Sundays are about killing time. Anna likes to browse garden centres and craft fairs and buy stuff we don’t need. We’ve a shed full of gardening gloves, secateurs and ceramic frogs. The bathroom cabinet is crammed with homemade soaps and the shelves are stacked with recipe books. But it’s all for show because we’re still getting oven chips and the lawn needs mowing.
Anna wishes she was at work, or doing something else. She’s channelled her unhappiness into shopping and cleaning. We both know it, but it remains unspoken. First thing this morning Anna decided to clean the fridge. She was up at six doing yoga. I think she does it to remind me she’s still the size eight I married. I jog and get out on the bike when I can, but my knees are shot from years of football. She says she wouldn’t have me any other way and pinches my gut. She doesn’t mean it. She exists on salad and mineral water. She counts her steps. I know I repulse her.
Anyway, I tumbled from the duvet, as you do, bristly and bleary-eyed with a hangover head. Last night’s glass stood on the draining board, blurred with fingerprints and dried drips of plummy wine. Anna was on all fours chipping away at a trickle of ice. Her bottom wobbled as she chivvied a butter knife behind the ice.
‘Nice view from here,’ I said.
She turned and gave me a sour look. She held a pot of Greek yoghurt, between finger and thumb as if it contained ricin.
‘How long has this been in here?’
I shrugged. We could buy a hundred Greek yoghurts. Who cared? She shook her head, reading my mind, and went back to the fridge. This is what marriage becomes: silences we fill for each other based on habit. My toenails bit into the soles of my slippers. I stooped down, gripped her wrist and shook it, not hard I thought, but firm enough, till she dropped the knife.
‘What are you doing?’
I held her hands in mine, stroking her palms with my fingertips. A lock of hair fell across her face, but she held my stare, eyes narrowed.
‘It’s a Sunday. You remember Sundays?’
I’d broken the first rule by trying to talk. Anna wiped her fingers with a tea towel. She pushed her bottom lip out and blew the lock of hair from her forehead. ‘This is a waste of food.’
I wasn’t keen on taking lectures on waste from a woman who owned seven pairs of trainers.
‘It’s not. I’m using the yoghurt to grow cress.’
Anna tilted her head, ‘Very funny.’
‘Let’s go out,’ I said.
‘Crikey, he’s being spontaneous.’
‘Well, what do you want to do?’
She pushed a hand through her hair. ‘I don’t know, Paul. Why don’t you tell me?’
I leered at her. A muscle twitched in her cheek. It’s a part of our marriage that died three years back. She went back to chipping at the ice.
‘We could go up to the Peaks.’
‘I’m not traipsing across moors getting soaked through.’
‘You’ve got waterproofs.’
Anna’s silence meant it wasn’t negotiable. Of course, she wasn’t coming up with any ideas. It was her job to shoot mine down in flames. She wanted to go to Brambles Garden Centre. I hated Brambles. It was the most depressing way to spend a Sunday; hoards of bored people shuffling round with trolleys inspecting plants and grow-bags. It was the stuff Brambles sold that struck me as bizarre: what kind of person bought tins of boiled sweets or CDs of panpipe music?
‘We could head up to the coast?’ I said.
She smirked. ‘Want to play the slot machines, do you?’
‘Well it beats hanging around at Wickes, doesn’t it?’
Anna was rubbing lotion into her arms. It smelt of berry fruits. It always made me hungry.
‘The fence is falling to bits.’
She really meant next door had just painted theirs and we had some keeping up to do.
‘OK, let’s go for a drive and see what we can find.’