He stamped his feet as he waited across the street, trying to drive the blood back into his toes. He watched the office workers scurrying out into the cold and sighed. His wife wasn’t amongst them.
Ten minutes later, she burst out of the double doors, stuffing documents into her briefcase whilst trying to keep her scarf as the wind tugged at it. He looked for a hint of something sticking out of her pocket, or another bag slung over her shoulder, but there was nothing. His teeth clenched and he crossed the road.
“Hello love,” he said and she jumped, dropping a sheaf of papers.
“Scott! God, you made me jump, what are you doing here?”
He helped her gather up the pages and waited for her to finish fussing with the case. “I finished work early today.” He paused a beat, but she said nothing. He swallowed. “I thought it would be nice to come and pick you up. It’s cold today.”
She nodded, wrapping the scarf around her throat and tucking it securely into her overcoat. “That’s sweet, thanks. I wasn’t looking forward to the train.”
He thrust the flowers he’d been hiding behind his back towards her, five huge blooms, the names of which he’d already forgotten. He bit the inside of his lip as he watched for a flicker in her eyes.
“Oh! How lovely!” she gasped, and smelt them.
He gave her a few more moments and when it didn’t come, he said; “The florist told me they always look better in groups of five. Five of them. All together.”
“Oh, right,” she nodded. “They do look nice together. Let’s get home eh?”
He scowled. Another chance gone.
They wove their way through the rush hour crowds. He linked arms with her, drawing her close. “Yup,” he sighed. “Always cold this time of year, isn’t it?” She nodded but he could tell she wasn’t really listening. “What do they say about March… in like a lion and out like a lamb?”
“Do they?” she replied absent-mindedly.
He pushed his way past people, squeezing her arm close into his side. She had to hurry to keep up but he was glad, it was her own fault for wearing those stupid high heels. It made him feel better to feel her tottering along beside him, struggling to match his pace. It was just enough to keep his temper at bay.
They reached the car park and he unlocked the car with the remote. The lights flashed and he got in as she dropped her briefcase and the flowers onto the back seat. He gripped the steering wheel nervously as he waited. Would this one work?
She opened the door and stopped; five candles were strewn on the passenger seat. She scooped them up and sat down. “What are these doing here?” she asked as she buckled the seatbelt. He dug his nails into the stitched leather and said nothing as she tossed them into the back seat.
His temples pounded all the way home. Surely he had given enough hints? He glanced across at her. She was staring out of the passenger window, probably thinking about her latest case. It was the same every year.
“I’m in court tomorrow,” she said after a while and he sighed. He was right. He was the last thing on her mind. “It’s an interesting case; it’ll be on the news tomorrow night.”
“Mmm,” he acknowledged, wondering whether to give her one last chance. They’d been together for thirteen years, after all. “Could you find the cloth in the glove compartment for me? The screen’s steaming up.”
She opened the glove box and a paper bag fell out with a birthday card, still wrapped in cellophane, sticking out conspicuously. He held his breath as he waited for a gasp and a gabbled apology, but neither came. All he got was the grotty cloth. He wiped the glass as fat raindrops drummed on the other side, realising that this was it. She’d failed.
They drove the rest of the way in silence, emerging from the chaos of the town’s traffic onto the quieter country roads. He tried to decide whether to do it in the car or in the house. He settled on the car as he negotiated through the winding lanes, he’d prepared ahead and had everything he needed. He’d known she would fail.
Finally they pulled up onto the drive, the large trees sheltering the house from the worst of the rain. It was dark, and with no neighbours nearby, the only sound was the weather abusing the car.
She unclipped the seatbelt as he reached under his seat, felt for the handle and closed his fingers around it. “Jane,” he said softly, unable to stop himself from giving her one last chance. “Do you know what day it is today?”
The blade described an arc from his side into her chest. One, two, three, four plunges of the knife and she was silent, the last of her scream ringing off the dashboard. But four wasn’t enough.
“This is the fifth!” he yelled, plunging it in a last time. “The fifth, the fifth of March! My birthday godammit!”
He let the numbness settle over him. Ten years in a row she’d forgotten, ten years of apologies and late cakes. No more.
He dragged her out of the car and towards the house. He couldn’t think straight, he needed a drink and besides, he wanted her in the house on his birthday. They could have one last evening together.
He unlocked the door with her body slumped against him and then he pulled her into the hallway, slamming the door behind him. He flicked on the light as streamers and balloons were thrown into the air. Party poppers banged and fifty voices cheered as the blood drained from his face.
This week’s Friday Flash was brought to you by a large cup of tea and a marvellous writing prompt at Write Anything. I am grateful to both.