Sitting in his kitchen, the home he had managed to cling onto, staring at an envelope, and wondering how accurately he could guess what the letter said without opening it, Dan settled on something close to “I’m not going to say that I’m proud of myself, of what I’ve done.” The actual prose wasn’t as concise. It was purposefully vague, nothing incriminating. He should have put it in the bin but for some reason, some sense that he might want to refer to it again, he tucked it behind some clutter on the worktop.
Two months earlier, at a party, a depressing gathering of people who didn’t seem to like one another, Dan had knocked his drink over a man and found himself talking into the early hours of the next day with him. It had been nice to have a new friend, a real connection. The man, whose name was Mark and who owned the record store on the high street, had invited Dan to call in and chat whenever he was passing, and it was the next day that he genuinely was, and he did.
Mark made them coffee; they talked about mutual friends and then Mark’s housemate arrived, and it had been obvious that Dan couldn’t stop looking at her.
“This is my housemate, Claire,” Mark had introduced them. “Claire is a vet, and Claire, this is Dan, who lives above a newsagent.” They shook hands awkwardly.
“I think he’s trying to be polite and not say I’m unemployed,” Dan said to Claire.
“No, I’m just not very good at social stuff,” Mark said.
Knowing that most people had things to do in their days, Dan told Mark he would leave, let him get on, return to looking for gainful employment somewhere.
“I don’t suppose you know if Claire is dating anyone?” Dan asked, as lightly as he could.
“Hey, erm, I have to say, first, I don’t think she is, but second, I, not for long or anything, but she and I—” was all Mark said.
“You dated,” Dan said, and Mark nodded.
“Yes. We did, but it’s cool, we’re friends. It was weird for like a week or so, you know, seen each other naked, but only once, so, yeah, I can give you her number, say you’re a nice guy,” and he did, and Dan left and looked for a job, hoping that he might have a date.
“What the hell did you do?” Mark was already shouting when Dan answered his door. He pushed the door open; he pushed Dan by his shoulders, out of the way, into the wall, and he stormed into the living room.
“Hey! I don’t know what this is about, but you can’t storm in here—”
“And you can’t just mess Claire about, but it seems that is exactly what you have done,” Mark snapped across him; he stood, and he stared, and he looked as though he didn’t know what he was about to do.
“I didn’t mess her around!” Dan said. “We went on a date, and it was a good date actually.”
“And then you didn’t call her again, did you, hmm? And how do I know that? Do you think it’s because she told me and because she’s pretty upset?”
“What? I haven’t not called her. The date was like two days ago. I didn’t want to seem too eager, that is why I haven’t called her yet.” The mood seemed to be calming down; this was going to be a big misunderstanding. “Hey, I even thought you thought I wasn’t good enough for her; I can’t believe you’re getting yourself upset over this. I’m that unemployed loser, remember?”
“Two days?” Mark repeated. “Okay. I’m sorry. Two days. You’re going to call her?” Mark asked, he was wiping his brow, still shaking.
“Yes,” Dan wanted to say no, he was so incensed by the aggression that had stormed into his home, but he wasn’t going to do that. “I will call her tonight.”
Mark patted Dan on the shoulder and he left as suddenly as he had arrived, leaving Dan reeling, leaving him convinced that his new friend was far too scary to keep as a friend and even scarier if he was to date his ex, or housemate, or whatever she was.
“Hi Claire, I — I just wanted to say, you probably got my last couple of messages; I know you’re busy, I’m sorry for bothering you at work, the woman I spoke to said you were away at the minute, but you know, I thought we had such a good time, and I’m friends with Mark, and he said he didn’t know where you were, so I didn’t want there to be anything weird between us, I wanted to say, you know, if you do fancy doing anything, then you just give me a call, yeah, and, you know, if you don’t want to, maybe just drop me a quick message, let me know you got this, obviously, totally down to you, and I, well, I look forward to hearing from you, or not, you know, whatever you think. Okay, well, I hope you’re okay, and take care. Okay, bye.”
“Do you remember leaving that message?” the police officer asked.
Dan found it surreal; sitting at a little scratched table, listening to his own voice played back to him. He had worried about Claire not getting back to him, mostly because he was worried that Mark would overreact or misinterpret it somehow, some way. Now he was being asked for a timeline, when he saw Claire, what they spoke about, how the evening ended, when he next phoned, when he had seen Mark.
That was when he realised, after he was tired from trying to be precise about nothing, Mark hadn’t been Claire’s housemate, he was her husband; he had reported her missing, and the only lead he had been able to give the police: Dan.
Having always been a writer, Kathryn Moores pursued a career in science, specifically in research and academia, believing it would make her a better writer if she had a finer understanding of the world. This perhaps proved to be true, and Kathryn has been a full-time writer, in poetry, literary, and flash fiction for the past three years.