Непредвиденная вакансия - Часть первая - Вторник VII
Tessa Wall had not meant to stay long at Mary’s – she was never comfortable about leaving her husband and Fats alone in the house together – but somehow her visit had stretched to a couple of hours. The Fairbrothers’ house was overflowing with camp beds and sleeping bags; their extended family had closed in around the gaping vacuum left by death, but no amount of noise and activity could mask the chasm into which Barry had vanished.
Alone with her thoughts for the first time since their friend had died, Tessa retraced her steps down Church Row in the darkness, her feet aching, her cardigan inadequate protection against the cold. The only noise was the clicking of the wooden beads around her neck, and the dim sounds of television sets in the houses she was passing.
Quite suddenly, Tessa thought: I wonder whether Barry knew.
It had never occurred to her before that her husband might have told Barry the great secret of her life, the rotten thing that lay buried at the heart of her marriage. She and Colin never even discussed it (though a whiff of it tainted many a conversation, particularly lately … ).
Tonight, though, Tessa had thought she caught half a glance from Mary, at the mention of Fats …
You’re exhausted, and you’re imagining things, Tessa told herself firmly. Colin’s habits of secrecy were so strong, so deeply entrenched, that he would never have told; not even Barry, whom he idolized. Tessa hated to think that Barry might have known … that his kindness towards Colin had been actuated by pity for what she, Tessa, had done …
When she entered the sitting room, she found her husband sitting in front of the television, wearing his glasses, the news on in the background. He had a sheaf of printed papers in his lap and a pen in his hand. To Tessa’s relief, there was no sign of Fats.
‘How is she?’ Colin asked.
‘Well, you know … not great,’ said Tessa. She sank into one of the old armchairs with a little moan of relief, and pulled off her worn-down shoes. ‘But Barry’s brother’s being marvellous.’
‘In what way?’
‘Well … you know … helping.’
She closed her eyes and massaged the bridge of her nose and her eyelids with her thumb and forefinger.
‘I always thought he seemed a bit unreliable,’ said Colin’s voice.
‘Really?’ said Tessa, from the depths of her voluntary darkness.
‘Yes. Remember when he said he’d come and referee for that game against Paxton High? And he cancelled with about half an hour’s notice and Bateman had to do it instead?’
Tessa fought down an impulse to snap. Colin had a habit of making sweeping judgements based on first impressions, on single actions. He never seemed to grasp the immense mutability of human nature, nor to appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own.
‘Well, he’s being lovely with the kids,’ said Tessa carefully. ‘I’ve got to go to bed.’
She did not move, but sat concentrating on the separate aches in different parts of her body: in her feet, her lower back, her shoulders.
‘Tess, I’ve been thinking.’
Glasses shrank Colin’s eyes to mole-like proportions, so that the high, balding knobbly forehead seemed even more pronounced.
‘Everything Barry was trying to do on the Parish Council. Everything he was fighting for. The Fields. The addiction clinic. I’ve been thinking about it all day.’ He drew a deep inward breath. ‘I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to take over for him.’
Misgivings crashed over Tessa, pinning her to her chair, rendering her momentarily speechless. She struggled to keep her expression professionally neutral.
‘I’m sure it’s what Barry would have wanted,’ said Colin. His strange excitement was tinged with defensiveness.
Never, said Tessa’s most honest self, never for a second would Barry have wanted you to do this. He would have known you are the very last person who ought to do it.
‘Gosh,’ she said. ‘Well. I know Barry was very … but it would be a huge commitment, Colin. And it’s not as though Parminder’s gone. She’s still there, and she’ll still be trying to do everything Barry wanted.’
I should have phoned Parminder, thought Tessa as she said it, with a guilty bump in her stomach. Oh, God, why didn’t I think to call Parminder?
‘But she’ll need support; she’ll never be able to stand up to them all on her own,’ said Colin. ‘And I guarantee Howard Mollison will be lining up some puppet to replace Barry right now. He’s probably already—’
‘Oh, Colin—’
‘I bet he has! You know what he’s like!’
The papers in Colin’s lap fell, disregarded, in a smooth white waterfall onto the floor.
‘I want to do this for Barry. I’ll take over where he left off. I’ll make sure everything he worked for doesn’t go up in smoke. I know the arguments. He always said he got opportunities he’d never have had otherwise, and look how much he gave back to the community. I’m definitely going to stand. I’m going to look into what I’ve got to do, tomorrow.’
‘All right,’ said Tessa. Years of experience had taught her that Colin ought not to be opposed in the first throes of his enthusiasm, or it would simply entrench him in his determination to proceed. Those same years had taught Colin that Tessa often pretended to agree before raising objections. These kinds of exchanges were always infused with their mutual, unexpressed remembrance of that long-buried secret. Tessa felt that she owed him. He felt that he was owed.
‘This is something I really want to do, Tessa.’
‘I understand that, Colin.’
She pulled herself out of the chair, wondering whether she would have the energy to get upstairs.
‘Are you coming to bed?’
‘In a minute. I want to finish looking through these first.’
He was gathering up the printed sheets he had let fall; his reckless new project seemed to be giving him a feverish energy.
Tessa undressed slowly in their bedroom. Gravity seemed to have become more powerful; it was such an effort to lift her limbs, to force her recalcitrant zip to do as she wished. She pulled on her dressing gown and went into the bathroom, where she could hear Fats moving around overhead. She often felt lonely and drained these days, shuttling between her husband and son, who seemed to exist entirely independently, as alien to each other as landlord and lodger.
Tessa went to take off her wristwatch, then realized that she had mislaid it yesterday. So tired … she kept losing things … and how could she have forgotten to call Parminder? Tearful, worried and tense, she shuffled off to bed.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License