Over breakfast, Andrew abandoned the iPod as the morning news misted over with steam from his coffee. He mentioned their long-planned weekend away and sparked hope when he insisted they’d go the weekend after next. She made a mental note to cancel her book club scheduled for the same weekend. He hated it and considered it a poor excuse for her to gossip with her cronies.
Her tongue stung with the sharpness of the freshly squeezed orange juice as she contemplated her busy day ahead. A perfunctory kiss brushed her cheek before he left. Auto-pilot kicked in as she organised herself to leave before the commuter rush hour started. She didn’t want to be late for her appointment at The Salon. She wanted a new look for the summer months, and she hoped for once Andrew would notice her.
“Good morning, you’re here bright and early, Emma. What do you have in mind? I see you booked in for a restyle.” Tracey showed Emma to the swizzle salon chair in front of the long mirror.
“Yes. I want something different. I feel so dull at the moment. I’m not really sure why. What suggestions do you have?” Emma sat and swirled the chair around to face the mirror.
“Well, I could add some layers and trim the ends to shoulder length and a translucent colour wash would look amazing. It isn’t permanent so it won’t damage your hair but it will bring out the chestnut highlights. In fact we can lighten a few strands at the front for that sun kissed look. It’s quite classy and I think it will look fabulous on you” Tracey ran her comb through Emma’s hair. “What do you think?”
“You don’t think the highlights are too young for me. I’m in my late forties you know. I don’t want to look like mutton dressed up as lamb.” Emma grinned.
“What, in your forties? No way. You look great. No signs of grey yet and your skin has a lovely glow. Tell me your secret. The new look will look amazing on you.”
“Thanks. I use a simple cocoa butter moisturizer, not much make up and I guess I have good genes. But you’re the expert with my hair. I trust your judgment.” Emma gave a thumbs-up to Tracey.
“Great. Come over to the wash basin and we’ll get started.”
Emma’s mind drifted as Tracey massaged her scalp and washed her hair. She wondered what had happened in her life, when did a trip to the hairdresser mean so much to her.
Didn’t they say life began at 40, since 40 my life seems to have slowly disintegrated. I feel so distant from Andrew and don’t know what to do to get closer to him. He constantly works and some days I can do nothing right for him. I look forward to seeing him every day but when I do we have nothing to say to each other apart from the pleasantries and not even that some days. I hate his constant anger towards me, and demands on my time as if I’m his handmaiden. This is not what my marriage should be about.
As Tracey worked on her hair; pasting the chemicals and wrapping the ends in foil, Emma caught sight of a black Mercedes slowly driving down the High Street.
AM1. That’s Andrew’s car, but what is he doing here at this time. He said he had a meeting in the city today with some new investors in one of his overseas projects.
The car picked up speed and disappeared from view. Emma turned her mind back to Tracey’s handiwork, but her mind puzzled over the black Mercedes and why her husband would be driving down High Street at this time in the morning.
I’ll call him and find out.
She reached for her handbag to find her phone, but as she did an image of it on the hall table sprung to mind.
Damn. I left it at home.
“Tracey, how long will I be? I left my phone at home and I need to make a call.”
“Well, the colour takes about 40 minutes and then we need to rinse and cut then finish so maybe around an hour and 15. Do you want to use my phone?” Tracey offered her phone to Emma.
“Thanks but it’s okay. No problem. I thought I saw someone I knew but never mind.” Emma knew Andrew wouldn’t answer a call from an unknown number and would be furious she had used someone else’s phone to call him. She pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind and picked up a magazine. She flicked through the pages but the puzzling thoughts of Andrew’s movements returned with a niggling doubt.
“How do you like your new look?” Tracey flashed the mirror around the back of Emma’s head.
“Wow. It is great. I love the chestnut tones mixed with the golden highlights and the length is perfect. Thanks so much.” Emma hugged Tracey. “You always know exactly what to do. Thanks again.” She left a generous tip and dashed to her car. High Street had cleared of traffic and she sped home. She wanted to pick up her phone and call Andrew. She didn’t usually check up on him, but puzzles and doubts in her mind had stolen the pleasure of being pampered at The Salon.
A superb light blue Jaguar XK convertible sat on the lane approaching the house. A new car with 15’ plates. It was her dream car, and her heart fluttered thinking Andrew might have bought it to surprise her at dinner. She sighed and pushed the thought out of her mind. She needed to find her phone and put her mind at rest.
