By Krys Douglas

Joan threw the covers back and sat on the edge of the bed. In the early light the digital clock read 6:55 a.m.

“Even when I toss around all night I'm still up five minutes before the alarm goes off.” Hearing no response, she turned to awaken her husband. His side of the bed was vacant. “Dave?” Guess I was so restless I drove him out of bed, she thought.

She rose, slipped on her robe, and went into the bathroom. The steam from the shower fogged the mirrors. It reminded her of the dreams-something she could almost remember. But the fog refused to clear.

Joan emerged from the bathroom and called out again, “Dave!” Then she sat at the dressing table and spoke to her reflection. “Left early, I guess. There was some big project he said he had to finish today.” She paused, hair brush raised.

There was a sudden flash... of memory? She frowned at the mirror. Not something remembered exactly. It was more like a sensation.

* * *

Dressed in jeans and tee shirt, Joan went downstairs. In the kitchen, she put a frozen waffle in the toaster and poured tomato juice. Jubilation, their calico cat, mewed and made figure eights around her feet. She picked up the cat and rubbed her cheek against soft fur.

“You hungry, JubJub?” She looked at the empty food dish near the basement door and shivered slightly. “Someone walking on my grave," she murmured. "At least he could have fed you before he left,” she said to the cat.

Jubilation jumped to the floor. Joan opened a package of soft cat food and emptied it into the dish. The cat purred loudly as she began eating. Joan looked at the clean counter top and empty sink.

“Well, he must not have had breakfast. I hope he has the sense to stop on the way to get something.”

She retrieved the waffle, put it on a plate, took honey from the cupboard and poured a spoonful over the waffle. She sat at the table to eat. Jubilation walked over and sat by her chair.

“You want out, don't you, sweetums?”

Jubilation mewed softly then daintily began washing her face.

* * *

She finished the vacuuming and gathered the laundry. At the basement, door she paused and put the laundry basket on the floor.

“Later. I need some fresh air.” She spoke to the cat sitting by the back door. “We're going to do some gardening.” Jubilation gave a hopeful meow.

In the backyard, Joan knelt at a flower bed, a small pile of weeds beside her. With a hand rake, she cultivated between the plants, enjoying the smell of rich earth and the warmth of the sun on her shoulders. The neighbor's TV blared a soap opera, something about infidelity. It disturbed the even keel of her mind, so Joan blocked the sound out and sank into the pleasures of gardening. A flicker of movement caught her eye. Turning, she saw the cat stalking a bird on the grass.

“Jubilation! No!”

The bird took flight at the sound of her cry, and the cat looked at her in apparent disgust. The incident unnerved her; suddenly the earthy smell cloyed and the sun seemed oppressive.

Joan rose, brushed off her hands, and returned to the house. Once inside, she looked hesitantly around the kitchen.

“Maybe some tea.” She filled the tea kettle and put it on the burner. As she waited for the water to boil, she sank into a chair at the kitchen table. The restlessness of mind of the previous night returned. What were those dreams about?

The kettle whistled, and Joan jumped. The whistling sounded like a human scream. She rose from the chair, so quickly that it fell over, and snatched the kettle from the stove.

“This is stupid!” she said to the walls. Still, tea no longer had any appeal. “I'll do the laundry and then get out, maybe go to the library.”

Joan crossed to the laundry basket and picked it up. Resting it on one hip, she opened the basement door and reached in to flip on the light. That's when the screaming really started-when she saw her husband's body sprawled at the foot of the steps, a knife protruding from his chest.