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Monday, 4 July 2011

Vice

‘I can change.’ Their eyes met briefly before Penny’s attention turned back to the bag of ice she held to his damaged hand. Her sigh encapsulated the feeling perfectly - she’d heard it so many times before.

The divorce papers were littered on the floor around them like flakes in a spent snow globe. She was relieved the sound of Mike’s violent outburst as he smashed his fist through the plaster hadn’t woken little Michael or his younger sister Karen. Unlikely. Truth is Michael was sitting with Karen on her bed, holding her hands as she struggled to stem her tears, too young to understand the true meaning of the raised voices - but trusting her brother that putting her feelings on display would only make things worse. Out of sight, out of mind.

‘You know I’ve stuck up for you so many times. My dad always told me I’d regret marrying so young. Maybe he was right.’ She felt the tension in his arm and as he shuffled his body to raise it she quickly turned her face, raising her hands part of the way in protection. Mike was gutted at her reaction, the shame taking the place of his finger in scratching the itch all by itself.

‘I’d never hurt you.’ He said sombrely. At that she turned and looked pointedly at the hole in the plaster wall. Mike was pained. ‘I wouldn’t –‘

‘”I wouldn’t cheat. I won’t do drugs. I’d never…” The problem is you have haven’t you? You’ve done all those things.’ Then she glanced down at his hand. ‘I don’t know what you’re capable of anymore, where it stops.’

Mike stood up. He walked slowly over to the kitchen sink, careful not to tread on any sheets of paper (much though he wanted to) and put the partly thawed bag of ice inside, murmuring to himself under his breath. He turned sharply and looked at her sitting across the far side of the table.

‘I’m weak alright? I’ve always had this addictive personality. Drink, drugs, gambling… women. They’re all vices to me.’

‘Your only vice is hurting me.’

He’d never really thought about it before. Suppose it was? Suppose a part of him did it all on purpose, to test her commitment to him. Maybe there was a satisfaction in putting her through it, knowing full well she’d stand by him, such was the height of the pedestal she put him on. A feeling of invincibility. Suppose that was his one true vice?

Penny watched him tumble through his thoughts in tearful desperation. The small ray of hope she held for their relationship flickering like a candle under threat from separation’s dying breath.

‘I think…’ His eyes were still unfocussed. ‘I need to figure some things out.’ Penny’s inner light bloomed. He gets it, she thought. He finally gets it.

‘Take as long as you need.’ She said. ‘I love you.’

They embraced in a long, meaningful hug, and then he left.


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