Lucy sat up, looking at the imprint of her husband in the bed, his scent and shape was there but he was not, her mind thought about the possibilities, had he run out on them? Run away with his mistress never to be heard from again? Wishful thinking. She got out of bed putting her slippers on, she put her robe on tying it at the waist and went to open the door, the door was unlatched and already partially open, she could hear Andrea and Tom downstairs, laughing, she opened the door the rest of the way and was greeted with the smell of pancakes and bacon, she walked down the hall and to the top of the stairs where she stood, thinking, he’s down there, I can’t look at him, I can’t see him. You have to, for Tom for Andrea, your once happy family. She slowly walked down the stairs taking each step slowly hearing every damn creak, she finally reached the bottom of the stairs and turned the corner, she looked into the kitchen and saw Vic, his back to her as he faced the stove, she walked towards the kitchen still taking small and slow steps, as the doorway came closer the two rugrats came into sight sitting either end of the table where just last night she and Vic had sat on the brink of their family tearing apart. They turned to her and shouted,
“Morning mommy!!!” through a mouthful of pancakes and bacon, maple syrup sticking their lips together on every M, Vic turned around greeting her with a smile, she walked into the kitchen half expecting Vic to come over and plant a kiss on her cheek, but he didn’t, she didn’t know why she expected it, she walked over to him and pecked his cheek, he seemed surprised but saw her eyes and knew it was for show, she thought why she had kissed him, not knowing if it was because the children were present or it was a false of habit, perhaps it was so ritualistic she felt like she had to do it, like it was part of a routine they needed to hold onto or all of this would just puff up in a cloud of smoke. She turned away from Vic to look at her children, a genuine smile on her lips but it didn’t quite reach her eyes
“Morning squirts” she wrinkled her nose at them and they giggled she sat on one of two empty chairs, a plate of pancakes and bacon soon followed, placed in front of her with care “I’m going to go get ready for work” Lucy sighed
“I know it’s a Saturday, there’s a few things I need to clear up at the office and I need to run a few errands, I promise, okay?”
She didn’t look up at him, just shook her head, of all Vic’s years working as an accountant he had never gone into the office on a Saturday, if he needed to work on a weekend he always did his work on his laptop, was this what everything was going to be like from now on? Anywhere he went no matter when it was, why it was, she going to assume he was doing something he shouldn’t? The answer was yes and in all honesty, she was entitled to question everything from this point on, after what he had done could she be blamed for being paranoid? Vic came into the kitchen briefcase in hand, he planted a kiss on both Andreas and Tom’s foreheads, he leaned over to give Lucy a peck on the cheek but she turned away just at the last minute, he pretended not to notice and carried on out the backdoor
“Love you!!” a chorus of love you daddy’s came from both children, but not from Lucy, she remained silent as the door closed behind him, some rituals will take time to get back to, if they were ever rediscovered at all.
Lucy cleared the plates and washed them, drying them by hand instead of leaving them to dry on the rack and put them all away, she put the kids in front of the tv, Despicable Me, what else? And went upstairs and changed into sweatpants and an old t-shirt, it had an old slogan from a movie but she couldn’t remember what the film was or if she had even seen it, it was one of Vic’s old ones. She went into the kitchen and started to clean, first the kitchen and then she made a start on the living room, little heads looking around her as she blocked the view of the little yellow things as she cleaned the shelf above the tv
“Can we have lunch mom?”
“Why so early? It’s only...” one thirty, already, she had been cleaning since nine
“How long have you been watching this?”
Both children held up four fingers, she put the dust cloth down and went to the kitchen making tuna mayo sandwiches, cutting one in triangles and the other with squares and no crusts, she wondered when Tommy would grow out of this no crust thing, she took the sandwiches in with a big bag of cheetahs, she refused to buy the real more expensive make of cheesy snacks, changed Despicable Me to Despicable Me 2 and took her cleaning paraphernalia upstairs, she scrubbed the bathroom and cleaned all three bedrooms, she realised how late it was when she saw it was going dark, five twenty-five, Vic still wasn’t home, she had desperately tried to keep herself occupied all day and had succeeded in that and letting her children watch yellow things all day, the children watching the second instalment for a third time, though she had achieved her goal of keeping busy she had still had thoughts of Vic throughout the day, sometimes with the slut sometimes without, but always with hatred. She went into the living room, with now a big green thing and a donkey occupying the screen and was asked the question “what’s for dinner?” she hadn’t even thought about it, she picked up the phone and ordered pizza, as she put the phone down Vic came in through the door, two teddy bears in one arm with his briefcase hanging from his middle and index fingers and a big bunch of flowers in the other hand, she couldn’t help but feel something for Vic, hope maybe, she knew it was an easy trick but it worked, she couldn’t even think of the last time she had gotten flowers without it being a birthday, mother’s day or some other day where it was culturally expected to give flowers to women, it was a gesture she appreciated whether she would acknowledge it or not, he still slept with someone else and flowers and teddy bears for the kids wasn’t going to change that anytime soon, especially his office trip on a Saturday which still went unexplained, the kids screamed and clutched at their teddies, squeezing them until she thought they were going to explode, Vic leant over for a kiss on the cheek and it connected, in the moment Lucy didn’t want to move away.
Dinner was eaten, good night’s were said and children slept in their beds whist the adults sat at the kitchen table, pizza boxes strewn between them, this was the first time they had been alone without excuse, it felt awkward, Vic broke the silence
“I know you were suspicious of me going out today and I get it, but the truth is I was at the office and I did have work to do, I wanted to get out of your hair today and thought it was better to be at the office than here with my laptop all day, by the way I did notice you’d cleaned, the place looks great”
He wasn’t lying, Lucy couldn’t remember him ever commenting on the house being cleaned when it had actually been cleaned
“It wasn’t the only thing I did at the office I also looked at trips we could take, I don’t get any time off for a few months, but I thought we could go up to the plant”
Vics term for home where we grew up, a joke he couldn’t let go and became more habitual than funny in recent years
“We could see your parents, take the kids and show them where we went and what we did at their age?”
He was really trying and she could see it, she felt something stronger than earlier and in this moment she wanted this, she liked this, the caring, the love, the effort, but also the enthusiasm and genuine want behind it, it wasn’t a shallow trick he was trying he meant it and it was for that reason she agreed.