Authors: Rebecca Chance
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #dpgroup.org
Grabbing the bottle of champagne, Devon turned away from him, heading into the living room. She bypassed the wraparound chocolate leather sofas – American-import, big enough for Matt and his rugby mates to spread out on and watch the playback of a game, slinging back beers and yelling cheerfully at their successes and mess-ups. If she sat there, it would be all too easy for Matt to sink down next to her, throw a big arm round her shoulders, try to comfort her. And right then, Devon didn’t even want her husband to touch her.
I’m behaving like a complete and utter bitch
, she thought miserably, self-aware enough to know that she was taking out all her humiliation and frustration on poor Matt. More, that he was being the perfect, sympathetic, supportive husband, the kind any woman would dream of having.
But I just feel so awful about myself right now! I hate myself! I’m a failure, a big fat porky failure!
And how can I respect a man who loves a big fat porky failure?
Devon sank down onto the padded purple velvet cushions that were scattered across the seat beneath the big bay window overlooking the garden beyond, standing the Veuve bottle next to her, making sure there was no room for Matt to sit beside her. She was shocked by the realization that had just hit her: that the reason she had been pushing Matt away for these last months wasn’t just because she felt fat and undesirable.
If I hate myself so much, there must be something really wrong with anyone who wants to be with me! Mustn’t there?
I mean, how could he possibly fancy this?
Deliberately goading herself to even higher levels of self-revulsion, Devon reached down and squeezed a roll of fat just below her bosoms, her fingers sinking in easily all around it. She could hold it firmly and wobble it up and down, making her breasts wobble too.
I’m revolting. No wonder everyone’s laughing at me on TV, and all the papers are making fun of me. I’m a big fat greedy pig.
Matt’s heavy tread was crossing the hall now, coming into the living room, thudding on the polished dark boards of the floor. Catching sight of Devon curled up on the window seat, he came to a halt directly underneath the enormous black-painted chandelier, heavy with ornamental black glass droplets and beading. The ceiling was so high on the ground floor of this Regency house that it could accommodate a four-foot chandelier and still give clearance for Matt and his rugby player friends to walk beneath it without whacking their heads on the dangling pendants.
Matt had realized immediately why Devon had chosen the window seat, rather than the sofa. Standing there, he still looked like the bear to which Devon had compared him, but now a wounded one, as if his mate had given him a huge, unprovoked whack round the head with her claws out, drawing blood.
‘I’m going to go on
,’ Devon announced, finishing her second glass of champagne. She was beginning to feel a little dizzy now: drinking during the day definitely went to your head faster than in the evening. Challengingly, she stared at her husband, daring him to try to tell her not to go ahead with it.
But his reaction was not at all what she’d expected.
‘That’s brilliant!’ Matt exclaimed with a big, beaming smile. ‘You mean that afternoon TV show, right? You’d be perfect on that!’
Devon’s jaw dropped; she almost dropped her glass too.
‘Are you serious?’ she blurted out, dumbfounded. ‘Everyone else thinks it’s a totally mad idea.’
‘Well, they’re all mad then, aren’t they?’ Matt said, folding his arms, which made his muscular body and bulging arms look like Mr Clean. ‘You’ll be a star on it! I remember you teaching me how to make pasta sauce on live TV at seven in the morning, the first time we met – you were brilliant, you had the whole camera crew laughing. I mean, I was totally cack-handed, and I wasn’t even listening to a word you said, ’cos I was too busy goggling at how pretty you were, so you really had your work cut out for you! Why shouldn’t you be able to do something like that cooking show, eh? You’ve done live TV loads of times before.’
‘Because the cooking I did on live TV before was all planned out in advance,’ Devon said, realizing, to her extreme annoyance, that now she was being her own devil’s advocate. ‘But
isn’t. They just bung you some ingredients, and you have to make a proper dish out of them, in thirty minutes start to finish,
describe what you’re doing to the camera,
coach some idiot audience member at the same time. You can really end up looking like a moron if you don’t manage to pull it off.’
‘Oh, you’ll be fine!’ Matt said with happy confidence. ‘You cook lovely meals for us, don’t you?’
