The glass coffee table was broken where the tv remote control had smashed through it. The noise of the crash startled them both into silence. Mia only became aware that she was holding her breath when she carefully exhaled into the deafening quiet. The sight of the broken pieces was making her feel uncomfortable, she closed her eyes briefly and thanked God the children were out. Still, she could feel her ears prickle when she looked at the strewn shards of glass and it was more than her fastidious nature could cope with. She turned away.
“I’ll get the dustpan and brush”
Stuart’s voice was slightly more contained than before. Mia stopped without turning around.
“It won’t take a minute”
“I said, leave it”
Mia’s breath quickened, with renewed bravery she faced her husband. Even from the other side of the room, she could see his face looked tortured. Her voice caught in her throat and reduced her words to almost a whisper.
“It’s dangerous, it can’t stay like that”
Stuart gave a short sarcastic laugh.
“Making you feel uncomfortable, is it? Welcome to my world.”
Mia could feel the tears of frustration stinging her eyes.
“No, I’ll do it. I made the mess.”
Mia nodded and slowly backed away from the table to the safety of the wall behind her and leaned against it. It was a relief to be supported, she sank to the floor grateful her line of vision had changed. Mia stared at the side of the armchair which blocked her view of the table. Stuart was standing, looking down at the table transfixed. When he sensed Mia’s movement he broke his gaze.
“Don’t worry, I’ll fix it, I just need a minute. Are you okay?”
“It’s fine, I can’t see it from this angle.”
“I’m not like you, Mia, I can’t hide from this. I can’t pretend it didn’t mean anything. It meant something, didn’t it?
Stuart’s voice was much quieter now, he seemed willing to talk not fight. Mia was not sure what to do or say for the best.
“Yes, it meant something, but it’s over.”
“You see, I do know you, Mia. I know you would not just go and shag my brother if it didn’t mean anything.”
The reality of Stuart’s words brought fresh tears to Mia’s eyes. Stuart sank into the armchair at the other side of the room.
“Did you end it or did he just get tired with your pathetic demands? I used to think you were quirky, kind of cute when we first got together. I remember telling my brother about the way you didn’t like to step on the cracks in the pavement. He thought it was hilarious, then he met you and the joke’s been on me ever since.”
“It wasn’t like that.”
“I don’t care what it was like. Have you any idea what you’ve done?”
Mia bent her head and closed her eyes.
“Sorry doesn’t change a thing though, does it?”
“What do you want us…you…what do you want to do now?
“I don’t know”
“Do you want me to leave?”
Mia held her breath as she waited for the answer.
“If only it was that simple, I wish I could bring myself to hate you, but I can’t.
“I think it’s best if we treat our marriage as a business arrangement from now on. This can’t get out into the press. Share prices are low enough, if this gets out they’ll plummet. I don’t think dad’s heart will be able to stand up to the stress of public scrutiny. Mike has a flat in London, I’ll stay there in the week and come home at the weekends to spend time with the children or they can come to me. We’ll still do public engagements together of course.”
“What are we going to tell the children.”
“The children will know nothing of this.” Stuart spat the words out.
“Their innocence will not be tarnished by your indiscretion.”
“They will know something is up.”
“I’m sure you can think of something creative to tell them, you’ve had plenty of practice.”
Stuart gets up wearily from the armchair.
“I need to get out of here”.
Stuart winces in pain from his first step.
Stuart hops up and down as a small trickle of blood drips from his foot. He sits back into the chair holding his foot in the air.
Mia quickly gets up and secures her feet into well-worn slippers, relieved to have something useful to do.
“I’ll sort it.”
“It’s nothing serious just a scrape.” Stuart shouts over the sound of running water in the kitchen.”
Mia returned with a caddy over one arm and a basin of warm water. She surveyed the carnage before her and smiled inwardly. Stuart had dripped blood everywhere. It would be a challenge to get the carpet clean, but she was confident. Kneeling on a cushion, Mia tended Stuart’s minor wound. They were both silent for a moment.
“I did a really, really stupid thing and I’m so sorry.”
“I know, I know. I need time.”
“Of course, as long as you need.”
“I’ll help you clean up…”
“It’s fine, honestly, I can do it. There.”
Mia had stemmed the bleeding with antiseptic and applied a large plaster.
Stuart rose awkwardly.
“I’ll go and pack.”
Mia nodded, donned her rubber gloves and turned her attention to the mess.