He stands at the door watching her taxi depart, the red brake lights blinking as the driver slows at the bend. And then the car disappears round the corner taking her towards Lincoln Road, the High Street to a life beyond him. From the conversation they have just had, the life they have led, the people they have become he knows she won’t be coming back. Not tonight. Not ever. Yet still he stands there, braving the November night in his “T” shirt, in the useless hope that perhaps she will stop the cab, turn around and give them one more chance. He waits and waits, till the goosepimples are perpendicular on his arms, and the cold is causing his teeth to chatter. Only when his whole body is shaking does he admit defeat, close the door and return to the living room.
The room is warm, but he still needs to pull a jumper on, march about and drink a cup of tea before he has totally defrosted. The lounge is filled with the detritus of their ending, the half eaten spaghetti bolognese, the bin full of tissues, the dirty coffee cups. There is at least this satisfaction to take from her departure, he won’t have to clear up before bedtime. If it weren’t for Jenny, he wouldn’t have to clear up ever again. Jenny, his stomach lurches. What can he possibly say to Jenny that will make this right? Mummy has to go away with work for a while? Mummy has so many things she needs her own house? Mummy has a new friend she needs to spend some time with? All statements that will need to be made in a kind softening-the-blow voice in order to hide the truth that Mummy is a total bitch and she just doesn’t love us enough to stay here.
There is a yell from upstairs. For a moment he has the fanciful notion that his emotions have entered his daughter’s dreams, that her cry is a direct response to his thoughts. But when he enters the room and sees her in familiar pose, eyes glazed, body rigid, he recognises the night terrors. “Get it away from me, get it away from me,” she screams seeing some unimaginable horror. It is a relief to know that this is something he can handle. That all he needs to do is sit here, hold her hand, talk soothingly, till the fright and panic dissipate. As he watches her body begin to relax, her eyes close, her breathing to slow he helps her lie back down on the pillow. Soon she is sleeping peacefully, as if nothing has happened. In the morning she won’t even remember she woke. He waits for a couple more minutes to be absolutely sure, before tiptoeing out of her room.
He picks up a random box set from the shelf. West Wing, that will do. He settles in front of the TV and immerses himself in the problems of the Bartlett administration; a panacea to see him through the night – to delay the nightmare that is tomorrow.