Doubt The Stars

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lucy and Tim were at that stage of married life where they each took the other for granted. Life had become a chore, a routine. When Lucy hears of a course for men in long term relationships she knows the hard part will be persuading Tim to go along. Would he go? And with what results?

Submitted: August 05, 2016

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Submitted: August 05, 2016

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Lucy pushed the front door open wide. She squeezed inside with the bags of food shopping. She gently kicked the door shut behind her. She trudged through to the living room. Her husband Tim glanced up as she entered. He stayed slouched on the sofa, eyes back on the episode of Top Gear on the television.

‘Need a hand?’ he mumbled.

‘No, I’m fine.’ she replied.

She went through to the kitchen. She wanted to say something more to Tim. She felt like telling him that it would not kill him to go food shopping for once and he could at least have given her a hand unpacking the groceries. She sighed. He hadn’t even asked her how she was. Had she had a good day? Had the cold she had cleared up? Nothing.

She paused for a moment, rubbing her eyes. Weren’t they supposed to be a partnership, a team? Why was it that most of the jobs fell to her? They both worked full time so why did she have to do all the household chores? She swallowed back the lump in her throat. She shook her head. No. She was being harsh on him. He was a good husband, a lovely man. She was just having one of those days. Some of her friends had been treated awfully by their fellers in the past. There was no abuse from Tim. There was nothing negative. Just not a great deal to be positive about, that was all. And maybe she was partly responsible too. Telling herself to get a grip she began unpacking the shopping. She then made them both a cup of tea. She handed Tim his brew. He muttered ‘Ta, love.’ in reply.

A few days later Lucy rushed in from work. She hung her coat up and went through to the living room. She grumbled about the awful traffic. Tim was in his usual position, flaked out in front of the television. He was wearing his ‘scruffs’ which consisted of tracksuit trousers and a faded Oasis t-shirt.

‘Tim, what are you doing?’

‘I’m watching Star Trek.’ He shrugged. ‘Give me a break. I’ve only been in from work an hour.’

‘You were supposed to be getting ready.’

‘What for?’

‘What for?! It’s Claire’s birthday party this evening. I did tell you.’

‘Whose party?’

‘Claire. My Claire. My sister. The taxi is picking us up in twenty minutes.’

Tim said nothing. His gaze went back to the television.

‘Tim!’

He flicked the television set off. Rolling his eyes he huffed past her and trudged upstairs to get ready. As she followed behind the niggling doubts about their marriage popped into her head once again.

Lucy arrived home from work on the Friday evening. Tim called down that he was getting changed. She smiled to herself. At least he hadn’t forgotten this time. She found him in the bedroom.

‘I’m really looked forward to tonight.’ she said.

‘Are you coming?’

‘Of course I am. It’s not exactly a romantic meal without your wife.’

‘I don’t think they’re putting food on. It’s just the band.’

‘What are you on about, Tim?’

‘The Stone Roses tribute act at the club.’

‘But we’re going out for a meal tonight. It’s just the two of us. We’ve had it planned for weeks. It was going to be special. A night just for us.’

‘I’ve made plans with the lads now. I can’t let them down.’

‘But you don’t mind letting me down?’

‘I’ve told them I’m going. I’m not cancelling on them.’

He pulled a t-shirt over his head and continued getting dressed.

‘You can come with me if you like. We’ll have a good night. You get on with the boys.’

‘Tonight was going to be about me and you, not you and your friends.’

‘We’ll go out another night. We can go out any time.’

‘We can but we don’t, do we?’

‘Suit yourself.’

She glared at him. Angry tears burned her cheeks. Tim left without saying another word.

While he was out with his friends Lucy busied herself at home. She cleaned the bathroom, did the bit of ironing in the basket. Then she swore at the top of her voice. She grabbed her tablet computer. She went online and angrily typed ‘bad husbands Manchester’. She hoped there would be a forum or a site offering advice. There was no forum as such. There were blogs about bad husbands written by outraged wives. One website caught her eye amongst all the search results. She double clicked on the link. An organisation calling itself the Relationship Institute was offering what it called an ‘Intense crash course for men in long term relationships’. The three day course in North Wales promised miracle results. She read on about how in this day and age couples struggled because of work and the general hardship of daily life. Men especially found it difficult when in long term relationships. Their course would help those suffering and would change lives forever.

