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Authors: Andy Jones

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BOOK: The Two of Us
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A waiter appears, as they tend to at moments like this. He asks if he can get us anything and we both tell him, No.

Ivy places her hand on her stomach. ‘I’m . . . you . . . you’re . . . we . . .’ and she bursts into tears. She’s smiling, though; she’s smiling so much, in
fact, that it makes me cry, too. I get up from the table and squat beside Ivy’s chair, putting one arm around her shoulders and one around her waist – as embraces go, it’s a
clumsy effort and I have to put one knee down to steady myself. My knee feels suddenly cold and wet, and a downward glance confirms that I am kneeling in a dirty great puddle. There are a lot of
people milling about in Wimbledon Village at ten forty-five on a Friday morning, and most of them seem to be walking past our table. Maybe it looks like I’m proposing; I don’t know and
don’t care. I kiss Ivy’s jumper where it lies against her belly, and when she places a hand against the back of my head it feels like electricity.

‘I love you,’ I say, but as I do Ivy pulls my head tight against her stomach, crushing my face against her body and turning my declaration into nothing more than three muffled,
squashed-together syllables. But I mean every single one of them.

Chapter 4

Appleseed.

Garden pea.

Blueberry.

Kidney bean.

Olive . . .

Chapter 5

Ivy is puking in my bathroom; the sound carries as clearly as birdsong in an open meadow on a still summer’s day. ‘Fuck,’ she says, her voice echoing and
resonating from inside the porcelain bowl, and floating from bathroom to bedroom like a vapour. She spits, retches, spit, spit, spits. And flush. Ivy is an expansive and prolific puker, and before
I leave for the office I will now have to clean vomit from under the seat, off the tiles and wherever the hell else it has splashed. And I’m fine with it; she gets the morning sickness, I get
the Toilet Duck – it’s only fair.

‘You okay?’ I shout.

‘No,’ Ivy shouts back. ‘But I think it’s pas— oh, oh Jesus Chrargbeluurgh . . .’

Me, I’m a door shutter; I mean, that’s kind of the point of doors, isn’t it? And don’t try telling me they’re there for opening; I have no time for that line of
logic. We could debate cause, effect, form, function all day long, but the simple truth is this – doors exist to keep some stuff in and other stuff out. You want stuff like wild animals,
burglars, serial killers, rain, noise and terrible smells on the outside. You want stuff like heat, romance, privacy and quiet on the inside. Well, I certainly do. Ivy doesn’t close doors,
not internal ones, not bathroom ones. And I suppose it’s quaint in an open, uninhibited, it’s-just-the-human-body kind of way, but there’s nothing quaint about watching the love
of your life sit through a nine-minute bowel movement – not that I actually watch, but it’s all on show through the open door if I choose to.

It’s been quiet in the bathroom for a full minute, the toilet flushes and Ivy moves through to the kitchen, muttering various expletives and curses against nature.

It’s been a month since Ivy told me she is pregnant. The way they date these things (from the day of your last period instead of from the date of conception) means that Ivy is close to ten
weeks pregnant. Which, bizarrely, is around ten days longer than Ivy and I have been together. Our pregnancy is older than our relationship. The way they measure these things, if you look at any
book or website – the baby’s development is measured in terms of food: poppyseed, blueberry, kumquat, apple, avocado, mango, cabbage, coconut, ruddy great watermelon. Right now, ours is
the size of a green olive.

‘Weird, huh?’ I say to James Bond.

James doesn’t answer, it’s not even eight o’clock and cads never rise before eleven unless their lives, or King and country depend upon it. Neither of these things applies to
me, but I do have a meeting this morning with Joe, my producer at the company I shoot commercials for. So I get up, open the curtains, and shuffle off to the bathroom to clean up Ivy’s vomit
and do what needs to be done behind closed doors.

Ivy is propped up in bed when I get back to the bedroom, holding a mug of coffee with one hand, a book with the other. She’s reading a novel by someone I’ve never heard of, a wad of
pages held back behind her left thumb.

The cafetiere is standing on a tray on top of the chest of drawers, along with a mug and a small jug of milk. I pour myself a coffee and, as I’m ahead of schedule, I climb back into
bed.

‘How’s the book?’

Ivy rotates it in her hand, looking at the cover (Bohemian plaza, sunset, shadows, silhouettes) as if the answer to the question is printed there. ‘Well, it won all kinds of prizes,
apparently. But if it wasn’t for book club I’d probably ditch it.’

