The Blue Notebook
Now it is nearly eight o’clock and another pressure starts; this is Michael’s day for going to the hospital in South London, so he must wake at eight to be in time. He prefers Janet to have left for school before he wakes. And I prefer it, because it divides me. The two personalities — Janet’s mother, Michael’s mistress, are happier separated. It is a strain having to be both at once. It is no longer raining. I wipe the fog of condensed breath and night-sweat from the window-pane, and see it is a cool, damp, but clear day. Janet’s school is close, a short walk. I say: ‘You must take your raincoat.’ Instantly her voice rises into protest: ‘Oh no, mummy, I hate my raincoat, I want my duffle coat.’ I say, calm and firm: ‘No. Your raincoat. It’s been raining all night.’ ‘How do you know when you were asleep?’ This triumphant retort puts her into a good-humour. She will now take the raincoat and put on her gum-boots without any further fuss. ‘Are you going to fetch me from school this afternoon?’ ‘Yes, I think so, but if I’m not there, then come back, and Molly will be here.’ ‘Or Tommy.’ ‘No, not Tommy.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Tommy’s grown-up now, and he’s got a girlfriend.’ I say this on purpose because she has shown signs of jealousy of Tommy’s girl. She says, calmly: ‘Tommy will always like me best.’ And adds: ‘If you’re not there to pick me up, I’ll go and play at Barbara’s house.’ ‘Well, if you do I’ll come and fetch you at six.’ She rushes off down the stairs, making a terrific din. It sounds like an avalanche sliding down the centre of the house. I am afraid Molly might wake. I stand at the head of the stairs, listening, until, ten seconds later, the front door slams; and I make myself shut out all thoughts of Janet until the proper time. I go back into the bedroom. Michael is a dark hump under the bedclothes. I draw the curtains right back, and sit on the bed and kiss Michael awake. He grips me and says: ‘Come back to bed.’ I say: ‘It’s eight o’clock. After.’ He puts his hands on my breasts. My nipples begin to burn, and I control my response to him and say: ‘It’s eight o’clock.’ ‘Oh, Anna, but you’re always so efficient and practical in the morning.’ ‘It’s just as well I am,’ I say, lightly, but I can hear the annoyance in my voice. ‘Where is Janet?’ ‘Gone to school.’ He lets his hands fall from my breasts, and now I feel disappointment — perversely — because we won’t make love. Also relief; because if we did he would be late, and short-tempered with me. And of course, the resentment: my affliction, my burden, and my cross. The resentment is because he said: ‘You are always so efficient and practical,’ when it is precisely my efficiency and practicality that gains him an extra two hours in bed.