Chapter Forty One: Separate Yet Not Apart

I opened my eyes and, carefully and quietly, climbed out of bed.  The neon clock face said 2:55 as I tiptoed past it on my way to the kitchen.  I heard footsteps behind me as I turned on the kitchen light, “What’s the matter?” he asked.

  I turned around, “I just need a drink,” I lied, sotto voce, “that’s all; I won’t be long.”  He waited, and watched as I took a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water from the tap.  “I’ll just drink it; then I’ll be back.”

  “O.K, fine,” he sighed.

  I watched from the kitchen table as he walked back across the landing to bed, then I set my empty glass down with care.  The images were still in my mind as I rested my chin on my palms, and brooded, waiting for morning to come.

I was dancing in the spotlight, and I could feel him watching me as I danced. His eyes seemed to bore into me resentfully, because I’d been good then, and that had frightened him, because he saw that he would lose me to that world, which was a strange world that he didn’t understand.  As I danced, I could feel a trickle seeping into the satin and leather of the shoe; I thought it was sweat, for it was hot under the lights, only later, when I was backstage, slowly removing the snugly fitting shoes from my aching feet, did I discover the dark stains, did I realise it was blood.

  He was shaking me when I woke up, “It’s alright,” he whispered, “just a nightmare, that’s all.”

  I nodded, tiredly, as he hugged me.

  The next night, I went out to an eighties night I sometimes go to with Nat.  The last time I went was a month ago, and it was a very different experience; sunshine and happiness, light and euphoria.  Last night, it was as though the ice cream pastel world and eighties nostalgia had curdled in the sun.  Nat seemed closed to me, and unhappy; she was subdued and monosyllabic, much like myself.  Around midnight, she looked at her watch, “I have to go now,” she said, “I promised him I’d be back early.”

  I nodded.

  “You coming?”

  I shook my head.

  “Well,” she called to me over the strains of ‘Gloria’ as she walked across the floor, “It’s your funeral!”

  It had been two days since I had slept properly, and although I wanted to dance, I didn’t feel as though I had the energy anymore.  The walls moved unsteadily in the light, like sickening confectionary as I walked away.

  But I couldn’t go home yet.

  I found myself outside Dylan and Nat’s house in Victoria at about one o’clock.  The door was open, and I made my way inside.  I could hear voices as I walked through the dark hallway, “I TOLD YOU!!” she was yelling, “I WENT OUT WITH MAGGIE TO MINDWARP, THAT’S ALL!”

  “AND WHAT ABOUT LAST NIGHT?” He roared, “AND THE NIGHT BEFORE, AND THE NIGHT BEFORE THAT? DO YOU REALLY THINK I BELIEVE YOU WHEN YOU SAY YOU’RE WORKING LATE?”

  “I AM WORKING LATE! I RUN A FUCKING NIGHTCLUB FOR FUCKS SAKE!!”

  It didn’t seem like a good idea to stay, so I got up on my toes, and tiptoed out into the night, closing the door behind me.

  And still I wasn’t ready to go home.  The nights are cooler now we’re into late September, and although it was a dry, clear night, I found myself shivering as I walked through the Northern Quarter.  What to do, what to do until morning came again and I could go to work, what to do…

  I arrived back in Heaton Chapel around 4am, and let myself into Fergus’ house with my key.  Everything seemed to be catching up with me as I staggered over to the sofa.  I had barely hit it before my eyes closed.

  He was quiet the next evening as he drove me home from work, and I kept quiet too.  His arms and shoulders were tense as he gripped the steering wheel and, in the passenger seat I tried to make myself invisible.  He hadn’t said anything to me all day, not since he had found my lying comatose on the sofa at seven o’clock, and had been forced to drag me awake.  I kept quiet because I knew; I knew that I had fucked up.

  I stayed with him all evening, and then later, despite my nervous apprehension, I stayed with him all night too.

  Oh why does it have to be such a big deal? We are past those arguments about sex, this isn’t even sex, it’s just sleeping with him, being near to him, holding him… I used to be alright with that.  Why now?

  The dream that night was different.  It was at once more real, and yet, more unreal than the previous dreams.  I dreamt of Terry once more, and he was hurting me as he had before.  I seemed to shut my eyes against it all for a while, only then… the picture changed, and the hands that struck me were different, the voice that taunted me was different, and the face looming over me was different.

  I opened my eyes and looked up into Fergus’ face, and I screamed.

  It wasn’t a short scream of surprise either; it was a long, shrill, hysterical scream of terror.  He tried to soothe me as I thrashed about in his arms, but when that didn’t work, he pinned me to the mattress, and watched in unhappy silence as I slowly stopped hitting him and convulsed into frightened sobbing.  When I pulled away from him, he moved away from me, and turned off the light.  We lay next to each other in the dark, repressive stillness, not touching, not speaking, and hearing only our heartbeats as they hammered in our chests.

  The next night was a battle of nerves as I fought to stay awake until he fell asleep.  When I sensed his breathing become shallow and regular, I quietly got up.  The floorboards creaked a little as I tiptoed across the room, and out onto the landing.  Fliss had gone to bed too, so the living room was empty, and the sofa unoccupied.  It wasn’t the most comfortable of beds, but it would have to do.  If I timed things right, I could be up and dressed before he woke up in the morning, and he would never know that I hadn’t slept with him.  Part of me knew that it would only be a temporary solution, at best, but I knew that I had to try it.  I had to try and get some sleep.

  The tables were turned that night as I slept, for it was the figure before me who cowered on the floor, who pleaded, who cried.  As I towered over him, he looked up at me with pleading brown eyes.  No I thought as I recognised his face please no, not that… But the face in the dream was the same face that I saw when I woke up, and there was a red mark on his face, just under those same brown eyes.

  “Oh God,” I whispered in horror as I touched the mark, cautiously and gently with my fingers.

  He took my hand in his, and stroked my fingers, “It’s alright, it hardly even hurts; I shouldn’t have got so close to you when you were thrashing about.”  His voice was calm and quiet.

  “But I hit you!” I wailed.

  He continued to massage my fingers “Its O.K; its fine…”

  I looked up into his eyes, and saw the combination of fear and concern that he was trying to hide, and I couldn’t face it.  I yanked my hand out of his grasp, and I ran, choking with remorse, into the bathroom.  I turned on the hot water tap, and put the plug in the sink.  The water grew hot quite quickly, and I plunged my hands into the sink as the water scalded my hands.  Only when the tears began to trickle down my cheeks did I lift them out, and pull out the plug.

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