Afresh (Flash Fiction)

I turn the key, open the door and enter the flat that I don’t yet recognise: my new home. The light within is dull, even though it’s daytime and the curtains are open. Or perhaps that’s just the way I’m seeing everything right now. Doom and gloom abound.

Over the last few months, I’ve managed to lose everything I worked so hard to keep together. The hurt I feel is rivalled only by the disappointment in myself for letting things go as far as they did.

My keys clang loudly on the coffee table as I drop them and I emit a loud sigh as I slump down on the sofa. I call it a sofa; it’s actually been my bed since I arrived here. I have the money to buy a bed. What I don’t have is the time to pick one out and have it delivered. I’m just not in the right frame of mind for such a thing. Besides, I can’t sleep anyway.

How did I end up here? The story started seven years ago when I met the most beautiful woman in the world, Samantha. Within six months I’d gotten her pregnant. Within a year we were married. It all moved very quickly, but we were happy. We got ourselves a home and felt like a real family. The only problem was that my job wasn’t quite paying enough to afford us more than the bare essentials; not without doing overtime and losing precious time with my wife and daughter in the process. Eventually, I solved the problem by getting a new and much better paying job.

Things were fine at first as I settled into my new role and the new hours. The larger amount of money needed no settling into, let me tell you. We enjoyed the newfound luxury for a while. She was able to shop and do all the little things without having to watch the pennies and we were still left with surplus expendable funds at the end of every month. It was sweet. It really was.

About eighteen months ago, something happened that changed everything almost literally overnight. We were pregnant again and very excited about the prospect of a brother or sister for Evelyn, our daughter. Instead, fate decided to intervene and Sam miscarried. It was the lowest moment we’d experienced as a couple and things were destined never to get better from there.

Sam battled with what I knew to be very obvious depression. She became extremely bitter and frustrated; lashing out at anything and everything. I found her unbearable to be around as every move I made seemed to raise her ire. I began spending more time at work—partly to get more money into the bank so we could take a holiday or something and partly so I was out of her way.

Apparently, this was entirely the wrong move on my part. She needed a lightning rod, so to speak, that could soak up all her negativity and, while I wasn’t around to play that role, she found new ways in which to deal with her mental anguish.

I should have connected the dots sooner. I decided to ignore the signs initially. In my ignorance, I chose to revel in the fact that she was off my back. There was no shouting irrespective of what time I got in from work. The constant text messages and phone calls I used to receive while I was out of the house ceased. I hardly saw her and she was always rather chipper when I did. The onus was off me so why wouldn’t I revel in that?

Then, one day, I discovered an item of clothing in our bedroom that I didn’t recognise—a necktie. I thought nothing of it initially. It could have been mine and I’d forgotten I had it. She could have gone through my drawers and gotten it out without thinking. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realisation that I had only ever bought three or four neckties in my life and the one I found definitely wasn’t one of them.

My suspicions were raised further when I went into my local pub one night. A bloke I’ve seen only once or twice—a tall, handsome bloke—approached me and asked how my wife was. It seemed somewhat random for him to come over asking such a question. When I went home and told her about it she definitely didn’t react in a way that reflected her usual veneer. I became more convinced in that moment that foul play was afoot. Something always held me back though and told me she wouldn’t do anything like that to me.

That part of my thinking died a horrible death when I returned home early from work one day to find the guy from the pub with his head between her legs. The thing that hurt the most was the fact that she didn’t seem even remotely sorry about it. All she said was that the marriage had been dead for a long time and that it was perhaps better the truth was out in the open. Her apologies were as hollow as a politician’s promises. She was just relieved that she no longer had to live a lie.

Despite the fact that she committed adultery, I’m the one whose life is in upheaval. She can’t afford to pay the mortgage so I’ve had to continue doing so, even though I’m the one who had to move out. She’s been demanding as regards me seeing Evelyn; expecting me to have her overnight at my mum’s irrespective of my working days and hours. She turns to social media to slander me if I don’t have Evelyn when she expects me to, as well as threatening to stop me seeing her altogether. I could go on—especially where money is concerned—but I won’t.

