The decision is made. In fact, it has been made a long time ago. Tonight is just confirmation of the inevitable. Now it has happened, there is one thing left to do.
“When are we going to let everyone know?” asks Shirley.
“You mean you haven’t updated your facebook status yet?” To an outsider Jim’s voice always appears jovial. The snide intention behind such comments is pitched at a level audible to Shirley alone. It is comments like that…Years of comments like that…she resists the inward fume and forces her mouth into a smile.
“Only the kids are coming this weekend. I thought we could tell them then.”
“You’ve been planning this.” It is Jim’s turn to fume – manipulative as ever – she has forced this to happen exactly when it suits her.
“No…not really…Look we’ve both known…for a long time…haven’t we?” but she’s lost him already. He is staring at the book case as if he is already calculating how to divide the spoils of thirty years. No doubt he will try to claim the heavy stuff – what he calls “real literature” – Nabokov, Proust, Calvi – leaving her with the thriller collection, Francis, Grisham, Forsyth and the Dickens novels which he regards as over-rated soap opera. Perhaps she should let him, it seems to her,one of the more impossible acts of separation: dividing books that they’ve both enjoyed and given each other over the years. Then she thinks of how she was the one who introduced him to Will Self, to Borges, to Marquez, and sets her jaw in anticipation of the fight.
Jim continues his perusal of the shelves. He has some plastic boxes in his den. He has estimated their dimensions and now he is trying to work out how many books he will need per box. He cannot imagine how they will split the collection apart. He gave her half of them. Should he claim them back? Doubtless, she will fight tooth and nail for the thrillers which she always enjoys on holiday, leaving him with the turgid books she thinks he likes- the foreign writers with their overblown prose and complicated storytelling. Shirley interrupts his train of thought. “So, Saturday then? When the kids come?” He grunts the grunt of resigned acceptance. The sooner he lets her have her own way, the sooner he can go his. He rises from the chair, departing upstairs for his den, where he will drink beer and watch Game of Thrones till the small hours.
Shirley watches his retreating back with relief. She has the evening to herself. She wanders into the kitchen, pours a glass of wine, and raises it silently: Here’s to the rest of my life. After the weekend, she’ll be on her own for good. She can’t wait.