The Fall (2)


Storm Ada buffeting the house hard, bursts of rain splattering the windows with every gust. Through a fitful sleep I hear a loud almighty crash ! What the hell..? My car alarm bursts into full panic mode, complete with flashing lights… enough to wake the dead, and my watch says 5.40 am. What is happening ? If Phil was here, I´d be sending him out to take a look, but as ever, he is never here when needed!

In pyjamas and raincoat I am scrabbling in my handbag for car keys before venturing out. Once outside the front door I’m suddenly climbing over foliage and branches in my mules! The old birch that grew at the side of the gate has fallen over and is lying across the drive blocking any exit. I turn off the car alarm and survey the damage. Mr Denzil from next door is also out, asking if I’m okay. In the light from his bright torch, we can see that his hedge which is our property divide, has taken the full brunt of the falling tree. Fortunately, the larger branches missed our houses and avoided serious damage, other than scratching my car… More lights have come on in the street but with the wind and rain still raging, no-one is bothering to investigate further. I apologise profusely to Mr. Denzil and ask him to go indoors. I shall sort this out… the last thing I need is my lovely old neighbour catching pneumonia.

Negotiating my way back over the sprawling branches, spectacles spotted with rain that impairs any vision in the pre dawn light, somehow I trip. Falling in slow motion, glasses flying off my head, hands outstretched to break my fall and knees landing heavily among the foliage and hard branches… ouch, ouch, ouch, as the shock hits me and I lay there, cold and wet, dazed and shaken for a moment… Damn ! I wish Phil was here…

Slowly I gather myself; manage to get up and feel for my glasses – broken. Eventually, I struggle back and close the door against Ada, still rampaging outside. The house is cold. I am wet, bedraggled, with no spectacles and a mass of small cuts and bruises all over. Feeling overwhelmed, I want to cry, almost defeated… This is not natural activity for a woman in her fifties.

In a hot shower, I assess the physical damage and plan what to do next. I need another pair of varifocals urgently… in a drawer I find my prescription sunglasses. They will do for now. Antiseptic cream and a couple of dressings sort out the rest of me.

Nursing a mug of tea I set about making calls. First, a tree surgeon – recorded message: someone will come asap, just wait… The birch had always overhung the gate, that was part of its charm. Not so charming now. I’d better let Phil know…

Instead I call Liz, my best friend and a far more sympathetic listener. Darling Liz answers on the third ring. She is listening to my garbled tale of woe, while giving breakfast to her grandchildren. I can hear them in the background squabbling over cereal and demanding toast . She divides her attention with consummate skill, as ever.

“I’ll be over as soon as I’ve got the kids to school “ she promises, “ Don’t worry. See you later.”

Cheered by her support, I now call Phil. Surprisingly, his phone goes to voicemail so I leave a message. I am surprised Claire didn’t answer, if he is indisposed. Their domestic arrangements mean they are shacked up in a three room flat until our divorce goes through. He wants half the proceeds from the sale of our house to fund his mid-life crisis; no way…

My phone rings; the tree surgeon, is on his way… good, that’s progress.

It is daylight now. My perspective is clearer too. The storm is abating, the house is warm as the heating has come on and I am washed and dressed, ready to face this unexpected day. I call the office to explain my predicament; Julie agrees to rearrange my clients. I venture out stiffly, to inspect the damage again, this time in sensible footwear.

The street is fully awake now. Under grey scudding clouds, people are walking kids to school, cars setting off to work, neighbours peering into my garden to see the tree, spread over the drive. A sorry sight it is too, broken branches and leaves everywhere, not to mention the gaping hole in the ground by the gate, twisted roots stuck up in the air, soil clinging to the tendrils…

Now, I spot a shoe… a man’s shoe, and a bit of fabric…. Looks like denim… jeans, just beneath the mass of branches trapped under the heavy trunk. Oh God ! Someone is lying under the tree, probably injured, possibly dead!

There is no way I can reach him … what to do first?

Thankfully, Liz turns up, just as the Emergency services arrive, sirens wailing and all hell is breaking loose.The tree surgeon is here too… While they are all considering a plan of action, Liz takes me indoors to make tea for the troops. I pace the floor…Now, it transpires that the body under the tree is actually Phil – and he is beyond saving – which is shocking ! With him under the branches, they have found two squashed granary loaves and a batch of rolls for my freezer. Although we parted acrimoniously, Phil still brings me a weekly order from the bakery where he is night manager. This morning, despite the storm, he had tried to deliver my bread on his way home. Bless him… I had forgotten all about it; he leaves it in the back porch.

Poor Phil… He was a rotten husband, but always a damn fine baker

Author: Lucy

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