Lucy took a deep breath. The programme sounded perfect. It would be just what they needed to get their marriage back on track. There was just one thing. She would have to get Tim to agree to go along.

The following evening she made him a cup of tea and joined him in the living room. He barely glanced away from the repeat of Robot Wars on screen. She placed a hand on his arm.

‘Tim, can I ask you something?’

‘What?’

‘I want you to do something for me.’

‘Can it wait till after Robot Wars?’

‘It’s nothing that needs doing now.’

‘How much is it going to cost me?’

‘I will pay and we can afford it.’

‘What is it?’

Lucy explained about the course offering to help couples in long term relationships by focusing on the men. She asked if he would go along.

‘You want me to do what?’

‘It’s just a course. It will help us both.’

‘We don’t need any help. We’re fine.’

‘Tim, we- look, I really think it will do us good. What harm can it do?’

‘Why is it just me that has to go?’

‘Do this for me, please.’

‘We’ll see.’ he mumbled.

Before she could say anything he turned up the volume on the television. Lucy sighed and left the room close to tears.

Over the next week she tried to tell herself that Tim was right. They were fine, weren’t they? Deep down, though, she knew it was a lie.

On Wednesday evening she came in from work as usual to find Tim slobbed out on the sofa. She said hello and he didn’t say a word. He did not look away from the screen. She shrugged out of her coat and tossed her handbag on her settee.

‘Tim, we can’t carry on like this.’

‘Like what?’ he snapped.

‘You don’t even look at me, never mind talk to me. This isn’t even a marriage. You’re not my husband; we’re just living in the same house.’

Tim tutted and shook his head.

‘Did you just tut at me? Really?’

‘Lucy, we’re just a normal married couple. We’re fine.’

‘No, Tim, we’re not fine. This is not a relationship.’

‘I don’t know what you want me to say.’

‘What I want is for you to go on that course.’

‘No way. Why should I schlep all the way to Wales just because you’re in a bad mood?’

‘If you don’t-’

‘Yeah?’

‘I don’t see any way we can carry on.’

She stared at him. She couldn’t quite believe it had come to this. She knew she was right. He looked at her in confusion. He stood up. He took a deep breath. This was it, Lucy thought, make or break for them. He would either tell her he loved her and agree to the course, or he would refuse and it would be all over. Right then she wasn’t sure he even liked her never mind loved her.

‘I’m going for a pint.’ he said.

Leaving Lucy standing in utter disbelief he pushed past her. She heard the front door slam as he left.

Lucy was asleep when Tim returned. She woke as he flopped down on the bed beside her. She caught the smell of beer as he slurred something unintelligible. She rolled over, away from him and tried to get back to sleep.

The morning after as they rushed around getting ready for work Tim bumped into Lucy in the kitchen. Nursing a hangover and feeling that he may have overreacted he skulked up behind her.

‘Morning, love.’ he whispered.

‘Here.’ She said as she handed him his lunch sandwiches. ‘See you tonight.’

‘Lucy. Why are you being like this?’

‘Like what, Tim? We’re fine, remember?’

Without saying another word she pulled her coat on and left for work.

When she arrived home that evening Tim was pacing up and down the living room. She was surprised to see him off the sofa. The television wasn’t even switched on.

‘Hi.’ she muttered.

‘Fine.’ He sighed. ‘I’ll go.’

Lucy beamed. She wiped away a tear.

‘Oh, love. I think it will do us both the world of good.’

Tim smiled and nodded.

Saturday morning. As he tossed his bag in the back of the car he had tears in his eyes. He turned to Lucy. Her tears were streaming down her cheeks.

‘Right then. I’ll be off.’

‘I love you, Tim.’

‘See you in three days.’

 

When Lucy arrived home from work on Tuesday evening Tim was waiting for her in the living room. He was in the living room standing in front of the fireplace. He was holding a large bunch of flowers. He looked completely different. He was clean shaven and his newly trimmed hair had been combed and styled. Gone were the manky tracksuit bottoms and stained t-shirt. He was now dressed in a short sleeve shirt and smart trousers.

