‘Darling, I’m home.’
Calvin’s cheery voice wafted across from the front door through the passage and into the open plan lounge/diner where Jessica Griffiths was just finishing washing up last night’s dinner plates. She heard the cupboard door in the passage slam shut as Calvin deposited his golf clubs. A few moments later he breezed into the lounge.
‘I made two over par today.’
‘Well done!’ said Jessica with more enthusiasm than she really felt. ‘You’ll hit that level par score before too long.’
Calvin almost purred.
‘That bloody Liam Watt put me off by coughing on the last tee or I might have made it today.’
A look of searing anger appeared across his face. ‘I’ll get my own back next time. Two can play at that game.’
He stood behind Jessica, put his arms around her waist and nuzzled her neck.
‘It’s only a dab,’ said Jessica defensively.
‘What are the rules, my darling?’ Calvin’s voice dropped an octave.
Jessica held her breath.
‘I don’t wear perfume unless we’re going out together,’ she replied.
‘That’s my girl.’ Calvin’s hands ran over Jessica’s stomach and up to her breasts. He kneaded them softly.
‘Come on, love, on the sofa, let’s have some fun.’
Jessica broke free and turned to face him.
‘I don’t have time for that, much as I’d like to. I have to go out.’
Calvin stared hard at her, his voice stern.
‘Out? Where is out?’
‘It’s Wednesday, Calvin. I always go to Nana’s on Wednesday. You know I do.’
His face softened.
‘Ah, of course, got to keep on the right side of the old gal eh? She can’t have that much time left and she’s worth a small fortune.’
He patted her on the backside. ‘Go and sow the seeds, my darling. We might get the flat bought for us and a bit to spare.’
Jessica said nothing. She picked up her cardigan and car keys and walked across the lounge.
‘See you in a couple of hours.’
‘Oh, Jess,’ he called.
‘Wash off the perfume before you go.’
Jess drove across town wiping her eyes every few minutes. The tears were a mixture of embarrassment and anger. Why did she allow herself to be treated like this? She was, in every other aspect of her life, a strong, intelligent, independent woman. When it came to Calvin however…
She loved him, he was handsome, he was clever, he possessed a quick wit, in fact that was the thing that had drawn her to him initially. Nowadays though, he saved it for friends, strangers and acquaintances, and used it less and less in her company.
He was a narcissist; she was almost certain of that. Everything was always about him. Nothing was ever his fault. Every misfortune he suffered, no matter how trivial (the golf story from this morning for instance), was a personal slight on him, his character, or, it was an underhand attempt to make him look stupid or to stop him succeeding in life.
Jess tried to drag her thoughts away from her own personal misery and settled them on Nana, Alice, her soon to be Centenarian Great Grandmother.
Alice was, to an outsider, grumpy, self-centred and aloof, but Jess knew a different side to her.
‘We are two peas in a pod,’ Alice told her frequently. ‘My mirror image, my Doppelganger.’
It was true. They were extremely alike, when you took into account the generation gap. Alice had shown Jess some old black and white photographs from the nineteen-forties when she was in her early 20s, pretty much the same age as Jess was now, and the likeness was remarkable.
Alice, at ninety-nine and eleven months, was as age-worn as she should be but that classic beauty still remained. The bone structure, the smile (when it reluctantly appeared) and the eyes, flashing with annoyance or lighting up with a joyous glint, that she was sure, her own eyes couldn’t match.
Nana lived in a two-hundred-year-old farm house that nestled snugly in an acre of overgrown land.
The farm had once covered a hundred acres but Nana had sold plots off over the years to builders, the council (for a football pitch), and some individual buyers who fancied a self-build.
All of this had brought in plenty of money but had also brought suburbia into what was once an expanse of greenery. Alice would have been condemned by the environmental lobby for enriching herself by such means and indeed, Jess herself would not have been happy with the result, but this was all history. Nana wouldn’t give a damn for the Green lobby anyway. She appeared, on the face of it at least, to be an old-fashioned woman, with outdated views. Not that they had ever discussed modern day concerns. Jess thought it might be time they did.
She left the main road that ran through the town, turned left down a narrower road with bungalows, the sports field and a few larger, modern family houses and pulled off the road onto an asphalt drive. She sat silently for a moment then gave herself a mental slap.
Come on, Jess, pull yourself together. Happy face for Nana.
She got out of the car, took in a deep breath, put on her best smile and headed for the front door.