Warning! Some (fairly mild) sexual references.
The Kingsfield chess tournament was imminent and Cass Goth was determined that this would be her year. As usual, Rima was a willing volunteer for practising on, although Rima had never actually been much of a challenger. Still, Cass had no intention of playing the one person who would be a challenge, her father.
Chess had once been something she and Mortimer had always enjoyed, but the older she got, the less she appreciated his pickiness. Every single move she made would be challenged and dissected. It was like everything else she did – just not good enough for him.
Jamie and Rowan were also frequent chess players. He was hoping to enter the tournament himself, and Jamie was doing everything she could to encourage him. The prize money may have been small but every little mattered to them. Rowan’s handyman business had hit a lull with the recession, and there were fewer clients than usual. Had they known this, they would have held off on the renovations they made to their home – but as it was, they’d sunk far too much money into it for their own comfort. Even with Rowan doing most of the hard work, materials didn’t come cheap.
Rowan was much more laid back than his girlfriend about their financial situation. He believed that things would always turn out well, whereas Jamie was a natural born worrier. And the one who paid the mortgage.
Thursday Goth hated the daytime. The stupid childminder always put her in a cot for a nap, but she was three now, a big girl, and she didn’t need a silly nap.
Thursday lived for her father coming home from work. He would always play with her – her favourite game was to hide from the claw as it came to tickle her… and sometimes she tickled him back and he giggled so loudly she thought he would explode.
Bella had taken to sleeping in the day. There wasn’t much else to do. She had yet to find work and the childminder was there to take care of Thursday. Thankfully. That girl cried more than any child Bella had ever known.
The doctor had told her she had post-natal depression. But it had been three years now and the lead in her stomach, the wash of sadness and the sense of emptiness had yet to leave her. She’d tried so many medications: fluoxetine, seroxat, mirtazipine, trazodone, citalopram… all they ever gave her was headaches, nausea and a dry mouth. She didn’t see the point in taking them. She’d tried therapy, but Mortimer said it was a waste of money and so that had stopped. Bella wanted something, anything, to break into her monotony.
She’d tried working in town but all she’d been able to find in terms of work were waitressing and shop jobs. She didn’t last long at either; the repetitive nature of the work had only served to increase her frustration. Sometimes, when the childminder was out with Thursday and the cleaner had finished for the day and Mortimer and Cass weren’t home yet, Bella would hunch her knees up to her chin and sit on the floor, and rock, and cry. But the moment she heard footsteps on the driveway or a key clicking into the lock, she would run to the bathroom, run herself a shower and clean herself back up to face them once more.
When she did leave the house, it was to go to a bar, or a coffee shop, or the swimming pool. She’d taken to wearing ever more daring outfits, hoping someone would notice her body, hoping someone would notice her.
Every night Jamie would come home from work and ask Rowan how business was going. And every night, instead of a reply, he would sweep her into a kiss – a kiss that frequently ended in the bedroom. She could never really work out if he was excited to see her or avoiding the question. But every time he touched her she trembled, even now, even after all these years.
Still, they couldn’t survive on sex alone, and with the upcoming budget cuts at work, she was beginning to worry that Rowan wasn’t taking things as seriously as she was.
Jamie started swotting hard for a promotion – she was considering taking the surgical track – it wasn’t something she’d ever really fancied, but the money was much better, and that was her driving force.
And sometimes, just occasionally, when she caught Rowan upgrading his PC yet again rather than scouring the neighbourhood for work, a thought crossed her mind. Was she dating someone who was still a child?
When Mortimer Goth came in from work, he heard the roar of water from the shower. He tried the bathroom door – sometimes Bella left it unlocked as an invitation. It opened and he stepped in, softly. He stood for a few moments and watched his wife. Her body was as firm as it ever was and he felt himself stiffen as he saw her hands moving over her flesh. He suddenly felt an urgency to have her – an urgency he’d not experienced for some time.
Without undressing, he stepped into the shower. He unzipped his fly and shook his trousers and pants down around his ankles. With both hands, he grabbed his wife by the waist and ran his hands roughly over her body, before lifing her onto him and taking her from behind.
Bella groaned, part in pleasure, part in pain as her husband entered her. She placed her palms flat against the cold tiles as he writhed underneath her. At least this was something she could feel, she thought, as the day’s tears continued to flow down her face.