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Friday, 13 June 2014

Emily's life after 'Friday the 13th'

“What are you doing, John? You can't go to work today, it's Friday the 13th!”
      “Don't be daft, Em, of course I'm going to work”.
      “But you can't, today's an unlucky day. Something bad could happen to change our lives. You could have an accident driving to work; or whilst at work. Please don't go. Stay at home. Call in sick”.
      “I'm not sick and I'm not going to skive of work because of another one of your silly superstitions,” John said, as he paused in the open doorway.
      “I'm ill. I can't get my breath. I can feel my heart thumping. I feel hot and clammy. Call in and tell them you're staying home to look after me”.
      “It's just one of your woman's power surges. I'm off: I'll see you later”. He closed the front door forcefully and started his journey to work.

       A bleary eyed Katie came down the stairs and found her mother in the kitchen. “What's with the raised voices and why did Dad slam the front door?”
      “It's your Dad being unreasonable, Katie. I asked him to stay at home today: he wouldn't.”
      “Because he can be when he wants to be.”
      “No; I meant why did you ask him.”
      “Because it's Friday the 13th.”
      “Oh Mum; not that again.”
      “Today is an unlucky day. You know it is: everyone knows it is. Bad things happen . . .”
      “Don't be daft; that's just superstitious nonsense. And, before you ask, yes I am going to work later.”
      “But, Katie, it's true. When your Great-Granddad died; it was Friday the 13th of December.”
      “Yeah; but he was ninety-seven years old.”
      “Then my Dad died three years later on Friday the 13th of May.”
      “Mum; he died of lung cancer after smoking for forty-five years odd; since his teens. That’s hardly unlucky –”
      “Don't talk about you Granddad like that!”
      “Alright then; what about our Nathan?”
      “What about him?”
      “When was he born?”
      “You know when his birthday is: it's the 13th of February.”
      “And . . . what day was that?”
      “I can't remember.”
      “Yes you can. It was a Friday. Now was that an unlucky day? Careful what you say Mum.”
      “But he was due on the 14th, Valentine's day. Do you want a cup of tea?” Without waiting for an answer Emily filled the kettle with fresh cold water. She forgot the force the water came out of the tap sometimes and it sprayed over her hands. “You know what they say about someone born on Friday the 13th – they will be unlucky all their life.”
      “That's nonsense Mum.”
      “No it's not. Do you remember when Nathan broke his arm, that was bad luck.”
      “That wasn't bad luck: it was him being stupid and falling of scaffolding that he and his mates shouldn't have been playing on.”
      “And now he's unluckily in Afghanistan fighting for his life. If he hadn't had to go in the army he could be a mechanic here.”
      “Now you really are getting ridiculous. He joined the Army and the REME because he wanted to.”
     “Do you want tea or coffee?” Emily placed the cordless kettle on its stand and switched it on. She reached for the family teapot, the one her mother, and her mother before her, had used. She'd forgot her hands were wet. The heirloom shattered when it hit the tiled floor. “Damn . . . I told you all it's an unlucky day. Now will you believe me?”
      “Mum, it's just an accident: your hands were wet. If you still had the vinyl flooring it might have bounced. Anyway, the spout and the handle were chipped where you've bash it before, so dropping doesn't prove Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. It's just a date Mum: a day and a number that's all. Did you know that in Italy they say Friday the 17th is unlucky, and in Greece and Spain, and other Spanish speaking countries, they say it's Tuesday the 13th. So how does that work with your silly superstition?”
      “Don't get all smarty-pants, clever-clogsy with me Katherine.”
      “This is getting silly. I'm going to get ready for work. Yes – I'm going to work.”

      Twenty minutes later Katie left the house leaving her Mum at home alone; to cope with the imaginary looming disasters that the day would surely bring; to cope with her shortness of breath and heart palpitations of her anxiety attacks.
       Emily had no intention of leaving the house: it is too dangerous to go out. She telephoned a work colleague; “Hi Mary it's me, can you tell George that I can't come into work today as I've got that stomach bug that's doing the rounds. All being well, I'll be in tomorrow to make up my time. See you soon; bye.”
      After eating her breakfast of toast and marmalade, and drinking two more cups of tea, now brewed with the teabag in the cup, Emily decided to use her time at home to get some of the dirty laundry washed, dried and ironed. The clothes were put in the drum, the softener and detergent were poured in the dispensing tray, and the correct programme chosen. She was about to press the start button when she remembered – it's unlucky to do washing on Friday the 13th. She decided the safest thing to do was read for a while, watch day-time television for a while and drink more cups of tea.

