Celia preferred hearing the worst to dreading the worst, so she had the phone to her ear before she could manage more than an inquisitive groan.
“Alice?” It was a man’s voice. “Is that you?”
“No,” Celia tried to say. It came out as more of a grunt than a word.
“Thank God,” said the voice. “I’ve been trying to talk to you for six months.”
Celia tried to say she wasn’t Alice, but he cut her off.
“Don’t hang up. Please don’t hang up. I’ve got so much I need to say to you. I know I made a mistake. I need to say I’m sorry…”
Celia was fully awake now. “Look – ”
“No, no, please. Let me explain. I never loved her. It was just… I don’t know, madness? Stupidity? It’s you I love.”
“Listen – ”
“I can’t cope without you. I’ve been trying but the meds don’t do it. I need you. I can’t believe I was such an, an idiot. Alice, darling, I haven’t seen her since the day you left. Now look, I’ve been keeping some pills back. I’ve got all I need now. If you don’t come back to me, I’m going to…”
He stopped to draw breath.
“I am not Alice,” said Celia. “You have the wrong number.”
“You’re not? Well what the hell am I going to do? I need to talk to Alice.”
“I’m sorry but I don’t know anyone called Alice.”
“Oh. Ah. I thought perhaps there was some chance…”
His voice crumbled. His sobs set Celia fumbling for words.
“Hold on, you’re not going to do anything… anything hasty are you?”
“Hasty? Of course not. I’ve been trying to have this conversation for months but she won’t answer.”
“That’s not what I mean – ”
“Time to face it. It’s all over. I’m sorry to bother you. I’ll let you get back to sleep, I’ve got something I need to do.”
“Wait! What’s your name?”
The phone fell silent in her hand.