Chapter 7

Written by: Donna McTavish

Phil looks at his watch through sleep filled eyes. He traces the ridge of his teeth with the tip of his tongue and makes a futile attempt to moisten his lips. He feels brittle as if any sudden movement would shatter his body into a thousand pieces. Mary sleeps restlessly in a plastic chair, her soft mass wedged uncomfortably between hard arm rests. In the quietness of the room he notices the grey skin under her eyes and listens to her soft grunts as she breathes in and out. Unaccountably, for he is not known for his powers of observation, his gaze is drawn to her left hand where a ring, a milky white pearl on a gold band, glistens. He has not seen it before.


Mary’s head shifts slightly and her hair falls in a soft veil exposing the pink tips of her ears. He remembers how he teased her about her elfin ears in bed on lazy Sunday mornings a long time ago.  Saliva bubbles from her mouth in a slow silvery trail. It hesitates at the end of her fleshy chin and falls in a damp stain on her white cotton shirt. Once, he would have leant forward eagerly, tenderly, to wipe her mouth but not now. What he feels now is disgust.


Harry is in his room cocooned in tight white sheets while Albert keeps guard. Phil silently gives thanks to his brother. He gently strokes Harry’s dry hand. “I love you, mate.” His words are sluggish  and flow out of him unevenly.  “I’m going to be the best dad I can be for you. I promise. Just wake up, mate. Please.” 


A violent sob shakes his exhausted bones and he bows his head. And then he can’t stop. Words are flying out of his mouth and falling into the empty ears of his son.  “I don’t know what will happen with your mum and me. She loves you, don't you worry about that, but I think  there might be someone else.” He thought again about the glistening ring on her left hand. And then the worst words of all. “Tom, my beautiful boy, I don’t think I love her anymore. I don't think she wants me to love her.”


When he lifts his head, a pale grey light is seeping into the room. Phil looks at his watch. Five o’clock. A trolley rattles past followed by the squeak of rubber soled shoes. He gently releases Harry’s hand and stands up gingerly, slowly unfurling the muscles in his back and enjoying the feeling of  blood flowing into his numbed limbs.  Something has shifted while he rested and for the first time in months, his mind is uncluttered. The question that had niggled him since the terrible afternoon was fully formed. What had his darling wife done and what was she so sorry about?


He knows exactly what he has to do but first he needs a cup of strong black coffee.


More family intrigue to the story all dealt with in one scene. Lots of questions are thrown into the mix. Good take on it Donna.
What a fabulous chapter. I love the way it traces the change in a relationship and the change in the way someone sees another. I love the reference to the ring. Such fabulous detail.