If I could just find that little piece with the edge of her halo, I could make real inroads into the rocks behind. I’d see better if I put the main light on, but I don’t want him to know I’ve been waiting up. Everyone else has been in bed for hours, which is fine. I don’t want them worrying about the things I do. The house is quiet, apart from the lazy hum of the dishwasher. Its nearly one o’ clock and I’m starting to get tired, but I know if I go to bed I’ll be staring at the ceiling until he gets home.
I don’t blame him for wanting some excitement. Eighteen years of the same old walls, the same old faces. We haven’t redecorated in ten years, and I know it’s not just the house that needs a facelift. I feel as old and dry as the yellowing wallpaper. What does he think when he looks at me, I wonder. I’m not even sure he thinks anything – I’m just there, solid and sure like the kitchen table and the food I put on it. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
It’s not that he never went out before. But it used to be cricket, or football. Returning triumphant to whack down chunks of home made bread while I heated his soup and laughed at his tales of glory. Now it’s bars and clubs. I can smell the beer on his clothing. Who does he meet? He won’t tell me. He doesn’t think I have a right to know, and I don’t push it, terrified he’ll leave. I know in my gut he’ll leave one day, but please don’t let it be just yet. I’m not ready just yet.
I'm making real inroads into the womens' draperies when I hear a taxi pulling up at the bottom of the drive. Careful footsteps, shuffling shamefully towards the front door, the tinkling of keys falling on the doorstep after unsuccessful scratchings at the keyhole. Third time lucky, and the door opens. He shushes the creaking tell tale hinges, and creeps noisily upstairs.
I know I should be angry with him for coming home so drunk, but all I can feel is relief. One day he’ll be living somewhere else, and I won’t know when he’s gone out, let alone when he’s got home. I’ll learn to let go, eventually. But for now, he’s safe and he’s home. That’s all that matters. I tidy up the untouched jigsaw pieces and take a final glance at my work so far. The Madonna of the Rocks is smiling down, stretching out to the void where her son should be. I turn the light out and head to bed.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
'Counting the minutes, counting the years' by Anna Cullum
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