On the night of my 30th wedding anniversary I could have won a BAFTA for best actress. My two daughters and their husbands had arrived at my house. The way I hugged and kissed them, you'd have thought I was the happiest woman alive. But I was so miserable, my make-up was cracking under the strain of holding a smile.
'Happy 30th!' my elder daughter, Tammy, cried as she thrust a bunch of red roses into my hands.
My husband, Robbie, hadn't been there to greet them because he'd told me he had to go out to buy cigarettes. But I suspected his main mission was a quick visit to a certain brunette in the new housing estate.
Without being aware of it, I found a vase in the kitchen and arranged the roses. I also chatted to my younger daughter, Sharon, about her pregnancy, with asides to her husband not to stuff himself with crisps. Multitasking in action.
'This is the card, Mum.'
Tammy handed me a creation covered in glitter and I read the verse aloud. It spoke of love that lasted forever. My eyes watered as I thought of Robbie's woman, but Tammy misunderstood them for tears of happiness.
How were Robbie and | going to tell our daughters that our marriage was over? Or even tell them the following day? Ring them and say, 'Thanks again for the gorgeous pearl earrings, and by the way, your father and I are getting divorced?
Someone had turned on the telly and the roar of a football crowd filled the front room.
'Where's Dad?' Tammy asked me.
'Doesn't he understand yet that they're taking years off his life?'
I thought the brunette would kill him first, but I said, 'He insists that what he puts in his lungs is his business and no one else's.'
Through the kitchen window I saw the sensor lights come on in the drive and our car crunched up the gravel and into the garage. Moments later, Robbie strolled out and locked the roller door. Although his grey mop was neatly combed, his jumper was on back to front.
Cold air came with him through the back door. He avoided looking at me and pecked Tammy on the cheek. He was loudly cheerful, the way guilty people are when they're covering their tracks.
The others must have heard his voice because they traipsed into the kitchen to greet him.
Robbie and I stood side by side, not touching, but holding plastic smiles.
How on earth would I keep up this charade for the rest of the evening?
We had arranged weeks earlier that we would celebrate this day at an Italian restaurant a short walk from home. At that time there was still a chance for our marriage, and we both agreed it was premature to upset the girls when everything might still turn out all right.
Halfway down our street, Robbie started hunting through his pockets. I understood at once - he had forgotten to buy the cigarettes! Perhaps he was telepathic because he shot a furtive look at me, then trudged on. A nasty part of me gloated over his distress.
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