I walk into our home and hang my keys on the designated hook. Otherwise I would misplace them, Lose them in the bottom of my bag or just forget where I had put them in the house. I shrug off my jacket and hang it on the coat stand and then kick my shoes off my tired feet 'Richard, you home?'
He walks out of the study and puts a finger over his mouth and then signals to his mobile phone that he has by his ear. I give him a thumbs up and take my bag filled with DVDs into what is classed as the dining room although in reality it's basically like my living room. Richard and I have totally different taste. The main living room is crisp magnolia with minimal photos on the wall. A massive flat screen television over the grand fireplace and one black rug on the laminated floor. The settee is bright, clean white and to be honest I feel like a nervous wreck in there, Like I'm going to spill something or accidentally get a crumb of chocolate down the side of the couch. But the dining room is where I had free reign to accommodate to my taste. There's a thick Grey carpet that your feet sink into. A black corner suite that you literally mould into, clustered with mismatched cushions to decorate it. In the corner of the room is a T.V and DVD player and of course shelving on the walls that hold my proud collection of movies. I take today's purchases out of the carrier bag and start to slide them in between the existing DVDs (alphabetically of course!) once that's done I walk to the door and nosily try and catch some of Richards conversation. In two years of knowing my boyfriend I've learnt many things about him obviously, but what stands out is the manner in which he talks to people, Especially on the phone. With his friends his posh tone falters. It's usually 'yeah mate sure! Polo sounds like a right blast' his parents get the voice I'm sure he picked up at private school 'yes mother, yes father. It would be tremendous to spend the weekend with you in cornwall. We really do thank you for extending the invitation to stay' sometimes I'm even sure he says 'yah' instead of a simple 'yes!' And then there's the voice in which he talks to his boss. Who I know he's on the phone to now 'jolly good, bring on the Gee-Gees. I'll call Martin and see what he has to say, the old swine can spot a winner a mile off. Guffaw, guffaw' (OK he didn't actually say guffaw but in an odd way that's what his laugh sounds like)
I shut the door and lean back into the couch. I think back to when Richard and I met. He came into the bakery and asked if we had any cherry buns as waitrose didn't have any. By the time I handed him his change he had asked for my phone number. I was seventeen, coming eighteen a week later and he had just turned twenty two. 'Bit up himself isn't he!' Mr M observed when he left but I didn't see it. All I saw was one of the most gorgeous men I had ever seen. He had that early Hugh Grant vibe about him. Floppy black hair he had gelled back off his face. Brown eyes that always seemed to be a little mischievous and a slight blush to his cheeks. He was simply divine in his Ralph Lauren suit.
Our relationship moved quick by anyones standards and as soon as Richard caught wind of my situation it became his mission to save me, to get me out of that house as soon as possible. He was from a family of money and his dad was a top judge who oozed an arrogance due to his large bank account and a sense of authority that always meant I was never good enough. But they accepted we were happy and loaned Richard his half of the money for the down payment towards a mortgage and my mother gave me the other half. It wasn't like she couldn't afford it!
'Hello pumpkin. Sorry about that, was just on the phone to Mark'
Mark is literally like a god to Richard. He's twenty years older and is his boss. They work in the stock market and even though Richard is fantastic at his job, Mark has sort of become his advisor and mentor 'A few of the guys from the office are going to watch the racing tonight. I would ask if you wanted to come but it's sort of a guys thing' he strokes my cheek and I shrug
'It's fine, don't be silly. I'm going running with Jules at seven and then I'll probably just come home and watch a movie'
He sits down next to me and leans his head against the cushions 'we'll probably go to a bar after. If you're still up we could maybe have a glass of wine. Watch one of the DVDs you've added to your collection' he raises his eyebrows when he looks at even more cases taking space on the shelves. I know he looks displeased, his judgmental face in place that I insist on buying more when he keeps telling me to "declutter"
'Have you seen the new neighbours?' He sighs as he stands up and pulls at his tie loosening it
'Yes I have and I'll be phoning the estate agents tomorrow and asking them what they are playing at! They truly look like council estate riff raff' I shake my head and stand up, pushing my shoulder against his chest to get past him as I walk towards the door
'Sam? What on earth is causing this temper tantrum?'
I hold onto the door handle and turn to face him
'Not everyone could afford private education at Eton, Richard! And some of us are proudly from a council estate!' The colour flushes to his cheeks when he realises what he's said but I don't give him time to reply, instead I leave him dumbfounded standing in the middle of the room.
