I’m resting on our deck, prostrate on the new outdoor couch. The pungent smell of wood stain fills my nose. Inside the house, sleeping bodies lie on the sofa. Somewhere I can hear snoring. The noises merge and haze as I doze off.
The back yard was the last on Declan’s and my list for renovations. The kitchen and living area now light and airy; the bedrooms freshened with lick of paint and new furniture and curtains. But the yard had taken longer. Slowly, over the winter months, Declan had levelled the yard and laid strips of artificial grass, and painstakingly hammered each nail into this deck. Come spring, he’d added the finishing touches by staining the wood.
‘It’s non-toxic,’ he’d said. It was a bright and sunny morning, with a gentle breeze. ‘Give it a day or two and the odour will go.’ He looked around at his work. ‘Looks great, yeah? Whaddya reckon?’
I nodded. ‘You’ve done a great job.’ It did look nice. A vast space for outdoor entertaining, including a massive BBQ behind me and a spa under the pergola just beyond the deck. We were going to have good times here, starting with a party on Friday for twenty of our friends to show-off the reno.
‘Smell will be gone by the party, yeah?’
‘Yeah, babe. No one’ll care anyway. I think everyone’s planning to get toasted. Brendan and Sean’ve already asked if they can crash here.’
I’d said that was fine as long as they didn’t expect me to clean up after them. Declan grinned as he gave me a bear hug and whizzed me round.
The days leading up to our party were frantic with confirming numbers to the caterers, last minute styling additions, and a delay with the delivery of the outdoor furniture had me worried there’d be nothing for our guests to sit on. But it arrived the day before the party, plenty of time for Declan to cajole and pout before I agreed we could christen it.
‘Babe? Wake up!’ My nap is rudely cut short by Declan shaking me awake. My head lolls on the cushion.
‘Christ, what’s the matter?’ I snap.
‘Nothing. Just Sean wants a coffee. Can you make it for him?’
‘Can’t he do it himself? I was asleep.’
‘Doesn’t know how to use the machine.’ Declan is picking something out from under his fingernail. He’s focussed on the task, intent on digging until the culprit is out.
I sigh as I get up. ‘I thought I’d said that it was fine for them to stay as long as I didn’t wait on them.’
He shrugs. He follows me into the kitchen, dodging our near-comatose friends littered around our living area. He stops abruptly, holds his finger up and yells, ‘Look! What is that, you reckon?’
He strides towards me, waving his finger in a playful, teasing way. I glare at him, warning him to back down. A few of our guests begin to stir.
‘Come on babe,’ he says, proudly showing off his prize.
‘Don’t Declan.’ He’s close now; his eyes flash with excitement. He thinks he’s being funny as he wipes the booger on cheek. It’s dry, crusty and drops quickly. Not quick enough, though.
I slap his face. ‘You’re a fucken child, Declan.’
By now, everyone’s awake, watching the two of us. Declan’s smile slips away; his eyes darken with rage, shame and embarrassment.
‘I’m going to bed,’ I say. As I leave the room, I call over my shoulder, ‘Please, everyone pack your things and be gone before I wake again.’ I glower at Declan, his name unspoken but my meaning clear.