I got up early; I wanted to make you French Toast. The egg coated bread sizzled in the pan as I stood over the cooker half-dressed, wearing the plaid slippers your mother got you that were two sizes too big. The music started just as the bread became golden.
I brought you breakfast in bed, but within seconds of meeting your eyes, I knew that toast would remain uneaten, the coffee cold and untouched. ‘Some days aren’t yours at all.’ You sighed. Looked at me with half glazed eyes. It was a line from the song, one you played over and over; I knew it, and I hated you for it. The days weren’t supposed to be yours; they should have been ours. But you never understood that.
He can’t listen to music the way I do. Sometimes, I feel like the words are written just for me.
‘Some days aren’t yours at all.’ I told him. Because I know what she means when she sings it.
Some days just get away from me. Today was one of them. I want the days like this to just stop, to let me off, but they don’t so I just wait and hope they pass by. And they do. But he’s too always impatient to wait them out with me.
A good day. You packed a picnic early. Too early to be considered a normal day, but a good day nonetheless. We walked across the field and up the hill, sat near the trig point drinking flat lemonade and eating soggy cheese sandwiches. I held your hand and stroked your hair as your thick black curls fought to escape my fingers.
You could never relax on Saturdays, as though the week hadn’t quite ended or began which made you restless. Sundays, though, they were your days. I could always feel the change in you, as if the tight grip the world had on your mind had loosened, just for the day. But sometimes a day is enough. ‘Why can’t every day be like this?’ You beamed. Looked at me with wide eyes. Why can’t it? It was on days like this that I loved you.
It’s days like this that I think we’ll be okay, not just him and me, but us.
I woke up and felt it straight away; I knew what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go and I just wanted to get out of the house then. I didn’t want to wait for him to tidy up, or sort out the washing, I just needed to leave. Now.
But he’s always so slow. I made a picnic to fill the time. And, when I saw that he’d finished the cans of diet coke I’d bought especially and left only the flat sugar-filled lemonade that he likes – the one full of numbers that add up – I just took the bottle out and packed it. I even drank some, later. Swallowed all those numbers whole.
We were good today. He stroked my hair like he used to and I don’t know why I can’t always do this. But when I do, when we manage it, I know he really loves me.
The problem is, he never keeps it up. He doesn’t get it; the day doesn’t just finish after tea. He can’t just fall asleep and leave me here alone. That’s when it’s worst. When my heart goes so fast that I’ll do anything to stop it. That’s when I need him. When the house is silent and black but everything is too bright and loud. That’s when I need him the most. But he doesn’t get it. He always leaves me. So I try to just sit it out; to do what normal people do. Watch TV. Read a book. But I can’t. Not on my own.
I barely saw you today. You went out late last night and didn’t return until early evening. I didn’t ask you where you’d been and you didn’t offer it up. The sickly sweet stale smell on your skin gave me indication enough and I was angry. At some point, Sunday had spilt into Monday and you had gone to black again. I’ve thought of staying up in the past to see what happened; when did the change take place? Was it as the clock struck twelve? Or is that too fairy tale? You never slept before it, so you couldn’t blame the night, but at some point whilst we were lying under the sheets side by side, me dead to the world, you staring at the ceiling, things shifted and you left me again.
But you always came back. Beans on toast. Black coffee. Cigarettes. ‘Is this really it?’ You moaned. Looked at me with red rimmed eyes.
I think it might be.
Why doesn’t he ask where I’ve been? He never asks. He thinks he knows, but he doesn’t; and it makes me sick, that he lets me do it. I’d never let up asking him, if he disappeared in the night. But of course, he couldn’t. I wouldn’t let him.
I stayed out too late last night. I just wondered around. I just walked, and watched. I l sit outside the clubs we used to go to, watching the cackling crowds spill out like a virus. They’re in the world, those people. I like to watch them, and pretend that I could be too. Instead, I smoke and sit. Sometimes I buy vodka from the corner shop and swig it from the bottle. I worry that I’m not far gone enough to want to do this, but by then my throat’s already burning, so it doesn’t really matter what I think. Sometimes, I make friends. There are always men who will sit with someone like me on a bench in the dark. I always come home though.
