The casual vacancy, p.46
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       The Casual Vacancy, p.46

           J. K. Rowling
Part Five Chapter VIII



  Samantha was driven from the spare room at last by her urgent need to pee. She drank cold water from the tap in the bathroom until she felt sick, gulped down two paracetamol from the cabinet over the sink, then took a shower.

  She dressed without looking at herself in the mirror. Through everything she did, she was alert for some noise that would indicate the whereabouts of Miles, but the house seemed to be silent. Perhaps, she thought, he had taken Lexie out somewhere, away from her drunken, lecherous, cradle-snatching mother . . .

  ('He was in Lexie's class at school!' Miles had spat at her, once they were alone in their bedroom. She had waited for him to move away from the door, then wrenched it back open and run to the spare room. )

  Nausea and mortification came over her in waves. She wished she could forget, that she had blacked out, but she could still see the boy's face as she launched herself at him . . . she could remember the feel of his body pressed against her, so skinny, so young . . .

  If it had been Vikram Jawanda, there might have been some dignity in it . . . She had to get coffee. She could not stay in the bathroom for ever. But as she turned to open the door, she saw herself in the mirror, and her courage almost failed. Her face was puffy, her eyes hooded, the lines in her face etched more deeply by pressure and dehydration.

  Oh God, what must he have thought of me . . .

  Miles was sitting in the kitchen when she entered. She did not look at him, but crossed straight to the cupboard where the coffee was. Before she had touched the handle, he said, 'I've got some here. '

  'Thanks,' she muttered, and poured herself out a mug, avoiding eye contact.

  'I've sent Lexie over to Mum and Dad's,' said Miles. 'We need to talk. '

  Samantha sat down at the kitchen table.

  'Go on, then,' she said.

  'Go on - is that all you can say?'

  'You're the one who wants to talk. '

  'Last night,' said Miles, 'at my father's birthday party, I came to look for you, and I found you snogging a sixteen-year - '

  'Sixteen-year-old, yes,' said Samantha. 'Legal. One good thing. '

  He stared at her, appalled.

  'You think this is funny? If you'd found me so drunk that I didn't even realize - '

  'I did realize,' said Samantha.

  She refused to be Shirley, to cover everything up with a frilly little tablecloth of polite fiction. She wanted to be honest, and she wanted to penetrate that thick coating of complacency through which she no longer recognized a young man she had loved.

  'You did realize - what?' said Miles.

  He had so plainly expected embarrassment and contrition that she almost laughed.

  'I did realize that I was kissing him,' she said.

  He stared at her, and her courage seeped away, because she knew what he was going to say next.

  'And if Lexie had walked in?'

  Samantha had no answer to that. The thought of Lexie knowing what had happened made her want to run away and not come back - and what if the boy told her? They had been at school together. She had forgotten what Pagford was like . . .

  'What the hell's going on with you?' asked Miles.

  'I'm . . . unhappy,' said Samantha.

  'Why?' asked Miles, but then he added quickly, 'Is it the shop? Is it that?'

  'A bit,' said Samantha. 'But I hate living in Pagford. I hate living on top of your parents. And sometimes,' she said slowly, 'I hate waking up next to you. '

  She thought he might get angry, but instead he asked, quite calmly, 'Are you saying you don't love me any more?'

  'I don't know,' said Samantha.

  'Maybe he'll be the first of many!' yelled Samantha, getting up from the table and slamming her mug down in the sink; the handle came off in her hand. 'Don't you get it, Miles? I've had enough! I hate our fucking life and I hate your fucking parents - '

  ' - you don't mind them paying for the girls' education - '

  ' - I hate you turning into your father in front of me - '

  ' - absolute bollocks, you just don't like me being happy when you're not - '

  ' - whereas my darling husband doesn't give a shit how I feel - '

  ' - plenty for you to do round here, but you'd rather sit at home and sulk - '

  ' - I don't intend to sit at home any more, Miles - '

  ' - not going to apologize for getting involved with the community - '

  ' - well, I meant what I said - you're not fit to fill his shoes!'

  'What?' he said, and his chair fell over as he jumped to his feet, while Samantha strode to the kitchen door.

  'You heard me,' she shouted. 'Like my letter said, Miles, you're not fit to fill Barry Fairbrother's shoes. He was sincere. '

  'Your letter?' he said.

  'Yep,' she said breathlessly, with her hand on the doorknob. 'I sent that letter. Too much to drink one evening, while you were on the phone to your mother. And,' she pulled the door open, 'I didn't vote for you either. '

  The look on his face unnerved her. Out in the hall, she slipped on clogs, the first pair of shoes she could find, and was through the front door before he could catch up.