“You look a bit hacked off – what’s the
Tim looked up from his laptop screen, over to his business partner who
was just shutting down his PC.
“Nah, I’m okay. Another hot date?”
“Yeah, wining and dining Monica. Your family has expensive
– but I’m glad to say that unlike her brother,
got looks as well as brains. But come on – I know you well
now to know that everything’s not okay…”
Tim smiled at his best friend, thinking that he and Alan probably knew
each other better than many married couples. The fact they met while
doing Psychology degrees added another good reason they understood each
other so well.
“Ah, it’s just a bit hectic at home. I was going to
‘You know what it’s like’, but
young, free and single – so you don’t.”
“Come off it – you and Kath are brilliant together!
suspect Monica and I will end up together – but
her I told you that – and if we are a tenth as happy as you
then that’s good enough for me.”
Tim nodded and made some non-committal comment. He wanted to think long
and hard before continuing. Marriages were intensely personal, but he
felt the need to talk the situation through. He told Alan to go and say
“Hi” to his sister, and if they got chance
talk about it tomorrow. Alan knew that meant Tim would think about
whether he wanted to tell him what the problem was, and he also knew
not to push it.
“No problem, you coming too?”
“Yeah, I’ve got to finish the Brussels proposal,
it’s my turn to cook dinner tonight – so
I’ll do it
after Kath’s gone to bed.”
Tim opened the front door and announced to his household that he was
home. Silence. Hmm – and a now familiar smell. He went into
lounge. Kath was slumped fast asleep in her favourite chair. Izzy was
just stirring in her carry cot in the corner. He tip-toed across the
room and picked up his daughter, and kissed her on the cheek. She
gurgled back and made the traditional grab for his glasses.
“What a way to greet your dad, with a stink that a chemical
would be proud of. Come on, let’s get you changed.”
With Izzy now clean, dry and, for now at least, happy, he got the
dinner going and went back to Kath. He watched her steady breathing,
the rise and fall of her enlarged breasts in the pink blouse. In the
last weeks of her pregnancy they’d called those breasts
Tim’s “new toys”. Like last
present – they’d become forgotten toys. Tim knelt
stroked her tangled hair and brushed her lips with his. Her eyes
flickered open, and she took a second or two to come round.
her face cracked into a smile that would beat Blackpool illuminations
“Hello yourself. Look, dinner’s on,
changed and happy. Why don’t you go and have a nice bath and
changed, and make yourself even more gorgeous.”
“Thank you. But I think I’d rather just stay here
a while. I feel exhausted.”
“I’m sure you’d feel better, then we can
get an early
She stroked his face, and smiled weakly.
“Poor Tim, I’m no fun any more am I? I think you
trade me in for a new model.”
“I don’t want a new model, I like – no, I
one I’ve got. It’s just that it seems to have lost
a few of
the “extras” that came with it”, he
smiled and kissed
“I’m sorry, I know we’ve talked about it
times, and I know it’s important to you, but
she left the sentence hanging, like a balloon floating into the
She hugged him, and closed her eyes to drift off back to sleep. Tim
stood up, his face betraying the disappointment. He’d been
prepared to get up at 5am to finish the proposal, but it looked like
he’d be doing it tonight after all. It wasn’t just
– though, he was honest enough with himself to admit it was a
part. He would have been happy enough to have gone to bed with Kath and
just stroked and kissed and spent some time on each other. But despite
all his efforts, the physical side of his marriage seemed to be
Dinner eaten, Izzy asleep for the next few hours and Kath asleep until
Izzy woke; Tim sat in front of his laptop proof reading his handiwork
for the company in Brussels. But his mind wasn’t
it – he knew he had a decision to make.
“Monica, it’s me, Kath, can you come round right
need to talk to you!”
“Christ Kath, it’s only just gone eight,
“Just get round here and I’ll explain!”
“Okay, okay, let me put on some lippy and I’ll be
“Sod the bloody lippy, you don’t have to impress
here, there’s only me! Just get over here, will
Kath hung up the ‘phone and stared at the computer screen.
read the e-mail for the millionth time. Twenty-eight words. Just
twenty-eight words that’s all. Twenty-eight words to ruin a
No, make that two lives. She looked down at Izzy, fast asleep in the
little bouncy chair. She always slept well after feeding. Well, after
feeding and the inevitable throwing up all over Kath of course. Kath
smiled, then frowned, and the tears started to come as she looked again
those twenty-eight words.
“What on earth’s the matter?” were
first words as she hurtled into the hallway. She looked at Kath, and
the look on her face betrayed her thoughts… God you look a
That little bugger of yours has obviously given you sod all sleep, and
you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see
crying. That once white Chanel T shirt is now half covered in baby
puke, and – oh my God, when was the last time you looked at
hair in the mirror?
“Look! Look at what I’ve found!”
Kath sobbed and pointed at the computer screen. Monica’s
thought was that Tim had probably been looking at porn, and that poor
old Kath (always the prude) was appalled! Then she saw that Kath was
indicating the e-mail INBOX, and one e-mail in particular.
“Tim rang me on his way to work this morning, and said
forgotten to get the client’s number from his e-mail. He
if I’d log on and get it for him. Course I did, then I
that one … look at it! What am I going to do?” and
broke down in a series of heaving sobs. She was soon joined by a
wakened Izzy, not accustomed to seeing her washer, dresser and food
supply in this state.
