Behind Her Eyes, p.28Sarah Pinborough
‘I’m so sorry, David. I hate myself.’ I need to tell him about the dreams. About how Adele spied on him. How she knew things. I need to be honest with him. I open my mouth to speak, but he’s in his flow and he cuts me off.
‘It’s not your fault. She plays her part well, and I was a drunk cheat. I should have never spoken to you in that bar. I just wanted … I just wanted to be happy. And God, I should have known.’ He almost slams his hand down on the table with frustration, but instead grips the edge of the wood. ‘I should have realised when she was little. That insane stuff she would say.’
‘What do you mean?’ I tense as I ask. It’s going to be about the dreams. I know it. She loved David. Of course she’d have tried to share it with him.
‘When we were first together we got drunk and she tried to tell me that she could do all this mad shit when she was sleeping. She was vague, but it sounded bonkers. Worse, it was probably my fault, because it sounded like she’d taken the ideas from the hippie book on dreaming I gave her and then made crazier stuff up. I just laughed and thought she was winding me up, but when she was upset that I didn’t believe her, I should have known that these fantasist ideas were leading to something. She was too old for them to have been childish imaginings. She was clearly showing signs of some serious disorders brewing. I mean, who could possibly believe that you could leave your body when you sleep? It’s the sort of thing people who’ve taken too much LSD say. So yeah, I should have seen the signs. At least remembered them when we got older.’ He looks at me. ‘It’s why I was so glad to meet you. You’re so normal.’ He grips my hands again as if I’m some lifeline. ‘You’re so grounded. Your nightmares are just nightmares, and you just get on with them. You would never believe in anything like that. You’re sane.’
Oh God, if only he knew. I can’t tell him now, can I? Actually, everything she told you is real. How else do you think she’s spying on you? I can’t do that to him. I can’t do that to me. Not now. Not when I still have to tell him about the letter I’ve sent to the police. He needs facts and reality. He can’t cope with anything else.
‘She’s certainly got problems.’ It’s all I can manage to say. ‘I’ll give her that.’
We hold each other’s hands tightly, and he stares at me. ‘You really do believe me, don’t you?’ he says, and I nod.
‘Yes. I believe you.’ It’s clear in my face anyway. I absolutely believe him. He didn’t kill Rob.
‘You have no idea how good that feels to hear. But I don’t know what to do. I’ve told her I want a divorce. Who knows what she’ll do now? She certainly won’t let me leave. And I’m worried what she’ll do to you. Jesus, this is all such a mess.’
And now it’s my turn to share my wrong thing. ‘It’s a worse mess than you think,’ I say. My heart is racing. ‘I’ve made it worse.’
‘I don’t see how it can be any worse,’ he says, with a soft smile. ‘If you can still like me after everything I’ve just told you, if you can believe me, then everything, for me at least, is already so much better.’ He looks better too. There’s more light in his eyes; a heavy load shrugged off, if only for a few moments.
And so I tell him. How I researched online and I sent the letter to Angus Wignall at Perth Police Station outlining all the reasons I thought Dr David Martin was involved with the death of a young man called Robert Dominic Hoyle, and how his body was probably still on Adele’s estate somewhere. It’s my turn to keep my eyes down on my coffee cup as my face burns. It’s not even as if Adele told me to do it. This is all my own stupid work. When I’m finished, I finally look up.
‘So you see, I have made it worse,’ I say. ‘Maybe they’ll ignore it as a crank letter. Maybe that Wignall won’t even see it.’ Oh please, please God let that be the case.
David leans back in the chair and lets out a sigh. ‘No, I think he’ll read it. He was like a terrier around me, trying to find some way to pin that fire on me.’
‘You must hate me,’ I say. I want the ground to open up and swallow me and never let me go. Why do I make everything worse? Why am I so impulsive?
‘Hate you?’ He sits up, his face somewhere between a frown and a laugh. ‘Have you listened to anything I’ve said? I don’t hate you. I … well, it’s more the opposite. I even like you for the way you believed in Adele. That urge to help her. It’s one I understand. But no, I don’t hate you for this. In many ways what you’ve done is a relief. It’s made things clear.’
‘What do you mean?’ He doesn’t hate me. Thank fuck for that. We are still together in this.
‘Adele doesn’t know about this letter you’ve sent?’ he asks.
I shake my head. ‘I don’t think so.’ I can’t really be more accurate. It’s hard to ascertain what Adele does or doesn’t know, but I can’t tell him that, not after what he’s just said. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’m going to go up there,’ he says. ‘I’m going to go and tell the police everything. The truth. I’m going to be done with it.’
It’s not what I was expecting, and I’m momentarily dumbfounded, but I know it’s the right thing. ‘They’ll believe you,’ I say, even though I’m not entirely convinced. ‘I believe you. And I can back you up. And so will Marianne, I’m sure.’
He shakes his head, smiling softly. ‘I think it’ll take more than that to counter Adele’s version. My watch is there, remember?’
‘So why do it?’ I’m afraid I’m going to lose him before I’ve got him. ‘Surely there’s another way. Why go up there if you think they’ll arrest you?’
