Sorry for the delay in getting this instalment out, although it was written some time ago a rotten cold prevented me proof reading. One of the things with Rachel is that when she starts she is very demanding, I have to write notes to remind me where something was heading as she dives into something else, this means that she needs a proof read. Please enjoy her next chapters, there is still plenty more to come from my favourite girl.
Finishing her coffee Rachel washed the cup and set it on the draining board, collecting her bag and leaving her keys on the hook she had walked out of the house and never returned. A taxi took her to her parents, she still had her key, and when she awoke in the morning her mother had simply asked her why she was there. “I’ve split with Gary; I won’t stay long, just a couple of weeks until I get sorted” her answer had been remarkably brief “about time”. As far as she could remember her father had never uttered a word on the subject. Her father’s only nod to her sudden appearance was when she made him a coffee that first morning. Taking the large mug from her he had cupped her right hand and said simply “glad you woke up kid”. Rachel was never sure if the pressure that had gripped her bruised hand that morning had been some tacit acknowledgment of her actions and the power of the man’s words.
Had that really been 12 years ago, where had the time gone? She had walked out the week before her 23rd birthday and seen Gary only once or twice since, he flinched and scurried away every time. What was the old line “can’t live with them, can’t live without them”? Well that seemed to be true in her case.
Steve rolled over and Rachel lowered herself, doing the same and leaving them back to back, in the same bed but light years apart. That was their way, no anger, no fights there wasn’t any emotion to drive that; theirs was a relationship of indifference. Awaking at 05:30 Rachel realised that she would not be returning to sleep so she rose, checked on the children and headed downstairs to make a coffee. Whilst her coffee cooled she extracted the laundry from the machine and inspected the cleanliness of her jeans. The cheap stain remover was clearly not as good as her usual one because she could just make out a mark, barely visible, where the grease stain had been. Putting the laundry on the dryer Rachel cupped her coffee and smiled, hand print indeed.
Steve had a lay in on Monday, as a delivery driver he kept fairly erratic hours. After the children had eaten breakfast, Davey and Rachel walked Lou to school. Davey wasn’t due to start preschool until next term and had no childcare today so Rachel got to spend the day with him. Davey’s childcare costs came from Rachel’s wages so was only funded when she was actually at work, although she could barely afford it even then. Steve considered himself a ‘traditional man’ so he provided and Rachel looked after the house, a proper nuclear family. Unfortunately Steve was horribly tight where expenses were not his and his alone; he provided enough to feed the family but considered everything else an extravagance. Well not everything else, his X-Box, beer and that bloody silly cigarette weren’t extravagances they were the basic rewards of labour as far as he was concerned. When the children were babies he had been ok at buying their essentials as well but as they got older he seemed convinced that more than one pair of shoes in a year was the slippery road to becoming Imelda Marcos.
After Lou was born Steve seemed to find Rachel a burden, everything that she needed was taking money from his hard earned pay packet. She had even taken to hiding tampons because when she asked for money Steve would check the cabinet and complain that she was using too many and ‘wasting them’. Having part time work meant that her hours were random and Steve didn’t take any real interest in the small amount of money that she brought in but the small independence was priceless.
“Shall we go and see Georgia tiger?” They were nearly home from the school run and Rachel was conscious that she was overdue a ‘girl chat’ in that quarter. “mmm mumma we see Zoe” she could have predicted that would have been the answer. “Not today big boy, today we see Georgia and maybe we will see Zoe later in the week” the little boy gave her a studious look and concluded that this was acceptable “yay see Zoe torrow”. Steve was still in bed, or somewhere upstairs, when they got home. Davey wanted a drink before they departed which suited Rachel as it gave her the opportunity for an all-important coffee top up. Freshly watered and, in Davey’s case, toileted Rachel grabbed her car keys and they piled into the old Ford. Rachel cleared some of the junk to secure Davey’s car seat in the front and, thankfully, the car started on the second attempt. As always Davey entertained them on the way to Georgia’s vocally identifying anything that he recognised through the windscreen. It was uncanny the way he could detect that she had drifted off from the task in hand. As soon as the congratulations became automatic he would start spotting “flying elephants” and “chocolate elevators”, gotta keep mum on her toes after all.
