Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Curious Incident Of The Chocolate Brownie, And The Definition Of A Happy Marriage

Gah. I'm sure Greg's concussion isn't as bad as he claims, but he says the room keeps spinning around whenever he talks to one of the usual suspects. I thought that was normal but, anyway, he goes home again mid-morning and leaves me stuck in the office with Vicky - who seems to think I have turned into Irma Kurtz.

"Molly," she says. "How long have you and Max been married?'

"Centuries," I say. "Why?"

Vicky starts inspecting her nails. I do wish she wouldn't do that, as they put me right off my brunch. No-one's nails are supposed to be square at the ends.

"Do you think Andrew and Trish are happily married?" she says, while wielding that annoying buffer thing.

"Yes," I say. "Of course they are. Though I'm not sure how you assess what happily means, now I come to think of it. But why do you want to know about The Boss' marriage, anyway?"

"No reason," she says. "Just curious, that's all."

Huh - I think we all know what that means, so I don't enquire any further. I don't want to be burdened with anyone's guilt apart from my own. It's very bad for the psyche, let alone the blood pressure.

"I assume you wouldn't say you were happily married?" I say to Johnny, when I email him later in the day.

"Yes, I would," he says, which comes as a bit of a shock.

"So what are you doing having a virtual affair with me, then?" I ask.

"That's the bit that makes my marriage happy," he says. "Obviously. I do wish you'd keep up sometimes."

I'm not at all sure I follow his logic, but I'm reluctant to appear too stupid, so I let it go. And, anyway, I've got more important things to do - like asking the Coroner to hurry up and establish the cause of death of a woman of forty-five, who only went into hospital for a routine operation.

She had three children, and her husband tells me that he's convinced that she died from dehydration, but that the Coroner's apparently still waiting for the hospital to provide some missing notes. It's already taken months, and the poor man can't even bury his beloved wife. He starts to cry while he's on the phone and, although I rack my brains, I can't think of anything to say to make him stop.

That sort of case really puts things into perspective, though - or, at least, it does until I get home, and make the mistake of asking Max whether he thinks we are happily married. I'm hoping he'll say something to suggest he'd be bereft without me, but he doesn't.

"I'm not clear what you mean, Mol," he says. "Sometimes I'm happy, and sometimes I'm not. Isn't that how it is for everyone?"

"Don't ask me," I say. "I have trouble keeping up - apparently. Though what is the thing that makes you happy when you are? Or should I say which person?"

Max gives me a funny look, and I suddenly wish that I had nails worth contemplating.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he says. "As usual. And are you still going to that poetry reading thing?"

"Yes - seeing as Greg says he's now recovered, and the girl he fancies is going to be reading her poems. It's bound to be bloody awful, but I promised I'd go with him because he says I'm better at arty-farty conversation then he is," I say. "Shit, is that the time? I've got to leave in ten minutes."

"Yes," says Max. "But the meal's not ready, so you'd better grab a snack."

I throw a slice of ham between two pieces of dry bread, and pop a gherkin left over from Christmas on top for good measure. I'm quite impressed with my creativity, but Max looks completely appalled.

"Molly, is that really the best you can do?" he says. "You didn't even put any butter in that sandwich. No wonder you're so skinny - your attitude to food sucks."

"Thanks," I say, chewing furiously. "I'd love to have a foodie conversation but, tragically, I've got to go. Where are the car keys? In your pocket?"

I rummage around in his jacket, marvelling at all the random drill bits, receipts and losing lottery tickets he carries around - until I try the breast pocket, and my hand sinks into something soft and slimy.

"Yuck," I say, pulling my hand out and peering at the revolting brown slime coating the ends of my fingers. "What the bloody hell is that?"

"Home-made chocolate brownie," says Max. "Bambi - sod it, I mean Gemma - brought it into work for me today."

And we all know what they say about the way to a man's heart being through food, don't we? Now Vicky's not the only one who's curious about the state of someone's marriage. I hope there's no love poetry this evening, or I may struggle to applaud.

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