John knotted his tie and pushed it up to the top button of his shirt. He checked the way it looked in the bathroom mirror. He put on his suit jacket and dusted the shoulders with the back of his fingers.
Not too shabby, he reflected. Rather smart. I look like I’m off to a job interview or to make an appearance at court – instead of being off to my doom.
He walked through the bedroom with his shoes hooked on his fingertips. He padded down the stairs in his socks and slipped into the Brogues. He stooped to tie the laces and caught his own eye in the mirror in the hall.
This is it, Johnny. This is the end.
His stomach flipped. A whole reserve’s worth of butterflies made themselves known. I’m not ready, he thought. I’m not ready.
He looked up the stairs. Perhaps I should go back up. One last embrace. One last kiss. One last goodbye…
No. Better to be quick and clean.
He took an envelope from his inside pocket and propped it up on the hall table, using the snow globe they had brought back from their honeymoon. She would be heartbroken but it was inevitable. And anything was preferable to telling her the truth.
My dreams have always been small, he mused. Singularly lacking in ambition – that’s what my last appraisal had boiled down to. Well, wouldn’t you be, if you knew your days were numbered? Scratch that: we all know our days are numbered but John knew the actual number.
And now there were no days left.
He opened the front door and stood on the step. A long, black car was waiting at the kerb.
John pulled the door to, careful not to make a sound. Goodbye, house, he thought sadly. I could have gone for bigger, a mansion, a palace! But I was content with you, you modest post-war semi. We were happy here, the girl of my dreams and I.
One last guilty look at the first floor window. The curtains were closed; John’s wife slept on.
I had to do it. There was no other way. You would never have looked at me otherwise. And we were happy, weren’t we? We had a good life? I have to believe that. I have to believe I didn’t sell my soul for nothing.
He closed the garden gate behind him. At this early hour, the street was deserted. No one will see me go, he realised.
The rear door of the car opened of its own accord. A definite whiff of brimstone greeted John as he climbed in.
The door closed. The tint of the windows was too dense to afford John one final look at his marital home as, silently, smoothly, the long, black car glided away.