Felicity examined her hands, a displacement activity to shield her from the truth that she needn’t upset her husband, but that she would anyway.
“Darling,” she said, because she thought she had the right to say what she thought, “That shirt doesn’t suit you. It makes you look fat. Why not wear something a little less…?”
“I haven’t time to change,” he apologised, looking stricken. “Sorry, I have to go.” And leave he did, probably sooner than he might have, without a farewell kiss or stroke of the cheek. Pity, but then, Felicity knew he would be in a hurry, and unconsciously liked to taunt her husband, because he evinced confidence where she seethed envy. Not a match made in heaven, but a tinder set to blow, she liked to assume.
Felicity was charming, everyone agreed, affectionate to her husband in public, but cold and dismissive in private. Oh, she worked hard, doing the housework and catering for the family, but often that was simply to fuel her own grudge and so that she might manufacture something to complain about. Pancakes for tea? No problem, darling, but I’ll never forgive you for forcing me to sweat over a hot hob. Smile? Not now, I’m busy.
Until the day that Felicity met the man of her dreams. Yes, she had dreamed about him. Had known he would show, one day when she least expected him. There he was in his dark suit, impeccably tasteful shoes, marvellous head of hair. He said he loved her, took her out to lunch and afterwards, held her like she’d never – never! Never! – been held before. The sexual restraint she had been used to was so utterly English – like those poor women you read about in Mary Wesley novels – and for a while she felt transmuted, continental, Argentinian, maybe; all long legs, high heels and deep understanding.
Then, in a moment of rare compassion she returned the favour when he needed her, helped him with something, and suddenly he was cold, distant. The magic, he said – no more damsel in distress, fluttering her eyelashes and mewling prettily – had gone. Pity her, he was away like mist on a hot day.
And husband? Well, he noticed the change, ascribed it to the season, the weather, and loved his wife with more consideration than usual. Exhausted from her adventures, she looked differently at his steady thoughtfulness, and thanked heaven.