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Image by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen
That song in Dee
Will Dee be able to extract herself from a toxic relationship that is draining her music & creativity?

Matt waited in the darkness of the veranda, his cheek against the stripped timber of the front door he’d meant to stain one day. As he waited, Dee played the piano and sang at the end of the corridor, on the other side of the door.

Sounded like an original. It suited her voice. At the end of the song, he banged loudly on the door again and stood back, rehearsing responses. The door swung open decisively.

Dee said ‘’Matt.’’

She might as well have been saying ‘Door’ or ‘Window’ or ‘Fridge’. A non-committal statement. He waited. She stood. She blinked first.

‘’I don’t want you to come in. I’m working.’’

He waited. She blinked first again.

Dee sighed. ‘’Just don’t get in a huff when I ask you to leave in half an hour.’’

She left him to close the door and walked towards the light at the end of the hallway. When he reached the lounge room he nodded at the piano.

‘’When’s the big comeback?’’
‘’Saturday week. At the Railway Hotel.’’ (Dee thought What the hell, he’d find out anyway.)


He looked at the bottle of wine in his hand as if he’d just discovered it and said, ‘‘should I get two glasses?’’

He didn’t wait for an answer as he moved into the kitchen with a familiarity that she hated. Returning with the glasses, he started to pour.
‘’Just a small one’’, Dee said. ‘’Otherwise, I get lazy.’’
‘’How do you think you’ll go?”
‘’Hard to know. Five years is a long time. People have short memories, except for your failures.’’
‘’Are you scared?’’
Dee laughed. ‘’Of course. But it won’t stop me. By the way, I thought you were off the booze.’’
‘’Yeah, well …’’

‘’So, Matt, how have you been?”

Dee thought ‘You bloody idiot, Dee. Now you’re going to get the full catastrophe. And I can’t do this anymore.

‘’Is it your job?’’
‘’No, I left.’’

A half-smile slipped belied his face of studied torment.

‘’I want to concentrate on my writing. I’ve been writing about you.’’

The ringing of the phone jolted them both and it was a moment before Dee got up to answer, as though weighing the arguments for and against. Matt poured himself another drink and pretended to leaf through the pile of novels on the table.

Dee picked up the phone and said ‘’Hello … How are you? … No, I’ve got someone visiting. I can’t talk now. ….. .. OK, I’ll see you Saturday night, about seven …Yeah, and you too. Bye.’’

As she hung up, Matt said ‘’New boyfriend?’’
‘’None of your business. How’s your love life?’’
‘’Are you trying to tell me you haven’t slept with anyone since we split?’’
Sheepishly he muttered, ‘’No. The odd one-night stand when we first split but I soon got sick of that.’’

I’d almost forgotten. Serial monogamy is more his thing really. An endless list of significant relationships and bad, insignificant poetry. I wonder if I should tell him I burned it all when he left.

Matt put down his drink and went to his knees in front of Dee, burying his head in her lap and putting his arms around her waist.

‘’Dee. Dee, please let me stay with you tonight.’’

Dee, sometimes you are a complete and utter moron. Now look what you’ve let yourself in for!

‘’Matt, it’s no good. I know you’re lonely and you must know I still (careful, he’ll hang on every word) … that I’ll always be concerned about you. But it wouldn’t solve anything.’’
‘’I know that. I just need to be held. Dee, I’m afraid.’’
‘‘What of?’’
‘’Everything. Oh, Dee, I’m lost.’’

Bloody hell. This is new.

‘’Hey, hey, calm down, it can’t be that bad.’’

‘’Dee, I think I’m going mad. Help me. I need you.’’

Matt collapsed onto the couch, covered his face with his hands, and only gradually regained control of his breathing. Dee, her hands shaking noticeably, struggled to light a cigarette. She puffed nervously for a while until she regained her composure.

Alright, now that he’s in here I’ve got to get him out. He’s not staying and I’m not going to let him touch me.

