Excerpt: Moving On


Part One

The Dolls House


 

The dreams returned the night following the visit to the car boot sale.


I awoke with a start, my sweat dampened t-shirt clinging to my body, chilling me. I could still hear the voice from my dream, a whisper that seemed to rush from my mind and reverberate around the room. I lay still for a moment fighting back a sense of panic and then got up and headed downstairs, much to Bob’s delight. He didn’t often get company at this inauspicious hour. Rising arthritically from his basket he tottered towards me to be petted. Leaning down I scratched him gently behind the ear and was rewarded with a rusty purr of appreciation.


Scooping him up I rubbed my cheek against his craggy face for a moment.  “How about you and I have a little nightcap together, Bob, huh, how does that sound?” His cloudy orange eyes gazed at me approvingly and I gave a small laugh and set him back down on the floor.


Going to the fridge I got out the milk and poured some into a bowl, reasoning that at his age he was entitled to have a treat once in a while, and for that matter so was I. He greedily fell on the forbidden fruit while I just as greedily helped myself to a large measure of cooking brandy, the only available alcohol in the house, downing it in one. It was rough and really better suited to lighting a barbecue than quaffing neat, but still, needs must and all that. Just as I refilled the glass Bob let out a small mew of pleasure, alerting me to the fact our little party had been gate crashed by his favourite human being in the entire world. I didn’t echo the sentiment, especially not when said human smartly removed the glass from my hand and tossed the contents down the sink. I gave a mew of my own, one of indignation and protest.


  “Thomas, I hadn’t finished with that!”


  “I beg to differ.”


Oh how I hated it when he said that.


Re-corking the bottle with firm efficiency he put it back in the cupboard.  “If you’re having trouble sleeping,” he tapped my rump,  “the last thing you need is alcohol, it’s a stimulant.”


  “Not if you drink enough it isn’t.” I glowered at him resentfully.  “What are you doing up anyway, you usually sleep like the dead. Has Halloween come early this year?”


Ignoring both the comments and the dirty look he grasped my upper arm and escorted me out of the kitchen, switching off the light and saying calmly, “if that cat is sick because of the milk you gave him, you’re cleaning it up.”

He slipped a hand under my t-shirt smoothing it over my chest and belly as we lay in bed. “What’s on your mind, love? You were full of the joys of spring this morning, persuading me to go to that wretched car boot thing at the racecourse, and ever since you’ve been snapping and snarling like a dog with a tick in its tail. What’s bothering you?”


I rolled away from him, lying on my side. “Nothing, well,” I glanced back over my shoulder, “apart from the fact I fancied a little drink to help me sleep and you act like an outraged Salvationist.”


He let out a psychoanalytical sigh, “listen, when you get out of bed at two in the morning to drink cooking brandy, then clearly something is bothering you. Either you voluntarily come clean and tell me what it is or I don my Dom’s cap and make it a point of discipline until you do. I might start suggesting you go to bed straight after dinner each evening. How does that sound?”


  “Huh,” I gave a contradictory grunt, “you can suggest all you like, but I won’t bloody go.”


He kissed my cheek, “oh, believe me, Andrew my honey, you’ll go, and if I catch you near that brandy bottle again, you’ll regret it. You know perfectly well that alcohol isn’t a problem solver.”


No, I thought sourly, but it’s a bloody good listener and it doesn’t nag. I kept my opinion internalised. Thomas was apt to be crabby if disagreed with on that particular point.


I graciously permitted his hand to slip inside my shorts and employ an altogether less alcoholic but still persuasive means of inducing sleepiness in me, and one at least guaranteed not to leave me with a hangover. The subsequent release of tension brought pleasure, but sadly it was transient and tension soon returned, and not in a good way. Cuddling into Thomas’s comforting arms I made a determined effort to block all anxious thoughts and make myself believe that everything was the same as it had been before the visit to the car boot sale.
    
Almost a week later, while turning the car in to the road on my way home from work, a ray of spring sunshine hit the chrome bumper of a passing motor, momentarily dazzling me. I closed my eyes for a split second against the glare and when I opened them, there she was. She was standing by the side of the road. I’d been expecting her. All the same it was a shock. My stomach gave a sickening lurch and I hunched over the wheel, fearful lest she see me. I managed to park the car on the drive without mishap, though my hands were shaking and my heart pounding so hard I thought I was going to pass out.


Thomas came into the hall, his homely features shaping themselves into a frown of disapproval as I slammed the front door hard behind me and hurled my bag aside.


  “I take it you’ve had a bad day at work, Andrew, but is that really any reason...”


I didn’t give him chance to finish his sermon on the morality of door slamming and bag hurling. “I help pay the fucking bills, so I reckon I’m entitled to slam a door when I feel like it. In fact,” I opened the door and childishly slammed it shut again. “I’m entitled to slam it as many damn times as I like.”


  “I can’t say I care for your attitude, how about you go out and come back in again, preferably in a more civil manner.”


“Look, Tom, I’ve had a shit day and I just want to go for a bath.” Evading his attempt to take hold of my arm I headed swiftly up the stairs and locked myself in the bathroom.


Turning the taps on I sat on the loo seat bunching my lower lip between a thumb and forefinger and chewing at the skin as the bath filled, ignoring the index tapping on the door.


  “Andrew, open this door please,” the index tapping turned to a four-knuckle knock. “I want to talk to you.”


Turning off the taps I stood up, leaning my hot forehead against the door’s cool grained wood. “I’m sorry for snapping your balls off, Thomas. I didn’t mean to take my mood out on you.”


  “Do as you're told and unlock this door at once.”


Taking a deep breath I unlocked the door and opened it. He looked stern and I made haste to apologise again.  “Sorry, Tom, I’ve got a headache. I’ve had a pig of a day at work. Alex has been on my back over bloody paperwork, I’m sick of her nagging. I just want to have a quiet soak in the bath and de-stress.”


His demeanour softened and he rubbed my arm, “take a couple of paracetamol, sweetheart, there’s some in the bathroom cabinet. I’ll make a start on dinner, don’t stay in there too long, okay?”


  “Okay,” I managed to prevent my threatening tears from sounding an echo in my voice.


Closing the door I locked it again, leaning my back against it. The tears overflowed and I slid down to the floor, wrapping my arms around my knees. Closing my eyes, I began rocking slowly back and forth as a scene insistently unfolded in my mind.

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