Walking up the driveway to your ex-girlfriend’shouse is bad enough, but when you walk past the brand new blue Peugeot, that clearly belongs to her new boyfriend, parked behind her old little Rover, is much worse. I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists as I passed it, determined that I would not send my fist through its bonnet, and walked on by to the front door. Jerry and Teresa’s car wasn’t around so they either all came down in Marc’s car or they were elsewhere at that present moment in time; after all, there was no car seat in the backseat of the Peugeot.
As I stood before the front door, I took a deep breath, knocked loudly three times and waited.
Through the wooden door I could faintly hear light footsteps approaching to answer. A woman’s perhaps? I thought, hopefully, that maybe it was Casey but also figured that it was always a strong possibility of being her mother, Michelle; or even Teresa, for that matter. The clink of metal entering the key hole and the clatter of multiple keys on a keychain could be heard through the door. I braced myself and waited to see whose face I would be met with. When the click of the door unlocking was heard, the handle was pulled down and the door was opened inwards. I met a pair of blue eyes.
“Hey, Ben.” she spoke.
“Hey, Case,” I replied, smiling awkwardly, “how’s things?” I stood with my hands in my pockets, feeling the tension between us; uncomfortable yet avoidable.
“Good,” she answered, weakly. There was a short pause before she spoke again, “are you coming in?”
“Am I allowed?”
“Then, yes please.” She opened the door wider and allowed me room to enter the house. Once I was inside and away from the door, she shut it behind me and stood with her arms folded whilst I removed my coat. I saved her the time to offer to hang it and hooked it on the coat stand myself. She sighed and passed me into the living room in the adjoining room. I waited a moment until I followed through as I knew that he would be there and didn’t want to cause a scene… not that it was in my nature to cause one in the first place, but felt it best to do so just in case. As I entered the room my ears were instantly met with joyful shriek of Jamie who was sat playing on the floor with some building blocks at the foot of a man sat on the leather couch behind. I looked up and met Marc’s stare. He showed no friendliness towards me and received none back. Beside him sat Casey reasonably close to him and holding his hand. She couldn’t meet my gaze and looked down at Jamie instead. Jerry was sat in the large armchair by the fireplace and Teresa beside him on a wooden chair brought in from the dining room; they’d obviously come down with Marc in his car. Michelle, Casey’s mother, walked into the room from the next room and smiled as she saw me stood by the doorway.
“Hello, Ben,” she said, cheerfully, “it’s good to see you again, it’s been so long.”
“Yeah, it has, through my own doing none-the-less, I regret.” I glanced quickly at Casey before returning my attention back to Michelle. Casey hadn’t taken her eyes off Jamie but her cheeks appeared to have been a little redder than they had been a few moments ago when she’d answered the door.
“Now, now, let’s not blame anyone, shall we? Please, sit down. Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked. I glanced around the living room. The only free seat was on the sofa… next to Casey.
“No thank you, I’m alright. Thanks for asking though.” I thanked, awkwardly taking the seat next to Casey. I knew she would not appreciate my action but even she knew that I wouldn’t have been able to stand the whole time.
As time went by, the adults – Teresa, Jerry and Michelle – continued a conversation from before my arrival whilst Casey, Marc and I remained silent. The atmosphere around us was static and uncomfortable. Neither of us knew what to do or say. Casey and Marc’s hands remained interlinked in each other’s but I noticed that there was still quite a gap between them: Marc was sat on the far right of the sofa and Casey was right in the middle of the three-seater. I sat mirroring Marc on the far side of the left hand side with my elbow leaning on the armrest and my loosely clenched fist under my chin.
The whole time I watched Jamie playing freely, building small towers and watching them fall down afterwards. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of Casey’s reactions each time this happened: she smiled, just like I did. Marc, on the other hand, just sat there and watched expressionless. He was not very fond of children at all.
I wondered how Casey could ever be with him if he couldn’t even stand being in the same room as her son. It seemed odd to me. Would she eventually choose Marc over Jamie? Would her son become second best? I hoped for the life of me that he didn’t and never would.
Time seemed to drag so slowly and I felt awkward and uninvited in the home. Since inviting me in, Casey had been sterile to me and hadn’t made me feel welcome at all. Marc, similarly, made me feel this way, however on a larger scale. In all honestly, I didn’t understand why he hated me the way he did. After all, he was the one that stole Casey away from me, not the other way around. My dislike for him was predictable whereas his, on the other hand, was not.
“Excuse me,” I murmured, rising from my seat and making my way toward the hallway. The conversation around me dimmed as everyone registered my movement. James reached out towards my leg, trying to grab hold of my jeans, but I carefully dodged him so to get away from the tension quicker. Then it hit me. I stopped sharp at the doorway and turned back around to face James. Casey was staring directly at me, Marc also.
“Come here, mate,” I said, walking back over to James and lifting him up into my arms. Casey froze momentarily and her stance locked. I turned back towards the doorway and began to walk. I heard a gasp before me and feet hitting the wooden floor hard.
