Monday, 17 January 2011

In A Dry Season: An Absence Of Saliva And Conversational Skills.

I have no idea what nonsense I've written on behalf of any of the constituents today, as I can't stop wondering where the hell Max was on Friday night. Or how I'm going to find out without causing an enormous row.

Max leaves early for work this morning, so it's as if he knows I'm about to ask a very awkward question. Sometimes male intuition is under-rated, although it doesn't seem to apply to teenage boys, unfortunately - as becomes only too apparent when I ask Josh if he knows where Max was that night.

He says that he hasn't a clue, because he was at Holly's that evening, and didn't get home much before I did.

"Dad was here when I arrived, though," he says. "And, anyway, why do you want to know?"

"No reason," I say. Probably in a totally unconvincing manner, but luckily Josh is in a hurry, so he doesn't press me for an explanation.

In retrospect, this is a wise decision: unlike male intuition, explanations are vastly over-rated, if you ask me. Seeing as I think I may have just got one.

I'm on my way home, when I hear footsteps running up behind me, and someone says,

"Hey, Molly! Wait up."

Oh, God, it's Ellen. The very last person in the universe I wanted to see while I'm trying to work out what my husband's up to. I do manage a smile, which feels like a rictus and probably doesn't look much better, but Ellen doesn't seem to notice.

"Did you hear about Susannah York?" she says. "Very sad, isn't it?"

"Yes," I say. "A great campaigner, and she was in some really good films in her day."

Ellen's fallen into step beside me, so it looks as if I'm going to have company all the way home. Just what I didn't need. I light a cigarette in an effort to cope, and refuse to think about what Nan used to say about people who smoked in the street.

"She was a beauty, too," says Ellen. "Lots of people say I look like her, you know."

"Oh, do they?" I say. "You remind me of someone famous, but I don't think it's her."

It's a good job people don't have speech bubbles coming out of their heads, or mine would be shouting: James Blunt!

"You do too," says Ellen. "Remind me of someone famous, I mean. Now who on earth is it?"

I have no idea so I just wait for Ellen to decide. It doesn't take long - more's the bloody pity.

"Lena Zavaroni!" she says. Then she sees my face. "Before she got sick, of course."

"So we both look like dead people, then." I say.

Given that Ellen is claiming to look like a sex symbol, I can't dredge up much enthusiasm for being likened to a child star who died of anorexia, so that's all I can think of to say. Not that my reticence makes any difference. The woman is oblivious to disapproval.

"Oh, we've got more in common than that, Molly," she says. "That's why we get on so well."

Then she winks at me, which is very disturbing indeed. What sort of woman winks at another, for God's sake?

I'm still considering the answer when we turn into our street. Up ahead, I can see Max, who is in our garden putting the recycling out. He looks up, spots me and Ellen, and scuttles back inside the house. Hardly the behaviour of an innocent man.

"How's the head?" says Ellen. "Did the paracetamol help? Sorry I could only lend you a few, but I had a terrible hangover on Saturday morning too, so I needed the rest of the packet myself."

"Big night, was it, then?" I say.

"Oh, not really. Just went for a meal with the man I've been seeing. At that restaurant in Stalborough that was in the paper. You know, the one that's just got the Michelin star?"

I don't reply for ages, until I realise that Ellen's starting to look a bit unnerved but, even then, I only grunt in answer to her question, as I can't seem to form any actual words. Probably because I suddenly have no saliva, and my tongue seems to be stuck.

I probably look brain-dead, too, even though my mind is racing - with the thought that Ellen was in Stalborough on Friday night. The same Stalborough that's only a couple of miles from where Max bought the petrol.

Luckily, seeing as the silence is getting embarrassing, there's not much further to walk and, when I reach our gate, I open it and hurtle up the path leaving Ellen standing on the pavement outside.

"Bye, Molly," she says. "See you for coffee soon?"

I nod, wave and let myself into the house. It's a pretty minimalistic way to say goodbye, but all my energy is concentrated on what the hell I'm going to say to Max.

"Hi, darling," he says, as I walk into the hallway. "Sorry I didn't wait outside when I spotted you, but I'm in a hurry. Got to nip out."

As he leans forward to kiss me on the cheek, I notice he's already got his coat on, and a bag in his hand.

"What?" I say. "Why? You've already finished work. Where have you got to go?"

"Mrs Bloom's," he says. "She bought a big display unit from us and it was damaged when the deliverymen unpacked it. So she's not a happy bunny and I've got to go and try to make it usable until its replacement can be made."

"What?" I say again. "Why? I mean, why now? Why not earlier?"

Repetitive and inarticulate, I know, but it's the best I can do in the circumstances. Max doesn't seem to notice, anyway, as he just jingles the car keys and says:

"She had a hospital appointment this afternoon, so she couldn't be there to let me in until now. I came home early and prepared tea, but now I've got to go. Bye!"

He's out of the house before I can say the words "petrol" or "Friday night" - so now there's nothing to do but wait for him to come back before I can ask him what on earth he's been up to.

Except to try to recall the rest of my vocabulary, I suppose. And remove my tongue from the roof of my mouth.

No comments:

Post a comment