She wasn’t sure why she waited to call the police. Part of her was still frightened of Thomas. Five minutes after her final call, her mobile rang urgently. Rushing to answer, Martha instantly answered. ‘Thomas, is that you?’
The line was silent for a few seconds and Martha was about to put the phone down when Thomas finally spoke. ‘It’s me.’ He betrayed no emotion. ‘Don’t call the police.’
‘I haven’t called them,’ Martha assured Thomas. ‘I was just so worried.’
‘We both needed some space, and I spent the night at a friend’s house.’
Tears welled up in her eyes. ‘Are you coming back?’
‘Later on,’ he informed her quietly. ‘Just stop ringing me!’
Martha steadied herself against the wall. She wanted him to come home now, so they could talk through their problems, but that wasn’t going to happen. Wanting to hear a friendly voice, she rang Theresa. It only rang twice before her friend answered. Martha sat on the end of the bed and hoped she would lift her flagging spirits.
‘I’m alright.’ Martha could hear her voice crack. ‘Just wanted to see how your Christmas went.’
‘You’re not really, are you?’ Theresa had known Martha for a long time – she couldn’t fool her.
‘I think Thomas might be having an affair,’ she suddenly blurted out the words.
‘Good!’ Theresa said. ‘Perhaps he will leave you alone.’
‘No, he needs me, I need him just as much. He slept in Elizabeth’s bed last night. Probably had sex. It should’ve been me, not her. Otherwise why do I put up with all of this?’
‘Darling, please come over now. You are welcome to stay here for as long as you like.’
‘I’ve got to win him back, otherwise everything I’ve lost counts for nothing. Look I shouldn’t have called you. I’ll leave you to your Christmas, and I’ll tend to mine.’
‘He hit you again, didn’t he?’ Theresa’s tone was even,
Major changes were needed in her life. For now she was at the end of the food chain. Elizabeth was the next new love in his life. Martha could transform, and that started with a show of loyalty. ‘Why do you always think it’s Thomas’s fault?’
‘When isn’t it?’ Theresa stated quietly. ‘If you don’t leave now, you never will, and he will end up killing you.’
‘No, I can’t. Besides it’s my fault, he drank too much. I should’ve made him stop.’
‘None of this is your fault, do you hear me? He makes the choice to hit you. No real man uses his fists to put his point across.’
‘But I get him so angry.’
As she said the words out loud, they sounded wrong somehow.
‘When my darling Harry was alive, we used to row. Even turn the air blue,’ Theresa said, as persuasively as she could, ‘but he never hit me, not once.’
‘I’ve got to go, there’s a knock on the door,’ Martha lied, nearly in tears again. ‘I’ll ring you soon, I promise.’
Ending the call before she could hear any more reasons to leave her husband, Martha sat stock still, trying not to let the words permeate her muddled brain. Who was right – Thomas or Theresa? Who should she trust – Thomas or Laura?
She knew who had her best interests at heart, but that wasn’t enough. Turning on her heels she mechanically made her way to the bathroom. She needed some space from her confused thoughts. She loved Thomas. That loyalty never wavered; yet she doubted his love and the guilt captured her heart and soul.
The bath filled with hot water; Martha climbed inside. Her legs instantly turned red. She grabbed the soap and scrubbed herself until her skin was raw. Each time it disappeared, she started again.
Thomas arrived home later that afternoon to a faultless house and wife. He gave her garage-bought flowers. With an open mind she placed them in the crystal vase. She made his favourite meal. Laid out the table, a red candle burning brightly, and they spent the evening as though nothing had happened.