Seven thirty: alarm clock beeping children sleeping the rest of the house is still. Chris Moyles talking on the radio, he hates Chris Moyles but she thinks he’s funny. What she says goes. Shit load of bills piling up inside the cabinet and inside his mind, he’ll look at them one day but not today, today he can’t. He’s let them down he can pretend he hasn’t but he knows he has and the worst part is he doesn’t care.
He sighs and rises, it’s time to face it. He doesn’t know why it happened or what made him do it but when he thinks again he knows perfectly well. It was stupid in the same way that it wasn’t stupid and although he’ll suffer for it, it was more than worth it. He knows that now.
His life revolves around the mundane, no colour no substance just blank. Grey. He gets up in the morning he leaves the house he goes to work he eats his sandwiches he sits at a desk hating every living being that surrounds him. He takes the family on holiday twice a year. Fun places with men in bear suits and water slides and happy families sat on the beach looking smug.
Turns on the kettle, hears movement upstairs. It’s all about to start, the shouting the screaming, the chaos the mess. He didn’t sign up for this. He never knew their relationship would come to this.
She was different then, blonde firm enigmatic fun. Now she just exists in a haze of complaints about everything, every coming day brings a new problem for her to recognise and commentate, kids neighbours money family, every day a relentless burden. She enters the kitchen, gives him a slight nod and reaches for a banana. She eats it fast and carelessly. A chunk drops and clings to her flat breast. She notices, picks it up and shoves it straight back into her mouth. She disgusts him, every inch of her being sends ripples of hatred through the core of his body yet still she’s too stupid to know.
He brushes his teeth, fixes his tie leaves the house and sets off in the car. Won’t be long before the car has to go, he knows that and the thought makes him dizzy.
She wanted a kiss before he left, wanted to wish him a nice day. Called him as he stepped onto the driveway “Martin! Martin!” he can still hear her now, that stupid shrill voice leaving that daft mouth of hers. Her voice will haunt him all day. A fly crawls up the windscreen. It’s teasing him, laughing at him because it knows its boundaries, knows it has no boundaries. Knows it can leave any time, no responsibility no job no wife no mistress no home no kids. Free.
“You lucky bastard” he mutters under his breath as the fly departs and makes its way somewhere, anywhere, nowhere. He envies the fly, envies a life of no speech, no time zone, no mother-in-law, no money, no Chris Moyles. No bullshit.
“I’ll see you on Monday in my office, nine thirty sharp”. That’s what he’d said, old Mr Craig with his brown suit and grey moustache. That was then and this is now and nine thirty is only moments away.
He parks the car in a meticulous fashion, nothing can be wrong today, nothing can be wrong today, nothing can be wrong today. Everything will be fine.
They’re all there in the car park, the ‘big boys’ in their polyester suits and crippled by their egos. Pearly white teeth made brighter by deep mahogany tans. Salesmen doing what they do best, bragging about nothing in their cockney drawl while the others jeer and whistle.
“Ahhh yeah you should have seen her, man. Wouldn’t leave my side all night, I’m telling you it won’t be long before she’s dumping that plumber and occupying my sheets if you know what I mean?!”. It’s just the usual Monday morning talk, normally drugs, women and football are the centre of it all. Never had he heard them talking about the news, empathised with their concerns about the credit crunch or job cuts. They exist merely in their only little bubble far from reality, even further from Martin’s reality. They could never understand him the way she did.
Making his way up to the boardroom he counts his steps. One, two, three, every moment brings him closer and closer to his future. What is his future? He’d read in the paper 500,000 job cuts are to be made in the coming year. Who would have room to employ a sad useless cheat like him? “Because that’s all you are now” he tells himself with contempt.
All he can think about is her lying there all supple and shining, hair as red as the finest rubies, skin as white as snow, eyes like emeralds glistening in the face of extra marital danger. He should be stiff with worry but all he can do is long, long for the touch he could lose everything for the sake of. Longing to know her soft smoky kiss just one more time he knocks on the door of her husband’s office. It makes a creaking sound as it swings open and there he is, sat at the head of the long wooden table in all of his glory reading the morning newspapers. He probably left her lying there this morning, her hair spread all around her like a fiery halo and for that Martin knows he could never forgive him.
“Sit down, Martin” he sounds tired and disinterested.
“How are you today, Martin?” he sits back in his arm chair pushing his bursting stomach out so far it greets the edge of the table in an embrace only matched by besotted lovers in their early teens.
“V- v- v- very well thank you, Mr Craig” he stutters with nerves before reminding himself of how little he cares, his job doesn’t matter anymore, he’ll find another. His wife doesn’t matter anymore; to him their marriage lays dead with the autumn leaves that crunch beneath them on their weekend walks to nowhere.
“I’m glad to hear it” his eyes divert from Martin to the bouncing blonde staring up at him from page three of the newspaper lying on the table. He stifles a chuckle presumably of embarrassment and flips the newspaper over. “I don’t know what’s been going on, Martin, but I’m sick of having McGregor in my ear whinging about you”
Martin’s stomach drops with such force he checks the floor space around him to see where it fell. He feels sick, if Mr Craig doesn’t know then it means life will carry on as normal, same job same wife same home. Same shit.
