My Husbands Brother

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Amelia and John are grieving. He has turned to drink, she has turned to his brother.

Submitted: May 21, 2015

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Submitted: May 21, 2015

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John has this thing. He does it every morning. It’s the rhythmic sound of his nails tapping on the table. The dripping tap that peels at your sub conscious until you can no longer ignore it. His index and middle finger take turns to be the nail on my blackboard, and no amount of cold glare, heavy sigh or twitching lips will stir him from his sound, the sound of him passing time until he can leave to be where he really wants to be.

Once, when we were lovers, when I drowned in his caresses, and bathed in his touch, he would wake me to his kisses, a tray of soggy scrambled eggs on black toast on a tray. The feel of his hand on my thigh drawing me closer to him as he slips under the sheets beside me.

Now the newspaper hides his thoughts, occasionally he lowers it to sip his black coffee, then the wall goes back up. These days there are no kisses in the morning, quite often I wake to an empty bed, the side he sleeps on already cold.

I sit at the far end of the wooden table remembering the days I would stride into the room in thigh high latex boots, straddling him before he even has time to place that god awful cup down. The one he’s had since he was a child, it has Spiderman striking a pose on one side, his name on the other. He would drop his paper and murmur ‘what have I done to deserve this?’ and I would lean in and whisper ‘you’ve been a very, very, naughty boy.’ He would kiss me softly on the neck just where I liked it, on the nape, just behind the ear, with enough pressure to send shivers down my spine.

“Amelia”

I am back in the room, and he is looking at me bemused “are you okay?”

Now, the walk over to his chair seems too long. Interrupting his morning read would only end in a crushing dismissal about how he doesn’t have time, maybe later, or tomorrow, definitely tomorrow.

“Yes, fine, why?”

He shrugs his shoulders as if even he didn’t know why he asked. He drains the last of his coffee “I’m meeting Tom for golf today, you don’t mind do you?”

My heart sinks a little bit more than it did yesterday, the tiny thread of hope I had held on to snaps, and I feel myself sink further into nothingness. I had become an afterthought, furniture in the room he could rely on to be there when he got home.

“Amelia?”

I pile the breakfast plates on top of each other, the untouched toast, the half-eaten cereal. His favourite cup loitering on top.

“Yes fine” I say in that sing song voice that convinces him “when will you be back?”

“Well, you know how long these things go on.”

I sigh inwardly waiting for what I know is coming.

“I may just stop over at Toms, save me waking you up.” There it is. The excuse. Now he doesn't even wait until the end of the night to reel off the lies, now he spoon feeds me before he even leaves the house.

I nod in that slow rhythmic motion you see TV detectives do when they see a familiar scene of crime recurring.

“Why don’t you invite Louise over, have a girlie night?”

That was his peace offering; it was the trump in his deck of cards. As if he was offering me gold, something rare that no one else could offer me. Now he wouldn't have to think about me crying into my pillow, now he had his absolution.

I kick the kitchen door open with my foot “Yes” I say mechanically knowing full well he was no longer listening, and the paper was already covering his face.

In the blue tiled kitchen we had insisted would have to be replaced, but never got around to doing, I stand over the sink, hands submerged in soap suds and warm water, my fingers creating circles on the plate with the dishcloth. I stare out the window at the paved back yard, weeds pushing through the cracks. A magpie perches on the fence giving me the side eye. Then her voice pulls me, and I see her, skipping round and round in circles, her flowery white dress blowing with each kick of her little legs, a delightful giggle escaping her.

My chest rises as my heart quickens pace, my head becomes a cloud of fog. I am finding it hard to catch my breath, it sticks in my throat and I want to gag.

The click of his golf shoes brings me back to the room, the blue tiles, white chipped cupboards, the sink.

“Don’t have too much fun without me” he snuggles into my neck, as though time has not passed, and we were the happy couple our friends had once envied. His just brushed teeth, and familiar aftershave engulfs my nose, and I inhale deeply, allowing it to bring me back to the now.

“I’ll be on the mobile if you need me” then he is gone. Leaving me still breathing in the smell that once would have me spinning around, wrapping my legs around his waist. His strong arms would lift me in the air exciting me even more as he carries me over to the washer dryer and places me gently on top.

I wait for the front door to click shut, wipe my hands on the kitchen towel, and head out of the kitchen and into the hall. Opening the door under the stairs I peer in to the dark hole. Our coats hang on pegs against the wall stored away until next winter, hers, mine, his, our shoes thrown on to the floor. In the corner is the hoover, mop and other cleaning stuff. I bend my knees, squint into the back of the cupboard, and there it is, plain as day, his gold clubs. He had not remembered it once, and I had not asked why, because I knew why.

I can hold it no longer, sliding on to the carpeted floor, my head sinks on to my chest and a gasp escapes me as though I have just emerged from underwater. Pulling my knees to my chest, I crumble into the cotton skirt that matched hers. I am broken. I feel it in the uncontrollable gasps, the floods of tears falling, soaking my face, my skirt, the floor. The ache in my chest is endless, it wrenches at every step I make, every chore, every meal. I feel it in the emptiness of the house, the hollow walls, the listening floors. Her room, still untouched. The door not opened, not since.

