Chapter XVI

Sarah split with her ex because of his drinking. The super-complex internecine battles within the merry-go-round of a co- dependant relationship, where the unwelcome third party is the covert bottle of booze, would exhaust the even the most stoical of partners.
Even though they were separated, Sarah still fretted over him. He was a good man, crippled by his demons. His undoubted intelligence seemed to weigh heavy on his shoulders. On the one hand aloof and distant, on the other craving normality and friendship; the quotidian tasks of modern life simultaneously beneath and beyond him.
Hannah was less and less inclined to stay over. He was becoming more and more erratic. The christmas tree still up in June, the bleached hair, the odd hours he kept and the company he fell in with.
Nevertheless, Hannah agreed to go to her Dad’s. Rob was at his mates. We were set. Now there was no need to scuttle about, I called over to Sarah’s to pick her up. I pulled up outside. Ignoring the Tourette- like twitches from neighbour’s parochial parlour curtains, I rang her doorbell. She opened her door.
Well, be still my beating heart. Tell the bailiff of love to bring back my breath. A vision, a mirage of feminine beauty shimmered before me. (What do you mean I’m getting carried away?)
“Hello?
“Hello.
“Ready?
“As I’ll ever be.
We set off. We sped through the Cheshire countryside. The corn fields bordered our road like a fantastic yellow brick avenue, on our way to our secret city. I should have felt elated, but something was niggling around the edges of my anticipation.
“Are you ok?
“Yeah fine, the sat nav says two minutes.
“T minus two minutes and counting
“Are you being funny?
“No. What’s up?
“Nothing.
“Are you nervous?
“Don’t flatter yourself
So she felt it too. Silence. We pulled up at the hotel.
Rookery Hall is late Georgian converted pile in the middle of Cheshire. It’s wide façade and original mullioned windows greet you as you crunch up the drive. We booked in. The friendly smile at the desk announced our upgrade to the superior room.
“This room is more generous, and you get the bigger bed sir.
“That’s fine.
“Sir, sir? Can you come back, your room key?
I had wandered off in the general direction of the broom cupboard without waiting for the means of ingress to said boudoir of carnal joy.
Sarah was looking away and out of over the fields. She couldn’t speak because she was too busy pissing herself laughing.
Dave the concierge showed us to our room. Tipped and thanked, he reversed out as obsequiously as he had entered. The heavy door clicked shut. I looked at the vast bed, with the myriad pillows lined up like little munchkins. I turned to Sarah. Her arms were already around my shoulders. We kissed.
Her phone rang.
“Leave it.
“Hang on it might be the – hello? Ok sweetheart. Ok. Don’t worry.”
“She hung up.
“She doesn’t want to stay at his. She wants to come home. I can’t relax Tom. I’m sorry”
The early summer sky went black. Only one word would do.
“Fuck.”

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