When is a revolution just a circle?

Matt waited in the darkness of the verandah, his cheek against the stripped timber of the front door he’d meant to stain one day. As he waited, Dee played the piano and sang at the end of the corridor, on the other side of the door.

Sounded like an original. It suited her voice. At the end of the song he banged loudly and stood back, rehearsing responses. The door swung open decisively.

– Matt.

Door, window, fridge. A non-committal statement. He waited. She stood. She blinked first.

– I don’t want you to come in. I’m working.

He waited. She blinked first again.

– Just don’t get shitty when I ask you to leave in half an hour.

She left him to close the door and walked towards the light at the end of the hallway.
He nodded at the piano.

– When’s the big comeback?
– Saturday week. At the Railway. (What the hell , he’d find out anyway.)

He looked at the bottle of wine in his hand as if he’d just discovered it.

– Should I get two glasses?

He didn’t wait for an answer as he moved into the kitchen with a familiarity that she hated. Once loved, in a way she promised herself she never would after Michael, her feckless ex-husband.

Matt was slick, you had to give him that. From the night he’d walked into that party, he was slick. With friends, colleagues, anywhere there was an audience. She’d given him an audience at home one night, when he’d ‘dropped in because he just happened to be in the area’.

For once he’d said almost nothing and she found her life leaking out, as he listened and never took his eyes of her. The fights with Michael. Never any money. Her parents disapproval. Her breakdown.

He waited until she ’d finished. Still without speaking, he pulled her to her feet and
surrounded her body with his arms and waited. And the dam burst.

She eventually stood back, in control again. He said he was leaving now but would be back tomorrow night to take her to dinner and was gone before she replied. She wondered briefly where he got of with that masculine arrogance she had come to despise but later, drifting into fitful sleep, she was pleasantly confused by the warmth his enfolding had left in her belly.

But she knew now she should have trusted that first sense of wasteland about him. He was like a desert dressed for a glossy fashion shoot. His mind shifted easily, shaping itself to your response. He felt what you wanted him to feel. But he could hold a room. And he had held her.

Returning with the glasses, he started to pour.
– Just a small one, otherwise I get lazy.
– How do you think you’ll go?
– Hard to know. Five years is a long time. People have short memories, except for your failures.
– Are you scared?
– Of course. But it won’t stop me.

He looked at the face that delivered this message and was convinced. This was new. A great divide had been crossed by that face and there was no going back.

– I thought you were off the booze, Matt.
– Yeah, well …

– How’ve you been?
– Shithouse.

You bloody idiot. Now you’re going to get the full catastrophe. I can’t do this anymore.

– How’s work?
– I left.
– Why?

A half-smile slipped through his face of studied torment.

– I want to concentrate on my writing. I’ve been writing about you.

The ringing of the phone jolted them both and it was a moment before Dee got up to answer, as though weighing the arguments for and against. Matt poured himself another drink and pretended to leaf through the pile of books on the table. Mostly feminist but interspersed with fat paperback romances.

– Hello ….. .. How are you? ….. .. No, I’ve got someone visiting. I can’t talk now. ….. .. OK, I’ll see you Saturday night, about seven …..Yeah, and you too. Bye.

– New boyfriend?
–  None of your business. How’s your love life?
– Non-existent.
– Are you trying to tell me you haven’t slept with anyone since you left?
– No, of course not. There was the odd one-night stand when we first split but I soon got sick of that.

I’d almost forgotten. Serial monogamy is more his thing really. An endless list of significant relationships and bad, insignificant poetry. I wonder of I should tell him I burned it all when he left.

Matt put down his drink and went to his knees in front of Dee, burying his head in her lap and putting his arms around her waist.

– Dee. Dee, please let me stay with you tonight.

Dee, sometimes you are a complete and utter moron. Now look what you’ve let yourself in for!

– Matt, it’s no good. I know you’re lonely and you must know I still (careful, shit for brains, he’ll hang on every word) …. that I’ll always be concerned about you. But it wouldn’t solve anything.
– I know that. I just need to be held. Dee, I’m afraid.
– What of?
– Everything. I’m lost. Oh, Christ.

Bloody hell. This is new.

– Hey, calm down, it’s not that bad.
– Oh God, I think I’m going mad. Help me. I need you.

Matt collapsed onto the couch and covered his face with his hands, gradually regaining control of his breathing.

Dee, her hands shaking noticeably, struggled to light a cigarette. She puffed nervously for a while until she regained her composure.

Alright, now that he’s in here I’ve got to get him out. But he’s not staying and I’m not going to let him touch me.

