I was exhausted by the time I finished my shift around 2 o’clock yesterday. Five days straight working as a security guard, standing around for 38 hours a week, it was a pretty tough job. You’ve got to look like you’re the person in charge, you know everything that’s going on and no undesirable people can pass by you. How many people are able to do that? Er……?
All I wanted to do was go home, kick off my shoes and slip on my comfy old thongs. Strip off my uniform and change into my favourite ‘Man of Steel’ Superman t-shirt and all season cargo shorts. Sit in the shed and drink an icy cold beer in front of the television.
As I innocently walked toward my car, Nina suddenly appeared from nowhere. She was the lady who worked in the sandwich shop near where I worked. We had become friendly during the year.
She asked me to have a drink or two with her. For the sake of public relations, I went along, although I was pretty tired. I thought spending 10 minutes with the lady who made my lunch everyday was the right thing to do.
We chatted, about nothing in particular. A couple of drinks later, I realised that more than an hour had past. Gee, talk about time flying. I would have a hard time explaining to Rachel that Nina and I were just drinking in the pub. Rachel saw Nina once when she visited me at work. She said Nina was a man-eater.
How was I going to justify what I had been doing for an hour and half after work? I had to soften the whole situation a bit so I thought I better do something thoughtful and caring. Buying flowers or chocolate was out of the question. That was for those men without brains. Women were too smart to fall for that kind of thing. I may as well have told Rachel that I was having an affair with Nina. Definitely not! Nobody would believe any man could spend all that time with that sexy babe without some action. You’d know what I mean if you saw her.
After parting with Nina, I put my hand in my pocket to get my mobile phone out, to call Rachel and ask her was there anything she wanted me to get on the way home? I thought that would be a pretty smart move, it would impress her. There wouldn’t be too many husbands who cared to do anything like that after being married for 8 years.
To my surprise, my mobile phone was nowhere to be found. I searched all my pockets again and again. Where was my mobile phone when I needed it the most?
Time was ticking away. I told myself I had to get my act together and worry about the damn mobile phone later. Making the call to Rachel was far more critical than anything else. The longer I dragged things on, the harder it would be to cover them up.
I went back to the pub and gave the bartender a gold coin to use their phone.
I could not remember Rachel’s mobile number. The only time I had looked at the number was when I typed it into my mobile, that was a few years ago.
What was our home landline number? I remembered the first four numbers but were the last four 2573 or 2753? Well, anything would do at that moment, I guess.
“Hello….” Bingo, my sweet little daughter answered the phone, I felt like a winner.
“Sweetie, this is daddy, give the phone to mummy.”
“Sweetie, where’s mummy?”
“Listen to daddy, sweetie, take the phone upstairs and give it to mummy.”
“Mummy will get angry. I’m not allowed to go up there.”
What was Rachel doing, leaving 4 year old Bella downstairs all by herself?
“What’s mummy doing upstairs on her own?”
“Mummy is not on her own.”
“Who is there with mummy?”
Nelson? No one in my family was called Nelson, nor Rachel’s. We didn’t have any friends called Nelson either.
“Nelson.” Bella started to giggle.
“What are Nelson and mummy doing?”
“I don’t know, I’m not allowed to go up and look.” Bella sounded stressed.
“That’s ok, sweetie, you don’t have to go up and look. Tell daddy, is Nelson nice to you?”
“Yes, I love Nelson.”
Oh no, my little princess loved Nelson! I couldn’t allow that. I was her daddy, not Nelson. She should love me and only me.
“Listen sweetie, shout ‘Daddy’s home’ as loud as you can up the stairs.”
I heard Bella shout with joy ‘Daddy’s home’, followed by a commotion and then the phone was cut off.
For a second or two, I didn’t know what to do. After I snapped out of it, I felt my stomach turn.
On the way to my car, my brain was filled with numbers. If the house had to be sold, we wouldn’t get much after the bank put their hand in first. I really liked my house, it was my castle. I had my garage and the shed to myself. Last month I bought a bar fridge during the stocktake sales. I leave it in the shed so I don’t have to run into the house every time I need a beer.
If Rachel wanted to leave me for Nelson, what else could I do? The last thing I wanted was to sell the house. I wouldn’t be able to get another one like it. It had taken Rachel and I years to save up the deposit. We almost broke up once when she called me a tight ass. I wasn’t tight with money. I was just saving to buy a house.
