The Witching Hour

This is my entry for the Love and Loss: On Dublin Street competition. It is a short story written in the first person. I hope you enjoy it.


1. The Witching Hour - Short Story



“It was absolutely the worst day of my life!” 

That’s a line that we all hear quite often, right?  But what do people actually mean by it?  They got dumped by their boyfriend?  Broke a favourite pair of heels?  Got fired?  Admittedly none of these are great situations, but could they really say it was the worst day of their lives?

16th September 2011.

That day ... that day was - well, I never have managed to find the words to describe it.

Stevie plonked herself down at her desk and peered at me over the top of her huge red patent handbag.

“So what’s happened today?”  She reapplied her lipstick, scrutinising my face for signs of stress, strain or drama as she did everyday on returning from her lunch.

“Nothing really,” I replied.  “Oh, well Tom from downstairs came through and went into Smithy’s office and they had a bit of a shout, but it did just seem to be a bit of something over nothing.  Karen had to go and poke her nose in.  Of course.”

“Of course!”  We chorused together, and laughed. 

 “So not too bad then?” she double checked. 

“Well no, but then it is only one o’clock you silly mare! You’re going to have to cope with Witching Hour for once.  This was just the pre-amble!”

You see, we had a theory that while Stevie was away from her desk on her lunch break between one and two o’clock things always kicked off.  If there was an argument to be had it would happen between one and two.   A difficult phone call would always arrive between one and two.  Even resignations and firings had been known to occur during what we had affectionately started to refer to as the Witching Hour.  It was usually me that had to deal with all the fallouts from Witching Hour but today Stevie had asked to swop lunches as she had been to meet one of her girlfriends at the cafe down the road.

She pulled a face but managed, “Right, are you off then?”

“Certainly am,” I replied, touching up my own lippy.  “Think you can manage to hold the fort?”

“I shall do my best”, she smiled.  Have fun.”

“Oh, I intend to,” I muttered, almost under my breath.  Stevie opened her mouth to question me further but luckily her phone rang and I took the opportunity to escape unchallenged. 

As I hurried down the road I got that familiar fluttering feeling in the bottom of my stomach. As my key turned silently in the lock I wondered whether he was already here, waiting for me, or whether I was the first to arrive.  I hoped that I was first so that I could have a minute to check my hair and spritz some perfume.

    ...            ...            ...            ...            ...            ...            ...            ...            ...

It was five past two and  I was late.  Flustered, I arrived back at my desk with the ends of my hair still ever so slightly damp.  I was welcomed with a wave of furious glances from Stevie who was desperate to know what was going on but was being summoned into a meeting.

“You’re late,” she hissed. Always one to state the obvious.  “Where have you been?”

“Sorry!”  “Traffic.”  I mouthed at her as she stalked past.

The rest of the afternoon passed relatively quickly.  A blur of phone calls, invoices, databases and secret smiles to myself at the memories of my lunchtime extra-curricular activities.  Then the call came from Reception.  My boyfriend's sister, Clare, was in Reception asking to see me.  Could I come down quickly because she seemed upset.

Dreading some kind of family drama and bracing myself for a barrage of tears - Clare was known for throwing the odd tantrum - I wandered downstairs.  As soon as she turned round and I saw her pale, drawn face I knew that this was more than the usual drama queen behaviour.

A suspected heart attack at his desk, they had told her.  They think that he may have had some kind of underlying, undiagnosed medical condition because twenty eight year olds generally don’t just drop down dead.  Apart from this twenty eight year old apparently.  My twenty eight year old boyfriend.

There were first aiders in his office that attended to and looked after him straight away.  Paramedics arrived quickly and brought him back from the brink a couple of times in the ambulance.  Clare kept on talking, giving me all this information that I just didn’t seem to be able to process.

Stevie appeared from nowhere at the door.  She had already gathered together my stuff from my desk and quietly and carefully led me away and took me home.  She stayed with me, making what seemed to be a thousand cups of tea which neither of us drank, until my mum arrived.  It was only then that I allowed myself to cry.  Deep, heart wrenching sobs that shook both mine and my mum's bodies as she hugged me close.  Deep, heart wrenching tears that really I had no right to be shedding.

It seems that my phone had been ringing and ringing while I had been in his bed, while we were together in the shower afterwards.  I had got back to the office in such a rush I had just switched it straight onto silent without checking it.  Without looking at all of my missed calls.  Without listening to any of the frantic messages that had been left for me.

People tell me that he fought, that he was trying to hold on until I got there.  They’re trying to make me feel better of course but, quite frankly, it’s just about the worst thing they could ever say to me.  I don’t think I will ever get over that day, the worst day of my life. 


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