Chapter 13 after Friday 13. Are you worried, my lovelies? 😉
He takes off his glasses, and gives you a long calm look.
“No, I am not.”
You nod, sit down in your favourite armchair, and fold your hands on the lap.
He watches you in silence for a few seconds; and then he puts the book and the glasses on the side table and sits up in a swift forceful movement.
“You do believe me, Wren, right?” he asks in a low voice.
You nod again.
“But now that we’re talking about it… And I hadn’t thought of it before… But it sounds like you’d expected this conversation.” You lift your eyes to his face. It’s pointless really. Not even a Jedi can read his emotions when Dr. John Crispin Thorington is intent on hiding them.
“I didn’t expect it. I was aware of its possibility.” His pointed level tone makes it bloody worse – about ten hundred times worse. “Wren, I didn’t know if you’d even noticed…”
“Noticed that your TA has a crush on you? It’s quite obvious.” Now you also sound emotionless, but your tone is more dull than his levelled cautious one.
“You seemed oblivious.”
“I hid it well,” you answer quickly, and then something painfully spasms in your right temple.
“Wren, I’m sure you know that nothing happened…”
Does he notice that he uses this mind-control voodoo on people? ‘I’m sure that you know…’ and ‘you do believe me…’ Fucking relationship Darren Brown.
You take a slow breath in, and close your eyes. The headache is rapidly spilling all over your head.
“John, I… I noticed Eva. I just didn’t know what you were feeling…”
“Flattered,” he interrupts you. Judging by the speed of the answer, he’s losing his composure. Funny, he’s just said he’d been preparing for this conversation. What’s throwing him off? “Wren, I was egotistic, and self-centered, and enjoyed attentions from a young woman. It was unfair towards both of you…”
You lift your hand stopping his clearly rehearsed speech. You somehow find it hard to speak. It might be the migraine. Or maybe, you’re just so fucking tired.
“I had a conversation with Eva, two weeks ago,” he says. “I tried to… discourage her from her behaviour.” His voice is growing emotional. “I might have been too subtle, but if you think I need to discuss it again with her, to make it clear to her…”
“It’s none of my business, John,” you interrupt this time. “You two are adults, and how you handle it, it’s up to you. Both of you… But you hurt me.” You stop and rub your temples. It takes two purposeful exhales to start talking again. “No, I’m wrong. Not you… It. It hurt me. The months of doubting, and worrying, and…”
“If I had known it bothered you – and for so long, Wren! – I would have put an end to her ridiculous flirting right away.” He’s raising his voice, and leans ahead, and makes a forceful gesture with his hand.
“You didn’t have to. You weren’t obliged to… It was just difficult. With my studies, and work, and never spending time together… And constantly feeling guilty about it…”
“Wren, we talked about it. You shouldn’t feel guilty. You’re building your career, and we’re both in it. It’s important for both of us.” More Darren Brown shite. Really, John?
“We haven’t talked about it.” You sound disinterested. You aren’t. You’re just knackered. “I remember you mentioning it once…”
“It is ‘we talked about it’ from a male’s perspective,” he jokes, but his eyes aren’t laughing. “Wren, you have nothing to worry about. Neither about our marriage, nor about Eva.”
You nod again.
“Wren, you’re pale, you look as if you’re in pain. And I recognise the apathy and the silence.” You look at him in confusion. “You had the same face when you came to break up with me.” Ah, so that’s what got his knickers in a twist. “I’ve learnt to accept that there’s always a storm brewing in your mind – but can we talk, please?”
“John, I’m not… questioning our relationship.” You search for words. “I’m happy we are… good, and that you feel good about… us.”
“I do,” he confirms readily.
“Good. And I was probably just… tired, and paranoid, and you did take her home that one time…” He opens his mouth, but you don’t let him interrupt. “John, really, everything is fine.”
“It doesn’t look fine,” he answers slowly. “It might be my turn to be paranoid, but, Wrennie, what’s going on?”
“I want to… take a break. My exams are done in two weeks, and after that… I’d like some time off. Maybe, even before it.”
He’s silent, and you wonder how to explain it to him. There’re so many ways he can take it wrong. The fact that he’s not roaring and blazing his eyes at you is a good sign.
“A break? You want a break… from our marriage?” Here we go. That’s the first of many wrong ideas he can get.
“No, John, it’s… not that.” You rub your face with your hands. “I just need… silence. Around me, and… inside. I know it seems all wrong to you, since the whole aggro started because we hardly saw each other but… I need to be away. To be alone… And then I’ll be back, and everything will be back to normal.”
He’s thinking it over.
“I just can’t think about it anymore,” you continue. “I can’t talk about it anymore.”
