I asked Angela if there was anything else on the TV besides her damn soaps. She threw me the control, instead of putting her reply into words, because after twenty years of marriage it seemed that we only spoke to each other when it was absolutely necessary. She left the room for the toilet or the kitchen: I don’t think she said.
I fumbled the remote and it fell between the cushions of the sofa. I slid my hand down the side of the material and brought it back out, along with twelve pence in change and a takeaway menu from a Chinese that had been shut down by the environmental health authorities last year. I went back in for further investigation and my fingers touched upon something else. When I pulled my hand back out I saw it was a condom wrapper.
Caitlin, our fourteen-year-old daughter, had been seeing a boy named Joshua for a few months, and it was no secret to either of them or my wife, that I was against the relationship. If you could even call it a relationship. Angela was a little more liberal towards the whole thing. Joshua had been around a few times to study, but we never let Caitlin close her bedroom door when he was. As far as I knew – as far as she had told us – they had only kissed once with their tongues (which she didn’t enjoy), so surely she couldn’t have –
But I didn’t want to think about that.
I shouldn’t have been surprised though: sex didn’t have anything to do with love anymore. Kids these days didn’t respect the act, or fear it the way my generation did. They treated virginity like a poison that had to excise from their bodies. But Caitlin was different. We had brought her up well. She came with us to church every Sunday, prayed by her bedside every night, and she never cursed or took the Lord’s name in vain.
But perhaps I was being naive.
I put the condom wrapper on the coffee table and stared at it. It looked like it had been ripped open roughly. I winced. I wondered if she had put it on for him.
I shook my head and the image evaporated.
At least she was being safe. She knew about the risk of disease, and perhaps the greater risk of pregnancy. So in one respect, my unfortunate discovery proved she wasn’t being completely irresponsible. But on our sofa? I shifted uncomfortably. I didn’t know when she would have had that opportunity: as far as I knew, they had never been together in the house alone.
Angela returned from wherever she had been and handed me a cup of coffee. I thanked her and she squeezed in beside me on the sofa. I slurped the frothy heat from the coffee and waited for her to notice the evidence on the table.
“Where’d you find that?” she asked, almost immediately.
And there it was.
It was, of course, a valid question. But there was something in that moment immediately before she asked; something in the way she caught her breath as she sat down next to me, and seemed to be afraid to let it go; something about how she almost spilled the coffee as she set it down on the table, and how she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking after she had; something in the blush that descended upon her face, and the way her gaze darted this way and that; something about the way the question fell from her mouth seemingly against her will.
There was something in that moment that told me she already knew the answer.
(c) Brian G Ross