She’s wrong. He doesn’t do it on purpose – it’s just that sometimes there’s so much in his head and he forgets.
Sometimes, there are butterflies on the buddleia (Red Admirals and Peacocks) and he recites the poem about butterflies and remembers every line. Sometimes, as he sits in the arbour waiting, wondering where she is, he hears the belligerent voice of his new neighbour who lives two doors down. Sometimes, the man’s baby cries and his wife stops shouting and goes quiet. Sometimes silence is frightening.
Sometimes, he goes inside the house and turns on the television – and wonders if he should say something, but she’s made her bed, so must lie in it. People have to do that.
Sometimes, he thinks he’ll go out on his mobility scooter again, there’s no reason why he can’t, he just needs to, ‘Make the effort.’ Sometimes the phone rings and it isn’t Simon, but one of those bloody cold callers and he spends an hour winding them up: ‘Hurrah! Have I won a kitchen? I’d love to change my service provider.’ Sometimes he pees himself.
Sometimes Anna looks so angry.
She looks angry now.
‘Are you listening, Dad? Oh God, I haven’t got time for this: the kids need collecting from swimming. You know Dad, sometimes I think you do it on purpose. Why didn’t you wear one of your pads today? You have to think, Dad. This isn’t just about you, you know.’
Sometimes, when Anna and Simon were little they’d go for a walk along the canal on Sunday afternoons and see one of those enormous, iridescent dragonflies, and there’d be those small, brown butterflies that Anna thought looked like tumbling leaves: speckled browns.
‘Look, Dad, I think we have to accept that things need to change. I’ve arranged for Simon and Linda to come over on Saturday afternoon. We can discuss it then.’
Sometimes Simon’s snowed under with work, and there are roadworks, and he isn’t able to make it.
‘Sometimes, difficult decisions just have to be faced, Dad.’
Sometimes, he can smell himself. He can now. The same smell his grandfather had, sitting in his armchair, his bald head speckled with liver spots. Yesterday, he’d managed to tumble dry the sheets before she came, but sometimes he forgets and she looks like she does now and doesn’t kiss him before she leaves.
But today she does. Her lips are like a butterfly brushing his skin – and she’s smiling.
There’s a Comma on the buddleia and the woman from two doors down has stopped screaming now. Maybe he should say something, but she’s made her bed. He goes inside and switches on the television.
I need a pee. Sometimes the words come into his head, but he’s too busy and forgets.
‘But she, God love her, feared to brush the dust from off its wing.’
Sometimes he remembers every line.
JULIE OLDHAM is a teacher. She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Her stories have appeared in a number of publications including Artificium Journal and Bare Fiction Magazine. Her story 'Chiaroscuro' can be read on the Open Pen website here.