‘To end it,’ he says. ‘Once and for all. I should have done it a long time ago. I’m so tired of carrying the guilt around with me. It’s time that boy got a proper burial.’
‘But we can’t let her get away with everything,’ I say. ‘And she’s dangerous. Why shouldn’t she be the one in trouble? She’s the one who’s guilty here!’
‘I might not be guilty,’ he says, ‘but I’m not innocent either. And this is a perfect punishment for her.’
‘What do you mean?’
I stare into his beautiful blue eyes. They’re calm and clear. ‘All Adele has ever wanted is me,’ he says. ‘In her own twisted, fucked-up way, she loves me. She always has and she always will. She’s obsessive about me. If they put me in prison, then I finally get away from her. She has no more hold on me. I’ll be free.’
I can feel tears coming again, and this time I don’t stop them. ‘Can’t you wait a while? Can’t we have a few days together first?’
He shakes his head. ‘If I don’t do it now, I won’t do it, and spending time with you will make it so much harder. It’s enough for me that you believe in me. ‘
‘When are you going to go?’ I don’t care about Adele. I can handle myself with her. I know her secrets now. I feel a twist of guilt. I don’t mean to, but I have a secret I can never share with him, just like she couldn’t.
‘Today. Now. It’s only 2.30. I can’t go home first, she’ll know something’s up, but I can be halfway to Scotland by the time she realises I’ve gone. I’ll call you when I get there tonight.’
‘Are you sure you shouldn’t think about this for a bit longer?’ I’m being selfish, I want to keep him here with me, out of prison. ‘It’s so quick. It’s so …’
‘Look at me, Louise.’
‘Honestly – isn’t what I’m doing the right thing? Taking our feelings for each other out of it?’
From the calmness of his expression, I know he knows the answer already, and I nod. It is the right thing. Even if it gets the wrong outcome and no one believes him, the truth needs to be told.
‘It’s so unfair,’ I say. I’m burning on the inside, needing to do something. ‘Maybe I should go and see her and—’
‘No. You can’t do that. She’s dangerous.’
‘But I have to—’
‘She’s a sociopath, Louise.’ He grips my hand tightly. ‘Do you understand that? You can’t go near her. Pro
‘I promise,’ I mumble. It’s not fair that she’ll get away with wrecking his life. It’s not fair that she’ll get away with wrecking mine too.
‘Good. I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you, and I don’t want to be worrying about you while I’m facing up to this. I love you, Louise. I really do.’
He gets up and comes to my side, and then we’re kissing. He tastes of stale alcohol, mints, and coffee, but I don’t care. He’s warm and loving and strong and mine, and fresh tears well up.
‘It’s going to be okay,’ he whispers, when we break apart. ‘Really it is.’ He smiles at me. ‘How are you on prison visiting?’
I laugh a little through the tears that won’t stop. ‘I’m all for trying new experiences.’
He pays for the coffee, a mundanely routine act that makes everything else seem even more surreal, and then we head outside where I cry into his chest some more, uncaring who sees.
‘It’ll be all right,’ he says.
It won’t be. It won’t be anywhere near all right, but I nod, and we kiss some more; tears and snot and tiredness and stale alcohol. What a pair we are. I press my face into his neck and suck in the warm smell of him, and then there’s just cool air and traffic fumes and he’s gone. I watch him walk to the tube station. He doesn’t look back. I don’t think he dares to in case he changes his mind.
This is all my fault, I think, for the thousandth time, as I lean against a wall and scrabble in my bag for my e-cig. Me and that stupid letter. I can’t believe he’s gone so quickly to face it all. How awful must his life be to feel a relief in going somewhere that will no doubt end in his arrest. The death of his career. His life and reputation in tatters, and labelled a murderer. I wipe the tears from my face and let the breeze cool me. It’s not my fault any more than it’s David’s. We’re just pawns. Adele is to blame. Adele is to blame for everything.
I think of the one secret I’ve had to keep back from David – the dreams. The doors. The craziness of it all. Why did she even teach me about that if she hated me so much? I’m filled with anger at her, and it drives out my sadness for David and my self-pity at losing him. I need to bait her. To taunt the truth out of her. Maybe when she realises that she’s lost David anyway, she’ll say something, anything, that can help him. There must be some way to make her see what she’s doing. How there are no winners here. And if nothing else, I need to tell her exactly what I think of her. It’s time for an honest conversation with my so-called best friend. I haven’t lied to David. I’m not going to go to the house. I’m not going to see her face to face. But I didn’t promise not to speak to her, did I?
I sit in the quiet of the kitchen with only the steady ticking of the clock for company. It’s a strangely comforting sound. I wonder about that sometimes, the proliferation of noisy clocks in the world, each relentlessly marking out our lack of time. We should be terrified of them, and yet that repetitive tick somehow soothes the soul.
I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting here. I’m listening to the beat of the seconds, not watching the minutes and hours. I feel sidelined in my own life now. Redundant. It’s very nearly all over, and I feel empty and sad.
