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Kay Neldrett

28/5/46 – 14/2/01


Annemarie Fraser

8/11/45 – 17/12/10


Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Two weeks since I lost my job – made redundant and turfed out of my office with no notice – and ten days since my husband Chris, henceforth known as ‘that bastard’, left me. Or did I leave him? Maybe I did, since I’m the one who had to, you know, leave.

I spent the day lying on the ugly and uncomfortable sofa bed in my horrible new flat crying ugly and uncomfortable tears. And I drank a lot of gin. I watched Black Narcissus and Mary Poppins, randomly, and wept throughout both. Today I have a headache and it’s hard to say if it’s a hangover or surfeit of emotion. My eyelids are swollen. I’m only dressed because Xanthe – best friend, confidante and primary support system – shouted at me when she rang earlier. We’re now sitting at the tiny table in the kitchen half of the flat, writing lists. Soon, in half an hour, or an hour, we’ll go to my old house and pack up my things and that will be the next step on this godawful ‘journey’.

‘Do you want me to go?’ Xanthe asks. ‘I could do it for you. If you wanted.’

It’s odd to see her so serious. She usually laughs all the time, endlessly amused by everything. Hard to find anything funny about this.

‘No, don’t be… You can’t, can you? You won’t know what everything is. I know I’ve got to do it.’

‘I’ll come with you though.’ She looks at me, clearly trying to judge whether I’m in any fit state to do this.

‘That would be… Yes. Thank you.’

Crying all the time is so boring. It’s a long time since I’ve had a broken heart and I’d forgotten how tediously dull it is. I blink at her and blow my nose for the billionth time. The original plan was to do this task yesterday, but I couldn’t see him on Valentine’s Day, could I?

This time last year we went away. We stayed in a tiny cottage near Rye. Our eighteenth Valentine’s. We drank champagne and sat in front of an open fire and said things like, ‘Still here then!’ and told each other we loved each other. I think one of us may have been lying.

Because people who love their wives don’t tend to sleep with their wives’ friends, do they? And that’s what my husband – sorry, I mean ‘that bastard’ – has been doing, with my so-called friend, Susanna Howich-Price (also known as ‘that bastard’) for the last… well, they wouldn’t tell me how long. But does it even matter? Not really. Five years or five months, the result’s the same, isn’t it?

I’ve hired a van. Chris and I have already had, not an argument, but a debate, about some mid-century modern occasional tables we bought last year. I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with the things we both actually want.

‘Put anything you can’t agree on in one room and then go through it at the end. You’ll just have to compromise,’ says Xanthe, sensibly.

She’s right, but I feel sick with anxiety. I don’t want him to win, but it’s not about that, is it? It’s not a battle, or a competition. And I don’t want to fight; I’m exhausted. Some of it I don’t care about, so he can keep the sofa, and the sideboard, and the dining-room table and chairs. I’ve never liked those chairs. So that’s something for the bright side, along with never having to listen to his dad and brother talk about Formula One ever again. I’m trying to be positive.

‘Don’t tell him you don’t care though. Go with the assumption you want everything. You’re already ahead with the compromise, aren’t you?’ she says. And I am. Because he’s keeping the house. And Susanna’s already living there, some of the time at least, although she won’t be there when we go round. I made him promise. I don’t want to see her. The idea of her living in my house, using my plates, eating food I probably bought, sleeping with my husband… It’s not surprising, is it, that it makes me feel sick.

I don’t know what to say to him when he opens the door and steps back awkwardly to let me in. I had to knock, on my own front door. But it’s no good thinking things like that. As soon as I start thinking about the carpet in the hall, which is new, or the mirror in the dining room, which belonged to his grandmother, whom I loved, I’ll get upset. It’s just stuff. But all this stuff is shorthand for our relationship, isn’t it? Everything chosen, or placed, by both of us. A thousand decisions, the background to love. No. Think about something else; think about the practicalities.

The easy things first. Up into the attic for the box of school books and the other boxes I moved to this house from the last house, and to there from the flat, and to the flat from my parents’. I’m a bit of a hoarder, so there are Sindys and Lego and all sorts of junk. I should probably get rid of some of it, but now is not the time. I’ve bought boxes from the storage place and we work quickly. Who gets the Christmas decorations? We should split them, shouldn’t we? D’you know what? I don’t care.

‘Screw all this,’ I say. ‘They can have it. Whatever.’

‘Okay,’ says Xanthe.

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