It was movie day and we’d just taken a break. Lord of the Rings was a pretty long film, not my first choice and having needed the toilet for the past hour I was relieved. I had managed to coat my comfy grey jumper in orangey Dorito dust. Brushing myself down, I peeled myself from the sofa and moved to the bathroom upstairs. It was the first time I’d ever been inside James’ house, usually film sessions happened at Dan’s but his TV had broken after an accident with the Xbox Kinect. I’d been inside other houses in the area so I knew what to expect. People around here usually travelled to Japan and Sweden on business trips for days at a time bringing back the newest iPod for their children and a piece of exotic jewellery for their wives. I still drew in breath slightly when I opened the bathroom door at the top of the stairs. Pearl whites, pinks and corals filled my vision and it was clear that this bathroom was scrubbed down and made pristine everyday. With a husband earning that much, there was no need for a wife to go to work so I’m sure the whole house was always carefully tended to. I felt like I had walked into an en suite at a five-star hotel, there was even a white little hand towel folded, unused over the edge of the sink and an unused soap bar, a shade of coral. It was all perfectly stunning until I saw the tiles around the bathtub. Little cracks were making their way out of the plaster and brown mould was starting to grow out of them. The cracks were tiny and the mould even smaller so but still, they were there tarnishing an otherwise perfect scenery.
Walking past the kitchen, my ears pricked at a conversation which I immediately wished I had not beared witness to. Yet I stood there and continued to listen to the argument going on behind the door, fixated. A television murmured in the background, a D.I.Y programme. A man’s voice could just be heard talking over it, “I have to go, Shirl. This trip is important, you know that, we’ve talked about this”. His voice was strained like he’d said this line too many times before. A female voice replied, “We have never talked about this. You have always told me you’re going. Its never been open for discussion.” Her reply had a harshness that came from being hurt. Hurt that had soured into hatred. I already felt like I had heard too much of a conversation that didn’t want to be heard when the padding of feet started towards the door. I hurtled back into the living room and planted myself back on the sofa, shortly followed through the door by a slim, blonde-haired woman in her mid-forties. James’ mother was beautiful. When she spoke, it was free of any hatred or harshness but instead the tone of a welcoming host. “I thought you might need some sustainance” she smiled, placing the tray of pizzas down on the coffee table. We thanked her and then she was gone, ruffling James’ hair affectionately on the way out. Was I the only person who noticed the slight falter in her happy tone or the way she seemed to reach out for James in desperation hidden behind her affection, desperate for someone to love? Or had her cracks beginning to surface through the strains of marriage been covered by her gleaming smile and outwards beauty?
Full from pepperoni and farmhouse pizzas with eyes glazed-over from a movie that was far too long, I stumbled out of the living room straight into a white cashmere jumper. Apologising, I smiled at James’ mother. There were tearstains on her cheeks and her chin trembled slightly as she tried to equal my smile. She mumbled something about the carrots needing to be boiled and hurried into the kitchen. I felt another pair of eyes and turned to the open doorway on my right. A man was staring directly at the spot where James’ mother had just been standing with a look of complete hopelessness. The look of someone who had tried to heal a wound so many times but had managed only to increase the pain. James’ father just stood there, completely unaware I was there, resigned and withdrawn. I was crying, completely caught up in the middle of someone else’s meltdown. A crack had emerged that could never be sealed over with plaster. I couldn’t put my shoes on fast enough.
Rushing through the rich estate, I looked at all the tall, rich houses. Beautiful on the outside, but how many more of them had cracks beneath the surface? Unstable, ugly, marked. I felt like the little piggy who cried and ran all the way home.