At night, I lay awake listening to him sobbing in the bathroom when he thinks I am asleep, and I can’t bring myself to go to him, because my pain is too deep, and his pain will make it deeper. In the mornings, I wait for him to come to me, but instead he goes somewhere else, anywhere that is away from here.

The phone is ringing, a sharp shrill that screams at me to answer. I stumble to my feet, wiping my face with the back of my hands, and walk along the hall, turn to the left of the stairs and into the lounge. I reach for the black cordless on the window sill and put it to my ear sinking into the cream sofa. There is a last hic-cup as I force the tears back down.

“Hey”

It’s him, and I feel myself succumb to the cushions behind me, tears hovering under my eyelid threatening to re-appear. Every day he calls, and every day he asks the same question.

“How are you today?”

He is the only one who cares to ask. He is the only one not lost in his own grief.

“Where is he?” I ask. There is a pause on the other end of the line.

“John? He’s….he’s busy.” His voice lowers to a concerned whisper “Don’t worry about him he’s my brother, I'm looking after him.”

I close my eyes and imagine he is the same place my father often spots him, at the golf club bar, already worse for wear.

“It will get better you know.” I hear Tom say down the phone. I nod as though he can see me.

We fall silent listening to each other breathing. I sink further into the sofa, head pulled towards the white popcorn ceiling. I think about that night, the night we met, when everything changed. The wailing and crying from people I had not seen in years packed the church in their Sunday best, parading through crowds of faces begging to be heard, desperate to be seen. I was angry. Tom was the only one who noticed I was angry. He was the only one who noticed me, the mother. John was surrounded by family, his mother stroked his hair and mopped his tears, his father held him in his arms and soothed him, while I stood over her, staring at her as she peacefully slept wondering who would I love now.

I remember your arm around my shoulder and you squeezed it. I looked up and you were there, looking down at me with kind watery eyes, a weak upturned smile.

“How about some fresh air.” You said and I allowed you to lead me outside into the cool summer breeze. How refreshing that air felt, it clothed me, soaked my skin, like a shower on a hot sticky day. You led me to the grassy verge to the back of the church, and we lay on our backs, closed our eyes and allowed the sun to bathe us. You told me we would stay there until I was ready and I felt your hand over mine.

He sighs through the phone ending the silence reluctantly “I’ve got to go.”

 “Look after him.” I say, but what I want to say is look after me. I end the call and throw the phone on the cushion beside me.

I close my eyes and remember the way you slipped your hand over mine with such ease, without blinking an eyelid giving my hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Let me know when you’re ready to go back in.” You said, and I felt safe. I stole a glimpse at you, and your eyes were closed, your lips slightly parted. Guilt overwhelmed me and I pull my hand away “I’m ready to go back in.” I leave before you have time to answer, or before I have time to feel.

 

“Amelia” I feel the hands of someone shaking me gently and jump upright almost falling of the sofa. Tom grabs my arm to steady me, “you okay?”

I nod sleepily shielding my eyes from the bright table lamp. I had fallen asleep on the couch again.

“I brought John back” he says “he’s wasted though, so I've put him to bed.”

I squint at him allowing my eyes to adjust “You did?”

Tom nods balancing on one knee “I think you should be with each other tonight.”

I smile gratefully smoothing my hair down “Thank you.”

His eyes sparkle under the soft room light “no worries.”

He stands and walks around the sofa then stops, his hand hovering on the door handle, “I won’t be coming around anymore."

My body stiffens “Why?”

Tom shrugs “This was always going to happen”

“Was it?”

Our eyes lock and I inhale sharply lowering my eyes to my hands.

“I can’t keep doing this for much longer.”

I glare at my fingers willing myself to not look at him “Why?”

I hold my breath, waiting for his answer, but I know why. It was in the air between us every time we met, the stifling heavy air of the forbidden gnawing at my heart, clawing at my skin. Begging me to let him in, for him to take me.

“Because” he stops abruptly his finger caressing his lips a frown indented on his forehead, “because I need to forget.”

My breath catches in my throat, he searches me earnestly “I have to forget” he repeats more urgently. I feel the stab in my heart and  stumble to my feet rushing towards the door; he grabs my arm and pulls me to him, pressing my body into his chest, his arms wrapped around my waist. His breathing heavy and sharp, the touch of his fingers through my blouse sends shivers through me.

“He needs you” Tom whispers, each word tickling my face. He steps back, tilting his head to one side cupping my face in his hands. Slowly he lowers his lips to my forehead and I hold my breath as he kisses me gently, then he hovers around my trembling expectant lips.

He sighs deeply resting his head against my own. His hands fall to his side. Then, without looking back, he opens the door and walks out.

I stand frozen in the spot where he leaves me, willing my heart to slow down. Still feeling the imprints of his fingers on my face. I listen over my thumping heart to the opening of a car door, then the start of an engine.

“Is that Tom?” John appears at the top of the stairs dressed only in his boxers, looking worse for wear. I take a deep breath and enter the hallway looking up the stairs at my bleary eyed husband.

“No, it was nothing.”

He reaches for me like a child begging to be comforted from a nightmare and I climb the stairs towards him as the dutiful wife, knowing my heart has already left this house.

 

THE END


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