Hi everyone. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and unfortunately, due to life being a hectic rollercoaster of mumming and business running (news on that coming soon) I won’t be able to get a full-fledged article out for a little bit longer. So I’ve decided to entertain you with my draft (ok, so I wrote it a year ago and have already edited it 10 times) of chapter 2 of my Novel ‘My Place’. If you haven’t read chapter 1 yet, you can click HERE and do that first, or later, whatever suits.
Becky’s hands were shaking as she tested the firmness of the pasta, gently inserting a fork through the lightly crusted surface. She didn’t know why she was so nervous. She’d made this dish many times before and all but once it had turned out just fine. Cannelloni was a dish that generally called for mincemeat filling inside tubes of pasta smothered in cheese sauce, but Becky preferred to make it with a tuna and tomato sauce filling instead. She found the flavours of the tuna, tomato, and cheese blended together in a combination that was simply divine. Fortunately, her husband Greg was in mutual love with it and requested Becky make it at least once a week.
She closed the oven door, a wave of hot air blowing back her blonde curls, cropped at the shoulders and she returned to the sink to finish washing the dishes. Greg would be home from a long day at work in less than 15 minutes and would be expecting dinner to be ready and on the table by the time he’d put his coat away and washed up. Becky deduced this was not an unreasonable request, as his job was very physically demanding, and he must be horrendously hungry by the time he returned home in the evenings.
She had a lot more time these days anyway. She was not working right now and the least she could do was keep the house in order and get meals done on schedule. She decided another 10 minutes should be enough to cook it through. She took note of the time on the oven, 5.47pm was displayed in bright white lights on the small screen.
As she wiped clean each item in the warm soapy water, she gazed out the window to the horizon where the dark blue of the Southern Ocean met the lighter blue of the cloudless sky. She could only catch a glimpse of the majestic waters as the shrubs along the back fence had grown to such a height that they all but blocked the magnificent view.
There was a small space between the two separate shrubs where the ocean was still visible, and it was this small recess that made the kitchen window Becky’s favourite view in the entire house. She stared at the calm surface that seemed so serene and peaceful. It appeared to stretch on for eternity and Becky imagined how wide and expansive it must be beyond that point where sea met sky.
There was something about the ocean that made Becky feel alive, something that made her heart feel lighter and full of hope like anything was possible. She thought perhaps it was because of its magnificent size, such an expanse that appeared to have no boundaries, no borders, no confines. It was open, limitless, unburdened…free! There were no duties to perform, schedules to stick to, people to please or bills to pay, there were no demands on it other than to keep existing, keep being what it was, what it was made to be, what it was good at.
The same landscape that made her feel uncommonly alive also crippled her with a gut-wrenching sadness. Conflicting feelings wrested inside her. Confusion seemed all too prevalent within her lately. Confusion over what was right and what was wrong. What was good and what was bad. What to say and what not to say. What to think, feel, or do and what not to think, feel, or do. Becky felt the moments of overwhelming emotion were gaining traction rather than fading away like they were meant to. The anxiety was increasing and the Post Traumatic Stress she’d been diagnosed with seemed to be winning the war that she’d taken time off to fight. She’d gone on sabbatical armed with nothing more than household duties and subscription drugs to fight a battle with an unrelenting demon that seemed determined to conquer her soul. Right now though, there was a momentary suspension of hostilities as she lost herself in the serenity of the breathtaking view.
Placing the last pot on the dish rack, Becky flicked a glance at the clock on the oven and nearly passed out as her heart skipped a beat. It read 6.05pm. She’d momentarily given way to her wandering thoughts and lost track of the passing minutes. An irrational fear struck her once again as she anticipated a blackened surface that would give the meal an unsavoury smoky flavour. She pulled the door down and was relieved to see the top of the meal was not burnt at all but was only moments from it.
She quickly removed the dish from the oven with the trusty oven mits her mother had gifted her on her wedding day and after placing it on the stovetop, she turned the two oven knobs to 0. She decided she’d leave the meal in the dish until Greg returned home and then she’d serve it out as she didn’t want it to get cold on the plate.
She crossed the dining room to the living room and pulled the 30-year-old curtains away from the window to survey the driveway. She stared at the empty space and uneasiness came to keep her company once again. He was rarely home later than 6pm, in fact, he was nearly on the dot most days, she could all but set her watch by it. She contemplated whether to return the meal to the oven at a low temperature to keep it warm or if that was a poor idea given that if he was a great deal later, the cheese could possibly burn or the pasta would become overcooked and hard. Anxiety began to snap at her heels as she couldn’t decide what to do.
She paced the living room floor until the wooden clock on the wall read 6.30, glancing out the window every time she caught sight of a pair of headlights. That’s it, she decided she needed to put the food back into a warm oven before her husband arrived home to a cold meal. She walked back to the kitchen at a hastened pace, switching the oven on once more and returning the cannelloni to the top shelf. As she did this, she heard the key in the front door at the end of the hall.
The sound of metal on metal as the key was inserted and the deadbolt moving swiftly out of its locked position, used to be of comfort to Becky but lately, the familiar sound brought with it a weight of anxiety that she couldn’t explain to herself let alone another living soul.
She quickly took two dinner plates out of the cupboard above the oven and placed them on the bench as Greg entered the kitchen. The smell of Motor oil and grease accompanied him as it did every day and a subtle hint of cigarette smoke lingered on his beard. Becky pretended not to notice as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. It seemed like he’d had a good day at least since he’d come straight in to see her.
