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Sally sighed, a tiered, pleased sigh as she closed the door behind Jack, bidding him her sweet, yet modest goodbyes, still hiding behind the mask of the faithful wife. She enjoyed the sleepy feeling of fulfilment that overwhelmed her once the guests left, the knowledge that people had a good time, thanks to her. She couldn’t lose herself in this senstion completely; her eyes swiftly followed Michael, to keep track of his every move: to make sure he didn’t step too close to the flowers. She patiently waited for him to retire upstairs; she hoped he would as soon as the guests left. Michael however seemed inclined to hang around her like an annoying fly. He mumbled something a couple of times, in the hope of starting a conversation. Sally cleared the table and proceeded to wash the dishes whilst waiting for Michael to say something worthy of credit. As she came into the dining room to take off the used table cloth and replace it with another she just couldn’t bare his piercing eye on her every move anymore. She looked up at him, challenging him; her hands naturally hoisting themselves into fists at her waist. He cowered away, and awkwardly bumped against the mantel piece.

”Typical” Sally sighed as she walked over to straighten the dainty little ornaments that tumbled over from the bump. Michael caught her hand just as she was about to reach for a little gold covered maiden lying on it’s side.

“I meant what I said” said Michael looking directly into her eyes. Sally fought the urge to look away and shivered with fear. What if he found out? Surely Michael was no wife beater? But he had beaten up his own innocent child; why should he spare a sinful woman like her? She pursed her lips and winced away from him.

“ I MEANT what I said” Michael repeated. “I really do want to stop, and to get better. And I will.”

He let go of Sally’s hand which subconsciously straightened the little maiden back into it’s original place. He put his hands by his sides, awkwardly, as if he was trying to restrain himself. Sally noticed his hands shaking and felt a pang of guilt rise up from her chest. He had a problem. He was trying to resolve it. She, as a supportive, loving wife should be there for him. Help him. Instead, Sally’s heart was flying away to Jack. And it wasn’t planning on returning anytime soon. Sally forced herself to think of Amy, and the guilt subdued.

“Too little, too late” Sally whispered as Michael exited the dining room.

Along with Michael left any concern, affection, guilt or any other emotion Sally felt for him.

She rushed over to the bouquet of flowers, keen to forget the scene. She didn’t want to feel awful about that awful man anymore. She reached her hand in and pulled out the note.

A piece of white card with her name scratched in straight, small letters. She ran her hand along it, to make sure it was real, and then opened it. The whole of the inside was filled with the same neat handwriting. She read it again and again to herself.

To the dear Sally White,

I’ll forget him if you will.

See me.

The Raymond Hotel tomorrow at 10


Jack Cranford.

  Sally took the note and, cradling it to her, went to the kitchen and put it in her secret compartment under the sink. He wanted her. He didn’t care. He wanted to see her. He wanted to meet up with her. He wanted this just like she did. There was a little ledge under which Sally often stuck banknotes so that Michael wouldn’t find it and spend it on alcohol. The note would now stink of dampness and vegetable waste, but it was definitely safe. This was the extent of her privacy. Everything else was scrutinised, not out of care or control, but out of desperation for more petty cash. Sally sighed and supposed that she ought to go to bed. Which one? Last night, after Amy’s accident she slept in the guest bedroom vowing to never share a bed with Michael again. She felt like she should really patch things up with Michael, but at the same time, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Perhaps if she slept in Michael’s bed, she’ll feel less guilty when she goes to meet Jack tomorrow. And she would go and meet him- she was sure of it. As much as she tried to persuade herself against it, she knew she’d come since the second she read that note.

Eventually, after taking the longest time possible in the bathroom, Sally stood in the door frame of their bedroom. Michael was in bed, lying on his side, away from her. His clothes were scattered around the room. The whole place looked atrocious after her brief absence. To think it was only yesterday! Carefully guiding her feet in the dark, Sally made her way around the bed and slid into the cool sheets on the other side, by the window.  She quietly tutted in annoyance when she realised she had to get up and slide the curtains slightly so the morning sun wouldn’t shine in her eyes. She was now absolutely cold.  She slid into bed once more, and pulled the covers up to her chin. Underneath them, Michael’s hand sleepily made its way across her and cradled her. Sally turned on her side sharply. That was too far. She wasn’t ready to act like nothing happened yet. As Michael’s hand slid off her body she thought of all the pleasant things she would talk about with Jack.  Though he might know her darkest secret, she still had to make a good impression. Her last thoughts of the night were on how she simply had to get her blue dress from the cleaner’s tomorrow ready to wear for the evening.

She was almost asleep when something aroused her. Michael was getting up, and shuffling around the room. She kept her eyes closed, listening. As she heard Michael go down the stairs then shut the door behind him and start up the car, she realised the worst has happened. So much for “I meant what I said”. Michael was down at the bar again, and she made the mistake of believing him- again. Sally fought back the urge to cry, and thought of how tomorrow Jack will treat her like a princess. How he’ll buy her a castle, and tend to her every need. In the summer he would keep her cool with an enormous feather fan, and in the winter he’ll run outside into the wind and snow to chop wood for a fire just for her. It didn’t exactly make her feel better- but she fell asleep at least.

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