The Way Home
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Saturday Morning
Fat Boyfriend is in his car blocking the road when Nadia arrives. Fiddling with his CD player. Big car, a Granada. Fat Boyfriend has a good job in the city, a nice flat. Kay keeps it nice for him, scrubs the toilet bowl with disinfectant, presses his shirts better than they do at Sketchley. And free of charge.

She comes out now, a flamingo doing a quickstep. Pink leggings, pink stilettos. A wide belt around her waist, nipples angry against the tight tunic she is wearing. She blinks at Nadia through mascaraed lashes, yesterday's intimacy is forgotten.

Inside the home a new mood prevails. The nurse strips the sheets, eyes watery, hankies bulging in her pockets. I still have that terrible cold.

Golden beauty is squashed in her blue jeans, the flowers next to her bed limp and redundant. Tracy bustles about, blow-drying her hair, searching for her contact lenses.

Cheerful now, energetic, ready to go home. Home to Chris, she has keys to his place. Her room at home with the koala bears is taken over by the house-swappers from the Black Forest.

Maggie's husband arrived early, shared her toast and jam. He is ready to carry her bag for her. Are you sure you got everything? Your toothbrush, your slippers? They are no longer in love, these two. They are peacefully addicted to each other. In equilibrium. And he did not sleep well in his bed and breakfast room the night before. Pity for her enveloped him, he lay conscious of the clammy sheets, the unfamiliar scents. Could not remember the last time he slept alone.

Maggie has time to greet Nadia, say good-bye to the nurse. Has space to think it's a treat not to have to make the beds, get the children's breakfast. Nice to get away. It's almost like a holiday really.

Now they leave to catch the ferry home. Pack some surprises for the children; a pencil with a rubber troll's head, two tiny London taxis, a Beefeater doll. They know what they left behind in the nursing home.

And Maggie is the epitome of why women are judged irrational. Through asthma attacks which squeeze her lungs, send her flinging windows wide open to gasp the icy night air, she remembers. Though she chants to herself all that she knows about the population explosion, she thinks what if? In the midst of the strain of her children, the resentment that drains her at their unreasonable requests, she secretly grieves. Mourns the sweet smell of an orange stained nappy, that prickle in her breasts when the milk gathers speed and sprays out, a whole personality she will never know.

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