‘’I’m sorry’’ sniffed Matt.
‘’You can’t go on like this, Matt. You’ve got to get some help.’’
‘’If you mean a shrink, I’m not interested. I want you to help me.’’
‘’I can’t. And I won’t. Not now. I wanted both of us to see someone when you first left but you wouldn’t. Now that I’ve made a new start I’m not prepared to go back. You’re going to have to do it on your own.’’
‘’But I’m afraid, Dee.’’

How did I ever love this shell?

‘’I know. And it will probably get worse before it gets better. When you left me, I thought I was going to die. I felt totally worthless. (You’ll love that, you bastard.)  But I was determined I wasn’t going to waste my life.’’

Matt flashed ‘’It was easier for you though. You were in the right, and you got all the sympathy and support.’’

Wonderful. I got the kick in the teeth, and you wanted the support.

‘’You helped to make our bed, Matt, and you chose not to lie in it anymore. Sure, I got support, but I also got questions from my parents about what I’d done to drive you away.’’

Matt’s head dropped.

‘’Oh, Matt, can’t you see that you have to change. Nobody else can do it for you.’’
‘’I just don’t know where to start.’’
‘‘Try starting with what you really want to do for a change.’’
‘’Like all your touchie-feelie drop-out mates?’’
Dee was angry now. ‘’You left me, you’ve thrown in your job, and you’re probably drunk most nights of the week. If you haven’t dropped out, I don’t know who has. The trouble with you is that the world’s in your head. Try to stay with your feelings for once in your life.’’

‘’I am but ...’’

Rubbish. I bet you’re still doing the rounds of the same old friends and the same old places, sucking for sympathy and waiting for the perfect job or the perfect relationship or the one true cause to drop on you like a bombshell.

Matt moaned ‘’I just wish I had your guts and energy.’’

God help me, I have to say this.

‘’I know you do but I need it for myself. It’s time you found your own.’’
Matt whispered, ‘’I guess you don’t have much respect for me these days.’’

How right you are but I’m not going to be stupid enough to say it here and now.

Choosing her words carefully, Dee said ‘’I respect the things in you that are worth respecting. But I only ever see them when you take off that ridiculous suit of armour you’ve made up out of bits and pieces of other people’s approval.’’

Matt’s face distorted as he said ‘’It’s ironic really. I’m the one who left and now I’m wondering if I’m the one who’s still in love.’’

Dee didn’t answer.

It’s not me you love, Matt. It’s the hidey-hole that our relationship was for you. I didn’t realise how much you’d drained from me until you left and, speaking of irony, it’s probably the most important thing you ever did for me. That’s why I could never go back to the way it was or anything like it. I want to be a lover not a wet-nurse. I just wish it was safe enough for me to say that.

Matt said resignedly, ‘’I guess it would be better if we didn’t see each other for a while.’’
Dee said, ‘’That had been my plan’’.

He got up to leave, struggling with what to say. ‘’Well …’’
Dee quickly stood and said firmly ‘’Goodbye, Matt, and good luck.’’
Matt moved towards her, smiling as he said, ‘’Let’s say ‘au revoir’.’’

He tried to kiss her, but she dodged him and headed for the front door.

‘’Just leave, Matt. I‘ve got work to do.’’

As he was going through the doorway, he started to turn, only to find the door closing in his face.

Dee returned to the lounge, sat at the piano and sang and played her song through, ending with a flourish. She laughed and clapped herself, silently, but for a long time.

In the crisp evening air, Matt’s shoulders hunched. Patting his inside pocket to check for his latest sheaf of poems, he wondered if Caroline was home. She was keen on him once. He quickly hailed a cab.


Doug Jacquier has lived in many places across Australia, including regional and remote communities, and has travelled extensively overseas. His poems and stories have been published in Australia, the US, the UK and Canada. He blogs at Six Crooked Highways (

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