Ours wasn’t a big bedroom, but it was larger than the one I’m in now.
I remember, when she hurried me through the door, I caught again the once familiar view from the window. The lighthouse along the coast in Southwold stood out clearly today – I spotted it against the clouds before Ellie even opened her mouth.
‘I don’t know why you’re here,’ she said, ‘but that’s nothing new. You’ve always been a bloody mystery to me.’ She crossed to the marble-topped bedside table and stubbed out her cigarette before she continued. ‘Say your piece and go, Billy. The kids are downstairs, and they’ve got big ears. I don’t want them upset again.’
Her high-handed attitude, that assumption of control; when had that first crept into our relationship? Surely we used to discuss things, be a little more considerate with each other? It killed my hopes, that dismissive tone. I’d wound myself up for this, determined to try one last time, but she wasn’t going to listen. Even if I tried to say the words I’d rehearsed. Not in that mood.
I wasn’t going to hit her. I’d never done that, not even when she threw out my things. That wasn’t what I’d come back for. I just wanted to warn her off Graham, in case the rumours I’d heard were true, and she really had moved on from my best friend to my long-lost brother. Maybe she’d be grateful, eventually – that’s what I’d thought.
‘Look, Ellie, I don’t want to fight.’ Her eyes followed me, but her look was of scorn, not interest, ‘About Graham—’
‘Yeah? The question is: why the hell didn’t I meet him before I met you, eh? I got the control-freak, the petty-minded loser, didn’t I?’
That hurt. Graham’s the shyster in the family; the cheat, the jailbird. The bully.
‘You don’t know him like I do, Ellie. He’s not—’
‘Just shut up, Billy! You’re not going to ruin the rest of my life, too!’ She’d taken a step towards me, her finger raised in angry command. I tried to grasp her hand, to calm her down, but she slapped at me, ‘Graham’s not the black sheep, Billy, you are!’
It turns out that I am. Because I did hit her, then, and she staggered back, trod and stumbled on a stray shoe. Crashed down onto the bedside table. The sound of skull on marble was sharp and loud. Sickening.
In this small bedroom I have no view at all. The window is high, and barred.