My heart is a songbird in the paws of a cat. Pawed, batted and pawed again until the neck snaps and the song dies.
Today, while helping Rosie in the shower, I hear the front door open. I dash to the landing and peer down, expecting to see Ben slumped against the wall or staring up wide-eyed from the bottom of the staircase.
I haven’t seen Ben for some six or seven weeks, but the slap of the latch against the door jamb slits open my chest, leaving my heart vulnerable to a malicious and predatory cat. Left, right and up, my heart is pinched between its claws for an interminable 30 seconds.
I look down the stairwell. There is no one there. (Paws relax, my heart is my own again.) The door had been blown open after I’d inadvertently left it unlocked.
This is not the first time this has happened. You will recall, several days back, how I went into a panic just because I couldn’t get through to Ben at the rehab centre. And last night, I thought he’d left the centre and come home (false alarm again; it was the neighbours).
Ben is free to go out on his own from the day after tomorrow, I think. Realistically, that must mean weekends. I don’t know because no one there will tell me anything. The only advice I have been given so far is to attend a family group at 9.40 on a Saturday morning. Given Rosie has a music class at just that time, and given it takes us 2 hours to get to the centre, the family group is not really viable for us. Centre staff have not bothered to offer an alternative.
I have reiterated to Ben that I don’t want him to visit us at home. I can’t face him coming up those stairs again. I can’t actually face having him in this flat. At least, not yet.
Rosie is struck by her own worries. ‘When will daddy come back?’ she continually asks me, before saying, ‘But he might start drinking “coffee” again.’ She is just as anxious about him returning as I am.
Any illusion I might have been spinning for myself about resuming a relationship with Ben is just that. As soon as the familiar signs of his possible return announce themselves unexpectedly, I recoil. I panic.
The answer to this whole mess seems so obvious. But obvious though it may be, it is also a tricky answer, an answer fraught with difficulty.
I have one week before I see him again. Ironically, the day we are meeting just happens to be our wedding anniversary. He has not remarked on it and neither will I. I have never been good at remembering our anniversary. I think this one is our sixth.
Anyway, next Saturday, we meet for the first time in about two months. It is bound to be awkward. I imagine I’ll be holding my breath, holding on to Rosie, ready to side-step that sharp-nailed cat.