Edith Abigail 64

‘Where on earth have you been, Gordon?’ she demanded as soon as he appeared in the sitting-room. She was half-heartedly knitting, with the television on, the sound turned low.

‘Walking,’ he replied briskly. ‘I reckon I walked twenty miles today.’

‘Your dinner’ll be as dry as dust.’ She rose, sticking her knitting needles into a ball of blue wool. Laughter emerged softly from the television set as a man hit another man in the stomach. She could smell the whisky even though the length of the room was between them.

‘I want to talk to you,’ he said.

‘If you’re drunk, Gordon –’

‘I am not drunk.’

‘There’s been enough drunkenness in this house.’

‘Are you talking about young Gedge?’

‘I’ve been sitting here worried sick.’

‘About me, dear?’

‘I’ve been waiting for you for six hours. What on earth I am to think? I didn’t sleep a wink last night.’

‘Sit down, my dear.’

‘I want to leave Dynmouth, Gordon. I want to leave this bungalow and everything else. I thought I’d go mad with that woman this morning.’

‘What woman’s that, dear?’

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, what’s it matter what woman it is? You’ve never displayed the slightest interest in what I do. You’ve never asked me, not once, how anything has gone, or where I’ve been or whom I’ve seen.’

‘I’m sure I’ve asked you about your Meals on Wheels, dear. I remember distinctly – ’

‘You know perfectly well you haven’t. You’re incapable of taking an interest in me. You’re incapable of having a normal relationship with me. You marry me and you’re incapable of performing the sexual act.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘Of course it’s true.’

‘You’re sixty-four, dear. I’m sixty-five. Elderly people don’t – ’

‘We weren’t elderly in 1938.’

Her bluntness astounded him. Never in their whole married life had she spoken like that before. No matter how tedious she was in other ways, he had always assumed that it wasn’t in her nature to be coarse, and certainly she’d never displayed evidence of the inclination. Prim and proper had always been her way, and he’d appreciated her for it.