The New Normal

by Sarah

When she saw him on her TV, she spilled her wine.  The entire glass.  It just slipped out of her hand and landed soundlessly on the beige living room carpet. She wished she’d reached the point with him where her biggest concern was that an excellent Barolo was now soaking into the deep pile, but honestly, she barely gave it a second thought, other than the split second where she considered if losing the wine was worse than staining the carpet – it was very drinkable.

He looked good, which was disappointing.

Reaching over the arm of the sofa, she placed the now empty glass on the side table, reached for the TV remote, which always sat there, and turned the volume up.  His voice filled the space all around her.   It was odd, hearing him again, and especially to hear him speaking at a normal volume, at a normal pitch.  She couldn’t remember the last time they has spoken to each other when at least one of their voices hadn’t sounded spiteful and defeated.  At least two Christmases had come and gone since then.  Jo had moved out.  Ben was a father now.

At first, when they had stopped talking, stopped trying to make the other see their own side of things, she thought it was the biggest mistake they’d ever made, but as the slow days became slow weeks, she realised that not speaking was the only way they could come to terms with what had happened. Because they couldn’t talk themselves out of the mess that was their marriage.  They could, and they would forevermore apportion blame, but that wouldn’t alter the reality of where they stood now – apart.  And she liked being apart from him.  She liked the emotional freedom this allowed. It didn’t mean that she wasn’t still deeply hurt by what he had done, but time and distance enabled her to realise that in spite of all that hurt, she had thrived and was now happier than she’d been in years.

And so what if he looked good.  So what if the creases around his eyes bestowed character on his otherwise plainly handsome face.  So what if his greying hair suited him even more than the dark brown tousled mess that she used to love so much.   So what if he looked like he laughed more now.

And was the female BBC presenter flirting with him?  Really?  She leaned forward on the sofa, as if increasing her proximity to the TV would reveal more. Onscreen, the thirty-something brunette presenter mirrored her pose, leaning in closer, hanging on his every word, and she knew that without the presence of the cameras the woman would pour herself onto his lap.  He was still utterly charming.   He was the perfect mix of intellect, good looks and humility.  That he had a pathological desire to be desired only came to light after you were under his spell was really quite unfortunate.   Because by then it was too late. By then, you had two children together, had written four books together, owned a house together, and never for one moment had you questioned why every time he met up with friends to play golf on Saturday mornings, you wouldn’t hear his key turn in the front door until the early hours of Sunday morning.  Or why on the occasions when you opted to stay home instead of attending a work conference, he’d go without you.

Yes, he looked good.  Divorce agreed with him.  She wondered if he was seeing any one woman in particular.  She doubted it.

A few minutes later, the news segment ended, and now she being told that there was a greater than 70 percent chance that it would rain over the upcoming weekend.  She got up off the sofa and headed to the kitchen to grab something to try and soak up the wine. She wondered why her heart wasn’t beating faster.  Wondered how she was able to focus on cleaning up the mess without breaking down and cursing him until her throat hurt.  It didn’t take long before she was sitting on the floor, next to the still very present splash of purple, contemplating how she’d arrived at this point where she didn’t care. It was a shock. Because she didn’t care. Not really.  Not in any way that would hold her back.  She was living a life that for the most part didn’t include him. A few years ago the thought would have terrified her, baffled her, but now it made sense in a way that normalcy mostly did.

She picked up the rag and the compacted stack of kitchen towel and began to blot the stain some more.  The carpet would have to be professionally cleaned, probably. And it was such a waste of good wine.


Follow Sarah on Twitter: @BlindAssassinUK