Monica looked at the words, and then read them for a second time. Her
statement that she was sure it wasn’t what it seemed sounded
about as convincing as a Bill Clinton denial. Surely Tim
cheat on Kath. Not my own brother. Monica had seen him become
completely besotted with Kath. Within a week of his starting to go out
with her, Monica knew that she’d be the bridesmaid at her
and her best friend’s wedding.
“Tim’s going to Brussels again next week
– and look
what she says ‘Thanks for a wonderful dinner on your last
I’ve checked into the same hotel as you so maybe this time we
make a night of it!’ Oh Mon, what am I going to do?”
Monica went into the kitchen and declared that the first thing they
were going to do was calm down, and typically British,
“We’ll have a cup of tea.”
While the kettle boiled and the tea brewed in the stainless steel pot,
Kath calmed Izzy, and Monica set about tidying up the breakfast things
and miscellaneous baby items lying around the kitchen.
“Look, it doesn’t look like Tim’s cheated
on you yet.
And there’s nothing to say he will, is there?”
“Oh for God’s sake, Mon. Look at me! Smell me!
like a cross between a bloody dairy and a sewage farm. I look and feel
about as attractive as a gorilla in a beauty parade. And
more, she – what’s her bloody name? Yvette Jarier
is probably blonde, intelligent, 36C and legs up to her armpits
while I can’t get rid of this bloody pregnancy weight, I
and fall asleep before Tim even turns out the light. What the hell do
you think he’ll be doing in Brussels next Tuesday? The poor
hasn’t come near to having sex for God knows how
“Tim loves you. You know that.”
“I know, and he works long hours, and every weekend he tells
to go and relax and he’ll look after Izzy. He does his share
work around here, and he does his share of nappy changing and baby
stuff. But there always seems to be something I’ve got to do.
how can I compete with a bimbo sex machine?”
“Okay, what are you going to do? Admit defeat, or put up a
If you want to fight, I’ll be there holding your
Kath looked at her, her brown eyes dulled through lack of sleep. But
there was something else, the first hint of a smile and the laughing
eyes Monica’s brother had fallen in love with started to
“I think I’m going to need you to hold more than my
A few hours later, Tim opened the front door and announced to his
household that he was home. Silence. And what was that smell?
“Hello you” said the quiet voice, and Kath looked
kitchen door and smiled. “Take your coat off, I’ll
you in a tick.”
As he was hanging up his coat, Kath came up behind him and put her arms
around him. Tim could smell the Chanel perfume she’d last
god knows how many months ago, and as he turned round to ask where Izzy
was, her lips met his in the kind of kiss only two people deeply in
love can share. Tim gently pushed her away and looked at her. He
didn’t know what to say first, so it all tumbled out in a
“Where’s Izzy? You look gorgeous! What’s
fantastic smell? What’s going on?”
“Well, thank you – you look pretty good too
you could probably use a shower! Izzy’s with Mon, that
smell is your favourite Lasagne, and what’s going on
marriage I guess. I thought it was about time we had a bit of US
Tim looked at his wife. She always looked beautiful to him –
covered in baby poo and looking a wreck, but she’d obviously
spent some time on herself today. Her short brown hair, with blonde
highlights looked terrific. He didn’t care about the extra
pounds, though he liked the bigger boobs. And she looked sensational in
the low cut summer dress. They kissed again and as his hand caressed
her bum, he realised she was wearing stockings. He stopped. She looked
at him and grinned.
“Turn off the Lasagne, and you can come and scrub my back in
“But I’ve spent ages on my hair”, she
protested - as
she led him up the stairs.
Tim lay awake staring at the ceiling. Kath’s naked body was
draped over his and she was breathing steadily in a deep sleep. Given
the amount of sleep she’d had recently, he knew it would take
nuclear war to wake her. Why can’t women see that if a man
them, then he will love them no matter what they look like or what they
smell like. All men want is love in return.
He replayed in his head the conversation he’d had with Alan a
couple of days ago …
“How was my sister?”
“Fine when she kicked me out of bed this
“Too much information, this is my sister we’re
about! Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about something
Tim had rehearsed the words, but still found it difficult, even with
his friend. At the end of it, Alan had smiled, taken a deep breath and
“What is our job?”
“We’re consultants”, Tim answered
“Thank you, Einstein. Consultants in what?”
“Very good, go to the top of the class.”
Tim was starting to get an idea where this was going…
“And why don’t people like change?”
“Because they are comfortable in the present state.”
“So what’s one of the things we can do?”
“Find a trigger to make the present less comfortable, so
encourage them to change”, answered Tim thoughtfully.
“Over to you then partner!”
The Brussels proposal duly despatched, Tim had spent the rest of that
morning agonising. Could he really deceive Kath that way?
tried talking to her about it, but it made no difference. He had done
everything he could at home, whilst doing a demanding job. He had
satisfied himself that drastic action was needed – because
as he loved Kath, he knew he couldn’t go on indefinitely like
Kath rolled over, bringing him back to the present. He slipped out of
bed, went to the study, and turned on the computer.
He bypassed his normal mail account and logged on to one he’d
created only two days ago. It still seemed funny pretending to be a
fictitious French woman. He smiled at the one e-mail in the outbox. The
twenty-eight words that might have saved his marriage.
He must remember to ask Kath if Mon could have Izzy again next Tuesday,
because his non existent business trip to Brussels had been cancelled.
It raised another smile, Alan wouldn’t thank him for that
but indirectly, it was his fault! So tough.
Ken Orford, 2007