Jan 1, 2011
Ted Allenby awoke and opened his eyes. He immediately regretted both actions.
With a groan for his aching head, he carefully rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling knowing that it would be impossible to fall asleep again. His eyes felt gritty and swollen and there was a rancid taste in his mouth. He tried to lick his lips which were dry and caked but his tongue was in little better a state. Outside, it was misty and grey but, just the same, far too bright.
He found that he couldn't remember much of the party. He did, however, remember that he had a wife. Without daring to move his head, his hand snaked under the covers feeling toward her side of the bed. It was empty.
“Jo?” he croaked and then squinted his eyes shut as another wave of pain coursed up his neck. With the pain came a visceral pang of some sentiment he couldn't quite identify. Regret? Fear? It wasn't clear. Nothing was clear.
Silence was the only answer.
'She's probably trying to clean up the party by herself', he thought and, feeling more guilty than he needed to and fighting nausea, he slowly shifted his legs over the side of the bed, rose to sitting. He remained there motionless with his head in his hands. Finally, convinced that he would not pass out or vomit, he tottered to his feet, wavering and testing his balance.
'I think I'm still drunk,' he commented to the silent apartment. He rubbed tenderly at the knotted muscles in his neck. 'Gawd, what a mess.'
On shaky and unsure legs, he walked to the bedroom door, noting his own clothes strewn across the floor. He leaned against the door frame a moment and then passed into the dimly lit hallway.
Wondering if he could stomach some coffee and keeping his hand against the wall for security, he walked down the hall to the corner by the bathroom. The light was on but it was otherwise vacant. The towel rack had come loose and hung limp from a single mount.
'Later,' he thought.
He turned out the light and then balked. Something about the bathroom in the dark made him want to throw up. He seemed to have an impression of people in there but no recollection of the significance of it.
Confident that Jo would be in the kitchen efficiently bagging up bottles to return and stacking dishes for washing, Ted shrugged off the dark sentiment that seemed to emanate from the still darker bathroom and proceeded toward the front door. He noticed that it was unlocked and calmly threw the bolt knowing that, after a party like that, some things were bound to be left out of place. He turned into the living room and stopped short at the scene of party aftermath. Jo hadn't started to clean up.
'What a mess,' he commented, shaking his head.
That Jo would have been up early and restoring her home to its proper condition was a foregone conclusion. She was, after all, a simple and honest woman with simple and honest needs – a home, a husband who cared for her and her modest job at which she performed well. They had met in their final year of university and wed two years later.
Ted was the more extravagant of the two, having an eye for a quick business deal. He also had an eye for expensive suits, cars and women – not necessarily in that order.
Ten years on, the differences between them were more than apparent but, on most occasions, they managed to iron them out and return to a comfortable stasis.
“Jo?” He stepped into the living room and then stopped, shocked.
He had been dancing here. He remembered that much, fuzzy though it was. He was also all over someone - his hand sliding up a smooth, full thigh under a short, black party dress and finding the skin there sticky.
'What the heck was that about?' he wondered and ran shaking fingers though his messed hair. 'I hope she didn't see that.'
Suddenly, the fog cleared and his stomach lurched. He caught his breath and felt a surge of saliva in his mouth. Certain he was going to be sick, he staggered to the kitchen and leaned on his elbows into the sink. His stomach heaved, heaved again and then quieted.
He had been in the bathroom.
The nameless girl's dress was open from the back and pulled down tastelessly to expose large breasts. Her thighs were locked around his hips. The towel rack, knocked wantonly from its perch, swung each time they slammed against the wall.
Ted wiped his mouth and then ran cold water into the sink. There was a stench of stale party in the kitchen with dishes, full ashtrays and empty bottles littered about with little attention to order. Ted ran some water over his hand and wiped his face. It did nothing to revive him. He wondered if a drink would help.
On the counter was a nearly empty bottle of champagne. He looked at it, wondering what was out of place and then realised what it was.
Jo had been fond of those brightly coloured note pages and used them avidly. She used them for shopping lists, reminders, appointments and even little love letters, usually on hot pink, found in unusual locations.
This note on the bottle label was a pale yellow bearing her tiny script but without the comfort of the habitual, wide-eyed smiley face or little heart. Normally, it would have said, 'to return <3' or other affectionate triviality.
This one said simply, 'we're done'.