Become a Fan
By Rod Glenn
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
One man's descent into paranoia brought about by his distrust of his wife.
By Rod Glenn
Shards of dazzling, early morning sunshine cascaded through the thin gap in the curtains to throw bolts of light across the duvet where two figures were sleeping. The man shifted then groaned. Robert folded the cover away from his body onto his wife’s side. Sarah lay motionless; her soft breathing the only other sound and her long chestnut hair, splayed across her pillow, the only part of her visible.
With considerable effort, Robert heaved himself out of the beckoning comfort of the bed then hunted in the gloom for the underwear he had laid out the night before. As he quietly dressed, a bird broke into happy chirping song in the garden.
Yawning, Robert returned to the bedroom with tea and toast to his now groggily stirring wife. He placed the tray down on the bed and sat down beside her.
“Thanks,” Sarah said and sipped at the steaming mug.
“So how was your night with Janet?” Robert asked as he picked at some toast.
Smiling, she said, “Okay. We had a good laugh.”
Robert seemed to study her for a bit then nodded and swigged some tea down.
Robert arrived at work with ten minutes to spare. The traffic had been unusually light for a Friday. He exchanged pleasantries with the buxom receptionist and walked through into the open plan office.
While he waited for his computer to boot up, he made two mugs of tea in the kitchenette. As he walked back to his desk, he saw his friend and colleague, Richard, had arrived and was busying himself at his desk opposite Robert’s.
“Hi, mate,” Robert said to him and handed him one of the mugs.
“Cheers,” Richard said. He was unshaven, but in a designer way. Sharp suit, shirt unbuttoned at the collar and no tie, Police sunglasses.
A young spotty lad trotted over on seeing Richard. “Hey, Rich! How’d you get on last night? I saw you with that hot redhead.” He gave a conspiratory wink.
Richard rolled his eyes. “Never you mind, kid.”
“Oh yes?” Robert said, smiling. “Who’s this new lass then?”
His friend gave a dismissive wave with his free hand. “No one special.”
Work had been pretty quiet, which was usually the case on a Friday when most of the partners were off playing golf or sneaking off to see their mistresses. Robert sat down in the lounge and tugged off his tie. As he skim-read the Evening Chronicle, the phone rang. He picked it up on the second ring as Sarah shouted through from the kitchen, “I’ll get it.”
“Hello?” Robert said. His greeting was met with silence. There was the briefest pause and then the caller hung up. Robert sat and listened to the monotone hum for a couple of seconds before shrugging and replacing the handset into its recharging cradle.
Sarah walked through, wiping her hands on a tea towel. “Who was that?”
“No idea. Hung up as soon as I answered.” He looked at her, waiting for a reaction. She frowned, but then shrugged and left him. He continued to stare at the spot where she had been standing. The word ‘redhead’ swam amongst his thoughts. In a flash, his mind’s eye offered him a glimpse of Sarah and Richard together; laughing, embracing, lips closing in. He had to shake his head to dislodge the thought.
He sprung to his feet and wrung his hands nervously.
The bedroom was still and hot. Robert walked straight over to Sarah’s side of the bed and opened her small bedside cabinet. There lay her thick five year diary.
In their three years of marriage and two years of courtship, he had never so much as peeked at her private thoughts. It had barely even occurred to him. The diary had always been by her bed (the old pink one was the first one he’d seen back at her flat – this one was a coffee cream). She had never felt the need to hide it and that openness clearly lessened his curiosity. But now…
His hand hovered an inch from the hard cover of the journal, a slight tremble catching on the tips of his fingers. Curiosity killed the cat…
Suddenly he closed the cabinet and stepped back from it as he would a snarling pitbull straining at its leash. What the hell am I doing? he thought. Those are her private thoughts.
He stormed out of the bedroom and into their snug bathroom. At the sink, he glared at himself in the mirror above it. I trust my wife, for christsake. I’ve always trusted her. What’s the matter with me? I’m being stupid.
The following Friday, Robert arrived into work early. The receptionist was just taking her coat off as he walked through.
“Morning, Robert. You’re keen, aren’t you?”
“Morning, Margaret. Lots to do.”
The office was gloomy and empty. After flicking on the overhead lighting, he trudged over to his desk. As if on automatic pilot, Robert continued round to Richard’s desk and stared down at the A3 deskpad that occupied the centre of it in front of a keyboard and monitor. Amidst scribbled notes, telephone numbers and the odd doodle, one name stood out that had been circled a number of times. Sarah.
His heart skipped a beat then began to pound against his chest. Questions exploded into his mind as the office junior walked in.
“Hey, Rob. How’s it hanging?”
Robert mumbled a reply and sat down at his desk, his eyes wide and unfocussed. The office junior shrugged and headed over to the hot desk by the photocopier.