– I’m sorry.
– You can’t go on like this, Matt. You’ve got to get some help.
– If you mean a shrink, I’m not interested. I want you to help me.
– I can’t. Not now. I wanted both of us to see someone when you first left but you wouldn’t. Now that I’ve made a new start I’m not prepared to go back. You’re going to have to do it on your own.
– But I’m afraid.

How did I ever love this shell?

– And it will probably get worse before it gets better. When you left me I thought I was going to die. I felt totally worthless. (You’ll love that, you bastard.)  But I was determined I wasn’t going to waste my life.
– It was easier for you though. You were in the right and you got all the sympathy and support.

Wonderful. I get the kick in the guts and you want the support.

– You helped to make our bed, Matt, and you chose not to lie in it anymore. Sure, I got support but I also got questions from my parents about what I’d done to drive you away.

Matt’s head drooped dramatically.

– Oh, Matt, can’t you see that you have to change. Nobody else can do it for you.
– I just don’t know where to start.
– Try starting with what you really want to do for a change.
– Like all your touchie-feelie drop-out mates?
– You left me, you’ve chucked your job and you’re probably drunk most nights of the week. If you haven’t dropped out, I don’t know who has. The trouble with you is that the world’s in your head. Try to stay with your feelings for once in your life.
– I am but ..

Bullshit. I bet you’re still doing the rounds of the same old friends and the same old places, sucking for sympathy and waiting for the perfect job or the perfect relationship or the one true cause to drop on you like a bombshell.

– I just wish I had your guts and energy.

God help me, I have to say this.

– I know you do but I need it for myself. It’s time you found your own.
– I guess you don’t have much respect for me these days.

How right you are but I’m not going to be stupid enough to say it here and now.

– I respect the things in you that are worth respecting. But I only ever see them when you take off that ridiculous suit of armour you’ve made up out of bits and pieces of other people’s approval.
– It’s ironic really. I’m the one who left and yet I’m wondering if I’m not the one who’s still in love.

Dee didn’t answer.

It’s not me you love, Matt. It’s the hidey-hole that our relationship was for you. I didn’t realise how much you’d drained from me until you left and, speaking of irony, it’s probably the most important thing you ever did for me. That’s why I could never go back to the way it was or anything like it. I want to be a lover not a wet-nurse. I just wish it was safe enough for me to say that.

– I guess it would be better if we didn’t see each other for a while.
– I think so.

Matt reluctantly got up to leave.

–  Well.
– Goodbye, Matt, and good luck.
– Let’s say ‘au revoir’.

Matt moved to kiss her but she dodged him.

– Go on, I‘ve got work to do.

Matt ambled down the hallway and let himself out.

Dee went to the piano and sang and played her song through, ending with a flourish. She laughed and clapped herself, silently, but for a long time.

In the crisp evening air, Matt’s shoulders hunched. Patting his inside pocket to check for his latest sheaf of poems, he wondered if Caroline was home. She was keen on him once. He quickly hailed a cab.

29 thoughts on “When is a revolution just a circle?

  1. Well Doug, this is pretty good stuff. I felt a melancholy running through it. The drama of a player found out and discharged, yet stuck repeating the errors over and over. A point dropped in the very last line. I guess getting older makes the drama linger deeper too. What was “fun apparent” now a lost entity disembowelled with what was. Chasing the past conquests as one by one they turn him out. Dee showed that part really well. Both in dialogue and her mental thinking. It’s actually hard not to feel some empathy with both characters. Dee for being left in the first place with all the bitterness that carries and Matt for being so dependant on others he can’t look after his own self purpose.