They say if you love someone, set them free. Well, I’m finally setting him free. There are easier ways to have done it than the route I’ve chosen, but you can’t fake trust and you can’t fake belief and you can’t fake the realisation of a truth. It has to be fresh. He needed to see those clearly in Louise’s eyes. The shock of having misjudged the entire situation. His innocence. Those were things I couldn’t give him.
He really does love her. I can’t fight that admission any longer. Hey ho, c’est la vie. I’ve had a good run. I feel adrift as I sit and wait and listen to my life trickling away. Yes, I conclude, as the shrill tone of the cheap mobile makes me jump from my reverie, I could have done everything differently, but this way has been far more interesting. At least I get to have that as my swansong.
Louise is all energy and anger and upset down the line, the antithesis to my calm. It fizzes into my ear, radiating like heat.
‘How long have you known?’ she asks. I can hear it’s taking all her control not to shriek the words at me. ‘I want to know what the fuck you’ve been playing at!’
She’s seething with rage, and it infects me.
‘I think I should be asking you that, don’t you? After all, you’re the one who’s been fucking my husband.’
‘What I don’t understand,’ she says, ignoring my barb, ‘is why you told me about the dreams. Why did you help me when there was a risk I’d find the second door? And if I did, that I’d figure all this out?’
The ungrateful bitch. ‘I didn’t know then.’ I keep my own sudden anger trapped inside. ‘I thought you were my friend. I was trying to help you. I never meet anyone like me, and you made me feel less alone.’ I can sense her distrust. A quiet hitch of breath at the other end.
‘You can only use the second door to go to places you know.’ I speak slowly, making sure it sinks in. ‘If you haven’t been there you can’t see there. You have to visualise the details.’ I lean back against the cool wall. ‘It was only when I was alone and missing you one evening that I went through the door to your flat. I wanted to see you. But instead I saw him there with you.’ I pause, and work up some attempt at tears. ‘That’s when I found out. Then I knew.’
She is an open book, Louise. I know she’s working through the logic of what I’ve said. She’s got too much in that head of hers right now to remember the conversation they had in the office that first morning about their drunken indiscretion. The office I’d had the tour of the day before. I remember it, though. Every word and action. Her nerves. His panic. Also, the heat from both of them at seeing each other again. I remember the absolute rage I had to manage until I forced our meeting and she told me about her night terrors. After that my anger melted into perfect joy. Potential enemy turned into a gift from God in those few moments. But for now, at least, what I’ve said makes sense to her. I’ve also given her some vital information. You have to visualise the details. Look at me, even now, helping her.
‘Why didn’t you say something? Why give me all this shit about David? Making me think all this stuff about him? These lies?’
Always looking for answers. Always needing to know. She should have been a detective. ‘Lies and truths are only perspectives. And why do you think?’ I focus on the task at hand, and raise my own voice slightly, upset and hurt. She wants a confession, I’m sure, but my game isn’t over yet. ‘You were my best friend. My first proper friend in ages. I wanted you to hate him. I wanted you to choose me! Why should I lose both of you? How is that fair? I hadn’t done anything wrong!’
That last might be pushing it a touch far given everything she knows, and I must sound like I’m crazy. Of course, as far as she’s concerned, I am crazy.
‘I wanted you to love me the most.’ My voice is softer now, as if my burst of energy has been too much. ‘But you loved him, and you only ever felt sorry for me. Pity and guilt, that was all you ever felt for me while you merrily slept with the man I love.’ I may not have much moral high ground, but the wronged wife is one ledge I’m going to stand on.
‘That’s not true, and you know it.’ A defensive lilt in her voice. I imagine her face has flushed. She’s so predictable. ‘I was your friend,’ she continues. ‘I thought you were mine, and I tried to stop it. It had started before I’d even met you. I didn’t know he was married. I tried to end it. And it did end.’
It’s her turn to be economical with the truth. It did end, but only when I intervened and he found out about our friendship. Louise would have gone on guiltily spreading her legs for him behind my back if he hadn’t panicked and finished it. Protecting her from me. That’s
‘Well, now you have lost both of us,’ she says, defiantly.
‘No, I haven’t. He won’t leave me. He’ll never leave me.’
‘You don’t get it.’ She’s talking to me like I’m a child. ‘I believed you. I believed everything you said. I went to the police with it.’
‘You did what?’ I emit an almost-gasp. Surprised. Or at least a good impression of it.
‘I wrote them a letter. Addressed to the policeman who investigated the fire that killed your parents. The one who thought David was involved. I told them all about Rob and how I thought his body was still somewhere on your estate.’
‘You did what? Why would you do that? I never told you to do that.’
‘I did it because I’m stupid and I didn’t know you were crazy then!’
‘They won’t believe you,’ I mutter, standing and pacing the hall, my head down as if I’m frantically thinking. She can’t see me, but she’ll hear my footsteps. She’ll sense my worry. ‘They won’t believe you.’
‘No,’ she says, ‘maybe not.’ A breath. ‘But they will believe him.’
I freeze and pause. ‘What?’ I say.
‘He’s on his way to Scotland to speak to them. He’s going to tell them everything. He’s going to tell them the truth.’
A long moment of quiet falls between us, only the relentless tick of the clock breaking the silence.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes