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The International Writers Magazine: Betrayal

Come the Revolution
Clare Sager

I threw the car keys on the table. ‘We need to get out of here.’ Clear and simple – no time for misunderstandings.
Dan looked up, his cornflower blue eyes seeming to take an age to focus. He blinked, glanced down, shifted. ‘What?’
‘We need to get out of here,’ I flopped into the armchair opposite by way of punctuation. ‘Get in the car, get out of the city, away from people. We can go to my Dad’s farm. There’s hardly anyone out there.’

He frowned. OK, so it wasn’t an amazing plan, but at least I had one, something to do rather than hiding in our flat with its rapidly dwindling supply of baked beans, waiting for the revolution to catch up with us, for the gangs to attack and rape, pillage and kill or whatever was de rigueur for marauders this week.
‘Dan, you could at least try to respond.’

His right hand dipped into his pocket and he pulled out his phone. His eyes flicked toward the screen. He’d been doing that a lot lately; I supposed it was a nervous habit he’d developed since it all started, a tick that harked back to some normality where people called or sent messages to each other through the ether. Now the airwaves were silent.
‘I thought the networks were down.’ It might have been a nervous tick, but it was bloody irritating.
He slid the phone away, ‘Some messages are still getting through. I was hoping to hear from … from Mum.’
I leant over our narrow coffee table and touched his knee. ‘Babe, don’t worry, I’m sure she’s fine – they’ve got their vegetable patch and they’re out in the sticks. They won’t have these gangs.’ I grinned, ‘I’m sure the sheep aren’t uprising, too, eh?’
‘True.’ Small smile, his hand over mine.
‘So, let’s go. We’ll pack our stuff in the car, drive out of the city, get off the island, get somewhere safe.’ I squeezed his knee. ‘They’ll have food out there and a well, so we’ll have water, too.’
He sat back, pulling away. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ He touched his mouth absently.
I clenched my jaw. ‘Why do you want to stay? It’s only a matter of time before we’re fucked.’ I stood up, looking down at him. ‘I know you had these high hopes of a revolution being a good thing, Dan, but that’s not how it worked out – either we’ll run out of food or we’ll get killed by those nutters.’
His response was a study in apathy. I sighed and stomped to our room. If I packed, then he’d wake up from his stupor and would have to come with me. He’s my husband, I thought, grabbing my suitcase and chucking warm clothes inside, he can’t just let me go on my own.

Holiday programmes, when they still showed them, didn’t cover what to pack in the event of revolution, so I improvised. There was the usual stuff, as well as our first aid kit, a torch from the bedside table (where it had lived since the blackouts started), and our camping bits from the coat cupboard.

I dragged out Dan’s and opened it. In the bottom, a blue condom wrapper looked up at me, its metallic sheen winking in the light. We hadn’t used condoms since we got married.

Durex Extra Safe.

My mind whirred – Dan had last used the case when he went to Birmingham on a business trip a few weeks before the rioting and violence started. I shook my head. It didn’t mean anything: it could have been there since we went on holiday before the wedding. It could easily have been stuck in the bottom of his case since then. Easily.
I threw it in the bin and continued. Open drawer, grab jumpers, into case; repeat with jeans, pants, socks. In the bottom, hidden at the back beneath all the underwear, sat a red envelope.

Danny it said in rounded letters like the handwriting I used when I was 13. I touched the thick paper and turned it over – it had been opened carefully. I couldn’t not look inside. White, lined paper. My hand shook as I slid it out, unfolded it.
The same teenage-style writing was scrawled across the pages; there were even circles above the i's. Skim reading it was plenty – I got more than enough of the picture. I sank into realisation, drowning in thoughts of Dan meeting this other woman who signed her name S, checking into some hotel and taking her upstairs, holding her hand in the lift, her whispering something stupid and sexy in his ear, him turning around to kiss her neck and leading her to the room, throwing the door open before throwing her onto the massive bed – stop, stop, stop!

Dan looked up as I charged into the living room. ‘Babe, I think –’ first he looked at my face, must have seen the anger etched there, then stared down at the red envelope in my hands. He sucked in a sharp breath. I kept quiet – let him hang himself. His features kind of crumpled in, like his skull was falling in on itself ever so slowly. ‘Oh, Hannah, I’m so sorry.’
‘Oh, you’re sorry! Well, that’s OK, then.’ I laughed and realised it sounded crazy, but carried on anyway. ‘For fuck’s sake, Dan, we’ve only been married eight months.’ I chucked the letter and condom wrapper at him. ‘How can you have grown bored of being married to me, of –’ my voice started to crack. ‘How can you already have someone else?’

He opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it again. He did it several times. I could have giggled at him being the speechless one, at his impression of a goldfish whose bowl had been smashed. His hand went to his pocket.
‘Oh my God!’ Laughter laced my words. ‘That’s who you’ve been waiting to hear from!’ I ran my hand through my hair. ‘Some bit on the side is why you want to stay here and get us both killed?’

I snatched the car keys from the table. ‘Any other time, Dan, and I would go through all the clichéd questions with you – who is she, why’d you do it, when did it start – but I really don’t have time. I’m getting off this island. I’m going to survive this shit.’ I looked at him. He seemed very small, but I didn’t feel any pity. ‘You can stay here with your revolution and your whore. Enjoy!’

When I got outside, the stench of smoke and uncollected dustbins hit me together with a blast of heat. Instead of my blue Ford Focus, my escape, I was greeted by a pillar of flames licking the sky.

Her face was pale but calm as she strode back into the living room. He hadn’t moved, but now looked up, trying to catch her eye. As she plopped into a chair she didn’t return his gaze, leaving him wondering – had she changed her mind, couldn’t face leaving him?
Finally, she turned to him. ‘Well, who is she?’
Her face was blank, her grey eyes unwavering.

© Clare Sager MA November 2008

Clare is now teaching writing

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