Divorce can be hard on the kids. It can be even harder on the parents. Especially the one who loses the only thing that matters.
'Daddy?Why are bogeys green?'
I bite into my tasteless cheeseburger, chew a mouthful of bland. 'Ask Ramjam, he gets up people's noses.'
'Daddy! That's not nice!'
No, it isn't. It wasn't meant to be. I don't feel like nice. It's cold. It's raining. And they won't even let me spend one afternoon with my own daughter without that dick-head supervising. Supervising! Snooping, more like. Is that nice?
And it isn't nice that I only get one day a week with my daughter. One damn day with the fruit of my loins, my princess, the only thing that makes sense of my pointless life any more.
And that Paki bastard still can't leave me alone. Sitting out there in his flash motor, in his flash fucking suit, jabbering away into his flash fucking smartphone. Bastard.
'Daddy? Why is pooh brown?'
I grin. 'Because that's what Pakis are made of, darling.'
It's a cheap shot but when you're as down on your luck as me, you take what you can get.
'Daddy! That's racist! Anyway, Rajesh isn't a Packy, he's from Burnley.'
How do you explain it to a six-year-old? Christ, I love her so much.
I gulp my tea. It scalds my mouth. Good. Stops me feeling the pain in the empty space where I used to have a heart. Nine years together, nine years! Alright, we had our ups and downs, who doesn't?
And then she gets a job. Working the till at a corner shop, it's not exactly a career, is it? Got her out of the house, she said, now Jess is in school she wants to get back into life, she said, broaden her horizons, she said.
'Daddy? Why don't ducks sink?'
'Ask Ramjam, he walks on bloody water.'
'Daddy! That's swearing! Mummy says it's naughty.'
'Yes, darling, now eat your ice-cream.'
And there's me, like a right pillock, working my arse off to pay the rent while she's getting her arse screwed off by that bloody Paki.
Look at him, sitting out there, he knows I can see him, the bastard, thinks he's the big flash businessman. You're a bloody shopkeeper, you bastard, that's all, just a bloody shopkeeper who can't keep it in his pants when a white woman shows up. My woman. For nine years. The mother of my child.
'Daddy? When are you coming home?'
I gulp more tea. Stick a smoke in my mouth so she won't see my lip trembling. 'Eat your ice-cream, darling.' I love her so much, it's agony.
I inhale, try to get myself under control. No way I'm going to lose it in here. Not when that bastard is out there watching. It's damn near killing me but I'm not going to lose it. Not again.
I still don't see why they had to make such a big deal of it. Anybody would've done the same. Nobody could hear that and not lose it. Not after nine years.
Nine years and it's just 'Sorry, John, but it's over. Rajesh is going places. I want to go there with him. He can give me the life I deserve.'
Just like that. After nine fucking years. She asked for it. It wasn't my fault, you can't just spring something like that on a man and expect him not to react. Any man would. Well, she got what she bloody deserved alright. Bitch. I light another cigarette. Maybe I'll get cancer. Good.
'Daddy? Why won't they let you come home?'
How do you explain it to a six-year-old? I can't even explain it to myself. Nine years. Christ.
'Daddy? Why are you crying?'