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Anxiety: Short Story

Anxiety: Short Story

Anxiety: Short Story Background

I found this old piece of creative writing while hunting through the posts I pulled across from the now-defunct, VacantPage.co.uk. I wrote this soon after signing up for the Open University module, A215 Creative Writing. It would have been one of my first posts, back when this site was nothing more than a student blog over on Blogspot.

Much like The Pendant, it is not a particularly polished piece. I have decided to repost it though, simply because it’s part of my history as a writer.

We all start somewhere!

Anxiety: A Short Story by C. John Archer

Sarah was late. It wasn’t completely abnormal but this was no ordinary night. A freak storm had hit the area, lightning crackling in the night’s sky followed quickly by the ferocious roar of thunder. John sat nervously, his hands clasped tightly together between his legs as he hunched forward in his chair, gently rocking to-and-fro. His gaze firmly directed to the window trying to make out the lights of Sarah’s car approaching the house among the distortion of the fierce rain lashing hard against the glass.John picked up his cell phone again and hit redial. He had tried her number five times already over the past fifteen minutes but had been unable to reach his wife.

“Welcome to the voicemail service for…” came the response.

John hit the end call button and threw his phone down in frustration at hearing the cheery message again, feeling as if it were taunting him in his moment of anxiety. He looked at the clock. Even if she were working late she should have been back fifty minutes ago. Scenarios ran through his head of all the things that could have happened to her in the cruel storm with its low visibility; unwelcome thoughts tormenting him about accidents, suffering and death.

“No, she’s okay,” he said to try and reassure himself but even he could detect the hint of doubt in his own voice.

As John’s mind meandered through a stream of unsettling thoughts his gaze left the window and wandered through his living room, taking in a decade of memories of his much-loved wife. He stopped for a moment on their wedding photograph, hung proudly above the warm, homely fireplace. How beautiful she looked on that day, her almost fire-like auburn hair flowing over her pristine white wedding dress, her dazzling smile surrounded by those faint freckles that he found so adorable and those eyes, those striking hazel eyes with their hypnotic quality that he had spent more than a handful of nights getting lost in.

Comforted by his memories John almost managed to forget his anxiety until another swift flash of menacing lightning and the inevitable snarling thunder followed. His mind quickly returned from idyllic memories of yesteryear to the discomfort of his immediate reality. He looked at the clock again and saw that Sarah was now almost a full hour late. Biting his bottom lip he could feel his heart beating and a surreal, almost dreamlike haze in his mind. John had never been so afraid before.

Suddenly the house phone rang. John almost jumped out of his chair, certain that it was Sarah or news of her. Maybe her office were calling to say she was held up or maybe she was calling to say her battery had died and she was on her way? Or maybe it was a hospital? In the few seconds that it took him to reach the phone it seemed like a million possibilities had raced through his mind. Taking a short breath, he reached for the receiver and picked up the phone.

“Hello?” he said, a slight quiver in his voice.

“Good evening, is that Mr Davies?” enquired a female voice.

“Er, yeah?” he replied, his heart suddenly sinking, fearing the worst.

“Good evening, sir, my name is Charlotte and I’m calling from Consumer Direct. We’re conducting a surv…”

“FUCK OFF!” John exclaimed before slamming the phone down, furious that at a time such as this someone dare intrude upon his life with such meaningless and unwelcome nonsense.

He ran his hand through his hair and down his neck, taking a moment to briefly massage his shoulder before taking a deep, slow breath, holding it for a few moments and then gradually exhaling, whistling as the last of the air left his lungs. He started to regret what he had just said to that poor girl, she didn’t know who he was or what was preying on his mind right now; she was just doing a job, a job she probably hated as much as he hated her calling him. He moved over to his chair and sat back down.

“For fucks sake, where is she?” he asked out loud, his head sinking into his hands as he was still tormented by the worst possible thoughts.

Spreading his fingers slightly he took another look at the clock, disheartened further as it was now more than a solid hour since Sarah should have been home. He began to wonder whether he should call someone else; her mother, her sister, the police? John pondered whether to phone the local hospitals or check the news for accident reports.John picked up his phone again to try and contact Sarah once more before he took any other action. As he unlocked it, the dazzling glare of headlights turning into the driveway, fractured by the rain on the window, shone wildly in his face. She was home.

The anxiety, sadness and hints of rage he was feeling a few moments ago quickly subsided and were replaced with a sense of embarrassment at how he had allowed himself to get so carried away with the scenarios that could have happened to his beloved wife. It all began to dawn on him that in a storm as brutal as this she would, of course, be late. People would be driving with more care and delays were inevitable. How foolish he felt.

As he approached the door, he heard the muffled beep of her phone, that familiar sound of an incoming text message. A comforting reminder that Sarah was home. Before she was able to find her keys in her bag, he had opened the door for her, struggling to hide his relief and failing to contain his delight that she was here.

“Hey, honey,” he said.

“Oh, hey,” she replied, “Thanks for getting the door. It’s fucking wild out here.”

As the wind howled through the trees and the rain continued to pour from the skies, she made her way inside from the cold, furious night’s storm to the welcoming, warm comfort of home.

“Sorry I’m so late! I offered to take Julie home so she didn’t have to get the bus and there was an accident out on the main road, so I had to go through Boulton. Course, every other bugger had the same idea. Anyway, hope you weren’t worried,” Sarah said, as she took off her damp coat and turned to look at John, the rain having caused her makeup to run and her auburn hair to cling to her face.

“No, of course not,” John said, still feeling foolish for dreading the worse, “though I tried calling a couple of times.”

“Oh?” questioned Sarah, “I guess I didn’t have any signal.”

“No matter,” replied John, “Bet you want a cuppa now, right?”

“Oh, babe, you read my mind,” Sarah responded, leaning in to give John a kiss.

That familiar feel of his wife’s lips on his, John was calm and happy. He touched the side of her face and took a brief look at her; even with her running makeup and damp hair, she was still the most beautiful thing in the world to him. He smiled at her and walked off to the kitchen to prepare that cup of tea his wife so positively deserved after the night she had.

Sarah kicked off her shoes and took a deep breath herself. She pulled her phone out of her pocket to read the message she had just received before John opened the door. Skimming it, she tapped out the reply “U 2, babe. Cya next week xxx.”

Glancing towards the kitchen as she did it, Sarah hit send before taking one more deep breath and quickly arranging her hair in the hallway mirror. Glancing towards the kitchen once more, she hit the key to delete the conversation from her phone, adopted a smile and walked to the kitchen and towards her husband.

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