He removes his vinyl records from the shelf and puts them into a cardboard box. ‘Living room’ is written across the side in black marker pen. He slides open a drawer in the sideboard, and takes out ‘his’ things.
“Coffee?” I say.
No reply. He’s standing with his back to me. I can see that several drawers are now open. God, that bloody annoys me. Why can’t he just shut one drawer before opening the next. I sigh, but he doesn’t react.
His shoulders slump forward, and I see that he is holding the little pink, velvet, chest. I pray that he won’t open it, but like Pandora, he can’t help himself. A rush of memories come tumbling out. I don’t need this. Our eyes meet, a message transmitted. He lifts the white baby booties from the bed of silk they lie upon. I can’t look, so I get up and walk into the kitchen.
The kettle bubbles and clicks off. I pour boiling water over the instant granules, taking my time to stir. I rinse the teaspoon. When I turn around, with both mugs in my hands, he steps in front of the doorway.
“James, please, I’m not in the mood for games!”
“What about these?” he asks, as he holds up the booties.
“What about them?”
“I thought we could keep one each,” he murmured.
“I don’t want it.”
“So, you don’t mind if I…”
“Do what you want, you always do anyway.”
He takes a step back, as if I’ve slapped him. I bang the coffee cups down, and brown liquid spills down the sides.
A film forms on the surface of the untouched coffee, as he continues to pack. I eye the boxes, and hope that he didn’t take the booties: they’re all I have left now.
He takes a suitcase out to his car. As the front door closes behind him, I rush over to the sideboard, pulling the drawer open. I open and shut the other drawers too.
“He’s taken them,” I say, closing my hand over my mouth.
The car door slams. I dash to the chair, curling my legs beneath me as I sit. Reaching forward, I grab my book from the table and open it.
He comes back in and lifts a box. Please don’t let the booties be in that box!
“Your book is upside down,” he says.
My cheeks flame, and he lays his hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t,” I tell him, shrugging him off.
He leaves again. I’m on my feet again, pushing my hand into the nearest box, feeling about for the small chest. The door opens, and I pull my hand back, tearing the cardboard. If he has seen, he doesn’t let on and continues to take boxes and suitcases out to the car.
“Okay, that’s me. I think I have everything.”
I keep my eyes on the book. His keys jangle, and I hear the clink of metal being placed on the table by the door. He stays there for a moment and then he is gone. I go to the window, being careful to stand back so he won’t see me. Tears dribble down my cheeks, dripping off my chin. I don’t wipe them. The car starts. Several minutes pass before he pulls away. I watch him until he disappears at the end of the road. On the table, a solitary bootie lies beside his door key.
The original story can be found in Northwords Now – issue 37.