    Your writing sure is improving hugely… or is it the increased word count allowing me to see it better? Maybe both. Great writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, Gary. This is in fact a story I wrote some time ago (hence the early entry). I’d never been entirely happy with the ending but it popped into my brain as a candidate for Revolution and the ending then wrote itself. The increased word count is a big plus for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nice way to bring older stories back to life Doug. It seems the increased word count is being received quite well. It gives a greater range of options. Nobody is forced to do the maximum and it discharges short flash fiction add ins. We saw a few doing one very short piece and tagging it into several flash prompts. I see that as trying to generate traffic rather than in the spirit of the prompts. I’m hoping our community is collecting serious writers that both read and share their work, with no self demands that everybody “has” to read anything if time is short. That’s my take at least haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your last point is one of my pet peeves, as you know. It’s difficult enough to grow as a writer as it is without freeloaders who think hitting Like is somehow sufficient to be a member of a writing community and that they’re too busy and far too important to be anything other than a broadcaster. (I have one Follower who hits Like within seconds of each post, when they can’t possibly have had time to read the piece). If I’m ever crazy enough to start my own writers’ site there would be no Like button and those who only ever posted without taking the time to say something constructive would be blocked from further posting.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I thought it might be based on the debate a good while back with Joshua on the BB site. I saw it late so didn’t pass comment there as it seemed to have run its course and made Joshua feel he’d ticked you off. Part of the word count increase was based on some things you said that coincide with my thoughts. I also know who writes and doesn’t reciprocate reading other people’s work too. Hence the two week thing with two to read. There have been occasions things have been removed too. Including moderated comments that never see light of day. If the group grows then it’s likely to require more time to moderate. That’s the biggie really. Time on admin. Both Rachael and I do have a great deal of other things to juggle too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Totally understand and that’s why my hat stays permanently off to you and Rachael. Perhaps you could think about having guest moderators from time to time (who, of course, wouldn’t be able to submit in that round). Seems to work well for Charli over at the Carrot Ranch. Just a thought.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think if the group grows then extra moderators might well be necessary Doug. Currently it’s all workable though. Between us we seem to juggle each other’s absentias haha. That said I’ve been setting up a NaNo Camp writing group for BlogBattlers. The post concerning that should be out this Friday.

        I also really should look at the Carrot Ranch too. Been meaning to for absolutely ages.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And to piggyback on a comment you made to Gary upthread, you can disable the like buttons on your posts, you know. I got rid of the ones on my site years ago. They’re a complete waste of time. The only thing that counts in terms of website visibility is commenting. By getting rid of the like button, I just narrowed the visitors down to the people who actually wanted to be there. Saved myself a bunch of time. I figure those people can go like stuff on Twitter or facebook or whatever, and that’s fine. But they don’t have to be a time sink for me. Just in case that helps. : )

        PS I also disabled the comments on my pages, so I didn’t have a bunch of people trying to promote themselves on my home page or my About Me page.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is the type of story that I sort of describe as ‘I dislike the characters so much, I like them!’ You illuminate the foibles of both so well that I wondered where the dialogue was going to go next. I did root for Dee about the aspect of her getting Matt out of the house and not allowing him ‘back in.’ The detail of how her books were mostly feminist but interspersed with romances was quite telling. And I loved how you did the ending!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve got a real knack for creating utterly believable — yet utterly awful — people, Doug. Matt came off as a total piece of ****! Especially at the bit where he refuses to seek help but demands Dee helps him. As if it’s her responsibility to play psychiatrist. I think what really riled me is that we’ve all known a Matt. The best line of the entire piece was easily: “How did I ever love this shell?” Brilliant and biting!

    The only thing that threw me off was how the dialogue was presented — I sometimes got lost as to who was saying what. On the flip side, it made me really pay attention, and the speech itself was very well constructed! Great stuff, as always. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the compliments, Joshua, and the detailed comments. I’ve taken note of yourcomment about the dialogue and will pay close attention to that in future. I think it comes from me seeing my characters as I write and assuming my readers are in the same room.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A captivating story; totally relatable. I imagine many have been through something similar. Isn’t it amazing how some people demand things from others without looking at themselves first? Once you get used to getting what you want, it’s hard to have to work for it. It always amazed me how these people have no shame in begging and saying that they are aware of their terrible ways, yet choose to keep acting the way they did. And what a perfect ending.

    I wasn’t too keen on the way you presented the dialogue, like Joshua mentioned. However, I really liked the internal one of the female. It helped show how we can’t always say what’s on our minds if we know what’s good for us.

    There was a part when I got slightly lost. There was mention of him leaving to return the next day for dinner but then the story continues as if that part wasn’t in there. “She eventually stood back, in control again. He said he was leaving now but would be back tomorrow night to take her to dinner and was gone before she replied. She wondered briefly where he got of with that masculine arrogance she had come to despise but later, drifting into fitful sleep, she was pleasantly confused by the warmth his enfolding had left in her belly.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Goldie. Always difficult to deal with dialogue without resorting to ‘he said, she said etc’. I always hope that I have established the chracters in a way that makes the context clear. The passage you refer to is part of a reminiscence of how they first met. Hopefully a re-read will make that clear.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Awww, Doug! That was a wow of human-ness. I’m sorry I’m so late to this round, but I’m glad finally made it over! I read through the comments, too, and find I have very little to add. Most of what I thought and would have said was covered between great lines, some issue with following dialogue (but totally agree with Joshua about it making me pay closer attention), and general cleverness of displaying the narcissitic at its finest. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of swearing, but I do realize that is true-to-life spoken and inner dialogue to a lot of people and definitely added to the realness of the entire story. I’m so glad that ending came togther for you to make this prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

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