       Lunch-time came and passed without any disasters.Whilst watching afternoon television the EuroMillions advertisement reminded her that she had forgotten to buy a lottery ticket for that Friday's draw. But, she couldn't go out of the house to get one. She picked up the telephone, selected pre-set telephone number 3 and pressed the dial button. Her call was connected. “Hello; could I speak to Katie please,.” she said. There was a long pause.
     “Katie it's me, can – ”
     “I know it's you Mum. I not supposed to take personal calls: what do you want?”
     “On your way home can you call in at the corner shop and get a EuroMillions lottery ticket for tonight please.”
     “Is that it? Is that what you called me for? Why can't you get it?”
     “You know I can't leave the house today.”
     “If today is so unlucky you won't win; so why bother about a ticket? I've got to go Mum.” Emily looked at the telephone: her call had been disconnected.

     It was late afternoon; Emily was washing-up her plates and cutlery from her lunch and afternoon tea, before starting on the dinner, when she heard a news bulletin on the television in the lounge.
     “There are reports coming in of the death of a soldier early this morning, near Camp Bastion, in the Helmand province, in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence are not releasing the name of the soldier until the family has been informed. But, we understand that he was serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.”
      She rushed into the lounge to hear more details but the announcement had ended. She became unsteady on her feet: she collapsed onto the settee. Another anxiety attack took hold of her.

      She remained on the sofa, in a state of shock until John returned home at the end of a late shift. She couldn't have heard the front door open, because her body jumped, as if shocked with a defibrillator, when she heard John say: “Hi Em, I'm home. Have you had a good day?” as he walked in to the lounge.
     “A soldier's been killed in Afghanistan earlier today. They've not given out his name but I know it's Nathan, because it's Friday the 13th. He was born on the 13th and he's died on the 13th; like all the other men in my family,” she hollered.
     “What? What are you going on about?”
     “I told you. You didn't listen to me this morning and you haven't listened to me now!”
     “Hang on Em. Have the Army been on to us and said it's our Nathan?”
     “No. But, they will be. They will send someone to tell us or they will call us.”
     “If it happened this morning then they would have . . .” The chimes of the door bell interrupted John.
      Emily couldn't hear what was being said between John and the visitor, but, she feared the worse. John returned to the lounge alone. All the remaining colour had drained from Emily's face. Her breathlessness returned.
     “It was only Bill wanting to arrange a lift to work tomorrow. It's no good you getting yourself in a state over nothing, Em.”
     “It's not nothing, you'll see, you wait, you'll see. I told you this morning something bad was going to happen.”
     “Well in the meantime when's dinner going to be ready?”
     “I can't cook dinner. I'm not hungry. If you can eat on a day like today you'll have to get a takeaway.”
     “OK. What time's Katie coming home? I'll order it for then.”
     “She won't be home tonight she's staying at Gill's.”
     “Fine; I'll order from the Golden Dragoon now.”

      John's meal arrived thirty minutes later and he devoured it with his usual gusto. After eating alone in the kitchen, he joined Emily in the lounge. They watched television, for the rest of the evening. Not a word passed between them. Emily was too fearful to talk; especially to John as he didn't listen.

     At 11:15 pm. the telephone played its digital ringtone.
     “Who can that be at this time of night?” John said.
     “Answer it John you know who it's going to be – it's the Army.”
     “Hello John Harper speaking.” He listened. He didn't reply. He ended the call. He turned to face Emily. His mouth was wide open. The colour had fallen from his face.
     “What John? What is it?"
     “That was Katie, she's coming home straight-away.”
     “Why? What's happened? I knew something bad would happen before the day ended.”
     “She bought the EuroMillions ticket like you asked. She couldn't remember our numbers so she chose a 'Lucky Dip'. She's just checked the results. We've won the jackpot! We could be millionaires!”

© Elliot Sampford 2014.

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