She did that thing with her hair. Twisting it playfully around her finger like a loose thread. In the same manner she did on our first date. It used to be endearing, flirtatious even, but right now it’s pissing me off. It’s too dark for her pasty complexion. Once, it shone caramel; the colour, contagious to the rising of my dimples. Now, it’s a Pound Shop dye-job-disaster.
The first date, the Italian down the road. I couldn’t afford petrol back then so the car, if you could call it that, often sat immobile on the drive way. I could pretend it was to flaunt the thing to the neighbours, but there wasn’t much to show off. The door was falling off and its colour was indistinguishable. Fact was, it was an embarrassment. Not a lady-puller, but a laughing stock.
She wore a pale pink blouse, the colour just a dark enough shade to enhance her pale skin. I wore the shirt I often wore to the office, only without the tie. Didn’t want to appear too fancy. Her lips were moulded like cherries, a cranberry colour, uncertain if it were lipstick or naturally desirable. The fact was, she was out of my league.
But somehow I got the girl. Five years of marriage, a wedding we couldn’t afford. Leanne, well she looked gorgeous. I remember the first year all too well, it’s like that first six months of dating but heightened. Calling her my wife felt alien, I still had to correct myself half the time. This is my wife, Leanne. It wasn’t a fear of commitment, or any lack of acceptance. Looking back, it was more the worry of came next. Fulfilling others’ expectations. It’s all they ask you, like a tick-box list of what is to come. ‘So, any baby plans?’ ‘When are you expecting then, Leanne?’ ‘Has it really been five years, already? Better get a move on folks, you’re not this age forever!’
We’re both in denial. She has a book on parenthood in her bed-side drawer, hidden under toiletries she thinks I haven’t looked through. She’s patient, I’ll give her that. But there’s a fine line between patience and deliberate avoidance.
‘How many times are we going to have this conversation, Le?’ The pitch of my voice had increased with irritation.
She stands there, her eyes unable to meet mine, twisting that strand of hair round her finger. I’m surprised she has any hair left.
‘I’m just waiting for you to change your mind, Dan,’
‘What if I’m not going to? What if this is it for me? Like I’ve said time and time again.’
‘But you said you’d think about it,’
‘Which I have.’
She looked up at me, her eyes were brimming with tears, the kitchen lights reflecting from her watered pupils.
‘What are you trying to say?’
I gulped. What was I doing? The words spurred out in a vomit-like, incoherence.
‘We’re both living in denial, Le. We want different things. I can’t do this anymore.’