Keith sulked and stormed around his townhouse.
He had only felt this angry with one other woman: Christine. With Andrea, Keith recalled, hate had receded, leaving only to dwell upon sadness. That’s what made her the special one. These two other women had been mindless distractions. Maybe it was their pointlessness that drove him into such a temper.
After pacing the living room for a good five minutes, Keith concluded that he needed to win Andrea back. For both their sakes that they deserved each other – being both only children and individuals with their minds on their jobs. Keith couldn’t yet see why Andrea wouldn’t choose him after she saw what he had lined up for her.
First, however, he had to come up with something to prove that love of his. Affectionless? He’d see them all wrong.
Having marched into the kitchen, he stretched an abandoned piece of paper clean and fetched a pencil. Keith scribbled the word ‘Andrea’ as a title, before writing ‘empty house’ below. He couldn’t stand to live in the empty house again, and thus, it worked as an incitement.
When Keith had bought this house, he had expected that Christine would have been living there with him within the year; now his view had shifted to deal with the change, he had also expected Andrea to occupy the abode for longer. With her skills, she had been made to look after a home.
After Léa – he vaguely remembered raising a hand high above his head as he had wanted to do with Andrea – there was no invitation in but that of the cold. And the days did grow colder to spite. With no other human to warm the emptiness, Keith wanted to hide under the covers of safety and forgetfulness.
He could do nothing without his woman by his side.
Partway through his list of ideas, the telephone rang. He rushed to it, hoping, yearning for Andrea’s voice to be on the other end. She had been angry, but he would forgive her the instant she would ask him back.
Unsurprisingly (for Keith should have known that Andrea would be busy with work), it wasn’t Andrea’s voice which came through to him, but the masculine boredom of someone much less important.
“Hi, Keith, it’s Harry.”
“Oh, Harry.” Keith studied his fingertips.
“Yeah, look, mate, I’m calling ‘cause we might need you to step in over Saturday or Sunday.”
As he talked, Keith began to form another idea for his conquering of Andrea’s heart.
“Actually, Harry,” he interrupted. “I’ve decided to take some of my annual leave this week. I’m dealing with a lot of stress at the moment, so need a break.”
“But what about stepping in? Keith, the bank needs your expertise.” He heard Harry gawk beyond his receiver.
“I’m fighting the urge to give in and just slink away. You don’t want me there for the weekend,” Keith asserted.
Nevertheless, Harry was his usual, persistent self. “After you’ve had some leave, you’ll be bright enough for helping us out again.”
Keith shrugged to himself. Irritatingly, Harry had a point. Not that the point was utterly correct, though.
“I’ll help you if you really need someone,” he conceded.
“Cool. I’ll see you there, then.”
“And Keith, you know you can talk about the stress whenever you need –”
“I’m fine. Goodbye.” Keith hung up, slamming the receiver down.
He fumed inwardly that Harry’s impertinence would allow him to be so churlish once more. Now, when Keith returned to his list of objectives, they didn’t seem worth focusing on for any longer.
He picked up his pen, thrust it down again, he flexed his fingers over the instrument, but Keith had mislaid that idea-churning ability. He sighed, reaching out to the nearby counter for a coffee cup. There was a trace of lipstick on the edge, missed by his own hand when washing. The crimson stain shone. It had to be none other than Léa’s. Keith slammed the empty cup down, where tiny vibrations produced a minuscule crack across the veneer.
She had walked off in one of Andrea’s dresses. A red one that was meant to billow. Even so, the garment didn’t suit Léa, and she had marched off with a possession not her own. Fair skin or not, Léa was out of her jurisdiction to step between him and Andrea.
Keith drifted his eyes up to the ceiling, beyond which lay the precious remains of Andrea, those garments she had moved in with her own body. Through his temptation, Keith slipped upstairs, wanting to observe them once more.
Her bedroom was so dull; a light made no difference. Keith knew it wasn’t because the room occupied the rear, sheltered side of the house. If there had ever been any lack of light, Andrea had made up for it with her radiating beauty. Now, however, the purpose of colour was moot if he had no ginger beauty upon which to gaze.
But he was being melodramatic and feminine. Keith shook his head. Maybe Léa had caused this absurd change in him, exposing him to the world when it was spinning through space too fast.
He carefully began to root through the last of Andrea’s stuff. Quickly, Keith came to realise that the majority of her belongings she had piled into the closet-wardrobe provided. In there, box sat upon box, stuffed full. Oh, Keith could remember that first day she had moved in, the worry and the silence…where Lucas lurked in the background of every memory.
For a fleeting second, it crossed Keith’s mind that Lucas might be hurting Andrea. He fell to his knees as a way of both hoping and also searching through those possessions of hers.
The topmost box overflowed. When she had un-leased her flat, Andrea had remarked of packing away all of her childhood odds and ends. Under that decision fell objects that she had been given or bequeathed. He rooted through the boxes, coming across nothing but miscall nous items. On the contrary, Keith hadn’t been looking for childhood toys. He should have.
Keith’s fingers grazed across a worn ear. The colour of corn, it protruded from the darkness willingly. Keith tugged out the ear, pulling on the extended body of a teddy with one eye. It possessed a bittersweet beauty to it.
He scowled. Not only had Keith thrown out every inch of his own pathetic childhood, he expected Andrea to have done so, too. She had said she would. But, then again, she was the liar, wasn't she? The fact that she had kept something little like this bear was sobering enough – that she had kept it away from him was worse.
Partners were meant to tell each other everything, Keith acknowledged. He flung the soft bear across the room, where it landed upright with a thwump.
This wasn’t fair. He sat opposite the cared-for bear, staring dead into its one button eye.
After a moment, Keith resurfaced from his mind with renewed determination and lifted himself off the floor. He brushed the dust from his trousers and strode downstairs.
Back to the list: Keith stretched out the paper with new vigour. There was so much he didn’t know about Andrea, but that made him more determined to win her heart.