‘Tim?’

‘Lucy,’ he grinned. ‘I love you.’

He handed her the flowers.

‘How did it go?’ she asked.

‘Let’s just say, I’m sure you’ll notice the difference.’

‘I missed you.’

‘Me too.’ He said.

Later that evening as they cuddled on the sofa while watching a programme about a dog’s home Lucy gave Tim a nudge.

‘Do you fancy getting a take away?’ she asked.

‘Yes, whatever you like.’

‘What do you fancy? Pizza? Indian? Chinese?’

‘I’m easy. It’s up to you, love.’ he said.

‘I’m in the mood for a Chinese but I know you’re not that struck on it.’

‘I’ll find something on the menu. And I picked up a bottle of that wine you like. We could have a glass of that too.’

 

As Lucy ate her sweet and sour chicken and Tim picked at his spring rolls they made chit-chat. Lucy updated Tim on what he’d missed while he was away. She told him all about the tittle-tattle at the office she worked at. Tim’s gaze never left hers as she told him about an argument she’d witnessed over photo copier paper. He nodded and listened intently. His only contribution was to offer her another glass of wine.

Once Tim had washed the dishes they cuddled up on the sofa in front of the television. Lucy flicked through the pages of the TV listings magazine.

‘There’s a Tarantino film on Channel Four. Do you want to watch that?’ she asked.

‘I don’t mind. Is there anything on you want to watch?’

At Tim’s insistence they settled on a romantic comedy on one of the film channels.

When she got in from work the next evening Tim came through from the kitchen. He wore an apron and had a tea towel slung over his shoulder. He rushed over to Lucy as she was hanging up her coat. He hugged her and kissed her.

‘Hi hun,’ he said. ‘shepherd’s pie is in the oven. It’ll be ready by the time you’ve got changed. Have you had a good day?’

‘Blimey,’ she laughed. ‘this is a bit more of a welcome home than I’m used to.’

‘It’s no more than you deserve, pumpkin.’

While they ate the shepherd’s pie Lucy regaled Tim with a funny story about her day at work. Tim smiled and listened to every word. Lucy was in fits of laughter as she explained about a mix up from that afternoon. She could hardly speak for giggling.

‘I could have sworn she said ‘It’s his mum’ when she actually said ‘Missus Munn’. We did laugh.’

‘How very amusing.’ Tim grinned.

Lucy’s laughter was halted when she noticed Tim’s subdued reaction.

‘Don’t you think that’s funny?’

‘Yes, extremely.’ he answered in a flat tone.

‘I thought you’d be laughing your head off. I was crying laughing.’

‘It is very funny.’

 

That weekend Tim suggested he cook them both Sunday roast dinner. Lucy shook her head. Sunday dinner, she pointed a finger, is mine. Tim tried to protest but Lucy waved her hands.

‘I cook the Sunday roast. End of story.’

She backed down enough to let Tim peel the potatoes. They sat down at the table and got stuck into the roast dinner.

‘Darling, this is wonderful.’ he said.

‘What about the gravy?’ she smirked.

‘It is divine.’

‘Really? You always used to joke about how bad my gravy was.’

‘Did I?’

‘Yes, we always laughed about it. You would offer to carve the gravy. I would ask if you wanted one lump or two.’

‘How awful of me. Not these days, love. That was the old me.’

He grinned earnestly. His wife’s smile faded slightly. She had honestly known that Tim enjoyed the meals she cooked and that the leg-pulling about her gravy had been good-natured fun. She sighed.

Later on Tim made them both a cup of tea and they got close and comfortable on the sofa. They went through the television channels and found a repeat of a BBC situation comedy.

‘Perfect Sunday night telly.’ she said.

Just moment later Lucy was in stitches at the antics of the characters on screen. She struggled to catch her breath as she guffawed at the show. She glanced at Tim beside her. The smile on his face reminded her of the inoffensive smile that you give an elderly aunt who you only see at Christmas. A shiver went through her. The thing that had first attracted her to Tim was his sense of humour. They used to laugh themselves silly at the slightest thing. Even in recent times when Tim had been neglectful, they would still find the smallest, daftest thing hysterically funny.

