I said to her “Just let me come pick you up Belle. I’ll take you home and drop you off. I won’t even come in. Wouldn’t you rather sleep in your own bed? You’re so far from home. It’s after twelve, there’s no more buses Belle.”
“No more buses?” she said.
“No Belle, not now. Or trains, nothing...”
She didn’t reply.
I could hear the television in the background.
“Listen Belle, I don’t mind coming down there, really. I’ve only had a couple of beers.”
She said “I hate my bedroom. I hate sleeping in it. I don’t like going to bed.”
And then she said that she was cold. And the light in the hallway was too bright and she wished there were a dimmer switch. But there wasn’t. Or if there was, she couldn’t find it.
She started coughing, and I heard her friend Kate laughing in the background. I heard Belle move away from the phone for a moment and shout “He wants to come pick me up. He wants to be a good soldier. But I’m no good, no good. You tell him Kate. Here, take it… tell him I’m no good.”
And then I heard her friend Kate in the background shouting “I’m not telling him that. You tell him.” And then her laughing again and the sound of glass striking glass. And Belle shouting “You bitch! You’ve spilt it. Oh it’s everywhere.” Then Kate was screaming or laughing, I couldn’t tell which.
And then Belle was back on the line “I’m sorry good soldier, there’s been a little accident. Accidents, accidents, they never happen when you expect them to. So inconvenient. I have to go. I think, I think there’s something left. But you probably shouldn’t call again. Not tonight. We’re too far away.”
I said “Belle…”
But there was nobody there.
I rang back twice. It just kept ringing.
I put down the phone and picked up my beer. I went back down the hallway towards the party at the other end of the house, a stranger’s house.
I stopped at the door of somebody’s bedroom. I walked in and turned on the light. It belonged to somebody I had never met. It was a tidy room. The bed was well made. The quilt cover was blue. At the end of the bed was a slight depression in the quilt where it looked like somebody had been sitting, just recently.
I stared at the bed for what seemed like a long time before I turned off the light and closed the door.