Rachel only worked part time on the weekends because someone had to stay with Bella. That would mean I would have to pay her alimony to look after Bella. Where would I get the money from? Dad’s head was always buried in a bottle. He didn’t have two coins to rub against each other in his pocket. Mum lived with what’s his name. He wasn’t much better than Dad. They struggled to pay their own bills.
Thoughts and questions were going around in my head. Come on, scientists had proved that men could not do more than one thing at a time. There I was driving and thinking, don’t ask me how I managed to do that!
Finally I reached home, my throat was dry, my legs were weak and my palms were wet. For Nelson’s sake, I hoped he was gone. It would be much easier to face Rachel alone.
I saw a bottom sticking out from the back of the couch. Knowing Nelson was still around pulled me back a bit. Thoughts were flying around in my head again. I told myself I had to keep cool, no matter what. I had to keep my dignity. I really hoped that I didn’t know him. It would be easier to punch him in the face then.
Firmly, one step at a time, I walked towards the couch. I was going to have it out with Nelson. It was clearly going to be one of those ‘him or me’ scenes.
It seemed a long distance between the front door and the couch. I was pretty much like the innocent good guy in an old western cowboy film, hanging both hands away from my body, walking towards the bad guy behind the couch, waiting for a sudden move so I could pull the gun out from my pouch in a flash. No doubt about it, it was a life or death situation.
The bottom suddenly stood up behind the couch and he yelled out loudly, “It’s working now, lady!”
“Oh thank you.” Rachel walked into the lounge, wiping her hands on her apron. “My mother will be very happy. I can talk on the phone with her again.”
I had forgotten that our landline had been out of order since Wednesday. The guy had been fixing the phone line. He wasn’t Rachel’s lover. Phew!
“Would you run a bath for Bella? It’s about time to ask her to come back into the house. If you can do that, your mum can give me a hand in the kitchen.”
Rachel was involved in a charity group. She was baking cakes, scones and biscuits for the coming weekend’s fete. Her hair was a mess and her unflattering tracksuit was dirty. I don’t know what Nelson saw in her.
Mum came into the house with Bella. She kissed me on the cheek and asked, “Why are you home so late?”
Please Mum, Rachel hadn’t noticed I was late, why did you point it out? Are you trying to get me into trouble?
“He knows when he comes back he has to help so he does anything to stay away from home.” Rachel had that know-it-all expression on her face.
I tried to take a cupcake from the box sitting on the kitchen dresser.
“Don’t touch that” Mum said. “That came out from the oven at 9 o’clock this morning.” She passed me a cupcake. “This one came out from the oven a few minutes ago, it’s still warm.”
“When did you get here Mum?”
“I had breakfast here with Rachel and Bella. You were not the only one working hard today.”
Mum had been in the house when I called? She must have seen Nelson then. Oh Mum, how could you? I know you like Rachel but I’m the one you gave birth to. You shouldn’t protect her when she’s been unfaithful to me – me, your son!
Bella was happy, she loved her grandma. They had been playing hide and seek in the garden, she told me.
“Did grandma talk to Nelson?” I asked Bella.
“You tell me!”
Bella started to giggle, “I don’t know Nelson.”
“You said mummy and Nelson were upstairs.”
“You’re funny Daddy, we don’t have an upstairs.”
Ding, the light suddenly came on in my head and it dawned on me. Bella was right, we didn’t have an upstairs. We lived in a single level house. It took a little girl to open up my mind. I must have dialled the wrong number.
Mum had been here since the morning so Rachel couldn’t have had another man in the house. No mother-in-law would accept that, I am sure!
What was I talking about? Our phone had been out of order for days.
I had called the wrong number, to a household that had nothing to do with me. Phew, how glad I was. I still had my house – my precious castle.
As I was drinking my beer in the shed, it suddenly occurred to me that out there somewhere was a man whose wife was cheating on him with Nelson. Poor fellow!
I told myself this whole experience had been caused by my own guilty conscience. Keeping away from Nina would be a wise move for me from now on.
Next time I might not survive the sweaty palms and weak legs.
Rachel gave me a big hug before dinner. I asked her what was that for?
“You are the best,” she said. “Linda came over this afternoon and told me some psycho had called her daughter on the phone and asked her to yell out loud that Daddy was home, when she was upstairs washing the dog. That psycho must have nothing better to do in life. Poor Linda had to explain to her daughter again that Daddy won’t be coming home anymore. The poor kid can’t understand what death is all about. Some men have no heart. Well, not every woman is as lucky as I am. You have a kind heart. You would never do such a sickening thing.”