Still clad in stripy blue pyjamas and heavy dressing gown, Philip Abbott stood at the sink washing breakfast things. Outside, raindrops sprayed the window, driven by squally winds, to match his mood. Except for the clatter of plates, the clicking clock, and the thrumming of the fridge-freezer, the room was still. Pam had gone back to bed, claiming to have a migraine. As he stacked plates on the draining board, Phil’s mind raced through their rare night of passion. Pam was like dynamite. Once her touch-paper ignited she went at sex as if she was running out of future. The experience had left him thoroughly enervated. And unhappy.
The last plate stacked in the drainer, Phil wrung out the dishcloth and draped it over the mixer tap. Leaning his belly against the sink, he stared trance-like through the net-draped window. He was totally oblivious to the antics of two very wet fox cubs trying and failing to drink from the garden pond.
Had Pam told the truth, he wondered when questioning her unintelligible, frenzied cry? Without exception she cried out when roused, usually repeatedly uttering his name whilst scraping her nails down his back, but in the early hours he could have sworn the name she called was Jerry. Jerry? It had stopped him in his tracks. Coming as it did mid-copulation it doused his verve and ultimate ejaculation.
Overcome by surging grief, Phil had a mental image of his wife’s boss, Jeremy Ifield: a maddeningly handsome face with prominent eyebrows, arched in perpetual bewilderment above sharp eyes that blazed with vitriolic scorn. The hewn cheekbones and fashionably styled grey-streaked dark hair were more like an all-American movie star. At first meeting he seemed like a nice guy but longer acquaintance revealed a superficial personality.
With a heavy heart, Phil pushed away from the sink and balanced on one of the tall kitchen stools. His mind darted from one incident of Pam's unpunctuality to another, all of them assigned to pressure of work. Her words. Her excuses. Excuses he had no reason to doubt until a few hours ago.
He had challenged her. It transpired that he had mistaken Pam's wild utterance for 'hurry'. So why did he feel encumbered by sickening qualms? If she was having an affair with Ifield ... Violently shaking his head, Phil tried to oust the notion, insisting that Pam's persistent absence was valid, that her breathless diction was easily distorted. If it wasn’t, he would surely kill her. Or him. In a short space of time he had learned to hate Jeremy Ifield with all the passion of a practiced killer.
Yet, he told himself, it took two to make a deal. Ifield was a free man who had nothing to lose by seducing Pam. But she had a man of her own, a husband, a legal lover, one who had given her everything her heart desired. Seemed she wanted more. Didn’t she realise that Phil could provide her with more … much more than she bargained for?
It was cold in the kitchen, the sort of damp cold that seeps into the soul. Phil started to dry the crocks and put them away. Only one knife remained; the sharp one used to slice bacon. Catching the light from the window, the shiny blade almost beckoned. Slowly and quite deliberately Phil picked it up. Watched as dribbles of water rolled from blade to handle. It crossed his mind that a wet knife might lose its edge. Carefully, almost lovingly, he wiped away the remaining drops and rubbed the blade dry. Pam hated to see smears on cutlery. Well, she wouldn’t see any on this knife ... ever again.