‘You totally should,’ I say. ‘Swap it out for something with vampires.’

Ivy laughs. ‘It’s not that I never have – quit a book – but I dunno . . . it’s a bad habit to get into.’

‘Seriously? There was a woman on the tube last week clipping her fingernails.’

‘Ugh, you’re joking?’

‘Not joking. Just letting them ping off all over the carriage.’

Ivy puts a hand to her mouth. ‘Stop, you’re going to make me barf again.’

‘Exactly. I’ll take a book-quitter over a public nail-clipper any day of the week.’

Ivy nods as if considering the wisdom of this. ‘You’re probably right, but I don’t want to disappoint Cora – it was her choice.’

‘Will she even remember?’

‘You never know with Cora. She doesn’t know what day it is, but she can quote Dickens down to the dot and comma.’

‘Bah, humbug.’

‘Exactly,’ says Ivy, turning her attention back to the book.

‘So, how’s the sickness?’ I ask. ‘Feeling any better?’

‘I won’t miss this when it passes,’ she says. ‘You hear about it, but God, it’s dismal. A hangover every morning, without any of the upfront fun.’

‘Sorry,’ I say.

‘I should think so. You have a lot to answer for.’

After Ivy told me she was pregnant, and after I knelt in a puddle and mumbled the words ‘I love you’ into her jumper, we spent the rest of the day in a state of happy, excited
perplexity. Ivy explained her silence over the previous several days – a mixture of anxiety, confusion, and uncertainty. She worried that I would be unhappy, that she’d misled me, that
I would want out of this relationship. And I explained that none of this could be further from the truth. We finished our coffee and our relationship slipped smoothly onto the next cog – we
walked to the deli, bought falafels, bread, humus, meat, sparkling fruit juice and cheesecake; we went back to Ivy’s, picnicked on the sofa, then Ivy passed out in front of the TV. We
didn’t make love.

We have not, in fact, made love one single solitary time since the day before my dad gave us his bed and jinxed everything. I worked it out; it’s been forty days and forty nights –
that’s an abstinence of biblical proportions.

I put my coffee cup down and place my hand on Ivy’s thigh.

‘You poor thing,’ I say. ‘You know what I’ve always found works wonders for a hangover?’

Ivy lowers her book, looks at me over the top of invisible spectacles. ‘You are kidding, right?’

‘No,’ I say, moving my hand further up her thigh.

Ivy places her hand on top of mine, halting its progress. ‘You do know that I don’t have an actual hangover?’

‘Yeah, but the princi—’

‘I have a foetus the size of an olive in my uterus, and it is flooding my body with hormones that make me
feel like
I’m hungover.’

‘Of course,’ I whisper, ‘of course . . .’ my hand still on Ivy’s thigh. ‘But it might also work on olive-sized, hormone-squeezing foetuses.’

‘I have sick in my hair.’

‘I don’t mind.’

‘I mind. Shut up and drink your coffee.’

I have cash in the bank, equity in the flat, two functioning kidneys inside my body. But for all of the above to remain exactly where they are, I need to make some money and
make it soon.

Joe wants to discuss an ‘exciting script’. And whilst I’ve learnt to treat Joe’s enthusiasm with suspicion, it’s hard not to get my hopes up. I’ve pitched for
two jobs since we wrapped my last production a little over two months ago. I got neither. Two months with no income is worrying enough, but with an imminent extra mouth to feed, it’s costing
me sleep. Joe and I have worked together for several years and have become close friends, so how I dress this morning should be of no consequence. Particularly as Joe only ever shops at Primark and
only then when his wife drags him there. However, I am not Joe’s only director and he is not the only producer at the Sprocket Hole, so it does no harm to remind everyone what a cool,
go-getter William Fisher really is. So I put on my second-oldest jeans and my newest shirt – the pink article I bought in Wimbledon Village a month ago. I’m still not convinced about
the shirt, but Ivy seems to like it.

‘You look nice,’ she says.

‘I am nice,’ I tell her. She’s still in bed, still reading. ‘Will you be here when I get back?’

Ivy shakes her head. She widens her eyes in silent enquiry.

‘What?’ I say.

‘I’ll be at home, in my own flat.’

‘Oh, okay.’

‘Because . . .?’

‘You need to feed Ernest?’

‘The bloody goldfish is the least of my worries.’

‘Oh, right, I . . . Shit! The
mid
wife, of course. Sorry, babes, what time?’

‘I can’t believe you forgot,’ Ivy says, and she seems genuinely pissed off.