Georgia had the kettle on as they arrived, Rachel having sent her an SMS from home, and as soon as Davey’s shoes were safely removed he was on a mission of discovery. Although Georgia had no children, if you discounted some of her more youthful conquests, she was very comfortable with Davey exploring her home. Rachel wasn’t sure if Georgia’s acceptance of her children was born of some unfulfilled desire for her own or from the comfort of knowing that if anything got broken David would replace it without a flinch. Rachel was relaxed though; Davey was well behaved and would do no damage. The treasure he sought was the couples aging, but accommodating tabby cat. As Davey raced off into the lounge the two women settled onto high chrome stools in the kitchen and Georgia lit a cigarette. Rachel had learnt long ago that she couldn’t stop the children seeing adults smoking, they even showed them on the television, but she would always comment on the “yucky smell” or “silly people” as soon as the opportunity arrived just to be on the safe side.
“So babe how was the weekend, spent in the glorious warmth of your perfect family?” asked Georgia through a cloud of sweet exhaled smoke. Georgia knew a little of Rachel’s situation and certainly enough to discredit the perfect family statement but the words were not intended to be accurate. This was Georgia’s opening line and established that , no matter what disaster had befallen Rachel, her own position was leagues worse “oh it was routine honey, just another weekend of work and laundry”. Over two cups of “delightfully pure Algerian sand grass tea” or some similarly sounding, expensive boiled water Rachel said all of twenty words, just enough to show that she was awake, and Georgia laid out her crisis. This was not to say that Rachel was not interested, Georgia was a whirlwind of imagined drama and theatrics but she was so engrossed in it that it became a genuinely interesting story. Like those women that watched soap operas set in grimy, murder laden streets Rachel found that her lack of connection did not detract from the story.
Georgia was distraught at the loss of Tom or, more accurately, at the loss of his youthful exuberance. David realising that there was something upsetting and had taken his wife away for the weekend to as country hotel and proceeded to play golf for the majority of the time. Rachel wasn’t sure how much Georgia had to do with the weekend trip but she certainly doubted that there was such a thing as a husband that noticed his wife’s distress let alone tried to do something about it. For her part Georgia had spent the weekend flirting with a young bar-man who had remained polite but resolutely uninterested “he was gay darling, must have been. Oh god I can’t even find a straight one anymore my radar needs recalibrating” had been the only conclusion that Georgia could draw from the situation. Depending on the occasion Georgia seemed to believe that she was either too gorgeous to resist or that she was too wealthy to refuse. In part this was what irritated her about Tom, it was her prerogative to get tired and end a fling and not her conquests. Tom would have no more of her and was not answering her calls despite her sending several mobile top up codes by SMS to his pay as you go phone.
In short Georgia was doomed to spend the rest of eternity locked in her expensive house with her wealthy and incredibly caring husband. As always, Georgia proclaimed jealousy over children and Rachel’s ordered life “I wish I was more like you babe” with Rachel nodding and shaking her head as the conversation demanded. They could hear Davey coming down the stairs tracking the cat “ang bang” apparently being this season’s must have gun sounds. “Another tea babe” asked Georgia, lighting her third cigarette “No thanks I will just have a glass of water” Rachel was feeling light headed and incredibly tired as a result of the fug of smoke and the unnaturally long absence of caffeine in her blood. As Georgia poured Evian into a tall glass the tabby shot through the kitchen into the rather palatial conservatory quickly followed by ‘hunter’ Davey. “Hey tiger slow down” called Rachel grabbing the boys arm as his socks scrabbled for any form of purchase on the earthenware floor tiles “you don’t want to fall”. Davey regained his balance and turned firing his ‘gun’ over a shoulder at some invisible pursuer, it was then that Rachel noticed the ‘gun’ “babe where did my son find his gun?” Her friend turned to look at the small boy, who was still in midst of an imaginary gunfight “Oh it was a gift from David”. Worried that her son had hunted through drawers Rachel asked again “where would he have found it though?” as she carefully prised Davey’s fingers from the lurid pink and gold rabbit as if it were a hand grenade without a pin “Oh Tom and I will have left it by the bed and Davey probably noticed it when he was looking under there for the cat” she took the sex toy from Rachel and, rather disconcertingly, dropped it in the sink. “Please tell me that it was clean” her own hands suddenly felt sticky and she had a sudden vision of Davey sucking his thumb “oh well it was babe but now it’s full of cat hair, bloody hairy pussy” Rachel released Davey who ran off after the cat whilst they both laughed, although in Rachel’s case it was more from relief.
