Facing up

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

When David Pullen finds out his girlfriend has been having an affair he finds himself single, homeless and unemployed. This is a story about starting over again.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Facing up

Submitted: August 04, 2012

Reads: 218

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Submitted: August 04, 2012




My employment didn’t end on good terms which might go some way towards explaining why I’m still looking for work. When you go missing for a week, then turn up drunk one afternoon having not shaved or showered for the entire duration you can’t be surprised if your boss takes issue with you. In retrospect slapping her in the

At first I was quite enjoying being unemployed, after 10 years sat at the same desk 8 hours a day every day (Except Sundays and the occasional holiday obviously) doing the same monotonous task with the same tedious people; it takes its toll. I had no idea what I was missing. For example the sheer concept of daytime television seemed so alien. I had never seen it before, as a child I always had far more pressing matters at hand, you know computer games, toys, running away from smelly girls; and as a teenager I was always more preoccupied with the finer points of life….computer games, alcohol and running after gorgeous smelling girls so it never even appeared on my radar.

There’s something quite compelling and charming about it, after a decade of watching high quality, big budget American dramas seeing someone debate whether or not to sell an old jug for a fiver or watching Jim from Rotherham squirm in his seat as he awaited the results of his lie detector test seemed like a whole other world.

Then my money started to dwindle away and suddenly it lost a lot of its appeal. Now I was watching people cook expensive, extravagant meals I could no longer afford, and purchase and renovate houses significantly out of my price range. What initially seemed tantalising, was now just teasing me. Instead of a fantasy it was an unobtainable goal. I guess my relationship with daytime TV is a good analogy for how I was coping with unemployment. Novelty became nightmare.

Let’s go back a few months shall we. It was Valentines Day when I announced at dinner that I had been promoted and Marie announced that she had been seeing someone else.

“How long has this been going on?”

“I’m sorry, it just kind of happened. I tried to tell you so many times but I just couldn’t find the words.”

“You didn’t answer my question, how long?”

“About seven months.”

“Seven months!” I squawked like a parakeet that had just caught itself in its flies, and the neighbouring tables turned to see what the commotion was all about.

“Shhh!” You’re making a scene.”

“Oh I’m sorry I haven’t handled having my whole world fall apart with dignity. You’ll have to excuse me.

“Anyway that just goes to show how much I care about you.”

“Excuse me?”

Some of the staff had noticed that something wasn’t right now and were busying themselves around us to keep an eye on the situation, ready to step in and quiet us so we didn’t ruin the other patrons evening. I started to feel mildly embarrassed but this needed to be talked about, and besides I was far too shocked to stop now.

Marie shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “Well it shows I wanted to know if it was worth it, so I didn’t just throw away what we have for nothing; you know if it was just a fling I didn’t want to break your heart so I waited to see if we had something special before I told you.”

“Who is it? Do I know them?”


I felt a tingle of relief in the fact that I hadn’t been betrayed by a friend as well as Marie. The thought of someone sleeping with her and laughing behind my back as I carried on our friendship oblivious was too much.

“Well how did you meet?”



“It was coincidence really, or fate if you prefer.”

“I prefer stitch up.”

“Grow up. It was while you were at work. I’d go shopping every Thursday morning, and after a while I noticed I kept seeing the same guy there. He approached me one day and said something corny like ‘We simply must stop meeting like this’ when we were both waiting at the deli counter and I said something, I can’t remember what exactly and that was that. This was about a year ago. Then every week we still kept seeing each other and exchanging pleasantries until one day I, and I don’t know why, asked him if he wanted to get a cup of coffee.”

“This is all going on while I’m at work. While I’m out earning money for you, providing for you, you’re out gallivanting around with some guy. I funded your fucking affair for Christ’s sake!”

“Well I got lonely, you were never around.”

“I was out working! For us!”

“I needed someone, something, and Roy was just there.”

“Roy! Brilliant. So how did Roy and you go from having coffee to having…God knows what.”

The staff were beginning to look a lot more agitated by now. I seemed to be struggling to keep my voice down and it had drawn the managers attention. I could see him making his way towards us.

“Well we both finished our shopping and we were on our way to the café and Roy said he was worried about his food thawing and he lived local, would I mind if he dropped it off quick. So we did, and went back to the café and just chatted for hours. We had so much in common, we just clicked. I’ve never had that kind of connection before.”