Richard arrived some time later and Robert realised that he had been sat motionless and staring into space the whole time. The office had started to fill in that time and a phone was ringing at an unmanned desk.
“Alright, Rob?” Richard asked, slumping into his chair and dumping a shoulder bag on his desk, covering the deskpad.
“Yeah, okay,” Robert managed. Then, looking up to him, he added, “So any joy with this new redhead then?”
A short pause, then, “Time will tell.”
Robert escaped work early and felt the smallest amount of relief once he stepped out into the cool afternoon air. The day had been frustrating and drawn out. His mind had refused to cast out persistent, nagging questions. Redhead…Sarah…Phonecall…
After closing the front door behind him, he heard Sarah’s voice in the lounge. He wasn’t the only one who’d managed to get off work early.
She greeted him in the hall with a smile and the phone in her hand. “You’re home early.”
His returned smile was a thin imitation. “You too.”
“Yeah.” She frowned. “You look like you’ve had a bad day.”
She watched him walk upstairs, his footfalls heavy, despite the plush carpet. “Really bad day,” she said to herself. Then, louder, she called after him, “Do you want to talk about it?” No reply.
Robert headed straight for the bedroom and round the bed to his wife’s side. He yanked the cabinet open and made a grab for the diary. His hand stopped; it wasn’t there.
Later that evening, Sarah popped her head round the door to the second bedroom that had been converted into a small study. Robert was playing a game on the computer. “That was Janet on the phone. She wants to meet up for a few drinks in an hour. Is that okay?” Her tone was soothing and she chose her words carefully. His mood had not improved through dinner and since then he had retreated to the study without another word.
“Fine,” Robert said without taking his eyes from the screen cluttered with buildings and moving vehicles. The speakers announced, “Warning: Low power!”
Anger finally broke through her genial features, flushing her pale cheeks. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing; just a bad day at work.” He continued to stare at the screen, using the mouse to point and click on various icons.
“Why are you shutting me out? Talk to me.” The anger dissolved and her eyes were pleading, but Robert did not look at her. He knew what he’d see on her pretty features; guilt.
Sarah stood in the doorway for a moment longer and then spun on her heels and left him alone.
The evening had turned grey and cold and drizzling rain had thrown a damp veil over everything. The taxi pulled up outside Stacey’s nightclub and, after paying the driver, Sarah and Janet jumped out and hurried over to the entrance that was flanked by two burly bouncers.
Robert pulled up across the street in his lease car. Through the side window, speckled with droplets of rainwater, he watched as they entered. He continued to stare long after they had disappeared.
What am I doing? The question stung like a wasp. Wild accusations were buzzing around inside him, infecting him, infesting him. This is madness. She loves me; I know she loves me. I’m just jumping to conclusions. I’m hurting her and she has no idea why. Paranoid; that’s what I am. It stops here.
“It stops here,” he repeated out loud. His hand settled on the keys in the ignition, but there they stopped. A second taxi had pulled up and Richard was stepping out into the drizzle.
A wave of nausea crashed over him and in its wake it drew a rising rage. As burning madness oozed from every pore in his body, it seemed to shake every part of him, like a coiled spring.
The car sped off into the dreary night.
He picked a cheap looking bar at random and quickly struck up a conversation with a young woman. Her name was Laura and she was a little plain and was carrying a little too much weight around her thighs and bum, but none of that mattered. She was interested; that’s all that mattered.
After a couple of vodka’s, followed by a couple of Aftershock chasers, he persuaded her to come home with him. Less than two hours had passed since he had decided to follow Sarah.
They stripped as soon as they entered the bedroom and Laura fell on him with alcohol-fuelled kisses.
They had sex with little or no foreplay and, for Robert, it was purely perfunctory. Something in the back of his mind told him to get it over with as quickly as possible.
He fell off her and lay flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling.
Laura lay there for a moment then said, “Is that it?”
Sounds of laughter rose up through the partly open window to punctuate the awkward silence. The front door opened and Sarah and Richard’s voices drifted up the stairs.
Laura sat up quickly, pulling the duvet up to cover her small breasts. “Who’s that?”
“Time to end all the lies,” Robert snarled and jumped out of bed. After quickly pulling on his shorts, he stomped out of the room, red-faced and seething.
Sarah tugged off her coat then shouted up the stairs. “Robert, I’m home.” He appeared at the top of the stairs with his arms folded across his chest and a glare that caused her to take a step back.
His face immediately morphed from anger to shock. Janet and Richard were both standing in the hall with his wife, but it was the other woman that Richard had his arm around that his eyes anchored on. She was a redhead.
“Hey, buddy,” Richard said. “I’d like you to meet Sarah.”
Site: Rod Glenn
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