‘That was hilarious, wasn’t it?’ she asked.

‘Yes, very entertaining. Would you like another cup of tea?’

As he headed to the kitchen Lucy wondered if the new version of her husband was actually an improvement on the old one.

Thursday evening. They ate his home cooked lasagne and made small talk. Lucy tried to make the words she’d been mulling over for days sound spontaneous.

‘D’you know what you need?’ she said.

‘I’m married to you, darling. What more could I possibly need?’

‘I think a night out with your friends will do you good.’

‘What?’

‘Yes, why don’t you have a night on the town with the lads?’

‘I don’t want to go anywhere without you.’

She resisted replying that she wanted him to go in the hope that it would bring back a bit of the old Tim.

‘You’ve not had a lad’s night out in ages. Go on. Let your hair down. It will do you good.’

‘But-’

‘Tim, I insist.’

‘Fine.’ He said.

With a bit of luck, Lucy thought, the fun and humour of the man she’d married would come back.

Lucy arrived home on Friday evening. She crossed her fingers as she opened the front door. She just hoped that Tim had done as she’d asked. She found Tim in the bedroom. Dressed in one of his best shirts he was spraying himself with aftershave. Lucy breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness he was actually going out. Hopefully a little bit of her husband’s wit would return after a night of lager and blokey banter.

‘Are you looking forward to your night out?’

‘I really am. Shouldn’t you be getting ready too?’

‘Me? I’m not doing anything tonight.’ She said.

‘That’s where you’re wrong. I’ve booked us a table for two at the Alchemist in town.’

Lucy felt sick.

‘What about the lads?’

‘I would rather spend my time with you. And I know it’s your favourite restaurant.’

‘No. Just no. I want you to go out with your friends.’

‘But, darling, you’re my best friend. You’re so special to me. I have always felt this way; I just never learned to show it until now. I want to spend every waking second with you. I just always want to be by your side.’

‘What did they do to you on that course?’

‘Darling, they made me realise the error of my ways. Aren’t you happy?’

‘Of course I am. But, you’re not the same. We’re not the same.’

‘We are better than ever.’

‘No, Tim,’ she screamed. ‘we’re not.’

‘Pumpkin, you wanted this remember.’

He threw his arms around her. Lucy yelled ‘Get off me!’ and pushed him away.

Tim lost his footing on the carpet. He tumbled backwards. He fell hard. He hit his head on the corner of the bedside cabinet. Stunned, he lay where he landed, his limbs in awkward positions. Blood spilled from the side of his head.

Lucy dropped to her knees beside him. She mopped at the wound with a tissue.

‘Tim. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Are you okay? Should I call an ambulance?’

‘I do love you. I always have. I always will. I haven’t always showed it like I should have.’

Lucy was choked by tears. She nodded.

‘Do you need to go to the hospital?’

‘No, I’ll be fine. It’s just a flesh wound.’ He laughed.

Lucy chuckled despite the tears.

‘I can’t believe you’re quoting Monty Python at a time like this.’

‘Help me up then, chuck.’

Lucy helped Tom to his feet. She sat him on the edge of the bed and cleaned the cut on his head and patched him up.

‘How are you feeling?’ she asked.

‘I’m a bit spaced out but I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep.’

She pulled his clothes from his arms and legs and settled him into bed.

When she joined him in bed a few hours later he was sleeping soundly and snoring like he always did.

It was mid-morning when she woke. Daylight glowed through the thin curtain. She rolled over. She was alone in bed. Alarmed she sat up. She rushed downstairs in a panic. She stormed into the living room. Tim was flaked out on the sofa. He had a cup in his hand and was engrossed in the television programme on screen. He barely looked at her as she entered.

‘Tim, you had me worried.’

‘Morning,’ he mumbled, eyes never leaving the screen,

‘Another brew?’ she asked.

‘Yeh.’ He held out his mug.

She took the cup and went to the kitchen. She smiled to herself.


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