Two things pissed Marie off, getting phone calls in the middle of the night and life in general. What made it worse was she’d been in a deep sleep, her first good sleep for about a week and it was Paddy’s phone, on the bedside unit, his side of the bed, the ring tone belting out Things Can Only Get Better-Things Can Only Get Better-.
He was snoring. Stubbing her toe, kicking him underneath the quuilt, made her feel, momentarily, better.
‘What? What? What?’ Paddy smacked his lips together. He locked on to his wife’s facial impression of sub-Antarctica and the start of a new cold war. Reaching for his mobile, he picked up his false teeth instead, just as the phone stopped ringing.
‘Probably one of your floozies.’ Marie rearranged the stack of pillows and turned her back so she didn’t have to look at him.
‘We’ve been through all this before.’ Paddy’s tone was battle weary and was signalling surrender terms.
He eased his bum along the memory-foam mattress. The Super Californian-king-sized bed, raised extra high for some reason, he couldn’t remember, and reached for the iPhone to check the number.
Briefly the room was lit up, all the princess pinks and whites Marie favoured. Her dressing table spilling over with perfumes and a catalogue of make-up. She’d a red wig and a blonde and a silvery-blonde on the ebony heads of mannequins reflected back in the swing-mirror.
His phone started ringing again and seeing Sarah’s number, he rolled sharpish from under the quilt. He slept in pyjama bottoms, but didn’t bother feeling for his slippers with his feet. He angled the phone up to his ear, ‘Hallo. Hallo,’ he said, in an upbeat voice, bounding across the room towards the door hoping she wouldn’t speak before he grabbed the handle and he could answer.
‘Is that you Paddy-boy,’ said Sarah. ‘It’s me-ee.’
Marie huffed like a water buffalo.
Paddy darted into the hall, mobile jammed to the side of his head and kept striding along the hall and half way down the stairs, trying to create earshot between him and his wife.
‘Whit are you phoning me here for?’ he shouted down the phone. ‘I told you after the last time not to phone me here – and you’re drunk.’
‘Where else am I gonnae phone you, but on your phone? I mean, if you think about it’s the only place a kin phone you.’ She laughed. ‘Innit?’
Paddy nipped into the downstairs toilet shut and locked the door. He stood peeing into the pan and spoke very slowly and deliberately, ‘I thought we agreed you wouldn’t phone me here.’
‘No, No, Paddy-boy. You agreed I wouldn’t phone you.’ And ‘here’ was slurred.
‘OK, I’m not going to argue with you.’ He flushed the pan and flicked the tap, running three of his fingers under lukewarm water and flicking it off.
‘I’m not arguing with you Paddy, I’m having a conversation. And you’re forgetting one very, very, important thing…’
He could hear her crying on the other end of the phone. ‘Whit?’ he finally said.
‘Nothing,’ she said and hung up.
‘Fuck.’ He turned his phone off.
In the kitchen, he turned the kettle on and glanced out the window. A stream ran just outside the boundary of his back garden. The wind whipped the trees and a fox barked as if it was using a megaphone to cough from the blackness of the bushes, which grated on his nerves. His phone was still in his hand. He turned it on. Three missed calls. And turned it off. The kettle boiled, but he was already moving with renewed purpose.
He got dressed in the spare room upstairs, but had to go back through to the bedroom to get his teeth, car keys and wallet.
Marie was propped up in bed flicking through Discovery channels, waiting for him.
‘I need to go out,’ he said. ‘AA business.’
‘Is that what you call it?’
‘Aye,’ he popped his teeth in and licked his upper lips with his tongue, trying to get them to sit right.
‘Well, don’t bother coming back.’
He pulled open the top drawer, reached for his wallet and fob. ‘You’re forgetting, lady, who pays the bills.’
He regretted it as soon as he said it.
‘Sorry,’ he stood penitent as twin eagles soared onscreen and then he sloped out of the room.
The roads weren’t busy and with a cigarette in his gob and Neil Diamond belting ‘Love on the Rocks’ out of the speakers he felt like he had when he was a cheeky school boy sneaking away from double maths class in the morning. He was motoring through Partick in about ten minutes.
Sarah answered on the first chap of the door. Her hair was a witch’s kettle, she’d on a housecoat tied at the waist and her breasts in her nylon nightie looked like two bald men’s heads squeezed cheek to cheek. She whipped the cigarette out of his mouth and took a long draw.
