I wanted to say, ‘Do you know who else is having a bad time? The woman you snore contentedly next to every night, the one who caught your thirteen year old daughter studying a wet-T-shirt competition on YouTube and who is ignoring the mould she found in the cupboard under the stairs – even though Google told her it might well be toxic – and who supports this family with a job she blagged her way into and could be unceremoniously sacked from at any moment.’ I didn’t say that. I didn’t say any of that. What I said was, ‘If that’s what you want to do, babe.’ And even though I didn’t mean a word of it, I can only assume that’s what he heard, because a few minutes later he put down his crossword and went down to the shed to seek out his waterproof trousers.
Dylan and the kids had got me a gadget that measures your sleep. When I opened it on my birthday, our youngest, Chloe, shouted, ‘We knew you’d love it, coz you’re always too tired!’ The device lived on my wrist and would dutifully tell me how much sleep I’d had each night and, through the magic of technology, the quality of said sleep. The morning after Dylan abandoned our family day, after Chloe had forced me from slumber, screaming my name, I took a moment to look at it. I had had three hours and twenty-four minutes of ‘good quality sleep’. I wasn’t even sure I believed that. I shoved it into the bedside drawer.
‘What?’ I called out. Chloe burst into the room. I made a mental note to advise her later that ‘what?’ is not an invitation. Her usually pale face was a vibrant pink; she was breathing heavily and, seeing her distress, my motherly instinct kicked in. I scrambled out of bed and pulled my dressing gown on. Chloe began shaking her head. I grabbed hold of her shoulders in order to gain her attention. ‘What’s wrong, darling?’
‘I need a mask,’ she cried, and started sobbing. I let my hands fall.
‘For fuck’s sake,’ I muttered. Chloe stopped crying and her eyebrows shot up towards her hairline. ‘I mean, why?’ I said. I pressed my fingers against my temples. ‘Why do you need a mask? Now?’ Chloe began to hop from foot to foot. I noticed her pyjama bottoms only reached the middle of her shins.
‘It’s a cooompetition!’ she wailed.
‘Dylan,’ I hissed. My husband sat up slowly and rubbed his palm over his face a couple of times.
‘What’s going on, sweetheart?’ Chloe leapt into the space I had vacated and nestled her head against her father’s chest. He gently ran his fingers through her hair as she out lined her crisis. Her class was studying the Egyptians and each child was supposed to make an Egyptian burial mask. The winner would get a big book about the pyramids, and she wanted the book, and also Ms Khavari was really, really mean and she would definitely be made to miss playtime for her indiscretion.