Authors: Sarah Catherine Knights
Tags: #relationships, #retirement, #divorce, #love story, #chick lit, #women
Love is a State of Mind
Sarah Catherine Knights
Copyright and Publishing information
Published by Sarah Catherine Knights
Copyright © Sarah Catherine Knights 2015
The right of Sarah Catherine Knights to be identified as the author of
this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by
any electronic or mechanical means including information
storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing
from the author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organisations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously
About the Author
Sarah Catherine Knights and her husband have lived in Malmes-bury, Wiltshire since 1985. Her husband was in the RAF, so the family had moved every few years: to northern Scotland, down to Lincolnshire and eventually to Wiltshire. They bought a house in Malmesbury to try to put down roots and to be near the base at RAF Lyneham, but then were posted to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus in 1991. It was here that the seed of an idea for a novel was planted.
Returning to Wiltshire after the three year posting, Sarah taught English as a foreign language and started a photography business. She dabbled in writing, but it was only after doing an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, that she realised that she had a passion for both photography and writing.
The story that had lain dormant since the Cyprus posting came pouring out and has resulted in her debut novel,
Following on from the success of Aphrodite’s Child, Sarah decided to write the sequel,
Now Is All There Is.
This book is dedicated to my family
… and to my wonderful friend, Juno
I have a desire to dive into the water and never come up again, but instead, I lower myself quietly into the medium lane and stand there, at the shallow end, surveying the scene.
I catch the eye of the young boy on the top of the lifesaver’s chair; he looks away, embarrassed, and I realise he’s probably thinking exactly what I’m thinking. I look ridiculous. Why do I tog myself up like an Olympic athlete, with my cap and goggles and Speedo costume, when I’m blatantly not?
Although I haven't been here for ages, I can see the normal crowd are in: the three, who are always in the fast lane doing flashy tumble turns and timing themselves, are showing off, as usual. In my lane, there is the annoying guy who thinks he’s a good swimmer and will insist on overtaking but who won’t go in the fast lane; the older woman who was obviously a really good swimmer in her time, but who is now past her sell-by date (which is rich, coming from me) and a youngish guy, who has the most extraordinary style. He looks as if he might die at any minute, as he flails his arms around, making huge splashes. When he comes towards me, I can’t help thinking he looks comical: mouth wide open and a look of surprise on his face, as if he can’t believe he’s survived yet another stroke. In the slow lane, there is the little group of ladies who spend most of their time chatting in the shallow end and then struggle up to the other end, to continue their discussion, hanging onto the rails and getting in everybody’s way.
And yet it does, doesn’t it? Things change a lot.
Like when your husband of twenty-nine years, leaves you for someone else.
I push off, leaving a good gap between me and the person in front. The water feels warm and comforting, holding me in its embrace. I swim breaststroke, not putting my face in at first, just allowing my body to get used to the motion and letting the water sooth my limbs and clear my head. The end of the pool seems too far away.
Wishing I could do a tumble turn, I touch the end and change stroke; this time it’s crawl. Face down, I breathe in rhythmically, under my left arm. In, out, in, out … well, that’s the theory. Half-way down the lane, I’m kicked hard on the ankle, which completely disrupts my style and I end up having to stop, spluttering, while someone piles into the back of me. “Sorry!” I mouth, as he angrily ploughs past me, kicking his legs with ferocity.
I continue to the end and stand there, lifting my goggles to let out the inevitable water and shaking my head, to clear my ears. Two lengths done and I already feel exhausted and water-logged.
Why am I doing this? To get fit, lose weight, feel younger and drown my sorrows, I tell myself.
I begin to get into my rhythm, without further interruptions. There’s something about the action of swimming that allows me to forget everything and just focus on breathing. My thoughts float off into the artificial blueness and I become simply a physical being, without the mind-shattering inner life that haunts me on dry land.
I constantly have to count my lengths – is that the tenth or the twelfth? Eventually, convinced I’ve done twenty, I stand at the shallow end, probably getting in other people’s way, but I don’t care. I want to savour the moment.
This is the start of the new me, post David.
I’m pretty sure I’ve actually lost weight already as I walk towards the shower area, resting my hand gently on my stomach. I hold my tummy in and catch a brief look of my outline, reflected in some glass. I see an ‘mature’ woman with a swimming cap on, goggles and a fat stomach staring back at me – and instinctively turn round to see who it is. There’s no one else there.
Kids stare back at me through the glass, while they queue for the vending machines, causing mayhem in the reception area. I hurry away, glad to be in the shelter of the changing area, hidden from young, prying eyes.
Having got dressed, I go to the hairdryers which are placed by a large mirror – my face is blotchy and there are deep red lines around my eyes. My skin looks like one of those 'before' adverts, only there isn't an 'after' in my case and in the fluorescent lighting, my eyes look hollow. I stand under a fixed machine that’s more like a hand dryer and blow my hair about, to get it dry. The end result is, quite frankly, a mess, but I don’t care.
