EMMA peers over the top of the Sunday supplement. “That smells wonderful, darling.”
I add a stalk of rosemary to the bubbling casserole and glance at my wife. After a couple of days’ biding my time I sense my opportunity. Returning the casserole to the oven I make my move. “I think you should have been here. When Noel was unwell.”
Emma slams the supplement down and glares at me. “Have you been waiting until now to bring that up?”
“No. It’s just…” Faltering, I sense I’ve misjudged both timing and tone.
“David, you’re not the only one who works in this household. I couldn’t get away. A child in my class was excluded and the Head asked me to see the mother. A single mother. With real problems.”
“Neeeeoow. Takatakatakataka.” Noel bursts into the kitchen, arms outstretched, engines roaring, banking around his mother before strafing me with machine gun fire and heading out into the garden.
“Don’t take your guilt out on me,” Emma continues, taking no prisoners. “I’m here nearly every evening and all through the school holidays. And if I’m not, Maria is.”
“Ok. I’m sorry. You’re right.” Ouch. That really didn’t go according to plan.
Seeming to take pity, she softens. “Anyway, he was only forty for a day. And heading back to his mid-30’s. Look at him now.” We both turn to see Noel conducting low-flying operations against the sand pit. “Bouff. Bouff. Bouff.”
Emma sashays towards me. Should I be afraid? “Someone else is going to be forty and heading in the wrong direction soon.” She puts her arms around me and kisses me, pressing me against the oven. “Mmmm. Old man.”
“Neeeeeoow.” Noel hurtles through the kitchen.
“Owww!” I burn my hand on the hob. “Noel!”
I shake my hand. Blow on it. I smile at Emma, her hands resting on my waist.
“Maybe there’ll be a special present for your 40th. What do you think?” smoulders Emma.
“It’s months away” I splutter. “Let’s sort out Noel’s birthday first. How about…”
Emma interrupts. “Come home early on the day and we’ll have a party at the weekend.” She puts her arms around me and snuggles into my shoulder. “Come home early on the day” fills me with trepidation. It’s the week we close the current deal. I can’t even be sure I’ll be in the country. I sense difficult times ahead.
“And your birthday…” She looks up at me. “David, I think I’m pregnant.”
The timer on the cooker erupts. Noel returns to the combat zone. “Neeeeoow. Takatakatakataka.”
“Emma that’s… amazing.”