As I fling the wet door of the car boot open, my fingers slip and one of my nails bends back, making me yelp and drop my overnight bag. I grab the offending digit and examine it carefully for any signs of injury; it’s throbbing, the nail bed has gone a bit white, and there’s a line where it might have snapped, but didn’t. Nevertheless, hot tears prickle my eyes… great… I’m not only late, but I’m going to cry too. Brilliant.
I take a deep breath, blink furiously as I try to gather myself and then determinedly pick up the bag from the soggy drive. Shoving it in the car, I slam the boot firmly shut and make my way round to the door. Once I’m in, have clipped my seat belt on and adjusted my mirror so that my own eyes are staring back at me, I clock the violet shadows and the concealer already starting to settle in the creases. I got very little sleep last night.
Last night. I remember my husband, looking at me incredulously across the bed, stunned by what I had just said.
I twist the key in the ignition, trying to ignore the rush of shame that accompanies the memory. Jerking my head round – as if I’m trying to jolt the picture out of my mind – I look over my shoulder and start to reverse sharply. I wanted to say sorry to him this morning. I was going to – I would have said it last night except he insisted on sleeping downstairs. And anyway, how am I supposed to apologise if he’s just going to bang out to work like that? How does that help anything? I slam on the brakes, just shy of hitting the bank behind me, and crunch the gears into first before lifting my foot up too crossly, lurching inelegantly out of the drive and on to the road. I love Dan more than anything, but being curt when he could see I was trying to make it up to him, deliberately not kissing me goodbye? OK, he’s not usually like that at all, which means he is really angry… and hurt… but still – it was a mean thing to do.
Leaning forward I switch the radio on and mutinously put my foot down in anticipation of the speed bump that Dan always tells me I go over too fast. It gives me a brief moment of satisfaction to fly over it in the manner of Daisy Duke, but I can’t help wincing at the God-awful noise the suspension makes when I land; that actually doesn’t sound good. I tense up and listen, worried that the bottom of the car is now about to drop off – just to cap it all – but nothing happens, and by the time I pull up at the red traffic lights, my anger has begun to dissipate and I’m not gripping the steering wheel quite so tightly. In fact I feel suddenly tired and very sad that for the first time ever, we’ve had a barney that has lasted into another day.
I should have just kept my mouth shut. I’d be angry with me if I were him; I like to think I wouldn’t have slammed out of the house like he did, but I can see why he’s outraged.
‘You didn’t just say that?’ I hear the echo of his disbelief. ‘But I’m your husband!’
I get another stab of remorse, staring unseeingly at the brake lights of the car in front of me while we all wait for green. The sound of Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’ fills the car and I begin to listen to the lyrics attentively. I can identify with every single word.
Well, except there’s no morning sun – it’s a day that could do with wringing out if anything, commuters are scurrying towards Brighton station, with cold hunched shoulders as they hurry past, but yes – why did I behave that way, saying things I didn’t mean to say? I swallow hard. I know Dan doesn’t realise it, but oddly, last night DID happen because of how much I love him and in some ways, maybe this is a good thing: we don’t normally hold things back from one another, he and I are usually very good at saying how we feel. Now at least we both know we have a problem, and we’ll be able to do something about it.
I exhale worriedly. The trouble is… the trouble is how do I tell my husband that I have realised I’m scared of doing something everyone else seems to find second nature? That yes – I wish someone WOULD tell me how to feel, because I am genuinely, honestly confused.
I did not see this coming. I really didn’t. You think when you’re younger that you will grow up, fall in love, get married and have children – simple as that. It’s what pretty much everyone does, it’s certainly what I thought I’d do, and yet last night I accused my husband – one of the kindest, most honourable people I have ever met – of trying to trick me into getting pregnant.
And the worst thing is, it wasn’t the alleged duplicity I was particularly worried about, it was simply the very real prospect of being pregnant that freaked me out. I wasn’t happy but nervous, or excited and scared… just plain and simple, grade A, no lies terrified at the thought of actually having a baby. And I mean all of it; the no turning back, the pregnant bit, giving birth, being responsible for a small person for ever – end of life as I otherwise know it. Yet up until now, it is something which I have always assumed I would do and – more importantly – would want.
HOW can I not ever have properly thought about this – just assumed it would work somehow? Dan by comparison was so excited; busily talking about new adventures, next stages… What if – and seemingly overnight – my husband and I have become completely incompatible?
My eyes widen with fear at the thought of actually being without Dan – and panicking, I fumble for my phone. I’m just going to ring him now, ring him and say I’m sorry unreservedly. Because whatever my own feelings about this, I shouldn’t have accused him of doing something so underhand, no wonder he—
But before I can dial, an angry honk behind me tells me that the lights have finally changed and everyone wants to GO! I pull away, dropping my bag back down on the seat as a caffeinated DJ crashes in over the remainder of the song and begins to blather on about roadworks in a city centre I am nowhere near.
And just like that, I miss my window without even realising it.
I will look back on this moment. I will remember nearly calling my husband and saying sorry and I will wish with all my heart that I had taken my chance while I had it.
It would have changed everything.
It might even have saved a life.