Mary looked at her watch, it was almost six and there was still no sign of Tim yet, she looked out the window again, hoping she’d see his car turn onto their road. He had cut it late a few times before, but never this late, he only had fifteen minutes before curfew. Mary let the net curtain fall back into place and started pacing back and forth in the living room, her cup of tea sat on the small coffee table, forgotten about. He’ll be fine, of course he’ll be fine. Even if he doesn’t make it back it’s his first offense, they wouldn’t do anything for that, they’d let him off with only a warning surely. Mary stopped walking, a sudden memory made her stomach tense, she had said something similar a few months before when Johnny from across the street had missed his curfew. She had been sitting at Margaret’s kitchen table as Margaret dabbed at her tears with a sodden tissue, “They can’t just do that to him, he’s only a kid and it’s his first offense, they’re just trying to give him a scare, you’ll see, he’ll be back by tomorrow at the latest.” But tomorrow came and went with no sign of him, no one had heard from Johnny since that day. The phone started ringing, Mary jumped then ran for it, not noticing as her knee clipped the table and knocked over her teacup sending the milky brown liquid across the table, it steadily dripped down onto the white carpet.
“Mary? It’s Sandra, is it a bad time?”
“No, sorry Sandra, I’m just a little worried, Tim isn’t back yet.”
“I’m sure he’s fine, Charlie was late back today too, he just got in a few minutes ago, said they kept everyone a bit late.”
Mary shook her head, “What? They can’t do that what if someone is caught outside after curfew because of it?” She gripped the phone tightly, the anger in her voice surprised even herself. “I know but what can they do? If they didn’t stay they’d be let go and, well, you know what would happen then.”
“Yeah.” She spat the word out, most of the anger was gone from her voice, but it was bitter.
“I just wanted to ring you about the barbeque this Saturday, we’re not going to be able to make it, Charlie’s dad is sick at the moment, they’ve taken him into hospital and we wanted to go visit.”
“Oh no I’m sorry to hear that, if you need anything let me know and let me know how he’s doing won’t you?”
“Of course, thanks Mary, I’ll see you at Julie’s thing next week and I’ll let you know how he’s getting on. I have to go get dinner finished up, try not to worry I’m sure Tim will be back any second.”
“Thanks Sandra, have a good evening.”
“Thanks you too.”
Mary hung up the phone, the knot in her stomach had loosened a little but not much. Tim was just running late then, that was all. It would be fine. She smoothed down the nonexistent wrinkles in her jeans with her hands, everything was going to be fine. She heard the noise of an engine coming down the road, before she realised what she was doing she was standing in the hall and peering out the window as the black car went by. For a brief, wonderful second she thought the black car was Tim’s and that he was finally home, then it went right by their driveway. There was someone else cutting it close, they must have been kept back late too. Most of the people in the area worked for the Jones Company, but rather than calming her the thought sped up the beating of her heart, if they did work with him, or at least for the same company, Tim should be here by now. She looked at her watch, only a couple more minutes until curfew, she stayed at the window, the netting gripped firmly in her hand as six passed by. At a quarter past she let the curtain fall and slowly walked into the kitchen. If he wasn’t home by now he wasn’t coming home. She sat down at the kitchen table, there were things she needed to do, things she needed to figure out but that all seemed so far away. All she could do for the moment was sit and let the reality sink in. Tim wasn’t home, that meant either he was caught or he was staying at someone else’s house, if that was the case he would have rang. If he was caught his job was gone at the very least and she wasn’t allowed work, how long would it take Tim to get another one? Assuming he was fine and even able to get another. How would they afford a lawyer for him? Things were tight enough as it was. If she couldn’t get him a lawyer that meant…her stomach clenched painfully, Mary sprung up from the chair, knocking it over, and raced to the sink. She made it just in time as she threw up, she turned on the faucet and let the water wash the vomit away. She rinsed her mouth out then splashed some of the cold water on her face. She needed to keep it together, keep calm, Tim needed someone in his corner right now, someone strong and it had to be her. There were things she needed to do, phone calls she needed to make. She walked to the phone then stood before it, afraid to pick it up. If she did then it would all be real.
What was that? She froze, not letting herself hope, then there was that familiar click of the key turning in the lock and Tim was rushing in. Before the door was fully closed Mary flung her arms around his neck, kissing him, she pulled away, “Thank god! Thank god you’re all right I thought the worst, I didn’t know what to do I was beside myself.”
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. We were kept back and then I’d car trouble. I got a lift home with Eric, I tried to get away from him but you know what he’s like, I had to run back here, I thought I was going to get caught any second.” She pulled back from him slightly, noticing that he was breathing heavily and the thin sheen of sweat on his forehead for the first time. She was too relieved to be angry and she kissed him again. “I’m just glad you’re ok.”
Tim held her tightly and they stood, holding one another for a long time.