Julie padded downstairs in her dressing gown. The smell of toast and percolating coffee hit her before she got near the kitchen. Phil headed her off on the threshold; he had a white tea-towel folded over his arm. ‘Ah, Good morning, Madam, may I escort you to your table, where breakfast is about to be served,’ he said, guiding her past the kitchen and into the dining room where the table had been laid. He pulled out a chair and Julie sat down and he pushed her chair in. Before going back into the kitchen, Phil bent and dropped a kiss onto the top of her head. ‘Happy anniversary, my darling.’
It was a beautiful May morning, warm enough that he had thrown the patio doors wide open. The sun was shining, the garden coming into bloom and Julie identified starling, wood pigeon and even a cuckoo amongst the riotous birdsong. The birds were as happy as she was that the long and bitter winter was finally over. They were going to Morocco later that morning but the excitement of that wasn’t the only reason for the little fountain that rose somewhere in the pit of her tummy and burst into a million tiny champagne bubbles of happiness.
She loved her garden, it had become her pride and joy, but she also loved this room and the lounge that opened through a door to the right and was kept for visitors. The dining room was the only room in the house that was wallpapered. She’d seen it in the shop and knew that it was made for this room. It had a pale blue wash with a light yellow stripe on the bottom of the wall, and above it was the wonderful buttercup print. Delicate yellow flowers adorned the walls, just like her dresses, and brought the outside garden inside. The dining table sat twelve, made from solid oak, with matching chairs that had high backs and screamed grandiose. The chair cushions were upholstered with a blue and yellow print. The dining room displayed her Cappo Di Monte collection. She had over forty pieces now, most of it bought at auction for a song. In stark contrast to the delicacy of the rest of the room her tableware was Tunisian. She had fallen in love with the Tunisian style and over four trips to the country had brought back an extensive range of tableware and crockery, all in vibrant red, blue and yellow. Her glassware was all lead crystal and, when they had guests for dinner, which was often, Julie’s table was always complimented. Her style was an extension of her and she felt that she wore it well.
Every week they bought three bunches of flowers along with their shopping, two large mixed bunches for the living room and lounge, and a delicate drop of carnations for the dining room table. She alternated the colour of the carnations weekly. This morning, by her place setting, was a huge bouquet of gardenias, freesias and red roses. A card was propped against her juice glass, with a jeweller’s box in front of it. They had been married now for six glorious years and every single day Julie wished that her husband would have a heart attack and die.
She was happier than she’d ever been in her life. She had taken to being a wife and mother better than she could ever have expected. She loved being married; she just hated her husband and would like to have replaced him with a better spouse. As she reached for her card, she smiled a smug smile, remembering the voices of doom on the lead up to her wedding, prophesising that it would never last.
To my darling wife, with love always and forever, Philip xxx
Her card to him bore similar words of love. She wondered how often he had wished her dead.
Vicki, who was a blessedly late riser in the mornings, ran barefoot into the dining room and flung herself into her mother’s arms.
‘Stop running in the house,’ Phil yelled at her from the kitchen.
‘Mummy, Mummy, the sleeps are all used up now aren’t they?’ At this, the wide smile froze on her face for just a second, in case it had all been a huge grown up joke and she still had another five million sleeps to endure.’
‘They have indeed, my darling. And where are we going today?’
‘Mocco,’ the little girl screeched.
‘Yay, Morocco,’ yelled her mother, tickling her daughter and causing gales of giggles.
Phil arrived with two plates in his hands and a dish for Vicki. ‘Proper behaviour in the dining room please,’ he said sternly, glaring at his daughter. ‘Go and sit down nicely now, please, Victoria-Violet. Have you washed your hands?’
‘Yes, Daddy.’ Julie watched part of her little girl’s bubble burst. ‘Daddy, we’re going Mocco today. Would you pass me the Wice Cwispies please, Mummy?’
‘How many times do you have to be told, it’s Mor-Occo. What are you doing? Don’t give her that rubbish this morning, she won’t eat her eggs.’
Julie had taken the cereal dispenser and was pouring a few into the bottom of a clean bowl for Vicki. ‘Can’t she have both? It’s a special day.’
‘Why lay them out on the table then?’
‘Because it looks good, doesn’t it? I wanted everything to be perfect. Aren’t you going to open your present?’
‘Oh, darling, it is all perfect. It’s wonderful, thank you for going to all this trouble.’ She reached for the jewellery box. This would have been the perfect morning if he hadn’t been so uptight. Vicki could never do a thing right when he was around. He was always at her. Trying to muster her earlier feeling of happiness and force down the resentment that was rising, she opened the box. A tiny pair of diamond and sapphire earrings winked out at her and she gasped in delight. They were beautiful.
‘Why you got a pessant, Mummy, is it your burfday?’
‘No, darling, it’s our anniversary. Today your daddy and I have been married for six years.’
‘Wish your mother a happy anniversary, Victoria-Violet.’ Phil was still growling.
‘Happy Amme…’ her brow furrowed into four little creases as she floundered. ‘What is it, Daddy?’
How could he not be absolutely enchanted by his daughter’s chatter? Julie marvelled every day at each new thing she came up with. Their daughter was bright and her thirst for knowledge inexhaustible. Julie laughed. ‘Don’t you worry, sweetheart, it’s a great big word.’
‘And she’ll never learn to talk properly if you don’t encourage her. You let her get away with being lazy.’ He turned to face his daughter. ‘Ann-e-ver-sary. Say it.’
Victoria giggled. ‘Like Aunty Annie,’ she said, referring to one of the helpers at her pre-school.
‘Put it together.’
‘Put it together.’
Phil sighed and closed his eyes. ‘Say anniversary.’
Julie cringed, and pop went another champagne bubble.