Martha shrank back into the bath, allowed the water to cover her nose and mouth. It was good to feel nothing – let the world revolve without her for a while.
Back to reality, Martha made herself busy and cleaned the house until it was as spotless as an unused present. She polished with such vigour, her arms, legs, and mind were in agony. A photograph of Thomas’s mother, her hair forced into a bun, with a frown to match scowled at Martha from the mantlepiece.
Thomas, if only his mother could see him now.
Her precious son, full of false apologies when he was sober but refusing to admit he had a drink problem.He would look at some tramp on the floor, a bottle of cheap cider clasped in his trembling hands. Look at that man, has he got no dignity? Yet the same night would fall asleep with a half empty glass of whisky. Where was his dignity then?
A man, who sat in church, head held in pious judgement, but followed his own rules at home. Those debates with Charles about the sanctity of marriage. When yet another divorce was relished around the street, Thomas would blame the fall in society rules. Yet he wouldn’t follow them himself.
A statesman, who spoke of family, but disowned the only child he would ever have.
Shoved out of her reflections the phone’s sharp notes rang, Martha rushed to see who was calling. It wasn’t like Thomas to call in the afternoon, but this was the second time in two days.
‘Hello, Thomas,’ Martha whispered.
‘Thomas, is that you?’
Martha went to replace the receiver when an unexpected voice started to speak.
‘My name is Elizabeth. Thomas and I are in a . . .’ There was a long gap.
The phone wire wrapped around her fingers she pulled them tight. Indentations of red skin lapsed in and out of colour. She wanted to hang up, go back to not knowing, but something strange in the caller’s voice stopped her.
‘How do you know my husband?’ Martha’s high-pitched voice didn’t seem like her own.