In the beginning, there were eggs every morning - whichever way he liked them. Sometimes poached, sometimes scrambled, sometimes hard-boiled with little wholemeal toast soldiers on the side, as though I was his mother. And always with a smile.
The sun always seemed to be shining on those mornings. Sunlight on clean cutlery, the whir of the washing machine, fresh summer air through the kitchen door. And he would wander in, still half-asleep, to sit with me - grateful, affectionate; tumbled hair and soft pyjamas.
“Morning, love. Sleep well?”
“Like a flaming log, my sweet.”
That was in the beginning.
In the middle there was a kind of gentle detachment. Like a crevice widening. It wasn’t cataclysmic. No big bangs. Like, one day we were standing together in the garden, and the next time we looked we were on opposite sides of a gap. It seemed to surprise us both. Still there were eggs, but the autumn had found its way into the garden outside and I had to leave the kitchen door closed. We’d planted a tree when we moved in and over the years it had grown big enough to block out the light. Each October it dropped a mess of brittle brown leaves that would blow in. Annoying. The cutlery had lost its sheen. It was misted and dull – there was something wrong with the dishwasher and neither of us had got round to sorting it out.
It was into this state of affairs that Chantelle had wandered, bright and breezy, like I imagined I used to be. Kind of glowing.
It was supposed to be a romantic trip for us. It was supposed to be recapturing summer. But the heat was too intense. The sand kept getting into all the places I didn’t want it, and I couldn’t relax. Couldn’t settle to it. I’d have been happier around the pool, in the shade with a book, but he loved the sea – swam like a fish with a snorkel, marvelling at colourful underwater worlds I was never brave enough to share.
I’d seen them meet, both stumbling out of the water in that half-dazed state of wonder he always had after the sea. I’d seen the joy of shared experience as they chatted on their way back across the hot sand. The way his eyes ate up the soft skin of her suntanned shoulder; the suppleness of her, and my tummy had known straight away.
And now here I was and this would be the end.
They say that the more energy you put into a thing, the more likely it is to be successful. I’d decided weeks back what I would do, more or less. Back when I found the emails. But I wanted to make sure I planned it properly. I hugged this knowledge to myself; of what I was I going to do. Letting it keep me warm when he’d gone out of the house on errands that took too long, or when he rang to say he had to work late again. Weeks, now, I’d been gathering together all the things I’d need for this morning. Creating a ritual.
He’d been sleeping, unaware, above all the ingredients. I’d kept them in the drawer under the bed, where the clean duvets and sheets were. He never went in there. As he slept, I liked to think of his hair and skin particles falling down through the mattress and settling on top of them. I didn’t want to rely on that though, so every morning when he’d finished his eggs and gone to work, I’d go up to the bathroom. The cabinet above the sink had taken us ages to choose; hours of scrolling through internet sites. We’d spent a whole Saturday hanging it at the right height, so that we could both see into the mirror. Being careful not to crack the new tiles. But he never put his hairbrush away in there, where it belonged. He always left it on the sink for me to tidy up. And I always did. But recently, I’d been pausing to unpick hairs from the bristles. Sticky with his “Dax Green and Gold” hair wax, I’d packed them into my dressing gown pocket. That wax would always be the smell of him – and that was even better.
He’d only clipped his toenails twice in the last couple of months, but that was enough. Add a bit of crunch to the proceedings. Last week I’d taken him out for cocktails, for his birthday. Usually a pint man, I’d had to bide my time for an excuse to get him to use a straw. It worked, though. It was worth being fleeced by a trendy bar.
And finally the moment had come. He had to travel for work, he said. A week in Brussels at a boring conference. But I knew about his plans. A week in the sun with her, sharing their love of being underwater again.
It was like closing the circle, she’d said in her emails. And they’d agreed to tell me when they got back. Perfect. For me as well. Gave me the space to do what I needed to do. Last night I’d been able to spread my work out on the kitchen table. Fashion the hair around a shaped wire coat-hanger till it resembled a rough torso, limbs. Poke in bits of clipped nail to represent fingers and toes. Googly eyes from a birthday card he’d bought me a few years back. A flash of fabric I’d snipped from the hem of his swimming shorts before he packed them, and the birthday straw, shortened to a scaled-down snorkel.
The sink we chose together is full of warm water. A single black candle is burning on the windowsill above it. Postcards and letters and notes and photos make a collage on the fridge beside me, and crumbs from our breakfasts fill the cracks in the granite work surface. I hone my intent till it feels like a blade between my eyes. Lift my stubby husband from the draining board. Press the waxed, hairy mess of a body beneath the water. Hold it down till it stops trying to rise against my fingers. Watch it descend, bump against the bottom. And lie still.