Mike awoke to the sound of Evie making breakfast downstairs. He rolled over with a tired groan and squinted at the clock on the bedside table. The digital red numbers told him that it was 05.37. She was getting earlier.
He fumbled for the lamp switch by his bedside table and blinked at the light that flooded the previously pitch black room. He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes. There was a loud clatter of pans from below. The kitchen was directly beneath their bedroom and a weird smell was wafting up. He sniffed and wrinkled his nose at the scent that was both spicy and sweet and he wondered what strange concoction she was making that morning. Her side of the bed was cold so she had been down there for a while.
He wearily got out of bed and padded across to the door to retrieve his dressing gown. The new oatmeal-coloured carpet was still springy under his toes. They had decorated the house a month ago in preparation and there were only a few finishing touches left now.
Mike shrugged on the black gown and tied the belt around his waist. He walked barefoot into the hallway and down the narrow stairs. He still couldn’t get used to having an upstairs. They had only recently upgraded from a one bedroom flat to a modest two bedroom terraced house with a little garden out the back.
He followed the strange smell to the kitchen and leant against the doorframe. Evie had her back to him and she was fussing with something on the counter.
‘Morning.’ His voice was rusty with sleep.
She turned to greet him with a sheepish smile on her face. ‘Sorry, did I wake you?’
His eyes drifted down to her protruding stomach, which was straining against her white dressing gown. He still couldn’t believe that in less than two months he was going to be a father. Evie’s bump had grown immensely in the last couple of weeks.
He looked back up at his fiancée’s face. Her eyes were shining and she had a smear of batter on her cheek. Her short blond hair hadn’t been brushed yet and was sticking out in clumps. They had planned to get married next year, just before they both turned thirty, but that had been put on hold for now with the imminent arrival.
‘So what’s on the menu today?’ He asked, trying to suppress a teasing smile.
Evie bit her lip and mumbled something towards the floor.
‘Sorry, what was that?’ He raised his eyebrows slightly.
‘Waffles with peri peri sauce.’ She repeated louder.
Mike burst out laughing and she threw a tea towel at him.
‘I can’t help it!’ She protested. ‘I can’t control the cravings.’
He walked over and kissed the top of her head. ‘If it’s ok with you, I’ll make my own breakfast today.’
She took her bizarre meal to the living room to watch the morning news while he made some toast and a cup of coffee. He usually found the first few sips bitter but today he couldn’t seem to taste anything. He chewed his toast slowly but there was no flavour. Maybe he was coming down with a cold?
Mike showered and put on a crisp blue shirt, grey trousers and a navy tie. He glanced at himself in the mirror on the wardrobe door. His brown hair was still a bit damp and in need of a trim but he was clean-shaven and dressed smartly. He looked closely at his hazel eyes; pretty soon they would be blood shot every morning from a lack of sleep.
He manoeuvred into a grey jacket that matched his trousers and picked up his black briefcase from the floor. He would be early for work but it couldn’t hurt, they were going to give him a few weeks of paternity leave when the baby arrived after all.
He left Evie curled up on the sofa with her now empty plate and stepped outside. The morning was cool; it was early April and there was a thin layer of fog in the air. He opened the door to his blue Ford estate car and turned on the heater. The drive to work only took thirty minutes and his mind drifted as he navigated the quiet roads.
It was Thursday and they had a lot planned for the weekend. He had to finish the nursery, there were drinks for a friend’s birthday and a family roast dinner. Maybe he could enjoy a few beers with the football on Sunday afternoon. There weren’t many weekends of peace left.
Mike parked in his usual spot and walked towards the building he’d worked in for the last four years. He felt his mobile vibrating in his pocket as he neared the entrance.
‘Michael Faraday.’ He answered on the third ring.
‘Mike… it’s Pete.’ Came the quiet voice among a background of traffic.
Peter Wooten was one of his work colleagues, who’d been with the company for a few years longer. They were both architects and were consulting on a couple of projects together.
‘Hi Pete, how’s it going?’
‘Crap. I’ve blown a tyre on the motorway and I’ve got to wait for the AA.’ Pete’s voice faded fast as a large truck steamed past. ‘Can you cover my 9am meeting about the new development? I’ll be stuck here for a while.’
‘No problem. Stay somewhere safe and I’ll see you when you’re in.’ Mike hung up the phone and sighed.
He already had a busy morning and could do without extra meetings. He swiped his pass at the double doors and took the stairs to the third floor. The office was fairly quiet this early and he sat down to tackle his mountain of work.
The day passed in a blur. Pete hadn’t arrived until 11am and by then Mike had lots of his own work to catch up on. There was a delivery issue with one of their suppliers, a problem client who wanted to alter some plans and he had several meetings.
It wasn’t until Mike arrived home famished at 7pm that he realised he’d barely eaten all day. He opened the front door and heard women’s laughter. Evie was a hairdresser and he’d forgotten that she had one of her regular clients round that evening.
He wandered through the kitchen and poked his head into the small dining room.
‘Evening.’ He greeted them.
Evie gave him a smile and paused halfway through folding a piece of foil. The woman in the chair in front of her was called Claire and she was wearing a black robe and had hair sticking up all over the place with dozens of foil strips. She looked like a metallic Medusa and he pondered for the umpteenth time why women put themselves through this every few months to have slightly different coloured hair.
‘Hi Mike!’ Claire grinned. ‘Evie’s getting so big, I bet you can’t wait to be a dad!’
He chatted politely for a couple of minutes before the growling in his stomach was too much and he excused himself to get some dinner.
‘There’s lasagne in the fridge, just reheat it.’ Evie called after him.
His favourite. He eagerly took the plate from the fridge and dished himself a large portion. His mouth watered at the smell wafting out of the microwave as it heated. When the food was hot enough he added some salad to the plate and took his dinner through to the living room.
He sank onto the comfy, beige leather sofa and lifted a steaming forkful to his mouth. After several chews he swallowed and frowned. He couldn’t seem to taste anything. He waited until the lasagne had cooled a little and had another large bite. Nothing. Evie always made it with a bit of a chilli kick and extra cheese but he wasn’t getting any flavour at all. He could have been eating soggy cardboard.
He tried to think back to what he’d eaten over the course of the day. He remembered not being able to taste the toast at breakfast. There had been a hasty ham sandwich for lunch at his desk but he’d been too distracted with paperwork to recall any flavour. Then just cups of tea but he usually drank those scalding hot and couldn’t detect much with a burnt tongue.
He ate the rest of the lasagne because he was still hungry but the enjoyment was gone. He flicked the TV over to a film channel and settled back, assuring himself that his taste buds would be back to normal tomorrow.