A happy smile reached right up to his well-defined cheekbones and brought a youthful glow to his aging face. Smile lines were beginning to appear around his plump wide lips, which showed his 35 years had been full of many joyful, if not fun moments. The matching frown lines between his black bushy brows, told a darker story of more melancholy times.
“Hey sweetheart, sorry I’m late, traffic was a nightmare” he gushed in a sincere and apologetic tone.
Even though she felt annoyed at the fact he didn’t bother to call or text her that he was going to be late, she shook her head and with a wave of her hand said “that’s ok, I understand”. She was ever so careful not to let her tone show her dissatisfaction. “I’m just reheating dinner so it should be ready soon.”
“Great, I’m starving, I’ll just go wash up and get changed.” He removed his coat, revealing his grey, grease-stained overalls. The black marks that were all too familiar to Becky now, glared back at her as though mocking her, daring her to make a complaint and at the same time threatening her with trouble if she did. It was as though they resentfully held her dark secret, a secret that triggered a plethora of negative emotions within her. There was something unfamiliar however that caught her eye. A touch of red on the collar beneath his left cheek. Greg hastily inserted the coat hanger into the neck of his jacket and hung it on the wooden rod in the hallway cupboard.
Becky heard the shower turn on at the end of the hall as she opened the oven door. She sensed straight away that something was wrong, for the usual rush of hot air was absent. Panic threatened to dissolve her already shaky confidence. She suddenly realised that she’d only turned on the dial that controlled the fan and light, leaving the temperature dial on 0. She quickly rectified her oversight, shut the oven door and stepped back, placing her hands over both her flushed cheeks. She knew it would take way too long to heat up the oven and reheat the cannelloni, so she made a hasty decision to remove it from the oven, serve it up and microwave each plate.
The microwave beeped three times as the second plate finished reheating. Becky heard the shower turn off and 3 minutes later Greg walked into the dining room as Becky placed the dinner plate down in front of his usual chair at the head of the table. He smiled and exclaimed “oh you made my favourite!” Becky felt pleased at his obvious elation.
Her momentary high was short-lived however when he took the first mouthful, contorted his face in a look of disgust and spat the contents of his mouth back onto his plate. “Ah, it’s all dried out.” He groaned “Did you over-cook it again?”
“N…no” Becky stuttered, thinking carefully about how to word her response. “It was cooked perfectly, but I had to reheat it in the microwave as I had it ready for 6pm but you were half an hour later than usual.” She kept her tone casual and apologetic, but it did little to appease his dissatisfaction.
“Oh I get it, it’s my fault” He spat, banging the glass table with his clenched fist.
“No, I didn’t say that” Becky pleaded “just that I had to reheat it, because I didn’t want you to have a cold dinner.”
“But you don’t mind me having a dried-out indigestible meal after slogging my guts out all day to provide you with everything you want?” His voice echoed an all too familiar aggression that made Becky feel small and inadequate. It stirred up a resentment inside her that she struggled to hide.
She glared at him and carefully but staunchly replied “I didn’t do it on purpose, I tried to have it ready for when you got home, I didn’t know you were going to be late.” Her voice was shaky as her emotions overtook her sensibility and adrenalin started to rise. If this had been an unusual occurrence, Becky would have remained patient much longer but because it felt like nothing she said or did lately was good enough, frustration and exasperation were constantly lingering at the door, ready to burst in at the slightest sign of irrationality from her husband.
“There you go again!” He said in a frustrated tone “it always has to be my fault doesn’t it? I can only assume your angry about me being home a little later than usual. Well I’m sorry I got stuck in traffic, I’m sorry I have to drive an hour to and from work every day so you can live closer to your Mother, I’m sorry I can’t be home all day doing nothing like you, someone has to work, someone has to make the money and pay the bills, we can’t all be selfish and take time off to recover from life being shit!” He thrust his hand into the air as he shouted the last sentence.
Becky flinched and took a sharp breath in as his large brutish hand waved passed her face, inches from her nose. Her heart was pounding like the thundering of hooves at a racetrack and Greg rolled his eyes.
“Well you’ve ruined another perfectly fine evening, why do you have to act like I’m a monster and I’m going to hit you or something? I told you that would never happen again. Seriously though, sometimes I feel like your trying to make me do something so you can tell everyone I’m this terrible person that is victimising you.”
“I’m not!” Becky gave way to her despair and sobbed a little. She could tell that it annoyed him more, but she couldn’t contain the angst any longer. “I just feel like everything I do and say is wrong lately, you make me feel so small.”
“I make YOU feel small?” He raised his voice again, getting up from the chair “for God sake, what do you think you’re doing to me?” He threw his beige cloth napkin on the table and stormed out of the dining room toward the hall cupboard shouting “I’m going out, I need a break, and something edible for dinner, I’ll be back later.” He took his coat off the hanger, leaving the door to the cupboard wide open and marched out the front door, slamming it behind him.
Becky’s head was reeling. What just happened? Was she right in feeling that he bullied her or did she inadvertently accuse him with her tone because of her anxious thoughts and feelings? Was he justified in his anger or her in hers? Was he wrong or were they both to blame? Becky felt dizzy with confusion but decided to try and push a few morsels of cannelloni into her stomach for she knew if she didn’t, she’d be starving later, and her stomach would make annoying gurgling sounds all night.
Three forkfuls was all she could manage before dropping her fork loudly on her plate and proceeding to clean up the table and start on the dishes again. She felt anger and frustration squeezing at her esophagus as she anticipated the long excruciating wait to see when and in what state Greg would arrive home that night.
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