‘But Sam, you know Erica always uses real life situations and turns them into fanciful plots.’
Sam is slumped over my dining table. I’ve never seen him so defeated, so deflated. He’s usually upbeat, a devil-may-care type of bloke.
‘True, Marcia. That’s true.’ He lifts his head from his arms, and begins to play with my salt and pepper grinders. I ignore the trail of salt flakes over the placemat, make a mental note to wipe them clean once he’s gone.
Which I hope is soon. I’m due at Andrew’s home in forty-five minutes. I’m not even showered. Haven’t planned my outfit.
‘But this time,’ Sam continues. ‘I just think she’s gone too far.’ He shoots a glance in my direction. Almost as if he feels guilty for saying the words.
As if I don’t know that my own daughter can go too far in her imagination. In her creativity. In the ways that she uses people who love her.
‘Sam. Please. I know her well, probably even better than you.’ I reach for his hand—more to take the salt and pepper grinders out of his reach than to offer empathy—and he smiles. Squeezes my fingers gently.
‘How can we work this one out?’ I ask. Although I’m not sure I want to be involved.
Erica’s a writer. She’s just had her seventh book published, and there is, I believe, some truth written in amongst the fiction. And Sam doesn’t feel he’s going to come out of it looking good. To generate maximum interest in her readership, Erica’s been prolific on social media, releasing short snippets and tantalising titbits with the hashtag #husbandswhofailtoplease
Sam sighs, a big whoosh that blows the salt flakes onto the floor. Great. Now I’ll need the mini-vac.
‘I don’t think I can come back from this one.’ He rubs the heels of his palms into his eyes. When he’s finished, he looks at me. The blurry redness creeps up to his forehead; a patchy mess on his pale alabaster skin.
‘She’s used me as the protagonist’s husband. Anyone who knows us will see he’s me.’
I wonder how he can be so sure.
‘You see, this character lets the protagonist down. All the time. In so many ways. And it’s me and her. Plainly written there.’
‘It’s probably common in any relationship.’
What do I know? Erica’s father left me the second I told him I was pregnant. I was lucky to meet Andrew when Erica was two, but we’ve never lived together. I like my space. He likes his. Thirty-seven years later, we still have our own homes. We holiday together, and sleep over on the weekends. We even meet as a couple during the week for Andrew’s work soirees, like tonight. I check my watch. I need to be there in thirty minutes.
‘I think you should go home. Not worry about the fall-out.’ This is rude, I know, but I have to get ready. Tonight’s a big deal for Andrew.
I squeeze his hand again. ‘Yes, I do. Erica won’t have done this intentionally. Go and talk to her about it. Deal with it together, as a married and committed couple.’
‘You know, Marcia. You’re right.’ He slips his hand from my grasp and stands. ‘Thanks. You’re the best.’
He kisses my cheek and says goodbye. I wait to hear the door close before grab the hand-held Dyson to clean up the salt mess, then rush to my room to get ready for Andrew.