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The International Writers Magazine
: New Dreamscapes Fiction

The Little Things
Xara Higgs

It’s not exactly what I’d call an ideal situation. My soon to be ex-wife is popping over this afternoon to collect the rest of her belongings. So far I’ve managed to successfully bypass any attempt she has made to contact me. I’ve evaded all her calls and even, and I’m proud of this one, used my initiative and changed the locks. I never knew that I could be so resourceful.

There is however a rather unfortunate downside to this. I have bizarrely taken to turning off all the lights and hiding under the sofa whenever I hear a knock at the door. You know, just in case.

However, despite my efforts, her ladyship has informed me, by way of Royal Mail, that she will be gracing me with her presence this very afternoon, and that she would appreciate it if I let her in instead of, and I quote, ‘engaging in a pathetic attempt to avoid her because if I think that by turning off the lights and ducking behind the sofa she will assume that I’m out, then I am clearly more of an idiot than she originally supposed’. And furthermore, this is the bit that really hurt, ‘if this in fact the case then she wished she’d brought up the topic of divorce somewhat earlier in our wretched excuse for a happy marriage’.

Ouch. I’m not even going to get into what she went on to spout about next but let’s just say I don’t think she’s amused. Actually, now I think about it I can’t recall the last time when she was amused. I obviously just suck the amusement right out of her. Which is probably why I’m so intent on getting out of the house as soon as humanly possible. If she’s intent on expelling herself from my life forever then I’m certainly not going to be here to stop her.

It’s strange to think that less then a month ago we were still living here, together. I couldn’t have guessed what was going to happen. If someone had told me a few weeks ago that in a matter of days the whole world, as I know it, would cease to exist I wouldn’t have believed them for a second. It’s bizarre, it all happened so quickly. I wonder what my horoscope said for that day.

Anyway, I should really get on and stop faffing around. It’s nearly midday and she said she’d be here at one o’clock. But that’s fine, I’ve got plenty time. I can squeeze in a quick bath before I get changed and then vamoose. And excellent, I’ve just remembered, I’ll actually be bestowed with the pleasure of taking a piping hot bath as well. I managed to get the boiler fixed yesterday, the old one had been on the blink for about ten years and I finally got round to getting a new one put in. It’s jolly nice knowing that if you turn on the hot tap, hot water will actually come out instead of having to play Russian Roulette with the faucets.
That’s a funny thing though, when you suddenly find yourself single and alone you start getting an awful lot of stuff done. Christ, I haven’t done that for a long while, referred to myself as single that is. How promptly that all came about, my initiation into singledom, the beginning of the end.

It happened a few weeks back with the little chat she instigated after dinner. Trust her to bother making an exquisite meal and then follow it up with divorce for dessert. I can remember exactly what we ate, mashed potatoes with peas and onions, fillet steak and a creamy peppercorn sauce. It’s my favourite; I should have guessed something was up.

I can’t really recollect the particulars of what she said now exactly but it was something about me not being the man she married, and her not being the woman I married. Nothing wildly original, as I recall, just the usual old clichéd excuses that get bandied about whenever couples split up. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but It’s all true though, what she said. It wasn’t a happy marriage, we weren’t having a good time per se, not like we used to anyway. We were comfortable I suppose, but I guess that’s really more of a euphemism, for bored.

I can remember a time when I thought she was the picture of perfection, and the thought of us ever not being together would make me want to tear out my own eyes. We used to have so much passion, so much love. We’d sometimes shut ourselves away from the world for days just talking and laughing. And when we used to go out we’d do exciting things. We’d go to art galleries, photography exhibitions, quaint little restaurants and cafes. We both fancied ourselves as being a bit jazzy and creative, we were just, well alive I guess. I don’t really know how we became so sedate, so joyless. It’s quite sad really.

Anyway, I can’t dwell on it I’ve been doing that for the past three weeks. I should get on really. I better go and start running the bath, I’m intrigued to find out how this new boiler’s working out…Oh Lord what was that? I thought I just heard a noise, I think the door just went.

‘Hello. Anyone in?’
Oh Christ! It’s her, she’s here. She’s bloody early. I can’t believe it. I’m not prepared for this. What shall I do, I can’t see her. That’s it I’ll stay in here, I’m locking myself in the bathroom.
‘Bernard, are you here?’
Maybe she’ll leave if she thinks I’m not here. Oh this is ridiculous, I’m being ridiculous. I can’t believe she’s early though. Oh stop being a child just answer her.
‘Hi June. Yes, I’m here’.
‘Where? Where are you?’
‘I’m ah, I’m in a bath, the bath. I’m having a bath. You’re early’.
‘I know, sorry, I’ve got lots on today. You know me, it’s all go, go, go.’
Yes, I can’t say I hadn’t noticed. She’s so go, go, go that she’s bloody gone, gone, gone.
‘Nice of you to leave the door open for me!’
Oh great here we go now with the poor attempts at sarcasm and banal attempts to put me down.
‘Anyway Bernard, How have you been? I’m going to put the kettle on. Fancy a cup of tea?’
That’s it just waltz in and start using things like you still live here. How rude, can’t she just get her stuff and go? I need to calm down.
Take a deep breath, in and out, in and out.
‘Bernard? Did you hear me, do you want tea?’
‘No, I’m in the bath’.

I knew it, this place is an absolute tip, I’ve been gone for all of five minutes and he can’t bother to clean up after himself. Everything is all over the place. It’s like a rampant teenager’s been living here. He knew I was coming I’d have thought he’d have the foresight to tidy up a bit.