“So how is marital bliss Rach?” asked Georgia and Rachel explained again how Steve was perfectly perfunctory, they passed like ships in the night but the kids were happy. This was a verbal ritual that they played, Georgia knew that Rachel was as far from marital bliss, well as far from a functioning marriage as anybody that they knew. The thing was that Georgia couldn’t understand how, or perhaps why, Rachel remained in her situation. To Georgia it was simple, if the marriage was no good you left, if the man was no good you changed him. Maintaining the status quo was not a phrase that was in Georgia’s vocabulary. But for Rachel it was different, she had the children and after all she had failed with Gary so what was to say that she would ever have any better luck? What was it they said “it’s not you it’s me” that was Rachel’s take on it all. Whereas Georgia looked over the fence and saw a lush and verdant lawn of green grass to be rolled in Rachel saw an empty, grey concrete yard.
Rachel knew in her heart that her marriage had never been set on the greatest of foundations, it was more of a desperate grasp for married life than a romantic embrace on both of their parts. In Steve Rachel had seen the proof that she didn’t have a ‘lunatics only’ sticker somewhere on her person. She had needed to feel that she could make a normal man smile, make him happy and just be normal, she guessed she needed to prove Gary wrong. Steve seemed to seek the comfort and stability of married life, a trait that Rachel now recognised as laziness, he had never been a great romantic but Rachel had long ago consigned such frivolity to fiction. There is a well-known joke that wedding cake is the greatest cure for nymphomania and that had certainly proven to be the case for Steve, well not that the starting point was actually nymphomania. When they had been dating Steve had been a very reticent lover but he went further downhill after they had married. They had spent the wedding night at a hotel, far too drunk to consider consummating their vows. The honeymoon, paid for by Rachel’s parents, was spent in a gorgeous hotel in Manhattan. The luxury hotel room was perhaps a little too perfect in that included a games console and that seemed to be the true marriage with Steve spending every night engrossed in cartoon warfare or racing or sports.
Rachel remembered dressing in the lace negligee that she had purchased before the wedding and seductively draping herself over the couch waiting for Steve to return from some fictitious errand that she had dispatched him on. She remembered the delicate balance between the expectation of love making and the nagging feeling that she looked ridiculous. Steve had looked at her, thrown the goods that she had asked him to purchase on the bed and simply said “guess that you didn’t need these”. The room had immediately felt very cold and Rachel had felt incredibly exposed, wrapping herself in a gown she had headed for the bathroom without a word. Whatever had been in his mind that night he had reinforced Gary’s, often stated, belief that no man could want her. That night Steve had played on the games console until he had fallen asleep while Rachel had soaked in the spa bath finding her own orgasm in the fantasy that played out in her head. It had been an accurate prophecy for married life.
Rachel had tried talking to Steve but he would always become embarrassed, there seemed no way to discuss the scarcity of physical contact without it turning into an attack on him as a man. Rachel had dressed as everything from a nurse to a policewoman to a superhero in an attempt to find the fantasy that would inspire him until he finally asked her why she was dressing up. She had tried to discuss fantasies and fetishes and even tried to watch porn with him but the result was that she always felt as if she was having the conversation with a small boy which made her feel like a lecherous pervert preying on him.
Eventually she had realised that Steve hadn’t developed his relationships with women past the maternal level. He wanted a dinner cooked and fresh linen, somebody to keep the house and for him sex was something that had to be done in exchange. Steve had wanted children, wanted the whole family experience and he was in truth a good father but it was as if he had a childhood vision of what that involved and had never updated it from an adult perspective. The children were great unless a nappy needed changing, he would never do that, or they cried or had tantrums. Rachel was a great wife until she was tired or wanted her own attention. There was a picture in Steve’s mind, no doubt formed in childhood, of a family sitting around the dinner table, all well dressed and behaved whilst the man of the house carved the joint and anything more than that was outside of his vision.
Like a hypnotist Georgia brought Rachel out of her thoughts “Ah but what would we do without them eh babe?” This was the standard closing phrase for this conversation but it sat somewhat uncomfortably with Rachel because, unlike Georgia, she had a number of answers to that particular question. “We must get out for a girl’s night out dahling” cooed Georgia; she had adopted the inflection from watching Joanna Lumley on television “it’s been ages”. Sliding off the stool to find Davey Rachel agreed with her friend “yes babe, it will give Zoe a chance to spend some time with her special man”. Davey gave a yelp of surprise when Rachel caught his feet and stopped him burrowing under a summer chair in the conservatory. As she extracted the wriggling, fur covered child that could only be her son Rachel considered her finances, albeit briefly, Georgia’s grand plans rarely came to fruition after all.
