The blazing sunshine prizes my tired eyes open while the familiar roar of the crashing sea waves awaken my ears. I sit up.
The crashing waves is my husband’s alarm on his smartphone. The sunshine is barely peeking through the crashing rain. Outside the ceiling-high windows in our towering city penthouse I see the dirty London sky, and the sunshine is the bad weather in denial. Oh well, at least there’s a faint rainbow. I hate this depressing place. My husband grunts for me to turn off his alarm, and I drag myself into the bathroom to shower, clean my teeth, and apply a little makeup.
Today I will wear red lipstick, I wonder if he’ll notice. I change into one of the black designer dresses Frank bought me. He used to like me in black, but now he likes me invisible. In the kitchen I fry his eggs and grill his toast without a second’s thought. The heat radiating from the pan and the spluttering of the oil wakes me up so I can begin my daily routines.
As he stumbles into the kitchen, fiddling with his grey tie, I put one hand on my hip and pout seductively in my red lipstick. He sits at the table and greets his smartphone by clicking away maniacally at the keys. His eyes are glued to its screen. I may be wearing red lipstick, but his phone has details of his business meetings and other men (who are also ignoring their wives) texting him. He doesn’t even know I’m here, he just sips his coffee and clicks his phone like some sort of caffeine-addicted zombie technology slave. Like every morning, I slam the plate of food down on the table next to him. If I didn’t slam it, he wouldn’t even realise it is there. Zombie Frank shifts his phone to his left hand so that he can hold his egg on toast in his right hand. Carrying my porridge, I sit down opposite him. I am about to open my mouth to speak to him when he jumps up and mumbles, ‘got to go’, while slinging his black padded laptop case over his shoulder. I think every businessman in London owns one of these, it seems to be a compulsory uniform for the caffeine zombie. He misses my cheek as he gives me my daily peck before running off, and his cheeks are still full of toast.
Ok, time for action. I vacuum all the rooms in the apartment, tidy the kitchen, polish the silver in the antique cabinet – which I do once a month, to the exact date- and wipe the dust off the fake white violet flowers in the living room. Fake happiness.
Oh, and then I text my secret lover to come up the stairs and give me a good seeing to.
After I send this text, I crawl under the bed, shove Frank’s golf clubs out of the way, and pull the blanket off my secret box. It’s not at all glamorous looking; just one of my mother’s old hat boxes with some string tied around it. My secret box is full of clothes and lingerie that Tim, my lover, has bought for me. Hmm… today I will wear the red silk underwear. My hands caress the silky sheen of the fabric. I remove my black dress, and put on this vibrant scarlet creation. As I look at myself in the mirror, I see the same person I transform into every day when Tim comes round. I’m no longer a wife, I’m a free woman. Like I do every day, I pose in front of the mirror pouting, feeling like a somewhat middle-aged page 3 model. I have one hand on the wall, the other on my hip, and one knee slightly bent.
The doorbell rings.
I walk slowly to the door, swinging my hips like the transformed goddess I am. I open the door, and see the gorgeous pale blue eyes of my beloved. I always notice his eyes first, they’re as big and bright as the waters of the Caribbean Sea. Wow. It’s like he was actually genetically engineered to be this gorgeous. He’s wearing his suit like he always does, with a red silk tie. He usually goes to work after he’s been to see me. He can go whenever he wants, because he is the boss. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, he picks me up, wraps my legs around his waist and shuts the front door with his foot. He carries me through to the bedroom and lies me down on the bed.
I lie with my head on his chest afterwards, listening to his heartbeat. I caress the hard small ripples of muscles on his stomach, and they massage my fingertips back. Many of the times I’ve been truly happy are when we are just lying in each other’s arms, talking. There are some days when he turns up in his suit and laptop bag but never actually goes to work because we talk for so long. Doesn’t matter, he earns about £100 an hour even if he doesn’t go into work. His father owns the company.
I could lie here forever, feeling his hot olive-coloured skin, listening to his breathing…
‘Susan, I think we better get changed back into our clothes.’
‘I have something to talk to you about, and I think we should be wearing clothes for this discussion.’
‘Uhh, ok.’ I stand up and reluctantly put my plain black underwear back on, and my black dress. Tim is sitting on the edge of the bed buttoning up his shirt. What is he going to tell me? Surely we wouldn’t have had sex if he was wanting to end our relationship- oh no! I don’t know if I can handle this…
He asks me to sit next to him on the bed. ‘Susan, I’ve been given an offer to go and work in New Zealand for my company, and I want you to come with me.’
‘Oh my goodness, I don’t really know what to say.’ I feel like there’s a big lump in the middle of my chest. My knees are trembling.
‘My father is giving me a large cottage there in a village just outside of Auckland, he’s not going to be around much longer, so he wants me to have it. Think about it Susan, you belong in the countryside, and it is beautiful there. No more concrete, just green grass.’ He is holding my hand and drowning me in his sparkling crystal eyes. This would be my dream, but what should I do about Frank?
Tim can see my uncertainty. ‘I’m going to leave for New Zealand tomorrow. I really want you to come with me, just leave everything here, I will give you everything that you need.’
I cuddle into him with my head on his shoulder, ‘I’ll have to think about this.’
Tim pulls a paper bag out of the front pocket of his laptop bag. ‘If you want to come and start a new life with me, wear this dress and meet me at 8pm at the airport tomorrow. If you don’t want to come, I understand. Wear it and go somewhere nice for dinner with your husband.’
He kisses me on the cheek, his lips lingering for a few seconds, then went out the front door.
I pull the dress out of the bag and allow it to unfold and straighten. It appears to be a beautiful white vintage dress with a summery pink, green and red floral print all over. It has a sweetheart neckline and a strappy back. I take off my shapeless black dress and put the floral dress on. When I look in the mirror, the dress has transformed me into a 20-year-old girl again. I twirl, letting the skirt fan out. I’m a 20-year-old girl with baggy arm skin and crow’s feet. As per my normal routine, I instinctively change the bed sheets for Frank coming home, washing away all my sins.
The next day I find myself standing in front of the mirror in the dress again. Tim didn’t come round today, he was getting ready for New Zealand. It is 6pm, decision time. I stand at the floor-length bedroom window and gaze at all the grey city buildings, it’s like living in a goldfish bowl with these windows, no privacy. In the distance, I can see Frank’s work, which is situated in an unnecessarily tall tower. An invasion of God’s good heavens, in my opinion. I love Frank but I’m not in love with him, and if I stay in this marriage any longer, I will turn into my mother. I love my father, but he doesn’t keep my mother happy in their old age. I’m nearly 40, and as they say, ‘life begins at 40’.
‘Frank, would you like to go out for dinner with me?’
Grunt. ‘Why? The football is on.’ He is clutching a can of lager and I have the answers I need.
‘Goodbye, Frank.’ I said, picking up my handbag and putting the fake white violets from the vase into it. They don’t belong here. I work my wedding ring off my finger and lay it down on the table next to the empty vase.
‘Wait, Susan. Are you leaving me?’ Frank has not said anything this emotional for about a year.
‘I’m sorry.’ It is all I can say. My eyes are fastened down on the floor, the tears are pulling them down.
‘I hope he treats you well, Susan. I’m sorry I couldn’t be the man you deserve.’ He kisses me on the cheek.
‘Take care.’ He says.
I give him a gentle, but reassuring smile, and open the front door to my new journey.