As April entered the house she hear one of the loose boards Paul was going to fix creaking. She was trembling but not afraid.
He had gone into her bedroom.
‘Paul …’ perhaps his name would spook the intruder. The man stood like a hard black ghost by the bedroom window. ‘Don’t touch the light, she said. Emboldened by what she had lived through over the past weeks. What are you doing in my house.
‘I’m in the wrong place,’ the man said. ‘I’m going. Don’t stop me and there won’t be any trouble.’
‘That windows been stuck for years’, April hissed.’ Her phone rang’
‘Leave it,’ the man said
‘How dare you come into my home,’ April said.
The man sidled by her and in a fury April grabbed his ears and kicked hard at his shins.
‘I warned you,’ he said.
April kicked him like the embers of a fire. Her outrage fuelled an anger greater than her fear. He had a suitcase. One of Paul’s. ‘Put it down! That’s not yours. Put it down.’ The man pushed her onto the bed, but was still trying to get away. They wrestled on the bed. She fought free, jumped up and turned on the bedroom light. The man was in his thirties, wearing a black hoodie and grey track pants. His hair was greasy and swept back and his gaunt face looked like the result of ice. He ran to the light and flicked it off. ‘Why did ya do that?’ he said. ‘I told ya I’m going.’
‘You bastard,’ said April. ‘You fucker.’ She tore him back into the room and started to throw things at him. Venetian jars, dressing sets, shoes. The man was finally forced to fight back. He punched April in the stomach and around the ears. April cried out as if she had finally got what she wanted.
She refused to let go but finally the intruder escaped and ran down the stairs towards the front door. She threw the case down the stairs and the man slipped on the last few steps.
‘Fuck you, you asshole,’ April said. ‘Take it all. How did you get in?’
‘It doesn’t matter. I don’t want a thing,’ he said, and fled through the front door.
Nothing was damaged in the case. Her faux fur jacket, her jewellery box (including a cameo Paul had given her when Joe was born and a heart-shaped locket for Erica) some bottles of Vodka and Scotch. A toaster for god’s sake. April shook her head. Holding her bruised stomach she returned everything to its proper place and managed to cut herself on broken glass.. She sat and muttered something. She didn’t even know what. April checked the doors and the sliding windows which looked over the mirror. The door which contained the sheets of glass were open. April wondered if she had left them open. The glass wasn’t broken and the lock looked like it hadn’t been forced. ‘Bastard,’ she said.
April watched Catherine’s car slip a little up the dirt driveway. The front door was alive with her approach. She rang and pressed a dark face against the window. ‘I’m coming,’ April said. She opened the door.
‘I’ve bought the booze!’ Catherine said. She put white wine in the refrigerator then turned to April. ‘darling what is it?’
‘I had a visitor,’ said April.
‘You look awful. When?’
‘Last night. When I got home,’ April said. ‘I’m fine.’’
‘I don’t think so,’ Catherine said. ‘You’ve been in these clothes all night?’
‘Yes I think I have been in my clothes’
‘You’re going straight to bed,’ said Catherine
April laughed, ‘Oh Cat.’
‘You’re hurt, look at your face.’ Said Catherine. ‘What sort of visitor?’
‘An uninvited one.’
‘A thief? You’ve had a thief?’
He didn’t take anything,’ said April. ‘Does that make him a thief?’
‘He hit you.’
‘I hit him much harder,’ April smiled.
‘Did you call the police?’
I don’t want them. I don’t. Not in my house, said April. ‘I don’t want gossip.
Catherine said, ‘You’ve got concussion,’
‘Oh Cat, I don’t know.’
Please now you go upstairs and I bring you a present.’
Some tea, with tea in it. Please, April said.
When Catherine came upstairs April was sitting looking at the bedside photo of Paul.
They heard a car. April peeped out the window. ‘Oh fuck. Fuck!’
‘April you swear.’
‘It’s Tom. He’s brought Paul’s car back and his wife has come to give him a lift home. Please stay here,’ April pleaded. ‘Please you have to. I’ll go down.’
‘Hello gorgeous,’ said Lisa on the doorstep. ‘Good god, what happened?’
