Sunday, May 10, 2020
The Audience Adventure - Day 21
Emma stood on the doorstep, waves of furious heat rippling across her skin and making her want to cry. She was angry with the tears for startling her - she never cried. The frustrated anger at being thought badly of though was startling overwhelming. Especially by Jack - someone she barely knew but who loomed large in her mind as a kind, patient and calming presence. Her fists balled and un-balled by her side as she made up her mind what to do.
Before her brain could decide whether it was a good idea her feet were carrying her up the stairs past the door to her own flat on to where she could hear Jack and Elliott preparing for a walk in the dark.
“I don’t think that was fair.” She said, as Jack opened the door to her rapid knocking.
“No, it wasn’t.” Said Jack, and Emma felt herself relaxing as she felt him agree with her, “The look on her face confronting them wasn’t fair at all. Letting me come out for the day with the two of them when they were doing it behind his wife’s back wasn’t fair at all.” Jack attached the leash to Elliott’s collar and shut his door, moving past Emma to head out.
Emma was stunned. He was still angry!
“Why are you mad at me?” She called after him as he headed down the stairs.
“Because you should have told me.” He shouted back over his shoulder without turning round. Emma’s legs found their motion again and she jogged down after him.
“It wasn’t my information to tell.” She caught up with him and put a hand on his shoulder, desperate for him to stop walking, but he shook it off and turned on his own.
“Don’t.” He said, his eyes furious on her. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go out with them if I’d known that was the kind of relationship they were in - you should have told me.”
“How was I supposed to know you’d feel like this?” Emma’s cheeks were roasting.
“Why don’t you feel like this? I suppose I’m surprised you’re ok with people doing that to someone else.”
“I don’t feel ok with it!” Emma wasn’t used to arguing, pre moving to Bath she was barely used to having conversations with friends, now she was trying to argue with them. “But what did you want me to do? I’ve been trying to get her to break up with him - that’s why I had to go through all this today.” She indicated her wet clothes.
He stood in silence looking at her, working his teeth and frowning - clearly trying to make up his mind what to say to her.
“I’m sorry - maybe I should have told you.” Emma continued, “But I think you’re being really unfair taking it out on me like this when it’s clearly Fiona and Norman that you’re mad at.”
“I’m not ‘mad’ at anyone.” Said Jack, his jaw firming, “You sound like a child saying that. I’m not ‘mad’. I just clearly lead quite a different life to you if that’s the sort of company you keep. Excuse me, I need to walk Elliott.” He made to leave the building.
“Oh go fuck yourself.” Emma surprised herself with the vehemence of her self-defence, “You weren’t this high and mighty when you were supplying Fiona with Simon’s number despite knowing she was in a relationship with Norman!”
Jack stopped walking by the front door, “That was different.”
“Norman was… Norman is…” He couldn’t get the end of the sentence out and Emma saw her chance and jumped in.
“You didn’t like Norman so that was ok? But Fiona you’ve deemed to be the greatest woman in the world so I’m the devil for knowing about Fiona and Norman’s affair?”
“Good night Emma.” Jack snapped and left the front door.
Emma felt thin and shaky, suddenly very hungry and cold standing in the hall under the unforgiving single light in the ceiling. The rage tears were still threatening but she stuck out her bottom lip and shook her head furiously at them - absolutely refusing to cry.
She padded up the stairs and slammed into the flat. She stripped off her damp clothes and jumped into a hot shower - furiously washing her hair at least once more than she needed to because she was so distracted by the argument.
Jack had made her feel young, stupid and naive and she hated it. She felt like there was more to his fury than he was telling her - perhaps his wife had had an affair? She layered conditioner onto her hair and nodded to herself.
‘That must be it.’ She thought, ‘His wife cheated on him and so he takes that really seriously. That’s why he so mad.”
Even with that knowledge in her head her anger towards him didn’t dissipate. How dare he take it out on her? He was perfectly civil to Fiona and Norman in the car; didn’t have a word against them on the boat, but when he was alone with Emma it was ok to take it out on her was it?
She wrapped herself in a towel and padded through to her bedroom where the air felt chilly on her wet skin. She slumped on the edge of the bed feeling distracted and frazzled by the day’s antics. There were so many sentences and arguments raging through her mind - different versions of what she had said, eloquent lines that hadn’t occurred to her at all, new intonations for the things she had managed to spit out. She half wanted to go and sit on the stairs and wait for Jack to come home to reignite the argument and she half wanted to move out and never see him again.
She hated the idea that he was mad -
‘Sorry, can’t say mad - it’s childish apparently.’ Said a peevish voice in her brain, refuelling the simmering rage she had at Jack’s behaviour.
She hated the idea that he was angry with her, but the thought of apologising to make him forgive her was excruciating. She thought over and over the conversations she’d had with him before the boat trip but couldn’t think of a way that it wouldn’t have been achingly awkward to have slipped Norman’s marital status into the conversation.
Emma thought about drying her hair properly with the hair dryer but couldn’t muster the energy so she ruffled it harshly with a towel and pulled on her cosiest pyjamas. She had that odd coldness in her bones that follows a hot day - the sort of cold that annoys you because back when it was hot you forgot you could ever be cold. She wandered into the kitchen and looked at various things she could eat. They all felt too complicated so she settled for just handfuls of dry breakfast cereal straight out of the box.
Everything on the television took too much concentrating and she was very much still focused on the drama playing out in her mind. It was impossible to follow the dialogue when every fibre in her body was listening out for the sound of Jack coming back in the front door and Elliott’s feet bouncing up the stairs.
He’d knock for her, wouldn’t he? Jack was Jack - lovely, friendly, helpful kind neighbour Jack that she’d thought she had a burgeoning crush on. He’d knock on the door and apologise for over reacting wouldn’t he?
Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she pulled it out expecting to see a message from Jack beginning his apology from the dog walk. It was from Theo. She wondered if he had a radar for when she was distracted so that he could slip his messages in when she least expected it.
“Evenings! Ok, I can work with evenings - drinks then? I usually fancy getting leathered after a day in that office. No one here drinks as much as they used to at the London place. How about Thursday? The Brew House? Tx”
Emma read the message through 3 times, trying to feel elated and excited but the situation with Jack hanging over her head was clouding the happy feelings this text message should have elicited in her.
She heard the front door bang down stairs and muted the television. It was definitely two human feet and four dog ones she could hear coming up the stairs. She sat still, waiting for the knock on the door and the resumption of life as she knew it. It didn’t come. The sound of footsteps faded out past her door and up the stairs. She sat moodily staring at the silent bright television. She heard Jack and Elliott moving around upstairs and some kind of sport coming on the television in the room above hers.
“Sod waiting.” She thought to herself angrily, and grabbed her phone - thrashing out a short but affirmative response to Theo and saying how much she was looking forward to drinks with him on Thursday.
A small part of her mind was trying to wave a little red flag but she angrily brushed it aside and turned the television up far louder than it needed to be.