Home > If I Never Met You_ Deliciously(7)

If I Never Met You_ Deliciously(7)
Author: Mhairi McFarlane

There was a huge, bewildering gap in all of this for Laurie. An untold mystery in how Dan had gone from unpacking the Ocado delivery, and complaining about the plain digestives they got as substitutions for Jaffa Cakes, going for musty pints of stout in their local and laughing at dogs with overbites in Beech Road Park on a Sunday morning, to this final, total departure, with nothing in between.

It was as if one minute she’d been running for a bus, and the next she’d woken up in a hospital bed, the quilt flat where her legs used to be, with a doctor explaining they were ever so sorry but there was no saving them.

‘Good to know you used to care,’ she said, hearing how plaintive and bitter her voice sounded, in the darkened sitting room. ‘Small mercies? Or is that meant to be a big mercy?’

‘I do care.’

‘Just not enough to stay.’

Dan stared blankly.

‘Say it,’ Laurie said, with force.


It was the logical conclusion of everything he’d said; and yet that hard monosyllable surprised her so much, he might as well have slapped her.




At three in the morning, having been wide awake for hours, Laurie got up, marched into the spare room and stamped on the button to turn the big floor lamp on.

‘Dan? Wake up.’

The human-sized sausage shape under the duvet stirred and Dan’s head emerged, hair askew.

At first he frowned in sleepy confusion. When he focused on Laurie’s face, and visibly remembered the specifics of his existence, his expression changed to a man woken by an FBI flashlight who knew exactly what he had hidden in his crawl space.

‘I need to know why.’


‘I need to know why this is happening. I know you think you’ve given me reasons but you haven’t. Only vague bullshit about us wanting different things. We’ve wanted all kinds of different things in the past but we never had to split up over it. We would’ve talked about it. I offered to hold off on kids, even put it aside, same with getting married. So it’s not that we want different things. That’s like a line you heard in Cold Feet or something.’ Laurie paused. ‘Just tell me the whole truth, however hard it is. This not knowing is worse, Dan. Look at what you’re doing to us, after our whole lives together. You owe me that.’

Dan stared at her and pushed himself up on his elbows. A silence stretched between them and Laurie sensed he was readying himself for honesty. This return ambush had worked, he’d not had time to rehearse.

Dan cleared his throat. Laurie was breaking out in a flop sweat but she still didn’t regret asking.

‘… I started waking up early. While you were still asleep,’ he said. ‘… And I’d see life as a tunnel. I could mark off everything along the way. The wedding at Manchester Town Hall. The honeymoon in Italy. Kid one, kid two. Sunday barbecues, DIY, saving up for an extension. Still hating work, but having to go for partnership because there were mouths to feed,’ his voice was hoarse with sleep and sounded strange. ‘And it was like there was nothing between here and death that left the script. It was planned out for me, every step. I was expected to do it. And I kept asking myself, like a nagging voice, a whisper that got louder and louder: did I want to do it?’

Laurie could interject here that clearly, he wasn’t expected to do several things on that list. She held herself back.

‘… I felt trapped. I’d built this box I didn’t want to live inside any more, but I wasn’t allowed to leave it. I didn’t want to leave it, as I knew how much I’d hurt you. I started being a wanker to you all the time, because I was miserable, but I didn’t want to say so.’

He drew breath. ‘That’s the thing. I kept thinking I had to stay to be kind to you but I wasn’t being kind, so what was the point?’

‘You’ve always been quite grumpy, to be fair,’ Laurie said, with a small smile.

Dan didn’t appear to listen.

‘You know how people always said how could we do it, how could we “settle down” so young?’

‘Yes,’ said Laurie, voice tight.

‘We both said it was the easiest thing we’d ever done, we never even thought of it that way. And I always meant it, Laurie, always. But maybe now, at thirty-six, it’s caught up with me. I don’t feel I’ve lived enough.’

Laurie took a deep breath and tried to get past how much this hurt. She’d stifled him, stopped him from going on expeditions, with his fascinating penis as travel companion. However, she had asked for straight answers.

‘If I’d never met you – if you’d slept around at university, and we’d got together at twenty-five, or thirty, this wouldn’t be happening?’ Laurie deliberately didn’t say this in an accusatory way, she wanted to know.

‘I don’t know. I can’t go back and live a different timeline until I get here again, and do you know what, I promise you, I wouldn’t want to. And it’s not about sex. It’s about … Oh God, I don’t want to say “finding myself.” But life’s big decisions are mainly instinct, right? The same way we both just knew, back at university. Now I know this isn’t right for me anymore. I’ve lost myself.’

‘Is it me, I’m not enough? Or too much? You’re looking at other women or … our friends or their wives, or our colleagues, thinking, “I wish Laurie was more like that”?’ Her throat was tight and she felt as if she was stood here, stark naked. To ask these questions: it was the hardest, most exposing thing. Tell me how you fell out of love with me. Describe it.

‘No! God no. It’s not about you. I know that sounds insulting, but it isn’t.’

A pause.

‘OK. Thanks for being honest,’ Laurie said dully.

She meant it. She didn’t hate this situation any less, but she grasped it a little better. Dan being this open with her reminded her how they used to be able to talk, and the pain hit her stomach again with a physical force. She would never be able to forget how easily you could lose someone’s love. She hadn’t felt it slipping away.

‘Won’t you miss me?’ she said.

This was it, the biggest question. The one that left her feeling ridiculous, pitiable, even, but she knew she had to. The idea Dan would no longer be on the ‘people to contact in an emergency’ space on her passport felt impossible. She needed him to explain how he could do this and not feel how she’d feel, if she did this.

‘The thought of it is brutal, Laurie. Like missing a limb,’ Dan said, tears starting. ‘I love you. I don’t love our relationship anymore.’

‘We could stay together and make the relationship different,’ Laurie said, eyes welling up.

They both sobbed, heads bowed, because Dan didn’t want to say it and she didn’t want to hear it. The sound of it was strange, in the darkened room.

‘Why would you leave me like this? Why would you do this to us?’ Laurie said, and she sounded like someone else. Who was this mournful, begging woman? And who was this merciless person who’d taken Dan’s place? How could eighteen years end in just a few hours?

‘I’m sorry … I’m really sorry …’ Dan gasped.

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