It’s happened before of course, but never at this time of year and unfortunately, in his elder years, he doesn’t seem to have the intelligence or compassion to even try and hide it. Something has to be done.
Take this morning for example, it’s the Tuesday before Christmas and because of the holidays her routine has changed, so of course his has too. He’s agitated and doesn’t know what to do with himself, claiming he had a ‘headache’ and that’s why he got up early.
He’s written a letter to his brother, fiddled with his phone and is now pretending to read the paper. When he thinks I can’t see, he stretches up, uncurling the folds in his neck, meerkat-like to survey the field and path to the woods that we overlook from the dining room window. I follow his gaze, the path is empty, I can almost feel the disappointment seeping from his fingertips as he drums the table. He’s been sat there all day, waiting, watching.
I tut to myself and return to the lunch dishes. What an old fool he is, lusting after a woman young enough to be his grandchild, let alone his daughter. The problem with this one is that she’s a red-head, he always did have a thing for a fiery head of hair.
I smooth down the now gunmetal-grey locks behind my ear, remembering I once dyed it a similar shade after our sons were born. I was craving his attention at the time, desperate to make him notice me as his wife once more, not just the dogsbody that cleaned up and fed everyone. I don’t bother with that silliness anymore, I’ve realised over the decades how easily his head is turned.
‘I’m just nipping out to get some wood dear,’ he calls, hurriedly standing and shaking on his coat. I sigh and grip the sink; it’s the naivety I can’t stand, does he really think I’m that stupid? I look out of the kitchen window and there she is; slim, tall, striding purposefully in boots down the path with that crazy springer spaniel of hers bounding down the field, sniffing out trails. She has a nice pink and purple striped bobble hat on today, to keep her warm in the biting wind, her copper hair flowing out from it like lava, dangerous to the touch.
In the distance the trees beckon to her in the wind, inviting her into the warm embrace of their branches and away from the wanton stare of the strange man trying his best to be noticed at the gate. I inwardly cringe for him, despite his treachery, as he waves desperately and even calls out ‘Hello!’ but the wind carries it away, back into the house, where he should be, or he’ll catch his death. When she disappears over the stile, he finally turns, shoulders heavier and slopes back into the house.
‘Cup of tea?’ I smile, knowing that we’re though this ridiculous routine for another day.
‘Yes please,’ he whispers, despondent, his cheeks flushed from rejection.
The next morning, it’s Christmas Eve and he sleeps deeply, as planned, thanks to a little sleeping pill I crushed into his hot cocoa last night. I tiptoe in my pyjamas and wellies and slowly open the back door, willing it not to creek. Dawn hasn’t even broken yet as I walk carefully down the path in the darkness, trying not to slip on the mud, even I would not know how to explain this if I fell. The wind has gone and it’s eerily quiet as I pull my coat collar up and shiver. The stars are still bright as I lay down the chopped-up steak with its deadly powder seasoning, just by the gate that leads to the path to the woods. I feel better knowing that at least he will enjoy his last meal.
Not very charitable I know at Christmas time but I can’t have Harry jumping up from our family Christmas dinner to get out there, embarrassing me in front of my nosey sister, and the boys wondering what on earth their Dad is doing. No, not when I’ve poured everyone a cheery glass of champagne, complete with award-winning smile and a welcoming hug.
And most definitely not when I’ve slaved over Christmas dinner all morning, perfecting his favourite roast potatoes, fingers stiff and raw from peeling, my hair all over the place, coated in sprout-smelling steam.
No, I don’t think so.