Amy plunged her hands into the steaming, soapy water. The heat was bliss. She placed her palms flat on the bottom of the sink. The bubbles nearly touched her rolled-up sleeves. She wriggled her fingers up and down, revelling in the warmth. She knew when she lifted her arms to begin her task the damp on them would feel incredibly cold. Although she dreaded the moment it was a necessary endurance on the road to flopping down in front of the television which would in turn halt the flow of negative thought. She pondered the word ‘dread’. At this point in Amy’s life, dread had become a tangible concept. She had been feeling it grow within her stomach for nearly a week; an inflexible knot of discomfort that prevented her eating or drinking a thing. Sometimes she even had to make a concerted effort to breathe around it, drawing in air slowly, deliberately and firmly and then puffing it out again, with force. She dreaded it all; him coming home, telling him about the dishwasher malfunction, his complaints about his dinner, giving him the news...
She glanced at the saucepan on the cold hob. Inside, nestled the remainder of the bolognaise sauce enjoyed earlier by herself and the children. It was unlikely he would find the food satisfactory. There would be the usual moaning about flavourless, blandness and did he really have to eat the same food as the children, from which would follow a nostalgic trip to his childhood. No matter what time his father had come home from work, his mother had rattled fresh saucepans into action for him. Bloody inconsiderate, Amy thought, waking everyone up with clanging cookware. She knew what to do. She dried her hands and took down the new pot of Very Hot Chilli Powder from the over laden spice rack. She dumped about a third of the contents of the chilli pot into the saucepan and stirred it thoroughly into the bolognaise. She washed up as gradually, the street outside her kitchen window, filled with homecoming cars, parking in neat little drives.
Amy’s husband arrived home much later when the children were bathed and bedded. She was all cosy in the lounge, watching a documentary on life in Afghanistan in which she had become quite absorbed, despite the whirring, abdominal adrenalin ball.
“Hi-de-ho,” he said as he stepped over the threshold. From behind the safety of the hall door she mouthed the inane comment in exact synchronicity, her face contorted with sarcastic mimicry as she did so. She unfurled herself from the warm sofa and wandered into the cool, bright kitchen, ready to endure her first daily burden; the ineptitude of his co-workers. What profound stupidity had been presented to him today? How admirably had he coped? The cold of the tiles penetrated her socks, she shivered a little as she lit the hob to warm the bolognaise. He was unzipping his coat.
“D’you want pasta with this, or bread and butter?” His coat rustled, irritatingly loud. She had to repeat herself.
“Just bread and butter,” he finally answered. Amy spread the butter thickly on his white slice. As she leant over to put in on the table in front of him she was overwhelmed by the odour of stale tobacco. She turned away. This evening he decided to embark on a subject that required his special venom; women who ended their marriages. It was Geoff. It was poor Geoff from accounts. His second wife had asked him to leave.
“Poor guy,” he was chuntering, “lost everything! Twice! No doubt she’ll take him to the cleaners...only just back on his feet...last gold-digging vulture...seeing his own kids once a bloody fortnight...” On and on he went, shovelling bolognaise into his mouth, which did nothing to stem the rant.
“This is actually quite tasty,” he said, mercifully changing subject, indicating his plate.
“I thought you’d like it,” she replied.
“Some women,” he had resumed the rant, Amy drifted off into her thoughts, “simply don’t know when their well off. Geoff works very hard...long hours...top of his game...damn good pension, yer know!” This final remark was punctuated by his pointing his last piece of bread at her in a very accusatory manner. Amy knew that the Catherine wheel of dread within her had reached its crescendo and was about to explode. She took two cans of beer from the fridge opened them both and slid one across the table to him as she sat opposite.
“I’ve met someone else. I don’t want to be in this marriage anymore. I’m so sorry but I don’t love you.”