Sunday morning in the Gardner household was all about family. Brian would walk to Tesco and pick up the Sunday papers and something for lunch while Martine tidied up the house and prepared for dinner and the boys were in their rooms playing video games like ordinary kids do.
The atmosphere between Brian and Martine was still strained, but neither of them let on to Sam and Bradley that there were some cracks appearing in their marriage. They wanted to stay as stable as possible; they had seen too many of their friends give up on their marriage after a few years and they saw the detrimental effect it had on their children. They didn’t want that for their boys, no way.
Now that Bradley wasn’t playing for Dunfermline Colts, it meant his Sundays were free but generally he would go and watch them if they were at home. He was always greeted with enthusiasm by his former team mates, especially his best friend Gary who was secretly jealous of Bradley’s success, but in a good way. The Colts weren’t performing as well as they did when Bradley was playing for them, but they were still a good team.
It was always good to see Stuart again, he was the one who got him onto Hearts’ books and he would always be grateful to him for that. He did seem a bit frostier than before, but he put that down to the fact that he wasn’t playing for the Colts any more. That Sunday, he watched them beat Burntisland 3-1 and Gary scored one of the goals so Bradley was pleased for his friend and told him so as they walked home after the game.
‘So, what’s it like in the big time?’ Asked Gary.
‘I’m not there yet, but being on the bench is a good start. They’re a good club; the manager is great and I’m learning a lot off the first teamers.’ Bradley replied enthusiastically. ‘If ever you want tickets, I’ll see if I can get some mate.’
‘Haha! You know I’m a Rangers supporter, I couldn’t be seen going to Tynecastle even if it is to watch you.’ Gary laughed.
They continued walking back home busy dribbling a discarded tin can along the way which Gary ended up kicking into a neighbour’s garden. Gary wondered if he would ever emulate his friend’s success. They were at the age where boys got distracted and he mused that maybe he should follow Bradley’s lead and look after himself better. He knew his diet was unhealthy, and he had already tried Buckfast and beer which didn’t really do much for him, and after coughing his lungs up on a cigarette he decided that smoking wasn’t for him either. No, if he knuckled down, perhaps he could go all the way like Bradley.
When he got home, Bradley spent some time with his Dad going through the sports sections of the papers looking for any mention of his name. He was listed as an unused sub but other than that, there was nothing. He still cut the match reports out and papered them in his scrapbook which would chart his career out.
When the alarm went off at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, Bradley leapt out of bed, showered and dressed as quickly as he could and after a light breakfast, kissed his Mum goodbye for the day. He usually got a lift to Riccarton from one of his team mates who also lived in Dunfermline but today he was injured so he couldn’t drive so Bradley was forced to take the train into Edinburgh then take a bus to the training ground.
Unlike most of the team, Bradley enjoyed the training and threw himself into it with a passion. Coach was always telling him to calm it down a bit before something happened, which he took on board but it couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm. It was normally light training on a Monday after a match, just enough to get the muscles back in line and ready for another game at the end of the week.
It was their first home game of the season on Saturday against Motherwell and his Dad had promised to be there, just in case he got called upon. McNair was pretty fit so there wasn’t much chance of him getting an injury between now and Saturday, but he was pleased his Dad was making the effort to see him on the bench.
However, Brian had been suffering from migraines a lot recently. He put it down to the extra workload in the office and the constant travelling but he wondered about seeing a doctor about it. He needed this job, but he wasn’t going to put himself at risk.
On the Wednesday morning, he was having a particularly bad migraine and told his boss that he was going to head home and try and shift it. He took the next train to Dunfermline and walked along the street in the August sunshine which hurt his head even more. He just wanted to lie down in a darkened room until it passed and as much as he loved the sun, it wasn’t very welcome right now.
When he got to his house, he noticed a tradesman’s van parked on the drive. He didn’t remember Martine saying anything about a problem with the house but he may have forgotten. Then another thought passed through his aching brain. Not one he wanted to contemplate, but she had history in that respect.
He trod quietly up to his front door and ever so carefully put the key in the lock and turned it. Immediately removing his shoes so they wouldn’t be heard on the wooden floor, he tiptoed around the ground floor but saw nothing. Then he heard a noise coming from one of the bedrooms and crept up the stairs trying to remember which ones creaked. The noise grew louder and he immediately recognised the moaning as coming from Martine. He now felt sick to his stomach as he gently opened his bedroom door to see his wife lying naked on their bed with this strange man on top of her.
She spotted Brian and immediately pushed her lover off the bed.
‘What the fuck is going on?’ Demanded Brian.
‘Oh shit!’ The stranger uttered while gathering his clothes which were piled up on the floor.
Martine just lay there without a stitch on and looked at Brian with a withering look.
‘If you had paid more attention to me then I wouldn’t need to get fulfilled elsewhere.’ She snapped.
Brian just stood in the doorway surveying the disaster in front of him. He told the stranger to get out of his house, not that he needed any encouragement. They had some serious talking to do. Brian accepted that he was probably partly at fault for this although this wasn’t the first time for Martine to play away. Now he wondered how many others there had been and in a strange way, it turned him on.
He went down the stairs and made himself a coffee which probably wasn’t the best thing to cure a migraine, and sat down at the kitchen table. Some five minutes later, Martine entered the kitchen looking dishevelled and flushed.
‘Well? What’s going on?’ Brian asked.
Martine sat down at the table and looked him in the eye.
‘I have needs that you haven’t been meeting, Brian. We never have sex anymore and that’s not good enough. We’ve lost the passion and you’ve forced me to go elsewhere to satisfy those needs. You’re never here, you never pay me any attention and that’s not fair.’
Brian just sat quietly and pondered on her comments. It was true he had been neglecting her, but he still loved her and thought that she still loved him. He had been so wrapped up in work that he had allowed this to happen. How could he be so selfish, he thought.
‘I’m sorry Martine, I have been working hard so we could have all this. My main function is to provide for us as a family and bring our boys up in the best way I know how. How long has this been going on?’
‘With that guy? I called him last week and asked him to come round to look at a job. That’s what I normally do.’ She replied.
‘Normally? There’s others? How many?’ Brian was shell shocked.
Martine sat in silence before answering him. ‘Quite a few, thinking about it. It was only sex.’
Brian took some time to digest her answer. This had obviously been going on for ages and he recalled the many opportunities she would have had when he was away on business. How stupid had he been? Why hadn’t he seen this coming? She still had a great figure and he still fancied her the same as he did when they met all those years ago. He had been an idiot. Time to put it right.
He did no more than grab her by the hand and silently led her upstairs to their bedroom where only minutes before she was being screwed by some random bloke, threw her on the bed and ripped off his clothes.
‘I’ll show you what you’ve been missing.’ He whispered.