That summer, out on the patio drinking the retsina Terri bought back from Greece, Louise’s Mum suddenly came over all emotional, marvelling at the difference the patio made to the little house, telling Louise how proud she was of her. Louise squirmed under the attention. Terri wondered aloud what ever happened to Darren and Louise’s Mum said good riddance to bad rubbish. Louise changed the subject.
It started the night Louise threw Darren out. He threatened to leave and instead of begging him to stay like everytime before she said – shouted – go on then see if I care. He slammed the front door so she slammed the living room door in reply and wouldn’t you know it the bloody thing stuck – again. She figured she could either pace like a caged beast until the adrenalin wore off or she could bloody well fix it so she went and found his tools and dove in, fearlessly taking the door off its hinges, even though it bloody nearly killed her doing it. At around three a.m. she gave up, slumped over the mess, and sobbed out her grief and frustration until she fell asleep.
So it was all right there when she woke up, and that’s what made the difference. That’s when she decided to take control.
It took her most of the next day, two bruises and a blood blister, a trip to B&Q and at least one tantrum but she did it. She re-hung the door and it opened and closed with ease. Her satisfaction was profound.
Watching Strictly round her Mum’s later, Louise found her tired mind drifting to all the other little jobs Darren never got around to doing. By the time he got around to begging forgiveness she’d patched the leaky pipe under the sink, cleaned the leaf litter out of the gutters, fixed the doorbell and signed up for a DIY course at the college. After he let himself in because she never answered his calls and she had to threaten police to get him to leave, she got Asim from Frozen Goods to help her change the locks and sent all his stuff round his sister’s.
After a lifetime of feeling she wasn’t particularly special she was amazed to discover something she was good at, even if it bored her friends. When all the repairs were done she moved on to new projects. On her breaks she’d flick through back issues of Home Style for inspiration, letting the gossip in the break room ebb away from her. Darren kept calling, long rambling messages proclaiming his love and regret, so she blocked his number and carried on with her renovations. She painted her bedroom a delicate periwinkle blue, built a wall unit and learned tiling. Slowly but surely her little semi was transformed.
When Terri got the hump with her and told her she’d changed, Louise realised she’d been neglecting her friends. A girls’ night was duly organised and a frocked up, newly confident Louise led the charge around the town centre, from happy hour at the Dolphin, to karaoke at the Red Stag and on to dancing at Flamingos. Carina copped off with some random she picked up along the way and Terri had one too many Jager bombs and ended up passing out in the ladies’. She slurred apologies as Louise and Ro half dragged her out to the high street to put her in a cab then begged them to stay with her, so Ro jumped in leaving Louise on the street drunk and alone. Sod’s law, that’s when Darren turned up like a bad penny.
He was sweet though, and her guard was down. She let him buy her one drink, and then another. He kept telling her how good she looked and she basked in his compliments, their shared history wrapping her in a warm glow, the bad bits washed away by flattery and vodka. She wanted to show him how much she’d changed and told herself if she could so could he.
Waking up the next morning, head throbbing, mouth sour, she instantly regretted sleeping with him. But then he smiled that lazy smile and sorted nurofen, bacon sarnies and Mamma Mia on DVD for her, and she thought maybe it was going to be alright. That afternoon, recovered, she whistled as she put the finishing touches on the mosaic floor in the toilet, while Darren lay on the sofa and watched Match of the Day.
Bit by bit Darren became a permanent fixture again. The girls’ were aghast but it was comforting to have a man around the house so she didn’t resist at all until he started interfering with her projects. That’s when they started rowing again. And when he stumbled in at two a.m. with some woman’s lacy pants in his pocket she decided enough was enough and told him to leave. He said no.
By the third day she was at wits’ end. They’d both called in sick, neither wanting to leave the house. He was doing his best to push her away, ordering in food and leaving the mess everywhere, dribbling urine on the toilet floor, camping out on the sofa with his hand firmly in his pants. When she commented, disgust in her voice, he pulled out his dick and waved it at her. But it was when he smashed up the writing desk she was renovating that she lost it. They were rowing again and she threw in his face how useless he was and how much she had done on her own and he stormed out into the spare room and picked up the delicate piece and threw it against the wall, snapping off one of the legs. He kicked out at the wreckage, punching through with his foot. She felt nothing when the planer, which found its way into her hands unbidden, smacked him in the side of the head, knocking him sideways. He fell to the floor with a thump – she inspected the wounds he’d inflicted on the desk. She mourned its loss while Darren’s body slowly cooled, the blood on his temple slowing to a stop.
By nightfall she realised she couldn’t leave him in the spare room forever. She mulled over her options and decided that Darren had had enough influence over her life. Just like she did with the sticky door, she decided that she could bloody well fix this herself. She turned off the heating and went downstairs to start figuring out how to build a patio.