When she put her key in the door, the bolt slid and locked instead of unlocking. She stopped, nerves on edge.
Why was the door unlocked? I’m sure I locked the door and set the alarm.
She caught the keys as they slipped out of her hand. She inched the door open, and waited for the alarm to go off. She held her breath. Nothing. She hesitated, not knowing what to do. Go in and find what? Call the police? What if she had forgotten to set the alarm and lock the door, then it would be a wild goose chase and a waste of everyone’s time. Her hands shook, her heart pounded.
Pull yourself together, Emma. Come on now. You’re a big girl. You can deal with it.
She gave herself a pep talk, removed her shoes and entered the house like a cat burglar, creeping around not making the slightest noise.
She scanned the lounge and kitchen, open plan with few hiding places. Nothing. She avoided the creaky treader as she crept upstairs to look in the bedrooms. Nothing. She doubted herself again, when she heard a faint noise, like someone had stifled a moan or a giggle. It came from the guest bedroom in the annex. The only place she hadn’t checked. Panic set in. Someone was there.
What should I do?
Andrew would know. She found her phone on the console table and dialed his number. She heard a faint ringing.
Don’t tell me he forgot his phone as well.
Her heart sank, but he answered.
“Hello, sweetheart. You don’t usually call me at work. What’s wrong?”
She frowned. Her mind liked to play tricks. She had been positive she heard the phone ring in the house. She continued toward the guest bedroom.
“Oh I just wanted to say hello. You left so quickly this morning. We hardly had time to discuss the weekend.” Her voice remained composed but she continued to puzzle over why she heard the phone ring in the house.
“Well sweetheart, can we discuss that later as I’m in an important meeting now. You know how busy things are at work for me at the moment.”
The door to the guest bedroom swung open, and the reflection in the hall mirror stopped her, mid step. She hung up, but continued to speak.
“Andrew?” The calm in her voice surprised her.
Realisation dawned, and he froze. The expression on his face at being discovered ‘in flagrante delicto’ etched into her memory. Shock combined with the look in his cold calculating steely blue eyes. His phone slipped to the floor as he scrambled to grab the sheet from the bed. Palpitations ran through Emma’s heart as he turned and the red scratch marks running down his muscular back spoke volumes. The naked woman screamed and ran in to the ensuite.
“It’s not what it seems.”
“Isn’t it? Then tell me, Andrew, what is it? Because from where I am standing there is no ambiguity.”
“She fainted at work, and I was making sure she had a comfortable place to recover.”
“Bullshit, Andrew. Please do the decent thing and be honest with me. You owe me that much.”
“For Christ’s sake, Emma. Why are you even here at this time in the day? Shouldn’t you be collecting my dry-cleaning? You know I have an important business trip tomorrow. I need those suits. What about my shoes? Have you taken them to be mended? And the desk diary? Where is that? What about the weekend away? You should be gossiping with Harriet, and booking it shouldn’t you? Instead, you are snooping about in the house. Have you been following me? How dare you?”
Her voice quavered as his power consumed her, as it always did. He could play ‘wrong but strong’ very well. She knew that.
“How dare you, Andrew? How dare you bring that, that—whoever that is, here? Into our home. You couldn’t even go to a hotel? You make me sick.” Her voice crumbled and tears streamed down her face. Hot angry tears gave way to a heavy sadness that overwhelmed her heart. Fear fogged her brain. Any semblance of calm drowned in the waves of nausea that overwhelmed her. Her gut wrenched and twisted in embarrassed hurt. She needed to be strong. She clenched her fist, and her nails dug into her palm. The pain fuelled her repugnant anger, and quelled her fear. “Get out of my house.”
He laughed, and the woman reappeared from the guest bathroom, clothed. A secret revealed.
“You whore. Get out of my house.”
The woman slid her arm around Andrew and smirked. “You gonna make me, sweetheart.”
Andrew responded before Emma had chance. “Leave. Now. Quickly.” The woman raised her eyebrows, surprise written on her face, and left.
“Who is she?”
Emma raised her hand. “Stop. I don’t need to know. Get out of my sight. Leave me alone.” Emma sobbed, unable to control her emotions, raging like a fire burning out of control.
Andrew’s shoulders slumped as he left. “I’ll be at the Marriott if you need me.”
“Leave.” Emma closed the door to the guest bedroom and sank into her favourite chair in the conservatory. She sobbed into a towel until her tears ran dry. She didn’t understand. One word ran around her mind: Why?