“I don’t give a toss about the law. What do you think is paying for this house, your poxy job at the hairdressers? Where do you think your car came from? Do you think the garage was giving them away? No? Exactly. I paid for them and how I earn my money is nobody’s business but mine. It certainly isn’t yours. Now go and be a nice little housewife and make me some tea, you stupid bitch.” Kev slammed the door behind him.
A tear formed in Claire’s eye. She wandered into the kitchen and started to make the tea. As she opened the fridge she noticed the bottle of Chardonnay. She removed it and poured herself a glass. It was times like this that she wished she had friends of her own. Since she left school she had become cut off from everybody else. Now the only people she knew were friends of Kev and she couldn’t speak to them.
The invitation to the school reunion was lying on the kitchen bench. She was definitely going now, with or without Kev. “The people he’s mixing with now, I’m going to be on my own anyway. It’s about time I started making friends again.” Her mind was made up.
Now she had to find a way of telling Kev. His mood had changed since Pete first suggested the reunion. It wouldn’t be easy, he hated everybody he went to school with. She covered up the damage as much as she could. It wasn’t the first time that Kev had hit her; it was going to be the last. She tried to remember what happened to that ambitious young girl from school. Yes, she had the nice house, the nice car and plenty of money, but there was something missing. The face looking back at her from the mirror was not one of a happy successful woman, but that of a battered, bruised and beaten wife. She knew she was leaving him, she just didn’t know how or where she was going to go.
Claire picked up the invite for the school reunion. That’s when she would do it, they met at school, and it was fitting that they parted at the school reunion. She had been happy, once. She remembered school; she was popular, especially with the boys and people used to take an interest in what she said. Now she seemed to be ignored both at home and when she was out.
She half expected it from Kev, he always was an ignorant bastard, but it was the way she was ignored by everyone else that hurt. Yes, everybody said hello; they would then always make their excuses and carry on with their lives. She knew why, it was Kev. She was guilty by association.
She wasn’t stupid. She knew what type of business he was in and she also knew that he was always going to attract enemies. It was the people from school who ignored her that hurt the most. They knew the real Claire. Why wouldn’t they accept her?
“There’s always Gilbert I suppose,” she thought. He never treated her any differently. This also upset her.
She knew that Gilbert had suffered more than most at the hands of Kev, both physically and mentally. She always used Gilbert as a sounding board for her moans and groans. He knew some of her deepest feelings, but he never divulged them to anyone as far as she knew, and she would love to repay him for his loyalty. Maybe at the reunion she would be able to put things right. By leaving Kev she might be able to gain back the trust of the people she really cared about.
Claire looked at Pete’s phone number. It was his return more than anything else that made her realise that she had to leave Kev. Pete coming home had reminded her of how she used to be.
She had missed him and wished that he had never left. If he had stayed fifteen years ago, maybe things would have been different. Claire knew that he had always wanted to be part of her life. Maybe if she had given him the chance, he wouldn’t have gone away.
Now wasn’t the time for reminiscing about chances missed. Now was a time to get organised. She was about to make the biggest step of her life and she had some planning to do. She swept her hair into a ponytail and put on some sunglasses to hide her black eye. It was time to go to work. She started, albeit briefly, to feel good about herself again.
“Cool it. We are meant to be keeping a low profile,” Elvis tried to calm me down.
“I knew he was an arsehole, but hitting women, hitting Claire, it makes me surer than ever now,” I said, “What happened, Gilbert? Is Claire alright?”
“Yeah. I mean it was a pretty hard punch, second one in a week, then he turned his attentions to me. I was pleased in a way, if he’s hitting me at least I know he’s not hitting her.”
The tears were now falling down Gilbert’s cheeks.
“Very admirable.” Elvis didn’t mean to be sarcastic this time, but that’s how it sounded. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to come out like that. I should never have doubted you. Believe me, you’ve been far braver than most men. You should be proud of yourself.”
“I’m not. Hopefully though, with Pete’s plan I might be able to do something, actually stand up for myself for once. Give Kev what he really deserves.”
“Too right,” Elvis said. “Let’s give him something he’ll never forget.”
All eyes turned to the door as a six-foot banana came bounding through it.
“Evening, lads, sorry I’m late. Have I missed much?”
“I thought we were meant to be keeping a low profile.”
After the seriousness of Gilbert’s story, the three of us fell about in fits of laughter. Gilbert’s tears were now tears of joy.
“What’s the joke?”
Bumper was the distraction we needed.
“Sit yourself down, mate. I’ll get them in.”
I headed to the bar, chuckling to myself. Elvis was right; these are the last people on earth Davison expected trouble from. He was in for one big surprise.
“Why is why the most frequently asked question in Britain?” I said.
“Possibly not in your case, Gilbert, but everyone else in this country. When you ask someone to do something, the reply is never how are we going to do this, or what will we need to achieve this, it’s always why do we need to do the bloody thing in the first place?”
“You’ve lost me, Pete.”
“What I’m trying to say, Bumper, is that when we are asked to do something we never just agree. We’re a bunch of cynical bastards. We question everything. I’m asking for support now. You have to trust me. We’ve all agreed we’re in this together. Now is the time for us to show it, without question. Are you in or not? This is your final chance to back out.”
“Me as well,” said Bumper.
“That just leaves you, Elvis. In or out?”
Elvis looked into his pint of Guinness. This was his chance to stand up and take control of his life. He could also lose what he already had. This was the biggest decision of his life.
“Why do I feel like I’m in this whether I like it or not?”
“That’s as good an answer as any. Count me in. I’d rather live like a lion for one day than a lamb for the rest of my life.”
“Good man. What are you drinking?” I stood to go to the bar.
“Why is that the least asked question around here?” said Bumper.
The next chapter will be released soon. If you can’t wait, Leg It is available on Kindle, Paperback and Hardback.