He didn’t share her dreams. She was constantly fighting a battle where only she made the effort and he seemed to be along for the ride. It had become too difficult to have the same conversation over and over again and then be consistently disappointed when nothing changed.
‘Is it my fault?’ she asked Belinda, her friend, over coffee one Saturday morning.
‘How can it be your fault?’ she replied, ‘You’re always looking for new challenges and ways to make your life better, there isn’t anything wrong with that: unless, of course, you’re happy without any aspirations in life, like Jasper is.’
‘But I knew that when I married him.’
‘Just like he knew that you wanted more when he married you. If he isn’t willing to put in a bit of work to make you happy, then what’s the point?’
All her friends seemed to have given up on believing in Jasper. Once the golden boy among the group’s other halves, he had been falling from grace ever since he ‘forgot’ to turn up to their fifth anniversary dinner: when she’d booked his favourite band to play just for them. He hadn’t bought her anything to commemorate their marriage.
‘If you ask me,’ said Fiona, another ex-fan of Jasper, ‘he’s just gotten lazy. He knows that you aren’t going to leave him and because of that he’s comfortable in his ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude to life. What you need to do is move out for a week, let him ponder the thought of life without you.’
She sighed. The problem with that is that she was fairly certain that Jasper would enjoy that week without her and would, in fact, relish the time without her nagging. But Fiona was right about his attitude, if something didn’t need doing right away it could wait, it would wait. Jasper only ever dealt with emergencies. She wondered if that had to do with his being a Paramedic; only ever seeing the worst of moments in people’s lives that, more often than not, they survived.
Even her parent’s fondness for the boy, who had years before swept their headstrong daughter off her feet, was waning rapidly.
‘Has he filled out that application form yet, darling?’ asked her mother for the fortieth time.
‘No Mum, he’s been busy’
‘Doing what? Fixing the lock on your front door? Clearing the overflowing drain? Visiting his sick Aunt Helen?’
She shrugged at her father’s comment. She’d run out of excuses for him. She asked after Aunt Helen instead, to change the subject. Her parents had run her to the hospital for her dialysis on Wednesday; they said she was doing well although she kept asking after Jasper whom she hadn’t seen in a month. Despite working in the medical sector it had taken Jasper three months to even take the test to see if he was a match for a kidney donation. Turns out he wasn’t compatible so ‘it didn’t matter anyway’ or so Jasper had said. She suspected his Mother and Uncle, worrying incessantly about their sister and wife respectively, hadn’t shared this sentiment.
She told him the news on his Aunt when he got home from work.
‘That’s good then, that’s she’s doing alright. I’ll go see her next week sometime.’
She nodded, aware that this was unlikely given his shift times for the following seven nights.
‘Did you call the landlord about the leak in the roof?’
‘Crap. No. I forgot. I’ll do it later.’
Another nod. She reached into the fridge to retrieve the vegetables for dinner. The empty space in the door reminded her:
‘Oh, did you pick up some milk?’
‘Nooo.’ moaned Jasper. ‘I’ll go do it now. Back in a min.’
‘Can you pick up some tinned tomatoes and a paper too?’
She listened to his huff, puff and sigh before he agreed and slammed the front door. The lock rattled noisily. She was used to it by now.
She laid the courgette and onion on the chopping board, side by side then reached out to grab the celery too. The mix looked drab and pale so she collected a yellow pepper to add some colour. Is this what her life was now; a reminder to her husband to do all the chores he would otherwise leave undone? She placed the knife on the counter before slicing any of the vegetables and took a step back. Maybe Fiona was right, maybe she did need to get away. Not to prove to Jasper how much he should miss her, but to prove to herself that she wouldn’t have to be that constant word in his ear, coaxing him into action.
She grabbed the keys off the table and her coat from the back of the chair, nearly tripping over Jasper’s work boots that he had left haphazardly in the hall. She would just go and visit her cousin on the coast for a few days; she was always encouraging her to pop by anytime. She would buy underwear and toothbrush on the way, and borrow some clothes from Tilly; they were about the same size.
On her way to the door she automatically put her hand in her coat pocket. Inside was a selection of receipts from her shopping earlier. Back-tracking she went back into the kitchen and started rifling through the cupboard under the sink. Once she had found what she needed, she scribbled a hasty note on the back of the receipt from Superdrug.
‘Here are the new laces you said you needed for your work boots, and the blades for your razors are in the bathroom cabinet. Am going to visit Tilly; emergency on the coast. Don’t forget to call the landlord, and visit your Aunt. See you later. x’
It was only as she was turning out of the avenue and onto the main road – as she caught a glimpse of Jasper emerging from the shop carrying only milk – she realised that she couldn’t even walk out on him without leaving directions for him. Perhaps that was her way of feeling needed. Still, she couldn’t wait forever for her instructions to be carried out; she couldn’t always be the responsible one.