‘Let’s take the scenic route home. My eyes are tired from motorway driving,’ said Greg, giving a tap to his wife’s knee. Shelly grimaced.
‘Don’t forget I’ve got that big council meeting tonight at Ludlow and I need to collect my suit. They’ve got to elect me this time.’
Greg’s mouth settled in a line.
‘That’s a shame. I thought we’d get a take-away and watch a bit of telly. You’re always out these days…’
Shelly checked her make-up in the mirror so she wouldn’t have to reply. They drove in silence down a ribbon of a road, slowing down behind a tractor. Greg swung the car into a rough, muddy layby and switched off the engine.
‘Look at that view.’ Shelly turned her head, feigning interest in the sludge on the hill side.
‘You take a photo and I’ll pour us some tea.’ He shook the flask. Shelly groaned and grabbed his phone. The battery was almost dead. She shivered in the icy chill that swirled round the valley, almost toppling over some hidden rocks as she picked her way through the broken five bar gate to get a better angle. Ever since Greg had taken up landscape painting he’d become obsessed with finding new scenes to copy.
To get a good view of Titterstone Clee, bleak and treeless with treacherous weather changes, Shelly had to clamber over some rocks and up the hillside, muddying the designer trainers she’d bought in Birmingham that morning.
‘Ouch, ouch,’ she yelped, rubbing her knee as she tripped. She checked the three pictures, deciding they’d have to do. Rain spluttered onto the glass and she could hear Greg revving the engine. She headed back to the car but at that moment it seemed to evaporate into the mist that was slowly wrapping itself around the bleak landscape. Shelly rubbed her eyes. She shouted her husband’s name. The silence mocked her as she stood spattered in mud, with no coat, no bag, no purse, no money and a dead phone.
‘My God you son of a …..’ The growling wind stole her words.
As the shock wore off, Shelly began to walk quickly, confident that someone would be driving past in a few minutes. A blister was forming on her heel as she strode along the road, dodging the tracks of mud. The darkening of the sky told her it was getting late. Breaking into a half run to get some warmth into her body, she saw headlights appear on the horizon.
‘Thank heaven for that,’ she breathed, clasping her chest.
The driver slowed, and wound down his window.
‘Broken down? His perfect white teeth dominated his face.
‘Long story but I need to get to Ludlow. Please, I’ll pay you when I get home.’
‘Hop in,’ he said. No need to pay.’
When Greg heard the banging on the front door and saw the blue light flashing, he turned off the TV. The police handed him a phone. ‘Is this yours?’