Still, she was stressed and having trouble concentrating so – who knew.
She cut herself a piece now and turned to the table, perhaps she’d just have a small bowl of chili, in the lounge with the tele on.
For a minute her brain wouldn’t catch up with what she was seeing. She had left three bowls ready on the table, now two were where she had left them, waiting. The third was smeared with the red sauce and around the place setting were crumbs from the bread and a scattering of Parmesan cheese.
She hadn’t done this. She knew for certain she hadn’t eaten chilli before she went out. Apart from anything else it was still cooking.
She placed the glass of wine on the table. She reached to the knife block and pulled out the heavy chef’s knife and walked back towards the hallway.
“Hello.” On some level, she knew how silly and pointless it had been to call out. Dangerous too, letting whoever was in her home know that she was there.
She had already been in the living room to pour her wine so she passed that door. At the bottom of the stairs, she paused and listened. There was a soft noise. At first, she couldn’t make out what it was. She froze, holding her breath.
There was someone in the shower.
She climbed the stairs, the knife held before her in one hand the other holding the banister rail. The bedroom doors were all closed. She never did that. She didn’t have any need, living on her own. So, she was on the landing with all the doors closed, no way to tell if anyone was in the bedrooms but then there was the sound of running water in the bathroom. She should call the police. She should get out of the house now and ring triple nine.
Her phone was downstairs in her bag. She didn’t dare turn from the closed doors and she couldn’t go down the steps backwards.
She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. She stepped across the landing and reached out for the door handle.