The front door banged behind her, the sound reverberating through the house. By the time she reached the car she was soaked: her wet hair lay flat against her head, raindrops running off it and down her face, mingling with her tears. She pulled the car door open and got in, careless of the water dripping from her coat. She switched on the ignition and slammed the car into gear; the powerful engine pulled away instantly and bore her down the drive, through the iron gates that always stood open, the grass tall and thick around their base, and onto the main road. Without more than a cursory look for traffic—more from habit than diligence—she turned left and headed north. The rain had emptied the streets, confining people to the shelter of their homes; yellow street lamps cast regular pools of light along the deserted pavements. It was raining heavier now and the windscreen wipers struggled to cope with the torrent of water cascading down the glass. The headlights sent a stream of light onto the empty road ahead, the occasional puddles, dark, irregular shapes. Teresa was oblivious to it all. She drove like an automaton, like someone in a dream, unable to see for her own tears.
How could he have done this to her after twenty-five years of marriage? And after all they’d been through together? She couldn’t believe it. The man she was married to had been deceiving her for years, and worse than that, with her best friend. A double betrayal. She’d known Michelle since she was fourteen, longer even than she’d known Mark. She was her closest friend. Until Teresa had married Mark they’d been inseparable: first school, then college, even getting their first jobs with the same company.
The junction loomed ahead of her, and without bothering to change down, she pulled across into the main stream of traffic. It was late evening and commuters were still battling their way home. She had no idea where she was going, hadn’t even considered it. All she knew was that she had to get away from him and his lies. She couldn’t stay in the house a moment longer, listening to Mark’s confession, looking at his tears and wondering why he was telling her all this. What did he want? Forgiveness? Why now? She’d forgiven him once before—at least that was what she’d told him but her heart couldn’t forget so easily. Now here he was again, saying how sorry he was, that it really wasn’t his fault, that he wanted her to understand that. Once again it would be forgiveness at her expense. Once again he had turned her life upside down. She’d known nothing about their affair, suspected nothing; her life could have continued unaffected if he hadn’t been troubled by a guilty conscience. She felt a surge of anger, and her foot pressed down harder on the accelerator. He had taken her son from her and now he’d taken her best friend and destroyed their marriage. What more did he expect from her? Did he think he could confess his sins and all would be forgiven? Well, he could confess all he wanted to; she was no priest and she would never forgive him. For any of it. Never.
An articulated lorry overtook her, its gigantic form obliterating her view and spraying the car with dirty water; for a moment she was blinded. Instinctively she slowed slightly, letting the lorry pull ahead and removing herself from its slipstream. The windscreen wipers were at maximum, but they still had difficulty keeping pace with the lashing rain.
Michelle? She’d never suspected it for a moment. For years they’d been such good friends. Michelle had loved the children—she was godmother to all of them. Why hadn’t Teresa realised what was going on? It had all seemed so natural: Michelle staying overnight, Michelle babysitting, Michelle coming on holiday with them; they were all used to Michelle’s presence. Teresa had never asked herself why Michelle hadn’t married, why she didn’t even have a boyfriend; she had never wondered why Michelle preferred to spend so much time with Teresa’s family. Now it was becoming clearer, and the clearer it became, so the rage inside her grew until she thought it would overwhelm her. She thumped the steering wheel in her frustration and a sharp beep from the horn startled her back into the present.
The rain was a torrent now, bouncing back off the road surface under its own momentum, sparkling rods of water shooting up from the ground. The drumming sound it made on the roof was hypnotic, making it hard for her to think clearly. A large blue and white sign signalled the approaching motorway; she flicked the indicator and entered the slip road.
So now what? No husband and no Michelle. He said he didn’t want to leave her; he said he didn’t love Michelle. He loved her. It had just been a fling, he said; it hadn’t meant anything. This enraged her even more. If he had been in love she might have forgiven him; after all Michelle was very easy to love. Teresa had loved her for years; her sons loved her; even Teresa’s mother loved her. But he had thrown away their marriage for a stupid fling. And what about their sons? They’d be devastated, forced to take sides, their lives turned upside down. She couldn’t believe this was happening; she wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve; her stomach was churning with agitation and there was a burning sensation at the back of her throat. She accelerated once more, increasing the speed to ninety. They were not going to get away with it. They had treated her like a fool. Her mobile was ringing. Mark? She was going to ignore it but she felt so angry with him she picked it up and accepted the call. She would tell him it was over. She was leaving him. What was the point of going on? Their marriage had never been the same since Peter died, anyway. How could she love the man that was responsible for her son’s death?
One moment the car was cutting through the night as smooth as silk, the next it was spinning and turning, aquaplaning across the wet road surface. She dropped her mobile and wrenched at the wheel with both hands, pulling it back to the left, but the force of the skid was too much for her and the steering wheel resisted her efforts. She was sliding sideways, unable to stop. She braked hard, but that only flung the car into a greater spin. She was heading for the central crash barrier. A bright light was bearing down on her, closer and closer. She could hear the discordant blare of a car-horn. Suddenly there was an enormous cracking sound and the clash of metal hitting metal. The air was filled with splintering glass. The car lifted up, defying gravity and turned over and over. She was suspended in space, an acrobat of the night. The car was turning slow motion somersaults. It was quiet now. Unreal. Time had stopped. Suddenly she was falling into the darkness. A searing pain sliced through her body as the car came to rest on top of the crash barrier. Then there was nothing.