Alan was hoping that Claire was going to be out of her bad mood by the time he got home from work. She had been in a towering rage that morning and he just wasn’t in the mood for any more histrionics.
It wasn’t like it was his fault the holiday firm had gone bust – he’d been looking forward to the Maldives as much as she had, if not more so, but he’d gone ahead and booked it with a cheaper firm, against Claire’s wishes
Alan’s dark-blue BMW weaved in and out of the rush-hour traffic, the rain running down it’s sleek paintwork, the wipers’ steady rhythm sweeping a clear arc through the torrent on the windscreen. This road got worse every night, Alan thought testily as a motorcycle cut him up on the inside, and the drivers got worse by the hour.
He had enough on his plate with the new systems at work without worrying about Claire’s tantrums. How Evans got to be Area Director was a mystery - the man who had to take off his socks and shoes to count to twenty! And the nerve of the man, telling him to make sure the last batch of memos were copied, circulated, signed and returned! Like he was the office junior or something! Well he’d have a thing or two to ‘input’ at the next ‘data assimilation meet’...what in the name?....that stupid cow...she’s on the wrong side of the road...! He had the impression of a young blonde woman and a screaming child and then it went dark.
When Alan came to, the woman had gone, although her Fiesta was resting in a hedge and she appeared to have left her shopping in the car.
He groaned as he climbed out of the wreckage of his car and saw the extent of the damage. Boy, was he glad it was a company car! This would cost a good few thousand to put right and the woman’s insurance would have to pay - he’d make sure of that! What did she think she was at, on the wrong side of the road?
The traffic hadn’t even slowed, although some curious souls were having a good look as they passed. Charming! Not a soul had stopped to see if he was alright. You could be raped and murdered on the streets of this city and people would step over you, tutting about you being in their way!
The woman’s registration plate was an easy one to remember, so he didn’t bother writing it down. He just hoped she was insured. He didn’t like the way she’d scarpered so quickly, like she didn’t want to be traced. Perhaps she just wanted to get her child to safety.
He wasn’t on a bus-route to his house, so he started to walk home. If a taxi passed, he’d flag it down but the walk wasn’t that far and would, hopefully, clear his head of the strange, far-away feeling, which he supposed was shock.
Alan saw the lights of their semi with a feeling of relief although, truth to tell, he didn’t feel too bad. Considering the state of his car, he thought he’d got off lightly.
Perhaps Claire would take pity on him and not give him a hard time about the holiday, but she was a spoilt and sometimes harsh young woman.
Her usual follow-up to a morning screaming-match was to totally ignore him. The last time, she’d kept it up for three days, which he considered a blessing, given the alternative ear-bashing. She could whinge for England, could Claire!
He saw a police-car pull away from the house and he turned into the pathway to find the door still open. She must have seen him enter the cul-de-sac.
Alan supposed the police had been round because of the accident although he wished they’d given him a lift!
Claire was in the comfortable sitting-room in one of the armchairs and when she didn’t look up on his entrance, he knew she was still miffed.
“Claire darling,” he went towards her with his arms outstretched, but she turned away, wrapping her arms about herself in a protective gesture.
“Look Claire, I know you’re upset about the holiday and I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. You were absolutely right and I was wrong. I’ll book us a holiday, I promise, anywhere you like, with any firm you like. Okay sweetheart?”
“Claire’s answer to this was to get up and pour a large Vodka Martini. Alan had a sinking feeling. This was going to be harder than he expected. She didn’t usually drink midweek. He tried a different tack.
“I saw the police leave, so I presume you know all about my being involved in a road accident. I’m okay, but the car’s damaged. Stupid woman was on the wrong side of the road.”
He watched as his wife finished her drink and poured another. Then she sat back down, put her head in her hands and wept like her heart would break.
“Oh Alan,” she cried, “I’m so sorry!”
Alan was by her in three strides. “Claire! Oh don’t worry! I’m okay, really I am and the accident was the other driver’s fault so her insurance will pay for the damage. I might even get compensation or something. Might pay for another holiday!”
Alan was about to put his arms about his wife, when he was aware of someone else having entered the room. It was the woman and child from the other car.
“What are you doing here? How did you know where I lived?” Alan scowled.
“I just had to tell you how sorry I am about the accident, “ said the woman. “I couldn’t rest until I had, you see?”
Alan lowered his hackles, “Well, as you can see, my wife’s very upset and my car’s a wreck, but luckily enough, I appear to be relatively unharmed,” and then he quickly added, “although I believe the effects of whiplash often don’t manifest themselves until several days later...”
“...relatively unharmed?” the woman wore a puzzled expression which gave way to a look of mingled misery and pity. “Oh! Don’t you realise? We weren’t unharmed in the accident. We died!”
Alan was taken aback by this statement and wasn’t quite sure what to say to her. Obviously she’d sustained some sort of head injury and was having delusions.
“Look,” he said, “we’ve all had a bit of a shock tonight, but if you are dead, then how come I’m having a conversation with you?”
“I didn’t say I had died, I said we had died. You and us.” She looked away as if listening for something and turned back to Alan. “We have to go now. I just wanted to say sorry.”
Alan was on his way to the door to show them out when their image took on a glow, started to fade and then was gone.
“Claire! What do you make of that!” Alan was fighting a wave of hysteria. “Claire! Claire?”
Claire picked up a framed photograph of Alan and kissed it, hugging it to her.
“Oh Alan! I’m so sorry we argued,” she sobbed, “I’d give anything for you to be here now, I wouldn’t shout at you or give you the silent treatment ever again!”
Alan stretched his hand to her face and as he touched his wife for the last time, he also began to fade away into the ether.
About five years after I wrote this story, a film called 'Sixth Sense' was released.