Oh my God, he truly has changed, she thought, smiling as she stood in the bathroom, noticing that the bath mat was hung up, there was no thumb-sized dent halfway up the toothpaste tube, no hundreds & thousands eyebrow, nose or razor hairs decorating the basin, yesterday’s socks were not left in inside-out balls on the floor waiting for her to pick up and pull back to shape with a cringe before washing.
She walked across the landing to the top of the stairs. Mmm… Her nose sucked in invisible coffee twirls. Wow – not only had he got up first this time but he’d also made coffee even though he didn’t drink it!
Her hand slid down the well-polished banister; smooth, clean, continuous lines, right to the end. No jacket hung at the bottom. He’d finally got the message.
What’s this? No newspaper on the table? No TV on? He’d even got the bloody toast rack out.
‘Boiled or poached?’ He spun round brightly, wearing her apron and waving an egg at her with one hand and doing ‘jazz hands’ with the other.
Was that Radio 2 playing Liza Minelli over on the windowsill behind him?
‘Well, I prefer poached. Can you do poached?’
‘Anything for you!’ he sang.
Was that a Gloria Estefan song?
She wandered over to the sink to get a glass of water for her vitamins.
‘No, no! You sit down. It’s all on the table.’ He waved an arm as if announcing its arrival on a stage.
What a performance.
What, no demeaning arse-slap? No cheeky grope as she leaned into the fridge to make a note of anything that needed buying after work?
‘Madam’s toast and coffee are on the table, if one would care to begin,’ he offered.
She looked for the place clearly designated by the cup of coffee then sat at the table watching him.
‘What have you done with your hair?’
He tilted his head, mock model style. ‘Just some hair gel and a new parting. You’re always saying it’s a mess. You like?’
‘Umm.’ She chose not to answer.
He sat opposite, telling her his plans for the day. When he’d be home, how he was taking his mobile phone into the store to check a problem he was having. What he might have for lunch. Which work colleagues he might see at lunchtime. All in excessive, boring detail.
God it was tedious. She couldn’t get a word in edgeways. Why so much detail? Why so many words? She stopped listening and merely guessed at ‘yes’ or ‘no’ every time his pitch rose questioningly. She looked around for distractions. There was none. She looked at her watch.
Oh boy. It’s ages until I need to leave yet…
‘I’d better just do the kitchen.’ She hurried over to the sink with her plate and cup.
‘Leave it! I’ll do that! You won’t do it properly!’ he exclaimed.
‘Of course I will.’ She put her cutlery in the dishwasher.
‘Oh Michelle-uh!’ he protested as he arrived at her side, taking her cutlery back out to compartmentalise it.
‘”Michelle-uh”? Eew. Don’t say it like that. You sound like my little sister.’ Michelle shuddered, heading for the stairs to finish getting ready.
She didn’t know why she did what she did next.
She went to the coat rack, grabbed a coat and a jacket and slung them over the banister. Then she threw a pair of shoes and a handbag on the floor.
She ran upstairs, took the toilet paper off the holder, leaving it empty, grabbed a towel and a pair of knickers out of the laundry basket and left them in the middle of the floor.
She turned to walk out but he was standing in the bathroom doorway with his hands on his hips watching her.
She dropped her head, pouted and looked up though her fringe. Then she darted towards him and roughly ruffled his crispy-gelled monstrosity of a hairdo laughing hysterically as he stood completely still.
Unsettled by his lack of reaction and still trapped inside the bathroom she turned and took the lid off the toothpaste, then pushed her thumb firmly into the centre of the tube.
‘Now you’re in trouble,’ he said, removing his flowery apron and raising one eyebrow.
Oh good. I hope so …