April said, ‘Believe it or not I slipped getting out of the bath and hit the door.’
‘Are you going to see a doctor,’ Tom said. ‘Perhaps you should.’
‘I’m fine, really,’ said April. ‘Look, I’m sorry to be brusque but I have to get some writing done.’
‘Oh …okay,’ said Tom. ‘Of course I’d invite you in but I’m a long way behind.’
Lisa smiled sympathetically.
‘Anyway, ‘said Tom, ‘Here are the keys, and there is the car.’
‘You’re a gem,’ said April. ‘Both of you are. I’ll let you know when I’m in town. Is everything ticking over.’
‘Yes,’ said Tom. ‘We have an accountant on the case.’
‘Great. Okay. I’ll see you both soon’
April shut the front door.
Catherine peeked down the stairs. ‘April.’
‘Don’t come down’
‘They’ve gone surely?’
‘Just wait a moment,’ April said, then walked into the hallway. She looked up at Catherine. ‘Please get into my bed.’
Catherine walked down the stairs. April’s voice was far away. ‘I will,’ said Catherine, but are you ok?’
‘I’m perfectly well. I want you to do what I say. Will you do that?’
‘Of course,’ Catherine said.
April undressed and sat on the bed. ‘All day,’ she said. ‘All day.’
The house was silent.
‘Did I hurt you?’ said Catherine. ‘You’re bruised.’
‘Why don’t you sleep?’ April said. ‘I’ll prepare some food.’ She picked up a shard of glass and gently ran it down Catherine’s back.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Can’t you tell? Cover yourself. Snuggle down,’ April said You’re going to stay here while I bring you something. Rest. You still have to work tomorrow.’
‘Why are you being so nice?’ said Catherine.
‘It must be obvious by now,’ April said.
‘You must leave,’ April said the next morning. ‘You’ll need to change clothes.’
‘Yes, this time I won’t protest,’ Said Catherine. When will I see you?’
‘I have to go to town. We can have lunch where we first met. After that though I must do some work myself. Joe is probably coming for the weekend. It will be difficult.’
‘Will I not see you,’
‘It depends. He doesn’t hang around the house much. He has friends. He’s probably bringing someone. His girlfriend. But he always says he needs time away so I really don’t know.’
‘Will you tell him anything?’ Catherine said.
‘He’s not interested in me.’
‘What do you tell yourself?’ Catherine said.
‘Was it very physical?’ said April.
‘You know what kind of man he was.’
‘I’ve never seen any of your work,’ said April. ‘Your design work. He obviously admired it. You know to take you on trips. Or were you just candy to impress clients? You often went with him?
‘Occasionally. I wasn’t there too long. When it happened’
‘How did he make the first move?’ said April.
‘You mean …’
‘You know what I mean.’
‘I wanted to come here. I sent some design. It wasn’t hard. Sometimes I was … available.’ Catherine said.
April said ‘And one thing led to another’
‘He had an easy way of talking. Honest,’ Said Catherine ‘He was nice to me. A Frenchman – love is not personal for him. May I tell you something?’
‘I wish you would,’ said April.
‘The first time he kissed me it meant nothing, we were working on a house. He kissed me.’
‘Congratulations,’ said April
‘And then he kissed me again.’
Catherine didn’t pick up on April’s moments of mild sarcasm.
‘That’s how it started,’ Catherine said.
‘You were going to tell me something else.’
‘April …’ Catherine sighed.
He preferred you to me,’ said April. ‘He told you it was better with you than with me. is that what you want to tell me?’
Catherine said, ‘The end of the next day, he kissed me again. He had waited all day.’
‘And you’d waited all day too?’ April said.
‘He said, “Last night I loved my wife.” He meant there had been something between you. He was saying that whatever happened with he his love for you was stronger, more … infinite.’
‘You both knew what was going to happen,’ said April. ‘After the first kiss, or the second.
‘Yes I suppose and in spite of that …’
‘Or because of it.’
Peter volunteered to give Joe and Tilda a lift from the airport. April had no great desire to see him but it was a convenience she decided to accept.
‘Where are the kids,’ April said when he rang.
‘They’re with Margaret,’ said Peter. “God knows how that’ll go. She’ll be interrogated.’
