38

When Michael woke up Emma wasn’t there.

Drugged with sleep, he grabbed a nearby jumper from where he’d thrown it last night and pulled it over his head before shuffling through the living room to look for her. It was a cold, grey morning outside and the house was silent but for the noise of Emma working in the kitchen. She didn’t notice Michael had come into the room until he dragged a chair across the floor and away from the table and sat down.

‘Hello,’ she said quietly. ‘Sleep well?’

He nodded but didn’t say anything. All things considered, he had slept well, but he was too tired to engage in conversation unless he absolutely had to. He knew he’d feel more sociable when he’d had a few minutes to properly wake up.

‘I’ve been up for ages,’ Emma continued. ‘There was a storm a couple of hours ago that woke me. I’ve just been in here sorting through the stuff we got while we were out yesterday.’

Yesterday afternoon’s priority had been to get Carl safely on his way back to the city. Although that in itself hadn’t taken too long to organise and arrange, there had subsequently been much associated thinking, questioning and soul searching which seemed to have prevented Emma and Michael from doing pretty much anything else. The supplies which they had collected from the village had been left in a pile of boxes and bags on the kitchen floor. Emma had worked hard since she’d got up and had sorted most of it away.

Michael cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes.

‘So how you feeling today?’ he asked, his voice quiet, flat and subdued.

She stopped what she was doing and looked up and briefly smiled.

‘I’m okay,’ she replied, giving little away. ‘What about you?’

‘I’m all right.’

Silently and independently they were both still preoccupied with thoughts of Carl, although neither wanted to talk about their missing colleague to the other. Emma found herself wondering what he had found in the city whilst, more pessimistically, Michael was wondering whether he’d got there at all.

‘So what are we going to do today?’ Emma asked unexpectedly.

Strange question, Michael thought. What is there to do?

‘Don’t know,’ he answered. ‘Why, what do you want to do?’

She shrugged her shoulders and returned to her work, wondering what had made her ask such a stupid question in the first place. Perhaps it had just been instinctive? Whatever the reason, the lack of any worthwhile answers was depressing. The complete and utter lack of any positive distraction and interest in their lives, coupled with the constant fear of everything beyond the farmhouse walls, was beginning to grind her down. The relentless boredom, fear and frustration hung over her head like a black storm cloud. And the fact that Carl had left only served to increase her negativity further still.

‘Maybe we should make something,’ Michael suggested, picking up on Emma’s sadness. Not much of a suggestion, granted, but it was all that he could come up with. ‘You know, build something…’

‘Like what?’

He struggled to answer.

‘I don’t know. Bloody hell, there must be something we could do. Christ, we could spring clean or decorate a room or bake a fucking cake…I don’t know.’

‘Maybe we could just sit here and watch the clock until we fall asleep. Then we could get up tomorrow and do the same again…’

Emma’s attitude hurt. Michael knew just how she was feeling, but the fact that they had been able to relax a little last night made her apparent anger and disinterest even more frustrating and harder to swallow. Perhaps it was for that very reason that she was like this? Was she now punishing herself for finally allowing herself to drop a few barriers and reveal her true feelings, thoughts and emotions?

Michael wondered if this was how it was always going to be.

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