We managed to avoid each other before he went out. I mostly folded up clothes in the walk in wardrobe and he slid out of the house with a mumbled goodbye. I throw on my running trousers, an oversized grey T shirt and Nike trainers that show off the fact I don't really run much at all. I close the front door behind me and do a few half hearted stretches whilst I wait for jules. The delivery men have long gone and from the house next door I hear the stone roses blasting out of a stereo. Someone moves towards the window and I quickly look away. It could look as though I'm standing here for no reason but soon enough Jules comes power walking towards me. Her brown ponytail swaying from side to side as her hips move in perfect synchronisation and her toned abs visible due to a crop top that stretches against her breasts (that she proudly paid £6,000 for!)
'Jeez, I'm knackered already!' She lets out a long exaggerated sigh and I link my arm though hers
'Are we taking the usual route?'
'As always Sam, as always!'
Truth be told Jules and I don't run. She takes this time to get away from her husband (she's twenty three and and he's fifty four. I would love to say that love conquers all but she will be the first to admit it was his bank account that made him at least ninety nine percent more attractive. Not that he minds, Jules is literally his arm candy) and I, well I quite like the drama of where our walk takes us. Four streets away we dive behind the usual bush that conceals us out of sight and Jules takes a pair of binoculars out of her Louis Vuitton bag. She scrunches up her nose and then holds them up to her eyes
'That bastard. He said he couldn't stand the Bitch and look at them! She's literally just fed him food off a fork like he's a child!' I take the binoculars off her and move a branch so I can get a better look. And there through the window is a family that look so perfect they could be from a magazine. A child eating food from a plate on his high chair and a man and woman sharing a bottle of wine whilst eating food that looks like it's been cooked by a Michelin chef. I hand them back to her and sit cross legged on the grass. Jules has one more look and then deflated sinks down onto her knees next to me
'He said he was working late, that he would rather stay in the office then be around her. Doesn't look like it, does it?' I rub her arm and give a sympathetic head shake
'Jules. Don't you think you should end it now? he's a complete dick you know that. Every time we walk past his house he's here, with her, when he tells you he's working ... He's here Jules, With his family' I try and be reasonable and not judgemental, she's my friend. One of the only friends I have besides Mr and Mrs M
'It's not that easy Sam. It's not' she bites her lip and stands up, holding out her hand to help me get to my feet 'come on, let's go to the pub. Drinks are on me'
The gatekeepers inn is not your usual type of pub. It doesn't have the old man reading his paper whilst sipping on a pint of Guinness. Or the gaggle of girls wanting to get drunk on cheap shots before they move onto a club. In here are business men that are wanting to swill away the stress of a hard day in the city and high powered women in two piece pin stripe suits tapping away relentlessly on their phones, throwing out emails whilst sipping on a glass of Moët. At first our attire was frowned upon and the barman discreetly pointed out the pub called the frog in the pond might be more accommodating. Once they saw Jules's Rolex and designer bag they just presumed that we were both rich and on this occasion gym wear was fine. That was six months ago and we are in here two to three nights a week. I sip on my half a lager and black and Jules nurses a glass of Pinot Grigio 'I feel like such an idiot' she runs a hand over her face and then rests her chin on her hand 'when we are together, he makes me feel alive. Like its just me and him in this blissfully happy bubble'
'Has he ever said he's going to leave his wife?' I ask as kindly as I can. Not sure if there's actually a kind way to be about this situation? She hesitates and then takes a long sip of her wine
'Not in so many words ... No. But I just presumed that's where it was heading. It's not just about ...' She leans forward and lowers her voice 'fucking. We make love. I know he adores me. Loves me even. People don't have a connection like that just based on lust. It's love I know it. When I'm with Bob' she shudders 'it's wham bam thank you Jules. I have to pretend I'm with Greg just to make it more exciting. You know last week he actually wanted me to slide two fingers -' I put my hands over my ears and I am close to gagging in my mouth
'Jules I love you, but we are not having his conversion!'
She grins and leans back in her chair 'So what's it like in the bedroom with Richard? He reminds me of one of those guys who would cry after sex!' The wine makes her giggle and I disapproving cross my arms over my chest
'He has never cried!' A little wine comes out of her nose as she snorts and I roll my eyes
'Samantha Rose Taylor swear on the holy bible he has never cried' she does a little drum roll with her fingers on the table and I pick up my drink
'Ok, OK! Once. It happened once!' She bursts out laughing and finishes her wine in one
'I knew it! I can spot a crier a mile off!'
