"I'm such an idiot!"
I sit bolt upright in bed.
I woke up because everything suddenly made sense. Crystal clear. And I'm such an idiot, I couldn't see what's in front of my nose all along. How stupid!
Without switching on the light I finger my mobile and speed dial Louisa's number.
It rings a couple of times and I just realise how stupid this idea was. When I'm about to ring off, I hear Louisa's sleepy voice.
"Uhm…sorry…it's me. Martin."
"Martin?" Louisa's still seems to be more asleep than awake. "Do you have any idea what time it is in London?"
"Oh…uhm…sorry, bad idea. We can talk later."
"No, wait. Now that you've woken me up you can just as well tell me what's so important that you had to ring me at half past five."
"Don't tell me you didn't know. It must be in the middle of the night over there, too."
For the first time I look at the alarm clock and curse myself that I hadn't done that earlier. It's half past twelve.
"Ehm…yes, it is."
"Can't you sleep?"
"Oh, eh…I was asleep. I just woke up."
"And you're calling to tell me that, or is something serious the matter?"
"Maybe I really should call you later."
"No, it's OK. I couldn't sleep now without knowing what's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong, really."
"Great. Good to know. Is there anything else or can I go back to sleep?"
I decide that I have to ask her now or I would never do it. Now, that I see clearly – like in a dream.
"Are you free this weekend?"
"Why are you asking? When?"
"The whole weekend. It's important."
"I'll have to look at my diary. I think I kept it free, except for one gathering about the street kids where I really should be."
"Please, skip it."
"Wow. This really sounds important. Maybe Shirley can go, she mentioned she wanted to go anyway."
"So what's wrong?"
"When I'm coming home on Friday, meet me at Paddington. Bring James and the luggage for the weekend."
"But I thought you wanted to go home."
"That's exactly what I have to find out. See you at the station."
I ring off before Louisa has time to answer.
I take a deep breath. Now the wheels are rolling. No holding back. I am a bit dizzy when I think about the possible consequences.
I'm taking a risk. I'm not sure if the outcome is what I really want, but somehow there seems to be no other way.
It can't go on like this.
I despised my parents for how they treated each other and how they treated me. I swore to myself that I'd never be like my father, that we'd never be like them.
In a way, Louisa and I are worse. At least my parents did what they did to have fun, to claim their own happiness.
What are we doing? We are working like mad, running in circles, neglecting each other and James – for what? We don't even have fun!
We are doing our duty. We are treating each other with respect and yes, there is a lot of love. I admit, that is something my parents didn't have.
However, our family life is arranged around our work. If something or someone gets in the way of the job, it has to step back.
Like the other week. I had lost a patient on the table. I know, as a doctor I should be prepared that this is a possibility and normally I can cope, but the tragic thing was that I really thought we'd made it when things turned worse. In the end it was a battle, for hours, and we lost.
When I came home I was devastated, exhausted and worn out. James was already asleep as the procedure made a timely return home impossible.
It was one of the rare occasions that I needed to talk. I really needed someone to pour my heart out to.
It was also one of the rare evenings that Louisa was home.
I'm never good in starting a conversation. I never was and I suppose I never will be, so maybe my attempts to start talking were a bit awkward. I'm sure Louisa didn't realise how important it was for me to get things off my chest.
She didn't really listen. She was engrossed in the papers lying all over the living room table. Somehow I kept talking, trying to get to the point, until Louisa looked up shortly.
"Martin, do you mind. I need that for a conference tomorrow. I'm running late. Can't we talk about it tomorrow?"
I sighed and did the only thing I could do.
I let it rest.
Louisa just shouted over to me as I left the room "There's some pie left in the fridge. Just needs heating up."
I did not go into the kitchen. I wasn't hungry.
I went onto the balcony and watched the city lights. I listened to the last planes doing their waiting loop over London.
Louisa never uses the balcony. She says it stinks. It's the emission from the street below. And the noise. We are in the middle of London after all.
It was a cool evening and the usual bustle of the city going on underneath me while I didn't have to take part in it somehow soothed me.
Then I went into James' room. He was fast asleep. One leg had escaped the shelter of the blanket and I tucked it safely back into the warmth of the cover. He stirred slightly, murmured something and turned to the other side. I ran my hand through his blonde hair, then I sat next to his bed and told him how my day had been. What had gone wrong. I spoke quietly not to wake him.
When I went to bed, Louisa was still busy with her preparations. I tried to sleep. I couldn't. When Louisa finally joined me in the middle of the night, I pretended to be asleep. I didn't want to risk that she wanted to talk. I couldn't tell her anymore.
The Louisa I had met in Portwenn, I could have told her. She'd understand.
I couldn't bother the busy teacher lying next to me now with my stupid problems.
I wonder now how often James feels that way. Bursting with news, devastated because something in his little world has gone wrong, proud because he had succeeded in something he had failed in before – and Louisa and I aren't there or are too busy to be bothered.
And Louisa? Does she have someone to talk to? We do talk, of course, but maybe she also has her moments of despair and I'm not there to listen, or I am engrossed in some journal, or I am simply too tired to listen properly.
How often are we living next to each other instead of together?
How much do we have in common still? Or is she just still with me because she didn't have any reason to leave, because we have settled? I hope Ruth hadn't been right at the beginning that we are just together for James' sake. That's a horrid thought.
I lie back in bed. It's time to get some sleep. At least I've taken some action now. Things will change. If for the better we will see. This weekend will be a turning point.
We will see then if this family is worth being the centre of our attention instead of something to fill our spare time with.
Content that I've taken the situation in hand I can sleep quietly now.
To be continued…