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Saturday 31st January

It’s finally Saturday, the day when the in-law goes home; the day I can see me getting my house back and my life returning to normal, until the baby is born and the in-law comes back. Give me happiness with one hand and take it away with the other.

I wake up early like I did on Christmas Day. I should feel bad but I don’t, not one bit. It’s not like I’ll be doing anything different when she’s gone, it’s more like I won’t feel oppressed, if that makes sense. I can finally breathe again in my own house.

We skip breakfast and head out to Manchester, not before Jason’s mum decides to say one more thing to Mei’s mum.

‘Running away are you?’ she yells.

We ignore her and leave the area. I don’t want the last moment to be associated with an argument.

The flight is at two in the afternoon. Before that we go to Wu’s to get some dim sum in the restaurant we went to on the day of her arrival.

I park up in the last parking space. The place is packed today, being Saturday. All the disabled bays are taken and I’m about to explode. As we walk past, it’s clear that they’re not all driven by disabled drivers. If you don’t have a blue badge then don’t park in the space. It’s just selfish and nothing else. What if a disabled person wants to park there? I just can’t get my head around it. It’s the same for parent and child spaces. If you’re alone without your child then piss off into another space. I’m making myself angry again when I should be relishing the trip to the airport. I put it down to being hungry.

Mei is visibly upset and I feel sorry for her. Her mother is much the same. It’s always like this so I just let them get on with it. I can’t say I’d react differently if I were them.

We end up on a table in the middle of the room and I couldn’t feel more exposed. I’m so uncomfortable it’s unreal. There aren’t many Brits in here so that only intensifies how I feel: like an ugly duckling.

When the food arrives, which consists of the usual spring rolls, wontons, soup, vegetables, and something I don’t even know, her mum perks up and urgently says something to Mei.

‘What is it?’ I ask.

‘She’s forgotten a bag of clothes that need washing.’

‘Well I can’t go back for it now.’

Her mum says something else to her.

‘She wants us to throw it away. They’re old clothes anyway.’

‘I could donate them?’

‘No. She insists we throw them away on Monday’s collection.’

Fine. I’ve come to accept this kind of eccentric behaviour. The way her mum looks you’d think she’s forgotten her child or something. But if she wants them throwing away then that’s what I’ll do I suppose.

For the rest of the meal her mum looks bothered by the bag. I don’t know why. Is it just that she doesn’t like mess?

Whatever.

At eleven thirty we head to the airport.

I park in the multi-story opposite the departure gates at terminal two. I don’t know what her mum has in her luggage but I can almost hear the car’s suspension let out a sigh of relief. They’re bloody heavy.

We head inside to the check-in desks. The queue in front is at least fifty strong, but the online check-in desk only has a handful of people.

‘Shall I check in on my phone?’ I ask Mei.

By the looks on some of the other people’s faces it seems that they’ve been here for a while, so yes, she agrees and I whip my phone out.

Ten minutes later – it took ages because of a shitty phone signal – we’re heading to the online check-in desk with a code for the person to scan. In my head I’m silently praying for nothing to go wrong.

She puts her bags on the belt, they get tagged, and away they go out of sight. Her tickets are in her hand and we’re at the bottom of the escalators that go up to security within minutes. It’s here that it hits them both: they won’t see each other for a long while. They talk every weekend and most days but it’s different seeing each other in person.

Her mum reminds us to get rid of that bag as soon as we get home, and she’s away, up the escalator and left to the mercy of security.

After paying the extortionate parking fee, we’re soon back on the M60 looking for the M62 turn off. Mei is beside me on her phone messaging with her mum who is now in the departure lounge at her gate.

‘Are you all right?’ I ask her. She always says she’s fine even though I know she’s not. Typical woman.

‘I’m fine.’

It usually hits her when we get home and it’s suddenly quiet.

‘It won’t be long until she’s back again.’ I place a hand on her belly.

She smiles. ‘You’re right.’

I let out a long breath. We only get a few months grace before it all starts again. And next time it’ll be for longer. I just hope Mei’s dad can come next time.

When we get home the sun is out and surprisingly warm for the time of year. Warm in the sense that it’s six degrees as opposed to one.

We enter the house. I feel at home now. Although she was nice, I still felt anxious around her. But the silence is there to be heard. Or peace, as I like to think of it.

It’ll be at least twenty hours until her mum lands, including a swap over in Paris, so until then, Mei is on a none stop cycle of clock and phone checking. I doubt she’ll hear anything until tomorrow evening.

To take her mind off her mum, we head out to the garden centre we visited the other day.

We take a seat in the café. I have a coffee and Mei has an orange juice. We grab a piece of cake with it, which is more of a slab.

‘You sure you’re okay?’ I ask her as I fork a lump of cake in my gob.

She nods. ‘Honestly, I’m fine.’

When we get home I go into her mum’s room for the bag she was so upset about. I don’t know what the fuss was about. The bag only has some dirty clothes. Dirty clothes that smell of smoke. All of our clothes smelt like that last week. Why she didn’t wash these I don’t know.

I hear a rattle from one of the jeans pockets. I wonder if she’s forgotten something. I think that it could be some earrings or jewellery in a box, but it’s not.

It’s a box of matches.

What the hell?

I think nothing of it, though it doesn’t leave my mind for the rest of the afternoon. I don’t ask Mei about it, I just throw the clothes in the bin. It’s soon bin day so they’ll be long gone by Monday.

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