Her eyes opened wide just after 3 am, heart racing before she could even blink once into the darkness. The sound of the old gate creaking open, the low purr of the engine and the gentle crush of gravel under the tires were a cocktail of sounds she’d been waiting for.
Without thinking she leaped out of bed, throwing on a wrap and padded determinedly down the hall toward the back door where she knew he would appear in a moment’s time.
His figure loomed through the screened back door like a ghost as he sought out the key and fumbled for the lock. The door swung open and the shape of his body became sharper and more defined in the darkness. He made a long, hesitant pause once inside before taking one step further.
“Three days,” she said. Her voice was low, but carried so much weight that he halted immediately.
They faced one another in the dark, separated by the length of the hallway, and she repeated herself.
She saw his outline heave a huge sigh, and his shoulders slump.
Wordlessly he reached over to the light switch and flipped it on. The brightness of the overhead light blinded her for a few seconds, and then she saw him head to toe. A gruesome, disfigured apparition barely resembling her husband, the man who had failed to show up home for dinner three nights ago.
He was covered in blood and dirt, his clothing torn and reeking. His hands trembled. His face was a mask of terror, lips cracked and eyes sunken.
“Anna,” he said in a whisper, “I have to tell you something.”