PEOPLE DROWNING: A dip inside Chapter One

‘Off you go. And nobody’s going to die.’

As she walked back down the path that led from the prep school to the road in which her car was parked, questions flung themselves at Rosie. Had she just told her eight year-old son an out and out lie? Was there any truth in the flippant reassurance she had just delivered? She hoped, but she was far from sure. She picked a dandelion from beside the path. A perfect dandelion clock. Ripe for explosion. Rosie blew at it. Gently, carefully. ‘He’s going to live, he’s going to die, he’s going to live …’ she chanted with the nonchalance of the child in the playground. Then the early morning breeze stole the seeds from her, and with the seeds, the breeze stole the answer she sought. Rosie was forced to retreat to her mind for the answer.

The evening had been an unmitigated disaster. ‘Don’t you think it’s a bit sad that redheads always have such awfully pale eyelashes? I mean, Rosie has this stunning hair, but her eyelashes just aren’t there to match it. Rosie, haven’t you ever thought about having your lashes dyed? I go to this marvellous lady in Salisbury, and you know, it would make such a big difference to your looks.’ Heather delivered her venom in such carefully metered doses. Which dose had this been? Third, fourth, twentieth? All Rosie could recall with any precision was that she hadn’t responded, so the next dose had followed. No hesitation. ‘She does a marvellous job of skin bleaching too. You know, those freckles would just blend in and no one would ever notice them, and you’d be able to show your face at the door without a scrap of foundation.’ Heather had given Rosie another of her critical looks in advance of her next question. ‘You know, I think you spread that foundation, whatever it is – I swear by Estee Lauder myself – a little too thinly. You know, blotting it does a much better job than …’ Rosie hadn’t heard any more. She’d switched her ears off and turned her eyes into spectator mode. There had been much that she could have said, but no point in bothering.

It had not escaped Rosie’s notice that her husband’s eyes had been in spectator mode for the duration of the evening. Spectating large bosoms. Given the dimensions of the objects, Rosie could have forgiven him that, but only if the rest of his senses had not been similarly deployed. And if he hadn’t been so drunk as to be incapable of arguing the issue. An argument which would have necessitated conclusion in an apology – in his apology. But there having been scope for neither argument nor apology, Rosie was left with only the contents of her head with which to grapple.

‘If I do anything, then my children will be worse off than orphans.’ ‘If I …’, but she couldn’t even make the statement to herself inside her own head. Rosie could not advance beyond euphemism. It was the only positive aspect which she could attribute to her thought process, and a very long way from the safety net which she sought.

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‘How to I unfuck what I’ve terminally fucked up?’ Tom placed the receiver back on the handset and returned to the comatose state that had been only briefly disrupted by the call from his youngest son.

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‘Wasn’t that just the best-ever of evenings?’ Heather gave her husband no chance to reply. ‘Ooh, sweetie, I’ve had such a fab time! Isn’t Tom such a great guy! He’s sooooo clever. But why do you think he puts up with that woman? D’you realise, have you taken on board how much she insults everyone? Poor Tom. I did feel so embarrassed for him. He just cares so much and she doesn’t give a shit. There he was, after such a long week at work, still having fun on a Sunday night. And what does she do? She, who hasn’t lifted a finger all week. She goes to bed! And long before her guests leave. Aren’t you just so glad you aren’t married to that?’

Steve thought, but he didn’t think a thing about what Heather had been saying: he thought about the sheer joy on Rosie’s face ...

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