‘Oh well,’ said Tess.
He moved his thumb so gently across her knuckle it was almost imperceptible.
She had forgotten this: the way your senses exploded and your pulse raced, as if you were properly awake after a long sleep. She had forgotten the thrill, the desire, the melting sensation. It just wasn’t possible after ten years of marriage. Everyone knew that. It was part of the deal. She’d accepted the deal. It had never been a problem. She hadn’t even known she’d missed it. If she ever thought about it, it felt childish, silly – ‘sparks flying’ – whatever, who cares, she had a child to care for, a business to run. But, my God, she’d forgotten the power of it. How nothing else felt important. This was what Will had been experiencing with Felicity while Tess was busy with mundane married life.
Connor increased the pressure of his thumb just fractionally, and Tess felt a shot of desire.
Maybe the only reason Tess had never cheated on Will was because she’d never had the opportunity. Actually, she’d never cheated on any of her boyfriends. Her sexual history was unimpeachable. She’d never had a one-night stand with an inappropriate boy, never drunkenly kissed someone else’s boyfriend, never woken up with a single regret. She’d always done the right thing. Why? For what? Who cared?
Tess kept her eyes on Connor’s thumb and watched hypnotised and astonished, as it ever so gently grazed her knuckle.
June 1987, Berlin: The US president Ronald Reagan spoke in West Berlin and said, ‘General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation. Come here to this gate! Mr Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
In June 1987, Sydney: Andrew and Lucy O’Leary spoke quietly across their kitchen table, while their ten-year-old daughter slept upstairs. ‘It’s not that I can’t forgive you,’ said Andrew. ‘It’s that I don’t care. I don’t even care.’
‘I only did it to make you look at me,’ said Lucy. But Andrew’s eyes were already looking past her, at the door.
‘How come we’re not having lamb?’ asked Polly. ‘We always have a lamb roast when Daddy comes home.’ She poked her fork discontentedly at the piece of overcooked fish on her plate.
‘Why did you cook fish for dinner?’ said Isabel to Cecilia. ‘Dad hates fish.’
‘I don’t hate fish,’ said John-Paul.
‘You do so,’ said Esther.
‘Well, okay, it’s not my favourite,’ said John-Paul. ‘But this is actually very nice.’
‘Um, it’s not actually very nice.’ Polly put down her fork and sighed.
‘Polly Fitzpatrick, where are your manners?’ said John-Paul. ‘Your mother went to all the trouble of cooking this –’
‘Don’t,’ Cecilia held up her hand.
There was silence around the table for a moment as everyone waited for her to say something else. She put down her fork and had a large mouthful of her wine.
‘I thought you gave up wine for Lent,’ said Isabel.
‘Changed my mind,’ said Cecilia.
‘You can’t just change your mind!’ Polly was scandalised.
‘Did everybody have a good day today?’ asked John-Paul.
‘This house smells of sesame oil,’ said Esther, sniffing.
‘Yeah, I thought we were having sesame chicken,’ said Isabel.
‘Fish is brain food,’ said John-Paul. ‘It makes us smart.’
‘So why aren’t Eskimos like the smartest people in the world?’ said Esther.
‘Maybe they are,’ said John-Paul.
‘This fish tastes really bad,’ said Polly.
‘Has an Eskimo ever won the Nobel Prize?’ asked Esther.
‘It does taste a bit funny, Mum,’ said Isabel.
Cecilia stood up and began clearing their full plates away. Her daughters looked stunned. ‘You can all have toast.’
‘It’s fine!’ protested John-Paul, holding on to the edge of his plate with his fingertips. ‘I was quite enjoying it.’
Cecilia pulled his plate away. ‘No, you weren’t.’ She avoided his eyes. She hadn’t made eye contact with him since he got home. If she behaved normally, if she let life just continue on, wasn’t she condoning it? Accepting it? Betraying Rachel Crowley’s daughter?
Except wasn’t that exactly what she’d already decided to do? To do nothing? So what difference did it make if she was cold towards John-Paul? Did she really think that made a difference?
Don’t worry, Rachel, I’m being so mean to your daughter’s murderer. No lamb roast for him! No sirree!
Her glass was empty again. Gosh. That went down fast. She took the bottle of wine from the fridge and refilled it to the very brim.
Tess and Connor lay on their backs, breathing raggedly.
‘Well,’ said Connor finally.
‘Well indeed,’ said Tess.
‘We seem to be in the hallway,’ said Connor.
‘We do seem to be.’
‘I was trying to get us to the living room at least,’ said Connor.
‘It seems like a very nice hallway,’ said Tess. ‘Not that I can see all that much.’
They were in Connor’s dark apartment, lying on the hallway floor. She could feel a thin rug beneath her back, and possibly floorboards. The apartment smelled pleasantly of garlic and laundry powder.