As the battered old Ford pulled away from Georgia’s drive Rachel was certain she could hear a collective sigh of relief from the neighbours. Georgia, for all her snobbery, stood proudly at the door waving and blowing kisses as if daring one of her neighbours to question her choice of guest. Checking her cell phone Rachel noted that it was gone three o’clock before dropping it down that irritating gap at the side of the seat. Cursing both her clumsiness and the stupidity of the designer, who had a left a gap big enough for a phone but too small for a hand to retrieve it, she weighed up her options. The little village school that Lou attended had a parking system that made negotiating peace in the Middle East seem a breeze. There were several grades of mums on the school run ranging from those that parked with gay abandon, ignoring all parking restrictions because they couldn’t see them from the lofty height of their Range Rover to those that walked out of necessity rather than choice. Rachel had a sneaking suspicion that some of the mothers didn’t actually move their cars but waited until after the morning school run and then caught a cab home thus preserving their place in the pecking order.
The one time that Rachel had ignored the myriad road markings in a desperate scramble between picking Lou up and getting Davey to a doctor’s appointment she had received a £60 penalty notice. The £60 loss had apparently not been considered an adequate punishment so she had also received a letter from the school pointing out the potential consequences of her actions. Having read the letter and understood that if there had been a sudden outbreak of typhoid in the 3 minutes that her vehicle was parked there then she would have delayed the emergency sanitation services; in short she was lucky to get away with a fine look what happened to Hitler and he only started a war.
The result of all this was that if Rachel went directly to the school she would have to park some distance away and walk with Davey. The walking was not an issue but Rachel was acutely aware that her son was covered from head to toe in cat fur and that there would now be various half consumed sweets added to the mix having leapt out of the folds of his car seat. Totting up the time for a rushed change at home Rachel realised that she had no choice and headed straight to the school. Calculating her chances Rachel realised that her best option was to enter the race for a space early and headed for the school. Finding a space in a domestic street quite close to the school Rachel took advantage of the spare time to play hunt the phone. Having slid both hands down the side of the seat at various angles she had succeeded only in pushing the phone further from her grip and entertaining Davey with her aerobics.
With the door open Rachel leaned into the car and slid her left hand cautiously past the sharp edge that had skinned her knuckle on an earlier attempt and could just feel the edge of the cell phone. Holding the door towards her with her left leg she pushed her hand harder into the gap in an attempt to get close enough to have a chance to grip the suddenly very slippery plastic. A car horn startled her and she flicked the phone a little further away whilst cursing the idiot with the horn, there was more than enough room to pass. The horn went again but this time didn’t surprise Rachel who just took the sound as a cue to vocalise the rant that had been working its way through her head about “men with small dicks who kept sounding their bloody horn to let the world know”. “Do you need a hand”, the voice was far too close to Rachel and she leapt up, grazing her hand as she did. Rachel was vaguely aware that although her shoulders had contacted the edge of the roof it was through something else, the hard stop had come too soon and was not sharp enough to be the door way something had buffered her. Scurrying out of the car to confront her potential attacker Rachel slid and skidded, barely keeping her footing in the Autumnal leaves. Hanging on to the old Ford’s bonnet she turned to see Joe stroking the side of his face “Bloody hell girl, No thanks would have sufficed!”
As Rachel struggled to gain a rational grasp of what had happened Joe grinned inanely at her and explained “I saw you as I passed so I hit the horn just to make sure that everybody knew that I was non-threatening, on account of my small dick” Rachel could feel the flush of embarrassment overcoming that of anger “when you didn’t respond I figured the old girl was giving you issues so I stopped to help. You didn’t hear me so leant my head in to ask if you needed a hand and you went all martial arts on me and smashed it into the roof”
“Bloody hell Joe, you scared the life out of me, you’re lucky it’s just your head that got hurt” her pink flush subsiding Rachel was quickly back on the attack. “Whoa there tiger” Joe was walking around the open door but maintaining his distance from her, arms up and palms outstretched in a submissive pose “I’m just here to help a lady in distress if that’s ok with you, just put the hair clip down and we can talk ok?”. Rachel realised that she was brandishing one of Lou’s hair clips like a weapon; it must have been in her pocket when she slipped. She batted his arms down and smiled “Joe, never creep up on a girl with her child you could have been anyone. Now stop with the little boy act, you’re twice my size” she slipped the hair clip back in her pocket. “So what’s the matter with the motor babe? Won’t start again? That battery is just kicking around the yard you gotta come get it” He was right of course and Rachel made a mental note to take him up on the offer “no I dropped my stupid sodding phone down by the seat and was trying to get it back” she walked around to the passenger side and saw that Davey was grinning at Joe who, for his part, was pulling occasional faces at him, much to the little lad’s delight.