I’m invisible at my age, aren't I?
I drive the few minutes it takes to get to my house, park the car and open the front door.
The silence and absence of another human being, hits me in the guts, as it does every time; I close the door behind me and stand in the small area I think of as ‘the hall’. I hang my jacket up on the hooks that used to house his coat and the kids’ anoraks and beneath which was a selection of wellies and old trainers. Now, I notice once again, as I do every time I come into the house, there are just my things: my jacket, my dog-walking coat and a pair of old, green wellies.
This is what my life has come to.
“Gaz, I’m home,” I shout to the emptiness. My only companion, my labrador, asleep in the kitchen. I can hear his tail thumping against the side of his plastic bed, as I walk down the corridor. At least he’s pleased to see me, I think, although he can’t even be bothered to get out of bed.
“How are you, Gorgeous?” I say, going over to him, bending down and giving him a kiss on his dear, black head. “Busy day?”
He looks up at me, smiling. “It must be knackering, lying there all day,” I say and he gets up slowly, to follow me over to the kettle. He’s such a presence in the house and I’m grateful for him. Just imagine if I came home to nothing … no one? I shudder to think of it.
I make my instant coffee and sit down with Gaz by my side. We have an old sofa in the kitchen – rather a nice idea we thought at the time – David used to sit and read the paper and chat, while I cooked the supper. Now, just Gaz and I appreciate its cosiness – we snuggle up together in the evening and watch the small portable telly on the dresser: him, gently farting by my side and me, trying to get absorbed in other people’s miseries on ‘Eastenders'. There’s always so much angst on that programme – it makes you feel your life is a bed of roses compared to the goings-on in Albert Square. Maybe the script writers are doing the public a service, by making us feel that our lives aren’t so bad, after all.
We’ve lived in this house for nineteen years, David and I; it’s full of ‘us’ still, except the other member of ‘us’ has left the building, a bit like Elvis, except that my husband isn't dead. He’s taken some clothes, some books, his toothbrush of course, and some of his tools from the shed, and gone ... but most of what we bought together, is here. He’s been gone a month now and despite what he’s done, I miss him with every ounce of my being.
I can see the years of our marriage spread out before me, wherever I go in the house: the dresser in the kitchen we saved up for; the dining table and six chairs, we bought ten years ago from a neighbour who was getting rid of them. The three-piece suite in the sitting room we said Gaz would never be allowed to sit on (and within three days, he’d reminded us that dogs have rights too and he’d commandeered the armchair). We were thinking of re-covering it, just weeks before David told me his news. When I showed some material to him, was he secretly thinking, well, that’ll never happen … I’ll be well gone by then?
There was no indication that he had other plans.
There are still photos of ‘us’ everywhere – I can’t bring myself to take them down. ‘Us’ alone at the beginning of our marriage, looking lovingly at each other in some forgotten restaurant; a faded wedding photo (I remember Holly saying when she was tiny, Why aren’t I there?
How we laughed.) A group shot of all the family, as it was before the children: his parents, my parents (now all dead) his sister, Clare, and my sister, Jane. God, we look so young. Like children. Why were we all together? Was it Mum’s seventieth birthday, celebrated in a hotel, in Surrey? Yes, that’s it. David’s got his arm around me and he’s laughing, as if he hasn’t got a care in the world.
And then the children – photos of them all over the kitchen walls, growing up before my eyes. Babies to toddlers, kids with toothless grins, to sulky teenagers; graduation photos of Holly … and Adam in his beloved wetsuit.
It’s as if they are designed to sit there and taunt me, with all the life that’s now gone.
One picture, in particular, catches my attention: David, now affectionately called ‘The Bastard’ in my mind, running towards the camera on a beach down in Cornwall, the children each holding one of his hands. He looks young, handsome (he was – not quite George Clooney, more Ewan McGregor; wholesome, sandy-haired, golden tanned – without the Scottish accent).
I remember that holiday so well; we were staying in a small cottage, right by the sea. The children built endless sand castles, and we lolled on towels, on the sand beside them. The weather was hot and once the children had gone to bed, we sat and watched the sunset, drinking chilled white wine … and made love all night. Those are my rose-coloured memories of it; maybe it wasn't so wonderful at all, but the truth is, that’s how I think of those days. We were happy ... we had two beautiful children, we adored each other and we had our future in front of us.
I realise I’ve been staring at the picture, for at least three minutes. My mind wanders these days. The picture has been in this position for so long, it’s almost part of the wall now. I get up to lift it up and yes, the wall paper is a different colour underneath and when I look closely, there are little black bugs under the surface of the glass, stuck like specks of black rain.
I feel a longing for the children, now so grown-up. I reach for my mobile to check that I haven’t missed a text ... but no, nothing.
I read their last messages.
Just arrived Sydney. Shit, its a long way. Will email tomorrow.
I haven't heard another thing from him – oh well, no news is good news, with Adam.
Hope you’re ok? Spoke to Dad last night. I might come home Sunday, will text. Love you, Holly xxx