Alice woke up at the time she had grown accustomed to. It was 8:45 in the morning and the space in the bed beside her was empty, as she had grown accustomed to. It hadn’t always been like that, and wouldn’t much longer be that way. She rolled over in bed and stared at the calendar across from her. Today was the day he came home. It was marked in a black marker and she had memorized the date. Alice hopped out of bed quickly, with a grace and elegance that could only have been rehearsed carefully. Bounding into the ensuite washroom, she leaped into the shower, and began getting ready for the day.
She thought about him, and how she’d missed him for so long and that it all felt like a drawn out bad dream. Her husband of five years was coming home after an extended work trip that neither of them had seen coming. His name was Adam, and he worked for a legal firm. He recently was promoted to partner, which came as a great relief to them after they had also recently bought a new home that Alice loved. With the promotion however came new responsibilities, such as this trip. It wasn’t supposed to be a long one, just one to lock down new business and shake some hands. It had been almost three full months since shed seen him. He called at least once a day, and on the weekends they would video call.
Adam wouldn’t be home until the evening, around six o’clock, so Alice figured she would get things done in anticipation. She started off by cleaning up around the house. She was quite frequently the clean one, but being the only one there besides the dog she had let her cleanliness fall to the wayside a touch in the last while. There weren’t a lot of dishes but she washed them all and took out the garbage and the recycle. She started feeling accomplished and decided she needed a break. So she grabbed the dogs leash and left the house to go for a walk.
The dog was a german shepherd named Tobi, she was the loyal dog that Alice had brought home with her almost 8 years ago now. She was the most adorable puppy and Alice fell in love instantly. It was because of Tobi that she had met Adam. A fall day six and a half years ago saw Alice walking Tobi through a park, when Tobi took off after a squirrel and had almost knocked Adam over. It was while Alice was apologizing to him that Adam asked her out. From then on, as they say, it was history. Today Alice decided that she would take Tobi to a different park, but a beautiful one all the same.
Before arriving home after the walk, Alice stopped at a small local cafe and had lunch. It was a place her and Adam frequented quite often. So much so that the employees knew them both by name. They were happy to hear that Adam was coming home that day as they served Alice her soy latte and scone. Arriving home, Alice saw that she had effectively spent her time and it was now verging on three in the afternoon. Unsure of what else she could do to distract herself, she grabbed the book she was reading off the side table in the living room and sat on the sofa.
The book Alice was invested in was a copy of The Shining by author Stephen King. She was an avid reader of his works and had read this novel before. Out of nowhere she had gotten a craving for a reliving of the lives of the Torrance family. Alice had read maybe fifty pages before falling asleep after her already busy day. She was awoken by the sound of barking. Something that she was not accustomed to. Tobi was a very well behaved dog and wouldn’t bark for any reason other than trouble. Alice’s eyes snapped open and she leapt off the couch. Amidst the barking she heard a familiar voice as the front door creaked open.
“Honey, I’m home. What’s wrong with Tobi?”
Alice scrambled from the living room and into the main foyer. She jumped onto Adam and embraced him firmly. Tobi was still barking while they hugged and for a moment Alice had forgotten there was any noise at all. The long lasting trance Alice had fallen into was interrupted when Adam tried silencing Tobi. He shouted once, which would normally work, yet the dog kept barking.
“I’m so sorry love, I don’t know why she’s acting like this!”
Alice said as sincerely as she could while squatting before Tobi and trying to calm her down. It took a few moments but eventually the barking stopped and she went and laid in her bed again. Standing back up and facing her husband, Alice smiled brightly and met his blue green eyes. It was in there that something stared back. She wasn’t sure what it was but it startled her. She lost herself in there and started shivering. Something was very wrong.
“Baby, are you alright?”
Adam asked calmly as he could see the change in Alice’s demeanour. She nodded slowly and smiled again, embracing him cautiously. She knew it was him, the man she loved, she figured all her excitement and the time apart was just causing her mind to play tricks on her. Kissing Adam on the cheek, he smiled and then told Alice he loved her and proceeded upstairs to shower. As she heard the bathroom door close and the shower start, Alice climbed the steps to the bedroom and sat on the bed across from the door. Looking around the room she saw his dirty clothes neatly placed in the laundry bin, and his suitcase gently leaning against the closet door.