“I wasn’t aware my alleged inappropriate relationship with my TA was a public knowledge,” he grits through his teeth.
“There were rumours,” you tell him. He surely isn’t that naive. “There’re always rumours, and you knobbing a long-legged student of yours is the best one the university staff can hope for.” Wow, that was a fucking epitome of bitchiness. It was so bitchy that he cringed. “Sorry, that was uncalled for.”
He shakes his head. “You aren’t supposed to be apologising here…” he starts, but you just don’t want to go there.
“John, please. We were talking… about me staying away for a bit. I… I’m asking you to trust me.”
“Trust?” he repeats. “That’s an odd angle you have there, Wren.”
“John, I love you,” you say in an even tone. “I value our marriage. But I’m tired. I have nothing… nothing left inside. I can’t… be in a relationship right now. I need to get through my exams, and that’s all I have energy for. And then I want to sleep, and…” Your voice breaks. “And nothing, really. I can’t even think of anything else to do.” Your throat spasms, you’re close to tears. But crying right now would be as much as an emotional blackmail, and that’s not what you want in your marriage.
You want – and need – two adults to talk, to discuss, and to understand each other.
“I’m properly confused right now, Wren…” he draws out. “But I’m trying, yeah?”
He covers his mouth with his hand – that’s his typical frustrated gesture. You let him think it over. Or maybe you just have no energy to talk, or even just move.
“Alright, what do you want to do?” Here we go. He sorted the info into neat boxes in his noggin, and now he’s strategizing, and he’s ready for action. That’s what made him successful. the cunning, the ruthlessness, the calculative mind. You just hope he’s currently playing for the same team as you.
“I’d like to stay in a hotel for the next two weeks.” A second ago you didn’t have an answer to this question, but it’s suddenly all clear to you. “And after that I’d like to have a week, or two in some B’n’B.”
“Alright. Do we talk on the phone then? Emails? Will you let me know how long you’re staying away?” he’s pressing, but you give him a look, and he back off. Literally. He leans back on the sofa, and it’s easier to breathe right away.
“I’ll email you after the exams, and… no, probably no telephone rings.” He nods, more to his own thoughts than to what you said.
“When are you leaving?” That’s another question you didn’t know you had an immediate certain answer to.
“Now. I’ll pack a bag, and will ring up Savoy, or something.” Another nod follows.
You decide you need to leave while it’s all seemingly peaceful and quiet, and you get up.
“One question, Wren.” He looked up at you, his eyes of astonishing bright colour. “Are you sure you aren’t just punishing me?”
You give him a long look – and then you shake your head.
“I have nothing to punish you for, John. You didn’t do anything wrong. If I were you, I’d talk to Eva, and apologise to her, because you led her on, and let her… hope. But me… I have nothing to blame you for.”
You head to the bedroom, to get a suitcase and some clothes from the walk-in wardrobe, and then you stop and look at him.
“And thank you. For understanding,” you say softly.
“I don’t understand, Wren. But I’ll do anything possible not to arse up our marriage. You say you need time away, you get it.” He swallows, his throat bobs. “But don’t think that I’m happy about it.”
“It would be alarming if you did,” you attempt to joke, but it falls flat.
You leave the room. It takes surprisingly long to figure out what you might need. You wander the wardrobe, pick up clothes, put them back. John stays somewhere in the other end of the flat. You have a total brain glitch in the bathroom, staring at your bottles and jars. Eventually you decide that a few pairs of clean knickers and socks, denim, and tees, are all you need. It’s not like you can’t come back here at any moment to take more stuff.
“I rang up couple hotels, and there are options,” John’s voice comes from the bedroom, and you stick you head out. He’s standing in the door frame, quite obviously giving you space. “Do you want to hear them, or do you want to call them yourself? I don’t want you to feel like I’m intruding.” He sounds unemotional, keeping himself in check, but you detect no sarcasm in his tone.
“I perfectly trust your expertise in hotels.” And this joke pathetically flops down just as the previous one.
“I say you need to rent a furnished flat for four weeks,” he answers, and stretches a hand with a list of phone numbers to you. “I have an agent who can set you up immediately, it might be a bit more dear, but we can afford it.” He gives you a joyless smile.
You walk up to him and take the paper.
You can smell his aftershave, and you can feel the warmth coming from his body. And then you realise that you want to hug him. And kiss him. And make love to him. But if you touch him, even just brush your hand to his sleeved arm – you won’t leave. You’ll change your mind. And you need to leave. Otherwise you’ll break. The pain and the emptiness you feel right now will stay inside, forever, and rot, and slowly kill you. As overdramatic as it sounds.
You nod gratefully and go back to the wardrobe. You can hear him leave and turn on music in the living room. It’s On the Level by Cohen.