From Short and Curly: 1

[Image: random ,internet].

Short and Curly: An emerging collection of shorts which will be seeking publication when it reaches critical mass.

After the Fire

He approached the house feeling both anxious and more than a little sick. He peered through the keyhole first – he wasn’t sure why – perhaps he was just preparing himself for the ordeal. No sign of life, of course. The fire had rendered the door largely irrelevant. He pushed and it half fell apart.

He surveyed the wreckage in the lounge. His beloved Staunton chess set, until only yesterday a mix of Sandalwood (for white) and Rosewood (for black), was now properly black – charcoal black. Of the 32 pieces, only a lone rook remained unscathed, its crenelated parapets having withstood yesterday’s final attack.

On the kitchen windowsill there was the L-plate that Harry had gleefully ripped from the Mazda in celebration, only 48 hours previously. Funny how one of the few unburnt items was a piece of plastic. It must have been the splendid isolation it enjoyed on the ceramic tiles that saved it. They had such a great evening in Pizza Express – “keep death off the roads” he and Vanessa had taunted. Even little Amy had said it, without understanding what it meant.

Upstairs, things were just as dismal. The bed in which two children had been conceived was now at the end of its own particular life-cycle. In Amy’s room her play-wigwam had somehow survived in a cruel twist of irony. Perhaps they could all shelter in there tonight? It would be a damned sight cheaper than those three rooms in the Novotel.

At least the back garden seemed un-harmed. He climbed into the hammock, pulled himself an apple, and stared at the cruel autumn sun. Then came the painful recognition of the real problem. Not the small material matter of the house and contents, all of which were adequately insured. The problem was Vanessa – or rather, his relationship with Vanessa. Only half an hour after they had taken up new lodgings in the Novotel, she had kicked-off again. Apparently, the fire was his fault for not having the house re-wired the when the recent surveyors report had advised it. Regardless of whether she was right or wrong, was this really the time for all that? Surely this was the time to support each other, to show some solidarity in front of the kids, and (above all) to get things organised, and demonstrate that there will be a future for all of us.

There will be a future – those were the words he had repeated to himself on the drive to work during April and May, when the arguments had first started to possess a real edge – that spring they had finally reached what singer Joan Armatrading once called The Shouting Stage.

And now, without even bothering to wait for the report from the Fire Service on the cause of the blaze, Vanessa, the self-appointed forensic expert, has suddenly decided it’s all about the wiring. How very convenient. No credit then, for ensuring adequate insurance or anything like that.

No……………if things had been OK before yesterday, then there would be no bickering now, no petty point scoring or marital politicking. Both of them would have just intuitively got on with what they needed to do – teamwork in crisis management- just like when Amy caught meningitis. No…..the fire wasn’t at the root of the problem, but it had brought everything back to the surface again – fanned the flames, even. But what were the underlying issues? He hadn’t ever cheated on her. Took Amy to dancing classes every Saturday morning, Harry to the football in the afternoon. So why did she resent him? And …….why did he resent her?

If they were to go to some kind of marriage guidance counselling, no doubt they would be encouraged to keep calm, and to each take their turns in allowing the other to speak without interruption. So what could she possibly say about him? OK, so he got pissed last Xmas in front of her mum and dad, but he wasn’t a habitual drunk. Anyway, if she didn’t spend so much time with that creative writing group, he wouldn’t stay in the Fox and Duck for longer than two pints. Could she possibly be having-it-off with one of these would-be Harold Pinters? Nah…she was out at seven-thirty, and back by ten. But then again, how much time do you need to ….well you know?

 

Jesus. He couldn’t believe what he was thinking. But then again, Jack had recently remarked in the Duck that she was still an attractive woman. Still an attractive woman – what exactly did he mean by that? Meaning that he would, given the chance? Would he really covet his neighbours wife? He’s got his own missus, he shouldn’t even be noticing mine, let alone commenting on her.

And last New Years Eve, the party at the Crawfords? She seemed pretty keen to kiss Jack once Big Ben kicked-off. They were dancing pretty closely during the cheesy eighties hits that followed. Duran Duran – “Please, please tell me now – is there something I should know?” – how bloody ironic.

But as they say: ‘let he who is without sin’……………and all that. Young Bethany in Financial Planning was gorgeous. He looked at her far more often than he should, and for longer than he should. He knew that. But he has never acted upon it – chances are she would knock him back anyway, but that’s not the point. He still, even now, feels a sense of loyalty to Vanessa and the kids

For goodness sake, cool it. You’re becoming irrational. You’re traumatised because of the fire – so is she. It’s just straightforward stress – makes your thought processes go all-haywire, it does, just like in 2007, when he was promoted without even wanting it.

One thing at a time. Get a new place – rented, at first. Some IKEA furniture. New school clothes for Amy. New soccer kit for Harry. Eventually, a new chess set.

Then, once the dust has settled, he and her have some talking to do.

Copyright, Jody Redmires 2015

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