Past Lives: 1928: Exit Music

“My father was a coward, in every kind of way, and he was a fool. There’s a reason I took my mother’s surname, y’know, in case you’d forgotten.”


The moonlight is reflected in the glass of scotch Denny holds to his lips, and he takes a long, slow drink before he allows himself to think too much. It’s a nice night, really, warm, and the stars are out. They watch him as he contemplates his small world from the sofa, swirling the liquid in his glass.

Is this how it’ll be, then? Wife and kids and the best life they can have in a shitty little neighbourhood like theirs? Is that what his life is now, pre-planned and mapped out and all written down on someone’s sheet of paper?


He downs the rest of the scotch with a grimace, and there’s a bang as he involuntarily slams the glass onto the table; he winces, looking over his his shoulder to make sure they haven’t been awoken upstairs.

He should have packed more. He should’ve prepared. He should have started this a long time ago, been raising funds, found himself somewhere to stay, but he never thought… He thought he’d make do, take what he had and make it good; that it was just nerves about the kid. He has nowhere to go, nothing to take. Hell, he’ll wing it, but the air in this house is choking him and he has to get out.

He looks down at his ring, and suddenly has to take it off before it burns him. He places it gently down next to the glass. It was good while it lasted; he’ll show that measure of respect, at least, not throw it carelessly away or pawn it off like a desperate tramp.

He thinks of Lizzie sleeping upstairs, peaceful for once in her damn life instead of bustling about after him, of Alister in his cot. Maybe he should see them, give them a goodbye, but he’s terrified that if he looks at them he’ll be rooted to the spot, grounded; that he’ll stay and…

They deserve more than this; more than some half-reformed crook who calls himself a mechanic. The two of them, whatever man Lizzie finds, will be so much better together than he ever could be with them. (She’ll find someone; she’s quite the dame.)

There’s shame in what he’s doing – a man doesn’t walk out on his family – but he can’t…

God, he loves her; God, he loves his son – they break his heart, they do, but he never signed up for this. Now he’ll break theirs. (Maybe he’ll get knifed, going out this late, but right now he’s not entirely sure he’d mind.)

He stands, picks up the suitcase next to him, weighs it as he holds it. Not that heavy, but it has enough to make a start. He takes one last look over his shoulder. Inhales.

Leaves, quietly and uneventfully, with a warm bed and a family behind him.


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