Thursday, April 15, 2021

Betrayal in a Shade of White by Emma Cooper

I love my wife, but today I’m considering trading her in.
 
Kate is wise, almost psychic in her ability to know exactly what I need and when. Just last week she had replaced half my bit-past-it-sock drawer with brand new sports socks. I hadn’t even realized I needed such joy until it was on my foot. Damn she’s good.

Kate is hardworking. She never stops thinking of new ideas for her English class. Our office, originally designed as a shared space, is forever filled with notebooks, ripped out newspaper articles or cardboard from Amazon boxes she’s saving for ‘a project’. Sometimes we spend Tuesday evenings under a fleece blanket while watching a mediocre adaptation of a book she’s thinking about teaching. With all the home studying she has me doing by osmosis, I’m pretty sure I could pass one of the many tests she grades at the kitchen table on Thursday nights.

And she’s so beautiful. Not all the time, I must clarify. When she wakes from a nap it’s hard to be aroused by matted hair and pillow wrinkles imprinted into her face. See similar comments about hangovers, returning from the gym or Wednesday elasticated waistbands because she had ‘a day’. Those aside, she glows; blonde hair falling around her face as she thinks, the way her body tenses with determination when she decides something and doing that make-up thing where her eyes sparkle brighter. 5 years together, 2 years married, and hours spent sitting on our bed waiting for her to finish getting ready and I cannot explain how she does it, only that she looks stunning.

I love my wife. But we have 30 minutes until my country plays rugby.

Four months ago, I used the ‘His and Hers’ calendar Kate put on the fridge to write clearly using black ink- ‘2pm Scotland vs England- Stu Busy’. I felt this was adequate communication of my intent for Saturday 8th February.

Mid-January. We were halfway through the ‘Vegan-uary’ she imposed on us, for our wellbeing I was assured, and we craved anything but chickpeas. I had specifically mentioned my intention of buying pork pies, mustard and lager to watch the Scotland vs. England match on February 8th. She had cooed at me over an avocado and pumpkin seed salad with a ‘oh that sounds so unhealthy but amazing’. Yes Kate. Yes, it did.

Monday, I mentioned it again as the team was being announced online. Wednesday over breakfast I commented that some of said team had changed. Last night I commented I needed to go out in the morning for snacks and beer, asking if she wanted anything. She didn’t. I made a mental note to pick her up a pack of Turkish Delight because by the time I got back she inevitably would.

With all that preparation, and Kate being a wise and loving wife, I am stunned by today.

I woke up wondering how my darling wife had avoided drowning. For someone who had strong opinions on the exact shade of beige our Oxford pillowcases should be to match our mushroom-hue wallpaper, she seemed at peace making great patches of said pillowcase dark with drool.

10am, 4 hours to go. I pulled on Saturday appropriate clothes, smiling as a new pair of socks hugged my feet. Trainers, keys and wallet. I put on the coffee maker and put out Kates’ favorite mug. She’d want coffee when she got up.

By 10:45am I’m standing smugly in a queue at the supermarket. I clock others like me who are out on pre-lunch missions. I have 4 Pork pies, 3 Turkish Delights and a crate of Lager. Did I need 12 beers? Yes. Scotland win, I celebrate with a beer. Scotland lose, I commiserate with a beer. I wasn’t sure if I already had English Mustard, my diplomatic nod to the opposing team, but with T minus 3 hours 15 on the clock I wasn’t risking disappointment.

The mustard was not the issue.

I walked in the house to find the furniture in the middle of the floor. 2 hours and 45 minutes to go; the TV is unplugged from the wall and the sofa covered in dust sheets. Kate struggled with masking tape, dressed in her grey decorating shorts and T-Shirt. I knew those shorts.

‘Kate?’

‘Hey babe, thanks for coffee. So cute.’

‘TV?’

‘Yeah, I felt amazing after coffee and remembered we had paint left over from the bathroom? I figured we could touch up the walls in here.’

‘Rugby…’

‘Yeah! Did you get your snacks? 2pm right?’

She knew. She knew and she moved the TV anyway. I couldn’t look at her. The betrayal sliced at my core. Where had I gone wrong? The coffee? Getting up too early? Should I have woken her by shouting ‘RUGBY’?

‘Want your beers in the fridge?’

Oh no, she wasn’t winning like that. I shot her a look.

‘Stuart, what’s up?’

Oh Kate. What is up, pray tell. I despair at the carnage masquerading as a living room. When Kate chooses to decorate, we decorate. I stay out of decisions, opting for noises like ‘yeah I like that’, ‘like that magazine you saw?’ or ‘no, nothing like your mother’s’. When it came to painting walls, she would debate whole color spectrums before ultimately reaching the same outcome. There it sat in front of me, betrayal in a shade of white.

Resistance was futile. Kate chirped at me about throw cushions but as I pulled on my painting jeans, the ones I saved for when she decided we were painting, I wasn’t listening. I was taller than Kate by a fair few inches meaning I could reach to the ceiling. That would save us valuable time.

‘What wall first?’

‘Sorry? Oh, you want to help? I can do it! It’s your Saturday, you should rest.’

‘Kate, what walls would you like done?’

‘If you’re sure…’

2 hours 41 minutes. Didn’t this demon understand we didn’t have time for this? Kick off waited for no man.

‘I guess we could start off with the back wall. I’ll do the roller and you use the brush?’

I ignored her and went for the roller. I would be faster. ‘White yeah?’ It was best to check in case there was some decal I didn’t know about. Once confirmed that the white walls were to be made more white, I sloshed paint into the tray and went to town. I cursed our marriage. Wasn’t it part of our vows? In sickness and in health, apart from when the rugby is on.

By 2 hours 15 minutes to go I had the back wall and the window wall rolled. My dearest Kate had spent half that time decided what generic pop playlist she was going to listen to, another 5 minutes taking a picture of her holding a paintbrush for Instagram. She had partly painted round the window frame.

Masking tape, skirting board covered, dust sheet, third wall. 2 hours to go. Kate had finished the window section. Move furniture a bit. Masking tape. Skirting board covered. Dust sheet. Wall Done. Paint Brush. Yes, darling, I would like coffee. Edges. 1 hour 30 mins. Low edges done. 1 hour. Ladder. Me. No, darling. Trust me. No, we aren’t doing a second coat yet. Unless you are going to use your Satanic witchcraft, let it dry.

At 30 minutes to go I stand in my newly painted, but ultimately unchanged, living room trying to figure out how to get the TV plugged in without touching wet paint. I decide to forego my pre-match shower and hope my country will forgive me for singing Flower of Scotland with white paint flecks in my hair. As I debate plug logistics, I realize I cannot see the TV. Where is it? I cast off dust sheets and wander around abandoned furniture to conclude it was not here. I had 27 minutes. The pre-match talks would be on. Where was it? Was a man truly expected to watch his country play from his phone?

I wander the house a man possessed. It was not in the kitchen, nor the downstairs bathroom. It was not in the hallway or the office. I have 15 minutes As I go to call the name of my meddling, unpatriotic wife I step into the bedroom.

Without my noticing her leaving the living room, Kate had set up the TV at the end of the bed. She had put out my pies on a plate with an already open jar of English Mustard, my earlier panic being needless. TV presenters were on discussing good conditions. My signed Scotland shirt was laid out on the bed. Pillows had been stacked up to lean on. There was beer. I hadn’t even realized I wanted a glass that had been in the freezer.

‘Message if you want more beer.’ Sings the golden-haired angel drifting by me.

‘Kate?’

‘Yeah?’ Her eyes sparkle.

‘I love you.’


© Emma Cooper

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