The doorbell rang. Sarah emptied her glass and placed it by the opened Beaujolais and second wine glass. Her dress was the colour of wet slates, the colour of her mood she thought as she walked to the door.
‘Come in, Stuart,’ she said, radiating a smile that never touched her eyes.
Stuart stepped into the hallway and checked himself in the mirror, stroking back a stray curl and adjusting his open shirt. The mirror was set in a gold frame and she recalled the day he had bought it for her. Everyone needs a hall mirror, he had said, to make sure one is perfect before facing the world. And so it was, the heavy gold frame setting his mark on her blue and silver interior. She recalled a particular phrase her mother used: gilding the lily.
So excessive. So Stuart.
Sarah picked up the bottle and glasses on the way to the dining room…
‘I see you’ve started without me, my lady,’ said Stuart, hitting her hard before biting the shimmering white of her neck.
‘If you even think it, I’ll …’
‘You’ll do what, my sweet?’
Sarah flushed momentarily and returned to the kitchen.
She had prepared ham and eggs for lunch – Prosciutto and eggs Benedict to be precise – and she needed to adjust the flavouring of the special sauce she was making. Stuart took his food seriously and railed at Sarah. Not only was the sauce too bitter, but it was out of place with this simple dish. He read Delia’s precise instructions to Sarah and her eyes flashed as she grabbed the book and threw it out of the window.
‘You’re so beautiful when you’re angry,’’ he said, bringing a resounding slap across her flushed face.
It was early afternoon. Beyond the garden wall, there was a school. The rich sounds of children playing muffled the scrape of pickaxe and spade cutting through the hard soil as Sarah dug. For years now, she had thought of doing this. Years of being used, abused.
On Friday it was all over.