‘I’ll see you all soon,’ April said. She prepared a light lunch, and poured herself a wine.’
When everyone arrived, they sat under a tree by the river. April told the story of her house invasion while everyone frowned with concern. Joe’s latest flame Tilda had come down too.
‘I might get a lodger. That might help do you think?’
‘Like who,’ Joe asked.
‘A girl,’ April said. ‘That way I’ll remain safe. Even holding jelly in both hands.’
‘With a girl?’ said Joe again.
He and Tilda wandered inside.
‘They look so serene don’t they,’ said Peter. ‘I was never relaxed with girls. I couldn’t even talk to them.’
‘They don’t seem to need to talk,’ said April watching her son. ‘I have to change. We’re off to a movie.’
‘Yes,’ said Peter. ‘I’ll go. You know all those things I said to you. I meant all of it.’
‘I know,’ April said. ‘Let’s not talk about it. Everything is complicated.’
‘Junk,’ said Joe. ‘No-one talks like that. No-one behaves like that. Would he ever do that?’
They were in the Hyundai heading back to Beauty Point.
‘It’s not the actors of course,’ Joe said. ‘It’s what they make them say.’
Tilda laughed. ‘All movies are actors having to say what’s written on a piece of paper Joe. Sometimes what’s written just isn’t any good.’
‘How are you sure?’ April asked Joe. ‘How people behave. They often behave in ways you would never expect.’
‘As if he would do that in the middle of a dinner party!’ Joe fulminated.
‘Oh, I thought you mean when he crashed the car!’ said Tilda.
Joe continued. ‘How much experience do you have to have to recognize a giraffe?’
‘A giraffe!’ spluttered April. It was a mirth she barely recognized after so long.
‘Oh never mind,’ said Joe.
They pulled into the driveway.
‘It was piss poor you have to admit,’ said Joe.
‘Yes, I thought it was dreadful,’ April said. ’Does anybody want a hot drink, or a giraffe.’ Said April.
‘I might have a beer if there is any,’ Joe said.
Nothing for me ‘Said Tilda.’
‘I’m going to go up,’ said April.
‘Mum,’ Joe followed her. ‘Sorry to be so aggressive. You’re ok aren’t you?’
‘Do you like her?’
‘Very much,’ Said April
‘She’s not very talkative.’
‘She seems very nice,’ said April ‘She’s attractive of course. Don’t you think?’
‘Well yes,’ Joe said.
‘Is it … you know.’
‘I’ll give you a call,’ said Joe at the airport. ‘You’ll be in won’t you.’
‘If I’m not, I’ll be out, ‘April said.
‘You look a bit tricky,’ said Joe, ‘You won’t disappear will you?’
‘Disappear? You don’t have to worry,’ April said wearily. ‘I promise. Please come again Tilda.’
‘Of course,’ Tilda said. ‘Thank you for a lovely time.’
A man April had met at some function or other briefly greeted her outside the terminal.
‘How’s your husband,’ he said. ‘How’s he keeping. Is he well?’
‘You must excuse me, I …’
‘Give him my best,’ he said. ‘Pass on the word that I will be after him.’
April gave a wan smile. She drove slowly. She looked for dirt tracks to hamlets or farms. A flinty track sloped down to a copse of trees. Close and thick. She parked the car and took the suitcases out of the boot. She walked away from the track on the slippery tangled roots of trees. Birds sang and the larger ones flapped through the highest branches. She removed two blue shirts and a grey pair of trousers and some brown shoes. She laid down the clothes she had selected and spread them out. She carried handfuls of earth which took her some time and weighed down the clothes. When she had finished, she stood watching, unable to measure her feelings. She shrugged and walked back to the car. She could see them when the trees shuddered and parted. A man appeared and another and a third. One of them pulled the staring rope on a chainsaw. April curved around in an arc to avoid their gaze.
Had they seen her car? Was she trespassing? April ploughed through trees back to the car and drove away, shaking. There was a charity bin in Beaconsfield, and spooked by her foray into the bush, April dropped the toaster in the dumpster. As well as the clock from the bedroom. April knew from previous visits to the Salvos that they couldn’t take electrical appliances. She went ahead anyway. Desperate to be rid of Paul’s things, and whatever the thief had packed for his getaway.
