‘Morning sweetheart’ Antony spat out as he scraped the length of linen curtain back and turned to observe his wife lying face down and fully dressed on the sofa. ‘You’re looking as gorgeous as ever. You know that’s what I love about you, Arabella, the way I can love you just the way you are first thing in the morning’. He crossed the lounge towards the kitchen, collecting an ashtray from the carpet and three wine glasses from the coffee table on his way.
‘Fuck you’, she slurred into a tasselled cushion.
Antony peered his head around the door frame in mock earnest, ‘What’s that sweetie?’
‘I said’, she craned her head up to get a lungful and tossed a two fingered gesture his way, ‘FUCK. YOU’
‘Aw, I love you too sweetie. Kiss, kiss.’
A shaft of morning light shot across the room from between the drawn back curtains. Arabella flipped the pillow onto her head and turned towards the back of the sofa. Her thick brown hair dramatically struck out at all angles from her head and a spangled purple party dress clung to her slim frame, creased from where she had slept in it. A pair of elegant high-heels were flung to the edge of the sofa, forming a trail of destruction to where she lay- a beautiful mess.
‘Oh, and don’t worry, I’ll pick up Ted from practice.’ Antony sardonically chirped as he left the kitchen.
A few hours later Arabella heaved herself up from the sofa. An intense pang of nausea stirred around her skull. Squinting, she hobbled to the kitchen and blindly felt around a cupboard for some aspirin. She switched on the coffee machine, grabbed a glass of water and swallowed two of the pills before leaning on one of the sleek marble counter tops. It was strewn with the remnants of last night’s celebration. Her husband had been offered a year’s contract with ITV1, for his next series, ‘Antony Gordon: Taste of Greece’. A crumpled lobster stared up at her from where it lay in a long ceramic dish, black eyes on bent stalks, cracked pincers and split shelled back. She balked and swivelled to face the coffee machine. Two pirouetting champagne flutes teetered before falling to the floor with an inevitable crash.
She glanced up to see her shocked six year old daughter, Emily, peering at her from the hallway. A shrill voice came from behind her daughter, which meant Antony’s mother, Barbara, had returned after babysitting. Arabella’s stomach tightened. Emily wasn’t meant to be returned until this afternoon. Her daughter ran back to her grandmother’s side and cast a coy look at her mother from beneath her eyebrows.
‘Come on silly’ cooed her grandmother, ushering her forward and entering the kitchen un-invited.
It was one of her many irritating habits, which had culminated last summer in her bursting into Antony and Arabella’s marital bedroom whilst they were having sex. To this day, Arabella was certain that her mother-in-law knew full well what she was doing. She would probably have leapt on the bed and pleasured her son herself if she had the chance. Proof, if it was needed, that she was a far more adequate woman for Antony.
‘Goodness! Look at this! Wowee, looks like you had fun in here!’ she spoke far too loudly and swung her handbag onto a bar stool. She wore her usual low-heeled court shoes, a starched blouse and clip-on pearl earrings- her usual baby-sitting attire.
‘Mummy, why do you still have your dress on?’ Emily enquired.
Arabella looked down at her body. She hadn’t realised that she’d slept in her dress. Fuck.
‘You’re early’ Arabella stated to Barbara, who was still surveying the room like a Barbour-clad hawk.
She managed to drag her eyes back to Arabella. ‘Yes, well, I thought that as it was Sunday you’d like to spend a bit more time with Emily. She’s been missing you. And Antony mentioned on the phone that you were at home this morning so I could pop round’
Barbara hoisted herself up and wedged her bottom onto one of the bar stools before adjusting her skirt. She wasn’t about to leave. Arabella stooped down to brush up the scattered fragments of glass. Her head momentarily floated from her shoulders before weighing down on her with a wave of sickness. She held her palm over her dry mouth. A stiff silence resonated off the hard surfaces of the kitchen, whilst Barbara looked down at Arabella crouched on the floor.
‘Emily, darling. Why don’t you be a good girl and take your bag up to your bedroom?’ Arabella pleaded.
Emily glanced at her mother, then her grandmother, before judging that on this occasion it was probably best to do what she was told.
‘The coffee’s ready’. Barbara pointed towards the machine.
‘Yes. I know.’ Arabella was beginning to feel faint; she shakily drew two china cups from a cupboard and clattered them in front of Barbara who remained imperiously stationary. Barbara began to witter away whilst Arabella poured the coffee; isn’t it fantastic about Antony’s new programme, I really think we should be getting Ted extra-tuition for his entry exams, and have you decided whether you’ll be coming to the Berkhurst Charity do? Each sentence ricocheted painfully around Arabella’s head like a bullet, whilst ugly memories of last night began to swarm around her.