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Day Fourteen: Loyalty

If she’d been asked, she’d have said the voice began to speak the night of their first date. She was majestically posed with one leg up on the bathroom counter, about to rip off a wax strip, when she heard it.


All this for him?


She paused for a moment – she knew where the voice had come from. Her self-doubt, of course. That nugget of negativity that pulsed inside her. It had got smaller over the last year, but it had never disappeared.


And that was the thing, really, when she thought about it, the voice had always been there. Well, all her adult life anyway. It had transformed itself over the years – certainly – from sounding remarkably like her mother in her younger years, to absolutely her late husband, Paul, from the time of their whirlwind courtship.


Lately, it had come to sound much more like her own voice. Once she had got through Paul’s funeral and had sold their house and used some of the money to move into a flat downtown. She’d always longed to live near the open market and the theatre – but they had planned for children and he had moved them out to the suburbs early on in their marriage.


There had never been children, but they had stayed. She was approaching fifty now, and there would never be.


She’d never considered that there might be another relationship in her future, either. But over two bottles of rose, her niece, Claudia, had convinced her to try a dating app.


So here she was, waxing her legs for the first time in a year. She’d had her eyebrows shaped and tinted; she’d had her nails done too. Claudia had helped her pick out an outfit.


After the skydive, the scuba diving, and the French language course at the university, she thought a date would be underwhelming. She could have dinner with a handsome stranger – sure she could!


But then the voice kicked off.


All this for him? He’s an English teacher!


She pulled her dress on over her head.


Orange always makes you look bigger.


She stepped into her strappy blue sandals.


Those shoes are far too young for you.


The buzzer went so she seized her purse from the chair and walked quickly through to the living room. She switched off all the lights and picked up her keys from the small table by the door. She paused for a moment to check her outfit in the hall mirror.


That’s when the voice changed.


How could you do this to me?


She jumped. The voice seemed to come from outside herself – she peered back through the apartment, then opened the door to see if her date had wandered up instead of waiting in the lobby.


It wasn’t a voice she recognised. It was deeper and more insistent. The tone was different. It seemed to beg an answer, where the other voices were always rhetorical to her.


She walked out into the hall and locked the door behind her. As she rode the elevator down to the lobby, she fiddled on her phone, pretending not to be waiting for the voice to speak again. Like she was being watched from somewhere. If she didn’t acknowledge it, maybe it would retreat back to wherever it had come from.


But that was just the beginning.

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