A new car dealer had opened promising to take second hand cars. To the side was a secondhand shop. April gathered the remaining silver.’
‘How much do you want for it,’ said the proprietor, cleaning oil from his hands with a rag.’ A thick set man with a ruddy face and a chin beard.
‘Nothing,’ April said. “I just want to get rid of it.’
‘Get rid of it,’ the man said, taken aback. ‘Is it yours?’
April said, ‘Of course it’s mine. Would be offering it to you if it wasn’t?
‘Can I have your name at least?’
‘I don’t see what that has to do with it.’ April said.
The man was a little suspicious of April’s agitation.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, but what made you come to me’
I was passing,’ April said.’ Do you have an objection? You do advertise. I take it you don’t want the silver.’
‘I think y’orta go home,’ the man said. ‘You don’t look well. Can I phone somebody?’
‘I’m perfectly well, said April. I’m just sick of silver,’
‘Sure … ok. Umm.’
‘I know you if it comes to that,’ April said. She had seen him shopping and walking a dog which didn’t look unlike him. ‘Is it inconceivable that I want to be rid of this, ‘she said. ‘Perhaps you’d like to buy me,’ April said. The man looked at her, annoyed now.
‘Yeah, I’ve seen ya,’ the man said. ‘And not long ago.’
‘You don’t take presents. Fine.’
‘Yeah, see what it could lead to, ‘the man said.
‘No I don’t April said, ’Explain to me.’
‘I can’t sell jewellery and … other stuff you’ve given me. It’s not legal’
‘I have no use for them,’ April said.’ I thought you could get rid of them’
‘Try a charity, the man said. ’They’re always looking for this gear.’
April wished she had dropped the silver in the charity dumpster.
‘Ok, fine, I think what your saying is ridiculous. I’ll go.’
April sat in her car outside the office and saw a man she couldn’t recognize turn the lights off and check that the doors were locked. She ran to the office and looked through the smoked window. Everything was dark. She drove to Catherine’s house.
The young man from the supermarket, Josh, answered the door.
‘Oh hi … hello,’ he said.
‘Is she here?’
‘Who are you looking for?’
‘You know very well,’ April said.
‘Of course, I haven’t seen her today.’ Said Josh.
April ran up the stairs.
Catherine’s door was unlocked She was in bed, ill. April said ‘Thank god.’
Catherine said, ’I have been sick. I didn’t go to work.’
‘Who’s been looking after you?’ April said.
‘No-one,’ said Catherine. ‘I don’t need anyone.’
‘I could kick myself,’ said April. ‘I could have been here all day. I assumed you were at the office. How long have you been like this? You need some air in here.’
‘Since Friday,’ Catherine said.
‘Have you actually been sick?’
April said, ’Cat, why didn’t you call me,’
‘I think you had your son,’
‘We spoke on Friday’ You seemed quite well’
‘That’s when it started,’ Catherine said.
‘You know what I’m going to do.’ April said. ‘I’m going to take you home. I’m going to wrap you in your blanket and take you home. When were you last sick?’
‘I’m not sure. Perhaps an hour.’
‘Have you got a case?’
‘Not really.’ I have one of those striped sacks. You know what I mean. It’s in the wardrobe.’
‘Have you contacted the office?’
‘Yes,’ said Catherine. ‘Tom. He was very understanding.
‘It’s unhealthy in there,’ April said. ‘The stifling air conditioning. Is your friend making curry?’
‘Yes it’s a terrible smell. Like body odour,’ Catherine said. But he’s been very kind.’
April packed Catherine’s things and took Catherine home and placed her in the spare bedroom. Catherine looked frail. She reached for April’s hand. ‘Thank you darling.’
* * * *
Michael Witheford is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Launceston Examiner, and various periodicals. He is the author of the novel Buzzed (Penguin) and non-fiction book The Very Worst Of The Beatles (Vivid). In a former life he played in The Fish John West Reject and other bands.
Source: Tasmanian Times https://tasmaniantimes.com/2020/09/april-catherine-and-paul-part-four/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=april-catherine-and-paul-part-four