This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 725 words.
After our talk, there was a long period where things worked a lot better. Becky’s blog was less like a fairytale, we arranged our time together to do more, instead of her preferred activity of ‘chilling out’. The parents were put on a rotation, and we stuck to the arrangements fairly. Although she never brought it up, I knew my mum had expected us to change our minds about having children, and she was disappointed when we didn’t. Becky’s dad often asked why I hadn’t sought promotion at the bank, and my answer that the biggest jobs were usually the first to get the chop didn’t seem to satisfy him.
I now had what we called a ‘Luke Night’ during one of the shifts when Becky worked nights. I would go to his place after work, take a change of clothes for the stopover, and we would have beers and a takeaway while I watched him play on one of his latest video games. Becky had thought it would be good for me, but it just made me realise all the more that Luke and I were growing apart. In turn, she would have an ‘Old Place Night’ when she was off during a weekday. She would stay the night with Fliss and Jackie, and their new flatmate Antonia, who was a medical secretary. Apparently, they all got their pyjamas on early, and binge-watched reality TV. The one positive about that was that it made her realise just what a mess the old flat was in, and encouraged her to help keep our house really tidy.
It was hard to shake the feeling that we were getting boring though. Our life together was safe, and well-organised. But to say it lacked excitement was an understatement.
Early that summer, I bought a small kettle barbecue, and suggested we make some more use of the garden. Becky came home from a shop with lights on a string, and we fixed them around the fencing. After some fiddling, I got them working, and we sat outside eating burgers, and drinking wine. I had thought of inviting the immediate neighbours, but the lady didn’t speak English, and her husband, who had only told me his name was Ali, was a taxi driver, and always at work. As for the rest along the street, we hardly knew them. That’s London for you. I also suggested that we invite Jackie and Fliss, even Luke. But as usual, shifts ruined any plans, and they couldn’t all make it on the same day.
When it had cooled down, I put the vinyl cover over the barbecue, and we never used it again.
Our holiday had also been discussed in advance for a change. We rented a place in Brittany, and drove over in our car, taking the ferry from Portsmouth. The car managed the journey well, and it was a really good holiday. The small apartment was part of a large house, and close to Quimper. We got out and about every day, and had exceptionally good weather. Away from both of our jobs, free of the bank targets and her shifts, we got on really well. On the way to the port to go home, chatting happily about how good it had been, Becky said something that hit a nerve.
“Yeah, I agree, it was really nice, Frankie. But it wouldn’t hurt to be more spontaneous at times you know. You do get stuck in your plans and routines, and I can’t remember the last time we just did something without making a big case about it”. I was concentrating on driving on the wrong side of the road, so let it go. But it didn’t escape my notice that it was her shifts that were the cause of all that planning, and the lack of me doing anything spontaneous. As well as the days and nights on her rota, there were the others that cropped up, alongside training courses and management meetings on her days off. I was reluctant to even book cinema tickets, without being completely sure she would be off duty.
After driving onto the ship, we made our way upstairs for some lunch. Sitting smiling at each other over deliciously fresh baguettes, I made up my mind.
If she wanted spontaneous, then that’s what I would be.