I remember that. On that Saturday night I stood here, at the entrance to the underpass, and watched Anna getting into Tom’s car. Only I can’t be remembering right, because that doesn’t make sense. Tom came to look for me in the car. Anna wasn’t in the car with him – she was at home. That’s what the police told me. It doesn’t make sense, and I could scream with the frustration of it, the not knowing, the uselessness of my own brain.
I cross the street and walk along the left-hand side of Blenheim Road. I stand under the trees for a while, opposite number twenty-three. They’ve repainted the front door. It was dark green when I lived there; it’s black now. I don’t remember noticing that before. I preferred the green. I wonder what else is different inside? The baby’s room, obviously, but I wonder whether they still sleep in our bed, whether she puts on her lipstick in front of the mirror that I hung. I wonder if they’ve repainted the kitchen, or filled in that hole in the plasterwork in the corridor upstairs.
I want to cross over and thump the knocker against the black paint. I want to talk to Tom, to ask him about the night Megan went missing. I want to ask him about yesterday, when we were in the car and I kissed his hand, I want to ask him what he felt. Instead, I just stand there for a bit, looking up at my old bedroom window until I feel tears sting the back of my eyes, and I know it’s time to go.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
I WATCHED TOM getting ready for work this morning, putting on his shirt and tie. He seemed a little distracted, probably running through his schedule for the day – meetings, appointments, who, what, where. I felt jealous. For the first time ever, I actually envied him the luxury of getting dressed up and leaving the house and rushing around all day, with purpose, all in the service of a pay cheque.
It’s not the work I miss – I was an estate agent, not a neurosurgeon, it’s not exactly a job you dream about as a child – but I did like being able to wander around the really expensive houses when the owners weren’t there, running my fingers over the marble worktops, sneaking a peek into the walk-in wardrobes. I used to imagine what my life would be like if I lived like that, the kind of person I would be. I’m well aware there is no job more important than that of raising a child, but the problem is that it isn’t valued. Not in the sense that counts to me at the moment, which is financial. I want us to have more money so that we can leave this house, this road. It’s as simple as that.
Perhaps not quite as simple as that. After Tom left for work, I sat down at the kitchen table to do battle with Evie over breakfast. Two months ago, I swear she would eat anything. Now, if it’s not strawberry yoghurt, she’s not having it. I know this is normal. I keep telling myself this while I’m trying to get egg yolk out of my hair, while I’m crawling around on the floor picking up spoons and upturned bowls. I keep telling myself, this is normal.
Still, when we were finally done and she was playing happily by herself, I let myself cry for a minute. I allow myself these tears sparingly, only ever when Tom’s not here, just a few moments to let it all out. It was when I was washing my face afterwards, when I saw how tired I looked, how blotchy and bedraggled and bloody awful, that I felt it again – that need to put on a dress and high heels, to blow-dry my hair and do my make-up and walk down the street and have men turn and look at me.
I miss work, but I also miss what work meant to me, in my last year of gainful employment, when I met Tom. I miss being a mistress.
I enjoyed it. I loved it, in fact. I never felt guilty. I pretended I did. I had to, with my married girlfriends, the ones who live in terror of the pert au pair or the pretty, funny girl in the office who can talk about football and spends half her life in the gym. I had to tell them that of course I felt terrible about it, of course I felt bad for his wife, I never meant for any of this to happen, we fell in love, what could we do?
The truth is, I never felt bad for Rachel, even before I found out about her drinking and how difficult she was, how she was making his life a misery. She just wasn’t real to me, and anyway, I was enjoying myself too much. Being the other woman is a huge turn-on, there’s no point denying it: you’re the one he can’t help but betray his wife for, even though he loves her. That’s just how irresistible you are.
I was selling a house. Number thirty-four, Cranham Street. It was proving difficult to shift, because the latest interested buyer hadn’t been granted a mortgage. Something about the lender’s survey. So we arranged to get an independent surveyor in, just to make sure everything was OK. The sellers had already moved on, the house was empty, so I had to be there to let him in.
It was obvious from the moment I opened the door to him that it was going to happen. I’d never done anything like that before, never even dreamed of it, but there was something in the way he looked at me, the way he smiled at me. We couldn’t help ourselves – we did it there in the kitchen, up against the counter. It was insane, but that’s how we were. That’s what he always used to say to me. Don’t expect me to be sane, Anna. Not with you.
I pick Evie up and we go out into the garden together. She’s pushing her little trolley up and down, giggling to herself as she does it, this morning’s tantrum forgotten. Every time she grins at me I feel like my heart’s going to explode. No matter how much I miss working, I would miss this more. And in any case, it’s never going to happen. There’s no way I’ll be leaving her with a childminder again, no matter how qualified or vouched for they are. I’m not leaving her with anyone else ever again, not after Megan.
Tom texted me to say he was going to be a bit late this evening, he had to take a client out for a drink. Evie and I were getting ready for our evening walk. We were in the bedroom, Tom’s and mine, and I was getting her changed. The light was just gorgeous, a rich orange glow filling the house, turning suddenly blue-grey when the sun went behind a cloud. I’d had the curtains pulled halfway across to stop the room getting too hot, so I went to open them and that’s when I saw Rachel, standing on the opposite side of the road, looking at our house. Then she just took off, walking back towards the station.
I’m sitting on the bed and I’m shaking with fury, digging my nails into my palms. Evie’s kicking her feet in the air and I’m so bloody angry I don’t want to pick her up for fear I would crush her.
He told me he’d sorted this out. He told me that he phoned her on Sunday, they talked, she admitted that she had struck up some sort of friendship with Scott Hipwell, but that she didn’t intend seeing him any longer, that she wouldn’t be hanging around any more. Tom said she promised him, and that he believed her. Tom said she was being reasonable, she didn’t seem drunk, she wasn’t hysterical, she didn’t make threats or beg him to go back to her. He told me he thought she was getting better.