Chapter 9

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

I found myself staring at the thick brown curls and dark, almost black, eyes set deeply behind the broad rim of his glasses. I stared but no longer recognised my dear beloved husband.

 

They – or he – had cleaned him up. He wore a starched – I’d never bought him that, and God knows I didn’t iron like that – shirt, faded grey jeans. Still no shoes, but he did look elegant. And ready. Ready for something I didn’t dare let even my febrile imagination contemplate. Perhaps I was learning the art of calmness.

 

“So this was all an...”

 

“Act.” His voice, somehow different. I heard Viola draw a sharp breath behind me and step around, but I moved my right arm to bar her way.

 

“And you and Davey-”

 

“Have known each other for ages. Have been in the business-”

“Drug business.”

 

“…for several years now.” I realised I’d drawn a breath with Viola and still hadn’t exhaled. My brain was starting to feel foggy, but I couldn’t let myself weaken. I wouldn’t. “Yes.”

 

“Yes drug business? Since when? Since before we married?”

 

“Yes-no.” This time Simon exhaled slowly and avoided eye contact. He had never done that before. “I met Davey on our wedding night. I went out onto the balcony for a smoke. It was damned hot in that hall, you remember, Claud... He was there. I couldn’t remember him being part of the invited guests, but he introduced himself as Samuel Bath, friend of your old university pal, Linda Johnson. Only later, a few drinks in, while you and Linda and Viola were dancing and laughing in the ballroom, did I find out who he really was. Dave L-surnames don’t matter now, Claud…”

 

“So that’s why you were late to our room that night? You were making drug deals with some loser of a drug dealer instead of-” I lunged at him with my injured hands. How I wished in that moment I had my two grocery bags from earlier. How I would have loved to stick one right on top of his head, empty the contents out and then suffocate his lying, cheating, dealing face. But I didn’t because I hadn’t lunged at him, because in that moment my febrile imagination had found itself again.

 

Instead, I felt Viola’s hand touch mine. I felt her pull me away slowly, to the couch. I felt her place her hands over mine on my lap as we sat down. And I felt with my sixth sense, though all others had mostly switched off – I was in a sense of dazedness – Simon crouch down on the carpet before me and stare into my unseeing eyes.

 

And then I felt pain because Viola’s hands were clutching mine far too strongly for her gesture to be sympathetic, and because two other, stronger hands were tightening their grip on my parched throat, while two voices, somewhere further back, perhaps the doorway, laughed out loud as I drifted, yet again, into a state of nothingness.