A Story – part 71

Philip was aware that Anthea had probably been in the orphanage buildings at the time of the quake. He had seen and recognised her car when they arrived to investigate and rescue.

He had experienced a spurt of righteous anger that the woman who had rejected him should be affected by this.  This was to be his revenge!

As the most experienced member of the rescue team sent to the orphanage, he had taken command. He had questioned the oldest of the children about how many adults worked there and how many children there were. He carefully omitted to ask about visitors. In the pressure to perform the rescue no one had noticed his omission.

When he had the full count of children and adults accounted for, he had ordered everyone away; the children, who had all been playing outside, were going to safe accommodation at the army base, and the adults to the hospital or mortuary.  Now it was up to fate to determine if Anthea was alive, dead or about to die in the ruin of the building.

Within a few days he began to feel that there was something going on. He had no real evidence for this, just a feeling one day that things in his apartment were subtly different when he came home in the evening.  Then he had a feeling he was being watched. Again he had no hard evidence.  He put it down to a possibly guilty conscience over making no attempt to rescue or find Anthea.

He decided he should go to the town most affected, and in the guise of taking photographs of the ruined and damaged buildings, as well as those still standing he could visit the orphanage site and maybe see if she was still there.

Having wandered around the town and visiting a few farms to ask about the buildings, he ended up at the orphanage. Anthea’s car was still there.  He walked around looking at the rubble. It all seemed much the same as previously, except for a few stakes in the ground connected by plastic tape marking off the dangerous areas of collapsed and partially collapsed buildings.

It looked quite desolate and abandoned. He walked around calling “Hello” to see if there was any reaction. He listened carefully for any indication that there was someone alive in there. There was no answer of any kind.

He walked back to the town deep in thought and drove back to the capital.  He went to a bar and had a drink, then another.  He struck up a conversation with two women sitting near to him.  They remarked how sad he seemed. He surprised himself by the tears that flowed down his cheeks. “Forgive me” he said, mopping his face. “The woman I love and who rejected me died in the earthquake. Despite all my efforts to locate and rescue her, she died.”

The prettier one excused herself. The other, not an ugly woman, but with Anthea’s colouring put out a hand to his arm. “I’m so sorry; can I do anything to help?”

Philip by now rather drunk and reckless replied, “You remind me of her, would you give me a hug?”

When he was woken by his full bladder, he had difficulty remembering how he ended up in his bed with both of these women.


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