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One Great Big Gulp Of Air...

Author: 
QSW
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
9

One Great Big Gulp Of Air

Head bent against the rain I walk up the garden path to my front door. Key in hand I look up at the windows, the peach glow from muted lamps pulsating softly, curtains partly drawn across, only allowing a little of the black night to see the warmth that lies within. It is as if by allowing a passerby a small glimpse of light, the house is saying to them and the night 'you are cold and surrounded by grey stone, but I am full of warmth and life.' This is what you can have, should you wish to pay the price.



"John, oh my god! What..?! Where have you been?"



I look at Sarah blinking the rain from my eyes, not understanding her question, not comprehending why she looks so drawn. Surely this morning she was plumper, pinker of cheek?



"You’re not wearing your apron Sarah"



I do not smell the aroma of dinner cooking, and why is she wringing her hands like that?



"I’m starved darling, and please, do stop looking so forlorn! We can make dinner together, remember, like we used to?"

I place my keys on the side table and drop my briefcase against the wall. Moving forward I mechanically stretch out my arms to hug my wife, never thinking that anything is wrong other than I am perhaps a few more minutes later than normal. Why am I so starved? I cannot remember what I ate for lunch, yet since it is Monday I know it must have been a Tuna salad roll with soup of the day from the corner deli. That is my Monday lunch schedule, it never alters, no reason why it should, I like Tuna and soup.



She moves away from me, stepping back as if I am some strange man in her house, and she vulnerable and all alone.



"John you have been gone a month, no letter, no phone call…nothing. Why, why would you do such a thing, to me, your wife? "



What is she talking about? I have just come from the office, haven’t I?



"The office have not seen you for a month John, so please, don’t lie! You left on a Monday and you just never came home. I called, I even got a taxi and went to the office but it was all closed, black. In the morning, I called the police but they just…"



I watch as she breaths in deeply, left hand held to her mouth as she tries to stem the hiccups that her tears have caused. I notice that her ring finger is bare, where is her wedding band? What is she talking about? Taxies? a month?



"The police could not help, they and everybody thinks you just left me, abandoned me ‘Poor Sarah! How appalling, and she not able to cope with the shame, well who would?’ that’s what they say of me, and other things, unmentionable things!"



***************************************

 

It's been a month now, and I sit at the end of the long dining table staring across at my wife seated on the other end. The table seats twelve comfortably, yet there is just her and I. When I suggest that perhaps we should sit closer to one another, she answers, "why, we have always done it this way" No answer to that I suppose, it’s the truth. Yet, why do I feel that truth is a lie? Things have gone back to ‘normal’ at least at the office. No more awkward questions of where I went, or who I went with. *snorts* little do they know, those people with such small limited minds.

 

Each day I leave the house at 7.30am, Sarah standing at the door, arms wrapped around her waist as her small white teeth chew her lower lip in worry. I go to the office, answer the calls, solve the problems and pass the time of day with my co-workers. All of this and I do it well, for they do not know that here, inside myself, I am screaming and calm at the same time. Automated, doing what is expected of me, although it no longer holds any meaning. I am disconnected, and I think I am glad of it. No longer a cog within a great grinding wheel, but an imposter, playing a part, yet waiting for the curtain to drop. Is this better than total ignorance, better than the oblivion of conforming? Am I mad, or are they? Where did I go for that month?



It is 7.32pm exactly, I am 2 minutes later than normal, my small rebellion. *Smiles to himself wryly* Sarah is there, apron tied about her slim waist, hands nervously folded to her lap. I smell roast lamb, with mint, and a hint of rosemary, roast potatoes and roasted stuffed peppers.



"Sorry I’m late" I lie smoothly. Rolling up my shirtsleeves I sit at the kitchen counter and cross my Jean clad legs. I stopped wearing a suit and tie when I came back, why bother? Does a suit make me do my work more efficiently? No, of course not, so I opt for comfort over conforming to a ridiculous idea of how one should dress in the city.

 

Apart from the brief look of relief that enters her eyes as I arrive home each night, Sarah acts as if our lives are normal. No mention of the month away, I cannot tell her where I was in any case. She prattles on that her mother and sister will be joining us for lunch on Sunday next. And do I think that they should serve a cold buffet, or have caterers in? What the hell for? Do you need to roll out the red carpet for family? Who decided that if your mother comes for lunch you should provide a feast with all the trimmings, and if need be have some over stuffed poncey chef whip up a meal that looks too small for the over large plate. And then gratefully pay him an exorbitant fee for giving us a meal that leaves us privately, quietly, half starved still?



Why do we need a breakfast room to eat breakfast in, when we have a perfectly good dining room. Why do we have a room that is filled with the most tasteful expensive antique furniture, paintings by some long dead artist, and fine cut crystal glasses that are only ever used in that room. For that matter, why is that room only ever used once a year? Why do I pay a maid to dust a room that is never used, why do I have a maid?



I look up, then down at the half-consumed meal in front of me. When did I start to eat, and what has Sarah been saying to me all this time? I must have said something right, for she looks happy…perhaps I agreed to the caterers, who knows?



"John are you listening?"



"Hmm?"



*Sighs* "I asked, do you think we should eat at Claridges instead of using caterers? After all it is mother coming to lunch, and Sophia of course"



"Yes if you like, give them my best when you see them, won’t you?"



"What are you talking about John, you can do that yourself on Sunday"



"I won’t be there, didn’t I say? I have to fly up to Edinburgh for a meeting, I won’t be back until Monday night, possibly Tuesday."



"Oh, well then, Claridges it is"



*************************************

Here I am on a warm Sunday evening, sitting out on the decking of my rented cottage here at the Lake District. Sarah is most likely only now saying goodbye to her overbearing, fussy mother and neurotic sister. I am supposed to be in Edinburgh, but then lies seem to flow so smoothly from my lips these days. Sarah hates the country, preferring the hustle and bustle of London. We have no children, they were on the ‘list’ for later, only when later came, neither of us had any real desire for them, or each other for that matter. Its like the race to success sucked all our vitality from us, we were no longer that young happy couple who delighted in the small successes. No, we became the gears for that great grinding wheel, and forgot to breathe fresh air, or even taste the wind upon our lips.



That’s what happened to me you know, during that ‘lost’ month. I opened my mouth and I took in a great big gulp of pure air. And in doing so, I awoke…to find that I had been asleep for twenty years. *sighs* Twenty long empty years, only I don’t think I can wake Sarah up, and even if I could….I am not sure I want to.



One great big gulp of pure air………

Migrate Wizard: 
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