Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (7)

It was around four o’clock when Kate turned the key in their apartment door, surprised to be confronted by her husband’s jacket, which was slung untidily over the back of a dining chair. “Adam?” she called out, with a feeling of mild concern. “Darling?” While Sophie busied herself unpacking the contents of her schoolbag, Kate moved through the small living room into the dimly-lit corridor that led to their modest apartment’s three bedrooms. Quietly entering the master bedroom, she was further alarmed to discover her husband’s clothes strewn untidily across the floor. The large hump his body formed beneath the soft white duvet added to her disquiet. “Adam, what’s wrong?” she enquired, a little tersely – her suspicions now mounting. “Not well… food poisoning, I think… puked up on the ferry… didn’t get to the washroom in time… awful fucking mess…” her husband slurred his reply, still unable to open his eyes. “Is Daddy all right?” Sophie quietly asked. The young girl had crept up behind her mother, unnoticed. “Yes, sweetheart. Don’t worry. He’ll be fine.”

As Kate then leant over Blake, the stench that invaded her senses was overwhelmingly that of stale alcohol, complemented by a sickly sweet trace of vomit. His face looked puffy; a blackish film coated his lips. As he lay half asleep, breathing heavily through his mouth, she could see that Blake’s osmotic teeth were stained purple, a sure sign that he had once again been knocking back the red wine – and in no small quantity, judging by the state he was in. He had also managed to dribble the contents of his mouth on to the crisp white pillowcase Kate had changed only that morning. Angered by this, as well as her husband’s latest display of disintegration, she suddenly snapped: “Adam! You’ve bloody well got to stop doing this! Pull yourself together! It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, for God’s sake! You’re supposed to be in the office – and look at you!” The tears now welling in poor Sophie’s eyes were the only thing that saved Blake from a further roasting as Kate then slammed the bedroom door on her husband, returning to the corridor. Squatting so as to assume the same height as her daughter, she then began to reassure the sensitive seven-year-old. “It’s OK, sweetie. Mummy got a bit cross, that’s all. Nothing serious. Everything’s going to be fine – you’ll see.”

It was just then that the telephone rang, startling her with its loud resonance along the length of the corridor. Recovering her composure, Kate now stood and moved away from her teary daughter, towards the light of the living room at its far end. As was habitual, she searched the receiver’s display for the caller’s number before picking it up. There had been an increasing number of nuisance calls lately. But this one she recognised immediately. Her husband’s office. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Mrs. Blake… er… but I’ve been trying to reach Mr. Blake on his cell-phone… but… er… there seems to be no answer,” said the woman she knew to be his secretary. “I wouldn’t normally trouble you at home, but it’s just that… er… well, Loren Deeds has called a number of times. He wants to speak urgently to Mr. Blake,” she continued. Kate reflected momentarily on the way the secretary had handled the situation. A former PA herself, she appreciated the woman’s professionalism. Rare in this town, she thought inwardly, before confirming: “I’ll get Adam to call him. Don’t worry. Thanks for the call.”

Furious, Kate stormed back into the bedroom, almost ramming the portable phone’s receiver into her husband’s semi-conscious face as she shook his limp body with her other, stronger hand. Kate was no wimp: the force within her belying her shapely, feminine frame. Jerked roughly awake, Blake snorted with a start before stretching, sloth-like and bleary-eyed. “Wake up! Hey! Get up, will you! You’ve got to call your boss! Deeds! Come on!” she continued to try and rouse him. For fuck’s sake, she thought to herself, once more exiting the bedroom. What on earth am I going to do with him?

But for now Kate knew that she must calm herself, aware of her daughter’s distress whenever disharmony came to visit their home. Sitting on the sofa, she popped her child up on to a knee and began stroking her hair, while humming a tuneless lullaby. Her thoughts began to drift off, to her days at work in England; then to her husband’s office and, finally, Deeds. Whilst Kate had never truly liked her husband’s American boss she had always been gracious in his company, almost flirting with him on occasion. Her shrewd appreciation of his importance to her husband’s career – and her lifestyle – had led her to cultivate what might have been construed a secret semaphore between her and the young, unmarried regional executive. She had often thrown him teasing glances that appeared to convey coded messages, as if saying: Yes, I know what you’re looking at, and I might even let you have it, at the right time and place.

What had worried her of late was that her husband seemed hell-bent on locking horns with Deeds, rather than reasoning with him. Kate could not understand why he would wish to bring about a conflict that might threaten everything they had built since upping sticks and leaving their homeland. Irritated once more, she broke away from her thoughts and returned her attention to Sophie. “Do you have any homework, sweetie?” she asked, gesturing to the exercise books the young girl had fished from her schoolbag. “Oh – what’s this?” she then quickly added, reaching down to pick up a stray piece of paper from the floor. “Maybe it fell out my bag, Mummy,” replied the girl, now recovered from her earlier trauma, as her mother opened the folded sheet.

Kate glanced at what appeared to be yet more paperwork relating to Sophie’s forthcoming school trip – to Guilin, in China’s southern province of Guangxi. It seemed there had been a barrage of the stuff lately, each bulletin reminding her of her general disquiet about the whole idea. The thought of her daughter travelling to China filled Kate with a mild dread, but since the entire class would be making the trip she knew that she and Blake would have to relent. “What is it, Mummy?” Sophie then asked. “Oh, it’s just another form Mummy has to sign. For your trip. A form of consent.” “What does consent mean?” “It means that Mummy and Daddy are allowing you to go on the trip. That we understand there might be risks involved, and that if anything… er… happens, we wouldn’t be able to hold the school responsible.” Kate was careful not to worry her daughter unnecessarily. But the inquisitive child was not satisfied with her explanation. “If what happens?” she asked. “Nothing’s going to happen, sweetie. It’s all just a precaution,” Kate replied, giving her daughter an affectionate pinch on the cheek. “Paperwork, that’s all. Bureaucracy.” “What’s boorocasee?”

posted by Kirk at 11:45 pm  

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