Unexpectedly, I slept. Five hours of sound sleep. Waking to the lad thumping and clumping up and downstairs for his work clothes. Then breenging into my en suite, battering the door as he staggered, in the very early morning darkness. I lay, getting bearings, trying to remember what it was I had to do today.
Ah. Yes. Return to work.
I measured my extra bed time in ablution progress. That was the lad blowing his nose in the shower (filthy dirty habit which I scream at him for when I find bits of snot on the tiles – yes, he can and does blow that far and into the air – or his hand – I am divided about which is worse). That was the lad lathering his hair and dropping the shampoo bottle. That was the lad getting soap in his eyes. That was him reaching for the towel which is not where it should be…
Finished, he emerges in a fog of Eau de Young Stag, to moan about the towel not being where it should be and the shampoo not being the anti-dandruff stuff he likes. I say Did you get snot on those tiles again you little bugger? Cos if you did… I am too befuddled by the Eau de thingy to develop the threat into anything but thin air. He laughs. You don’t even clean the shower! Now, this last is true. I don’t. But that is not the point. I use the shower. I said But I use the shower you dirty boy! And your Mamie cleans it! And then she moans at me because shes convinced the snot is my snot! This last was a mistake. He laughs even harder and then says Well thats ok then. She thinks its yours so why should I stop!
This is the type of logic I find hard to argue with. Especially when the oxygen in my dark bedroom is being gradually displaced by his eau de pong-thing.
He goes to the kitchen where I can hear him raiding the fridge for enough supplies to feed his entire working shift. I shout at him to leave enough for the wee ones packed lunches. He grunts cos he is already stuffing his face.
I turn into the bed. The soft flannel warmth of the pillow against my face telling me to sleep some more. But I need to rouse and get washed and get out.
The new blue dress I bought for my first day back is discarded in favour of my customary comfortable invisible black. I take care with make-up. Pale face. Red lips. Black eye-liner in little corner flicks.
I am ready and out before the others are up. My Dad waves me away from the door. I am certain I can see relief on his face – now I can get my routine back he seems to be thinking.
I measure the journey in cigarettes. I’ve cut down whilst I’ve been off and only smoke 2 to my previous 4. I enjoy them. Being on my own in the car and smoking and choosing my own radio station – luxuries I had almost forgotten these last 12 weeks. I speed onto the motorway. The M80 is open now and – with a clear view on the straights – I push the hairdryer engine to 90. Never fails to irk me that this large 7-seater has only a 1.5 diesel engine. It is an affront I can only forget when it sails smoothly near the ton.
It is only when I am nearing Head Office that I feel the heavy fist of fear punch the air from me.
This is it. Soon I will be facing people. Making decisions. Taking meetings.
I park up and sit in the car and have a final cigarette. Then I hear me say oh fuck sake Y! Get a grip! Get out there and show them how a proper return is done!
I muster my bag and briefcase, shut the car door behind me and stride with purpose and determination to the Office door.
Where I stand. Staring at the security keypad. Feeling the momentum of determination leaking with every passing second. I have forgotten the security password…
And so the day began. I was my own, old, ordinary, human self. And when I got through the door I was passed from embrace to embrace.