(This was my entry to this years Grazia Women’s Prize for Fiction. I wanted to post it to share some of the first fictional writing I had done since leaving school as a kick up the backside to do more).
Could it have the been the way in which we had turned our backs one one another to sleep that night with the absence of conversation which had made up our night time routine for the past five years; had that bill been paid on time? Should we have his parents round for lunch on Sunday? Maybe we should try that new restaurant in town, it had good reviews. These small familiarities were the invisible threads which had held our lives so entwined for so long. Last night the silence between us as we had clambered into our martial bed was deafening. Only the sound of the bedside lamp being turned off on his side broke the silence.
Maybe this was the calm after the storm. We had never been the calm before the storm, there was never calm between the two of us. We were always the couple with something to do, people to visit, lives to live. There had always been so much passion between us, conversations that would go on for hours and so much laughter. We’d laugh so hard that I’d have to hold my head in my hands as the tears rolled down my cheeks and my stomach muscles hurt. There were so many good times.
Those few unbridled moments of anger of the last few days brought the storm that pulled us apart at our seams and those threads unravelled so quickly that neither one of us were fast enough to grab a hold of them to pull us back together. We came undone. If only we had seen signs in our day to day lives which could have prevented this from happening, maybe we could have spotted the threads becoming looser, slowly pulling away from one another.
What sort of path would our lives take once we were apart? Would we still be in each others lives or would we become that couple who splits and can barely stand to be in the same room as one another. I’d had friends who’d split with their partners and now they spent their weekends shuffling the child back and forth between homes, arguing over who was the rightful owner of the three piece suite and who would take on the brunt of the mortgage payments and I always found myself smugly satisfied that that would never be us. Not James and I.
On the morning of Kiera’s first Christmas I found myself looking through the lens of the camera as James unwrapped brightly coloured presents which we’d wrapped on Christmas Eve whilst drinking a bottle of Bailey’s and enjoying a mince pie (or three) and I felt content. A warm sense of security in the pit of my stomach as I watched this perfect scene play out before me. James’ face lighting up as he watched Kiera gurgle and clutch at a toy from Santa and the dog rolled animatedly around in the wrapping paper. Little did I know that just a year or so later we would be on the brink of becoming just another statistic about divorce. Another child from a “broken family” and instead of spending Christmas Kodak moments together next to the Christmas tree one of us would have to watch an excited Kiera via Skype or stage a second Christmas day.
6:16am. Just 14 minutes left.
I ran my hand along the cool of the bedding. White Egyptian cotton, 400 thread count. We had bought the set the weekend before we found out I was pregnant with Kiera. One of those grown up purchases like the bed we lay in that as a teenager you never imagined getting excited about, but do.
If I thought back hard enough, past the haze and thought congestion of the past two days I could remember the day we bought the bed. We were like Goldilocks testing out the beds of the three bears. “Too firm”, “too soft”, “too expensive” we had remarked as we lay next to each other in that bed superstore. It’s almost a rite of passage, buying a bed together. You’re basically saying that this is the bed you want to wake up in with that same person for the for seeable future. Or forever. Or so you thought at the time.
When I was much younger I would make believe that the floor beneath me was made of glowing molten lava. I’d hop from one piece of furniture to the next, much to my mothers dismay, desperately trying not to lose my balance and tumble into the imaginary burning glow. But as imaginary as the sea of molten lava beneath, the fear was real. Now, at the age of 25, this piece of furniture was the only thing between me and the fear of what this day would bring. At 6:30am when the baby let out her first cry of the day which caused the dog to stir and James’ alarm sounded for work, the beginning of the end of life as we knew it would be upon us.
And the suitcases at the front door would soon be gone.