Saccharine Smile

“I’m officially done with this.”

“What’s that again?” Only paying attention with half an ear. Quarter of a brain. Few ounces of grey flesh. About as much as you get in your average Big Mac.

“This!” A hand swept out. A gesture infused with infuriation and not a little spite.

Mattie looked up at the homunculus of a man sat at the table with her. Pinched features on a boiled pudding head. She tried to find the man she married. The image of a sweet smile, trim figure and snappy suit popped briefly into her mind, then burst like a soap bubble as she watched a spittle-encased splinter of soya arc from the chew, chew, chew of his mouth. She sighed as it landed on her plate, right in the middle of a puddle of gravy, and her appetite deserted her for better climes.

“What you on about now, Harold?”

“This!!” Exasperation lit up his face causing his eyebrows to shoot for the ceiling and his mouth to open revealing a mass of half-chewed soya-sausage.

Mattie scanned the table-top but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Two plates of food, two mats, three foraging ants, one piece of plaster recently fallen from the ceiling, a vase of desiccated roses from last month’s birthday and a letter. Wait; a letter. When had that arrived.

“When did that come?”

“Today. Duh! Do you think I keep piles of letters hidden away in a corner of the house just waiting for a special occasion? Huh! Huh! Well do yah!”

An image of the pile of unopened mail in the cupboard under the stairs popped into Mattie’s mind. The brown envelope sat there on the kitchen table, patiently waiting for the image to pop back into Mattie’s memory.

“Who’s it from, then?”

“The bloody BBC; who else!”

“Well …”

He ignored any water that could have come from her well and went straight into the dry dust of his next words, struggling up his throat as they passed a swallowed mouthful on it’s way into his stomach. “They’re going to take us to court if we don’t buy a licence for the TV that we don’t have. What do you think of that?!”

Mattie watched Harold stab the back end of his third sausage and a ketchup-splattered chip in quick succession and aim his fork mouth-ward. In her mind, she slashed out her steak-knife across the table with all the force of her hatred, catching the tip of the jugular that seventeen years of nursing had given her pin-point knowledge of the location of.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply; once, twice, three times. A gurgle on one. A clatter of cutlery on the second. A plate-rattling thud on the third. Then silence. She straightened her spine. Listened. No sound of chewing. No spite filled rant. A bird twirped in the garden, then fell silent. Cars swooshed by on the main road.

A sense of utter peace swept through Mattie and she let go the breath that she hadn’t realised she was holding. A smile crept over her face and eased out the wrinkles of fifteen years of wedded hell. Slowly, she opened her eyes.

“What you smiling at, Gormless!”

“Harold, my love; here’s the thing,” a saccharine smile, “I’m officially done with this.”

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