“Oh well allow me to rescue you and prevent any more damage to the fair maidens hands” he looked at the bright red welts on her hands. “Oh yeah super Joe, your hands are also twice the size of mine so if I can’t reach it how will you?” Grinning Joe took a small ruler from his pocket and with a flourish declared “I shall use the power of the ruler and the gift of my mind to retrieve the pesky item” turning to Davey, who was still strapped in his seat, he added “I do not normally allow my work to be observed but, given the circumstances, I shall make an exception for you young sir”. Davey, enthralled by the attention, clapped this last part of the performance and Joe slid the ruler down the side of the seat and swept it along, there was a clunk as the phone slid the remaining length into the abyss. Rachel winced realising that any hope that she had of retrieving the item was lost now and half expecting Joe to curse his misfortune. Showing Davey that there was nothing up his sleeves, like a stage magician, Joe proceeded to slide the seat forward and tip it, as if to gain access to the rear seats. With a final flourish Joe swept his hand under the seat. If Rachel had any foresight she would have videoed the look on Joe’s face, except she couldn’t of course as she didn’t have her cell phone. His elegant magician’s façade disintegrated as, like a contestant in one of those jungle reality shows, Joe’s face changed through various emotions as his hand explored an area of the car untouched since it was built, well certainly since she had owned it.
Despite the clear discomfort, which Davey seemed to think was a pantomime for his benefit, the look of triumph on finding the phone was clear “Fair maiden is this the device of which you sought? Like Arthur’s Excalibur I have withdrawn it from the clutches of ye olde Ford”. He presented his left forearm on his right, as if the later was a pillow, and immediately Rachel felt her cheeks flush again. In his hand he held her phone, encased in an empty crisp packet which was in turn secured by what looked like a discarded boiled sweet. Further along his naked forearm, securely glued to the carpet of dark hair, were two children’s lollipops. Rachel spotted various other wrappers and labels along his arm and rushed to find Davey’s baby wipes. Passing several baby wipes to Joe she retrieved her phone and gave it a quick polish with a wet wipe to remove the remnants of year old cheese and onion. Relieved that the phone hadn’t been on an unrequested call to Angola or a sex line or even an Angolan sex line Rachel pocketed the device and turned to Joe “oh ok there is that way of doing it of course but I am so much more a purist”. Picking out the last pieces of lolly, well actually plucking the associated hairs from his forearm, he grinned “because you weren’t just desperately trying to reach the top of the phone without any idea where it was going to end up were you?”
Scooping Davey from his car seat Rachel gave Joe a playful punch “hey don’t knock this independent gal or it’s gonna hurt”. Davey made a half-hearted attempt to eschew being carried in favour of walking but the assurance that he could walk back quickly settled the debate, Rachel didn’t have time for youthful perambulations now. Locking the car they headed off in the direction of the school, the sudden turn of speed taking Joe by surprise “whoa, their goes a girl on a mission” he said whilst skipping to keep up. “Always on a mission Joe, this is just parent speed, you get used to it”. Joe broke away as they got to his truck “chance would be a fine thing, see you later babe and don’t forget that battery” Rachel misunderstood the comment and, turning, called over her shoulder “you wouldn’t want to be a mum honey! Will pop in next time I’m passing and even make the tea, thanks again!”
Rachel and Davey made the school in good time and took up station alongside the low wooden fence. This was one of the things that Rachel loved about living in the country, for her the fact that the school was enclosed with a two bar rural fence was confirmation that she was giving the children the start in life they deserved. The small village school had no need for railings or, god forbid, CCTV like those in towns. Everything here was a step back to a more peaceful time; the fence seemed to her to be there for no other reasons than to designate the edge of the grounds like a line on a plan. Her reverie was broken by the sound of a car horn which startled her and made Davey jump “battery” the one word hung in the air as she turned to wave at the back of Joe’s truck. Davey, now awake enough to make the connection, waved furiously and grinned; “Joe, mummy” he squealed as if trying to encourage her to make more effort. “Yes Davey its Joe” turning to the small wave, of children leaving the school gate Rachel ignored the looks from the other parents, apparently they did not share Davey’s enthusiasm for Joe’s greeting.