‘I didn’t, I was just thinking about work. I was—’

‘I can’t do this on my own, Fisher.’

‘I know, and you won’t have to. It’s just . . . my mind was . . .’

Ivy is smiling. It’s a small smile, lips rolled slightly in, eyebrows a notch higher than necessary. It’s the smile she saves for occasions when she has dropped a hook and I have
swum towards it, bitten and taken the entire thing, sinker and all into my gullible mouth.

‘I wish you wouldn’t,’ I say.

Ivy affects innocent incomprehension. ‘You wish I wouldn’t what?’

‘Bait me.’

‘I don’t bait you.’

‘Yes, you do. You’re like . . . Baitey Davis.’

Ivy laughs, and the sound of it – an uncontrived, childlike chuckle involving nose, tongue and teeth – is like fingers on the back of my neck.

‘I’m Ludwig van Baithoven,’ she says, clapping her hands together and doubling up at her own joke.

‘I know, I know, you’re a master
baiter
!’

The gag clangs to the floor, echoing in the sudden absence of laughter. Ivy forces a polite laugh. ‘
You!
’ she says, shaking her head and finding her page again.

Ahh . . . Baitey Davis . . .

I’m racking my brains for a Baiter to salvage the moment even though I know it’s gone.

‘And anyway,’ says Ivy, in a tone heavy with reprehension, ‘it was a shit wish.’

‘Sorry. I wish you wouldn’t bait me
and
I had a goldplated Ferrari.’

And right there: her compulsion to mock me and her unwavering belief in the Wish Fairy, they’re absolutely in the top ten things I love about the woman who barfs in my bathroom. I
wouldn’t claim they entirely compensate for my enforced chastity, but they certainly take the edge off.

Besides the sex, two additional things of significance have not happened in the month since Ivy told me we are having a baby and I told Ivy’s jumper I love her:

I haven’t repeated my declaration.

And Ivy has not answered it.

I want to tell her again, but I worry the words will lose their potency if I say them every time the urge takes me. And, because Ivy has yet to say those three words back to me, I’m
worried I might come across as needy. There’s a scene in
The Empire Strikes Back
that El and I thought was just about the coolest thing in the world – in all of outer space, in
fact. Just before Han Solo is frozen into a slab of carbonite, Princess Leia tells him that she loves him. And, as he braces himself for a potentially fatal ordeal, Han looks at Leia and says,
simply, ‘I know.’ As a boy I’d never considered how that nonchalance –
‘I know’
– must have made the Princess feel, but as a love-struck
father-to-be I can make a pretty good guess. I’d worry about this more, but considering I had a mouthful of wool when I first announced my affections, I’m reasonably confident Ivy never
heard me.

Before I leave for the office, I give Ivy a final kiss. And (in spite of the aroma of sick and toothpaste) those three unsaid words are still swirling around inside my head, trying to find their
way to my mouth.

‘Have a great day,’ Ivy says.

‘I . . . I know,’ I answer, and Ivy looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.

Chapter 6

‘You look niyth,’ lisps Pippa, when I step through the door of the Sprocket Hole.

I haven’t slept with her since June, almost four months ago now, and it was never more than a frivolous fling. Nevertheless, I always blush when she says anything more friendly than
hello.

‘Shirt!’ says Gaz, our junior director, who also happens to be Pippa’s current boyfriend. He mimes tugging at a collar, nods approvingly and returns to his magazine.

Joe looks up from his phone and regards me sardonically. ‘Pink?’ he says. ‘Matches your face.’ Then, ‘Hold on, has it got glitter in it? Is that fucking
glitter?’

‘It’s thread,’ I say.

‘Looks like tinsel. Where’d you buy it, Old Compton Street?’

‘Yes, Joe, I bought it in Old Compton Street, from a shop that caters to gentlemen of a homosexual persuasion. Is that what you’re suggesting?’

‘All right,’ he says, ‘no need to get your leotard in a twist. Come on, you’re buying lunch.’

‘It’s five to eleven.’

‘I’ve been up since five-fucking-thirty. Kids, honestly, they ruin your life.’

Gaz laughs.

‘I’m not joking,’ Joe says, pointing a finger first to Gaz, then to Pippa. ‘I hope you two love kittens are using protection. Ruin your life, they do, mark my fucking
words.’

Joe is attacking a plate of pie, chips and peas as if he hasn’t eaten for a week.

I’m sipping a bad coffee and watching.

BOOK: The Two of Us
12.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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