Oh, and I see that’s not the only redecorating he’s done, where are the pictures of our trip to Peru? They used to be by the bookshelf. Poor Bernard, perhaps it’s too difficult for him to see them hanging up there all the time. Well at least the kitchen didn’t look too bad. I’ll bet he hasn’t been eating properly since he’s been left to his own devices. Wait there. Hang on a minute, what on earth is this doing here?
‘Bernard? Why is there a foul smelling, overflowing ashtray in the sitting room?’
Silence. No reply at all. Typical, he’s acting like such a child, I bet he just put it there to annoy me. Then again maybe he’s started seeing a smoker. Ha, that’s a laugh.
‘Bernard, have you started smoking?’

Shit! She found the bloody ashtray. Not that it’s any of her business. And no, I haven’t started smoking. I’ve been smoking for nearly twenty years, she’s just never bothered to notice. I always smell faintly of cigarettes and the yellow tinted fingertips are a sure give away. It’s probably the only thing I’ve ever managed to successfully keep a secret. Well, until now. Part of me wants to keep up the pretence, my dirty little secret. She hates smoking. She thinks it’s vile, well I don’t have to care anymore and neither does she so I might as well confess.
‘No, I haven’t started smoking. I’ve smoked since I was fifteen. So I guess technically I’m just still smoking.’
Uh Oh. Silence. Cold, menacing silence. All I can hear is her seething. Ha Ha round one to me.
Here it comes. Here comes the wrath.
‘Nothing, it doesn’t matter’.

I don’t believe that he’s smoking. What a load of codswhallop, smoking for twenty years indeed. That’s just preposterous I’d have noticed within seconds. He never seemed to smell of cigarette smoke. But, then again come to think of it, he did chew an awful lot of gum, and he would sometimes slip of inexplicably for a few minutes at a time, usually after dinner. Well it’s really no bother to me, not anymore. It’s of no consequence whatsoever if he wants to destroy his health, or at least whatever’s left of it. It’s entirely his business now; he’s only going to be lying to himself.

Right, lets get this over with as quickly as possible. If he’s going to be acting like this then I don’t really want to stick around. I should just do what I came here to do I’m not here to check up on him. I still have to do one more trip to collect the bureau though.

I suppose I’ll have to let him keep the sofa and the telly, although they are rightfully mine. No, if he’s going to be childish then it’s easier to just let him keep anything that I think by my taking will just cause a further disagreement. I’m really not in the mood for quibbling over the furniture and who has rightful ownership to the Eric Clapton collection.

There can’t be too many of my things left I’ve got most of the important stuff already so it’s really just the little things I need to sort out. I mustn’t forget my quaint little crystal duck ornaments though. I know that Bernard’s quite fond of them but they are mine and I’ve had some of them for years. He always thought they were cute but I’m sure he won’t mind. But actually, looking at them now it looks like one of the pieces is missing, I wonder where it could be, that’s my favourite piece as well. Oh it must be around here somewhere.
‘Where’s the centrepiece from my crystal duck collection?

Oh Bugger! She noticed. Those bloody crystal ducks. Honestly, what sort of person collects crystal ducks? As far as I can see their only remotely conceivable purpose is that they make the perfect fail-safe gift for any occasion. I can remember when I was a teen thinking only weird old people collected crystal things. I’ve always hated them at least now I can say it. But, I’m certainly not going to tell her that I smashed her beloved centrepiece duck. I’ll simply feign ignorance about the whole matter.
‘Um…I don’t know. Maybe you already took it’.

He’s lying, I can tell. He’s always been a bad liar, well I suppose apart from the smoking. I remember when he tried to organise a surprise party for me on my 40th birthday. It was disaster, well disastrous in that it wasn’t exactly a surprise. He was acting shifty for about three weeks, and he’d be making all these sly little phone calls. I probably would have put his behaviour down to some sort of mid-life crisis or thought he was having an affair if he hadn’t been ridiculous enough as to send out the invitations with an R.S.V.P to our address. We ended up receiving about fifty letters from various people saying they’d love to attend the party, and since all the mail was addressed to me because Bernard had neglected to specify that the party was supposed to be a surprise, I got the pleasure of opening them all. Still, I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

I just never imagined that I could end up with such a buffoon, it only really dawned on me lately just how wildly incompatible we actually are. He must have felt like that too, some part of him must have known it was coming. But then maybe he didn’t. He looked like a bomb had hit him when I said I was leaving him. But I know that it’s good for him, it’s the best thing for both of us. At least now I don’t have to wake up every morning and hope that maybe just for that day I can find it my heart to find him attractive. It feels cruel to think that way but I believe that in his heart of hearts he feels exactly the same way. I think he’s just angry now because he feels betrayed not because he still loves me. I think love’s been off the table for a long while.

Well, I think I’ve got what I came for so I suppose I should get off, there’s not really as much left here as I thought. Perhaps I’ll leave the bureau here actually, I don’t really want to have to come back again. Besides, it looks good in this room, the wood matches the beams. It might look a little out of place in my new flat. Goodbye house, look after Bernard for me.
‘Bernard I’m off now. I would say it was good to see you but I’ve not so much seen you as just heard you. You take care now. Bye’
‘Goodbye. See you’.

Well there goes the door. I guess that’s it then, she’s officially gone. I probably should have walked her out and said goodbye properly, maybe carried her back over the threshold the other way or something. I don’t know, there’s no correct protocol for these sorts of occasions is there.

I don’t think I’ll be seeing her again for a long time somehow. It’s just easier that way. But, you know what? I actually think that I’ll be okay. I have a funny feeling that from now on everything’s going to be fine. And, it’s certainly going to be a lot nicer round here without those bloody crystal ducks.

© Xara Higgs Feb 2006
xarahiggs at

Xara is a writer on the MA in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University

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