You tell yourself you’re happy. You tell yourself if you say it enough, it will be true. You tell yourself to make an effort and the silverware shimmers from all your polishing and the glasses gleam. Your dinner table looks like a picture from an interiors magazine.
You tell yourself not to mind that your husband won’t notice, or comment on your new hairstyle or your black silk blouse. Black because you still miss your mother but you know not to keep talking about her.
You remind yourself that this moment, when your husband is getting changed and your children are in bed, is just for you. You’ve got everything looking perfect and then the guests will come and it will all be spoilt. You light the tall white candles and say a prayer, even though you stopped believing years ago.
You fill the jugs with water and check on the food. The melon is diced and decorated with mint, the coq au vin is ready. You pour another glass of wine and tell yourself you’ve got it under control.
You try hard to be interesting. You’re the only one around the table who doesn’t leave the house to work. You make sure you smile when the man next to you makes a vulgar joke and you say yes when he offers you more wine. You’re impressed with how steady your hand is as you lift your glass.
You tell yourself these friends are your friends too. You tell yourself not to yawn. You excuse yourself to go and check on the children but you don’t go and check on the children. You take a bottle of wine from the kitchen and go into the garden. You go right to the bottom of the garden, by the river, where it’s dark and mossy under the willows and you look back at your house, blazing with light, and remind yourself this is what you always wanted.
You fall asleep out there on the mossy lawn and don’t hear your husband calling.
You dream you’re a child again and the cook takes you and your brother by the hand and shows you the pudding she’s made for your parents’ dinner party. A little pink house with white snow on the roof and green windows and a brown door and the handle is a nut. Your brother wanted to touch it but the cook wouldn’t let him then all the grown ups made such a mess of the beautiful dinner table and your brother cried and daddy was angry so you just took the little brown nut and popped it in your mouth.
You wake up and it’s very dark and you can’t think where you are but you wish you saw more of your brother.
You don’t want to go back inside. There’s something small and hard stuck in your throat and you think it’s going to choke you.
First published by Furious Fiction in July of 2018.
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