Rachel didn’t really mix with the other parents, although she was aware that as Lou got older it would become inevitable. The school gate was a repeat of school life, as far as Rachel could make out, there were the popular groups, the posh ones and those on the fringe; just like when she was a pupil Rachel was firmly on the fringe. It was remarkably like school in fact, the popular mums were the smoking, coffee club crowd whose only purpose in life seemed to be the school gate gossip. The Range Rover mums kept strictly together as if they could only operate in packs in this alien world that didn’t smell of leather or have designer labels. Rachel spotted Lou and called out, slipping through the crowd with her head down she exchanged short hellos with some of the parents feeling like she was 14 years old in the playground again. Reaching down she deposited a squirming Davey on the ground, retaining one hand and scooped up Lou’s bag. Marvelling again at how the neat little girl that Rachel had deposited with the school was always returned looking as if she had been through the wash with a rugby kit, but removed before clean, and then tumbled dried. Rosy cheeks framed the chattering mouth and the previously carefully platted curls brought a whole new meaning to the word tousled. Extricating the children from the crowd Rachel was able to better differentiate Lou’s babbling from the background noise, concentrate was too strong a term but it did allow her to respond with appropriate comments during the running commentary of her daughters day.
Walking along the path now Rachel released Davey’s hand and he ran ahead a little. The little boy had reached that age where he wanted to assert his independence but only gently, he never got too far and kept a cautious eye on where his mother and sister were. By the time they got to the car Davey had become enthralled with a lamp post, circling it and aiming well timed kicks with his foot he seemed bemused that it had not toppled. Like a lumberjack he appeared to study the rigid steel, determining where the next blow should land in order to fell this giant. “What is Davey doing” questioned Lou and in this question Rachel could detect the subtle undertones of enacted maturity. When she wanted to sound ‘grown up’ Louise would omit the mummy at the end of the sentence, it didn’t happen often but when it did it usually involved a conspiratorial review of her brother’s activities.
Slotting the children into a space in the junk that filled her car and, once again, making a mental note to clear the vehicle out Rachel started the car and they joined the school run traffic. This wasn’t traffic in the real sense of the word, more a conga of cars travelling through the village with each one peeling off as the line snaked past their house. Suddenly Rachel felt a cold draught pass through her, she realised what Joe had meant in his comment earlier. Of course it wasn’t a reference to wanting to be a mother it was a reference to his absent son, and she had passed it off flippantly. Although Rachel didn’t really know the details it was common knowledge that Joe’s wife had engaged in ‘extra marital activity’ and had used his son not so much as a bargaining chip but more as a punishment during an acrimonious divorce. Joe had paid everything that had been asked of him, both during the split and after but his ex-wife had done her very best to split him from his son, making access extremely difficult and eventually moving away. Georgia, ever the source of local information, had said that the woman had been a “real piece of work” needing to be the centre of attention and making up various stories about her home life until, one by one, people had realised that they weren’t true. A local man had been taken in by the stories of a harsh home life, despite Joe clearly doting on his family and had consoled her. The ‘consolation’ had resulted in a pregnancy and what appeared, to all the world, to be another entrapment.
Joe had maintained his cool throughout, supported by good friends he had been wise enough to realise that angry emotional displays would play into her hands. He had once told Rachel, and Rachel had never shared the conversation, that he wished he had not been so calm. “Rach, if I had given her what she wanted if just once I had punched her in the face she would have had the story, the sympathy and I think she would have stopped pushing. I think that the truth is that she wanted a reaction and I would have had a far easier ride if I had given her one and so would Sam, but I couldn’t do it”. Rachel had told him to stop being so daft and packed him back into the Kings for another beer but there was something in his eyes that told her it was more than the drink talking. The truth was that he may well have been right but who was she to offer counsel. Rachel cracked her knuckles distractedly as her mind flashed back to a broken Gary lying in bed with fear written in his eyes.
