Sandy drove home. Christina just sat there feeling empty. All these years she could have had with the only person who had ever truly made her feel loved and safe. She needed to know what to do next but it was as if her emotional brain had shut down, protecting her from what was simply too much to handle. Her forehead pressed against the window the miles rolled beneath the tires while Sandy fretted how she was going to help get Christina back on her feet.
Pulling up outside the flat she got out and waited for Christina to get out. She didn’t move. Eventually she had to walk around the bonnet and open the door, pulling Christina out, she didn’t resist at all, she just moved in whichever direction she was prompted. An empty shell where a person once was.
Ricky wasn’t home yet, so she sat Christina at the kitchen table without a word and put the kettle on. Neither of them took sugar in their tea, but Christina was getting one this time. With the steaming cups in front of them Sandy reached over and touched her younger friend on the forearm. Opening her mouth to speak she heard the latch on the door click. He was whistling a tune as he entered so Sandy leapt up to intercept him.
After briefing him on the whole situation he came into the kitchen, knelt down in front of her and draped one of his big arms around her shoulders. He wanted to comfort her, but how could he know what to do when he didn’t know anything about her grandmother. He didn’t know how she could be this upset when she never visited, or wrote, or called or even mentioned her. Feeling helpless he thanked Sandy and showed her out. This really wasn’t working anymore, it felt like the relationship had broken down, only managing to function on a basic and automatic level. But how could he leave her now? She was so vulnerable, the hospital, the news of her grandmother dying that obviously upset her deeply, though he didn’t quite understand why.
He sighed and sat opposite her while she drank her tea, her face contorting into a grimace each time she tried to force the tears back inside.
When she finished her tea she rose and began to pull pans out of the cupboard. She wiped the last remaining smears from her face and started to wash some new potatoes.
‘That house I went to view, it was my grandmothers house.’
‘I know Sandy told me. I didn’t even know you were going to look at a house.’ Sympathy and sadness in his voice.
‘I am going to live there, it’s my home.’ She said in a deadpan voice.
‘Christina, you’re very upset, you can’t be such a hothead about these things.’
She slammed the saucepan down onto the stove with a metallic clank.
‘I am not being a hothead. My grandmother is dead and I want to go home.’ He voice faltered and her chin quivered.
‘Ok, ok let’s talk about this later when you’ve had more time to think about it.’ He said in his most reasonable tone.
‘What’s to talk about?’ Christina shouted. ‘I am going to live there. It’s the only place that I ever felt I belonged and my bitch mother has kept me away from the place for too long already.’
‘You went to see your mother?’ He hadn’t even known if her mother was dead or alive before.
‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘You never want to talk about it. For god’s sake woman be reasonable, we are talking about buying a house here, a house I have never seen, or heard of before today and you don’t want to talk about it!’
She sighed, she knew how crazy this must have looked, how could she expect him to understand? She didn’t even understand herself. She salted the water and closed the lid on the pan, turning to Ricky.
‘I’m sorry.’ She said pulling herself up as if bracing herself. ‘I didn’t want it to be like this but this is how it’s worked out. I have to be honest with you, it’s only fair – I am going to live in that house, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.’
‘With or without me huh?’ He hung his head.
‘Yeah.’ She almost whispered mimicking his gesture and lowering her head too.
He went silent for several minutes, studying the grain of the table. This could be his opportunity to bail before she turned into a complete lunatic or it could be the biggest mistake he ever make and he’d never find another woman like her. His mobile vibrated on the tabletop. Saved by the bell!
‘Fancy a cold one buddy?’ The voice came down the receiver.
‘Err. I’ll call you back.’ He hung up.
‘Go’ Christina said before he had chance to present his case. ‘I’ve said what I wanted to say. ‘You think about it, we can go see the house if you like.’
As he jogged upstairs to take a shower, she could hear him calling his mate and saying he’d be there in half an hour. She smiled, he was lovable, hard work sometimes but she knew deep down that she’d rather have him around than not. She hoped he’d decided go with her, but she wanted him to happy also. She’d been alone before and she could manage again.
His tea was on the table when he came down, new potatoes, gammon and parsley sauce. He wolfed it down and kissed her cheek with his mouth still full and left for the pub.
She finished her meal, all her thoughts had been whizzing around her head at a hundred miles an hour for hours now, always returning first to her grandma and all the years that she could have spent with her had she only known, and secondly to her mother who she wanted to grab around the neck and throttle. What she wouldn’t give for the world to stop for her to get off for a minute or two.
Suddenly it occurred to her that she could get in touch with her mother, assuming it was her who had inherited the house. Her pictures were still up in the front room and she had been an only child, so why wouldn’t she? Revenge was the first thing on Christina’s mind, then she chastised herself for the hateful thought. She had to know more before she could act.
She wished the world could stop turning to let her get off for a minute or two.
She trudged upstairs and ran herself a steaming hot bath, scented with grapefruit. She unbuttoned her top and dropped it off her shoulders, pinning her hair back in a bun on top of her hair. She undid her flies, wriggled out of her jeans and as she lifted her naked leg to step into the tub she heard the ‘ding-dong’ of the doorbell.