Knowing it was nothing, yet feeling something nagging at her, Alice slowly rose from the bed and approached her husbands luggage. She never liked snooping, and had never had a reason before, but she felt something now and needed to see. Eyeing the bathroom door cautiously she unzipped the main compartment and sorted through his clothes. There was, as expected, nothing to find in there. As was with the rest of the suitcase and Alice sat back on the bed satisfied. I’m just playing tricks on myself. She figured, considering her vivid imagination. She started to rest a little easier.
Alice had gone downstairs and fed the dog and prepared a light dinner. It was nothing very special just a basic pasta and side salad. Adam came down after his shower and they ate. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, which wasn’t unusual for dinner time. Adam was always someone who focussed on his food. Alice watched as he ate, and felt something pulling at the strings in her brain. Something wasn’t right with Adam. There was something different in the way he ate. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt like she was seeing it for the first time. Pushing the thought out of her mind she kept telling herself it was the distance and her mind. Nothing else.
“This was a great meal, hun, thank you. I think I’m actually going to turn in now though, lot of travelling.”
Adam stood up and put his dishes in the sink, before heading upstairs he kissed Alice on the forehead, as he always did and smiled as he departed. She felt a shiver run up her spine as she watched him walk up the steps. That isn’t my husband. She thought to herself silently. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she knew it. Tobi hadn’t barked at Adam once since they had started dating. Alice was sure, but didn’t know what to do. She sat silently in the kitchen for a couple hours thinking, until she started to feel tired.
She didn’t want to sleep on the couch, so she made her way up the steps slowly and carefully. Hoping to not make any noises. Creeping into the bedroom, she saw Adam asleep in the bed, and she approached silently. He looks just like him. She thought, unsure who it actually was that she was about to share the bed with. I’m being silly. She tried convincing herself. Acknowledging the time and distance as being likely factors in her feelings. Alice stood still over Adam for a few more moments before resolving to give it her best.
After getting ready for bed, she approached her side and crawled in slowly. She felt herself tremble as she laid there and eyed the man next to her that was allegedly her husband. Why don’t I know you? She asked herself, wondering if maybe they had just grown apart in the time away. If maybe she wasn’t being silly, and maybe there was a logical explanation. Alice hushed her thoughts and slowly drifted off into a dreamless sleep that she hoped would be uninterrupted.
Waking with a start, Alice eyed the alarm clock. It read 3:33 am and it was pitch dark in the room. Looking around she could see the space next to her in the bed was empty, as she had grown accustomed to. Where is he? She quickly wondered. Knowing that he should be there, and starting to feel afraid for why he wasn’t. Slowly climbing out of bed, Alice tip toed her way into the hallway and down the steps. As she reached the bottom she looked into the kitchen and saw Adam.
Standing in front of the sink with an empty glass in hand, he was staring out the kitchen window perfectly still. Alice approached at a crawling pace, and observed no change in his body. He looks like a statue. She pondered, getting even closer still. Adam was a mere two metres away from her when her heart started racing, and her body shook.
“Adam? What are you doing?”
She asked suddenly, hoping to catch him off guard. As if he knew she was there the whole time, he slowly turned to face her, and smiled. She felt a cold shock her spine and spread through her body as their eyes met. She had never felt so sure of anything in her life. This is not my husband. His eyes pierced her and she felt like he could hear her thoughts. She took a step back as he started to speak.
“Can’t sleep, lot of travelling. I’ll be up in a minute. Why don’t you head back to bed?”
Nodding slowly, Alice backed her way out of the kitchen and then walked up the steps at an even slower speed, feeling his eyes on her the whole way. Once at the top step she moved quickly into the bedroom and shut the door. Alice stood inside the room, wide eyed and terrified, not knowing what she should do. Taking a step towards the bed, she sat down and her mind raced. What do I do? She asked herself repeatedly. Consistently coming up with no answer she felt herself start to panic.
Stay calm. She told herself as she finally managed to lay down again. There was a coldness to the sheets that she hadn’t noticed before and her skin was tingling. She felt nauseous and sad, but mostly she was scared. Scared of the man who came home to her, and scared that maybe she was wrong. Laying in bed, she felt tears start to roll down her cheeks as the bedroom door opened and he laid down in bed next to her. Closing her eyes, she felt an arm reach over her, and hold her tight.