The afternoon has changed, mutated into something wild and ugly.
High pitch sirens barrell through the once quiet street, red and blue lights intermittently flash. Bright, yellow tape with the words ‘ACCIDENT SCENE-DO NOT ENTER’ boldly printed in black, imprisoned the said area. People in blue uniforms and white coats swarm, some inside the tape, some out. Orders are loud and impatient, occasionally drowning out the tireless drone of inquisitive bystanders. Trolley beds rumble, children cry as their terrified parents hastily channel them to safety.
Phil stands by the kerb, speechless, helpless, useless. A cold, alien sensation stiffens his muscles, knotted his queasy stomach.
This isn’t happening, he thinks. Perhaps, it’s all just a mistake… a horrible misunderstanding. Perhaps Harry will appear any minute, wearing that impish grin that was purely his, his wide, cerulean eyes sparkling and saying, ‘Gotcha, Dad.’
But as every empty, painful minute passes, Phil’s hope slowly diminishes.
A female police officer stands nearby, asking questions. Phil doesn’t answer, his head too crowded with his own questions.
To his rear, slow, even footsteps sound then stop.
Phil turns and finds himself facing a short, stocky man. The man immediately reminds Phil of a feral fox with his sharp, narrow, facial features and his shrewd, murky grey eyes. His silvery hair is slicked back, not a single strand out of place, as perfect as his creaseless suit.
He introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Harrington. To Phil, his voice sounds oily, arrogant.
“Mr Thomas,” he said, “I need you to come inside. It’s important we talk to you and your wife together.”
He hasn’t thought of Mary since her friend, Beryl, coaxed her inside. By then Mary is a mass of floundering muscles and non-stop tears.
Phil gazes towards the street’s end. “I c… can’t… my boy might come and….”
“Please, Mr Thomas. In situations such as these, the first twenty-four hours is crucial.”
Phil rubbed his brow, suppresses the urge to inform Detective what-ever-his-name, that Harry is not a situation. Harry is his son, charming, vibrant and so very loving. Pain stabs his chest and he groans. Nearby a woman’s hearty laugh invades the dismal atmosphere like a poisonous intruder.
Phil bleakly nods to the Inspector and shadows him to Phil’s home.
The first thing Phil notices iss the backyard appearing as if someone has just pressed the evacuation button. The only visible life surrounding the half-empty platters of food is a cloud of ravenous flies. The once firm bouncy castle slopes dejectedly to one side. A paper cup scurries across the lawn.
With rolled down shoulders, Phil turns and enters the house.
Mary sits curled on their floral sofa, twisting tissues until bits tumble to the floor, Beryl loyally beside her.
Mary’s complexion is unusually ashen, her eyes red and sunken. “Phil, … oh… Phil,” she says. “I’m so sorry….”
“Sorry?” Phil shrugs. “For what?”
Fresh tears well up and tumble down Mary’s face. “I didn’t think it mattered,” she whispered. “I really didn’t think it mattered.”