I sit in the trees at the end of your garden.
Leaves scatter around me. They drop from curling grey branches. Some winter animals. Squirrels stop and gaze through me, then flee into the high tops. A badger once. I stay very still. I have one sheet, a dark red bed sheet, for a double bed, attached with cable ties to the gap between the two tallest trees. It ripples when the wind passes.
The sheet came from your bed.
I went into your house. For the first time, two weeks ago.
You’ve moved away. This far away.
You adore the fake stone in green. The space underneath. The keys, two, strung on a metal loop with the heart shaped fob your mother gave you. A year ago this Christmas. I think. The long key fits the back door, the other the front.
I can climb up. Into the lower branches. They’re strong enough to hold me without creaking or swaying. Even the leaves stay in place, fluttering as I pass. I don’t want you to see me. Not yet.
You have a front door with frosted glass that you can’t see through. Even with lights on inside. You didn’t know I was there. I watched you hang up your coat, check your reflection in the long mirror with the carved wooden surround. I made my breath form a mist on the glass.
The garden is a good size. Bigger than ours. There are plastic toys, a swing, a small climbing frame in gaudy plastic, faded by the summer sun. For his children. He has two of them. Did you always want children? Are you pleased to pretend? With him?
I watch you when you go out. I see you when you come home. I don’t move. I sit in the trees at the end of your garden. I manage my issues now. You’ll be pleased. Pleased to know I manage my issues. You always said I should.
I wear that black jumper your mother knitted for me. The one we laughed about in the kitchen when I was pissed and you still found me funny. It has our initials sewn together on the left breast. It still does. I pick at the stitching with my fingers. Your initials have gone now.
I really don’t want to scare his children. The girl has a room at the back. I see her looking out at the trees. I stay as still as still can be. I’ve seen you closing her curtains. I’ve never been very good at ages. Is she at school yet? I can’t see if she wears school uniform. I’ve not seen the boy. I heard him shouting once, that bright day last week when you had all the windows open. I loved having the windows open. I liked the fresh air in our house. The one where you used to live.
I’ve fashioned a face covering out of newspaper. It’s cumbersome, but necessary. I have eye holes. In the evening you keep the curtains open until you go to bed. Last night I saw you both looking out into the garden. You were holding his hand. You didn’t know I was there.
I can see your bedroom when I lie amongst the leaves. Your curtains are floral. Flowers in red and blue. On a white background. You never leave them open at night. It takes three minutes from you drawing the curtains in the front room to you drawing the bedroom curtains. The lights go off downstairs in the same order each night.
Do you lie together? He has books next to his bed. On a small bedside table which matches the one on your side. A drawer each. His with spare glasses, yours with tickets. You still collect the show tickets. The shows you’ve seen with him. All the ones we saw together are gone. I have checked. Twice. Maybe three times. I. Have. Checked.
Do you lie together? With the little girl asleep in the next room? The boy across the hall in the third bedroom facing the front?
I sat in the trees at the end of your garden. I am in your house. Now.
I look at the sky from his kitchen window. Vast and blue. The silence of the country rings in my ears. I wear the mask still. The black jumper.
There are two mugs by the sink, matching in plain blue. There is cold tea in both. I always rinse out the mugs before the milk rises. It starts to smell. You never bothered. I empty the dregs down the sink and wash out the mugs. I use my fingers to rub away the stains. I put them back exactly where they were. Exactly. You’ll be pleased. I’m sure.
The toys. I turn all the toy cars upside down and pull the dolls dresses over their faces. I pull the heads from the teddy bears and swap them around. They all gaze at me. Pitiful. You feed his children while he reads The Times newspaper. I didn’t have time for current events. I used to tell you that. You used to tell me I was shouting.
Who decided where everything went? The chairs, the sofa. The television tucked away discretely. Is he an intellectual? I do hope so. Have you changed things around? Made your mark? Banished the ex? I try not to be jealous anymore. I really do. You will be pleased.
I spend some time going through the children’s picture books, scratching out the faces of all the adorable little characters, cats, mice, bears. All seven dwarves.
You have lots of new dresses.
I like the order in your new house. The car keys hang on a hook by the door. I like that. It makes sense. You have a coat rack. I like that. It makes sense. You have a burglar alarm. I like that. It makes sense. You write the code for the burglar alarm on a memo pad stuck to the fridge among all the photos of you, with him, with them, the children, with him, with the sun. Across your face. I like that. I like that.
Do you take the children to school in your new dresses? Do people think you’re the mother?
They’re away at his mother’s tonight. A sleep over for being so well behaved recently. That’s what you said to them. Over breakfast that morning. I was in the house with you all. I heard you. You really are a natural with them. Well done you!
I’m in the house when you come home. You don’t notice the toys. I watch you eat together, sharing a bottle of wine. He’s lit candles. What a romantic gesture. I sent you flowers once. You said they were a waste of money. He has money. He buys you dresses.
Afterwards I hear you walking across the landing. You don’t turn the lights on. There is moonlight through the toilet window. You leave the door open. The children are away after all. I stand in the shadows at the bottom of the stairs and watch you piss. I look in the mirror. I am hidden behind the mask.
The night passes. I sit in our old armchair.
I watch you from our old armchair.
Something has changed. I have made sure. He’s drinking in the kitchen. Did you know that? He never drank before. I did. You used to tell me. All the time. All the fucking time. He’s gone longer than you expect. What’s he doing in there? He smells of drink doesn’t he? He reminds you of me doesn’t he?
Why are you arguing? You make such a lovely couple! My word! He’s shouting at you? Because he took so long? Is he drunk? Like me? Is he drunk like me? Is he fucking drunk like me you fucking cunt?
You’re thinking of me.
He uses the words I use. He sounds like I do. Did. I hear him, you hear him. He is gone. I am him. All of a sudden. All of a fucking sudden I am him.
I’m wearing that black jumper and a mask I’ve fashioned out of newspaper.
He hits you.
I wanted to kill you. Did you know that?
I drove the car into the tree. I wanted us both to go. I was drunk. You were you. I went. You stayed.
I sit in the trees at the end of your garden.
I watch from our old armchair.
He hits you again, and again, and again.
You can’t see me, can you?
His fingers press around your neck.
You’re looking at me.
I take off the mask.