Racing home gave the children an hour with their father before he headed to work, Rachel always tried to maximise the opportunity. Rachel stripped and dressed Davey while Lou raced into the lounge to describe her day to her father. When Rachel returned downstairs to put the kettle on, followed by the ‘bump bump’ of Davey shuffling down behind her, she peeked into the lounge to see Steve with his leg out to prevent Lou getting in the way of the TV. Looking at their beautiful and animated daughter, chatting away to her father while he studied some bloody football match Rachel felt a rage rising inside her. Taking a deep breath Rachel subdued the anger, Lou was unaware that she was being ignored and Steve would one day realise the opportunities he had wasted. Her mind drifted absently back to the Joe conversation that she had recalled earlier, perhaps calm wasn’t always the answer? But what choice did she have now?
She wasn’t the woman that had emerged from the relationship with Gary, that explosion had happened and there was no more. In a strange way Gary had helped to develop Rachel his grinding disinterest, she refused to call it abuse, had fuelled the fire that eventually burnt him. But Rachel had spent that energy, there was no second shot it was done. Steve didn’t inspire that passion or wield that power; he couldn’t engender a revolution much like a politician his was just a gentle pervasive lack of satisfaction. Just like voting gave you a choice of the lesser of two evils so Steve was just the plodding norm, not terrible but not good either. Rachel knew that she would never leave Steve as a bloody mess, God she didn’t want that, she wanted Steve to be happy she even wanted to make him happy but he wasn’t interested. She could be the perfect mother, a super model at social occasions, a super chef and a whore in the bedroom but she could never match an online X-box battle with an anonymous 14 year old geek.
They weren’t dead in the water; Rachel had lowered the bar so far that short of an outright punch in the face that wouldn’t be the case. In truth if he paid her an occasional compliment, well said something nice, hell just stopped bloody well insulting her, then she would gladly sleep with him every night and be the doting wife. Rachel didn’t want fireworks, chocolates or passion anymore, she wasn’t even sure that they existed. All she wanted was a friend, a hairy chest to stroke at night and some comfort.
Steve upped and left for work pausing only to call over his shoulder that he would be home later “unless I find a fit bird”. The comment didn’t bother Rachel and she certainly wasn’t concerned, if there was a “fit bird” that wanted Steve then she would give the girl a clear run and probably the number of a good optician or perhaps counsellor. She cursed Steve though for making that sort of comment within earshot of the children, he had taken to doing it more often since she had berated him about it. It wasn’t him that had to spend the time explaining his comments to the children, it was Rachel and it’s difficult to explain to your daughter why her father wants a girlfriend.
After explaining to Davey that he couldn’t take a ‘big boy’s cup’ into the lounge for probably the tenth time this week Rachel switched the television to the children’s channel and immediately a supersized rag doll filled the screen. It must be a sign of age she mused, as both children grinned at the image, it looked nothing short of scary to her. Returning to the kitchen and fixing her second mug of coffee since getting home, was it really only her second, Rachel smiled at the sound of Davey squeals. It was a source of much pride to Rachel that settling the children in front of the television was nothing more than a vague concept in her house. The children would make camps out of the sofa, play with toys and run around; they were rarely glued to the television. When friends, and even family, visited they would sympathise with Rachel and subtly hint that the children were too energetic. Joan had even left a leaflet about the various medical terms for energetic that all seemed to begin with ADH, Rachel had made sure that Joan saw her discard it. Her children were her achievement in this life, they were happy, boisterous and lovable and she was fiercely proud of them. Rachel had been brought up with “a place for everything and everything in its place” the lounge of her childhood had allowed for only one toy at a time. If the young Rachel had brought a new toy into the lounge then her father would have peered over his glasses and asked “don’t you already have a toy in here?”
Sipping her coffee she heard Davey explained to Lou that she couldn’t cross from that cushion “because of the Crocomonsieurs”. A devilish monster if ever there had been one the Crocomonsieurs had originally been created by Rachel and Louise when she had become confounded by the prospect of croque monsieur in a café. So convinced was Lou that the dish her mother had ordered was in fact a crocodile that she had hidden her face in Rachel’s arm and screamed when the waiter brought their order. For ease of future reference they had crossed the two words into the Crocomonsieurs which, presumably, were a large man eating reptile wrapped in ham and Swiss cheese. Whenever there was a no go area in a game, which normally involved leaping from cushion to cushion, it would be inhabited by these French sounding reptilian monsters. As the children debated the technicalities of such a move to a level that would impress a chess master Rachel remembered her earlier thought about Joe.