“I could tell there might be something there, so next time I saw him I approached him, the usual chit chat, then we agreed to have another coffee. I said if he had to drop food off why didn’t we just stay at his for the coffee. We ended up having a few wines instead and…well I don’t think you want to hear about the rest.”

“No I don’t think I do.”

“Can I help you sir? Miss?” The manager interjected.

“I think we’re beyond help.” And with that I got up, put my money down on the table and walked out.

I guess it’s fair to say I didn’t handle it very well. The next few days are all a bit of a blur, but that’s probably due to the whiskey. I’ll try and recount what happened next, but to tell you the truth I’m not entirely sure. I know after I walked out I went straight to my brothers house. Now we’re not as close as we used to be since he got married, but he lived locally and I knew he wouldn’t mind me staying there for a few days. Tanya might take some convincing but it’s not like I made a habit out of this sort of thing. As soon as he opened the door I could tell he knew something was wrong.

“Fucking hell, what happened to you?”

“Marie’s been fucking Roy!” I blurted out through waterfalls of tears.

“Who’s Roy?”

“I don’t know.” I sulked as I moped through the front door.

“He sounds like a twat.”

Sean always knew how to cheer me up. He could take the gravest of situations, make a flippant comment and make them seem entirely petty. It was a powerful gift he possessed, unfortunately I was far beyond that today and he was in over his head,

“Let me uh…get you a drink.” He added as he shut the door behind me, sensing his trademark hadn’t worked and he was in for a long night.

I didn’t go into work the next day, which isn’t really the best way to start your promotion. Sean and I stayed up most the night talking about what a BITCH Marie is and shotting whiskey, which was probably as much for his benefit as for mine; until I assume I passed out. I was rudely awakened by the postman at half past 9 and fell off the kitchen table where evidently I had spent the night and was shocked to see Sean and Tanya had both gone to work. For some reason this made me feel vastly inferior. I wasn’t man enough to keep Marie happy, and now I wasn’t even man enough to drink with my younger brother, I certainly wasn’t man enough to face the day sober. I picked up the nearly empty bottle, finished it off and noticed my phone next to it. 7 missed calls and 2 texts.

3 were from work obviously wondering why I hadn’t come in today, I’d deal with that later when I sounded more sober and could convincingly call in sick, and the other 4 were predictably from Marie, The first was just after I walked out, my phone had been on silent so as not to disturb our…romantic evening, and the others came several hours later. The texts unsurprisingly were also both from Marie. They Read:





I didn’t feel like going home. I felt like getting drunk.

face and trying to steal her photocopier wasn’t the best way to resolve things. Sean explained the situation, I was under a lot of pressure, I wasn’t myself etc, and after a lot of convincing and reminding them of my 10 years good service security let me go and they agreed not to press charges. I was of course fired, I couldn’t really argue with that, and black listed, not that I’d ever feel comfortable showing my face there again anyway.

To be honest with you that was the wake up call I needed. Losing my girlfriend, my job and my house all in the same week was a very sobering experience so I figured, what better time to sober up.

Sean and Tanya said I could stay with them for as long as I needed, but after a week passing out on their sofa and vomiting in/near their toilet I felt I had imposed enough. I remembered seeing the advertising board in the local store I had been buying my alcohol from had a notice up for a room to rent. Not ideal obviously but beggars can’t be choosers. I phoned the number on the ad and arranged to come and have a look.

Two hours later I was at a cash machine withdrawing money for the deposit. This week had shown me how quickly everything could go all to pot so I decided to act quickly and decisively. The room was small. And bare. And in a horrible location, over looking a busy pub right in the town centre which wasn’t ideal considering my recent alcohol dependency. It had a bed and a TV in it though so I was content there for the time being, at least until I could bare to see Marie again and collect my stuff. The last thing I needed was to see how happy she was (hopefully not) compared to me and start drinking again. Getting kicked out of my new “home” would be the last straw in a shit…. Can’t really think of a metaphor, but rest assured it would be shit.

One of the things about drinking heavily is it seriously affects your libido. Lying alone on my bed mindlessly watching the television reminded me how alone I was. Alone and horny; for the first time in a week, and I had no one to share it with. What did people do before the internet? I tried flicking through the channels for anything remotely titillating, but all I found was news. Nothing erotic there. And reality TV shows, not the sexy ones either, I’m talking fat hairy old men trying to impress fatter, hairier, older men at…well I didn’t stick around to find out to be honest. I turned the channel before I lost my…buzz. What did people do before Sky TV? I’m 33 years old; I can’t buy porn from the shops. I’m old enough for the hot young blonde on the till to think I’m a pervy old man, which I guess I just proved I am.