Staying at my mum’s became untenable. It was practically untenable from the off. The lack of empathy shown by my dear old mother didn’t shock me. All I got was how I hadn’t tried hard enough and that it was all my own doing. She couldn’t have been less happy about Evelyn staying over when she did. I knew I couldn’t stay there long. The flat I’m in now was one of the first places I came across. I didn’t have the patience to shop around. I wanted out. It was critical that I left as soon as possible before I began genuinely hating my own mum’s existence.

I’ve been here for just over a week now. Samantha has seen it as a favour on her part that she keeps Evelyn with her while I sort the place out. No doubt that she’s keeping a tab and will throw in my face the ‘good turn’ she’s done me when she needs extra time without Evelyn.

For a while, I was angry about the fact that Sam has more or less moved that prick from the pub into my house. She claims he isn’t living there. I wasn’t born yesterday! I’m not angry anymore because literally everything I felt for Sam has dissipated to nothing. I wasn’t the perfect husband and I know I did things wrong. I hold my hands up to that. What I never did was give up. Sam and Evelyn never went wanting. I always provided and did everything I could with the time I had to make their lives better. I’m not deluding myself in saying that everything I did was with them in mind. Beating myself up is a thing of the past. At the beginning of this tale, I said I felt disappointment in myself for letting things go as far as they did. What I mean is that I feel disappointed in the fact that I didn’t confront her as soon as I suspected her playing away.

The blame lies at Sam’s door. When the divorce hearing begins, I’ll be doing all I can to ensure that she gets as little from me as possible. I’ve been told not to stoop to her level. I’ve been told that punishing Sam might inadvertently punish Evelyn. I’ve been told to remember that she’s the mother of my child. I’ve had so many people try to dissuade me from making Sam pay that you’d be forgiven for thinking I was the adulterer! I’ve given up talking to people now except my solicitor.

I need something to eat. There’s very little in the cupboards and I can’t be bothered cooking. I guess I’ll get a takeaway—again! I look around the flat and wonder if I’ll ever actually get the time I need to make it look more like a home. It’s more for Evelyn’s benefit than anything. I want her to feel comfortable when she stays with me; something she wasn’t whilst I was at my mum’s. I’ll have to get decorators in or something. I don’t have the time to do it myself and I know my friends won’t be able to help.

It’s hard not to focus on the negatives about my situation. They’re all-encompassing at the moment until I get myself settled. However, I do occasionally think about what doors are available to open for a newly single man who’s in his early mid-thirties and has a well-paying job. I may not quite have the looks I once had—a slightly receding hairline, the first signs of wrinkles in the corners of my eyes, a slight paunch where defined abs once were—though I’m hardly the worst looking bloke around at my age. While I’m not even considering another relationship at present, it would be nice to sample the dating scene and get some confidence back.

There’s a nice bar-restaurant in town that I see every time I’m on my way home from work. I reckon I’ll suggest that for the first date I go on. I think that would suitably impress the lady in question. Until then, I can go to the pub whenever I feel like it. I don’t need permission anymore. I can go wherever the hell I like when I like come to think of it. I can come home when I choose to and not have to give constant updates on where I am and who I’m with. I’m beholden to nobody except myself. This whole situation could end up being the best thing that ever happened to me!

With that in mind, screw the takeaway! I’m going into town and finding a nice restaurant to eat in. Yes, I’ll be on my own. That, however, is much more preferable to dining with Samantha and listening to her go on about herself. A nice meal with a couple of beers and silence for company sounds just about perfect to me.

You know, I thought I’d lost everything. In the last few moments, I’ve stumbled upon a revelation: I’m actually on the verge of gaining everything! I’m free. I can start afresh.

6 thoughts on “Afresh (Flash Fiction)

  1. I like being let in on his change of perspective. Revelations in a short story like that are so welcome. I felt angry when I read most of it it (empathy, on his behalf), but my mood was rescued by the ending 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to dig deep for this one and really imagine myself in the situation having never been married nor caught a partner in such a compromising position. I think reaching that point where you’d look upon it as a chance to start again rather than a bitter ending would show great strength in character. Unfortunately, many don’t reach such a point and either forgo their dignity to win their partner back or, worse, try to exact revenge.

      Liked by 1 person

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