Hugh was cocooned inside his Lexus IS200. His back was straight, his hands were at ten to two. This was the correct driving position. He was air conditioned. He was going home.
The A1(M) turned into the A14 which turned into the M11. He knew every junction. If traffic remained smooth he would be home by eight O’clock. Enough time for conversation, maybe a takeaway, something else.
Hugh believed that absence made the heart grow fonder, that the joy of returning to Fiona was worth the loneliness of Hotel rooms. After a week away she felt new to him and the sex was always good.
Hugh was smart enough to not buy garage flowers. He finished work in time to make the florists. Roses were obvious, he bought tulips. He imagined what she might look like he as she opened the door to him. She always looked good, even in jeans and t-shirts. He looked forward to their first kiss. He would put his hand into the small of her back, pull her to him just a little.
He rehearsed it, in his mind. She would smell of Almond Milk Body Lotion. She always did.
He liked the sound of the rain underneath his tyres. It made him feel, dryer, warmer, safer. The M11 scooped round onto the North Circular. There would be one roundabout, one left hand turn and one right hand turn before he reached their house.
He parked the car. He was beside himself. He was a teenager on a first date.
He rang the door bell, Fiona answered. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
“Have you lost your keys?” she asked.
“I bought you flowers,” he said.
“I tried to phone you three times. Is your phone switched off?”
Hugh knew this feeling, it was familiar and unwelcome.
“Sorry,” he said. He moved into kiss her. She gave him her cheek. She smelt faintly of chemicals.
“I made dinner,” she said. “I couldn’t wait any longer.”
He followed Fiona into the kitchen. On the table was a plate with a piece of pie crust and some gravy. Fiona sat down to finish her meal.
“Yours in the oven,” she said.
Fiona speared the pie crust with her fork. She tried to scoop the remaining gravy onto her fork with the knife. She kept scooping the gravy up with the knife, banging it against the porcelain. Clink, clink, clink.