Unmarry Me, page 18
‘Nope. You won’t believe who it was.’
‘The Prime Minister?’
‘Warmer. More asymmetrical.’
‘You’re kidding. Not Cassandra?’
I hear him sit up in bed, the rustling. ‘Did she say why?’
‘I hardly spoke to her. I handcuffed her to a railing and called McManus.’ I smile because now I can relax. It’s over.
‘You’d be McManus’s best customer. Now what?’
‘I’m not sure. Justine and I are going to the cop shop tomorrow morning. Mark, I’m making it sound way more fun than it was. It was awful. When I saw someone come up the stairs and go to the door, it was terrifying.’
‘I wish I’d been there.’
‘I’m going to cry again, Mark. I must be hormonal.’
‘Can’t you say, “there, there” before you ask?’ When you’re disappointing somebody it is always a good idea to shove the disappointment right back at them.
‘Sorry, Rube.’ He’s so quiet, I can hardly hear him.
‘No, I haven’t called Dr Himmel back. I’ll do it tomorrow, after the police. It’s good she hasn’t called me, though.’
‘Yep, it’s a good sign.’ He sounds clenched, like he knows something he shouldn’t.
‘Boydy, are you okay? You don’t sound yourself.’
‘Nothing special to report, Rube.’ He sighs.
‘Mark, what’s the matter?’
‘I have to tell you something.’
I never hear much about what he does at work. Now and then I think he’s been sworn to secrecy. Agent Boyd. It might not be work. It could be Jane Toohey. He sounds grim and I don’t think I want to hear it. ‘Tell me then,’ I say.
‘I had sex with BJ. You can’t tell Peta.’
‘We did it. Baby-making sex.’
I hold the phone out from my face and scream, ‘Fuck you!’ Then I chuck it at the wall. No plasterboard in this old flat: that phone is dead. Justine arrives in time to see the explosion.
‘What the hell happened?’
‘He had sex with BJ.’
‘To get her pregnant, right?’
Couldn’t she at least look angry?
‘How would you like it if it was Stuart?’
‘I don’t think Mark would have sex with Stuart. Not to make a baby.’
‘Oh, right.’ I’m nodding. I’m nodding a silly, shocked, non-stop nod. ‘Oh, oh, now, you want to make jokes.’
‘Ruby, I’d hate it, but they have tried and tried.’
‘I don’t care. This is bullshit. We are meant to talk about our stuff. Don’t you think having it off with BJ sounds like something he should have run by me?’
‘You did talk about it.’ Jus is so good at seeing the other side of the argument, any argument, that it makes me want to throttle her. ‘You had a wishy-washy conversation where you both basically agreed to pretend nothing ever happened. Remember?’
I look up at Jus from the floor, where I’m picking up shards of phone. I don’t care that the thing has made its last call, but I do care about being able to walk barefoot around the bedroom. ‘What if she’s better than me, if you know what I mean?’
‘The whole world would know what you mean. He loves you, Rube. To Mark, nobody is better than you. You should have got that by now.’
My mobile is ringing. ‘Nope.’
We look at my phone vibrating on the bedside table. There’s a picture of Mark’s smiling face. I bet he’s not smiling now.
‘Now mine’s ringing.’ She picks its up. ‘It’s Mark.’
‘Don’t answer it.’
‘No,’ I say. ‘Turn it off.’
‘But it’s my phone.’
‘Turn it off.’
‘Okay, okay.’ She switches it off.
‘I’m going to sleep. You coming to bed? We’ve got a big morning getting Cassandra put away.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘Yes.’ I throw the covers open.
‘Right. Good. I’m tired. Let’s sleep.’
When you cry all night you look like crap in the morning. My eyes are tiny, my eyelids are red, and I’m puffy and blotchy. I poke my face, splash water at myself. No improvement.
‘Goddamn.’ Justine walks into the bathroom, sees my face in the mirror. ‘You look disgusting.’
