Conor sat on the armchair in the cold living room. He looked down at his bare feet on the threadbare 70’s carpet – a psychedelic-style the landlord seemed to favour, so different from the rug he and Emily had chosen for their living room. Rory squirmed on his shoulder as he gently rubbed and patted the back of his second son; his third child but Jen’s first (“Never again” she’d declared as she sat cradling him in the hospital bed).
He should have grabbed his dressing gown before he’d lifted the crying baby or at least grabbed the blanket from the foot of the bed but Jen had mumbled that her feet were cold as she’d turned and settled into a gentle snore. How could she not hear his crying? It was like a pleading chant in the dark: please lift me, please lift me, please lift me.
The words were out of his mouth before he had a chance to think:
“Let’s try for another baby Emily”.
Emily was sitting across from him looking so pretty in the dress he had bought her on the way here – a guilt gift for the thrush he had probably passed onto her by now. She really suited that shade of red. Strangely so did Jen and she was blonde. Not naturally as he’d found out. It had taken him by surprise as he’d peeled the delicate lace down her narrow pelvis for the first time revealing the dark strip of hair beneath.
Conor shook the thought from his head. He gestured his glass towards his wife. The glasses clinked. His attempt to bring himself back into the present moment was futile.
He remembered that night clearly, three years previously. He had woken and reached out for Emily but her side of the bed was cold. He rubbed his eyes as his feet fumbled for his slippers. He found her in the living room, blanket round her shoulders tears rolling down her face, Cara hot and red at her breast as his wife gently stroked the wispy dark hair of their second child. In that moment she looked so beautiful.
“How long have you been down? Let me take her, you go up. Try and get some rest.”
She’d handed over the baby wordlessly, pulled the strap of her top up and went to make them tea to take upstairs.
His wife sat up in the bed, grey-faced sipping from her favourite mug as he rocked Cara violently stepping from side to side as if in a silent disco. Every time he stopped the baby’s eyes would open, her lips trembling ready to let out another desperate cry.
“Never again Emily, I’m too old for this shit.”
“Never say never.” she had gently replied.
Back in the brightly-lit hotel dining room, Conor noticed the grey hairs at the parting of Emily’s hair as she sipped her glass of wine across from him and reached for his hand. He gave what he felt was a reassuring squeeze.
“Let’s enjoy tonight. Order dessert, finish this wine and if you still feel we aren’t complete in the New Year we can start trying then”.
There. That had won him some time. Six months to be exact to sort his life out. End it with Jen once and for all. He looked down at his half-finished steak so as to avoid the look of disappointment on his wife’s face. He pushed the bloody bit of meat to the side and stabbed a piece of broccoli with his fork. The cold vegetable turned his stomach as he tried to forget the fact that he had just committed to a third child with his wife. Why had he said anything? He should have just put a finger to her lips and filled her wine glass up. She would have thought that was romantic.
Suddenly Conor felt uncomfortably hot and the pianist they had both enjoyed so much earlier began to irritate him intensely.
“I’m knackered Emily. Work is shite at the minute and Cara still isn’t sleeping through. Andrew is no better. You let him play on your mobile far too much you know.”
A single tear rolled down his wife’s face and she reached for her napkin to wipe it away, leaving a smear of mascara across her cheek
“Look Emily, I didn’t say I didn’t want another, I just want to relax tonight
“I just thought seeing as it’s our wedding anniversary…”.
“I want to get up and swim before the pool gets busy. I didn’t get to the gym enough this week.”
“Do you not want to lie in? I thought we could order breakfast in bed?” she reached over and placed her damp hand over his.
“You know I can’t afford room service. I bought you that dress on the way here. You lie in. I’ll swim”.
They’d made love earlier. Wasn’t this enough for her? He’d thought of Jen the whole time. It was the only thing that could push him over the edge. She seemed to enjoy it. She was strangely silent but he’d felt her reciprocate. Surely that was enough?
He saw the waiter approach the table.
“Do you want dessert?”
“No” She replied curtly.
The waiter hovered at their table, menus in hand. Conor felt old as he noticed the acne blooming from the young lad’s shirt collar. The teenager could see Emily was upset. Typical Emily, making me out to be the arsehole in every situation. She always played the victim.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything? I’m going to have the tiramisu”.
She’ll remember this was our favourite honeymoon dessert and things will be okay again. He was sure of it.
“I’ll have an espresso with an amaretto on the side please. With ice”.
The waiter nodded, turned and made a sharp exit.
“Well you’ve recovered enough to have more booze” He sneered.
“Don’t be an arsehole Conor.”