We have a baby girl. She was born on Christmas Day. We called her Angela, our little angel. Like the sun, everything revolves around her. Once, I used to put my head down on my pillow at night and not wake up again until morning. Not now. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I get three hours uninterrupted* sleep. But I don’t mind. I’m a father; I’m an incredibly proud, incredibly lucky father. Sometimes when Angela wakes me up at night, I don’t get back to sleep again. Usually, I take a spare duvet* and go downstairs into the living room. Then I sit and think about that night in the Fish and Chip shop. I haven’t told Helen anything about it. As far as she knows, the car broke down and I had to walk part of the way home.
I know it’s better to lie, but I wish I could tell her.
I look at my watch and take a sip of my tea. I’ve been awake since four, when Angela woke me up. It is nearly six now and still dark outside. There is also snow on the ground. Even if I couldn’t see it lying on the top of cars, I would know: snow and neon streetlights create an unmistakeable orange glow. I shiver at the thought of stepping out, but there is no alternative: I used the last remaining nappy* last night. I’ll get some more – no big deal*. There is a 24hr supermarket a mile away. I’ll take the car and be back in twenty minutes.
After I clear the snow off the car and get the car started, I put the heater on full and wait for the car to warm up. The warm air blowing on my legs feels good. I think of little Angela sleeping in her cot* all cosy and wrapped up in blankets. I smile. She is safe and warm and in my life. I drive off and head for the supermarket. Everything around me is deserted. I am in a snow desert. But up ahead is a junction. It is the turn that takes me onto the main road. The road I am on has been salted and covered in grit, but I slow almost to a crawl nonetheless. Next to the turn, there is bus shelter. I apply the brakes gently, getting ready to turn. I check to my left. All clear. As begin to turn right, I see that there is someone in the shelter. The person is huddled on the ground, covered with a light blanket. I feel suddenly sorry for this poor soul. Maybe I should stop and give the person some money or help in some way. As I move onto the main road, the person in the shelter suddenly sits up. I only get a glimpse, but I am sure. I am sure it is George. I am on the main road now. It has been cleared of snow. There are other cars, behind and in front. I pick up speed. I look in the mirror. George is still sitting up. He is watching me drive away. I can feel his eyes. They are locked onto my car. I press the accelerator harder. I watch in the mirror until George and the shelter have disappeared.
Until they have become nothing but a memory.
uninterrupted* – not broken or disturbed
duvet* – a warm blanket
nappy* – a diaper, a piece of material wrapped around a baby’s bottom
no big deal* – not a big problem
cot* – a baby’s bed