Freedom

Accused of crimes he had not committed, found guilty all the same and sent to prison where he had spent six horrible but instructive years: now he was officially innocent after all and was arriving home on the 5.45, as if coming home at the end of a working day.

She reviewed the house. Knowing they would make him angry, she had thrown out all the papers accumulated during his time away; all the letters to and from lawyers, newspaper cuttings, and, particularly difficult, her tentative correspondence with victims and their families. She wondered if all their pain would start all over again, hoping it wouldn’t, but pretty sure it would. There was a new – and hopefully this time real – accused for them to focus on, but they must feel as if the whole mountain was there for climbing once more. Poor things.

She had cleaned the house from top to bottom and invested in new pillows for him, having thrown his old and sweat-smelly ones out when he was convicted and for the past six years she had really enjoyed having a double bed all to herself. She had stocked the cupboards, fridge and freezer up with a few of his favourite foods, but not a lot as he was always firm about excessive spending. She had removed from the bookcase the chick lit that he despised and which had been her pleasurable vice while he had been away. Ditto comfort movie DVDs: all gone to a new destination.

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A new life

She lay still under the cold sheets, listening to the sounds of the early dawn, trying to recapture the remnants of the dream which she could not recall but which had left her feeling vaguely happy. She was wistful for a sense of contentment that now eluded her. She tried to curl back into a foetal ball drawing the covers round her, Barry seemed to have wrapped himself into the blankets more than ever this morning, holding on even more tightly than usual, to his share of the communal warmth.

She turned her back on him and closed her eyes, seeing in her head the pictures of the previous evening. Barry, his dark grey suit, stretched and shiny across the mound of his stomach with that horrible pink shirt, which he insisted made him trendy. He was fawning on the Chief Exec. as though it still mattered what he thought, as though Mr Bradshaw could still advance his career or still grant him the key to the Senior Management restroom, which he had always coveted.

She saw too the limp and boring buffet: over spiced and greasy chicken wings, egg and tuna sandwiches, soggy mushroom vol-au-vents and cold sausage rolls. Bitter black and green olives (‘sophisticated,’ claimed Barry) and over-sweet coleslaw and potato salad which nobody could eat; standing up, with thin paper plates and plastic forks.

She saw too the fixed smiles on his colleagues’ faces, as they made insincere comments about how much Barry would be missed. What a valued team member he had been! How hard it would be to run the department without him! How lucky he was to have been given such a generous redundancy package and an enhanced pension! Nobody mentioned how glad they were to see the back of this parsimonious little man, nit picking every decision, criticising his colleagues at every opportunity, constantly moaning, never part of the team and always right. Taking credit for everything that went well and no responsibility for errors or mistakes. She smiled to herself, knowing that he had no idea how he was seen by the rest of his team. ‘They will find it so hard to replace me.’

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Free love

Free love

I was in love for the first time. It felt liberating. I chased seagulls down beaches with wildly flapping arms and repeatedly sang his name out to sea. His smiling eyes encouraged me to behave like a loony.

He loved me too and told me so a thousand times after we met. A chance meeting at a mutual friend’s house warming do.

‘You don't have to keep saying it. I know, I know......in here’. I covered my heart with my hands. Our bodies lay bound together across mattresses, sand or grass. Sometimes naked, often part clad. Always ravenous for each other. When heavy breathing subsided we were lost in the oneness of intimacy. Incredible while at the same time utterly believable. Laughter at the heap we had made with our abandoned passion.

We were free. Free to express ourselves, free to learn from one another, free just to be. Uncontrollable urges to run naked into foamy waves lapping up to our chests. Errant seabirds swooping low over our love nest with us shivering inside it. Teeth chattering and us hysterical. He lit me up when he laughed at my antics. Held me tight while I took extra long drags on his cigarette to keep warm. A year of unadulterated pleasure. We were kids let out to play, no hiding behind facades. Innocently passing the time.

‘Leave her. You belong to me’. Spontaneous words spoken in excitement. I would feel no shame or guilt if he did. I would never smother him as she had. We held hands tighter, made love more often, spoke less after they separated.

‘Now you're free to marry me’. I reminded him after another year passed. He smiled nervously and chain smoked. I blinked tears away pretending not to notice.

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