My imaginations shot too. I spent the best part of the last 5 years with Marie, I can’t even begin to think of anyone else, and the concept of masturbating over my ex girlfriend while she’s probably having sex with Roy is too depressing to even contemplate.

I went to bed sober, horny, and miserable that night, which is one of the worst ways to go to bed, but I actually think that spurred me on to get my life back on track. And to get some porn.

Obviously when I wasn’t off my head it took some getting used to, not having to get up early and rush off to work. It was extremely disorientating, every day was like a Sunday, which in a way was great, but also extremely tedious.

That first morning in my new home I work up at about half past 8 with an appetite. I got dressed and went to the shop to buy a local paper and the girl (the aforementioned hot blonde) on till half recognized me and reached for a bottle of whiskey. Embarrassed I had acquired that kind of a reputation within a week I told her I just wanted the paper to look for a job and she congratulated me. Condescending cow, I used to make 10 times what she earns, how dare she pity me. I suppose given my current condition I shouldn’t be surprised, so I just thanked her and left for the café opposite.

I ordered a Full English, sat by the window and started job hunting. I hoped news of my infamous termination hadn’t reached rival companies and I started circling any relevant vacancies. Fairly slim pickings but at least it gave me something to go on. I decided to phone up there and then, hoping the background noise of people eating and talking would give the impression that I was a successful, busy person and they needed me more than I needed them.


“Hi, I’m phoning up in regards to the job advertised.”

“Ok, if I just take a few of your details then we’ll see about arranging a proper formal interview.”

“Yeah that sounds good.”

“Ok, so firstly let’s start with your name.”
“David Pullen.”

“Ok, um…bare with me a moment there.

I assume she put the phone on silent, and I waited for what seemed like ages but upon checking the duration on my phone was only 2 minutes, when all of a sudden sound kicked back in and I heard some fumbling.

“Sorry about that Mr Pullen.”

“That’s quite alright.”

“I’m afraid I’ve just been informed that the position has been filled.”

“Oh, I see. Ok then.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No I guess not.”

“Ok, thank you for your call. Good bye.”

I tried 2 more numbers and had similar experiences

“I’m really sorry but the vacancy has been filled.”


“You’re kidding right?”

before I realised my reputation had been tarnished and in fact I needed them quite a lot more than they needed me. I had circled one more advert in the paper as a last resort but it was a bit of a demotion so I decided to give it a miss. I know it might not seem like it but I still felt like I had a reputation to uphold and I wasn’t ready to take a pay cut.

I decided to conduct a bit of an experiment. I phoned up the first number again.


“Hello, my names Peter Nesmith, I’m phoning up about the job.”

I don’t know what I was hoping to achieve, if they told me the job was available it would only further prove what I already knew, and if they offered me an interview obviously I couldn’t go unless I went in disguise, and I’m not a good enough actor to pull off a Tootsie.

“Ok Mr Nesmith, there are 2 vacancies at the moment, which one are you interested in?”

I knew it! Inexplicably being proved right gave me a feeling of great joy, but maybe that’s just a man thing, and anyway it didn’t last long before it registered I was utterly screwed. I decided to carry on anyway.

“Well I have experience in Fuck!”

“Excuse me?”

I stayed silent with the phone resting against my ear as Marie and a younger man came in and queued up. Was this Roy? I saw they were both carrying shopping bags. Of course, it was Thursday morning, their routine, and I had accidently stumbled upon their…their…love nest.

“Mr Nesmith are you still there?”

I still wasn’t ready to confront her, especially not with Roy in tow. I waited for them to be served and take a seat so I could sneak out without having to walk past them,

“Are you ok Mr Nesmith? Do you need me to call an ambulance?”

I rolled up my newspaper, pushed my chair in, and still on the phone headed for the door. I kept my head down as I reached for the handle.


Shit. I wanted to ignore it but Marie’s voice was unmistakably shrill, there was no way I could pretend not to have heard it. I turned around and gestured to the phone but she stood up and walked over anyway.

“So anyway if you just email me those figures then I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” I said unnecessarily loudly so Marie would hear and think work was going ok, but in actual fact everyone in the café heard and turned and looked and I got a horrible feeling of de-ja-vous.

“Woah, De-ja-vous.”

