“That’s fifteen pounds please”, she said. I told her to take sixteen.
She thanked me and asked would I like a business card. I shrugged and said OK. She looked through some drawers and then called to a bleach blonde man called Nathan.
“We’re out”, said Nathan. “We’ll have more in by the weekend”.The girl grunted and relayed Nathan’s message to me. I said it really didn’t matter. She tore a corner off a promotional leaflet, scribbled something and handed it to me.When I got home my wife Sylvie was in the kitchen cooking. I went behind her and linked my hands around her waist.
“That smells good”, I said, nuzzling her neck, “And so do you”.
“It’s only a lasagne”, she said moving out of my arms to get some cheese from the refrigerator. “You’ve had your hair cut”, she said.“Yea, ”, I said, “it needed doing”.
I got a glass from the cupboard and poured from the half empty bottle of Merlot. I topped Sylvie’s glass up, then I hoisted myself onto the work surface and watched her as she grated cheese and scattered it across the top of the lasagne. She put on an oven glove opened the oven door and put the dish inside, then she took a sip from her glass and turned to me. Half smile.“It’ll be ready in about twenty minutes”, she said, “that OK?”“Fine”, I said. “How was your day?”
“So so. Yours?”
“Ok. I had a meeting finish early, so I went and got my hair cut”. I patted the back and sides of my head with my free hand.“It needed cutting”, she said. “ It was over your ears. I need to get something done with mine”. She was leaning back against the sink. She took hold of a bunch of her hair and wrapped it around her finger. I like it when she does that. She’s done it for a long time, long as I can remember, probably forever.
“Your hair looks nice as it is”, I said.
She breathed out heavily through her nose and laughed a single laugh. I took a mouthful of wine and felt instantly soothed.
“I’m thinking of getting it all cut off. Really short”, she said.
“I like it the way it is”, I said. “You suit it long”.
“I’m sick of it”, she said. “I need a change”. Her eyes welled with tears. She looked away from me and drank, shakily from her glass. My chest ached for her.
The oven droned.
I took another drink from my glass. Sylvie had one leg bent at the knee with the weight on her toes and was examining the sole of her sandal. Her hair had fallen across her face. It made her look sexy. I wondered if she would still look sexy with her hair short. It might be sexy short, but I don’t know. I’m not sure.She sniffed and brought her head up shifting her hair from her eyes. She looked beautiful in her sadness. She turned to adjust the heat of the oven. I looked away and noticed a yellowing patch on the ceiling, probably discoloured by the steam from pans on the hob.After dinner we listened to some music. Sylvie lay in my arms on the sofa and she cried. I asked could I do anything for her, but my voice came out hard and cold. She sat up quickly wiping at her eyes with her sleeve and moved to the door.
“Share it with me, Sylvie. Don’t shut me out”, I said. But she’d left the room. I got up and followed her. She was in the corner of the kitchen, her head in her hands and sobbing, sobbing for all the grief in the world. I wanted to go to her, to hold her and kiss her tears. But I didn’t. I was conscious of my arousal.
In bed we lay next to each other, a mile apart, both knowing that the other was not asleep. Both of us afraid to, or unable, to speak, I don’t know which. The silence between us was deafening. I shifted, heavily, awkwardly in my place, hoping for a reaction.
Eventually I whispered, “Are you asleep?”
She exhaled, and said, “No”. Our voices were measured and slow in the darkness.
“What are we going to do”, I said.
“What do you want to do?” She sounded hoarse, damaged. Lovely.
“We could try again”, I said.
“I’m not ready”, she said.
“It’s been almost a year”, I told her. But my tone was wrong.
“Do you have any concept of how I feel?”, she said, coldly. “Do you have any idea of the effect that it’s had on me?”.
“Of course I…” She sat up in the darkness and turning to face me she stopped me with…
“Are you that insensitive?”.
I wanted to punch the walls. I wanted to break something, smash my hands through the window and feel pain. If I put my hands through the window she might at least show me some concern, bandage my wounds. I got up and stomped out to the bathroom, slamming doors on the way knowing that I wasn’t making things any easier. An hour later I went back into the bedroom and, standing in the doorway, I told the darkness that I was sorry. I waited for a response and when it didn’t come I quietly closed the door, went downstairs and slept on the sofa.
At work the following day I immersed myself into any project that came up, taking work from colleagues and working through lunch. At the end of the day I called into the gym for the first time in three months and worked out. Then I left the car at the sports centre and jogged home.
When I went in Sylvie was on the sofa with a glass of wine, listening to music. She didn’t look at me and as I tried to kiss her cheek she sat rigid, breathing heavily through her nose.
“Hiya”, I said.
She didn’t speak.
“I called into the gym on the way home”, I told her.
“I tried to call you”, she said.
“Oh, I left my phone in the car at the sports centre”, I told her.
She held something in her hand. “I found this in your jacket”, she said.
“What is it”? I asked her.
I realised that it was the piece of paper that the hairdresser gave to me.
“It’s Tanya’s phone number”, she said.
“Tanya?” I said
“Yes, Tanya”, she said.
“Oh, she’s a hairdresser”, I said.
“I called her!”, she said.
“You called her!” I said, my voice getting louder. “What do you mean, you called her? My voice was very loud now. “What on earth did you say to her?”
She put her head in her hands and repeated my name over and over, and she cried.