S2 EP18 - Strike Another Match


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It was five o’clock on a Friday, and Aidan was drunk. He’d left work early to go for a drink with some colleagues, and he’d drunk faster than was sensible. Now his colleagues were peeling off, going home to husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, kids and pets. Aidan bought another drink, though it looked like he would be drinking it alone. He didn’t want to go home.

*

‘His loss, right?’ Angel shrugged. She was on the bus, sitting beside Holly. They’d left work at the same time, and Angel had found herself telling Holly all about Fraser, and Tayo.

‘Definitely his loss,’ Holly said, and Angel smiled. She’d been rattled by Tayo’s reaction to her saying she hated her mum. It was a relief that Holly seemed to understand. ‘And the other guy,’ Holly said. ‘Choking you? Is that common?’

Angel shrugged again. ‘It’s not unheard of. Guys watch too much porn.’

Holly shook her head. ‘I’ll say it again. I’m glad I’m not straight.’

‘Yeah,’ Angel said. ‘It’s not great. I wish I liked girls.’ She had kissed girls before, but for fun, for something to do. She’d never liked a girl. But watching Holly laugh, with the late afternoon sun on her face, she wondered whether that was because she hadn’t met the right girl.

*

‘I know he’s just angry,’ Erin told Camilla, ‘I know he’s just trying to hurt me, but I can’t help thinking that he’s right, that it’s not going to last, that I’m going to start drinking again.’

The psychologist took off her glasses. ‘You told me your decision to divorce Andy had alleviated a lot of your troublesome feelings.’

‘It has,’ Erin said.

‘So why do you fear that you’ll start drinking again? What do you think would lead you to do that?’

‘I don’t know…’ Erin began. ‘I… I still feel…’ She looked at her lap. ‘I feel guilty,’ she said, slowly, with difficulty, ‘because Andy doesn’t know… there’s something I should have told Andy a long time ago. A long, long time ago, and I never have, I’ve never known how to… and I think until I do, I’ll…’ She shook her head. ‘Andy isn’t the twins’ real father,’ she whispered.

‘Oh.’

‘Are you shocked?’

‘It doesn’t matter how I feel, Erin. What matters is how you feel. And I think that a secret of that magnitude, a lie of that magnitude, well, I think you have to ask yourself whether it’s serving you.’

Erin nodded. She thought about James, sitting in his kitchen. ‘It’s the lies that get you,’ he’d said. ‘The truth might be despicable, but the lies are worse.’

*

Mingmei’s presence was starting to wear on Holly. Her mother wouldn’t sit still: always she was cleaning, tidying, arranging. Holly was tired after a busy day at work, and she wanted to flop on the couch, but Mingmei had her on her feet, helping to declutter the kitchen. Holly wasn’t sure how she’d let it happen, but her mother, who was supposed to be a short-term guest, had taken control of her home.

‘Once this is done we’ll go for a walk,’ Mingmei said, and Holly groaned. ‘For the baby, Holly. You need fresh air, you’re cooped up in that shop all day, you can’t sit on the couch all night.’

Can’t I? Holly thought. Then her phone beeped. It was a text from Aidan. Could I stay with you, it said, if I left John?

Holly looked at her mother. Mingmei was fussing with the contents of the cutlery drawer, muttering to herself. Yes, Holly replied. Yes, of course.

*

Katie’s lips felt raw. Robbie had cornered her in the larder, during the lunchtime rush, and they’d kissed again. And again, and again. His stubble had been rough on her chin, and Katie rubbed the sore patch it had left as she looked at herself in the mirror.

She’d come home from work a nervous wreck. Robbie made her pulse race, her mind race, and she couldn’t focus on anything but what was happening between them and what it meant and where it might go. The only thing she knew to do, to calm herself, was eat, and that was what she’d done. She’d eaten and eaten and eaten until she couldn’t think about anything but how full she felt. How disgusting. Looking at herself in the mirror, she felt sure she could see the fat already, gathering on her thighs, on her stomach, on her upper arms, and she couldn’t stand it. So she went to the bathroom, and did something she hadn’t done for years. Something she’d promised herself she wouldn’t do again. She stuck her fingers down her throat.

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