‘I didn’t think you smoked,’ said Paddy.
He followed her waddling ass into the bedroom-kitchen. The bedclothes were pulled in a diagonal and computer screen glowed and lit part of her bare leg as she hitched her nightie to sit, pulling a pillow behind her back. She handed the fag back to Paddy, coughed and patted her chest.
‘Terrible habit,’ she giggled. ‘Don’t look at me like that.’
‘Like what?’ Paddy looked for somewhere to stub the dowt out.
‘Like you’re pissed. Moses standing there with the Ten Commandments. Geez a break Paddy.’ She waved her arm and pointing, ‘Just put that fag out in the sink’.
When he came back she was scrolling down the screen of her RBS bank account. ‘Look.’
He leaned over, trying to concentrate on numbers, transactions and not the musky figure. ‘What?’
‘You can tell. That’s twenty fags and a bottle of vodka.’ I googled it, a wee shop in Whiteinch. ‘Then she went there and got forty fags and a bottle of vodka…Then she went there and got sixty fags and a bottle of vodka…And here a gold fucking bracelet, cheap, mind you.’
‘Who did?’ He shrugged. ‘What you talking about?’
‘Louise, ya daft cunt. She stole my bag.’
He looked at her, at the screen and back to her face. When he realised who she was talking about, he spluttered, ‘How much did she get? You didnae gee her your keycard number did you?’
Sarah took his outburst in her stride. ‘She got about sixty quid, and no, I didnae gee her my keycard number. I’m no daft Paddy. I went to cancel my card, but she’d already used it. I sent a message to the bank and I’m sure they’ll reimburse me, but it’s not that, I feel…’ And she begun to cry.
Paddy flung an arm around her shoulder and she leaned into his side, rocking her until the sniffles subsided.
‘But how could she use your card, if she didnae know your number?’
‘Swipe. Just hold your card up and the transaction goes through.’
‘No, you cannae dae that.’
Sarah pulled away and eyeballed him. ‘Well, you better go and tell her that then, because she’s obviously done it.’
‘Oh, I don’t mean that.’ Paddy took a step back. ‘I mean you’d think the banks would have something in place.’
‘Look Paddy, the banks don’t care. It’s sweetie money to them. The more cashless transactions they make the more money they make. That’s the way everything is going. And the shopkeepers aren’t that fussed either. They get paid. It’s a victimless crime, apart from muggins here.’
‘Och, it’s not your fault,’ Paddy patted his jacket where his wallet and fob was. ‘But how did you let her get at your bag?’ He frowned, ‘I thought you were a bit mair switched on than that?’
‘I am…usually. But we were in bed and she said she was going for a shower and I fell asleep for a few minutes.’
He pointed at her and his bottom lip jerked out. ‘You were in bed with her?’
‘I didnae think you were like that.’
‘Like what Paddy? Human?’
‘No, I don’t mean that.’ He stroked his chin. ‘I mean,’ and he waved his hand. ‘I mean, you know what I mean.’
She tilted forward. ‘How is Marie, getting on, anyway?’
‘Hi,’ his voice full of gravel. ‘Don’t bring my Marie, or my marriage, into it.’
‘Or what Paddy? You gonnae beat me up? Teach me a lesson?’
He smacked his lips together, issuing a one word reprimand, ‘Nah!’
Her head dropped on to her chest and she let out a long sigh. ‘I’m sorry, Paddy,’ and her eyes flickered with tears. She shut over the computer, moved the connection lead and put them on the floor. ‘C’mere,’ she waved him towards her. ‘And give me a wee cuddle.’
‘No, I’ll give it a miss, if you don’t mind.’ He jerked his head towards the door and turned. ‘In fact, it’s probably better if I go up the road.’
‘Don’t be like that Paddy, gies a wee cuddle.’
‘No,’ he cracked a smile.
‘Just a wee cuddle.’ She held her arms out.
‘No,’ he smiled. ‘Not gonnae happen.’
‘You sure?’ She reached over her shoulder, pulling her nightie over her head. Sitting naked, breast overripe hanging to her stomach, she grinned at him.
‘I might stay for a wee minute.’ Paddy took off his jacket and dropped it to the floor.
‘I just need a wee cuddle and somebody to hold me. And I don’t mind if you put your wee mannie inside me. At least it makes you less Mr Grumpy.’