A Dutiful Wife

A Dutiful Wife

January’s a downer. I guess if you make New Year resolutions they give it a focal point. I
don’t, so it’s just same shit, different year. For instance, I can predict the scene each
morning when I get up: Martin drinking tea, engrossed in some supplement or other, the
cat unfed, the kettle nearly empty.
‘You might have refilled the kettle.’
‘Sorry. I forgot,’ he says, glancing up.
That’s all I usually get these days, a glance.
I gazed out at the slate grey January morning as the kettle raced to boiling point. When
had Martin gone off the boil? We’d stopped sharing a bed several years ago; he said he
was a restless sleeper. Our love life had been pedestrian before that, now it was
non-existent and not open to discussion. All I know is I haven’t let myself go and I’m sure he hasn’t got another woman. Apart from going to work, which is a ten minute journey from here, he only ventures out to visit DIY stores and suchlike. When he’s at home he can
usually be found in his shed, though his stomach always tells him when its mealtimes. A
creature of habit. My friend Julie said he might seem dull but he’s dutiful, unlike her ex.
‘Are you doing the weekly shop as usual today?’ Martin said, as I joined him at the
table.

Those last three words echo in my mind. It’s Thursday, it’s expected as I don’t work
Thursdays I will do the weekly shopping. Spontaneity is being excised from my life. I’m
on the verge of saying, ‘No. I’m going out to drink, dance and flirt with unsuitable men,’
but the rebellion is smaller.
‘I’ve a few things to do here today. I’ll go tomorrow.’
‘Ok,’ he said, and planted a perfunctory kiss on my cheek. ‘I’ll see you later.’
Fantasizing about being kissed properly, I began to clear the table. Perhaps I would go
shopping ; there were no urgent jobs to attend to at home. I picked up the supplement
Martin had been reading. Glancing at the contents, one heading caught my eye, Love
Online: Jane, Sandra and Polly Speak. I found the page and quickly read these women’s
stories. They were not what my mother would call flibbertigibbets, but women with jobs and lives similar to mine. On impulse, I ran upstairs and turned on my computer. My fingers hovered over the keys. From the wall above, the photos of our two girls, Hannah and Lauren, in their graduation gowns smiled down on me. For so long they’d been the focus of my life, my loving duty, that I’d hardly noticed the years passing, but my fiftieth was looming and I wanted, in the words of a pop song, ‘horses to stamp on my floor’ before it was too late. It wouldn’t do any harm to look at the site.

It was easy registering with Love Online and for once sex discrimination worked in my
favour, it was free for women. I stretched the truth a little by knocking five years off my
age then, surprised at my own daring, I phoned my closest friend, Maggie. There was a split second silence and I prayed she didn’t disapprove.
‘You understand, don’t you?’ I said.
‘Yes, of course, you just caught me unawares. But, Debbie, please be careful. You
know, Martin and all that. Keep it away from home if you meet anyone.’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘though I don’t think Martin would notice if I walked around naked.
As for anyone, I’m looking for a George Clooney lookalike.’
‘You wish. You’re not using your real name, are you?’
‘No. I’m calling myself Crazy Lady.’
She laughed. ‘If you meet anyone, make it a lunchtime date.’
Shortly after, wandering round the aisles of the supermarket, I wondered if anyone
would make contact. I contemplated the soup selection. If they did, would I have the
nerve to meet them? I threw a couple of cans of soup in the trolley and made my way to the
checkout.Exercising a great deal of self-control, I resisted the urge to go online for a couple of days. The perfect opportunity came after Sunday lunch.

‘The shed needs a sort out,’ Martin said, pulling on his boots. ‘I’ll be an hour or two.’
Lured on by the fantasy of what might await me, I logged on. I stared at the screen in
amazement; nine men had left messages and two more had ‘winked’ at me. I quickly logged off and ran a bath. I find lying in the scented steam of a warm bath a good place to think, and I was thinking of David, my first love, the man whose face I still carried in my heart. Those heady days: the kisses, the love-notes, the bracelet engraved To My Crazy Lady and the inevitability of its ending.
The last time he’d held me he said, ‘You know how I feel about you, but I have
obligations to Sue and the children. I’m torn.’
The next day I made the decision for us both; I vanished from his life.

The water was cooling. I’d always been a good wife, conformed, perhaps I should
delete everything. I wrapped myself in my bathrobe and ‘phoned Maggie.
‘It’d be a miracle if you found, David,’ she said.
‘I know, and he might be pot-bellied and bald, but I can’t help hoping.’
The next morning was the same old same old. I waited to hear the door close as
Martin left for work and ran upstairs. There were nineteen messages, most of them
unremarkable. ‘I’m looking for affection…’ and so on, but one was witty and caught my
attention. My heart racing like a sixteen year old’s, I began to tap out an answer. Hearing a
slight noise, I swung round. Martin was standing in the doorway.
‘What are you doing with that hammer?’ I asked.

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