“Yes, that’s fine. You go and speak to whoever is on the phone.”
“What?!” His face is surprised, incredulous, but mine scowls back at him. I couldn’t feign nonchalance if I tried.
“I said, someone is calling you and you want to go. So go speak to them. I will speak to you later.”
“No, wait… My Dad has just called me, my dinner is ready.” He stares at me for a moment.
“Yes, OK. Speak to you later.”
“No, wait. I will show you.”
“You don’t need to show me anything. It’s fine.”
Regardless, he carries the phone, and me, out of the room.
“Ah, they are talking to my brother. We will go to the kitchen. So, what’s the problem?” He places the phone down and proceeds to pour himself tea. I take the time whilst he’s off screen to compose my face, breathe and try to calm. Inside my heart is pounding and my stomach aches. A deep breath:
“I can go, it’s fine.”
He’s back on screen now, frowning and looking at me intently. “No, it’s not. What’s the problem?”
“Your phone rings twice and you decide to go. You clearly wanted to speak to whoever it was.”
“I’ve told you, my Dad called me about my dinner. Look you can see, I’m having my dinner.” He shows me his tea and bread and looks at me again. “I want to speak to my brother too but I am in here, with you, to show you.” He sips his tea quickly and then looks at me again. “And I told you yesterday about this person who is calling me. I don’t know who they are. When I answer the phone there is nothing. I will block them.”
The phone moves slightly as he begins to type or whatever else he is doing. My mind races, doubt and fear and self loathing fighting in my brain.
“So you’re saying it is just a coincidence? The phone rings and you want to get your dinner?”
He answers with frustration this time, his patience waning a little.
“I will show you.” He picks up the phone and starts to walk out of the kitchen.
“No , it’s fine. It was just a coincidence.” There is a weakness to my voice now, a hint of shame. He ignores me and we walk into the living room. He shows me the tea on the table and I can hear his parents talking in the background. He props the phone up again.
I watch him eat, drink and talk but his eyes are never far from me: checking I am still there. He pauses and looks at me.
“There is no one else in my life. You are the only girl in my life. OK?”
I nod slowly. The adrenalin is abating now and pain and shame rush into take its place. He carries on eating and talking and I carry on watching.
I study every curve and angle of his face that I have kissed and stroked. I watch his deep brown eyes as he smiles at one of his parents and then his hands as he gestures as he talks passionately. I have no idea what they are talking about. I hope it’s not me.
“I will go now. I will let you eat and talk to your parents.” My voice has softened but even I can hear my feeble attempt at hiding the emotion.
“No, I have finished now.” He stands up and walks out of the room. I realise at that moment how little he has eaten – his usual refills of tea lacking. Later, I assume that this is due to me and my jealous outburst.
He takes me back into his room and he lies down.
There is an awkward silence.
My mind races through the day. His frequent phonecalls and check-ins: “Are you OK, is everything OK?” Our laughter and smiles. I don’t know what to say anymore. I’m sinking. I study his face as he studies mine.
I’m overwhelmed. Does he not realise? I do. I’m very aware.
The words dance on my tongue. To say them would explain all but then show yet another weakness…
I start to speak, my mind consumed with truth but I stop myself. I should know better: he will never stand for that.
“Go on. Tell me.”
There’s no point trying to lie or cover up. He knows me too well. I sigh, my mind searching through the words I need to say, alarms ringing inside.
“It’s just that…I know I’m not beautiful, and thin and smart and… my age and everything. I just wanted to let you know, I’m aware of how lucky I am to have you.” The alarms in my head are screaming now. Even I know how bad and weak that sounds. But part of me hopes he understands enough to soothe.
Instead I see anger.
” Who said that? Who said you were not beautiful and smart and everything else you said? “
“Well, me. I know I’m not.” I look at my own face in the camera, screwed up in ironic disgust. “But I just want to let you know that I know I am lucky.” Even to my own ears it sounds pathetic. And it’s not working.
“You think you’re not beautiful?” He’s incredulous. And not happy.
“Yes. I know I’m not. I know you could find someone better than me. And I know I’m lucky I have you.” My attempt at sincerity is just coming off as pathetic and I know it. But there’s no way out of this now. He’s scowling and there is something else on his face, something I can’t quite read.
“OK, so you want this to end. Tomorrow I will find someone else. Someone better for me than you.”
If there was some small part of me that hoped for a different response, it died in that moment.
My voice is small: “Is that what you want?”
“No, I don’t want that. That’s what you want. For me to find someone better than you. That’s what you said? You want this to end?” His voice is scarily calm. He’s now lying on his side, his head resting on his hand and I can see a close up of his face and the unreadable emotions in his eyes. Unreadable except for the anger.
I shake my head, eyes wide. I realise how like a scared child I look. Not attractive at all.
” No, that’s not what I said.” My voice is weak now. “I don’t want you to find someone else.”
“But you said that you’re not beautiful or smart and I could find someone better. So you want to finish this.”
Again my head shakes and my eyes begin to well.
“No, that’s not what I want. I love you.”
There is silence again. I search his face, fear ripping through me. I don’t know what to say or do but I know that this moment is reaffirming my self-hatred. If you lose him tonight, it will be your own doing.
“I love you.” I repeat the words but he does not reply. Picking up the phone, he rolls on to his back. I can still see his face and his expression. This one I can read. He’s shutting down.
“Right, I will go now. We will talk tomorrow.”
I try to take comfort in ‘tomorrow’ but I hate ending the call like this. Experience has shown that I have no choice though. His talking and thoughts and emotions are now locked behind that steely face.