Ella savoured the last mouthful of Thai chicken curry and put her fingers close to the flickering candle. She loved the way the light drew the rich browns and textured wallpapers into an exotic tapestry. Kitima’s was her favourite restaurant for special occasions. Steaming hot white bowls were spread over the linen, each one containing just the right amount of curry, rice and sambals. Hmmm, she wondered why Doug had brought her here tonight?
“I’ll be away next weekend, so don’t accept any social stuff on my behalf. But of course you go,no reason why not.”
Ella hesitated before she said it.
“But it’s the annual Rose Ball, Doug. We always attend. Couldn’t you…”
She watched his jaw set and waited for the dreaded mood swing.
“Dammit El. Why do you always push the guilt button? I’m so sick and tired of this bloody…”
His face puffed up. Words failed him as his glass shattered into a balled fist. The elderly couple at the next table gawked and the elegant Thai waitress almost took a step towards them. Ella mouthed, “It’s okay.”
She soaked up the wine and bandaged his hand with a serviette.
“We need to go. I’ve still got things to prepare.”
She caught a waitress’s eyes and settled the bill. Doug seemed to be in his own world already. Must be an important conference coming up.
She watched him fumble with the serviette before shaking it loose.
“Leave it on for a bit, Love.”
He jerked his hand away from her.
“You don’t understand. I have an important job and I’m under so much pressure. You arrange flowers and water the garden. Every second day you lunch with the ladies. You have no idea what it’s like out there in the real… ”
By now everyone in the restaurant had stopped their own conversations.
Ella took his elbow and began steering him away.
“Could we have this conversation in the car?”
She took a deep breath and then another. He was the one who’d insisted that she didn’t work. He’d wanted a wife and mother at home. She’s given up a perfectly good teaching post, to please him. She’d been at home for the kids. She’d done all the lifting to ballet, rugby, modelling later on. Wow. This was just so unfair.
She grated the gears and tried not to say anything.
“But you were the one… ”
He opened the door before the car had come to a halt.
“Of course, it’s all my fault. Always all my fault. ”
She locked the car as he stalked off across the lawn. The study lights went on and she sat down under the Oak tree. Her hand shook as she lit a cigarette. The first puff slowed her heart down and she took another straight away. Doug’s moods were definitely getting worse. Maybe she should persuade him to see someone…