• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 10
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He can’t make it to your parents' anniversary – boiler emergency. You joke about his being afraid to meet the parents. Your mother blinks rapidly, your father shakes his head. You have teenage boyfriend mistakes to live down, too distant, too clingy, too secretive. This one is different.

He can’t make it to your sister’s wedding because of work, something complicated with spreadsheets and data collection. You take two presents, write his name left-handed on one label. The maid of honour doesn’t really sit still anyway. You pretend not hear to hear the usher who laughs that you’re dating the invisible man.

He can’t make it to your best friend’s house-warming; he’s stuck on the tube. You hear whispered voices behind him, maybe high-heeled footsteps. There will be other people stuck on their journeys, trying to work out where to go. You sit alone at the party, nurse the expensive bottle of red wine you brought. You pretend the whispers aren’t about you. It’s easier to ignore the invitations.

He doesn’t stop apologising after he hits you, fills your tiny flat with yellow roses, cooks your favourite chicken curry for dinner. He didn’t mean it, it’s a one-time thing. You shouldn’t have kept asking him why he was so late when he’d had too much to drink. You haven’t got anyone else to talk to now, even if you’re not sure if you ever knew him at all.

He doesn’t look back each time he walks out. Sometimes you’re curled in a ball on the beige shag-pile in the living room. Sometimes you’re lying face down on Egyptian cotton sheets. The glass in the bathroom mirror is smashed. You look for shame or fear through the spiralling fractures. But there’s no one there.