I felt myself begin to warm up. It was odd, kind of like a gooey, hot feeling in your chest, like a switch in your brain was being activated. My legs started to tremble from the increased energy. I could feel my pupil’s dilating. Ben was talking to me. Rambling on and on at pace. A pace you only really reach when you are off your head. I was nodding and looking interested and things were fine as Brad tried to roll a cigarette with little luck, due to the sweatiness of his fingers and palms. "So are you coming then? We are getting a cab now?" It was Jen. I looked up and she saw my eyes and she chuckled. I looked at Ben and he nodded. "Sure we don’t want to go home now, what do you reckon Brad?" But before I could get an answer, the boys were already arm in arm with Jen’s mates on their way out. She smiled at me, "come on then trouble”, and took my hand. I could hear my phone in my pocket. I ignored its death knell and headed for the door.
"But we were supposed to be getting married. What about that? What about that! I love you Charlie, you know I do…”
Charlie was fading fast. Helen was brilliant, a pass master, at getting the guilt to rise up in you to the point where it almost consumes you. He wiped the sweat from his brow.
"I know you do…and I do too…it's just, things have changed. We can’t be like this anymore. It’s not healthy for anyone.” Helen had hold of his hand across the table. She stared deeply into his eyes, her bottom lip quivering and her make up running. She had lost weight to be fair. She had made a real effort. He could **** her this afternoon…he mulled it over and thought better of it. How many times had that happened before? What would it do to her? They had been in this situation for about 16 months now. She would always go back. He would always submit under the pressure, the guilt and they would always have sex. It would even, always be good, but it can only be so good when you knew the storm that lay ahead. After every time there would be this grinding of minds, one stuck in the past, loyal and forgiving like a beaten dog. And another; guilt-ridden and hurt, but crying, fighting and screaming for freedom.
"Just say Charlie that this is it! Say it! You bloody can’t can you, you prick! Because you want this, you just won’t…commit!” Charlie was caught out, thinking of Jo’s breath on his skin last night. The heat of her straddling him in the living room, that brilliant waiting. The glorious anticipation. He looked across at Helen’s desperate face and he felt pity. He was used to this. It was what always brought him back. Last Christmas he planned on finishing with her for good, after another trial separation, however she had turned up with a bundle of gifts, a pink jumper, a Russell Brand DVD and the pity took over again. He knew he shouldn’t. His friends told him that it was damaging her more, but they weren’t there over the last five years. They didn’t see her good points. At that moment though, he felt a frightening sense of desperation. He wondered exactly what lengths she would go to, to get her way and it seriously frightened him.
"Look Helen we end up in the same place every time. You won’t ever get over Jackie. I have apologised so many times. I have tried to move us on, but there is always the sly comment, the tears in the bathroom, there is always that indecision! You don’t really want this; you just want…something. Anything.”
With that he felt he had broken an unwritten code. He wasn’t allowed to be so blunt. To put the cat amongst the pigeons like this. He waited furtively for the response, any response. Helen nodded, got up and walked out. Charlie felt, for the first time in a long while, free.