“What are you grinning at?” Karen snaps at me. I should be used to this. She has a beautiful face but it’s screwed up enough to frighten a pitbull. I’m confused. Sure, we’ve not been getting on too well of recent, but last night, as soon as I slipped between the sheets, she was all over me like a rash. Such passion and surrender; so giving, so inventive: I thought all my Christmasses had come at once. This morning she seems to be back in the doldrums again.
“Didn’t you enjoy last night?” I try.
“I slept well, if that’s what you mean.” I give up. I’ll never understand women. I was feeling full of beans. I was up with the lark and out for a brisk constitutional. Now I can feel her sapping the positivity out of me again. I’m so glad I sneaked out of the dark room without waking her.
We’re away for the weekend. Karen’s pal Julia and her partner Derek invited us to watch the rowing regatta at Holme Pierpont. They found a quaint little hotel just a few miles down the road from the regatta venue and booked for all four of us. Now Karen and I are waiting for them in the lobby, ready to share breakfast.
The lounge door opens and Derek staggers out, looking like he’s near to death.
“What’s up with you?” I ask, though I’m fairly sure that I know. I left him in the lounge with a bottle of brandy at around midnight. It looks like he didn’t make it up to bed.
“I think I must have dozed off on in the chair last night” he croaks “I’ve got a mouth like the sole of a limeburner’s clog. Where’s Julia?”
“No sign yet” says Karen. As if on cue, Julia swishes into the lobby, looking like a film star, and straight into an embrace with Derek.
“Morning Tiger” she purrs “could I have the room key, please? I don’t want to leave it unlocked with all our stuff in it.” Why can’t Karen greet me like that? I think. I try to dispell my jealousy.
Derek starts searching through his pockets but with little success.
“I must have dropped it in the lounge” he says and walks off to investigate. Karen is eyeing Julia suspiciously.
“You’re looking pleased with yourself this morning.”
“Oh yes, I am indeed” says Julia “It’s so easy when you’re young and in love. I must bring Derek away more often. It seems to have the desired effect.” She flashes a knowing smile and winks at Karen, who doesn’t look impressed.
Derek returns from the lounge.
“No sign, I’m afraid.”
Julia looks puzzled “Why would you take our key into the lounge this morning?”
Derek looks puzzled too “I didn’t. I was in there last night.”
“Don’t be dumb Derek, you must have had it when you came up to bed, ‘cos I locked the door behind me when I went up.”
“I didn’t come to bed. I fell asleep in the lounge.”
“You did come to bed because we……..” but the words die on Julia’s lips.