Four glasses later my friend is a little intoxicated so I walk her home. Bob is waiting at their front door and he gives his wife a look of despair before looking at me like I'm the bad influence, and then he shuts the door in my face.
I love London in the Autumn. The trees that line either side of our street have shed their leaves and I kick them with my feet making a little fountain of oranges and brown. Day has slowly faded into night but when I check my watch it's only nine fifteen. Richard won't be home for hours yet, he has the inability to say sorry so that means he will stay out for as long as possible and return once he has enough vodka in his veins that he will come back and shrug off the hurtful comment he made earlier. When I get closer to my house I spot a clapped out Ford Fiesta that looks odd in the street next to Range Rovers and Audis. The boot of the car is ajar and as I open our gate I hear a panicked voice 'oh shit!' I manage to run forward in time and stop a crate of bottled Budweiser dropping out of the arms of a guy who's trying to juggle a concoction of alcohol
'I've got it' I take the box and hold it whilst he tries to steady the rest of the booze
'Good catch. Thanks for that!' He lets out a deep breath and I smile
'I'm Austin. You must be our neighbour?' As he finishes his sentence he blows his blonde floppy hair from out of his eye
'I am indeed. The names Sam' we both look down at our full hands and he lets out a small laugh
'I can't give you a formal handshake, but then again we aren't ninety are we?' He grins and I feel the colour flush to my cheeks. Is he teasing me that I shook his friends hand earlier? I don't have time to ask him as he gestures to the steps, silently asking me if I don't mind helping him. I follow him up to the door and he bangs it with his scuffed boot. After a few minutes the door swings open and I'm hit with a smell of weed and the sound of Nirvana now blasting throughout the house. Matthew takes a swig of his beer and then moves to the side so Austin can walk through. His eyes study me, what I'm wearing and then at the crate of beers in my hands
'What are you doing?' He lets out a long plume of smoke from the cigarette he has just put to his lips and if my hands were free I would be fanning it away from my face. I'm half tempted to go with the line "I carried a watermelon" (it's always been a fantasy of mine to have some sort of dirty dancing moment) but instead I hold out the beers
'Your friend needed help with this, here you go' he nods his head and takes the crate off me
'Thanks' He says as I give him a half wave and move to the left so I can climb over the wall. Seems silly walking down the steps to just have to climb mine when my front door is right there! I sit on the bricks and swing one leg over 'Do you want to come in? It's just a house warming party?' His voice is polite but it's not entirely welcoming, I probably don't look "cool" enough
'It's ok. I've got a date with the sofa and a movie' I say this with a humour to my voice but all he does is nod disinterested, and then takes another drag of his cigarette
'Ok, miss prim. I promise to keep the noise down'
Before I can even retaliate he has shut his front door and as I slide my other leg over the wall I realise I've ripped my trousers.
After a long hot shower I throw on my fluffy pyjamas and make some microwave popcorn. I run my fingers over the DVDs and then get cosy on the couch as tonight's choice of film is interview with vampire. I grab the remote off the coffee table and then bring a handful of the popcorn to my mouth.
Tom cruise has been on the screen for all of five minutes when The Killers over takes the sound coming from the T.V. The walls feel like they are vibrating and they may as well be having a party in my house! I pause the film and bang my fist against the wall. I think I must be pounding my hand against it for five minutes before the music abruptly stops. I nod my head satisfied and sit back down. I wrap my dressing gown around me and as I press play, guitars and drums start to play in unison and I can hear people cheering. I wait twenty minutes to see if they will have any consideration that I actually live next door to them and then realise ... They don't!
It's one a.m when Richard climbs into bed next to me. He smells of whiskey and the faint smell of cigars. I stay absolutely still and shallow my breathing pretending to be asleep
'Pumpkin? sweetie? Are you awake?' His hand softly shakes my hip and I open my eyes
He leans up on his elbow and plants a soft kiss on my nose 'I didn't mean what I said. You took it the wrong way, that's all' I sigh and turn away from him
'No Richard you did mean what you said. You seem to forget that I'm from a council estate and I don't mind! I'm not ashamed. People who you might think are lower class are not beneath you. You need to understand that! Or just think before you speak. For someone who is so lovely you really do come across like an ass sometimes!' I wait for his reply but all I hear is him softly snoring. He wasn't even listening to me at all