Marie clearly felt the same way. She looked incredible, she looked happier than I had seen her in a long time and I suddenly felt a nasty pang of guilt, that I had been making her miserable all this time. She had been having an affair and I felt guilty, how did that work? She was dressed up far too nicely for a simple shopping trip; it was obviously for Roys benefit. This was good, it probably meant they didn’t live together, or at the very least didn’t spend last night together. I can’t remember the last time she dressed up for me. Even at our valentines dinner she didn’t make an effort, probably because she knew it wasn’t going to end well and didn’t see the point. I wonder if she made herself up before she went to Roys that night though?


“Hi, I wasn’t sure it was you at first, I thought you’d be at work.”

“No I’ve uh booked some time off to get settled in my new house.”

“Oh right. That’s good. So how have you been?”

“You know, not great. Is that Roy?”


“He looks…young.

“He’s 25.”

“Right, look I should get going.”

“Don’t be angry with Roy. He doesn’t even know about you.”


“I’m just saying none of this is Roy’s fault, he doesn’t know about us.”

“So what did you two talk about for the last year?!

“Well he thinks my ex is dead, and that’s why I was so closed off during the first months, because I was still getting over it, that’s why we took things so slowly.”

“So you started off your new relationship the same way you finished your old one, lying?”

“Quiet, people are starting to look.”

“You mean Roy might overhear. You know I should go over there and” tell the poor guy what’s going on “introduce myself.”

Wait how did this happen? Now I’m feeling sorry for Marie’s new boyfriend, how low is my self esteem?

“No, come on.”

“Who did you tell him I was? Just now when you called out to me, who does he think I am?”

“Just an old friend.”

“I see.”

“Don’t be like that.

“No, you don’t get to tell me what to do or how to be, you don’t own me, in fact you disowned me.”

Wow that sounded stupid, but at least it didn’t sound like someone with ridiculously low self esteem and that was a start. I noticed Roy watching us intently, surely it was obvious we were having quite a heated talk, not the kind old friends reminiscing would have. I wanted him to come over and hear Marie, I wanted her to say something incriminating and have her whole world come crashing down, but he just sat there, obliviously sipping his coffee. Its extraordinary; two weeks ago I doted on this woman, I would have stepped in front of traffic for her (Whatever that would have achieved) but now I was willing for her to suffer, I wanted her to hurt for a change.

“Look you should go back to Roy. I had better be off anyway.”

“We’re gonna be here for a couple of hours if you wanted to collect your stuff. It’ll probably be easier if I’m not there.”

“Yeah I think you’re right. Enjoy your coffee.”

I wanted that last bit to sound really biting and acidic, but I think it came out far more sincere than I had intended. As I left I looked back to see if Marie had registered the underlying hatred in that petty remark but she just seemed to be making her way back to Roy. It was strange putting a face to the name; I don’t know what I had expected. I had kind of hoped he was really successful and handsome so that Marie had left me for some genetically superior being and not because she just didn’t like me. I think I could have handled that better, it was nature’s fault she left me, not my personality defects, but the truth is he was fairly average looking. I didn’t like the thought of being usurped by someone…inferior to me. It felt like it made me look bad. And why wasn’t he at work? I know I wasn’t but that was due to extenuating circumstances, what was his excuse?

There was something about him being so much younger than me too. Don’t get me wrong; I’d have definitely found something to hate if he was older, his distinguished grey hair, whether she was just with him for money, how…experienced he was, there’d have been plenty to hate; but as it was it felt like I had been upgraded. I was obsolete and had been traded in for a newer model. It made me feel old. Now I know I’m not old really, but that morning I certainly felt past my prime; single for the first time in years, unemployed (and unwanted) for the first time in my entire working life, I felt at a lost end.

The last thing I wanted to do was go and rummage through my old life, but this seemed like the best opportunity I was going to get to not bump into Roy again.

I don’t particularly want to talk much about going to Marie’s. It had only been a week and already it felt alien and unwelcome. I call it Marie’s because there was very little evidence I had ever lived there. Any photos of me had already been removed, presumably not to arouse Roy’s suspicions. This angered me on a number of levels, not least because it probably meant they had been together in our bed, but also how quick Marie was to erase me from her life. It was like I had meant nothing to her. I grabbed a few clothes, my laptop, IPod etc and left as quickly as I could. When I got back to my room I turned on my laptop, my background loaded and I was confronted with a picture of Marie and myself on holiday in Rome. I toyed with the idea of changing it, but I wasn’t quite ready to delete her from my life yet.

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