Her wrinkled right hand clasps the side of the bowl while her left beats the mixture. April thinks of her husband and growls. She pictures him downing his beer, chatting to friends, letching at the bimbos by the bar and smiling, his loose tooth wobbling in its socket.
As she adds the final ingredient, her hand beats faster to match her brain, the spoon clanks against the glass bowl and a small dollop of pudding flies over the top. “Damn it,” she says and grabs a cloth to wipe up the slimy green goo. She stares at the clock and growls again. He’ll be on his ninth pint by now, and never stops at single numbers.
Thumping down the bowl, another blob escapes. This time she grabs one of his clean vests off the chair to her left, wipes up the spillage, then neatly folds the vest with the newly acquired marks hidden, and puts it on top of a pile of freshly ironed clothes. She smiles, turns, and then pulls open the fridge door, oblivious to the sound of the seals peeling apart. She makes a space for the clear Pyrex bowl and dumps it on the shelf, letting it clunk against the plastic-covered metal bars. Grabbing a bag of home-grown mixed veg out of the salad drawer, she slams the door to, reuniting the seals which kiss shut.
Ignoring the greens, she selects the carrots which she peels roughly before slicing them lengthways into delicate strips. They lie on the chopping board in disorderly lines but the regiment leaps to attention as they’re boiled alive, joining the salted peas cowering at the bottom of the saucepan.
Carrying the laundry, she stomps upstairs and into his bedroom. She opens the wardrobe door, supporting it as she does so, cursing at the loose hinge which she’s nagged him about time and again. She hooks a hangered shirt over the rail, smoothing its sleeve down as it catches on its neighbour. Her right foot knocks against a battered suitcase as she lifts the door to shut it in place, and she smiles again and returns to the kitchen, bobbing her head as she ducks under the beam.
With the vegetables cooked, she bashes the boiled potatoes to within an inch of their lives then finishes them off with a fork as she lays the mash on top of the mince and skims the fork in smooth long strokes back and forth, emulating her husband ploughing his field. After sprinkling a cheddar topping, she returns the clear glass dish to the oven and lowers the heat. There’ll be hell to pay if his dinner gets burned. She scrapes the peelings, gooseberry tops and tails into the compost bucket then crashes the pots and pans into the sink, as if the louder the noise the better she feels. She looks at the clock and sighs. He’ll be back soon.
April checks the pudding in the fridge, shaking the bowl for solidity. The recipe says ‘leave to cool’ but she’s getting impatient.
The kitchen door swings open and he wobbles in. He’s got tart red lipstick on his cheek just above the nick where he caught himself shaving that morning.
“Dinner ready, woman?” he yells as he kicks off his boots as if she’s miles away, not just the other side of the farmhouse kitchen.
“Sit down, it’s on its way” is the only order she dares to make but it does the trick.
He shouts a “get me a beer, April” and it duly appears, April somewhat surprised that the ‘woman’ is now personalised.
She watches him eat and it puts her off her food. The shepherd’s pie is thrown down his throat at the same speed as his drink and he isn’t fussed which he has. His mouth greets one while still full of the other. A dribble of beer rolls down his chin and April’s stomach lurches.
She clears away the plates and goes to the fridge. The dessert is extracted and dispensed into two single portion glass dishes.
He looks down at his and belches. “What’s this?” he asks, before issuing another.