Friends and Anger 2

He disentangled himself from her sprawling embrace and got out of bed. He hadn’t really slept in the night, just cat napped. It is an aspect of his protective personality when it comes to her. Switched into overwatch mode. You don’t sleep, you don’t take advantage of a woman you’ve a regard for who’s in distress, you just cuddle up, comfort and protect her. That’s as far as it’s going to go. Just make her feel safe.

They’ve known each other for nearly fifteen years and it’s the first time they’ve ever shared a bed, and a chaste one at that. Like Elvis said, all my dreams come true, but in all honour, you can’t do anything.

He’s up and headed for the shower. A quick five-minute sprinkling and out of it with a towel wrapped around his waist. If she hadn’t been there, he’d have simply walked around naked as usual. It was the weekend and this was his place after all.

Having come from poorer circumstances, he’d never owned a pair of pajamas in his life and the idea of changing into different clothes to go to sleep in still seemed a strange and alien concept to him, but concessions have to be made when you’ve got a house guest. He’s always felt sleeping as God made him allowed his skin to breathe. There’s some silly night-gown thing hanging on one of the two hooks on the inside of the bathroom that’d been left there for months by yet another old girlfriend trying to put down her ownership marker on him and his place.

It’s nylon and garish and horrible. What the fuck anyway. He puts it on over the towel and works out how it should be secured. His version of secured wouldn’t correspond to any women’s version of that idea, but it’s good enough to go.

Time to start working on breakfast. Apart from a simple fry up and an improvised spagbol or two, he’s a strictly functional cook. You eat to live rather than live to eat. There’s nothing sadder than a bachelor boiling two bloody lonely spuds, so he always goes large and does six or seven. Two he eats with his dindins, the rest always get stuck in the fridge enclosed between two plates. There are simply too many quick and convenient things you can do with an already boiled potato. He plucks a couple out of the fridge, skins them and then cuts them into discs. A splash of vegetable oil in the pan, and pops the discs in. The bacon is already under the grill filling the kitchen with a lovely smoked bacon smell.

He keeps turning the bacon and discs of potato. The smell of breakfast on the go has awakened her. She joins him and sits at the cheap Formica table in the kitchen and waits there in her underwear and wonders at what the hell he’s wearing. Around him, she’s always felt totally safe; more so than with any other man she’s ever met.

She knows he’s in no mood to talk. From the set of his shoulders, she can see he’s smouldering, radiating a barely controlled rage. She once saw what that anger could explode into and wants to deflect it away for everyone’s sake, especially his.

They’d been walking home one evening from a concert in their silly young university days and were confronted by two late teenage muggers wielding knives and trying out the criminal lifestyle. Just give them everything they want he’d told her. They handed over what little student cash they’d on them and a grandmother’s ring she was wearing. One of them decided he wanted a bit more from her than that and made a grab at her.

She never exactly saw what he did, it was just too fast, but both muggers were put down on the ground and unconscious and he was literally kicking their faces in. Their days of being young and good-looking scamps were over for good and forever. He ruined them. She’d never seen violence like that before. When he was finished, he retrieved their money and her grandmother’s ring. He handed it back to her.

She’d never worn it since.

What was very clear to her in the aftermath was that what had just occurred was not up for discussion. Ever.

Eventually, it’s nearly ready. He empties the pan and grill, and cracks four eggs against the side of the pan one after another. They’re quickies, a couple of minutes until they’re ready. He doesn’t turn eggs. Splash some of the hot oil over the top of them with the plastic spatula to hasten the cooking. He knows she doesn’t like her eggs runny.

The finishing touch is two slices of bread in the pan to mop up the oil and a handful of freshly washed and chopped button mushrooms. Fried bread. He makes two diagonal cuts on each slice, making them into four triangular pieces. It all ends up on two plates. Not for the first time, she notices there’s something exact and clinical in the way he does things. There’s no waste. Nothing gets thrown. Someone once told her it’s a trait of people who as children went hungry. Everything that’s there in front of them gets eaten.

The kettle boils and they have two cups of instant coffee with their breakfast.

Not a word has been spoken between them.

She breaks the silence and starts explaining what happened last night between her and her boyfriend. They’ve had variations of this conversation several times before and she already knows his opinion of her boyfriend. She’s trying to gentle him down, just in case he decides to do something stupid. In some ways, his opinion of her being so hopelessly smitten and allowing herself to be habitually abused is even harder to bear. There’s a sense of him being disappointed in her, but also a foreboding about his protectiveness of her.

So, you’re just another beaten and abused slag who hasn’t the survival wit to escape a downward spiral of abuse? He asks her. Temperature in the kitchen takes an instant ten degree upward leap, and from the set of his shoulders, she knows he doesn’t give a damn for any sophisticated explanations. She’s seen that in him before, but only on one or two rare occasions. There is something of a raging bull about him at those times. When he’s in this mood, you don’t touch, gab, try to shut him down or argue. You simply back off until he finds some semblance of composure. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

She always had an intuition his interest in her went beyond good buddy friendship, but he would never let her inside his defenses. She’s right. By the succession of pretty scabby girlfriends to push her away and never actually admitting openly to his deep affection for her, he’s always slightly infuriated her, but never managed to alienate her from him either. There’s a fair bit of baggage he’s carrying in that area.

In a certain way, he has always been a steadfast rock jutting out of a turbulent and wave-lashed sea she clung to on occasions of deep need. He had a quiet strength she knew she could always draw on. He’s the only man who’s never asked anything of her in return. A mite hard to find at times, but if she could get a message to him, he’d always be there.

