Home > Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(4)

Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(4)
Marian Keyes

This is how he broke the news of his imminent departure to me.

After I held my baby in my arms for the first time, the nurses took her away to the baby ward and I was brought back to my ward and went to sleep for a while.

I woke up to find James standing over me, staring down at me, his eyes very green in his white face. I smiled up at him sleepily and triumphantly. "Hello, darling." I grinned.

"Hello, Claire," he said formally and politely.

Fool that I was, I thought he was being grave and serious as some kind of mark of respect. (Behold my wife, she was delivered today of a child, she is woman, she is lifegiver--you know, that kind of thing.)

He sat down. He sat on the edge of the hard hospital chair, looking as if he was going to get up and run away any second. Which, as it turns out, he was.

"Have you been to the baby ward to see her?" I asked him dreamily. "She's so beautiful."

"No, I haven't," he said shortly. "Look, Claire, I'm leaving," he said ab- ruptly.

"Why?" I asked, snuggling back into my pillows, "you've only just got here." (Yes, I know, I can't believe I said that either, who writes my lines?)

11

"Claire, listen to me," he said, getting a bit agitated. "I'm leaving you."

"What?" I said slowly and carefully. I must admit he had my attention now.

"Look, Claire, I'm really sorry, but I've met someone else and I'm going to be with her and I'm sorry about the baby and everything and to leave you like this, but I must," he blurted out, as white as a ghost, his eyes bright with anguish.

"What do you mean by you've `met' someone else?" I asked, bewildered.

"I mean that...well...I've fallen in love with someone else," he said, looking wretched.

"What do you mean, another woman, or something?"

"Yes," he said, no doubt relieved that I seemed to have grasped the basics of the situation.

"And you're leaving me?" I echoed him disbelievingly.

"Yes," he said, looking at his shoes, at the ceiling, at anything other than my eyes.

"But don't you love me anymore?" I found myself asking.

"I don't know. I don't think so," he replied.

"But what about the baby?" I asked, stunned. He couldn't possibly leave me but he especially couldn't leave me now that we had had a baby togeth- er. "You've got to take care of the two of us."

"I'm sorry, but I can't," he said. "I'll make sure that you're taken care of financially and we'll sort something out about the apartment and the mortgage and all that, but I have to go."

I couldn't believe we were having this conversation. What the hell was he talking about, apartments and money and mortgages and crap? Accord- ing to the script we should be cooing over our baby and gently arguing about which side of the family she got her looks from. But James, my James, was talking about leaving me. Who's in charge around here? I'd like to complain about my life. I distinctly ordered a happy life with a loving husband to go with my newborn baby and what was this shoddy travesty that I'd been served up instead?

"Jesus, Claire," he said, "I hate to leave you like this. But if I come home with you and the baby now I won't ever be able to leave."

But wasn't that the whole idea? I thought, bewildered.

12

"I know that there's no good time to tell you something like this. I couldn't tell you when you were pregnant, you might have lost the baby. So I have to tell you now."

"James," I said faintly, "this is all very weird."

"Yes, I know," he agreed hurriedly. "You've been through a lot in the last twenty-four hours."

"Why were you at the birth, if you planned to leave me the minute it was over?" I asked him, holding his arm, trying to get him to look at me.

"Because I promised," he said, shaking my hand off his arm and not meeting my eyes, looking like a chastised schoolboy.

"Because you promised?" I said, trying to make sense of this. "But you've promised me lots of things. Like to cherish me and to love me till death do us part."

"Well, I'm sorry," he mumbled. "But I can't keep those promises."

"So what's going to happen?" I asked numbly. I didn't for a second accept a single word of what he was saying. But the band keeps playing even though no one is dancing. I was having what to all intents and purposes might appear to the impartial outside observer to be a conversation with James. But it wasn't a conversation at all because I didn't mean anything that I said and I didn't accept anything that he said. When I asked him what was going to happen, I didn't need an answer. I knew what was going to happen. He was coming home with me and the baby and there would be no more of this nonsense.

I think I almost felt that if I kept him talking and with me he would realize how silly he was being.

He stood up. He stood too far away for me to be able to touch him. He was wearing a black suit (we had often joked in the past about his wearing it to oversee receiverships and liquidations) and he looked grim and pale. And in a way he had never looked more handsome to me.

"I see you're wearing your undertaker suit," I said bitterly. "Nice touch."

He didn't even attempt a smile, and I knew then that I had lost him. He looked like James, he sounded like James, he smelled like James, but it wasn't James.

13

Like some fifties science fiction film, where the hero's girlfriend's body is taken over by an alien--it still looks like her on the outside (pink angora sweater, sweet little handbag, bra so pointy it would take the eye out of a spider, etc.)--but her eyes have changed.

The casual observer might still think it was James. But I knew from looking at his eyes, my James had left. Some cold unloving stranger was in his body. I didn't know where my James had gone.

Maybe he was in the alien spaceship with Peggy-Jo.

"I've moved most of my things," he said. "I'll be in touch. Take care of yourself."

He turned on his heel and quickly left the ward. In fact, he almost broke into a run. I wanted to run after him but the bastard had taken advantage of the fact that I was bed-bound courtesy of several stitches in my vagina.

He was gone.

I lay in my hospital bed, very still for a long time. I was stunned, I was shocked, I was horrified, I was disbelieving. But in a very odd kind of way, there was something I did believe about it. There was something almost familiar about this feeling.

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