Susie’s happy for Lucy and Ethan. Truly. She’s the one who set them up in the first place, along with Jim, her cousin. But right now, as Susie sits opposite the happy couple at the barbecue hosted by her and Roger, she’s pea green with envy.
They’re loved up. Can’t stop holding hands, touching legs, kissing. It’s sickening.
And Susie, well, she and Roger couldn’t be further from loved up. Their marriage is a fiery cauldron, one that bubbles with unspoken rage and fury.
It started over nothing. Susie and Roger were out for an anniversary dinner. At the bar, waiting for their table, Susie ordered a cosmopolitan, Rog a beer. She took a sip, and was metaphorically and literally transported back to her past.
Her ex-boyfriend. The one who broke her into pieces when he dumped her and married someone called Angie.
He was there, standing beside her and Roger.
‘Still drink those, do you Suze?’ he’d said, with a wink. ‘Lord Almighty, why did I ever leave you?’ Stared at her cleavage.
‘Hello, I’m Roger Harcourt. Susie’s husband.’ Roger extended his hand to Larry.
But Larry ignored Roger, and continued to focus on Susie. ‘Honestly, babe. Angie and I didn’t work out. Fancy a shag in the loos right now?’
Susie’s jaw hung open.
‘Yeah babe, I can fill that.’
Susie’s cheeks flushed. Momentarily, she recalled their compatibility, and her vision was flooded with images of the two of them. She briefly shook her head, as if to jangle it loose.
‘Larry,’ Susie finally gained enough composure to speak. ‘Please leave. I’m married to Roger.’
After five minutes of Susie insisting Larry leave, including threatening to call in security, Larry scuttled away. Susie had turned to look at Roger; his face was almost purple.
That night, six months ago, is hanging over them, even now at the barbecue. Roger is turning snags and pushing onion rings, but Susie knows he’s still livid. She can’t make him see he’s her choice.
So the frigidity of fear freezes them both.
Lucy catches her eye. Smiles. ‘You right?’ she mouths from across the table.
Susie gives a wan smile in return and nods. Her and Roger will be OK. She’s going to make sure of it.