Angels - Extract


Chapter One

I'd always lived a fairly blameless life. Up until the day I left my husband and then ran away to Hollywood, I'd hardly ever put a foot wrong.Not one that many people knew about,anyway.So when,out of the blue,everything just disintegrated like wet paper,I couldn't shake a wormy suspicion that this was long overdue. All that clean living simply isn't natural.

Of course,I didn't just wake up one morning and skip the country, leaving my poor sleepy fool of a husband wondering what that envelope on his pillow was. I'm making it sound much more dramatic than it actually was,which is strange because I never used to have a penchant for dramatics.Or a penchant for words like"penchant,"for that matter.

But ever since the business with the rabbits,and possibly even before that,things with Garv had been uncomfortable and weird.Then we'd suffered a couple of what we'd chosen to call"setbacks."But instead of making our marriage stronger--as always seemed to happen to the other luckier setback souls who popped up in my mother's women's magazines--our particular brand of setbacks performed exactly as advertised.They set us back.They wedged themselves between myself and Garv and alienated us from each other.Though he never said anything,I knew Garv blamed me.

And that was okay,because I blamed me too.

His name is actually Paul Garvan,but when I first got to know him we were both teenagers and nobody called anybody by their proper names."Micko"and"Macker"and"Toolser"and"You big shithead"were some of the things our peers were known as.He was Garv,it's all I've ever known him as,and I only call him Paul when I'm extremely pissed off at him. Likewise, my name is Margaret but he calls me Maggie except when I borrow his car and scrape the side against the pillar in the multi-storey parking garage. (Something that occurs more regularly than you might think.)

I was twenty-four and he was twenty-five when we got married. He'd been my first boyfriend,as my poor mother never tires of telling people.She reckons it demonstrates what a nice girl I was,who never did any of that nasty sleeping-around business.(The only one of her five daughters who didn't, who could blame her for parading my suspected virtue?) But what she conveniently omits to mention when she's making her proud boast is that Garv might have been my first boyfriend but he wasn't my only one.

However.

We'd been married for nine years and it would be hard to say exactly when I'd started to fantasize about it ending. Not, let me tell you, because I wanted it to be over. But because I thought that if I imagined the worst possible scenario, it would somehow be insurance against its actually happening. However, instead of insuring against it, it conjured the whole bloody thing into existence. Which just goes to show.

The end came with surprising suddenness. One minute my marriage was a going concern -- even if I was doing strange stuff, like drinking my contact lenses -- the next minute it was entirely finito. Which caught me badly off guard, as I'd always thought there was a regulation period of crockery-throwing and name-calling before the white flag could be waved.But everything caved in without a single cross word being exchanged,and I simply wasn't prepared for it.

God knows, I should have been. A few nights previously, I'd woken in the darkness for a good worry.Something I often did,usually fretting about work and money.You know,the usual.Having too much of one and not enough of the other.But recently--probably longer than recently,actually--I'd been worrying about me and Garv instead. Would things ever get better? Were they better already and I just wasn't seeing it?

Most nights I didn't come to any conclusions and lapsed back into an unreassured sleep. But this time I was afflicted with sudden, unwelcome X-ray vision. I could see straight through the padding of the daily routine, the private language and the shared past, right into the heart of me and Gary, into all that had happened over the last while. Everything was stripped away and I had a horrible, too-clear thought: We're in big trouble here.

It literally made me cold.All the little hairs on my skin lifted and a chill settled somewhere between my ribs.Terrified,I tried to cheer myself up by having a little fret about the amount of work I'd have to do the following day, but no dice. So then I reminded myself that my parents were getting older and that I'd be the one who'd have to take care of them, and tried to scare myself with that instead.

After a while I went back to sleep, scratched my right arm raw, ground my teeth with gusto, awoke to the familiar sensation of a mouth coated with bits of grit, and carried on as usual.

I was to remember that We're in big trouble here when it transpired that we actually were.

On the evening in question,we were supposed to be going out for dinner with Elaine and Liam,friends of Garvs.And who knows,if Liam's new flat-screen television hadn't fallen off the wall and onto his foot,breaking his big toe in the process,so that I'd gone out instead of going home, maybe Garv and I would never have split up?

The irony is, I was praying that Elaine and Liam would cancel. The chances were good -- the last three times we were supposed to meet, it hadn't happened.The first time...