What Neither of Them Wanted
I kiss Charlie quickly. His shy admission struck my heartstrings and my chest swells with emotion. "It's perfect Charlie, and you're right. It is ours and only ours." He shuffles his feet for a few minutes, looking down at the floor and searching for something to say.
After a few moments of awkward silence he blurts out, "So, um, I was wondering… that is to say, I thought… If you want… Are you tired?" I stare at him, wondering why this has made him so uncomfortable. Why would me being tired…?
With a jolt I understand his hesitation and blush a furious red that rivals even the colour Charlie is turning.
"Um, I guess so. I mean, not really. Maybe a little." I thought I was pulling off this lie rather well, that is until my body betrayed me and I yawned hugely. This only increased the colour in both of our cheeks.
"Well, um, I don't know…" Charlie stammers out a string of unintelligible words, stumbling before he finishes any of the sentences.
"I'll go get my bag from the car," I interrupt him rudely, before making a break for fresh air.
I barrel through the front door and gulp in the fresh air, letting the chilly night cool my flaming cheeks.
I knew this moment was coming. It's our wedding night. But I never imagined how I would feel.
Nervous, embarrassed, scared, shy, nauseous. I can't get a grip on my emotions and my head starts to spin. I lean on the trunk of the car, pulling in deep breaths and trying to calm down.
Once I have managed to clear my head somewhat, I pop the trunk and pull a suitcase out of the depths. Mother packed me a bag and stowed it away just before we left. There is a second case with my name on it that I assume Lia or Rosie put in for me as well. I assume Charlie has put clothes in drawers in the master bedroom.
Just thinking about the pristine white room makes me feel sick to my stomach.
I head back into the house, steeling myself for more embarrassment, but instead only find an empty, silent house. I check each room and see no sign of Charlie. I wander up the stairs, thinking he might be up there.
The door to the yellow bedroom, the smallest of the three, is closed. I walk forward, raising my hand to knock, but see a small piece of paper taped to the door. I remove it carefully and unfold it.
I left the big bedroom for you. I'll see
you in the morning. Sleep well.
The note is so cold and unfeeling that I feel tears welling in my eyes before I realise that Charlie would never say something so cold. He just didn't know what to say.
I brush away the small droplets of water and turn to the master bedroom.
Somehow it feels wrong to sleep here. Maybe because it was so obviously designed for two people, happily in love. Or maybe it is simply the huge emptiness. Either way I walk into the green bedroom and close the door tightly behind me.
Our first morning in the house I wake up early, having slept in fits and starts. I pull my ragged house-robe over my holey pyjamas and head downstairs, intending to find myself coffee.
I was grateful for the second suitcase the night before. Mother had packed all manner of honeymoon clothing for me and there was no way I was going to wear it, most likely not even in the very distant future. Rosie and Lia had managed to scrounge up some more practical articles of clothing for me so I could walk around my own home without showing an indecent amount of skin.
I open a few cupboards before I find the coffee, but finally pull out the much-needed tin.
"I already made some if you want it." A voice comes from behind me and I whip around to find Charlie sitting at the table, the newspaper spread out before him and a mug in his left hand.
"Thanks," I say, and walk across the kitchen to the coffee pot, pouring myself a huge mug.
We sit in silence for a few minutes before Charlie clears his throat.
"Um, can I get your breakfast of anything?" he asks me.
"No, I'm fine," I say, sipping my coffee. We return to silence.
Eventually, Charlie folds up the paper, setting it on the corner of the counter and stands up. He walks to the sink and rinses out his mug, setting it upside down to drain.
We make eye contact, and for a second I see something I Charlie's eyes that I can't identify. He breaks eye contact and looks down at the floor. Without a word he walks out of the kitchen.
The next week passes in interminable silence punctuated only by pockets of awkwardness. After our first morning together I have barely seen Charlie. We are two strangers living in the same house, constantly dancing around each other, avoiding interaction as much as possible.
Nearly every morning I go into the kitchen and make coffee. Charlie is never far behind me. I will pour myself a cup and go back up to my room before he comes back from retrieving the paper from the end of the driveway. I'll make a small dinner, large enough for the both of us, around six, and if Charlie doesn't come down I'll wrap up his portion and stick it in the fridge before I go up to my room. Later, I'll hear the beep of the microwave while he heats it back up. We each do our own dishes each night, washing and drying and putting away. The sleeping arrangement stays the same.
The phone never rings. I figure the families assume we're too busy and to not bother calling. In fact, if someone did call now, I would talk for hours about nothing just for something to do.
After a full week I figure it is safe to leave the house, and decide to go home and pick up some more of my things. I walk outside to where the car is parked and am surprised to find my car parked neatly beside Charlie's. Lia must have dropped it off for me.
Smiling, I slip into the driver's seat and turn my keys which are hanging from the ignition. Within fifteen minutes I am cruising out of town and through the countryside, on my way to the only home I have ever known.
The drive passes quickly and before I know it I am pulling into the driveway of my childhood home.
I open the back door with my key and walk up to my room.
It takes me an hour to gather my things and put them in bags. I lug nearly five suitcases out to the car, each one filled with different types of clothes. And I'm still nowhere near finished. I'll have to come back with them emptied another day.
As I am coming down the stairs, holding a small overnight bag filled with things from my bathroom, I hear my mother's voice from the drawing room at the back of the house. Hoping for tea and sympathy, I set my bag down by the back door and walk down the carpeted hall towards her voice.
As I get closer, I notice the timbre of her voice and realize that Father is here as well. Slightly less eager to see him, I slow down and peek into the room before entering.
"But Joshua, you missed Laura's wedding and now you're going away again?" Mother sounds close to tears, but I also hear a whiny, pleading tone in her voice I have never heard before. "You'll be away for our anniversary too! It's been twenty-five years, I had something special planned!"
"Shut up woman!" I am terrified by the snarl in my father's voice and automatically shrink back into the hallway slightly. "I don't care if you made plans, put them off. I have better things to be doing than hanging around here."
"I can't put them off! I booked a suite months ago in advance! And I've already gone shopping…"
"I said I don't care!" Father thunders. "Stop your whining! I have to go out and make the money so you can afford those clothes you wear you know!" Peeking through the crack in the door, I see him leap towards my mother, grabbing her silk blouse in his meaty fist and ripping the seam at the shoulder. "Someone has to work in this house and you won't, so that leaves me!" he growls, pushing mother away from him. She stumbles and falls, landing hard on the floor. She sniffles and wipes her nose on the back of her hand. Father takes three large steps forwards, looming over her slight frame.
"Get up! I will not tolerate crying and weakness in my home!" He reaches down and grabs the collar of the blouse. Mother scrambles to get up so that he doesn't choke her.
"I'm sorry Joshua! I'm sorry!" she cries futilely, the tears still pouring down her face. "Please don't be mad!"
"I'll do what I want!" shouts father, and he reaches out.
Before I can even draw in a breath he slaps her across the face so hard the sound echoes off the ceiling, dozens of slaps one after another. Mother collapses onto the floor with a cry of pain, cradling her jaw in her hand.
"Maybe that will teach you who is in charge around here," Father days coldly, and turns towards the door.
I leap up and fly silently out of the house, pausing only to grab my bag from beside the door. I throw it onto the passenger seat of my bug and peel out of the driveway as quickly as I can, praying that no one saw me coming in or out.
I drive home quickly, breaking the speed limit but not getting caught. Only once I have pulled into the driveway of the cottage do I finally stop shaking.
I prep myself to go into the house. Charlie can't see that I'm upset.
I gather as many bags as I can and bring them inside, a smile plastered on my face.