Kieran didn’t mean to sit there and look around at his comfortable home and its occupants and feel nothing, except for an emotion he didn’t want to acknowledge because of how dark and twisted and ugly it was.
“Done eating?” it was his wife, sitting across from him at the expansive dinner table, vigorously but daintily chewing on a tough piece of meat he thought she should’ve taken care to boil for longer before serving. It was already tasteless the way she cooked it. Did it need to be so hard?
“No, I’m not,” his reply was curt but she didn’t even look up from her plate, and as he watched her continue to chew, her delicate jaw moving up and down, her prettily pouted lips pursed in an effort to keep her full mouth closed.
He wanted to punch her square in the face.
“Why are you holding your hands like that?” Anna, his wife, asked between mouthfuls, pushing his irritation even further, causing his already balled up fists to scrunch up tighter.
Kieran had another rude retort on his tongue but was cut short by a piercing scream followed by an ear-splitting yell as their two young children got into a fight over a worn out red toy car. The noisy disruption exacerbated Kieran’s foul disposition, not at all helped by Anna’s fatigued and somewhat apathetic response, as she called out to the two young boys to “please stop”.
He rolled his eyes and unfortunately, Anna happened to look up from her cleared plate.
“What?” her voice was sharp, accusatory.
“You know what,” he was always primed for a fight.
“No,” her eyebrows arched and her sultry eyes, low lidded from her third glass of wine, flashed dangerously, “Tell me, what?”
“I come home from a long day,” his fists banged on the table, rattling dishes and slopping stew from his still full plate onto a white table cloth, eliciting an ominous look from Anna which he ignored. “And I can’t get any peace!” His head whipped in the direction of his sons who were tussling over a toy.
“Stop that yelling or I’ll…” he didn’t need to finish his sentence, the threat was clear in his furious tone and the two boys scampered off, away from the glare of his gaze.
“So it’s all my responsibility?” Anna had a vein throbbing in her smooth forehead that should’ve been warning enough, but Kieran was in a reckless mood.
“You’re home most of the day,” he replied dismissively. “You should have a handle on things,” he pushed on, completely disregarding the fact that his wife did have a full time job, only that her company was progressive enough to allow employees to work from home, a benefit that added to his resentment, his perceived view of her having an easier life.
“I have a job!” she literally screamed, her frustration bursting through unhindered, a volcano in its intensity, “My daily reports are even more detailed than you have to give!” she added.
Kieran’s jaw tensed with the blow that was yet another truth. Her job as an architect was more demanding than his at a local bank, despite him being the manager.
“I’m up before you to get the boys ready…”
“Yes, but I have to drop them, and morning traffic is always…” Kieran interrupted, but Anna wasn’t giving in.
“Drop them?” her tone was mocking though flecks of spit flew from her twisted mouth as she went on in a rage. “I get them fed, dressed and pack their lunch all while mediating countless fights, and you … drop them?!” she inhaled hard, “I get my work done, I sort the house, the laundry, the cooking…”
“If this is what you call cooking,” Kieran snorted as he rudely tapped on his plate and a deathly silence fell as Anna tapered off and stood abruptly, her chair screeching on the tiled floor before toppling over with a loud bang.
They stared each other down in the ensuing silence. Anna, unable to comprehend when it had become so bad that she had stopped recognising the person across from her, his face a mask of hatred. Kieran felt like he was waking from a bad dream. It was as if he had been sleep-walking and found himself awake in a reality he didn’t want to reconcile himself to. He was done fighting. He didn’t care enough anymore.
“Where are you going? Kieran? Kieran!” Anna was tired, and fed up of his tantrums. Didn’t she already have two children without having to baby a grown man?
Picking her fork off her plate, she threw it at his retreating back as Kieran swiped his keys off a shelf without breaking his stride and walked out.
Years later, he would find himself still mulling over that moment, usually after a few beers, regret a bitter tang on his tongue stained by copious cigarettes. He resisted the urge to drive by his old home and peep through the pristine windows at his sons playing while Anna fussed and tidied up as she usually did, a handsome stranger laughing widely as he watched her, a doting look on his face.