Sunday afternoon, just another Sunday afternoon. It isn’t though is it, this is to be THE Sunday afternoon. Dancing rays of dust shimmer before the window, the clock ticks quietly in the corner and from the road outside there are faint sounds of life.
I glance around the room, not moving my head but taking it all in. I love this room, this house, it’s not smart but it’s clean, the furniture is an eclectic mix and so many of the pieces have memories seeped into them. The sideboard that belonged to Granny, the old chair that I had used to nurse the babies, back then, back in the days when we were young and life was golden. The dining furniture gleams and in the air is the faint scent of polish, brought out as the wood warms under the window.
I look over at Bill, his head is nodding, eyes already closed. The newspaper has slipped from his hands and will soon slide to the floor the way that it always does so that when he wakes and stands the pages will scrunch and tear and he will look down in surprise, surprise every week, and he will tut and spend the next minutes folding and smoothing and flapping but it won’t work the paper will be spoiled.
I look into my heart, that is what I am about to do. I am about to tread all over the smooth pages of our lives, crease and tear at the story of our marriage and make them irreparable. I should speak now, before he starts snoring. I have put it off long enough. I’ve promised Jim that it will be this week. He has nagged and nagged, told me that if I really love him I won’t wait any longer, I’ll tell Bill, then the family, our friends that I will “Go Public” with our relationship, our great sin and I will pick up and pack up and go with him into an uncertain future taking my guilt and sorrow with me.
The clock chimes quietly in the corner, I glance across. The slender gold fingers glint in the sunshine, counting off the hours, the minutes until I speak, until I change things forever. Beside the clock is our wedding photograph, dated now, my sparkling lace dress looking slightly ludicrous beside the one of Susan in her heavy satin bridal gown. Just last year, one year ago this next week, the wedding where Jim touched my fingers as he passed me a glass of wine, the heat from his hands burning through the thin fabric of my blue, mother of the bride suit, as we danced and his whisper, his treacherous whisper slithering into my brain.
“Meet me tomorrow. You know I have always admired you, meet me tomorrow by the river – please.” And I had met him, and we had started our shameful deception and now he wants me to go from here, from this room, this life and start anew with him.
Bill stirs, settling further into his chair, the cat is on his lap already sleeping. His hair is a little dishevelled, his sweater creasing behind his back. I must speak. He sighs, a great expellation of air and mutters. The sun slides from behind a cloud, the sudden glow lights his face. The brightness gentles out the wrinkles for a moment he is the man in the wedding photograph, the man who carried me from the reception held in his strong arms and ran with me to the waiting taxi, the man who was as inexperienced as I on our wedding night. Here is the man who held my hand through the hours of labour and who let the tears of joy flow unheeded when the babies were born, pink and furious and gorgeous. Here was the man whose arms were my arbour when my sister died and whose hands held mine in the church just hours before Jim’s words crept into my head.
How strange is life.
How hard is living.
I push to the front of the chair, lean towards him. “Bill, Bill, are you asleep?”
“Hmm, hmm what, what’s matter?”
“I just wanted to.. I needed to…”
“What’s the matter, why are you crying?”
“I just wanted to say Bill, I love you. I love you.”
“And I love you too you silly kipper. Oh look at the paper, look what happened.” He glances up at me. “Are you alright Steph? Is there something wrong?”
“No love, nothing’s wrong. Shall I put the kettle on.”
“Yeah, go on. I’ll just sort this paper and then later shall we walk round to Susan’s see if she’ll give her old mum and dad tea.”
“Yes, let’s, let’s do that.”
The pain is gone. I will call Jim tomorrow and tell him, tell him that our story, Bills and mine isn’t finished yet. I’ll tell him that I’m going to smooth out the creases. He won’t understand but it doesn’t matter, it will stay our secret, locked away out of sight where it belongs in the darkness.