• 1.
    It was three months ago that Vincent decided to change his life. The day began as any other. He woke up and reached over to turn off the alarm. Lifting the bottom of the curtain up a crack, he peered out at the city and the rain and the grey. The courtyard outside, and the road beyond were deserted. There were no watchers. Beside him, Catherine stirred as he lifted himself gently out of bed.

    The kitchen was cold. Vincent filled the kettle and flicked it on. Steam began to pour upwards from the spout and curl under the cabinets above. Rain spattered against the windows as they began to steam up and Vincent rested his head on the worktop and listened to the traffic splashing through the roads outside, dreading hearing the change in engine note that would signal one pulling into the yard. His stomach squeezed upwards with nausea as for the first time he allowed himself to feel, just for a moment, the huge, crushing weight of his unhappiness. The kettle clicked itself off as Vincent admitted to himself the full extent of the misery, the worry and the helplessness that he felt about his life here with Catherine. He took two mugs down from the shelf and made coffee for them both.

    Back in the bedroom, Catherine was sitting up in the gloom. Vincent put the coffee down next to her and kissed her on the cheek.
    “Oh, thanks darling”, she said, straightening her back against the headboard. Vincent put his own mug down and began to pull clothes out of his drawer and wardrobe. “Did you sleep ok?” he asked her, as he decided which shirt to wear. He turned back to her to see her sipping coffee from the mug. Her eyes and hair were dull from sleep, her skin pale. She had worn a shapelessly baggy t-shirt and long shorts to bed, as usual. Vincent had used to wish she would wear something sexy and revealing, something more suited to her age. Now, he realised, he couldn’t even be bothered to hope anymore.

    “Go for the white one, with that blue tie”, she told him. “Dad said he didn’t want you to wear the pink one anymore. Or the green.” Vincent nodded mutely: Catherine’s father, his employer, made his opinions on Vincent’s behaviour very clear, and these sorts of comments were often relayed back through his daughter. Vincent pulled the shirt and tie from the wardrobe and dropped them over the back of a wicker chair. He pulled the curtains open a fraction, allowing Catherine’s eyes time to adjust, and carried fresh socks and underwear into their en-suite bathroom.

    He stood in the shower feeling old. 26 was no age to be trapped like this, to be lost in a world of dinner parties and cufflinks and mortgage payments. When you worked for Granger’s Glazing Company, the largest and most respected UPVC window company in the area, there was no time for letting loose and having fun. When you were engaged to Mr Granger’s most prized possession, his daughter, there was no time for things that he used to enjoy.

    The steaming water cascaded over his body as the shower’s powerful motor whined and pumped. He ground expensive exfoliating scrub into his cheeks and bent down to squirt a thick line of creamy conditioner into his palm, feeling the water jet over his back. Smearing the conditioner through his hair he thought about life before Catherine. A shower with a curtain, rather than gleaming glass doors on runners. Shampoo and soap instead of the collection of “products” that Catherine had selected for him. He tried to remember friends that he had made, at school and later at university. What would they be doing now? Surely not agonising over what he had to face daily.

    He rinsed himself and as he shot the temperature lever from red to blue, there in the freezing, blasting water, Vincent made a decision to change things.