‘Jean. Jean!’ Patrick rolled over and shook her gently by her bare shoulders. He was always like this when he woke up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, as the saying goes. It was if someone had flipped a switch behind those baby blue eyes from sleep to wakefulness. Jean was a much slower starter, preferring to ascend gently from the deep planes of dreams to the wakefulness her husband enjoyed so quickly.
‘What time is it?’ She said blearily, her curls radiating from her head. Her dark eyes wandered lazily to the clock and the bright red digital readout shocker her awake. ‘Jesus Christ Paddy, it’s four o’clock in the fucking morning! What is wrong with you?’ She rolled over, turning her back on Patrick. He threw the covers back, practically jumping out of bed. He rushed around to her side of the bed, kneeling on the laminate floorboards and looking at her. ‘No. Whatever it is, no.’ She hurled her body over again, fighting to return to the dreams she had been enjoying before her rude awakening.
‘C’mon Jean, I’ve got a surprise for you.’ He grinned, his missing canine glaringly obvious. ‘You’ve got to get out of bed for it though.’ You could practically see him wagging his tail, that’s how excited he was. She grunted and groaned and Patrick knew that he’d won.
‘Fine. But there’d best be some kind of chocolate.’
Patrick bounded from the room, grinning from ear to ear. This was going to be perfect.
It started with the rain. ‘Oh, Patrick? Really?’ She started shrugging on her bright pink wellington boots, a perfect match with her nail polish. ‘Can we not just go back to bed? It’d be warm, dry…’
‘No, no. It’s going to be fine! I checked the forecast and it’s supposed to clear up.’ Patrick was lying through his eye teeth at this point, looking up at the ominous sky. ‘Come on, it’s going to be fine.’
It wasn’t fine. Just walking down to the lake, Jean slipped on the path three times, even in her wellies. The rain started lashing down, the wind picked up and the mountains lay in wait. ‘If you tell me that I’m climbing a mountain, I will tell you exactly where you can shove that mountain.’ Jean yawned. ‘I miss sleep. I had sleep, once.’ Patrick just tuned her out. He had an hour until sunrise and he was determined to be at the spot on the lake.
‘Look, we’re at the crossroads. Just another twenty minutes walking, then you get to languish seductively as I pilot us to our spot.’ His blonde hair was plastered to his forehead and Jean’s curls lay limp and upset.
‘Urgh! Fine. This had better be a good surprise.’
The motor wouldn’t start. ‘Come on, you piece of shit!’ Patrick kicked the engine in frustration, feeling a slight crack in his toe as he did so. ‘God dammit!’
Jean languished as best she could at the far end of the cramped boat. ‘You could have taken out the fishing gear.’ She rummaged around until she found an umbrella. ‘Any luck yet?’ The engine sputtered to life.
‘Aha!’ Patrick sat smugly by the engine, looking as dignified as he could when the rain was hurling itself from the heavens and the engine was coughing out the occasional burp of black smoke. ‘See, nothing to worry about.’ He watched as Jean started twirling the umbrella, delicately shifting the tiller to shift the boat to their spot.
‘Okay, darling. We made it, it’s all good.’ He smiled, that insistent missing tooth staring at her. ‘So… I’ve asked Mum to move in with us for a while.’
There was a pause.
A longer pause. Followed by another pause, very clearly defined as different to the previous pause, carrying an undertone of anger. ‘You did what?’
‘Because I can’t possibly have just heard the words “I’ve asked my Mum to move in for a while.” Because that would be insane, even for you! We’ve been in this house for six weeks. We still have boxes full of your crap scattered throughout, we’ve barely got enough space for the two of us, I’m fairly sure that there is mould in the spare room.’
‘Yes, I know…’
‘No, Patrick! You clearly don’t! There’s no room, there’s no time, there’s no capacity for us to take your mother in for any amount of time, let alone the indeterminate while you have just told me about.’
‘And another thing! You dragged me out of bed at four in the fucking morning to tell me that you’ve asked your mother to move in? I’m assuming she’s coming tomorrow, today, in the next three fucking hours!’ A vein pulsed in her temple, glaringly obvious against her pale skin.
‘Oh, and while we’re on the subject, why don’t you go to the dentist? Get that stupid tooth fixed, seeing as you ruined all of our wedding photos by getting it knocked out on your stag do. That’s right, it did bother me and I didn’t admit it.’
‘It was a…’ Patrick stammered, afraid to mention anything under the onslaught.
‘No! You don’t get to speak until I’m done because I am so angry at you! Why don’t you take my thoughts into account? In your vows, it says to live together. That is not including your mother!’ She lowered the umbrella, pointing it towards him like a sword. ‘I am wet. I am cold. I am pissed off. Take. Me. Home.’
‘Now!’ Patrick shrugged and tried to start the engine. It coughed, spluttered and did nothing else. ‘Well. Isn’t that a turn-up for the books.’ She’d gone cold. It was fine when she was shouting, but when she went quiet Patrick really knew that he was in trouble.
‘Okay. Let me explain. First things first, check the beer cooler.’ She opened it, to find a chilling bottle of Moet. ‘I wanted to celebrate. The university called yesterday. They’d looked into the professor who gave you the low grades. He’s been dismissed and the grades have been amended.’
‘I’m such an ass…’ Jean started to cry. ‘I’m sorry.’
The Idiot in Tin Foil