It was cold. Maggie shifted uncomfortably, pulling the bed-clothes higher. She couldn't get comfortable. It was too cold. The blankets were wrapped tightly about her shoulders. Shivering, she unfolded from the foetal position she had assumed, turned over, and coiled herself back into a tight ball. Why was it so cold? "Alan? Alan, wake up. I'm cold." There was no response. Maggie shivered miserably, unhooked her left hand that had been clutching her right elbow and reached across the bed, between the chilly sheets. He wasn't there. She opened her eyes. It was dark but the glowing face of the clock was visible. It was 2.17am. Where on earth could Alan have gone at this time of the morning. His side of the bed was stone cold. Wherever he'd gone, he must have left a long time ago. Maggie gave a sob - lonely, frightened, uncomfortable - and fell back into fitful sleep and disturbing dreams.
When the sky began to pale, just after 4am, she woke again - cold, uncomfortable, all her muscles stiff and protesting from hours of tension. For several minutes she couldn't remember where she was. Panic washed over her. Trying hard to remember where she was - frowning with the effort. She looked towards the watery light seeping through the small window then gazed a while at the dressing table, recognition percolating back by slow degrees. Minutes flowed by, the light grew. It must be time to get up and make Alan's breakfast.
There was no sign of Alan downstairs. His coat wasn't hanging on its usual peg. He must have gone out for a Sunday paper. Is it Sunday? Maggie looked out of the kitchen window and noticed that the garden was a jungle. Her jaw dropped. The garden was Alan's pride and joy. His monster vegetables always took several first prizes at the village show. Maggie started shivering uncontrollably and sat heavily on a kitchen chair. It didn't make sense. Hard as she tried, Maggie couldn't focus her mind. Her thoughts tracked chaotically back and forth, round and round, but she couldn't make sense of the situation.
The morning passed and Maggie wandered about the house like "The Grey Lady" of legend, checking in drawers, cupboards, wardrobes. All Alan's things were missing. Lunch time came and went unnoticed. The afternoon brought no answers and no relief. Maggie's confusion and distress grew.
At 7pm a sound drew her attention. She drifted back to the kitchen rubbing her already bloodshot eyes, peered out of the window, then jumped back in shock as she saw a man gazing back in at her. Quickly covering her mouth with both hands to stifle a scream, she half ran half stumbled out of the kitchen, collapsed into an armchair and sat there hugging a cushion and quaking with terror. Nothing happened for almost half an hour. Then she saw the man standing in the living room door way. Just standing there, looking at her. Maggie let out a whimper like a trapped animal. Drawing up her knees, turning her body and raising the cushion, she buried her face between the back and wing of the chair. But nothing more happened so after a while, still shaking, she unfolded from the corner of the chair and dared to look at the door way. He'd gone.
Maggie listened intently. There was no sound she could hear over the loud throbbing of her own blood. She felt faint from shock and fear and from holding her breath. Alan should be here. He would never have allowed strange men to wander into the house and frighten her. What could have happened to him? It was so worrying and confusing. The fear never loosened its grip as Maggie sat there puzzling, racking her brain. There was something really important that she'd forgotten - of that, at least, she felt sure. But her memory simply refused to divulge the vital information. Eventually she gathered sufficient courage to search the house. First she checked the front and back doors. They were locked, surprisingly. It was a small house and took very little time to check. Finally she opened the bedroom door. She grabbed the door-frame for support. There he was! That man! Lying in her bed!
Fear had reached its limit. There was no scope for further expansion. Fear crowded out everything else and she fled down the stairs, twisted her ankle and landed in an untidy heap at the bottom. Unconscious. A period of blessed oblivion. It was getting on for 8.30pm when she started to regain consciousness. Pain and confusion flooded in. "Mummy. Mummy!" She wailed. "Oh, mummy. Where are you? I've fallen over and hurt myself really badly!" Maggie sobbed and gasped with pain as she tried unsuccessfully to move.
That was how Phyllis found her an hour later. The sound of heart-rending misery could be clearly heard as she approached her friend's front door. She rang for an ambulance, suspecting a broken ankle - possibly a broken hip - and tried to make Maggie as comfortable as she dared. "Hush Maggie, it's going to be all right now. An ambulance is coming. You've fallen down the stairs. Can you remember how it happened?"
"No. I was looking for something, I think. I can't remember. Dorothy? Is it you, Dorothy?"
"It's Phyllis. You remember me, don't you? We were at school together."
Maggie smiled at last - a weak smile of relief. "Phyllis. I've been so cold. So frightened. I can't find Alan, Phyllis. Do you know where he's gone?"
Phyllis took a deep breath. She didn't like telling lies but the truth wouldn't help. If the bureaucrats of the hereafter had permitted Alan to watch events Earth-side for the past 10 years, he was bound to understand the mercy of not announcing his death to his unhappy widow, yet again. Maggie's days were spent looking for Alan and hiding from the phantoms generated by her own plaque riddled brain. "Don't worry about Alan. He should be back from work soon. Now dry your eyes. The ambulance will be here shortly. Try to be brave till then. I expect they'll give you something for the pain."