The Following is a short story, entered into a couple of competitions (unsuccessfully) – the prompt was “Is that what you meant to do?”
By Kevin Bonfield
“Is that what you meant to do?” she sneered.
Obviously, it isn’t, thought Trev. Trev, short for Trevelyan. Trevelyan, a name Trev was rather proud of. Trevelyan, a name that had subjected him to some fierce and cruel ridicule over the years. Primary school, football teams, harsh industrial workplaces populated with gang mentalities. Yet, it was certainly individual and Trev definitely wore it with pride.
“No, it isn’t,” was Trev’s actual reply, “I’m sorry, the drill bit ju…” “Then WHY did you, eh, eh, is there nothing, NOTHING I can actually trust you to do? EH? EH? TRE! VEH! LEE! ANN! Tell me, please, because you are ruining everything. Again.”
You can trust me to give you a sly yet enthusiastic V-sign behind your back as you leave the room, thought Trev. “No…..sorry” he whispered, fighting back tears, swallowing hard as a lump formed in his throat. Normally a sign that the darkness was coming.
Trev swallowed hard again, how did I get here, he pondered. Over and over again, day after day, month after miserable month, year after vacuous, pointless year.
“It’s a good job you’ve got me,” continued Valerie, on a roll now, “baling you out over and over again. I thought you would have finished that by now, have the kids’ dinner on, I suppose if I don’t want them to die of starvation, I’LL HAVE TO DO IT!? EH? EH?” she raged.
Kids, thought Trev. Kids? They are twenty and sixteen. And starve? They are lazy, spoiled, gluttonous, consumption obsessed rats crawling in the shadow of their greedy, money crazed mother towards what, in their case, is laughably called adulthood.
“No, no, I’m sorry, I’ll do it.” He said, his shoulders curling in, chin sinking to his chest.
Val couldn’t have known that Trev had a plan. She was so arrogant, so confident of her complete control of everything, that nobody, in what she perceived to be her empire, would ever dare cross her.
For a year or more, Trev had been creating another existence for himself. Taking tiny, tiny steps towards a future. A future to call his own.
When Trev had collapsed whilst on his rowing machine and went to seek medical help he wasn’t diagnosed with any physical ailment. Trev was depressed. Val scoffed openly at the diagnosis and made it impossible for him to have the time to attend the counselling sessions he was offered.
Unwittingly, Val had given Trev a gift. Deep inside he felt anger, a quiet murmur, a prodding, but definitely anger. He started to teach himself to swallow back the darkness and keep glimpsing the light flickering at the end of the unthinkably long tunnel.
“What are you going to say to some nosey head doctor, eh? Eh?” she had spat, “If you’ve got anything to say, anything to moan about then you can say it to me. I’ve given you this fantastic life, so if you have anything to complain about then I can simply and quickly tell you to man up and, well, shut up. So, come on, what is it that’s so awful that you can’t tell the person that knows you best? EH?”
“Nothing, no, it’s fine. I’m fine.” Trev mumbled.
From that day on, every little bit of overtime he managed to bolt onto his shifts resulted in a little bit more secret money he could pass to his one remaining friend, Ian. Trev and Ian met at the rowing club before Val put a stop to Trev’s Sunday mornings on the river. Ian also shared Trev’s passion for painting, and Trev felt they were kindred spirits.
“Why, tell me, why, you would choose to spend our precious Sunday mornings with all those other idiots huffing and puffing up and down the river? Eh?”
Because it’s beautiful on the river, it inspires me, it gives me light and life and fresh, unpolluted air and fresh, unpolluted conversation, with fresh, unpolluted people, Trev enthused internally.
His painting didn’t fare much better, “What are you pissing around with those brushes again for, eh?” Val would mock, “Nobody is ever going to BUY that nonsense, are they, eh? Who exactly are you painting for?” she would laugh.
Trev would just stare into the middle-distance thinking, well, me, actually. “No, I’ll leave it now then.” Would be his whispered, ashamed reply.
Val felt she was so, so in control of Trev’s life that she had slipped up and he had managed to filter off the money he had previously paid to the rowing club each month, further boosting his escape fund.
