The second time he heard her voice, he spent twenty minutes looking for her before he figured out what was going on. He was in his new place – a flat in a block of eight, well appointed, close to the beach, shops, public transport and good schools. He didn’t need the last two – he drove to work, and the idea of offspring was way, way off. He’d only been in this place for a week now, and was just discovering that the evaporation cooler didn’t really do much in the harsh, Australian summer. Luckily, being close to the beach, the sea breeze at night cooled things down. He’d slept with all the windows open, as well as the front door and the door to the balcony, both with the screen doors locked. There had been a breeze during the night, but it had died down now and everything was still.
He had just woken and was lying back, contemplating a quick wank before getting up when he heard her voice. He couldn’t hear the words, but the tone was unmistakable. He listened, but it was gone. He jumped up, and started looking around the bedroom. No, of course she wasn’t here. He checked the small bathroom, flinging open the shower curtain, his heart rate up. What would he do if she was there? Would he attack her, or scream, or fall to his knees, yet again begging for forgiveness? The shower was empty. He ran into the small lounge, then through to the tiny kitchen. No one. He retraced his steps, getting sillier with his searching. No, she wasn’t in the kitchen cupboard. Or under the sink. She possibly could have fit behind the couch, but wasn’t there. Behind the ceramic dish on the coffee table, the one she’d given him for their third anniversary, before he’d screwed up? No. Under the bed? Of course not. In the wardrobes? More likely, but no. Bathroom sink? IN the toilet? Totally insane. And that was it. He had no-where else to look.
It was only six, but already the heat of the day was starting. He walked around the flat looking out the windows and shutting them, drawing the blinds to attempt to keep some of the heat out. He went to the kitchen and flicked the electric kettle on. He looked down, decided his boxers were not decent for going outside and threw on the t-shirt he’d left on the couch, and went downstairs to collect his paper.
“Good morning, Phil!” Con was up, watering his pot plants before the heat of the day struck.
“Hey, Con. What’s up?”
“Going to be a scorcher. You might want to stay at your air-conditioned office tonight – can you set up a bed on the floor there?”
“Ha! Might have to.” Phil grabbed his paper from the driveway and walked back to Con. “Say, weird question, but you didn’t just see a young lady around here at all?”
“A young lady? What, you lost one?”
“No, I just… Don’t worry about it, I must have been dreaming.”
“Dreaming about the lovely young ladies? Watch out, you’ll go blind!”
Phil laughed and headed back up to his flat. Dreaming. That must have been it. Surely.
Phil went in to the kitchen and made an instant coffee. He took this and the paper to the small table on the balcony. He sat and began to untangle his paper from the plastic mess it was delivered in. Suddenly, he froze. There was her voice again!
He stopped and listened. It was distant. It wasn’t in conversation with anyone. It seemed to be constant and almost, what? Almost professional sounding. Could he make out a word? “…the city will be the 6:14 express…”
He let out his breath. He felt deflated. He’d forgotten that, for one of her previous jobs, she’d recorded the words they used for the station announcements throughout Melbourne. She wasn’t there. He couldn’t apologise again, it hope that this time, she would accept it. His finger was stuck in the plastic of the paper and he flung it into the lounge room in frustration. It slammed onto the coffee table and smashed the dish into pieces. The last piece of her. He sat on the chair on the balcony and stared at the coffee. He listened to the announcements as the came. 6:36. 7:02. 7:15. 8:54. He was late for work. He didn’t care.