This is the twenty-ninth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.
Ronnie had a new phone, one of those bigger ones people had started to get. I still had a tiny phone, from the days when the whole idea of having a mobile phone was to have the smallest one possible. Then it didn’t get in the way, and you could carry it around on you in any pocket, or in a compartment in your bag. He was grinning like a weirdo, and nodding as if he was agreeing with a conversation in his head.
“Olly working late more often recently? Coming home long after you’re in bed, not home for dinner, that kind of thing?” My relationship had nothing to do with my younger brother, and I wasn’t prepared to get into a debate about Olly. I told him to keep his voice down, because of Leah. He sat down, his left knee jerking up and down like a rock drummer playing at a concert. I hadn’t offered him anything, and I had no intention of doing so.
Holding the phone, he pressed some buttons, and handed it over to me. “Just press the right-hand arrow button for the next picture”. So it had a camera on it, I had heard about those. The screen was small, but the image very clear. It was a house on a new estate somewhere. Not at night, but probably early evening, as some of the houses nearby had outside lights on already. The photo was obviously taken through the windscreen of a car. I shrugged, and Ronnie leaned forward, his voice lowered as I had asked.
“See the next one”. It was a taxi, stopped outside the house. Ronnie hurried me up.
“And the next”. A man standing next to the taxi window, handing over money for the fare. Well not ‘a man’. Olly.
“Keep going, it gets better”. He was almost laughing now.
A woman on the path, smiling. The door left open behind her. Not just ‘a woman’, Lauren.
I carried on with no further prompting.
A kiss on the path.
His arm around her as they walked in.
The door closing.
All the while, Ronnie supplied a commentary. “He got there before six, so much for working late, I reckon he left early. He stayed there until after half-ten, when another taxi turned up outside and he came out and got in it. I haven’t got photos of that, it was too dark. But I know you will realise I’m telling the truth, because I can see it in your face”.
I hadn’t said anything. I just felt numb. Ronnie was clearly disappointed that I hadn’t collapsed in floods of tears, or jumped up and started screaming with rage. He no longer looked triumphant. If anything, he seemed deflated.
“She must have contacted him through his company. She asked where he worked when you were upstairs with the baby. After him slagging me off to her, she must have thought he was a better prospect. Maybe she rang him to ask more advice, anything to get an opening to suggest a meet. This wasn’t the first time either. I know, I’ve been watching her. He’s there now, if you must know. I even use a hire car so she doesn’t recognise my one”.
Looking across at my brother, I could see that the split with lauren had changed him. He looked older, unkempt, and like a different person. I had a mental picture of him spending some of his savings on rental cars so he could mount some kind of surveillance operation on Lauren’s house until he discovered what she was up to. Then I could imagine his sheer delight to discover that it was Olly she was seeing. How he would relish his revenge, rehearse this visit to me once his suspicions were confirmed.
Would he be thinking of violence perhaps? Beating Olly up as he exited Lauren’s small house? That seemed unlikely. He was completely thrown by my lack of reaction. “Did you already know, or are you just not bothered? You’re left here trying to cope with Leah, and he’s pretending to work late and having it off with my girlfriend”. I was pleased he had called her Leah for once, and not ‘the baby’. But I felt the need to mention that Lauren was no longer his girlfriend, and hadn’t been since the night they left here after drinks.
Shaking his head in frustration, he got up. “Well now you know at least. He can’t fool you any longer”. Then he left.
I went up and opened the wardrobe, wondering which of Olly’s clothes I should pack first.