Sirens - Part One: Jake

It was snowing outside.
                Jake was sitting on a worn leather chair in the living room, lacing up his boots. Nicky was still asleep in their bed, he had tried to rouse her (or should that be arouse her? He had hinted at having a little early morning fun, but that had gone down like a lead balloon) and had failed miserably. Nicky only got to sleep in once a week, and that was Saturday morning. During the week she had to get up early to drive to work in the next town, and on Sundays she went to church.
                So he had begrudgingly gotten up, feeling slightly disappointed that they hadn’t had sex, and trudged downstairs to make some coffee.
                After a couple of cups, the urge for a cigarette had come creeping, like an old but annoying friend who has a habit of turning up uninvited. Nicky didn’t know that he smoked. Not that he was a particularly heavy smoker – quite the opposite really, but that wouldn’t make slightest bit of difference. She frowned upon the habit, and he couldn’t be bothered with the hassle that would come with admitting that he was one of the filthy.
                He would nip down to the store, buy a pack of Lucky Strikes and smoke one or two on the walk back to the house. He would stash his packs in the beat-up blue toolbox that had once been his grandfathers, at the back of the garage. He used the toolbox for anything that was needed to lie quiet and undisturbed. The safest hiding place in the world. Noway that Nicky would ever lay her hands on that old hunk of metal.
                Jake headed out the front door, an anxious feeling churning around in the pit of his stomach. It was a feeling of anticipation, something that he would feel without fail before having the first cigarette of the day. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling.
                He stuck his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket, and whistled to himself as he walked. He wasn’t sure what the tune was – probably something that he had heard on the radio sometime. He had lost his job at the mechanics about a month back (fired was a truer way to put it, he had stumbled in still half-drunk one morning after a particularly heavy night, and had stumbled out shortly after with his final paycheck), and had spent the time since then and now watching daytime television or listening to the radio while he drank cups of coffee and smoked cigarettes on the back porch. He had told Nicky that they didn’t need the extra hand anymore, and that he would find another job in no time at all. What was four weeks anyway? Still plenty of time in the world.
                Bill – the store owner, greeted him as he ambled in. He handed over the cash for the cigarettes, thanked Bill, and headed back out onto the street.
                Halfway back to the house his cell phone rang. When he reached into his jeans pocket to answer it, he fumbled, and the phone dropped to the snow-covered sidewalk.
                He cursed, and stooped over to pick it up. Flipping it open, he saw that it was Nicky but she disconnected the call before he could press the right button.
                ‘Goddamn cell phones,’ he muttered to himself, the words coming out in spouts of mist. He hated the things, and in his opinion they were totally unnecessary. This was a prime example. It was painfully obvious that he had just popped out for a minute, Nicky should have realized that.
                He didn’t bother to call her back. He would be home in a couple minutes. She probably just wanted to know where he was.
                He lit his second cigarette of the morning, and walked slowly, giving himself enough time to finish his smoke before he got in.

Nicky was on the living room floor when he walked through the front door.
                ‘Hey darlin’, I just popped out to the store.’
                She looked up at him with watery eyes and tear-stained cheeks.
                He couldn’t help but think she looked like a wounded deer, one that had been struck by a truck and now lay in agony on the roadside.
                ‘What’s wrong Nicky?’ he asked, crouching beside her on the beige colored carpet, and placing a hand on her shoulder.
                She pulled away from his touch.
                ‘How could you?’
                And with that question, she started sobbing.

Jake moved out that night.
                He packed a worn brown duffel bag with a change of clothes, and a couple of cheap paperback books, and headed into town to meet the Greyhound.
                He didn’t say goodbye. He wasn’t worthy to indulge in such pleasantries. God he needed a drink, would have to stop by the liquor store before the Greyhound got in.
                It was bound to happen someday; if you ride a speeding train for so long, it’s eventually gonna derail. No doubt about that. He felt bad. Nicky was a nice girl, she didn’t deserve this. And believe it or not, he did love her. Maybe he wasn’t in love with her anymore, but then who was after the initial novelty of a new romance wore off? No point stewing on it. Just get some booze, get on the bus, and drink into the winter night.
                As he was nearing the end of Franklin, he could hear sirens wailing in the distance. It felt like an omen, a portentous cry ringing home just how black shit had suddenly gotten.
The ambulance passed him a minute or so later, its flashing lights painting the nighttime world in red and blue.
Jake stopped, shook a cigarette from the pack, lit it, then continued to walk towards the Greyhound station.