Blue bullet point pen and pages upon pages of lists. She wrote structure into life in the leaves of an ordinary A5 notebook. Lists of bills to be paid and each of their amounts. Book lists. Shopping lists. Arrows shooting off grocery items connecting to an adjacent meal plan. She said it calmed the chaos inside her mind.
He explored his chaos freely. Finding guidance in the bottom of a bottle—down by the lake where the other men congregated and drank until the ache inside them began to numb. There was only one rule: no talkin’ about the missus. The only rule he abided by.
She finished her lists, closed the notebook, got up, made a cup of tea. When she sat back down, cup in hand, she stared at his food growing cold on the kitchen table. Her nightly ritual, waiting for him to come home, kiss her on the mouth and take her to bed. She sipped the hot tea, but it did nothing to comfort her.
The other men began to scatter soon after the sun went down. When the last of them had left, he moved from the lake to the pub up the street, alone. He sat at a table near the bar, enjoyed the way other women flirted with him, imagined the disappointed look on her face when it reached nine o’clock and he still wasn’t home.
The smell of his dinner still lingered in the air. She took another sip of tea. Tried to ignore the smells. She still had a few kilograms of baby weight left to lose. Maybe then he would eat dinner with his family.
His family. He thought about them as he took another swig of beer. He thought about her holding their daughter in her arms. Thought about his baby girl and wondered if she was old enough to notice his absence. The images made him want to stay away longer.
She yawned and looked at the time. A quarter to eleven. The baby would be up in a few hours for a feed. She dumped her cup and his plate in the kitchen sink and went to bed.
He left at midnight when the pub closed. Staggered home, his feet becoming heavier with each step. Clumsily, he unlocked and opened the front door. He fell into the house and let his feet lead him where he needed to go.
She was half asleep when she heard his key turn in the lock and the door open. She waited. Wondered if he would come straight to bed. A tear slid down her cheek when she heard him walk into the kitchen and open the fridge.
The crack of a beer bottle. A moment of silence. A satisfied sigh. He sat on the couch and closed his eyes.