O is for Overload

I opened my eyes as the morning light flitted across my face from a gap in the curtains.  I felt Karl’s arm draped heavy and warm across my waist.  For a second my life felt safe and normal until the sudden wave of reality hit me like a sharp slap and caused me to physically gasp.   I moved Karl’s arm and jumped out of bed.  I felt weak and uneasy and still in need of another eight hours. 

“Jesus.”  I said out loud to myself.  This is one screwed up family, I thought.   Karl murmured and raised himself up on his elbow rubbing his forehead.  He looked over at me and shook his head.  Seemingly, the new dawn was hitting him in the same way. 
“Oh fuck!” He suddenly exclaimed, sitting up with speed and looking for his phone. “What time is it?” 

“I glanced down at my watch, “Eleven minutes past eight.”

“Shit! I’m supposed to be in Brighton before eleven.” He started scrambling on the floor looking for last night’s discarded clothes.  

“Brighton?  What for?” That was a good hour away from Karl’s work and where he had a flat but he was at least two hours away from Brighton here.  And that was even if he drove at his speed.

“I’ve promised to help Sarah with her house hunting. She wants a place down there.” He continued, bending over and pulling on his socks.

Sarah. Well what a surprise. Not.  

Sarah was one of Karl’s reps and though only 25 years old and 14 years his junior she fawned over him like he was a potential sugar Daddy.   On the few occasions I’d met her at Karl’s Christmas work do’s she had been barely able to even acknowledge me, which I found somewhat amusing. 
 Everyone else at his company was a great crack and I’d usually end up, in drunken debates with the European director and Jose, Karl’s Spanish boss, until the early hours of the morning.  The only time Sarah paid me any attention was when she sat in the background intensely staring at me.

 Whilst she wasn’t the prettiest of girls she had good body and made everyone fully aware of her passionate hobby of pole dancing and that her Facebook pictures were publicly available to anyone interested. That alone set her apart from her peers. Let’s be honest, what red blooded male wouldn’t while his days away wondering on the advantages of a girl who could remain upside down whilst doing the splits. 
“Oh, the pole dancer.  Why are you helping her?”  I asked sarcastically, knowing this was a road I didn’t really want to go down but being unable to help it anyway.

“She asked.  I’m just being nice.  And she’s one of my reps, not just a pole dancer.” He looked up at me as if to make that point clearer somehow.

Of course he was being nice.  That’s what he did.  What he’d always done.  Nice and accommodating to everyone else.  

“Is she sliding down the pole of your depravity?” I asked.  I knew I was being a bitch but I couldn’t help it.   The near intimacy he’d shown last night and now he was off on a junket with some exotic dancer.  It pissed me off and made me feel stupid for even letting him sleep next to me last night.

“Really? Come on Soph, grow up.” He chastised.

I felt a sudden urge to smack him round the head.  Lying sack of shit. It really wasn’t any of my business but I resented the fact that he could go out and play whilst I was expected to deal with all the family stress every day.  And I almost believed he missed me last night.  I’m such an idiot.

  Rather than carry on what would evolve into a futile argument, I removed myself from the room and went downstairs to get breakfast.  The remains of last night’s cake from hell lay over the kitchen counter which reminded me I’d got that to deal with too.  I felt totally fed up and on the verge of becoming utterly atrocious.    I knew I was going to have one of those days where I hated everything and everyone.  The stall had been set and I could feel the darkness filling me up.  Even if Santa Claus were to turn up in his red suit saying, “Hey, I’m for real!”  I would probably tell him to fuck off.

I made a drink of tea and one for Karl despite not wanting to.  He’d only find another reason to find me churlish if I didn’t.  I took mine into the living room and sat down.  That’s when I saw my beautiful red note book used and abused by my stupid ideas.  I picked it up and read my notes.  Though it was kind of ridiculous it was a fun idea.  Then I recalled texting Colin and Johnno.  I remembered telling my boss that he could get a blow job for a fiver.  I groaned outwardly and put my head in my tea free hand. 
Karl came into the room in his suit and looking so not Saturday morning.  “Have you seen my car keys?”  He asked, clearly flustered.

“No.  I’ve made you a drink.  It’s in the kitchen.” 

He went back through and I heard the jingle of his keys as he located them.  He came back into the lounge.  “Look, you need to have a serious word with Brendon about last night.  I’m not going all out to support him at Governors meetings if he’s going to become a pot head.  He needs a major attitude change all round.”

“You think?” I retorted. “How about YOU have a word with him for a change instead of giving me a hard time about it and expecting me to deal with every.single.thing.”  I flicked my thumb through the corner pages of my newly abused notebook to distract me from the building rage within.

“I don’t have the time now, obviously.  You do.” He pulled his overcoat up from the back of the sofa where he’d left it last night and shrugged it on.

Yes Karl.  I thought.  I’ve got fuck all else to do.  I hated him right now. 

 “Well so long as you’ve got your priorities straight.” I gave my final dig.

“I’ll talk to you another time.” He replied flatly and walked out the front door.  I heard his car rev up and drive away and I felt sick.

