I don’t think I’ll ever see Amy in the same light again. The picture has been burned into my memory forever. What if my newly pregnant wife saw that picture? Wow that would have been awkward.
At nine thirty we’re all downstairs in the living room watching TV. I need to leave for work soon. Mei and her mum are going to Cheshire Oaks shopping outlet with one of Mei’s friends. Good luck to them. We went there last year. Parking was a nightmare. I’ll just have a quiet afternoon to myself. I’m quite looking forward to it.
The local news is on talking about Emma’s death yesterday. This area is really getting a lot of attention lately. They’re speculating whether this is a suicide or if Emma was pushed, or even killed before hand and then thrown from the window. You know, something to lift everyone’s spirits on Boxing Day.
I roll my eyes.
They talk about her as if she was an actual peeping tom. Someone must have spoken to the media. They say that there were no recordings found in the flat, like it had been emptied beforehand, and the computers had been wiped. It would take time to find out if there was anything on there.
There’s a knock at the door. It’s Mei’s friend: Li. She has a young son and he’s going with them. I couldn’t be more certain that I made the right decision by not going. That kid is so needy it’s unreal.
Their problem now.
I say goodbye and they go on their way.
I head to work.
The ice is still a threat. It’s freezing out here. I’m in the car wishing the heater would just get a move on. I can see my breath. I’m surprised the inside of the windscreen isn’t frosted over.
I don’t feel good about this upcoming confrontation with Amy. I don’t know how to play it. Do I come right out and ask her what she’s playing at? Or do I keep it to myself and see if she brings it up?
I doesn’t matter how I think it will turn out; it won’t turn out that way anyway. It was touch and go at the beginning whether I’d start to feel something for her, but I need to nip this in the bud. It can’t get any more serious. But wow, that picture.
And my fears are relieved when I pull into the depot and find Amy isn’t even there. Unless she’s coming late today.
I walk in and exchange the usual ‘Merry Christmases’ to everyone. Apart from Agatha. She’s just as sour faced as ever. I’m sure she lives here. Come to think of it, I need a new job and there’s possibly an opening going here in the office. I may inquire when the owner of the company, Robert Blacksmith, comes on New Year’s Eve. If he comes. He usually does. Usually with a box of chocolates or red or white wine to choose from. Someone needs to tell him he’s a week too late. That stuff would be better consumed on Christmas Day.
There are only nine deliveries today. Should be a doddle. Then I can go home and enjoy the rest of my Boxing Day with my new games.
Before I leave the depot one of the drivers, James something or other, asks me if I’m going to Mrs Mellor’s funeral on Sunday.
‘Yeah. It was in the paper on Christmas Eve.’
Shit. I had no idea.
Agatha is watching us talk. She’s expressionless. Soulless. God she’s horrible. She had no intention of telling me. I think I will ask about the office job, just to piss her off. And I can work with her, on her level.
‘It’s at two in the afternoon. Saint Michael’s on Wigan Road,’ James tells me.
I pick up my box. ‘Thanks for that.’
For shit sake. A funeral this Sunday. I have a suit but I don’t have a black tie. I call Mei. ‘Can you pick me up a black tie?’
‘If we ever find a parking space, yeah.’ She sounds pissed off.
At least she said yes.
The round takes almost as long as it would if everyone was on it. I have the same conversation with every customer on the round: how was your Christmas...that’s it until next year...merry Christmas...wife bought me some new games....my son came to visit.
By the last house I can predict word for word how it will go. I have to put on a broad and fake smile to keep the illusion going. Though I do like to see the clients happy.
Just like I did for Mrs Mellor.
When I get home there’s nothing going on for once. It looks quiet. Cold, but quiet. I feel like I should go and see Harold. But how often do I get an afternoon to myself? I’ll have to treasure these rare days especially now there’s a baby on the way.
I go inside and head upstairs. There’s something inside me that makes me go into the second smaller spare bedroom we have. It’s currently cluttered. It used to be my computer room before I got a laptop. Now it’s just used for storing any old crap we don’t think is worth throwing away. This room will be the baby’s room. I can imagine it in here. The cot. The wardrobe. The drawers. And perhaps a toy box. It needs a wall heater of course. Upgrading the central heating has been put on hold indefinitely. So has looking for another house.
I’m hungry. Shit. I should have picked up a McDonald’s on the way home. I tut. In the freezer are some Chinese dumplings Mei’s mum made the other day, so I boil those up and make my own garlic and soy sauce dip. They’re yummy.
While I’m waiting for my game to install, my phone beeps. It’s a text message. My stomach sinks and the hairs on my neck stand on ends again. Please be from Mei.
It’s not. It’s another smutty picture from Amy. This time she’s purely naked in front of a mirror. Everything is on show. Everything. The caption says: missed you today, with a wink emoji. Oh shit. Two messages can’t be a mistake. Can they? Surely when she checks her phone it shows that she sent the pictures to me. I look at it longer than I should before deleting it. I really need to speak to her. Face to face.
I can’t enjoy my games as much for the rest of the afternoon. I keep wondering if I should reply. It’s driving me mad. If Mei finds any it could be the end of our marriage.
The phone beeps again an hour later. I’m almost too afraid to look at it. Yet I’m a man and naked women look pleasing to the eye. I open it. It’s Mei. I let out the longest breath I’ve ever exhaled. I didn’t know my lungs were so big. She’s on hr way home.
I can’t sit around and play games. I feel restless. It’ll take Mei an hour or so to get home, so I go and see Harold until she does. I don’t tell him about the pictures. I think I can handle it myself. We talk about his cat and the Boxing Day football results. And what happened with Emma and if either of us have heard anything. All the while I can’t stop picturing the latest message from Amy. It’s another image imprinted in my mind. I feel my hand on his chair arm shaking uncontrollably.
Get a grip, man.
At just after six, Mei’s friend pulls up outside. They’re back. She bought me the tie I asked for and for the rest of the evening I try to put on my bravest face.