I can’t be bothered feeling offended. ‘At least I’ll look extra bad for the police this morning. They’ll take one look at my face and throw away the key. I hope Cassandra has a bad lawyer. All lawyers are the pits, Jus. Every last one of them.’
‘I want to talk to you,’ Justine says.
‘If it’s anything to do with the clown I’m halfway through divorcing, forget about it.’
Justine is in the bathroom doorway. There’s no way she’ll let me out of here until we’re done. ‘No, Rube, you owe Mark an apology.’
‘What did he think I was going to do?’ She can make her own breakfast if she’s going to be on his side.
‘You know him well enough to understand he wouldn’t have done it lightly. You have to let him speak. I’m not separating from Stuart so you can fuck up unmarryme over a little bit of procreative, we hope, sex.’ She almost never swears; she is serious. She hands me her phone. ‘Call him right now.’
‘Mark, it’s not Jus, it’s me.’ My voice is croaky, which is bad for pretending you’re done with your nearly ex-husband.
‘You sound terrible,’ Mark says. ‘You didn’t sleep well, either.’
‘Nope, Boydy, I didn’t and I look like hell. You should see me.’
‘Honestly, you’re such a dag.’ Mark is a much better person than I am. He’s forgiven me for screaming in his ear and not taking his calls.
‘I am. I’m stressed. Missing you. The thought of you...’
‘Don’t say it, Rube. I don’t fancy anyone else and besides, I could never keep it from you. I tried, because BJ and I made a pact, but it was eating me up. I tell you everything. You know that.’
‘I smashed the ever-loving shit out of the landline, Mark.’
‘That’s understandable. I’ve got to go, I’ll talk to you tonight.’
‘Okay, I love you, Boydy.’
If there’s a less funny place than a police station, I’d like to know what it is, and I’d like never to go there. There is silver tape on the windows so you can see in, but not really, and there are community posters about keeping valuables safe, keeping your home safe, keeping yourself safe. The colour of the walls could be called Band-Aid. At least the place doesn’t smell how it looks. Someone, not far away, has a very good coffee.
I press the buzzer and Constable Staples appears. ‘Come inside. Sergeant McManus is ready for you.’
Sergeant McManus is all go. He has his notebook and forms; he asks questions and I answer them. I give him the bag of envelopes and I give him the other bag.
‘What’s that?’ McManus pokes it with a pen.
‘It’s the dead rat. Don’t worry, I double-bagged it.’
‘Right. Well, we’ll take a photo of that and throw it away.’
‘You’re not going to send it to the coroner for an autopsy?’
‘If you like, Justine Margaret Roper-Daily, you can wait outside.’
‘Sorry, Sergeant.’ Justine keeps her eyes down.
‘That’s okay,’ McManus says. ‘If you want my opinion, I’d say our rat was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ He smiles with the tiny wrinkle under his left eye. That’s it. Cop humour doesn’t go as far as an actual smile.
But jokes are all well and whatever, what about Cassandra? ‘Did she say why, Sergeant?’
He shakes his head. ‘I can tell you this, though; she is not in love with you. She sai
I hope Cassandra is in a cell at the back of the station. Under the same roof but unable to get anywhere near me. I hope they gave her one of those metal cups and she’s dragging it along the bars like they do in the movies.
‘Where is she now?’
‘I suppose Ms Cartwright is with her lawyer. She’s due to come in this afternoon to be charged. It’s over, Ruby.’
She’s out there, on the streets, doing God knows what.
‘Can she go to work? I mean she’s at my office, not on my floor, but the floor above me. I’ll see her in a lift. I could be stuck in a meeting with her.’
‘It depends on your company’s policies.’
‘Do I get to tell them?’
‘That’s up to you.’
Then I will tell them.
‘Right. Job done. Next job.’ I pull away from the police station and head towards home. On the windscreen, there are still patches of pink spray paint.
‘What’s the next job?’ Justine has fear in her voice. Surely I’m not that bad to hang around with?
‘We need to see Stuart.’
‘He’s at work.’
‘Cool,’ I say. ‘I’ve always wanted to see what an arborist does.’
‘No, really. Ropes and gloves and danger.’
‘There’s danger when you drive. Can you slow down?’
I drop back to fifty-five. ‘God, you’re a grandmother. Do you know where he’s working?’ Melbourne is leafy and he could be working anywhere.
‘Ruby, you can’t fix this. And I don’t want you to. Let’s go to Diamond Lou’s and grab a coffee.’
‘We’re adults, Ruby, and we know our own minds. All of your recruits are adults. Stuart won’t appreciate you getting involved in our business, and neither do I. He wants to do it. And, as much as I don’t want to, I want him to have what he wants.’
He and Mark, the same.
I can smell the coffee from the footpath. Even at ten on a weekday morning the place is full of adults, eating breakfast, reading the paper, working on their laptops—all of them probably know their own minds.
Todd waves, indicates that he’ll be over when he can. I don’t see BJ and I’m not going to look for her.
‘Jus, imagine if the government made you live with each other for a year before marrying, like they make you separate for a year before divorcing?’
‘I reckon the divorce rate would halve,’ Justine says. ‘One day I’m ordering the pancakes. Look at them,’ she says.
The three-inch blueberry stack on the table opposite smells and looks amazing. I don’t order what I can cook myself, but for those pancakes I’d drop my stupid rule.
Todd comes over and sits down. ‘I hear you got your stalker.’
‘Who’d you hear that from?’
‘From Stuart,’ Todd says. The tips of his ears are red; Todd is cool even when he blushes.
‘You spoke to Stuart?’ If it wasn’t awkward, and didn’t look stupid, to sit at a table with your hands on your hips, I reckon Justine would.
‘He called this morning and said you guys were on board. Thank you, Justine. We’re so thrilled. We’ll get some real visibility now.’ The unmarryme T-shirt looks terrific on Todd.
‘Visibility? From Stuart and me?’
‘Every little bit counts,’ Todd says. He stands up. ‘What can I get you two? It’s on the house.’
‘We’ll have a latte and a raspberry friand each, thanks, Todd.’
We both watch Todd walk away. I catch the eye of a bloke at the table opposite ours and he smiles. I nod. Oh, yeah, everybody likes Todd.
‘He’s a lot less good-looking when he’s taking your husband away from you,’ Justine says, watching Todd at the machine. ‘Back to my point. I think I have to do a piece on this. Imagine if the government trusted its consenting adults enough to know that when they say they want a divorce they can get one and didn’t have to prove it by separating for a year.’
‘That’d be gold,’ I say. ‘But too easy. Unmarryme needs it to be hard so it’s a big deal.’
‘Well, that’s just great. We’ve been married under two years, so we have to go through some court-appointed mediation. How the hell do we do that?’
‘You say, “Listen bub, we’re getting a divorce and there’s nothing you, or the Prime Minister, can do about it. Now where do we sign?’’’
Todd arrives with our coffee and cakes and leaves us to it.
‘You could stay with me, Jus. We spend a gap year away from our marriages and then you move back in with Stuart. At least an arborist doesn’t have to worry about being disbarred if he has the odd dirty weekend with his soon-to-be-ex-wife.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Me neither,’ I say. ‘I didn’t expect this.’
‘You keep saying.’ She takes a sip of her coffee. ‘And don’t forget to call your doctor.’
‘I won’t.’ Justine is only saying to call my doctor so that I’ll feel bad, too. I already feel bad. And glad. Conflicted is how I feel.
‘Call her now.’
‘If you drive, I’ll call her on the way back.’
‘In brackets, I don’t want to be alone for this phone call, but I don’t want to be in public either,’ Justine says.
‘See? You’re a mind-reader, the perfect housemate. I’ll never have to ask you to shut up, because you’ll know I’m thinking it. Do you want the other half of my friand? I just lost my appetite.’
‘Sure,’ she says. ‘I’ll take it home for Stuart.’
‘He accepts food from you?’
‘He has to, he can’t cook.’ She wraps the friand in a serviette and pops it in her jacket pocket. ‘Keys?’
I hand her the keys and she passes me her phone. ‘Right.’
We wave to Todd and get onto my future.
‘Ah, Ruby, I’ve been waiting to hear from you.’
I bet she has. It feels like months since Mark and I saw Dr Himmel, and yet it was only five days ago. That’s me taking life easy. I hear buttons being pressed, papershuffling, the soundtrack to my view of lamppost, parked car, lamppost, lamppost, lamppost.
‘Here we are,’ she says. ‘Everything is normal.’
We pull up at a red light. The people-mover in front of us has one of those smug, ridiculous Baby On Board stickers. But I want one—to go with my unmarryme sticker.
‘Yes, Ruby, nothing bad.’
‘Okay, what next?’
‘You take folate, and you keep track of your ovulation, have sex in that window, and we’ll see.’ I imagine Mark and I having sex in the famous, fabulous, Myer Christmas windows, another September baby on its way. Not that kind of window. ‘So, we’re good to go?’
The light turns green. The people-mover is too slow and cautious for Justine and she wings past it. How come she’s allowed to drive so fast?
‘Yes, Ruby, and if you have no result after a year we’ll have a closer look. IVF could be an option, but only after twelve months of actively trying.’
What is it with twelve-month trial periods? You’ve got to be separated for twelve months, you’ve got to be not pregnant for twelve months, if you want good health insurance you can wait for twelve months. Who decided 365 days was so special?
‘Thank you, Dr Himmel.’
‘I’ll see you soon, Ruby. Goodbye.’
Justine wears gloves when she drives and I usually have a go at her, but I’ll leave her alone today. She’s probably had enough of me and my big mouth.
‘Well, that’s sounds promising, Rube.’
‘It does. If Mark’s not too busy knocking up my sister-in-law.’
‘I will. It was just sex. I have had plenty of just sex, I have had just sex in more places and with more people than I remember. But I’m nervous, Jus. I have never paid attention to my cycle and I’m not going to get pregnant if we’re banging away on the wrong days. Not that it’s likely while we’re unmarrying anyway.’
‘Stranger things have happened.’ She turns into my street.
‘Who knows. With any luck. And a fuck.’
‘Right,’ she says, throwing me my keys, ‘I’ve got to get out of here. I want to press send on my article and reap praise from my editor. Small praise, because you never want to give a writer too much good news; they might get a swollen head.’
‘And I’ve got to call Damian.’
The phone rings for ages. When he does pick up, he sounds impatient. ‘Damien Spong.’ Nothing else.
‘Damian, did you hear?’
‘What?’ Everybody sounds so careful when they talk to me now.
‘Cassandra has been arrested for stalking. She was the one leaving me hate mail and making nuisance calls. I caught her last night.’
‘What?’ And that’s the most common response I get.
‘Yep. I caught her in the act and she might go to jail.’
‘Please tell me they’ll sack her for this.’
‘Course,’ Damian says. ‘It’d be like having Bernie Madoff in charge of the money. Wait, they did that. I don’t know what management will do exactly, but they’ll have to be told.’
It would be better if he’d said, Can you hold the line for five minutes while I kick her to the kerb myself, but he’s not a human resources person.
‘Fair enough,’ I say, because what else is there to say?
‘I saw on Facebook that you have some people unmarrying with you. It’s gaining speed. Go, unmarryme! Good job, on all fronts, Ruby. You must be feeling so much better.’
‘Almost all fronts, Damian.’
‘You’re back on Monday. I don’t want you to even think about your gala until you’re sitting at your desk. If you notice you’re thinking about it, give yourself a slap in the face and tell yourself it’s from me. Now what style of relaxing are you going to do for the rest of the afternoon?’