Day 90 – Red Herring – Short Story

He rushes into the house frantically, locking eyes with her as she sits at the table, her face puffy and red, he can tell she’s been crying. Sitting in front of her is a red iPod, he glances down at it and then at the one in his hand and then back to her.

“I know this is going to sound crazy,” he says as he takes a step forward.

“Stay right there,” she shouts as she jumps to her feet. “You stay right fucking there, and don’t say a word until I ask you to!”

“Honey, please yo…”

“Don’t you honey me, you, you piece of shit!”

“Calm down, you don’t know what you’re saying, you’re upset, you have to let me explain.”

“Oh you’ll explain all right, and you can start by telling me where the hell you were today?”

“I was at work, you….”

“Don’t you fucking lie to me, I went to your so called work today and Jim said you flexed the day off, apparently something you do quite regularly, even naming it wife day, wife fucking day! So don’t you fucking tell me you were at work when I know that you god damn wasn’t at work! So again, and I want the truth this time, where the fucking hell were you today?” She yells, tears running down her face, he hangs his head and places the iPod on the table and sits down, before he looks up at her again.

“Sit down,” he says softly.

“Don’t you tell to fu..”

“Dianne, sit the fuck down!” He yells, she quickly sits, her face frozen in shock, in the twelve years she’s known Howard, this is the first time he has ever raised his voice to her, he clenches his hands into fists and takes a deep breath. “Years before I met you, I worked for the military, I handled a lot of top secret hush, hush shit, stuff even James Bond would never deal with because it was too dirty. To put it the simplest way I can, when people needed removing the team I was part of we’re deployed to achieve that result. Two years before I moved here my team was involved in a mission in Sudan, four of my team mates were killed, while me and the other three spent eight months in some shit hole getting beaten and tortured daily for information, which none of us had, but it didn’t stop them from asking, eventually through shear coincidence we were rescued by a team who were looking for someone else who were abducted by the same crew. For the next few months we all spent time recovering from our injuries, physical ones healed, the mental ones, well they’re still here. Anyway, we all received honourable discharged and were sent home, I decided to move down the cost, a fresh start, away from everything I was and become someone new, and that’s when I met you and my whole world changed, for the better of course. Three years ago one of my old team mates contacted me and asked if I was interested in taking some paid work, similar to what we used to do, I didn’t want anything to do with it at first but after a couple of months I warmed to the idea and so I started taking a few jobs here and there, just small ones, nothing that wouldn’t take me more than a few hours, nothing that would risk my life, but jobs that helped me get back in touch with who I was, am, you know, I never meant to lie to you, I just, I just didn’t know how to tell you that’s all,” he says, she sits there staring at him for some time, her mouth slowly closes and she takes a deep breath.

“Okay, I can accept most of that, I think, I mean it explains a lot really, questions I never really thought to ask, the scars and the nightmares that happen every now and then, but what I really want to know, what you haven’t even touched upon, is why in the hell do you have only the Xanadu soundtrack on the iPod?”

He hangs his head and looks at the floor and sighs, “For the eight months while they tortured us, that’s all they played, constantly, back to back, twenty-four seven, and now,” he takes a deep breath and sighs again, “and now I can’t work without it playing in the background.”



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