Mr Craig continues “He told me he’d meet me here at nine today because he had something important to tell me about you, hence why I called you in here at nine thirty but the godforsaken idiot hasn’t turned up so I guess whatever it is you’ve done you’re off the hook. God knows what it was he wanted to talk to me about because you don’t seem the type to waste my time by visiting social networking sites in your work hours and your record’s pretty clean so on that note you can go and get on with your work and stop wasting my time.”
Martin feels stiff as he leaves the table and makes his way out of the office door. He should be pleased, relieved, delighted to be returning to his desk and later to the arms of his loving wife Jane. Instead he feels pain as though he’s been shot with a bullet designed to trap him into this sherade forever. A fish tank sits on top of the reception desk, he never noticed it until now. Hundreds of tiny fish crammed into the smallest of spaces endeavouring to fulfil their daily duties by diving over each other, around each other, crashing into each other. They’re trapped, there’s no escape, they will live and die in that space and there’s nothing they will ever be able to do to change that.
His mobile phone rings, it’s McGregor.
“Enjoy your meeting with old Mr Craig this morning?” he sounds satisfied and amused.
“Listen McGregor, this all ends today. I couldn’t care less anymore I’ve got nothing to lose”
“You’ve got a lot to lose, Martin my friend. Think about that lovely wife, your kids, your job and everything else that comes with it. You’re a lucky man. I know a lot of people who would kill to be in your position” his voice is low and whispered, “ten more thousand and we’re equal”.
“I’m through McGregor you can tell him. Tell him, tell my wife, tell whoever wants to fucking listen because this is over. I won’t have you blackmailing me anymore it’s not even worth it” He switches his phone off and heads back towards the car park in a daze.
His tyres screech and he’s leaving that place, he never wants to see that premises again it disgusts him. Every brick is built on top of another formed from the stupidity and misfortune of innocent clients who have been naïve enough to sign lengthy contracts, contracts forced in front of them by the cockney salesmen with the drugs and the women.
He can’t wait to see her. Even if it’s for the last time he needs to see her now. Her face is there printed at the forefront of his mind as he races towards the suburbs of the city where they both live, her and Mr Craig. He’s not far away from her, he can feel her near him singing and dancing to the radio as she always did in the morning. She had never liked Chris Moyles either.
The closer he gets to her the more beads of sweat fall from his brow and onto his lap. He wonders whether she will come, leave them all behind and start again somewhere else. He had the money. Jane could keep the house, he’ll send them Christmas cards and always make sure the kids know where he is just in case they ever need anything.
He pictures his mother-in-law’s face when she finds out and he can’t stop himself from laughing. Good old Belinda with her perfect home and perfect marriage and perfect children with their perfect homes and perfect marriages and perfect children. What would she tell the neighbours? Maybe she will tell them he’s dead, he wouldn’t put it past her.
He parks his car outside their home, usually he would park two streets away to save suspicion but this time he doesn’t care. Whatever happens he’s not returning to that job, that home, that woman, that colourless monotonous life. She stands at the door in a white silk dressing gown with her scarlet hair tumbling down to her waist.
“Martin? Can I help you? Is that your car in the drive way?!” She seems flustered and panicked.
“Get your things Isabelle we’re leaving”.
She laughs. “Leaving? What on Earth are you talking about? Is there a bomb about to go off or something?”
“I’m taking you away from here, you don’t love him and I don’t love her. I can’t do it anymore, Isabelle, I need you” he shakes and shifts his weight from one foot to another. His life is about to change.
She bursts into a fit of laughter. “Oh Martin, darling, you can’t be serious?! Come in, come in although I do have company so we’ll have to make it quick”
Martin’s mind begins to hurl a seemingly never ending series of questions at him; company? What kind of company? Today isn’t Wednesday, that’s the only time she has friends over for book club. Why is she laughing?
He enters the living room and perches himself on the edge of the brown suede sofa, she says she’ll be back shortly and asks if he would like a drink. He says he’s fine. He nervously looks around. Clothes are strewn in every part of the room and the curtains are closed. He hears voices upstairs. A man’s voice. He looks at the clothes scattered around him, Levi jeans and a large blue shirt. His biggest fear then becomes reality when Isabelle re-enters the room , this time she is not alone.
“Martin, this is Charlie, he’s doing some work on the house” she has that daring glint in her eye, the one he thought only he knew too well ”Charlie, this is Martin, one of my husband’s employees”.
He looks up at the topless wonder standing over him, tanned and toned with short hair styled to perfection, he is a painstaking reminder of the men he despises at work.
“I’d better make my way to the hardware store, Mrs Craig” Charlie reaches for his clothes and quickly puts them on before leaving. “Nice to meet you, Martin.” Martin hears the front door bang as Isabelle begins to try to explain.
“Martin, you’re getting carried aw-”
“I can’t believe you” he interrupts her solemnly.
“I’m sorry, this has gone too far. Go back to your family, your lovely wife. I’ll leave you alone from now on”
He can see the outline of her body beneath the silk robe she holds wrapped around her. Desperate to touch her he holds out his arms. She tells him to leave. Apologises. He tells her he has nowhere to go, his house is not his home, his home is with her, it doesn’t matter where it is but it has to be with her. Tears of heartbreak loneliness desperation can’t stop themselves from spilling from his eyes and rolling down his cheeks.
She tells him to leave and never come back.
Seven thirty: alarm clock beeping children sleeping the rest of the house is still. Chris Moyles talking on the radio. Another day without colour.
By Saskia Murphy