“What do you think you’re doing?” boomed a male voice. I turned my head around and looked Marc in the face. He held that same look of disgust as before. Casey was stood beside him, arms folded and her face full of doubt and worry.
“He’s my son, and I have the right to see him.” I told him straight to the point, “Casey even said to herself that she can’t disallow me to see my own flesh and blood. So, I’m going to spend time with my son, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, I do mind, Ben,” Casey started, taking a few steps towards me, “I said you could see him but not take him. Now, put him down–”
“No,” I interrupted, “if I want to see Jamie, then I can do and do what I like with him.”
“No you can’t, Ben. He’s my son too and I’m telling you to put him down or leave.” She locked her gaze on me giving me a warning look. Who was this? Because it sure wasn’t Casey; not the Casey I knew.
“I’ll bring him back by five.” I told her, turning back to leave the house. She shouted my name but I ignored her, quickening my pace as I got through the front door. Footsteps echoed behind me, quickening as I did, with a loud, prominent step deafening against the others.
“Ben!” cried Marc. I stopped and turned to face him as he marched towards me, face frowning, hands clenched and back arched.
“Go back inside Marc; you’re not involved in this.” I called back. I was about to turn back around but was swung back around my Marc’s hand on my shoulder. Before I could stay anything, a shooting pain spread across my face as the force of Marc’s fist made an impact on my nose. Casey squealed somewhere in the distance. My vision became blurry and my ears were full of Jamie’s cries. I staggered, almost losing my balance, and tried to find my bearings. Before I could do so, a similar pain spread in my stomach, and then across my jaw and chest. Casey’s screams entwined with Jamie’s cries surrounded me, as each pain filled blow from Marc’s fist met my flesh.
“Marc! Stop it!” Casey screamed continuously. Through the blurriness of my vision, I saw her trying to pull him away by his arm but his inner beast had been released and there was no stopping him, “Stop it! Please stop it! You’re going to hit James!”
“Shut up, will you!” he shouted back, pushing her to the ground and glaring down at her. My heart stopped then and the breath my lungs froze. How dare he push her to the ground and treat her like a dog! How he dared! My brow furrowed and my free fist clenched. Through the pain that ran through every vein in my body, I pulled my arm backwards and released it into Marc’s direction when he averted his attention back to me. Straight into his gut and he was down. His legs buckled and he was down on his knees and soon curled against the floor. A shriek from Teresa came from beside the front door. Jamie was still crying his little lungs off and it only dawned on me just then that he was right in the middle of it and that he couldn’t have gotten seriously hurt because of me.
I cocked my head in Casey’s direction; that stood in shock and bewilderment. She had both her hands to her mouth and tears brimming in her eyes. She shook her head at vigorously at the scene that had unravelled before her and her breathing was fast and off-beat. Her tear filled eyes locked onto mine and then at Marc curled up on the ground. I sighed.
“I’m sorry,” I slurred, after being hit in the lip, “I’m sorry… for everything.” I walked over to Casey and handed her back Jamie. She took hold of the screaming toddler and tried to calm him down, staring right at me. The tears had begun to fall down her cheeks and her makeup had started to run. I still couldn’t help but see her beauty, even in the state she was in. I began to turn away from her but was pulled back to face her. A sharp pain against my cheek joined the rest of the crew all over in body as she slapped me hard.
“You’re such an idiot, you know that, Ben!” she shouted through her tears, “You’re such an idiot and you make me so angry. I let you see James and you do this. Are you crazy!? What we you thinking, you complete moron!?”
“I felt like I was unwanted in that room, Casey, I had to get away,” I replied, “I knew that as long as I stayed in there I would not enjoy the little time I get to see my son. The only way I would be able to be with him – just the two of us – was if it was just the two of us. Do you seriously want to deny Jamie the–” another sharp slap hit my face. I cupped my cheek in my hand and noted the angry glare that she held in my direction.
“His name’s not Jamie, Ben!” she bellowed, “His name is James and I’ve had it up to here with you calling him Jamie again and again and again! His name is James!” No words could follow what Casey had to say. She was already cross with me from what had happened in Scotland this summer and she was now furious with me for what I had just done. I was such a prize idiot, and I didn’t even realise it. I accepted what she had to say and turned away from her. As I made my way back to the car, she called my name over and over again. I ignored her. However, when my name was replaced with Marc’s I turned my head briefly and saw Marc sprinting towards me. My body froze and I knew that I should run but just couldn’t. Before I could do anything, my body was pushed to the ground the entire weight of Marc McFarlow.
He straddled me, locking my back hard against the pavement, and bared his teeth aggressively as he continued to pummel at my face with his fists. I couldn’t move and my eyes were locked shut as each new addition of pain sore through my body. The metallic taste of blood filled my taste buds and I knew that there would be some pretty serious physical damage to my skin, bruising most likely being the lightest form.
As each new blow hit me, my consciousness depleted and my whereabouts became hazy. My vision blurred and faded causing everything to fall black and silent…