A modern Yorkshire Tale, available on Kindle….not a happy tale perhaps, but….P.A.
Waiting For Julie
It was a Wednesday. He drove onto the short rain sodden driveway in front of his semi-detached house, switched off the car, pulled on the hand brake and just sat there. He liked his car, and he liked his house in Chapel Allerton. From getting qualified, to ending up with his own pharmacy, had taken fifteen years, fifteen years of hard graft. He felt that he’d achieved a lot and, throughout, he’d had Julie there with him, supporting him and pushing him onwards. To be fair, they had been a team, encouraging each other through difficult times. She wasn’t naturally academic but she’d now got plenty of work as a teaching assistant. He’d thought things were going well now. Minutes passed by. He got out of the car and ran to the front door.
‘What crappy weather!’ he thought, as he turned the key in the lock and went inside.
He took off his jacket, shook off the rain, and hung it up in the porch. He listened carefully. As expected, the house was totally silent. Feeling for the inside pocket, he removed two yellow tablets, walked through to the lounge and placed them on the low glass-topped coffee table in the centre of the room. He felt calm. He hadn’t expected to feel calm.
He walked through to the kitchen and got a couple of glasses and a bottle of wine from the fridge, which he placed on the coffee table alongside the two yellow pills. He then got his favourite crystal whisky glass from the display cabinet and a full bottle of malt whisky. He poured himself a double, or a treble, and slumped into his familiar arm chair. After discarding his shoes, he put his feet up on the coffee table and began to drink. After downing the glass, he picked up the remote, pressed play and settled back into the chair, eyes closed, desperate to think things through and change his mind. In the background, Schubert was trying to weave his spell. Julie should be back within an hour or so, maybe. He began piecing it all together, something he’d done over and over again in the past month.
Exactly four weeks ago he’d left work late, around eight o’clock, after doing the pharmacy books. It was no problem, Julie was on a night out with the girls, or so he thought. He’d headed through Headingley on his usual route home, when suddenly he’d ground to a halt with the road ahead blocked. Some poor sod had been knocked down – there was an ambulance, police, flashing lights, and a tragedy for some wife and kids back home. He swore to himself and turned off right, circling back to the centre of Leeds. He’d find another way but he’d be even later. As he drove slowly along a badly lit street, rain dancing on his windscreen, his face suddenly froze. About thirty yards in front of him, lit up by his own headlights, was Julie, crossing the road, with a man at her side. He slowed as he passed, panicking now. She was walking towards him, laughing, hand in hand, her eyes fixed on another man’s eyes. He drove on by, unseen. That night he lay beside her in bed, desperate to say something, but saying nothing. He hardly slept, replaying the images in his head. Had he been mistaken? Was it just someone who looked like her? It was raining, the windscreen wipers, he could be wrong. No, he was certain.
Next morning, at breakfast, he asked:
‘How did the night out with the girls go? Where did you get to?’
‘Just a few drinks in the White Hart, but a good catch up,’ came the instant reply.
‘And a taxi home?’ he added.
‘Yes,’ she replied. Then, there was silence.
It was getting dark now in the lounge but he couldn’t be bothered to get out of the chair and switch on the light. He poured another whisky.
Over the last eighteen months their perfect relationship had lost its perfection. He’d known it and he knew Julie did too. Deep down he realised he should have seen this coming. For years now he’d had to work so hard to make the money, to keep the pharmacy going. It was only a small chemist’s and more and more people were getting what they needed from the big stores in the town centre. But then he’d got lucky. A local GP practice manager had rung him three months ago, frustrated at having to deal with huge numbers of repeat prescriptions at her surgery. So, she set up an online prescription service with his pharmacy as the named supplier. Suddenly, the books looked like balancing. But the damage had been done, he and Julie had had too little time for each other for too long. He’d hoped it was just a temporary marital glitch, but after that rainy night he’d started to piece things together, unexplained stuff, stuff that made him question. He talked to friends about Julie and nights out and trips to the cinema. He got back worried looks and a lot of silence.
And then, last Friday, he’d left work an hour early and parked his car away from the house. Julie was getting a taxi to the station at five o’clock. She was going to stay with her sister in Lincoln for the weekend. The taxi arrived on time. He followed it into town. It stopped only a few hundred yards from the station and, as she got out of the taxi, he felt relieved. As the taxi pulled away, Julie crossed the road and got into another car. He felt sick to the stomach.
It was almost as if he were entering a fantasy world. He was no private detective and yet he was actually following his wife in another man’s car. Surprisingly, this seemed so easy. The car headed out of Leeds on the York road and, forty minutes later, he found himself stopping at the entrance to a long drive leading to a discreet country hotel. He waited for five minutes and then drove along the drive into the hotel car park, where he found the car he’d followed. He was upset and had no idea what to do next. He sat there letting the minutes pass. Images of his wife in the hotel bedroom with this unknown man invaded his brain. He got out of his car and threw up. There would be no rage, no confrontation. He got back in the car and went home.
That evening he phoned Julie’s sister. No-one answered. He sat in his armchair, awake all night, constantly talking to himself. His world had fallen apart, his hopes, his dreams, his future. He spent the weekend just thinking about what to do, his head feeling as though it would explode, no matter what pills he took or how many whiskies he drank. Julie walked back into the house on the Sunday evening, telling him all the latest news about her sister, and looking happy. The anger inside him began to formulate a plan.
Monday and Tuesday had passed as if normal. And now it was Wednesday and he refilled his empty glass with the little whisky that remained. With great effort, he got to his feet, went through to the kitchen and tossed the bottle in the bin. He returned to the living room and settled back in his chair. He stared at the clock. It was time. He opened the screw top wine bottle and poured two glasses of red wine. He then dropped a yellow pill into each glass and watched them slowly dissolve.
Fifteen minutes later he heard the front door. He took a deep breath.
The living room door opened and light flooded in.
‘Fallen asleep dear?’ she asked.
Julie smiled nervously, walked over to him, bent down and kissed him on the lips. He saw that her mascara was smudged and that she was shaking. She had been crying and she had been crying a lot. She saw the two glasses on the coffee table.
‘A glass of Merlot, how lovely. To us darling.’
She lifted a glass and put it to her lips.
‘No!’ he exclaimed. ‘No, they’ll be stale by now. I poured them ages ago. Let’s have a bottle of bubbly. We’ve got something to celebrate. I’ve done the books and we’re in profit. Good profit. Things are going to be fine.’
He snatched her glass, picked up his own and walked slowly through to the kitchen.
Julie stood alone in the living room and began to sob.