Denise and the bedroom clock sat in a silent war.
She had come prepared to ignore it and it had come prepared to stare her down.
She had settled into bed with the prepped aura of unbothered. Her head rested comfortably on side-sleeper pillows, her king-size, rainforest duvet was pulled up to her chest, her laptop was seated on her lap ready to pull her from the noise of the ticking clock. That was the weapon in her arsenal. A Netflix series that had the power to time-travel her into any drama she chose. She pressed play on a saved series and allowed it to draw her in. Nothing was going to unsettle her tonight – well… that was what she thought. How could she know that this particular episode would have a relationship drama a little too close to home – and then there it was – the soft ticking of the clock winding her up and pulling her back into reality. Even though, she tried her best to fix her eyes to the moving images on the screen, she found herself – just sometimes – throwing an un-bothered-but-bothered glance at the clock.
It sat smugly like an omen on the opposite wall in front of her. It was placed high, looming, knowing that each tick was a trigger. It had no problem showing her how late home Terence was. Right down to the last minute, to the last second. It was approaching 10pm. That was three hours of space that he wanted away from her, three hours to replay their argument down to its shoddy detail, three hours of curled toes and anxious thoughts. It was driving her crazy, then she heard the front door slam downstairs.
She leaned up against her pillows, hearing the snap of the corridor light, the shuffle of feet in the hallway, and then the inevitable padding of feet up the stairs. Her stomach began to squeeze. What was she going to say? Should she say anything? She didn’t want to be the one to stoke the embers of a two-day old argument. Just thinking about it made her heart pound and her palms start to sweat. When she got like this, her words dropped out of her mouth in half-broken excuses and poorly thought-out defences.
The bedroom door opened, and there was no movement, just the cold air rushing in from the landing. She glanced up, but she didn’t expect to lock eyes with him. Her eyes broke away to the clock and then dropped back to her laptop. Heart thudding, she waited for him to say something about his lateness. There was nothing but his woody cologne which filled the room. She heard him move and then the loud clatter of his keys as they hit the table. Was he mad? She wanted to say something but the words stayed trapped on her tongue.
Her own thoughts started to mock her saying how stupid she was. She had the voice to do a whole empowerment video on insta, but she didn’t have the voice to ask him why he was home three hours late? She clacked at her laptop keys, annoyed with herself. She hoped he would say something, anything. She knew deep down that her silent war wasn’t with the clock, it had just been keeping his spot warm.
Denise glanced up to see Terence walk out of the room, shutting the door behind him. She relaxed back into her pillows. This was just great; she’d missed another opportunity to put this fight to bed. It was like knuckles rubbing on her temples. It was annoying, because after the moment was gone, she always wished she had said something. In the moment, she was just as frozen as she had been with her parents when she was a child. She honestly thought she had moved past this. She wanted to move past it but her reactions were like a revolving door. She was trapped, walking around in the same cycle. As she wiped her sweaty palms on her nightdress, she wished she would’ve told him about her past before telling anyone else but it had been difficult for her to talk about it. Especially with him.
Denise’s phone buzzed, making her jump. It was time for to start planning her next event for her female empowerment group, Flourish. She thought about how her passion for this group had allowed her to peel the cracked layers of her past away. She was able to talk about what had happened in a therapeutic way that empowered other women. The thing was, how did she start to tell Terence? She didn’t want his mind heavy with her past. She couldn’t see how it was going to empower him. Every time she thought about telling him, her anxiety broke out like a rash and all she kept thinking about was how he would look at her differently. What he said meant a lot to her but now his words had dried up into a cool silence.
But why was she feeling bad? It wasn’t like he opened up to her all the time. Did he open up about his ex calling him near the beginning of their relationship? Or the fact she tried to give him a lap-dance at his best friend’s party? Even now, the memories were grating on her nerves. When her temples began to throb, she remembered why she hated arguments. She swung her legs over the bed, she wanted to talk to him, but did she really have time for his blunt energy? It was too late for that. But she didn’t want to go to sleep with this cold-shoulder energy either.
Maybe... maybe she would just go down and talk to him.