Every night I remember that evening
The way you looked when you said you were leaving
The way you cried as you turned to walk away
"Honey, I'm home," Cal groused, sarcastically; clicking the door shut quietly behind him so as not to wake Emily.
He dropped his keys onto the sideboard and headed straight for the living room and his drinks cabinet. The arguments this morning, and the case that had taken all day and most of the night, called for a very large scotch.
He found his path blocked.
Anger was the first emotion that jumped out at him as the face of his wife glared at him across the room. Sadness and disappointment were there also, when he looked closer. But, as she stood up from her seat on the sofa, her entire expression was replaced with resignation.
He definitely needed a drink if they were going to do this. He stalked past her, mentally acknowledging the fact that she didn't even look remotely surprised.
He snatched the scotch from the cupboard; the bottle clinked against the glass as he sloshed out a very generous serving.
"I didn't want to just leave a note," she said to his back, and the wave of fear that gripped him, said he knew what was coming. And though he had begun to sense that it was inevitable, he still didn't want it.
He downed the drink in one, welcoming the burning in his throat, and poured himself another, before turning to face her.
She was trying to appear strong and in control, but he could see the light of the table lamp reflecting off the moisture in her eyes; he could see the trembling of her lower lip, and the shaking of her hands.
He was too proud to beg though.
"Emily's at my parents' house. I'll call you tomorrow to sort out when she'll stay with you."
He could hear the quiver in her voice as she spoke words she hadn't wanted to have to say. Then she picked up her purse and turned to leave.
And Cal's anger kicked in. "I'm sure you could have said that in a note."
The cruel words and the false accusations
The mean looks and the same old frustrations
I never thought that we'd throw it all away
He saw her swipe at her tears before she turned back.
"I thought you deserved more than that," she stated, tiredly, clearly not up for a fight.
"Oh so you do still care about me?" he growled.
"Of course I - "
"Well you've a bloody strange way of showing it! Slinking out of here in the middle of the night - "
He knew that would get her, and that's what he was going for. If this was going to happen, it was going to happen in anger, not in patronising resignation.
Her eyes flashed. "It wouldn't be the middle of the night if you'd been home at a normal hour - "
"I was busy!"
"Oh I suppose you and Gillian had a -"
It was an argument they had almost daily recently. He could have put her mind at ease, but he liked the passion, the jealousy - the feeling that it always brought out in her. "Don't use that tone when you mention Foster!"
"So you do acknowledge that she's a 'Foster'; that she's married?"
"You don't really believe there's anything going on. You just want to blame me for this."
"I don't know what I believe! You're never here. When you are here you're angry at me all the time -"
"I'm not angry all the time. But maybe you are and you're projecting that onto me -"
"If I'm angry it's because you are. It's a vicious cycle, Cal and we've got to break it."
"And this'll do that, will it? This'll stop us being angry at each other?"
"This will give us good reason to be angry, rather than us having the same old arguments over and over again. We're not happy, Cal. It's pointless to keep pretending we can go on like this."
The anger was gone from the air, and they were back to the resignation. She was right. It had to happen.
"So that's it? You're going. End of discussion?"
"Do you really want to discuss it?"
But we threw it all away
She saw the answer to that before he even spoke. More tears trickled down her cheeks as she smiled, sadly, and turned.
And she left.
And I'm a little bit lost without you
And I'm a bloody big mess inside
And I'm a little bit lost without you
This ain't a love song, this is goodbye
The rest of that bottle of scotch went that night and Cal woke up on the sofa at nine-forty-seven the next morning. His eyes were sore from crying and his mouth felt dry and furry. And through the pounding across his forehead, he managed to remember that he was due to meet with a client at ten.
He dragged himself up off the sofa, padded through the house to the bathroom and splashed water over his face. He deliberately didn't look at himself in the mirror. He didn't want to face what had happened.
He used the toilet and then brushed his teeth, but even the mint of the toothpaste didn't fully remove the taste of stale alcohol. Which reminded him that he needed to buy more scotch.
He made it to the office by ten-seventeen, where Heidi informed him that Foster had taken the meeting. The young receptionist displayed disgust as she looked at Cal, but she tried to hide it behind her concern. She told him that Gillian had said he could join them when he arrived, but - given the way Heidi had reacted to him - he decided it was probably best not to.
He thanked her for the messages and said he had work to do in his office and he was not to be disturbed.
The only person who would ignore that and disturb him anyway found him lying on his sofa with a pillow across his face. He wasn't sure how long he had been there. He had just needed to block out the light.
"Cal, what's -"
He could picture her stopping when she noticed him.
For a moment, the only sound was of her footfalls on the floor and then she sat down next to his legs, as she asked, "Is this self-inflicted or should I be sympathetic?"
He found, when it came to admitting it out loud, he couldn't force his voice past the lump in his throat.
"Cal?" Gillian pressed, and he felt the shift in pressure as her hand took hold of the cushion.
He knew his expression would be an open book to her. There was no way she could even pretend not to read him. He could have raised his hands and stopped her from removing his cover, but he didn't. He needed her to see.
The pillow was moved and, through the blinking as his eyes tried to adjust to the light, Cal met Gillian's gaze, and watched as her heart broke for him.
I've been lost, I've been out, I've been losing
I've been tired, I'm all hurt and confusion
I've been mad, I'm the kind of man I'm not
For the next few weeks, Gillian was the only person who had much to do with Cal.
