She was lying on her back with her eyes closed trying not to go back to sleep when the phone went off. It was her husband. He had left for work almost an hour ago.
‘Sandra?’ he said as she picked up and then unnecessarily, ‘Hi, it’s me.’
‘What’s up?’ she asked.
‘Something’s happening and we may have to go out by coach today. Can you do me a favour and pack an overnight bag? I may not need it, we’ll know in around fifteen minutes, but can you get it ready, just in case? I’ll just need a change of clothes, my bathroom bag…’
‘Yeah no problem.’ She interrupted him before he completed the list. ‘I can sort it.’ She was already working out what he would need. A minute ago she had been wondering how she could get through Monday morning at work, now she had an excuse to be a little late.
‘I am so sorry,’ she would say, ‘a thing came up and I had to rush around to my husband’s work – he has to work away tonight.’
‘That’s great, babe, thanks,’ said her husband. ‘Oh can you make sure it’s not the case I took last time? Remember how the handle broke? I am going to need to borrow yours, please.’ He sounded oddly formal. ‘I’ll give you a call one way or another in fifteen minutes to let you know if I am going to need it. Thanks again, then. Bye.’
She pulled the overnight suitcase out from the cupboard shelf, put it on the bed and flipped open the lid. There was a couple of old money belts in there which they had used on their last holiday and a pair of airline socks. She picked them out and threw them on the bed beside the case.
It is because he was at work, she suddenly realised. That is why he was using that weird telephone voice with me. He must have been in the office with his colleagues.
‘Shoes,’ she thought, ‘he’ll need a change of shoes.’ He normally liked to wear deck shoes, but it was winter and she had bought him a pair of soft boots, which were comfortable. She grabbed them off the rack and tucked them into the side.
The weekend had only just finished and had been a long one because she had taken Friday off work. She had planned to do a whole load of stuff, but then time had snuck up on her as it always did and the weekend had frittered away like ashes on a breeze.
‘I’ll pack his black Polo shirt, she thought, ‘he looks good in that.’ On top of this she placed a pair of cargo pants and a jumper.
From the drawer she took a pair of boxer shorts and a pair of socks, then thought better of it and took two of each. The way if he had to stay an extra night he would have a spare of each.
‘At least,’ she thought, ‘I can watch that film I meant to look at on the weekend.’ She had got the DVD out of its cellophane wrapper, but then her husband had come home and put the TV on. She had expected him to give up on trying to find a decent program, but he had hunted through every channel until he found something.
She unplugged both his chargers from beside the bed. One for his phone and the other for his tablet. He liked to browse the Internet so would need that recharged.
‘And there is a bottle of wine in the garage, I am sure,’ she thought, ‘I can pop that in the fridge before I go to work and…Oh where is that little travel bottle of shaving gel I bought just last week?’
She was in the bathroom now and packing up his razor, deodorant and hairbrush. She placed the bag on top of his clothes.
‘What else?’ She thought, and moved into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
A packet of chocolate mini rolls caught her eye.
‘I will do him up a little goodie bag for his hotel room,’ she thought. ‘That way he will have something to snack on if he gets hungry later tonight.
She took a ziplock bag and filled it with a mini roll and four individually wrapped chocolate biscuits.
‘I can have a curry myself,’ she thought. ‘That will be nice. Take -away curry and a bottle of chilld wine.’ She pictured herself on the couch in her PJs sipping wine beside the fire with a full belly of curry.
She closed the lid on the suitcase and zipped it up. Now all she had to do was get ready for work herself and she could drop the suitcase off on the way.
The phone rang.
‘Hi’ she said, ‘It’s all packed and ready.’
‘That is OK, love,’ said her husband, ‘they got the train started after all. I won’t need to go up by coach so will be back as normal this afternoon.’
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘Oh. I had it all done. I guess I will unpack it now.’
‘No, don’t you worry about that,’ he said, ‘I’ll do that when I get home. Thanks love, see you tonight.’
‘Yeah see you,’ she said.
So that had been it? They could not get the train started? How can you not start a train?
‘I can’t get the train started!’
She pictured the train driver, leaning out of his cab window, with the plaintive cry of a menopausal woman whose husband was away on business.
She needed to leave for work. She went back into the bedroom and took the bag of chocolates from where she had nestled them into the case so she could put them back in the kitchen, then left the rest of the case on the bed for her husband to unpack.