Friends

16 January 2012

Trust Not The Vow ... Chapter 13

Strangely, the anger did not rise until Rachel reached the bedroom. It was brought on by the condition of the bed: one side rumpled with pillows askew, the other as neat as if it had just been made. For some reason, it was the sight of the sheet's tucked-in corners that made her explode and she vented her fury by chucking anything that came to hand. Gary's travel alarm was the first thing to sail down the stairs, followed by his slippers, his personalised shoe horn, his electric shaver. Eagerly, she pursued the flying objects, praying as she ran that they were broken beyond repair. Downstairs, she seized the willow pattern teapot that was home to a collection of copper coins, and flung it at the wall. Two mugs, three tea plates, and a large oval meat dish were disposed of in similar fashion.

While this was going on, Rex whined by the back door.

By eight o'clock, having finally calmed down, she washed and dressed in her office clothes. Giving her hair a final pat, she went to the lounge for her perfume. She couldn't see it at first, but then she spotted it in an empty fruit bowl on the sideboard. The perfume was the one Gary bought for her birthday, the one she used to create atmosphere, the one she now hated. Spurred by another bout of bad temper, she defiantly grabbed the bottle and squirted liberal amounts on the wallpaper, lampshades, carpets and curtains. She was determined to dissipate every drop; she would rub it on her dear husband's scrotum if ever she got the chance.

I stink, Rachel.

So you do, dear heart.

She slung the empty container in the kitchen waste then called Rex, urging him to hurry if he wanted a walk. His reluctance horrified her. ‘I'm sorry, baby,’ she cried, kneeling by him and nuzzling her chin in his neck. ‘It's not you I'm cross with.’ His tail began to flutter as she stroked his fur. ‘I'll buy you something special after work,’ she promised. ‘A nice piece of mackerel to go with your biscuits?’ The dog's tail moved like an oscillating fan and, as soon as the door was open, he projected himself down the path like a missile with a rotary blade.

As she slammed the front door behind her, Rachel resolved that in future she would devote herself solely to her dog.

It was only when she reached the road that she realised the car had gone. She was so used to it not being there she had passed by without thinking. She stopped to inspect the perfect indentations in the snow, the shallow crater where the car had stood, footprints leading to the driver's door, wheel tracks leading to the road. Rachel reviewed the situation impassively, only mildly irritated; her frenzied attack with the perfume spray had exhausted her rage.

So, Gary had been home. He had sneaked back like a fugitive and departed again without a word, or a knock, or a telephone call. Well, she would behave correspondingly. From now on she would do no cooking. If Gary returned, he could get his own tea. She would slave no more, neither would she sympathise when he ran out of clean clothes. It was enough that she accepted his aversion to sex - there was no call to mollycoddle him as well.

That decided she set out to enjoy a brisk walk around the field.

AT the end of the day, weary and somewhat dishevelled after coping with a constant deluge of correspondence, advice notes, notices and rosters, Rachel left the works, taking the river route in order to calm her fraught nerves. Tugging the crimson bobble hat over her ears and holding a plaid scarf over her chin, she sucked in cold air until it saturated her lungs. She shivered then, and hurried home.

She collided with the smell of perfume as soon as she stepped inside the door; it was like coming up against an immovable screen of incense. She flapped her arms as if that would change the atmosphere.

Stopping only to reassure Rex that she was his for the rest of the night, Rachel went straight to the kitchen to fill the kettle. She set it on the gas to boil. With Rex drooling at her side, she unpacked the bits of mackerel and proceeded to chop it into his bowl. ‘Don't ever accuse me of not keeping promises,’ she said, mixing dog biscuits with the fish. ‘And don't expect this every day. This is a treat for putting up with my tantrums. Tinned stuff will be back on the menu tomorrow.’ She put the bowl on the floor, and waited a few seconds for Rex to demolish the food so she could pick it up again.

From the wall cupboard she collected tea bags and a carton of skimmed milk. She snipped the corner off the carton and threw the scissors into the sink. Then she stopped, the carton in her left hand, a bewildered look on her face. She turned slowly and stared at the mug positioned under the tap. It wasn't there this morning; she had meticulously cleared away every piece of crockery before she left, along with the other debris. The whistling kettle chose that moment to come to the boil and just as she rushed to lower the jet, the door opened and Gary strode in.

It was a shock, seeing him, when she had almost convinced herself he wouldn't return. She was uncertain how to greet him: whether to welcome him with a silent rebuke or create an angry reception. She chose the former, and rancorously contemplated him as he drew out a chair and sat at the table.

‘I didn't see the car,’ she ventured, inanely.

‘It's being serviced,’ Gary informed her. ‘I'm collecting it in the morning.’

Fuming, Rachel turned her back and resumed the tea-making task. Not once had he looked at her; proof, she decided, that he was suffering a rare twinge of guilt. Well, let him. She would not give him the satisfaction of enquiring about his nightly prowls.

