Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Trap

When she walks out of the bedroom door, he is sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for her, wearing the blue shirt she'd got him for Christmas and a look that she's never seen before.

She starts in shock at the sight of him, a small cry escaping her lips. "Goodness", she says, "you startled me. I didn't hear you come in".

He makes no reply to this, just continues to stare at her, as though struggling to recognise in her the person he had expected. His eyes seek hers relentlessly. She looks away.

"You're back early, aren't you?" She tries to fake a laugh. "I didn't think you were coming back till tomorrow. When did you get in?"

He says nothing, but the gesture he makes with his hand takes it all in - the table still laid with last night's dishes, the burnt out candlesticks, the flowers lying discarded in the sink, the thin light of morning filtering through the blinds like smoke from a burning sunrise, the set of knives carefully arranged in their wooden block, each fitted to its own slot, the blinking of the clock-radio as time struggles to come awake. As if that were explanation enough. As if that were all that needed to be said.

She looks away again.

"Errr....the thing is, David, I..."

At the sound of his name something seems to touch him, spur him to speech. "There's someone in the bedroom isn't there?" His voice has all the bitterness of freshly brewed coffee. For the first time she can feel his anger percolating into the room.

"Yes."

"A man?"

A nod. "Yes". She pulls her robe tight around her.

Silence then. The terrible numbness that comes when you rip off a band-aid and wait for your skin to come back. She rummages in her head for something to say. A moment ticks by.

He sighs. "I guess I'll be getting along then." There is no reproach in the way he says this, only tiredness - the endless defeat of motel rooms, the weariness of a a clock condemned to go on ticking. "Mind if I have some breakfast first?"

"Go ahead."

She stands in the doorway, watching as he makes his way around the kitchen, a high priest assembling the sacred parts of his morning ritual. Everything is in its proper place, as usual, the kitchen a miracle of order and efficiency. This is his doing. She can still remember waking up that first morning and finding that he'd been up for two hours setting her kitchen right - re-arranging the glassware and putting labels on all the spices. Now, as she watches, his craftsman's hands take a bagel from the basket and proceed to cut it straight down the middle. No hesitation, just a quick plunge into the exact centre and a swift running stroke, and the bread falls away in two equal halves, their edges not even slightly ragged. She's always admired the way he does these things - his neatness, his precision. He drops the two halves into the toaster, fills a glass with orange juice, puts down a table mat, lays out a knife, a plate.

The attention to detail, the cool, deliberate way he moves. It occurs to her, vaguely, that a trap is being laid here. A moment from which there will be no escape. When the toaster goes off like a gun, she jumps in suprise. The spell is broken. Turning away, she hurries back into her bedroom. Donald is still asleep in her bed. She might as well get dressed. It takes her a while to find something appropriate - too sexy and he might think she was mocking him, too frumpish and he might think she was devastated. (Is she devastated? She isn't sure. She's damned if she's going to admit it to him, though). Finally she decides on something casual - a pair of faded jeans and a t-shirt.

She is still slipping into the jeans when she hears him knock softly on the door behind her. "I'm leaving", he says. She hurries out to see him off, but he is already outside, walking across the lawn with those slow, easy strides of his, his satchel slung across his back. She watches him go from the window, wondering if she will ever see him again.

It is only when she turns around and comes back to the kitchen that she sees it, right there on the centre of the table. Everything else has been cleared away - the dishes slipped into the washer, the candlesticks put back above the fridge. There is only the single plate with one half of a bagel lying on it, uneaten, waiting for her.

She is beginning to realise that even the most perfect of circles can be incomplete.

2 comments:

shucks said...

when something like this happened, I caught myself thinking, "What would be a *cool* thing to do in this situation?".
Once its over, the best you can do, emotional distress aside, is to achieve some dramatic effect. This would be one way of doing it.

Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » » »