Her mind was in a flurry as she scraped the remains of a lamb hotpot into the dog's bowl, the morning's agitation totally forgotten. As she plunged the plates into soapy water her spirits soared. She grinned at her reflection in the partly steamed-up kitchen window. This could be the turning point, she thought, sweeping the curtain aside for a closer look. Her fringe was a mess where she'd wiped her brow with the rubber glove, but it only needed to be combed. She had shampooed her hair that morning; there was no need to do it again.
Her stomach bustled with excited apprehension for her impending campaign, a positive endeavour to rid
Eager to be finished, she rinsed a basin under the cold tap and slammed it recklessly on the drainer.
‘You'll demolish them if you don't slow down.’
Rachel carried on with her chore, making no comment about the unusualness of his action. Her mind raced with plans.
Rachel searched the bowl for an elusive teaspoon. ‘I didn't know he had one,’ she replied.
‘She's two months old.’
‘I didn't know he was married.’
‘He isn't. The child's mother is the one he took to Cynthia's wedding.’
‘Are they going to marry?’
‘Shouldn't think so. There's no point. Lavinia's not a regular girl friend any more. He met someone else while she was pregnant.’
Rachel swilled the draining board, barely listening to the narrative about Geoff Simmonds and his harem. Her attention was centred on the evening's agenda. She would wear her honeymoon clothes, the black bra and frilly knickers and the off-the-shoulder red dress she wore on the first night, the one
The wine she bought to toast their anniversary was in the fridge, ready to produce at a moment's notice.
Rachel hung the dishcloth on the mixer tap. ‘Seems like it. Why don't you go and watch telly for a bit?’
‘I think I will,’ he said, and disappeared from the kitchen with Rex ambling in his wake.
RACHEL had achieved a romantic feel to the room by dispensing with the central light and utilising four pink-shaded lamps, strategically placing them behind potted plants to create a shadowy effect. Simulated flames danced around the logs on the electric fire. A Barbra Streisand tape played in the background. A crafty squirt of perfume on the light bulbs diffused an interesting fragrance; spicy, and a bit Indian. Rex was curled up on his bed, one leg masking his eyes. Satisfied she had created a mysterious and sensual atmosphere, Rachel took her glass and sat alongside
‘I thought I'd stock some wine in case it was ever needed.’
‘Did you have a good weekend,’ she asked, uncertainly.
‘Yes, thanks. Did you?’
Disinclined to admit Sunday's desolation, Rachel nodded. They were conversing like mere acquaintances but at least
Cautiously, she lifted her hand, intending to rest it on his arm but at the precise moment her fingers located his sleeve the telephone rang. She cursed her stupidity for not having unplugged the instrument before settling down. Reluctantly, she went to answer it.
‘Oh, hello Mum.’
‘Are you doing anything special?’
Since Rachel had been contemplating a spot of revelry, she gained some solace in blaming her mother if her objective failed. Aloud, she said, ‘We're having a quiet drink.’
She nodded to indicate that it was.
‘Your Dad's out,’ Amy said. ‘I wondered if I could come round.’
Rachel gasped. ‘Tonight?’
‘Certainly tonight. I want to join in the celebrations. Ask
Dismayed, Rachel presented the request to
Spruce? What did he think she was wearing, for heaven's sake.
‘Okay, Mumsie, see you later.’
Two hours! Rachel was appalled and mournfully castigated herself for not having the wit to oppose her mother.
THEY had finished the first bottle of wine before she knew for certain she would kiss him. Half way through the second,
That did it. She propelled herself from the couch, shrieking with frustration and glowering fit to kill. ‘A year, a bloody year, and still I haven't been laid. Am I supposed to wait until our next bloody anniversary?’
Rex left his bed and took refuge in the kitchen.
‘You'd make the bloody angels swear. I wish to Christ I'd never married you.’
‘God, you're the limit. Don't tell me you didn't know. Your damned homosexual friends would have told you if you'd thought to bloody ask.’
Perfectly inert, Rachel waited uneasily for his response, dreading confirmation, hoping for a denial. She had expected him to thunder in retaliation, not root himself to the floor in silent submission.
Not wanting to break the spell of confession, Rachel kept her voice low when she asked why he hadn't told her.
‘I kept putting it off.’ Wearily,
Although the admission was daunting, at least her husband was talking. Since that in itself was progress, Rachel accepted it with weird enthusiasm. Spontaneously, she sidestepped the low table and went to his side. ‘Did you know how it would be before we married?’
Rachel was staggered. Sucking sounds! Wet mud! Was she so grotesque? Yet, even as her mind sprinted through the various incidents when her advances were spurned, recalling the hurt and the devastation of rejection, she recognised at long last that it was
The doorbell sounded.
Rachel wanted to ignore it. She wanted to take
THE rest of the evening passed as though nothing had gone on between them. No doubt relieved that his dilemma had been aired,
At , when Amy made a move to get her coat,
Amy buttoned her coat. ‘It won't take many minutes to walk.’
For the first time in ages Rachel argued against her mother, agreeing with
SHE had a lot to ponder on as she cleansed and creamed her face. Once she had thrust away
Moving to the bed, she fished under the pillow for the flimsy baby-doll nightdress, and swiftly stuffed it in the linen box. Oxfam would appreciate the donation, along with all the other provocative bed wear. From the dressing-table drawer, she withdrew the flannelette pyjamas
Kissing Rex on the head, she clambered into bed and punched the pillows behind her. She estimated that
IT was the cold that woke her. She pulled the covers more tightly around her shoulders, the unfamiliar flannelette reminding her of
Needing reassurance that their relationship was unharmed Rachel extended a cautious hand, but
He would need her assistance, she thought, hopping out of bed. Black coffee would do the trick, and encouragement to sleep. Grabbing her gown, she scuttled towards the stairs.
Rex growled at the disruption.
Rachel burst into the living room, expecting to see