“She’s still asleep.”
Lisa was taking a small plastic lunch box from the fridge. Her husband, standing at the kitchen window, shrugged.
“I’m not surprised,” he commented gloomily, “she had quite a bit to drink last night.”
“He still hasn’t called.”
“Why doesn’t she call him?”
“She won’t do that,” Lisa replied as she slipped the lunch box into her bag, “you know what she’s like.”
“I meant she’s too proud. She’s got too much self-respect to go crawling to him.”
Lisa checked her reflection in the kitchen mirror and smiled with satisfaction. You may be the wrong side of forty, she thought to herself, but you’re still looking good.
“I didn’t say she should crawl,” Lisa’s husband reasoned, “I just meant they need to talk these things through.”
“Just like we did?”
“That was a long time ago, babe.”
Lisa, still looking in the mirror, studied the reflection of her husband as he turned away.
“I know,” she replied softly.
“What I don’t understand,” Lisa’s husband continued, turning the subject, “is what makes her think he’s having another affair anyway?”
“Come on! He didn’t even deny it! Not even when she challenged him.”
Her husband shrugged again.
“And anyway,” Lisa continued, “she’d know. You can’t live with somebody for fifteen years without realising something’s wrong. And I don’t think she’d forgive him again. If he’s having another affair I think that’s the end.”
Taking some lipstick and tissue from her handbag, Lisa delicately applied a line of understated pink to her lips, kissing off the residue. When she was satisfied with the effect she turned back to her husband and straightened her skirt.
“Well? How do I look?”
Her husband smiled.
“Wonderful,” he replied, kissing her gently on the neck. “You look just great. But then, you always do.”
Slipping his arms around her, he gave Lisa a gentle hug.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered gently in her ear. “I love you, you know that.”
“Yes, I know,” Lisa replied softly, kissing him on the cheek. “I love you, too.”
As Lisa pulled away from her husband’s embrace there was the sound of movement upstairs and both instinctively looked up towards the ceiling.
“Sounds like she’s awake.”
“Do you think she’s okay?”
“She’ll be fine. After all, even if she doesn’t go back to her husband she’s got a couple of other men to keep her happy.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
“Jim Beam and Jack Daniels?”
“Well, it’s true. I know she’s your sister, but you have to admit she’s got a problem with the booze.”
“She knows how to enjoy herself.”
“She knows how to enjoy a drink.”
Lisa regarded her husband nervously.
“You’re not upset I offered her the room? It’s only for a week or so until she can find somewhere else. Please try to like her, for my sake? I couldn’t turn my back on her, she’s family.”
“I know,” Darren agreed reluctantly. “I understand.”
“And it can’t be easy living with him. No wonder she drinks. He’s driven her to it.”
Checking her make-up one last time, Lisa looked back towards the mirror. As she did so, Darren lovingly rested his head on her shoulder.
“You look lovely,” he reassured her again. “The prettiest girl in the class, just like all those years ago.”
“You smooth talker.”
“I only tell the truth.”
They kissed goodbye and Darren watched from the doorstep as Lisa got into her car and drove away. When he could no longer see the tail lights he took his coat from the hall stand and went back into the kitchen to fetch his briefcase.
Tanya was standing by the sink, her eyes dulled from alcohol and her blonde hair untidy from a bad night. She was wearing one of Lisa’s nightdresses, her bare feet shuffling across the tiles of the kitchen floor.
“You’ve just missed her.”
Tanya nodded and eagerly drank a tumbler of water from the cold tap, reacting as the cold liquid passed down her throat.
“I needed that.”
“How are you feeling?” Darren ventured slowly, shutting his briefcase and pulling on his coat. “You look a bit rough.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Apology duly accepted,” Tanya mumbled with mock gratitude. “I’m okay, all things considered. Kettle on?”
Tanya took a teabag from the cupboard and poured some hot water into a mug. There was some light returning to her blue eyes and Darren shifted uneasily under her gaze.
“It’s okay,” she ventured softly, breaking the uneasy silence. “You don’t have to be frightened of me. Forget about it. These things happen.”
Darren tried to look away, but something about Tanya’s presence dragged his eyes back to her.
“It was nothing, nothing at all,” he ventured uneasily.
“Exactly,” she agreed, cradling the mug in her hands, “it was nothing. Just a small friendly kiss. Nothing to worry about. We were all a bit drunk, that’s all. It’s not like anything happened. You’re my brother-in-law. It was just one of those things.”
“Yes, I agree.”
“You look just like a little boy lost,” she commented dryly. Then, seeing his expression, she added sadly: “Do you want me to leave?”
“Don’t be silly. Like you say, it was nothing. It’s just, I don’t want anything to go wrong. I don’t want trouble.”
Tanya looked at him with mock innocence.
“I was a bit drunk and you comforted me,” she reassured him, “that’s all. Nothing to feel guilty about. No reason to get uptight. It was just a kiss. It didn’t mean anything.”
For a moment neither moved nor spoke.
“You’ll be late for work,” Tanya said slowly.
“Yes,” Darren agreed quietly, “I must go.”
Frederick Everest was born and raised in Downley, a village in Buckinghamshire, UK. He first starting writing stories as a child but his first break was having a stage play get second prize in a local competition when he was in his early twenties. Since then he has concentrated on short story writing and in December 2011 won the Avery Short Story competition at his first attempt. In 2012 one of his stories — “The Miracle” — was published in the literary periodical Eclat Fiction. He now devotes most of his free time to writing.