Putting the tea and mugs on the table, Rachel sat opposite Gary, not because she particularly wanted to look at him, but from that distance she could not touch him.

Gary said, gruffly, ‘I'm sorry about last night.’

Rachel made no reply, merely gazed at the top of his head and waited for him to continue.

‘I misplaced the house keys. Couldn't find them anywhere.’ Gary sipped his tea and for the first time looked over the mug at Rachel. ‘Actually, I came home and hammered on the door, but couldn't wake you.’

Rachel was sure she and Rex would have heard.

‘I slept in the car eventually.’

‘How did you finally get in?’

‘The keys were on the floor of the car.’

‘Come off it, Gary. D'you think I'm green or something? I know you spent the night with Terry. Couldn't keep away from him, could you? First opportunity and you're back there.’ Rachel got to her feet, unable to look at the mixture of contrition and resentment on her husband's face. She went on, ‘I bet skin contact doesn't bother you when you're with him, eh, Gary?’

Gary neither denied the inference nor confirmed it. Quietly getting to his feet, he crossed to the window. With his back to Rachel, he said: ‘Regarding my problem, you must believe what you like. Last night I needed to be alone, to sort myself out. I walked the neighbourhood, if you must know, trying to decide whether it was fair on you to go on living here. In the end, I was still of a mind to stay, because I couldn't visualise life without you.’

The sight of his heaving shoulders dispersed Rachel's own hurt. Gary's pain was more important. She went to hug him, to assure him of her love, and took heart from the fact that he did not jerk away. She and Gary were of like mind: neither could bear to live without the other, no matter what befell them in the process.

THEY lay a distance apart in the double bed. Gary's low-pitched snores had a soporific effect on Rachel and, as she leaned on one elbow to study his face, her eyes grew heavy. She thought how like a baby he was, folded in foetal position, mouth pursed in exactly the same way the neighbour's baby did when offered the breast. Except that babies did not snore and Gary did not crave the breast.

Pins and needles induced her to lie down and massage the afflicted hand, but her misgivings did not go away. She scrutinised the ceiling for a solution to the overwhelming uncertainty of existing in a state of permanent virginity. It would be difficult, struggling through the years without a functioning partner. She could, of course, take on a boyfriend; it wouldn't matter how she achieved satisfaction so long as there was some contentment in her life. Gary need never know, as she would never know what games he played in the privacy of Terry's home.

Even in the chilly bedroom she was uncomfortably warm in the thick pyjamas. Her hands were sweaty and she needed a drink. Sliding stealthily from the bed, she padded along the landing to the bathroom, stepping over Rex who had found warmth by the airing cupboard and had chosen to lie there instead of on his bed. The bathroom tiles, cold beneath her feet, dispelled the heat from her body so she wrapped a yellow bathrobe around her shoulders.

Raising the roller blind she looked out at the tiny garden, half of it illuminated by the moon, the other half hidden in the deep shadow of the trees. She saw the outline of a cat on the fence, eyes shining like pencil torches. Looking at the peaceful panorama, it was hard to accept that so many problems abounded.

WITH her robe belted tightly around her, Rex at her heels, Rachel went downstairs. She closed the door to counter Gary's snores. The room was still warm, though the fire had been switched off an hour since. Rex flopped with a grunt on the hearth rug.

After discarding the robe, she reclined full stretch on the couch and opened the current free magazine. Idly fiddling with the buttons on her pyjama top, she turned the pages. An advertisement for inexpensive beds caught her eye and she considered the possibility of changing from double to twin. It would please Gary … and maybe her too.

She would consult Eric; he had a colleague in the furniture trade. As she mulled the idea over, she absently eased her hand inside her jacket, feeling the softness of her breast.

Don't you ever wear a brassiere?

Never, Mr H! I'm better without.

‘You don't know what you're missing, Gary,’ she whispered.

9 comments:

Akelamalu said...

Will Gary every discover what he's missing???

Valerie said...

Pearl, there are a few surprises in store re
Gary.

Montanagirl said...

Wow - Gary must be a troubled soul - and Rachel is becoming very fast!

Ron said...

Ooooo...this story just keeps getting better and better with each chapter, Valerie!

You have me in TOTAL suspense and wonderment about where this story is headed, and what's up with Gary.

Again, great writing, dear lady!

Have a terrific Tuesday!

X

Brian Miller said...

whew...nice addition to this...well written as i feel her angst and you def leave me wanting more...

Valerie said...

Ron, Gary turned out to be rather a surprising character.

Brian, thank you. I'm glad I was able to 'show' her angst.

cheshire wife said...

I'll come back when I have the time to read the previous twelve chapters.

HermanTurnip said...

Bonus points for using the word "mollycoddle"!

And is it just me, or is Rachael quickly growing hard and cold to the world and her situation? I wouldn't be surprised if this comes to blows soon requiring the services of an ambulance...

...or Rachael finds comfort in the arms of another man?

Bernie said...

So enjoying this story Val, am anxious to see how she solves her problem.....:-)Hugs