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“It’s two months now and you still haven’t decided on a job.” Her words ring in my ears. I restrain myself, knowing an ironic reply could spark off the first day’s argument.
‘…If I wouldn’t be working where would we be? I’m beginning to believe that you have lost interest in finding a job.’ Melanie continued, addressing me from the hallway where she was finishing applying her make-up. ‘Next month you’ll have some major expenses for your daughter and I don’t know how you intend pay them?”
Best not provoke a fight and risk screwing up the whole of the weekend. Same old story. I shouldn’t have to remind myself. When daughter requires money or commits mischief, she is “your Maggie.” Doing well at school or achieving, she’s my wife’s child.
“ Prague job is still open.” I threaten.
“Then take it.”
“You know what that means. I’ll have to live there.”
“You can fly home weekends.”
“If that’s what you want?”
“And why not?” She turns to face me, hands on hips to emphasize. “We can manage without you, you know.”
“If that’s the case, I’ll take it.”
“Good.” She replied, return he attention to the mirror
Understandably, the day’s not getting off to a good start. Our differences are mounting. She’s spending even more time at work and when free, makes a point of taking Maggie out alone; shopping or to the cinema. Of recent, she’s taken a dislike to the company I keep. It doesn’t bother me because apart from Sally, one of her closest pals, the rest of her friends are quite insufferable.
Melanie’s increasing aloofness isn’t helping. She’s always been composed, neither unfriendly or chilly, but lacking in affection. But of late I am discerning a new closeness between her and Maggie, an almost furtive closeness, deliberately being done, I imagine, just to make me jealous.
She pauses in the doorway, ready to leave for work. The wintery sun silhouettes her. Shoulder length, ash-coloured hair, dark grey trouser suit, with black, Manolo Blahnik high heels, a Michael Kors handbag in one hand and the Marshall Bergman laptop case clutched in the other.
These accessories and Melanie’s many other brand-name possesions I know well, as she refers to them by name – “Where’s my Kors ?” or “Has anyone (usually meaning me) seen my Bergman?” or “Don’t play with my Schiaparelli Maggie.” She likes to appear as a perfect example of the up-to-the-minute, German power-Frau. Whatever, I must admit after fifteen years of marriage, she’s still a damned, attractive woman.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” Over her shoulder while making last minute appearance check in the full-length hall mirror. ‘Don’t wait for me this evening. You only need to prepare something for yourself. Maggie is sleeping over at a friend’s and I have a meeting which will probably mean dinner afterward.’
“If you call from Cologne before you take the train, I’ll collect you from the Bahnhof.” I offer indifferently, although it will curtail my own plans for the evening.
“I wouldn’t bother. It’s on Jürgen’s way home and I’m sure he won’t mind making a small detour to drop me off.”
Of course, he won’t. I smile. I don’t know, nor care who this Jürgen fellow is. Typical Melanie, taking it for granted that she’ll have a ride home. The poor bugger will probably have to make a diversion of God knows how far, to drop her at the door. Naturally, this Jürgen will be made, delegated, or charmingly persuaded, which is more in her style, to achieve her bidding.
I stand in the doorway, watching her walk down the garden path to the waiting car. Susanne, our neighbour’s nineteen-year-old daughter, waves a friendly hello to me from the driving side. It must be her turn for the carpool. Three men I vaguely know by sight are crammed in the back of the Polo, the vacant front seat is preserved for Melanie.
She’ll have convinced Susanne to pick her up last of all, although this means Susanne having to double back after collecting the other three, to collect her. I smile at the thought of her again making good use of her charisma and young Susanne will have been only too delighted to oblige.
Folding those long legs of hers into the front, passenger seat, she waves to me before closing the door. This gesture implying domestic bliss is for the benefit of the world outside the home. She has stopped offering her cheek for me to kiss. I raise my arm and flash a grin in return.
A pity matters between the two of us have reached this low point. Being unemployed is only part of the problem in our relationship. I know I should accept a lot of the blame for the worsening state of affairs. She tells me my increasingly boorish behaviour is not helping the situation. She’s probably right which only ends up making things worse.
I wait until the car disappears around the corner, pick up the newspaper from off the doormat and go back inside to enjoy a pleasant, solitary breakfast, with the thought that, maybe Prague is not such a bad option.
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