Zedlist – Part Thirty Seven
Valerie sat in quiet defeat, her left hand on the arm of the floral patterned sofa and the other in the hand of her husband Charles, sitting in loyal support. His shoulders were speckled with white. When you suffer from a dry scalp, as Charles did, every day looks like Christmas. Charles had heard this joke, or variations of it his whole life and it never seemed to get any funnier. As he leaned forwards towards Kevin, the ends of his trouser legs rose up to the top of his business socks. His clothes were still noticeably damp from the rain.
“We have been here so many times before Kevin”, He continued, “How many times do we have to go through this?”
Valerie had heard this speech more times than she could recall, she had stopped listening now. Kevin had been living with them for over four years, and in that time his behaviour had snowballed out of control. She barely even recognised him anymore. He was looking at them with that bemused, smug expression he often had, as if they were the crazy ones. He always acted so bloody superior, adopting an ugly sense of entitlement, as if he was constantly putting up with everyone around him. A screaming contrast to the boy he used to be.
“You don’t understand. There are zombies out there. They are going to get us if we don’t do something!”
The volume of Kevin’s voice had brought Valerie back into the room with a jolt.
“Yeah, yeah”, Charles retorted, “and yesterday it was demons.”
“The demons are inside the Zombies, dad.” Kevin said this as if this should have been obvious.
‘If only he could hear himself’ Valerie thought, it was killing her to see him like this. Charles had always assured her that none of it was her fault, but she couldn’t help blaming herself. Maybe if she hadn’t been so focused on work then she would have picked up on the signs earlier. Maybe if she had breastfed rather than giving him formula, or not spoiled him so much with all the toys and games then he would have turned out to be a fully developed and functioning member of society
Kevin had first started disappearing from the house about a year ago. At first he would just go roaming around the neighbourhood, often in the evening, shouting and screaming. His most popular chant was “I’m not meant to be here.” Sometimes he would come back of his own accord, with no recollection of where he had been, but often Val would have to go out in the car looking for him. Each time he disappeared he would go further and further afield. He was so vulnerable, anything could have happened to him. Over the past few months he had been getting as far as the train station; saying that he was trying to get home. God knows what would happen to him if he ended up in London with no phone, no money and no sense to find his way back. The thought of it chilled Valery to the bone. One of Val’s main concerns about her son’s disappearances was that he could be getting recreational drugs from somewhere – which, in Dr. Kelly’s opinion, was what had accelerated Kevin’s condition in the first place.
She knew that she was too soft on him and that he knew exactly how to manipulate her, he was a master at it. All those years that Val had been in Law, she had never let her emotions get in the way once, but with Kevin it was different. She so desperately wanted to believe that he could change, that he could become the man she always believed he would. She had given him chance after chance, but she knew that it wasn’t helping him. She was going to need to be more firm, no matter how much she hated it. Charles had always played the role of the bad-cop. He never fell for the crocodile tears and he was never intimidated by the fits of anger; at least, he never showed it. Kevin always seemed to take him more seriously.
“I need to go home”, Kevin said anxiously, “it’s getting late and I have loads of work to be getting on with.”
Charles paused and took a breath.
Valerie knew exactly what he wanted to say. He wanted to tell Kevin that he lived here with them and had been doing so for over four years and that he didn’t have a job of any kind. But experience had proven that this would only exacerbate matters, driving Kevin into a full episode. The best way to tackle things at this point was to play along with him until he calmed down.
“I tell you what”, Charles said, “The weather is foul, we can’t let you go back in this. Why don’t you stay here tonight and go back first thing in the morning”.
They both knew there was a good chance Kevin would not remember any of this in the morning. It was impossible to predict what mood he would be in and what he would do next. Some days were like this, where he would insist he had a different life that they were keeping him from. With the right balance of medication he would often stabilise for weeks, becoming more like his old self, but other times he would withdraw completely into himself for days on end.
“You need to take your tablets”, Charles said, getting up from the sofa and making his way over to the cabinet.
“What tablets?” Kevin said, “I don’t take tablets”.
Even though they hated doing it, sometimes they would have to hide pills in Kevin’s food in order for him to take them. Valerie was all too aware of the ethical and legal implications of doing this, especially as Kevin still had capacity in the eyes of the law. She justified her actions as an unofficial best interest decision, and only resorted to subterfuge when all other approaches had failed.
next: Zedlist – Thirty-Eight
previous: Zedlist – Thirty-Six
more by LUCAS HOWARD
all chapters: Zedlist
photograph by Sarah Babineau