Warning: Adult content
Even a comfortable chair, a weak cocktail from Margaret, Bud’s thanking him for his advice about the car, Betty’s kiss on the cheek, and Kitten crawling into his lap and wanting a hug, could not chase away the dark cloud that hung over Jim Anderson. His warm smile seemed cooler, more forced. He seemed distracted. The family circle that greeted him was not enough this day.
“Daddy, what’s wrong?” asked the ever-perceptive Kitten. Precocious child, Jim thought. We’ll have to teach her the benefits of remaining silent even when you want to speak. Maybe next episode.
“Nothing sweetheart.” Jim tousled her dark, wavy hair. “Daddy’s just had a long day at the office!” He grinned at her, showing teeth, which Kitten did not find comforting.
While the children set the table for dinner, Margaret sat on the edge of the comfortable chair and asked her husband what was going on at the General Insurance Company that was causing him such angst. It was unlike her husband to be anything but cheerful and commanding when he walked through the front door, set down his briefcase, and put on his favourite cardigan sweater.
“Oh, layoffs,” said Jim, reaching for a cigarette. “Nothing to worry your pretty little head about.” And Margaret indeed had a pretty little head, with curls as shiny as satin and a young woman’s complexion.
“I see,” said Margaret. “And your secretary, the other pretty little head, is she still giving head?”
“I beg your pardon!” Jim said, sitting up and almost spilling his Tom Collins. He mashed out his cigarette in the ashtray and glared at his wife. “How dare you?”
Betty poked her head around the door. “Hey, are we all okay in here?” she asked with a bright smile.
“Of course, darling,” Jim and Margaret said in unison. They had said that many times, in unison, over the course of their marriage.
Margaret said, “I would be happy so see that pretty little head ousted from your office, but then her place would be filled by another pretty little head, much like the last one.”
“Just because they are pretty….”
“Oh, shut up, Jim. I know all about it. I’m tired of it. That’s why I’m heading off to visit my old college chum, in Paris, for six weeks. I’ve left full instructions for laundry, housecleaning, garden maintenance, cooking —including recipes, shopping lists, and a few casseroles in the freezer— and also the children’s school schedules, the names of their teachers, the addresses of piano and dance teachers, Bud and Betty’s girlfriend and boyfriend status; and finally a list of all our creditors, including heat, electricity, tax schedule, and so on.”
“I think you should stop and think about this, Margaret. Why, I remember when I was suspicious and angry once, just like you, and I—“
“Hush, Jim.” Margaret took off her apron and laid it across his lap. “I’m packed, and the taxi should be here…” –she looked at her watch– “…any second.”
She leaned over and gave Jim a peck on the forehead.
“Au revoir,” said Margaret.