Josie’s husband of twenty-two years, three months and eight days stared at her from across the restaurant table. ‘A housemaid, what do we need a bloody housemaid for? That’s your domain, who are you all of a sudden Lady Muck?’
A pretty young waitress reached across to take his plate, his eyes swivelled up to meet hers and charm positively oozed from his lips. ‘I enjoyed that thanks. I like your top by the way, very becoming.’
Smiling graciously the waitress turned on her heel and headed back to the kitchen.
‘I want more time to myself, I didn’t used to mind keeping house but I could do with some help.’
From the day they married, homemaker had become her role. She’d given up her burgeoning career as an accounts manager to look after her successful young husband and prepare the nest for the twins she soon produced as a result of their fervent lovemaking.
Determined not to grow into a frump, throughout their marriage she’d maintained her good looks with regular exercise and wore expensive clothes to accentuate her good points. Whatever her efforts, her husband soon seemed not to see her, he no longer bestowed compliments or spoilt her with unexpected gifts. Instead of asking about her day, he would ask about the boys, what was for dinner and the television would be switched on in search of sport a few minutes after he arrived home from work.
When invited to company dinners he would seat her between other wives who spent the evening complaining about their husbands while he sought out pretty secretaries to flatter. He would transform from bore into Mr Charming the minute any attractive woman returned his glances.
As the boys started sixth form, and spent much of their free time out with friends, Josie found herself alone, staring at unwashed socks and pants and waiting for the call from her husband to tell her he would be late, again.
Sundays they would go out for a walk in the morning, stop at the local pub for lunch; then return home where he would snore all afternoon in front of the television. Sometimes his mobile would ping with a message and she knew it would be from his latest ‘bit on the side.’
She knew about the ‘bits on the side.’ Call it a woman’s intuition, or just plain perception. Every once in a while he’d suddenly become most particular about his laundry, nothing she could say would be right and there would be weekly evening meetings that none of the other executives seemed to attend according to the wives she knew well enough to ask. He’d make critical comments and belittle her in front of their friends at every opportunity. She let it wash over her for the most part, occasionally retaliating with a sharp retort but generally taking it as her lot in life, the downtrodden wife.
A crystal ball would be a useful tool for women she thought from time to time, but then few would probably ever get married. She could remember happy times during their marriage but every time he charmed another woman she swallowed the insult as if it were a very bitter pill. And with each pill her resentment grew like a cancer.
Now middle aged, they lived in a perfectly charming Edwardian house in a village with amenable neighbours, well kept gardens, annual events and a parish council intent on keeping everything idyllic. Who’d want to upset the apple cart? Well not Josie, not until now.
‘Well that’s all very well, but how are we going to pay for it or her should I say?’
Josie smiled and thought of all the hotel rooms, expensive restaurants and lavish little gifts he’d treated his floozies to over the years.
Her little job as a part time sales assistant in one of Millwell’s boutiques paid peanuts. Max always called it ‘your little job’ with some derision. He didn’t like her working. You could describe their marital arrangement as somewhat old fashioned.
She poured herself some water and took a sip. ‘Marie-Ann knows a Thai girl who is here for a year and looking for work, I thought she’d be ideal.’
Max shifted in his chair and tried not to show his sudden interest. ‘Oh yes, is that right?’
‘Yes.’ Josie tried to sound nonchalant. ‘Apparently she’s adorable, and according to Marie-Ann, terribly pretty.’ She watched his face carefully to note the expected response.
After a moment or two, obviously trying not to appear too enthusiastic he said, ‘That’s all very well but is she any good at keeping house we don’t want someone pretty but vacant and there’s quite a bit to do?’
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