I returned home, but I could not remember the journey. There were no thoughts inside my head. Only, black, smoking rage. I found myself sat in the car in the driveway, breathing heavily through my nostrils, as the windscreen steamed up before my eyes. The next minute I was at the front door, shouldering my way roughly through it, slamming my body against the wood until it yielded to me, and I couldn’t remember climbing out of the car, or if I had locked it behind me. I was in the hallway then. They had painted it an off white. Antique Cream, they called it. The new carpet was a dusky yellow. A huge mirror hung on the wall next to the lounge and I stared back at my reflection, and saw a hulk, a brute, steaming, sweating, my insides burning, my brain frying, and I wanted to smash my skull into the mirror. I looked down and to my right. We had bought a new table for the hall, solid dark mahogany, with a two deep drawers to store notepaper and telephone directories. The phone sat in its cradle on the top. Next to it, a sparkling crystal vase stuffed full of lemon and white flowers. The phone went first. Dragged from the socket and hurled against the far wall. Then the vase went. I threw it into the kitchen.
I heard a noise of fear and surprise, and whirled into the room. It shone back at me, hurting my eyes. The new floor we’d had laid, black and white tiles, sunlight streaming from the window and bouncing back from them into my face, and Kay was stood there, mopping at them in her dressing gown, her face frozen, her eyes wide. The vase lay shattered all across the floor, the flowers limp in a puddle of water. I was at her then. I had to, before she opened her mouth and spoke. I was at her, slipping both my hands around her throat, and the mop handle slipped from her hands and banged to the floor and there was a horrible, dreamlike silence as she stared up into my eyes, not seeing me, not knowing me.
It was over before it began. I released her and walked out. I ran up the stairs and shut myself in the bedroom. I found the bed and crawled onto it and lay on my stomach with my arms right over my head. My brain pulsed like a heartbeat. Pain shot spikes around my temples and into my eyes.
I heard her out on the balcony that afternoon. I must have slept for a long time. I woke up groggy and bewildered, rubbing at my forehead, greeting the last traces of my headache. I sat up on the bed and could see her out there. Still in that bloody silk dressing gown. Did she think she was on a permanent holiday or something? I stretched out my limbs, yawned, and blinked rapidly. My head felt like I had been in a car crash or something. Thick and thumping and wrong. She was sat out there, at the little table, a mug of coffee in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. I could see a paperback book on the table, and a small white plate. She was smoking her cigarette, and sipping her coffee, and gazing out at the sea, as it shimmered on the horizon. I found myself wondering what she was thinking about. I wondered if I had left marks on her neck. I wondered why she was still here, yet somehow I had known that she would be.
Her head jerked to look at me when I rose slowly from the bed, stretching out my limbs yet again, shaking them out, flexing the tight muscles. I was hungry. Must have slept through lunch. My stomach was a dark pit of desires and needs. I walked to the doors and eased them gently aside. Her eyes took me in, and the hand holding the cigarette drooped slightly towards her lap. She didn’t say anything. I stared into her eyes and tried to read them. I couldn’t quite tell what I saw there. I moved forward and knelt down before her. She looked a little surprised then, a little taken back. She tapped her cigarette against the ash tray and put her coffee mug down.
I put my big head into her lap, and I let the tears come. My face, hot and hurting, rubbed into the delicate silk of her gown, and my hands moved up, to reach around her waist, to clutch her there, and I sobbed. I sobbed, and her lap grew wet. “I’m sorry,” I gulped, when I finally felt one of her hands landing lightly upon my head. I rubbed my eyes into her gown, the tears balling up and rolling like beads across the material. “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry baby…so sorry, oh baby….”
After a while, she cleared her throat. “What is it?” she asked. I lifted my head and looked into her still face. She looked at once, pained and wary, weak and haughty. I had no idea what she was thinking about me. Tears spilled rapidly from my stinging eyes.
“Oh I’ve messed up, I’ve messed everything up!” I moaned, finding her hands with my own and holding them tight. I felt her thin fingers like sticks inside my palms. “My head…oh it was hurting so much, and I’ve took it out on you, I’ve taken everything out on you, and oh I am so sorry baby, so sorry…it’s all got too much! All of it! I can’t think straight!”
She smiled, slightly. It came and went. She pushed my head back down into her lap, and tugged one hand free of mine. It came back to my head, pausing, before rifling gently through my hair. “Calm down,” I heard her say to me. “You just need to calm down. It’s okay.”
“I went to the shop,” I mumbled from her lap. “He was there. I spoke to him.”
Her hand froze on my scalp. “Danny?”
“Yes..yes baby, he’s okay, he’s back working there.”
“Well see, I told you didn’t I?” She sounded nervous I thought. She swallowed and coughed. “I told you he would be okay. We have to respect his decision Lee. He doesn’t have to live with us if he doesn’t want to. Give him some time.”
“I know, I know, I see that now,” I told her, squeezing her one hand between mine. “I know you were right baby, you were right about it all…I think it just all got to me, all the moving house, and stress at work, and him running off, because I didn’t want you to be hurt and upset baby. I didn’t want that.”
Her body felt stiff under my head. I nestled my cheek into her thigh. “He was okay though?”
“Oh yes, yes, full of it as always. His boss threatened to call the cops on me if I didn’t leave.”
“Well just don’t go there again,” she told me, her tone a little brittle I thought, a little annoyed. “Just leave him alone, let him have his space. He’ll be fine as he is. Perhaps he’ll call me or come and see me when he’s ready. But I’m just going to wait Lee. I just want to wait. Alright?”
I felt tight with resentment and spite, but I reeled it in, and closed my eyes in her lap. I took deep breaths and spoke softly to her. “I know, you’re right. I keep trying to be a dad to him, and it’s not what he wants, is it? I just thought, you know, eventually…And work, god it’s a nightmare honey…so much to do, so much going on…oh I know it will all iron itself out eventually, but oh god, I’ve got to relax, I’ve got to stop taking on so much and taking it all out on you. It just pains me you know? Do you know?” I gave her a moment to reply and when she didn’t, I sighed against her legs. “Honey, I never thought I wanted kids until I met you, and then I realised I had just never met the person I wanted to have kids with…and now it’s too late. I thought I could be a dad to Danny but he never wanted to let me, did he? That’s why it mattered so much to me, you know? That’s why I’ve been trying so hard to find him. It’s not good baby, the way his life is gonna’ go, holed up in some shitty godforsaken place with druggies and criminals! Throwing his life away…He could have worked for me, you know? I was hoping he would. I could have shown him the ropes at the club.”
“Well he is not like you,” she said then, and her voice came like an icy wind, slicing into my brain, bristling under my skin. “He’s not into flash cars, and sharp suits, and fancy clubs Lee. He just likes his music and his friends, so that was never going to happen.”
I forced the words out before I could think about it too much. “I know, I know, I was wrong. I know that now. I’ll leave him alone.”
“For now,” she added, her tone softening just a little bit, and her hand returning to stroke hesitantly at my skull. “It’s best for now. We can concentrate on us, hey? Being on our own.”
“Yes, I know, yes, you’re right. You’re right honey.”
The right words, I thought, chosen carefully.
Leave him alone.
Give it time. For now. For now.