Clarice's keys won't work on her front door.
Tim was absent from work today. He did not answer Clarice on his cell. His home phone was also disconnected. Clarice's surprise however, sprang mostly from the fact that today was Wednesday, the day they kept themselves relatively free of commitments -- relatively free, to indulge in their long-standing physical affair.
Clarice decided she would make him suffer for ignoring her, tomorrow. It was because of his insistence that she had worn this irritating red, satin underwear that itched all day and he himself had disappeared without a word. She'd stop his access to her body for a week, she decided. That'd show him. He'd practically be begging on his knees by then!
Clarice was on her fourth try, when she realised her key was not opening the front door to her house. Her thoughts, moments ago, on how to handle Tim, were now pushed to the back of her head, as the reality of the locked front door hit. She was irritated, angry, sore and in severe need of a hot bath and a cup of coffee. This was definitely not helping!
She swore under her breath and opened her purse. Fishing for a duplicate, which she always kept with her, she rummaged the contents, found the copy and pushed it impatiently into the lock slot of her front door. The key just turned quarter of the way, indicating that it was also not working. It was evening, the summer was balmy and her clothing stuck to her back with sweat. Clarice could feel her temper flare. She dialled her husband Scott's number on her cell. The metallic voice at the other end informed her that this number was no longer in use. Clarice disconnected, then dialled again. Same response. Clarice stared at her watch. Five thirty-six, evening. It would be at least half an hour before Scott arrived. She tried the key for the final time, but still came up against a wall. The lock would not budge. Well, half an hour was reasonable. She'd just wait till Scott arrived. He'd take care of this.
It was when she was putting her duplicate key back into her purse, that she first noticed it. A faint ring around the handle and the lock slot. Her mouth agape, she peered for a closer look, her discomfort suddenly forgotten. There was the distinct chipping of wood and faint lines around the door handle and lock. There was no mistake! Someone had changed the locks!! Clarice's anger was now replaced by something more fearful -- realisation! Someone had not broken into the house. Someone had just changed locks! But why? Who could...
The sudden, shocking revelation made her stagger backwards a step or so. Like any other woman in the world, married for twenty years, she just felt it. Scott knows. Oh my God! He knows!! Knows of her affair with Tim. Of her Wednesday and Friday sessions. Of her other affairs. There was no other explanation. Tim, not in touch. Scott, not in touch. Locks to the house, changed! There was no other explanation. Her throat felt like sandpaper, her entire body was now trembling. Scott knows!
She frantically punched in Scott's number on her cell, only to realise it had not worked before. Tears came to her eyes. This is not how she wanted this to be. She wanted Scott, the man whom she loved. Really loved. Tim was just a distraction. As had the others been, before him. But she could not bear to be without Scott. She loved him!
A cold finger probed up her lower cavity. If Scott knows, she would have to explain this to him. Make it up to him. Get on her knees and beg him to forgive her, if that's what it took. Scott may know about her affairs, but he couldn't possibly know the intensity with which she loved him. He had to know. She had to get to him somehow. She had to speak to him!
Her heart leapt into her throat when she saw Scott's car pull over. But it deflated just as quick, when Mark got out of it, instead of Scott. Mark was a lawyer and a close friend of their family for the last seventeen years. Clarice noted Mark had no emotion on his face. And he was wearing his suit. Which meant he was here on work!
"Clarice?" Mark asked. She swore Mark was trying desperately not to break down.
"Mark..." she began, but cut herself short when she saw the simple, brown manila envelope in his hands. She felt her own tears come. There would be no restitution.
"Clarice Smith, nee Walker. You are hereby served." Mark pronounced stiffly and handed over the envelope to her.
The words echoed in Clarice's head like screams coming at her from all directions all at once. She collapsed groggily on the floor. Not caring that her neighbours saw her. Not caring that Mark would see her this way. Not caring about anything in the world, but the fact that she would never see her Scott again. She knew. She would just never, ever see him again. That was Scott. He probably had even sold his car to Mark.
The envelope lay unopened.
"He has also asked me to give you a message." Mark said.
She had never heard him so cold in the many years they knew each other.
She looked at him in defeat.
"You had the keys to my heart and house. But now I have changed the locks. To both. And you will never be able to enter either one again."
Without looking at her reaction, Mark turned and walked back to the car.
Clarice slumped in her place. Her married life, as she had known it till today, had truly and finally ended.