He thinks but doesn’t say it to her; you do know he’s going to hurt you very badly in the end. He’s dipping a corner of his fried bread into the egg yolk. Unlike her, he likes his eggs runny. It’s the sort of displacement activity people do when they want to say something really important, but he’s already had his say with her and several times over. It’s old ground he’s not going to cover again.

He’s entering his middle thirties, unmarried and unattached and wanting, but the problem has always been her. The one element of his life he’s never been able to control. He has always loved her. Always. Dreadfully, beautifully, hopelessly and desolately. Straight from the fucking word go, but his life experience is that everyone whom he has ever loved or adored has come to some sort of bad end, so he’s always been deeply afraid of declaring his love of her because in some way, it might put her in harm’s way.

He has a dread intuition that might be his curse. Everyone and anything he’s ever valued; they’ve all been butchered, blasted or just wilted, blackened and died under circumstances well beyond their control. No way he’s going to put her into that danger zone.

For some people, happy ever after has always been a slim but hoped for option. It becomes I’ve got some history, so stay the fuck away from me. He can bear any lashes, but her being hurt because of him isn’t one of them. She deserves a lot better than him and an arsehole boyfriend who likes beating up women.

He won’t talk to her as she chatters on. All she can do is keep talking at him as he munches his way through breakfast. She thinks he’s really pissed at her for yet again being a victim but she couldn’t be more wrong. That’s not the case, it’s not what’s running through his head. It’s a serious misreading of him. All he’s doing is some deep planning. The decision has already been made and he’s now just working out the mechanics, the details, step by step about how he’s going to execute it.

He finishes his meal and she notices not for the first time he places his knife and fork exactly crossed over his plate. His manners are perfectly schooled, yet the usual Anglo-saxon mannered thing is to leave them parallel. His English is accent-less but she’s always had a vague feeling it’s not his mother tongue because it’s so grammatically perfect at times. When asked by her, he once explained to her what a gerund was. Nobody except a foreigner knows English grammar to that depth. Tiny little oddities in his mannerisms like that have always intrigued her about him.

He has a gift of giving out zero information about himself without ever appearing to do so. All she knows about him is he’s perfectly plausible and somehow a complete bloody invention. They’d met at university and he’d chosen to have few friends there apart from her and few passing girlfriends. Fuck buddies, as they say, but by all accounts and her carefully disinterested probing of his ex-girlfriends, he’d always been kind to them during and afterwards but never engaged in any deeper relationship. She’d never been one of them.

She looks at him carefully and in a flash of insight realises something.

Please don’t hurt him.

He looks up at her, and there’s suddenly something hard and flinty in his eyes and she instantly knows her instinct about what he was thinking was correct. He’s looking too much like that complete stranger she once saw who nearly kicked two muggers to death all those years ago. There’s a pause.

I won’t go anywhere near him.

She gives him a hard stare back. That cold stranger in him she doesn’t like is suddenly in the room.

Promise.

There’s a pause. A long one.

He promises.

We’ve had this conversation before he tells her; just leave him. You know what I think, but it’s not my business. It’s up to you to handle it. It’s a complete lie of course, but she doesn’t see it. He cares for her too much to leave her to the tender mercies of her own emotions and a bastard like her boyfriend. He’d made his mind up last night.

He already has the minute details of a plan worked out in his head. There’s a nice logical sequence of gentle imperatives, one leading naturally on to another, until it’s all perfectly placed. He runs through it again in his head, using a mixture of visualation and sub-vocalised dialogue as he considers a few contingency side roads.

Like all his plans, it’s simple. The fewer moving parts it has, the less room for something to go wrong. The last but necessary component of it is patience but in all certainty, there’s going to be a death, because he knows she’s incapable of disengaging from the abusive relationship and how it’s doomed to end.

He notices she’s shivering slightly. Mebbe delayed shock or just the lateness of the year or she’s just simply cold. He stands up and takes off the frilly girly whatever it is he’s wearing and holds it open for her. She steps into it and secures it confidently and stylishly about herself and sits back down. He’s getting to work on a second wave of coffees. His pack of cigarettes and Zippo are on the table. By the time the coffees arrive, she’s taken a cigarette and lit it up.

There’s a saucer in the middle of the table that does double duty as an ashtray. They drink their coffees, share the cigarette and there’s no talking.

©Pointman

Click here for all currently written chapters of Friends and Anger.

Click her for other Pointman fiction.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Friends and Anger 2”
  1. 1957chev says:

    I have the strangest feeling that I have met this man before… Or someone exactly like him! I am thoroughly enjoying this glimpse into his mind!

    Like

  2. John Leal says:

    Your writing grabs me like Lee Child who writes the Jack Reacher books.
    Don’t leave me hanging on this one.

    Like

  3. Ed Zwicker says:

    I hope there is a book in the making.

    Like

  4. Blackswan says:

    Pointman,

    As Warren Farrell once so adroitly observed … “A woman’s pretence of weakness is her strength, and a man’s pretence of strength is their weakness”.

    @ Ed – “a book in the making?”

    It’s already here on the blog (27 chapters of it) and a fantastic read. “Line of Descent” is a story not soon forgotten.

    https://thepointman.wordpress.com/fiction/

    And a favourite for SciFi fans … https://thepointman.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/ship/

    Sometimes, absolute gems can be hiding in plain sight.

    Liked by 2 people

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