This isn’t related to knitting. Might as well admit that now.
On Monday I went to Shrewsbury but I missed my train home. The trains run only every two hours and it was pouring with rain so I took refuge in a cafe and spent 20 minutes scrawling near-illegibly in my notebook. When I got home I typed it up and emailed it to this blog, which is dedicated to stories written in 20 minutes. It’s the first creative writing I’ve done in a long time but you’re welcome to point out its flaws and limitations if you like.
(Original post is here.)
More than one seed was planted that day.
He came home from a business trip. She had missed him and he had missed her. They left the Chinese and the empty wine glasses on the kitchen table and fed instead on each other.
But as he thrust and groaned on top of her, she had a sense of something. Was that the floral, slightly sickly smell of someone else? And when she drew her hand through his hair, it came away with a long, light-coloured gossamer that was neither her auburn waves nor his salt-and-pepper fuzz.
The part of her that should have been the warmest went cold.
He sensed something. She didn’t seem to be enjoying it any more.
Not knowing what to do, he heaved and breathed and finished.
“Is something the matter?” he asked afterwards.
She still wasn’t sure.
“Of course not,” she said, and smiled, but it wasn’t a 100W smile, more of a 40W energy-saving smile.
He had to go away again, and that was when she found out. She considered sorting it out right away. There and then. Before he knew anything about it. She hadn’t believed him when he said he had to go back to Miami. Where was he really? She scanned the backdrop in the Skype window for clues.
He missed her dreadfully, but whenever they spoke she seemed distracted, and their Skype sessions started to include awkward silences.
“I’ll be back on Monday, around nine o’clock.”
“Hmm,” she replied, squinting weirdly through the screen.
She didn’t sort it out in the end. What if she were wrong? She kept second-guessing and putting it off and avoiding the issue and then it was too late. One time he returned from the States and he knew.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He was overjoyed.
“Well, you know,” she replied. “I wasn’t sure.”
He thought this was an odd thing to say but he was too happy to think twice, until the next time he had to go away.
It didn’t add up. That time, he was in the States for six weeks, visiting buyers and manufacturers, giving speeches. Six weeks. It couldn’t work. It didn’t add up. It wasn’t his. He was stunned. He didn’t know what to do. He did nothing. Gradually the Skype sessions got shorter and less frequent. He stopped trying to make the trips to the States as short as possible, and when he was home he worked later.
She noticed. While she could still do so inconspicuously she followed him to see where he went when he said he had to work. He went to the office. Once to the airport. Once to the M1. That evening he said the Kent meeting had suddenly been relocated to Birmingham. She couldn’t believe any of it.
He noticed that little things around the house weren’t getting done. He put it down to her condition. He resented his space, his castle, his paradise, being tainted by some faceless dick-swinging moron. He started visiting his local before going home. He started shouting after going home.
One of those days, he came home and she was on the sofa and the house was a mess. He shouted. She shouted back. He was a drunk, a liar, a cheat, a good-for-nothing. She was a slut, a whore, a useless wife. In the midst of the shouting she stopped shouting and looked very pale and then very red. He kept on shouting until she doubled over and then he stopped.
“Get me to the hospital,” she said.
He called a taxi.
It was a long labour. He left. He went to work. He got drunk. Then he went back to the hospital. He fell asleep in a chair, and just as a set of orderlies came to throw him out a nurse also came to find him.
“Please come this way.”
It looked like a little red shrivelled piece of sweaty meat. He searched for himself in it. It had a turned-over ear like his. Its eyes were grey like his. But that didn’t mean anything. Maybe the other one had a turned-over ear and grey eyes. He couldn’t think what to say. He couldn’t drive home so he took a taxi. She stayed in overnight.
On his own, he had another whisky, slept for an hour, shaved, changed his shirt, and went to work. When he came home he found them both asleep on the sofa. Then it woke up and started wailing.
Neither of them slept for more than an hour at a time for some months. Not even on his trips to the USA, separated by thousands of miles and several hours from them.
Then one time, he came back, and found they had gone.