Long after she left, the smell hung in the room. Marianne had sat at her dressing table for the last time, applying her make up by the dim early morning light. A squirt of fragrance to her wrists. Each item used, she tossed it into her open make up bag, then zipped up the bulging bag. She added it to the top of her travel bag and zipped that closed too. She carried her luggage downstairs and out to the car, packing it all in the boot.
She returned to her room and looked round. The room was bare, most of her possessions sent on ahead. Books from her childhood were stacked at the bottom of the bookcase, the upper shelves empty. There was her bed, a mirror and a wardrobe, door ajar and displaying a few clothes still hanging up, a size too small or a season too out-of-date. She collected scattered knick-knacks that took up too much room to take and piled them on the windowsill.
Then Marianne walked down stairs and without looking round, left the house, got into her car and drove away.
Later that morning, that same front door opens. Ears listen in the hallway for sounds of movement.
“Marianne?” a voice calls. “Are you here, love?” No sound comes from anyway in the house that Marianne left hours before. “Have you already gone?”
A middle-aged couple stand in the hall, holiday suitcases beside them. Their flight had been due in the previous day and a farewell evening planned for Marianne before she left for university. They were to have shared a simple meal, opened the special bottle of wine left from their anniversary party and arranged visits for when Marianne had settled in. Of course those could still be agreed, by phone or email, but it wasn’t the same as planning them in person.
“She’s gone, Patrick,” said Annette. “Marianne’s gone.”
“I know, love. We knew she wouldn’t be able to wait past first light, didn’t we?”
“That damned plane. We should have been here with her not stuck in a humid airport.”
With tears running down her cheeks, Annette trudged upstairs. Patrick could hear her footsteps head towards Marianne’s bedroom at the back of the house. He heard the door open and his wife walk a few steps into the room.
“You OK love?” he called.
“I can smell her, Patrick. Her things have gone but her smell is here. It’s like she’s just gone out for a little while.”