Zoe's parents offered to take Emily to Disneyland, and to see relatives in Florida, while Cal and Zoe sorted everything out. Given that he and Zoe did nothing but shout at each other, Cal had agreed that it would be best for Emily not to be around.
The staff at the Lightman Group would acknowledge Cal if they saw him but most stayed out of his way. Gillian handled the key cases, bringing Cal video footage of anything he wanted to see. And that worked for Cal. He was hardly in the mood for dealing with people and their lies. He was happy to wallow in his misery for as many minutes of the day as he could.
Some of it was the pain of losing Zoe herself, for all they had clashed the majority of the time, that had worked for them at first. Some of it was pain at losing the family life Cal had always wanted. That wasn't the atmosphere he had experienced as a child, and he had craved it since then. So some of the pain was borne of knowing that, due to his shortcomings, Emily would now grow up in a broken home too. Some of it was guilt. Some of it was anger. A cacophony of emotion that was all consuming if he let it be. And whenever he got home from the office, in a place where absolutely nothing could take his mind off it all, he let it be.
And he drank, and he cried, and he threw whatever was close to hand across the room. And he ended each evening passed out on the sofa, and dragged himself up and staggered into work each morning. Because he needed to go to work for the break - to take his mind elsewhere for a few hours, before bringing it home to wallow again.
It was a routine Cal found he slipped into quite easily. And one he would have been quite content to stay in if common sense hadn't turned up at his house one day.
He heard the door open, and then close, and looked up to find his visitor regarding him with clear determination on her face.
"That key was for emergencies," he told her, harshly.
She didn't flinch. "This qualifies."
He raised an eyebrow and looked around him. "Am I on fire?" he quipped, sardonically.
"You'd probably smell better if you were."
He almost choked on his breath at her words. "Excuse me?"
"Take off that shirt."
"Now, 'old on a minute, love, you're still a married woman -"
"I'll make this easier," Gillian interrupted him, sternly, her tone enough to silence Cal. "I am going to ignore your innuendo and your sarcastic remarks so you might as well not bother. You smell, Cal. You stink! You have worn that shirt every day for the last month. You probably would suit a beard, but you do not suit that unruly scruff on your face… Emily is home tomorrow. Do you want this…" She waved her hand in his direction. "… to be the father that she sees?"
That was enough to sober him up.
"I know you're hurting, Cal, and I know you don't see what your life is going to be like from now on… But it isn't going to be like this. Enough is enough. I told myself I would give you the month if you needed that long. Now I'm intervening."
And though I'm down, I'll be coming back fighting
I may be scared and a little bit frightened
But I'll be back, I'll be coming back to life
Cal had to admit that being in clean clothes, and feeling the air on the skin of his chin again, did feel nice. And when he opened the bedroom door, he detected the delicious aroma of bolognaise sauce drifting from downstairs.
Guilt rushed his system at the thought that Gillian had had to step in. He was a grown man. He should have been more mature.
He stopped in the doorway of the kitchen, and she looked at him from where she was sitting at the kitchen counter reading a recipe book.
A wide smile spread across her lips and he could see the relief in her eyes. "That's better," she commented.
He nodded slowly, unsure of how to adequately voice his gratitude.
He didn't need to.
"Don't mention it," Gillian smiled, beatifically, hopping off her stool to stir the sauce.
"I'm sorry -"
"No," she stopped him, raising her hand, complete with wooden spoon, and giggling when it left a splattering of sauce in its wake. "No, really," she insisted as she reached for a cloth to wipe it up, "Don't mention it…" She stopped cleaning and looked at him again. "… I intend to erase the memory of you, in that shirt, for a month, from my mind!"
Her whole face sparkled with mischief, and if she had been hoping to lift Cal's spirits, it worked.
He laughed and moved into the room. "I'll burn it," he told her. "So you'll never have to see it again."
Her eyes twinkled with amusement as she grinned, "Thank you!"
They shared a laugh, and Gillian pulled Cal into a brief hug. "You'll be all right," she whispered to him, squeezing him tight once, then stepping away. "Are you hungry?" she asked. "I'll put some pasta on if you want to eat now. Otherwise you can keep the sauce for later."
Grateful for the fact that she wasn't dwelling on why she was here, Cal's heart swelled with appreciation for his friend. "I'm starving," he admitted.
"Oh thank goodness!" Gillian exclaimed. "So am I now that I can smell food." She moved to the cupboard and reached for the pasta and then stopped. Turning to face him, sheepishly, she asked, "You don't mind me joining you, do you?"
Cal laughed. "It would be a bit mean of me to say no when you cooked."
She shrugged. "Be mean if you want to."
Cal shook his head. "I'd like you to join me."
Grabbing the pasta, Gillian grinned, "Thank you."
Cal chuckled to himself in amazement that she kept thanking him when it really should have been the other way round. He sensed that she knew what he was laughing at, because she didn't ask.
"Let me do that," he offered, reaching for the pan she was about to fill with water.
She held it close to her body. "I'm cooking. You sit."
He held up his hands in surrender and did as instructed.
He was barely an hour into his new plan, to "deal with it", but knowing that Gillian was there to support him filled him with a confidence he hadn't felt in weeks. And as he watched her tap her foot impatiently as he waited for the water to boil, he smiled. He really would be all right.
I'll be coming back to life.