They hadn’t been shopping together for years. The fridge and cupboards had been neglected for months. She didn’t see why she had to do it all, so she slowly stopped bothering. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have enough time on his hands. She sat and stared at the fruit bowl on the table. The only thing remaining was a solitary lemon.
“Why?” he asked “Why now?”
“I just feel unhappy all the time. That’s it. I can’t be unhappy all the time, it’s killing me”, she said.
“You should have said something before. We could have worked this out” he said
“I did” she replied “I tried so hard to get you to see how fed up I was, but you didn’t want to know. I told you how difficult it was for me. I told you how lonely I was. I told you that I wanted to do things together again. I told you that the past was still haunting me and I was having trouble moving on. But not once did you sit down and say ‘Let’s talk’ ”
“We’re talking now” he offered
“It’s too late. I told you. I’ve run out of steam…” she hesitated… “…out of love”.
“You don’t love me?”
“Okay, fine. I’m gone” He rubbed at the side of his head as if trying to remove a stain. “I tell you what..” He stood up “…I’ll go and stay at Tom’s and maybe tomorrow you could be out and I’ll come and get my stuff?”
She nodded slowly once then held herself very still. Barely daring to blink. Her stomach churned and her hands began to shake. Desperate for a distraction she grabbed at the lemon and turned it over in her hands. Feeling the firm curves and dimpled waxiness, she found herself wondering why she had bought a waxed lemon, she didn’t usually. She always used unwaxed lemons. In fact, she realised suddenly, she can’t have bought this lemon. She wouldn’t have bought this lemon.
He was busying himself finding Tom’s number on his mobile and making sure he had his car keys in his pocket.
“Why did you buy a lemon?” she said suddenly.
“I didn’t” he replied quickly without looking up. But she could see that his face had flushed. Why on earth would he be embarrassed about replacing a lemon?
She flung the lemon back into the bowl and dropped her face onto her hands in despair. She fidgeted, trying not to get angry, but she just couldn’t help herself. The frustration of living with someone who couldn’t even communicate about the simplest things for years, someone who always had you trying to work out what the hell they were doing or thinking was driving her mad.
“Oh for Christ’s sake, you useless twat!” she yelled. She stretched out her fingers and held her hands out as if trying to contact the dead. She took in a deep breath and held it in her chest. She had to control this. He mustn’t see what he was doing to her.
He stared at her. Rigid and red-faced he willed her not to say what he thought might be coming next “She can’t know. How could she?” he thought.
“Right” he said abruptly. “I think I’d better go” His words tapered off into a nervous swallow and he turned towards the kitchen door, feeling for his car keys once more. He hesitated and looked back at her. He could give her a peck on the cheek, a comforting pat on the arm. What should he do now?
“Will you be ok?” he asked
“Why shouldn’t I be?” she said. She tried to be as matter-of-fact as possible. “This was my idea, remember? I’m sure you’ll be much happier now too”
“Er, right. Yeah…yeah…. maybe…Umm… okay then. I’ll…um….see you soon”
He was gone.
20 seconds of nothing. She counted. And then she let the images flood into her head. How he had flirted outrageously and repeatedly with her friend all those years ago in front of her which had lead to the decision to move away. How she had found the mysterious phone numbers on his phone that he wouldn’t explain to her. How he left her alone in the hospital bed for days after the miscarriages. How she had stood alone at the kitchen window night after night wondering when he would come home, if he would eat the meal she had cooked for him.
Then the old memories. The oldest and the best memories. A handsome, attentive man who was interested in her and her life. Holidays together, sunset walks on the beach, making love impulsively in the bathroom, on the stairs, at her parents house, in the garden at night. She still loved that man. She ached for that man.
The pain of soon to fall tears welled inside her head and she groaned with the agony of her loss. She could sit there no longer. She stood up and paced back and forth across the kitchen moaning and shaking her head. Then she threw herself onto the floor and screamed, holding her hands to her head. She knew she would be like this for days and she would just have to ride it out….
Tom opened his door still bewildered from his phone call. “Why mate? Did she find out about the party? I thought we covered our tracks quite well. Jeez…I really thought you two were happy. Surely you could have worked things out? You never really try very hard to make anything work do you? God man. You’re such a lemon”