Once Trev had managed to convince Ian that he was indeed serious about making a plan to disappear, Ian had become almost as enthusiastic as Trev himself. Having a god father in Norwich who had a few rental properties, Ian told Trev to hold tight as he knew one of those bedsits would soon be available to let. Ian had managed to negotiate on Trev’s behalf meaning he could move in without a deposit or awkward references.
Trev had been concerned about just how he would organise the logistics of getting to Norwich, a journey of some two hundred and fifty miles, with his meagre belongings. His worldly possessions didn’t amount to much but they did include an easel and a rowing machine. Again, Ian had the answer, somehow arranging a one-way van hire which he insisted was cheap and anyway, would be a leaving gift.
The supermarket where Trev worked shifts in the bakery were more than happy to offer him a position in their Norwich branch, and he had just one more shift to do. Val, of course couldn’t have known that the shelves she had insisted he simply must go up, before he headed off to work, would be the last he would ever do.
“If that isn’t what you meant to do,” she continued, really getting into her stride now, “then, please, please tell me,” pausing for effect, Val’s voice dropped, now a barely audible, but quite menacing growl, “why. did. you. do. it?”
Trev simply stared at a random point on the floor.
Val had divorced her first husband, his redundancy package and house firmly secured. He had, Trev recalled from their one and only meeting many, many years ago, a deep haunted and hollow look in his eyes. In the cold, sober light of the reality of life, Trev imagined that long empty stare could well have been a warning.
Without complaint, Trev prepared the processed chicken fillets and oven chips which his grown-up step-children enjoyed with baked beans and lashings of ketchup. The resentment with which he delivered the meals to their rooms, so as not to disrupt their reality television and social media sessions, was greatly tempered by the knowledge that this really would be the very last time.
As he packed his work bag, his much scoffed at salad and fruit boxed up, “More rabbit food I see?” Val would chuckle, he said his routine goodbye. As usual, he promised to check in via text message at each of his breaks, “Just so that I know where you are.”
Fairly skipping to work, Trev started to feel quite light headed. Nervous, extremely nervous, but almost giddy with excitement for the future. He normally really enjoyed being at work, feeding the big ovens with huge batches of pre-prepared doughs, his mind released for ten or twelve hours from the pounding life gave him. Tonight though, time was standing still it seemed, but Trev was happy to suffer the wait. Happiness loomed. Quite a bizarre, previously alien sensation.
The plan was slick. Ian could not have been more helpful. Even calling around to the house on the pretence of borrowing art equipment, which would be bagged together with other belongings which would, of course already be on the van in the morning. Ian was sometimes already at the house when Trev came home, sat at the kitchen table, utterly charming.
“Why can’t you be more like Ian? Eh?” Val would complain, “You don’t hear him squealing and whining or moping around, eating all that ridiculous, supposedly healthy food. Do you? Eh?”
If only you knew, Trev would think, almost giggling internally, that he is helping me plot the greatest escape. The escape from you. Ian would be at the house in the morning, where he was going to be Trev’s wingman as he delivered the blow, got into the van and disappeared into the sunrise.
The shift couldn’t end soon enough, but end it did and Trev clocked out and headed home. Not quite the skip of the journey to work, nerves now playing havoc with his insides, but still a brisk walk. With adrenaline flooding his body, he turned into his road, for the last time. Sure enough, the van was there. No sign of Ian, he must already be in the house. Trev couldn’t begin to imagine what Ian was talking to Val about. As the bay window came into sight, he was further confused by what looked like a new easel, a monstrous tripod, with a canvas mounted, standing proudly in the window.
He thought he saw two figures disappear out of the early morning light into the deep shadows of the house. Trev’s heart was racing as he approached the front door. He paused, fumbling for his, key, expecting the door to open. Before it did he managed to insert his key and push the door open.
“I’ll have that.” Said Val, standing rather too close to Ian in the hallway, holding out her hand. Trev’s nervous, confused, sick feeling intensified as he desperately searched his friends face for explanation. He dropped the key into Val’s outstretched hand. Val smiled, something he very, very rarely saw, “You really are so pathetic, you couldn’t even leave me without everybody else sorting it out for you. Could you, eh? Eh?”
Ian reached out his hand, for a moment Trev moved his hand, thinking a handshake was being offered, but soon realised that Ian’s hand was up turned and moving towards Val, who, really smiling now, dropped the key into Ian’s hand.