Image by Christine Renney
They were separating, pulling apart. It had been happening for a while, for an age in fact, and yet they still shared a bed and a bathroom and the kitchen stove. In order to end it they needed to talk, to sit down face to face. There was so much they had to decide and she wanted so badly to thrash it out, but the gulf between had gotten too deep, too wide and they couldn’t cross or go around it.
A weekend away in the country, a change of scenery, neutral territory. It was her idea but she hadn’t needed to push it, he had agreed almost instantly and this had annoyed her a little. He could so easily have just said no, asked what’s the point, why would we bother to do that? But he hadn’t and here they were.
She retrieved the key from beneath the plant pot as instructed and unlocked the door. She stepped inside but stopping she stood on the threshold, blocking him.
‘I don’t think we should be together.‘ She shouted it into the empty house. ‘We should be apart, in separate rooms I mean.’
‘Okay,’ he mumbled and put her suitcase down on the doorstep. She turned and watched him as he walked back toward the car.
‘Which of the rooms would you like?’ she asked, trying to make the question sound light and airy.
‘I don’t care,’ he snapped. He could hear his voice in his head, brusque, harsh, blunt, but it wasn’t really how he felt.
‘Well, there are three rooms to choose from so why don’t we go up and take a look and then you can decide?’
‘I want the smallest,’ he said, managing to say it softly, under his breath. And he wasn’t really talking to her, although he couldn’t be sure that she got it, that she understood.
In the largest of the rooms she tossed and turned. Couldn’t stop thinking about him. Why had he insisted on taking that little room, the box room. It was like a cell and the thought of him in there depressed her.
She crept out onto the landing and stood in front of the door. Cupping her hands she pressed her ear against it and listened, wondered if he was asleep, if he was comfortable.
She shuffled around, leant against the door and it gave a little in its frame; creaking and straining against the catch. She realised that if he were to open it she would fall through but she wouldn’t move and refused to accept that, however temporarily, this was the door to his room.
It didn’t take long, just twenty minutes or so to say all that needed to be said. They each drank two cups of coffee and afterwards sat in silence over a third. She wanted to keep talking but had to admit that it wasn’t really necessary. They had dotted the I’s and crossed every T, had attended to each and every cliché that concerned itself with efficiency. He, as usual, had been succinct, wasn’t the type to talk simply for the sake of it. They had divided their belongings, had managed to sort through all the baggage that they had acquired during their time together. But twenty minutes? It felt too quick, too soon and again she wanted to keep talking. It was the end and also the beginning of something, something big. Surely it warranted a little more?
She would be able to talk later with her friends, there would be much to analyse. But not now, not here and suppressing yet another sigh she watched him.
He stood at the sink with his back to her and rinsed his cup. He then placed it upside down on top of the empty draining board.
She suspected he would adapt easily to living alone. That for him the transition would be seamless, that it would consist simply of a paring down, a shredding and shaving away until everything was smaller and he had less of everything, except his books of course.
She could easily picture him in his new flat where he would have just one cup, one plate, one bowl.
She was determined now not to talk, any attempt to do so would quickly turn stilted and so why not play him at his own game? She would just sit here and not talk to see how he liked it. She was acting childishly, she knew this. After all they had managed to settle things amicably and both of them were wholly resigned. He had been reasonable and had acted like an adult. She should have been relieved, grateful even and she was, but why did she also feel like this?
‘I’m exhausted,’ she said, ‘I have to go back up to bed. I need to sleep.’
He stood at the door to her room but didn’t step across the threshold.
‘It will get easier,’ he told her.
‘I know,’ she replied.
After all that had been said the thought of being cooped up in this unfamiliar cottage was too much now to contemplate. She decided she would suggest they leave first thing in the morning. He could start making the necessary arrangements and move out. They needed to get away from each other. They needed to be apart.
She began to undress and from the door he watched her. Glancing at him she moved to the foot of the bed. She looked up at him again and, this time, she held his gaze.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘okay. But first will you promise me something?’
‘What is it?’
‘Don’t sleep in that little room, not tonight.’
‘What do you mean?’
She laughed, ‘Don’t worry, I don’t mean you have to stay in here with me but move into the other room, the bigger one. Please will you promise me?’
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘I promise.’
And for the last time he stepped into her room.