After his interview, Thomas purchased an expensive bottle of champagne. Martha stuck to one, but Thomas didn’t want the bottle there for future impulse. Sober most of the time now, he even started helping around the house.
Christmas was only a few weeks away. The days stretched out like a taut elastic band. They hardly held any parties anymore, and the next neighbourhood watch meeting was in the new year. Her house rarely out of order, there was free time to make Christmas perfect.
Martha was writing in her neighbours cards when the phone rang out of nowhere. Everything dropped to answer the phone, she was there in seconds. There was no point in getting too complacent. She understood Thomas’s need to have control in his life. As a child he was allowed none. When he spoke of his mother’s tough love, she felt sorry for him.
‘Thomas is that you?’ Nobody answered, and Martha tried again. ‘Thomas, are you okay?’
Again, there was silence at the other end of the line. Feeling a little uneasy, she placed the receiver back.
A little later than usual, Thomas stormed in the house. Martha was busy stirring the stew and didn’t hear him come in at first. She soon realised the atmosphere when he slammed his phone down on the table.
She rushed over. ‘What’s the matter love?’
Thomas glared at Martha. ‘After all the hard work I put in grovelling to my so-called boss during my interview and I’ve heard nothing!’
The smell of burning brought the cooking to her attention. It would spoil if she left it any longer. She rushed over to the cooker to remove it from the heat.
‘I haven’t finished yet,’ Thomas said, striding towards Martha.
‘The dinner,’ she said, her tone deliberately calm. ‘It was going to burn. I was listening to you.’
He stood in front of her, stared into her eyes, and went to take her hand. Before he did so, Martha flinched from his touch. Thomas leant over to the vacant hob. With half an eye on his wife, it was switched off.
‘I don’t come home to be ignored as well,’ Thomas said.