You were tired, childlike. Needed caring for, hot chocolate on the sofa, films under a duvet. And loving.
You reminded me of the cat we used to have; how you confessed to me one night that you loved her most when she was scared because it was then that she showed how much she needed you. Do you remember how she used to burrow into our bed when the doorbell rang? Terrified of the outside getting in. By night, you were calm, rested and even. ‘Let’s do something tomorrow, let’s go somewhere, get out.’ You smiled. Looked at me with mischievous eyes. I prepared myself for the long day to come.
What a wasted day. One of those where you keep catching the time and wondering how it’s ended up like this and you’ve done nothing and then it’s 2pm and what can anyone do past 2pm if they haven’t even left the house yet? I can’t do anything anyway. I wonder how long you can call yourself a writer for if you haven’t written a word in years.
He tells me not for much longer.
I think he might be right.
We just need to go somewhere. That will stop me feeling like my blood is acid burning through my veins. I just need to move. It’s always worse when you’re sitting still. Like my mum used to say, you just need something to do, that’ll sort you, she’d tell me, rolling her eyes and letting the ash of her cigarette fall onto my swept floor. Yeah, I just need to keep moving. I just need to move.
You were up before the sun, impressive to some but for me only spelt out warning signs. We’d done this so many times before. You missed your own graduation for a day like this. You’ve missed so many things that should have been important to you, but weren’t; it’s always been more important that you had these days – whatever they were, whenever they fell. Your spontaneous adventures. To the beach, you decided. The beach, four hours from our house. On a day no one would call ‘beach weather’, but to the beach it was. ‘I want to swim! Let’s go in the sea! Come on!’ Too quick to look at me, you ran, shoes kicked off like a child and dived into the black water, disappearing from view. I panicked. Waited. Didn’t run, I’ll be honest, I didn’t follow, I won’t lie, I didn’t run. Waited. You returned. Cold and wet. No towel to scoop you up in. We drove home in silence. These days never end like you want them to.
I want to pretend that he panicked when I disappeared, when he thought I might be drowning, when he imagined the salty water filling my lungs. I want to pretend that his heart was bursting in the seconds, then minutes that felt like an eternity, when I was gone. But I saw his face when I came back. It wasn’t relief.
I know what it was.
I think I stayed under too long this time.
A trip to the doctors. Never a good day. It took me hours to get you in the car, but I was prepared, I always told you the appointments were two hours before they really were. I thought at some point you would have realised, but you never did, mind too full of other horrors I suppose.
Though we made it on time, the doctor was running late and I felt your body tense further and further with every tick of the cheap plastic clock. 3:45, tick, 3:46, tick, 3:47, tick, 3:48 tick tick tick tick. ‘I hate it here.’ You glared at me. You hate it everywhere.
Today, he told me I hated it everywhere and I wanted to tell him that he was wrong; I don’t hate it everywhere, just all the places where I am.
But I didn’t tell him, and now I suppose he’ll never know.
You’d thrown your clothes around the bedroom, as if you were looking for something. Placed your blue umbrella by the front door, as if you were waiting for rain. Discarded your ring on the bedside table, as if you wouldn’t need it anymore. But I still didn’t expect it. Didn’t ask where you were going, what you were looking for. You never really knew, did you?
Another adventure, perhaps. You lasted the day though. Sat on the sofa, eating cheese toasties and drinking orange squash. You even came to bed. ‘I love you.’ I stowed the words away. A kiss goodnight that I’ve kept even now. 11:59 pm, luminous numbers on the alarm clock; I woke too late. It wasn’t enough. This time you were really gone.
Sophie Flynn lives in the Cotswolds and is currently working on her first novel whilst earning a living as a copywriter and studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. Her recent work has been published online by Cafe Lit and The Drabble. She tweets from @sophielflynn