I sat with my tea and thought about my life: An ex husband who came and went as he pleased, solely fixed to his own agenda.  A son I couldn’t control, whom I had to battle with continually; a daughter who I had to ensure got tons of attention so she didn’t feel left out.  A job I was trying to hold down along with my ‘flexible’ hours so I could appease the school when Lord Know-it-all went off on one.  A rambling house in need of constant upkeep; a garden full of ever growing plants; laundry, cleaning and cooking and not nearly enough money.    Where was all this mentioned in the fairytales?  I reckon Grim wasn’t even up to this nightmare.  I was on stress out overload.  I felt weak, lifeless and well ensconced in the wagon of self pity. 
I lifted myself from the settee and stretched my whole body as high as I could.  I’d read somewhere that if you stretched yourself out totally in the morning you’d get 15% more energy.  I had to get up and get on with it and ‘carry-on-regardless’ in true British style.

I went around the house collecting pots and plates since nobody else understood how to do this.  I looked at the remaining hash brownies and was stuck with a dilemma:  Should I eat another and go back to the ‘music of my mind’, wrap them up and save them or chuck them away?  I covered them with tin foil and hid them.
I spent the next few hours, cleaning, washing and scrubbing the house which in turn had the same affect on my mind.  Like clutter clearing of the soul. 
My phone vibrated in my pocket:
Bryony: Can you fetch me from Beths in five minutes?

Ah.  The taxi call.  Another job to add to my curriculum vitae.

SOPHIE RHODES: Yes – be ready, I’m busy. X

I got in my car and drove to fetch Bryony.  She got in with a cheery smile.
“We had a chat about her night and then I went straight in for the kill to catch her off guard.

“How long have you known about Brendon doing weed?”
I spotted her hesitation in a second.

“What? “ She stumbled.  “Is he?” 

“Bryony. I know you know so let’s cut the crap and start talking.”

“Promise you won’t tell him?”

“You have my word.” I promised. 

“Well, he used to hate it and call everyone that did it wasters.  But then when he went to that party at Joe’s house he tried some.  He told me about it the next day and said it really made him feel good.  I don’t think he has it very often, just now and then..” She looked at me with wide eyes.

“And is it true that loads of teenagers are doing it?” I asked.

“Yes mum.  God, people do that more than they do drinking.  People in the year below me do it.  They meet down fag alley at the side of school at lunch or after and get high.”

“God. Really?” I said. Hmm. That was one I could store up and use against Fothergill if I had to.  Drugs at school in middle class suburbia. 

“Have you ever had it?”

“No. No way Mum. I wouldn’t even smoke!”  I believed her but you never knew when the hand of temptation would come poking.

“Well that’s good.  But just so we’re clear, If I EVER find out you have then I will go ballistic.  Totally.  You understand?”

“YES! FINE. I get it.”

“And don’t get sucked into your brother’s arguments that it’s totally safe and harmless.  It’s an illegal drug for a reason. It messes you up.  Trust me.  He drugged me and Dad last night with cake and I went into magic roundabout land.  Don’t ever eat anything he gives you.” 

“LOL! You and Dad trippin’ on weed! HA! That’s joke!”

“No it’s NOT.  And don’t give your brother any ammunition by saying so!” I pulled into the drive to see Brendon at the front door letting in four of his friends.   One of them was Luke.  I got out of the car quickly and followed them in, giving Brendon a dirty look.

“How are you feeling Mommy?” Brendon said with a wicked grin.

“Annoyed. You’d be well advised to keep out of my way.” I replied.  I'd rather have sat him down and spoken to him but now all his friends were here that was going to have to wait until tomorrow.  I said hello to his pals and then turned to Luke. 

“Are you Catholic, Luke?” I asked lifting a rather nice rosary out from the mass of other gold chains he had round his neck.  Luke was the epitome of ‘Chavtastic’ and so wildly different from Brendon’s other friends.  I never saw him without a snapback, tracksuit, a different pair of‘fresh creps’ and some sparkly earring in his pierced ear.

“Err, no.  I’m not Catholic.  I don’t believe in God.” He answered looking a little perturbed.

“Oh well that’s a good thing.” I retorted, letting the dark rosary beads  fall from my hand. “Or you’d be doing a lot of Hail Marys tomorrow for your sins.” I smiled.

“What sins?” 

“The hash brownies?” I offered. “Did your Mum and Dad enjoy them too?”  He looked at me sheepishly and at a loss for words. 

“Mum, leave him alone and stop being such a fucking bitch!” Brendon shouted.  His friends all looked to the floor, embarrassed by him swearing at me and the whole awkwardness of the situation.

“Watch your mouth.” I walked away to the utility room.  I knew that it wasn’t Luke’s fault I’d been fed  hash brownies but I wanted him to know I wasn’t happy. He was involved after all. 
I turned on the iron and looked at the piles and piles of clothes waiting to be pressed.  And now my clean house was full of teenage boys who would just make it messy again.  I pulled a t-shirt from the pile and laid it on the ironing board. 
 I’m probably the only person on the planet who looks forward to Mondays, I thought.