Here’s the next part of my longish short story; Lol and his girlfriend have inherited enough to buy a big house in the country. It and the grounds are totally dilapidated, but Lol insists on trying to rescue a summerhouse or folly from rampant brambles and ivy.
I felt as if Lol was withdrawing from me, even when he was back in the house. He wasn’t sulking as he used to in an almost endearingly childish way, it wasn’t the same as when he was secretly anxious about something – like the time his best friend’s partner was getting rather too heavily into alcohol, I didn’t think he was ill – he’s the worst patient and a terrible demanding one, suffering from some rare disease he’d found when googling a perfectly ordinary set of symptoms. He wasn’t being secretive like when he’d found a perfect present for me and could barely contain himself as my birthday grew nearer, or when he’d acted the goat at work and was trying to keep the details from me – hilariously embarrassing details, actually…
No, Lol was apart from me in a way I’d never known before. I wondered who the people were who came over to see him and then hid or hurried away when I came down to the folly. I’d still not managed to see who they were, and Lol pretended there was no-one there, that he’d been talking to himself – which to be fair he did do, pretending to be invisible idiots, but that was before, that wasn’t now, and his idiot conversations were silly and funny, and what I heard – although I could never quite catch what was being said…
I was painting a wall in the kitchen, a nice easy job, where I could see the progress I was making and be pleased with how well I was doing it. The rhythm of bending to take up paint on the brush from the tin, and applying it steadily and firmly to the wall in even repetitive strokes was pleasant and calming. I stopped for a cup of tea and decided to make a flask for Lol and take it down to him – I wasn’t sure what time he’d got up, only that as usual I awoke alone in bed.
I suppose it says something for the strange situation we were both in that I hadn’t thought more objectively about his obsession with clearing the wilderness around the folly, nor his ‘friends’ who he denied existed, nor the change in his attitude to me – my soul-mate was withdrawing from me. It suddenly struck me now as I stood, vacuum flask in hand. Was one of these people a woman? Was he being drawn to her as he withdrew from me?
Suddenly furious I poured the tea into the flask added a careless amount of milk, screwed on the lid – he could do without sugar! – and I stormed out of the kitchen, not even rinsing the brush before I went.
Of course my anger seeped away as I marched across what one day might be lawn but which now was just meadow, which had delighted us with the abundance of wild flowers. I had to admit to myself that Lol was not quite normal, eccentric, unconventional, sometimes a bit weird, but untruthful? Deceitful? Never.
I would be patient for a while longer, I would allow him his secret friends, and soon he’d tire of the folly and the endless hacking and chopping, and either uncover the folly and discover it was a ruin beyond repair, or be fed up with the whole thing and come back to the house and decide he was going to retile the whole upstairs bathroom, or paper the ‘library’ in some zany coloured paper…
I called out to him as I approached – I had tried sneaking up on him to see what he was doing and yes, maybe to see who these people were, but I’d never managed to surprise them. There was no reply, not unexpected, and no sound of sawing, or ripping branches, or muted curses as brambles attacked him.
I walked round the mound of undergrowth and overgrowth, which didn’t seem in any way diminished, and then walked round the other way, stepping over various abandoned tools… And I couldn’t find Lol… I went round again, and again, and wandered away from the damned folly to see if he was having a pee behind an oak tree or something… but no… I couldn’t find Lol.