a nagging doubt
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Imagine the hassle if toilet roll wasn't perforated.
By Martin Friel


"Let's go."


Lydia hated it when he spoke that like. It felt like an order, not a suggestion. Or a request.

He called again. "Come on Lydia, we're going to be late. Mum is expecting us at 4 and you know what the M3 is like and the A road to Colchester is guaranteed to be bad with the new ring road being built."

She hated that too. The detail. He could just say there will be traffic but he seemed to enjoy showing how much he knew about driving the roads of Britain. Probably because of his job. Lots of driving. Lots of service stations. Shit sandwiches. Black, black tea.

But she loved him all the same. These were small irritations. Their marriage made sense. He loved her dearly, she knew that and she loved him. Not as much but enough.

And he was good to her. She knew that too. There had been others before him, others who had toyed with her, treated her casually, had not given her what she wanted. Her husband did. He gave everything to her. Maybe not all that she wanted financially but he gave himself to her completely. And she wanted to take it. Take it and make it hers, nurture it and possess it. Because he had given her everything. He was Lydia's entirely. He couldn't see anyone else.

She liked it that way.


"Come on Lydia. Really, we need to get going."

She stuffed a couple more tops into the suitcase, shut the lid, zipped it, secure and safe. When she made it to the front door, he was there, waiting, looking anxious.

"What have you been doing? Didn't you hear me?"

She told him not to worry so much, pushing him with her out of the door towards the car.


a short blue line


She'd always liked this part of the country - the greenery, the hedgerows, ancient cottages sitting squat under the crisp white clouds. Sheep and cattle, wheat fields and pastures, punctuated by the identikit family homes, industrial estates and motorways. It looked like two England's from different ages, jammed uncomfortably together, but both unmistakably English.

One spoke of freedom. The other captivity. She knew that was stupid. What she should have been thinking was that one spoke of uncertainty, the other of security but something about all those homes and all those cars and all those lives terrified her. Not actively but deep down, somewhere she hadn't seen for a long time.

All those lives, so similar, so routine, so repetitive. They were all different people, different names, jobs and pastimes but when she saw those rows of homes, dumped onto that dear English landscape, it all meant the same thing.

She looked up at the whispy clouds being stretched out across the sky and remembered childhood trips across the same landscape - the same sky and fields and the same sheep, it seemed.

Back then the feeling had been different. It was probably just her youth and her fading memory but Lydia remembered the feeling of wonder. Wonder at this green, flat landscape where people had lived, toiled and laughed for thousands of years.

The trees had always seemed to her to be the guardians of that landscape and the recorder of those lives lived. How many secrets had they heard whispered under their branches? How many ages had they and their ancestors seen speed by?

She knew the trees were the same ones form all those years ago but she wasn't. The wonder had gone. The imagination. The ability to create worlds beyond what she saw. All of that had gone. No, not gone entirely. It was still there but was being crowded out by reality.

Crowded and jostled by her real life.

She looked over at him driving and noticed that he was talking. She had no idea how long he had been doing so and when she tuned in, she found that it was about his mother, what she was cooking for dinner and what she planned to cook tomorrow.

As she looked and listened, she watched the rows of houses flash by the profile of his face. It seemed to suit him. He seemed to fit.

Lydia turned away to look out her window. She placed a hand on her round, firm belly. Gently caressed it.

"It's worth it" she thought. "It has to be worth it."




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