• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 11
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The man had excused himself from the party to have a smoke in the garden. Now he had finished smoking, but he was still standing in the garden. He told himself he would go back in after he counted to five, but he counted to five and didn’t move.

They’d bought the house together, him and the woman, and now the done thing was to have a party. He knew that. They’d agreed. So he didn’t understand what was making him stand there like an idiot, just staring through the window while his friends talked and laughed and had a good time. Maybe it just felt a bit like it wasn’t his party; the woman had decided the date, made the shopping list, moved the furniture.

A car passed by on the corner and illuminated a pair of eyes at the bottom of the garden. The man jumped, he reached for his phone. The roar of the car seemed to get louder instead of quieter in his ears. But it was just a fox. It was there for a second and then it disappeared into the hedge. The man sat down on the garden bench. He thought that the way the fox stared at him was like the way a colleague's child had stared at him, a few days earlier, when he tried to make a joke.

Maybe that was it. That was it? House is to party as marriage is to children? Dating is to marriage as marriage is to happiness. Spare room is to baby as smoking is to cancer. Fuck. He should really stop smoking. And swearing.

He had to stand up, he had to go back inside. The woman was walking with a bounce as she served the canapes that the man had helped her prepare earlier. They had been fiddly, he wasn’t good at fiddly, so he knew they looked a mess. He couldn’t go in there and look at the ugly canapes, he just couldn’t. He didn’t stand up. He sat there, very still, in the garden.