The sun was shining brightly in a brilliant blue sky. Birds chirped in the trees and butterflies flitted from flower to flower in the bushes that dotted the cemetery.
Anya was numb, she felt nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing of the magnificent day. She moved as if on a leash, putting one foot in front of the other, behind the glossy black coffin leading the entourage.
Though she was physically there, her mind was miles away reliving the last moments she’d spent with Matt, remembering the last time she had seen her husband alive.
“I’ve messed up, hon,” Matt’s eyes were dark, his brow furrowed with worry.
“What do you mean? What’s happened?” Anya set down the plate she was washing and walked over to the table where the love of her life was wringing his hands and restlessly shuffling his feet.
“The money I borrowed from Zack and Ben… the deal… it’s all gone, gone,” his voice broke as he struggled to form a coherent sentence.
“But you can make it back Matt, they’re your friends, right? Just tell them to give you some time, we’ll figure something out…”
“Friends?” Matt scoffed, “There are no friends in business… I’m going to have to come up with something better than ‘I need more time,’ I need to…”
Just then his phone rang, startling both of them and cutting him off. He picked it up and walked away from her, whispering so she couldn’t hear what he was saying. Then he was back with a look in his eyes she’d never seen before, a look of fear.
“They want to meet tonight…”
“No, don’t go” Anya said, grabbing for his hand that was clammy with sweat, unease settling like a rock in her stomach.
“I have to babe… maybe you’re right,” he’d added, seeing the panic in her eyes, “Maybe I can persuade them to give me more time, OK? I’ll be back soon. Wait up for me, we’ll watch one of those silly romantic comedies you love so much. Don’t worry, everything’s going to be alright.”
He tousled her hair, kissed her forehead and was gone. Anya waited up all night. He never came home.
The funeral was over. Everyone was gone. Back home, Anya sat alone in her bedroom, her emotions teetering between numbness and an overwhelming urge to scream, to completely lose it.
Obvious police collusion and a “lack of evidence” meant that while she sat there dying inside, Zack and Ben were out roaming free.
Her mind whirled with a million different thoughts and it was hours before she realised it was already dark and she was starving.
Rousing herself, she walked mechanically to the kitchen, opened the fridge, took out some leftovers and was headed back upstairs, when she stopped dead in front of the living room.
With the curtains still not drawn, the light from the lamppost outside cast long shadows across the room and for a second she could’ve sworn she had seen him, standing as he often did, by the fireplace.
Her heart shattered as did the plate she was holding as she dropped to the floor, deep sobs wracking her body, sorrow that was physically painful, ripping through her body.
“Matt…” she moaned, curled up on the floor as if she could rid herself of the feelings, “Oh, Matt…”
She cried until she was spent, then sat up and rocked herself back and forth, her eyes trained on the spot she’d imagined him to be, willing herself to see him again.
Slowly she quietened, watching the play of shadows and light in the room, trying to distract her mind. Then it caught her eye.
Matt’s old hunting rifle mounted above the mantle piece, the reason he liked to stand by the fireplace, admiring it and telling her stories of excursions he and his father had taken in the wild.
Getting to her feet, Anya sidestepped the broken plate and walked up to the mantle piece. She reached up, took the gun down and cradled it in her arms, luxuriating in the sensation of the cool metal against her warm skin.
“I won’t let them get away with it.”
It was a sunny afternoon, the kind that makes everyone want to be outside soaking up the sun’s rays.
White clouds drifted lazily by, pushed by a soft breeze that gently rustled the trees and lifted falling leaves up into the sky.
In the park, mothers pushed strollers with jolly babies, raucous youths sprawled on the grass, men sat on benches flipping through newspapers and couples ambled leisurely hand in hand.
Above it all, on the rooftop of a highrise building adjacent to the park, Anya watched the goings on with singular focus.
“Heya, Zack!” a brusque looking fellow called out to one of the men seated on a bench.
“You’re late,” Zack replied; he’d been waiting for Ben for almost an hour, “Let’s go.”
The two men began walking towards a small pub, where they played their weekly card game.
They didn’t get very far. Just after they had passed the throng of people, two shots rang out in quick succession and both men crumpled like rag dolls to the ground.
A brief, momentary smile crossed Anya’s lips as she felt a sudden relief, the dark cloud hanging over her head dispersed and for the first time in months, she was aware of the warm sunshine on her face.
Working methodically, having practiced many times beforehand, she dismantled the rifle and stowed it away in an unassuming guitar case. Then she was moving, even as screams rent the air and all hell broke loose in the park below.
She was home hours before the police came knocking, the gun safely buried in a field a few miles from her home. Matt’s gun had never been registered, an heirloom passed down from his grandfather to his father at a time when regulations were more lax.
And since Matt hadn’t ever used it since he was a child, he’d seen no need to get a licence for it. They would find no evidence linking her to the crime.
The phone rang just as she shut the door behind the two police officers.
“Anya, I just saw on the news…Anya what…” her mom’s shrill voice came over the line.
Anya’s teeth showed in a full bodied smile, warmth filling her entire body as she had a sudden flashback to her husband’s last words to her.
“Mom, don’t worry. Everything’s going to be alright.”