When he comes downstairs the morning after, the rip in the curtain catches his eye. It’s letting in sunlight – a bright white mouth gaping against the dark material.
It comes back to him in jerky, disconnected scenes, flashing across his memory like one of those children’s toys where you pull the level and the little plastic disk of pictures cycles around.
Click. They were tired and irritable when they got home – it was Friday at the end of a long week.
Click. They both knew it was coming, as it did so often now. They tried to avoid it, putting off hostilities with exaggerated politeness. How was your day, darling? Tiring, frustrating… but never mind – how was yours?
Click. Inevitably, someone said something. That was as clear as the forensic evidence could be. It might have been an offhand remark, it might have been biting one.
Click. The tension flooded in; the standard complaints floated out. He spent too much time with his mates, practicing with the band. She was tired of never seeing him. She spent too much money on fabric and craft supplies. No of course he wasn’t saying she should stop, just be a little more fiscally responsible.
Click. Something snapped. He doesn’t know what was said – they were both shouting by then – only that she walked over to the curtain (which she’d only just finished sewing last week) and grabbed a handful of fabric and pulled. He’d felt it physically, viscerally. Something tearing, fibres coming apart. Something that had been made with love, torn.
She was in that place where she went sometimes, shouting about how worthless she felt, how nothing she did meant anything. She was so angry. So lonely. He couldn’t reach her. He could never bloody reach her.
Click. She’d stormed off to bed and he’d followed at a suitable interval. They lay with their backs to each other, not touching. He couldn’t tell if she was sleeping.
Click. And here we are again. He stares at the sloppy triangle of sunshine and remembers how proud she was when she finally finished and hung the curtains. Her biggest project yet. Maybe she’ll mend it, he thinks as he walks to the kitchen and puts on the kettle. I hope she’ll mend it. You’ll probably still be able to see where it ripped, but at least it’ll be together.
She’s still sleeping when he comes into the bedroom holding two mugs of coffee, made just the way she likes it.
“Morning, my love,” he says softly.
Click. She stirs, sits up. Her face softens at the sight of the coffee. They are both sheepish.
“I’m sorry about last night,” she says, at the same time he begins to say, “I’m sorry about last night.”
They sit side-by-side in silence, knees touching. Alright for now, all past and future temporarily banished.