She’s prettier than I’d anticipated. And taller.
“I won’t be long,” I say, “just a few things…”
She jerks her head towards the stairs.
“Spare room. On the bed, black bin-liners.”
The thought of my clothes bundled into bin-liners, almost demolishes the composure I’ve been cultivating for weeks, but I resolutely climb the stairs. I see there’s still a coffee stain on the carpet, four steps from the top, and dust coats the edge of the skirting board. She’s no better at housekeeping than I was, I think with satisfaction. That’ll get up his nose, for sure.
In the bedroom the curtains are drawn, and there’s no bulb in the overhead light. I draw back the drapes, and step quickly back as I catch sight of Ross in the garden below. He’s leaning on his spade, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He’s smoking again, then.
Opening the bags, I see no attempt has been made to fold my clothes. Indeed, most of them appear to have been deliberately scrunched up into a ball and stuffed inside the bag as tightly as they’ll go, almost as though she’d been determined not to stretch to a fifth bin-liner.
I gather the bags, two in either hand, and struggle down the stairs. She’s still standing in the hall, arms folded, and makes no attempt to open the front door.
“Don’t you want to see Ross?” she says, her dark eyes gleaming with malice. “You know… final goodbyes, that kind of thing?”
I drop the bags, and rummage for my car keys.
“There’s really no need,” I say stiffly.
She won’t leave it there though. She turns on her heel, and marches to the kitchen door.
“Ross, someone here to say goodbye,” she calls.
My search becomes more frantic. I need to get out of here.
And then he’s there.
“Oh hi!” I say carelessly. “Just came to pick up my things.”
“I’d have dropped them round,” he says, and I can sense her quiver of irritation.
Clearly, he does too. There’s a satisfied glint in his eye.
“You’re looking well,” I say.
“Not so dusty yourself,” he says, with a grin.
A heavy sigh from his girlfriend.
“Well, better be off,” I say, struggling with the door-knob, which he still hasn’t fixed.
He leans across me. There’s the acrid tang of tobacco. He doesn’t need to be that close; it’s a game he’s playing… to provoke her, and I wonder how long before he moves to the next stage.
She turns angrily, and as her ponytail swings to the left, I glimpse the marks on the side of her neck. There’ll be similar markings, thumb-prints though, at the base of her throat.
The game’s well underway then.
I could warn her, if she’d listen.
I could, perhaps, give her the address of the women’s refuge she’ll need eventually.
But this is not my business now.
And sisterhood, like bin-liners, seems to be in short supply around here.