‘Yes, but those are all planned out in advance too,’ Devon said, her voice rising, swinging her legs off the window seat and onto the floor as she faced him, determined to make him understand. ‘Like the things I used to make on
Wake up UK
. And that was just beans on toast, or a baked potato. I mean, the whole joke was that they were really simple, it was just that the blokes didn’t know how to make them . . .’
She looked helplessly at her husband, who was shaking his head.
‘You’ll be fine,’ he repeated, his faith in her abilities unshaken by her words.
Devon thought, panicky now.
The only person who thinks I can do this is Matt, and he knows fuck all about it. Maybe I shouldn’t go on
after all – I mean, if he’s the only one who’s pushing me to do it, what does that say about the idea?
But she didn’t have time to process this thought. With the surprising swiftness that had made Matt a star of the rugby pitch, he crossed the space between them and sank into a squat in front of his wife.
‘Babe,’ he said, laying both hands on her knees, and looking directly into her eyes. ‘I love you, OK? And I think you’re gorgeous. You know I always think you’re gorgeous.’
More fool you
, Devon thought bitterly.
‘Even if you don’t believe it, I do,’ Matt said, acutely picking up on her reaction. ‘Now look, this afternoon hasn’t exactly gone as I planned, but it’s not too late to turn things around, is it? There’s no reason that one shitty meeting should mess us up. It’s nothing to do with you and me.’
He reached for her hands, planting a kiss on each one of them in turn.
‘Tell you what,’ he continued, ‘you stay here for five minutes while I pop upstairs and finish what I started, OK? I’m going to cover the bed in rose petals, come back, carry you upstairs, and make sure we have such a lovely time rolling around on ’em that you completely forget that you had a horrible afternoon with a bunch of wankers who don’t appreciate you like they should.’ He kissed her hands again. ‘Sound like a plan?’
‘Oh, Matt . . .’ Devon heaved a deep, deep sigh. She didn’t pull her hands away, but they just lay in his much larger ones like two limp fish.
‘Don’t say no, Dev,’ Matt said urgently, squeezing her hands, refusing to be put off by her lack of response. ‘We need this. You know we need this. We haven’t had sex for ages. Months, if I’m being honest. And it’s not just about me getting my rocks off – you know it isn’t. We need to be connected again. We need to get back to where we were when we first got together – remember? We couldn’t keep our hands off each other!’
‘Things change,’ Devon said feebly, unable to meet his pleading gaze. ‘We’ve been married for years, Matt. No one keeps up that pace. They’d never get anything done.’
Matt heaved a sigh of his own. ‘I’m not saying we should be shagging like rabbits every hour of the day and night, Dev,’ he said patiently. ‘But we need to be connected again. We’ve really lost our way. If I feel that, I know you must too.’
‘Funny how you think that a good shag’ll make everything all right,’ Devon said, knowing that she was being nasty, but unable to help herself. ‘That’s such a male solution, isn’t it? Get your end away, and everything will just fall into place, right? You’re totally ignoring my problems, the way I feel . . .’
She achieved her goal with those unpleasant words. Matt dropped her hands and stood up, his brow furrowed with pain.
‘Dev,’ he said hopelessly, ‘I’m doing everything I can think of to make you happy, and you’re just throwing it back in my face!’ He looked agonized now, his jaw set. ‘You don’t know what I’m going through – you’re not even putting yourself in my place for one second! Here’s my wife slipping away from me, either ignoring me or pushing me away, and it’s been going on for months now! How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to do? The only time you want to be near me is when we’re going out somewhere to have photos taken of us looking like a happy couple for the tabloids or the gossip mags! This is so messed up!’
Every word he’s saying is true,
Devon knew. She hung her head, unable to look at him. She felt horribly guilty, an evil, vile bitch.
But I can’t make love with him right now. I can’t have him seeing me naked. I just can’t . . . it would be too humiliating . . .
It didn’t help either that Matt was in such amazing shape. That was the awful irony of the situation. She’d fancied him instantly, as soon as she’d laid eyes on him, because he was such a stunning specimen of male perfection, fifteen stone of bone and muscle in optimal physical condition. Naked, he was a sculptor’s dream model, every muscle defined, not an ounce of visible fat on his entire breathtaking body.
The trouble was that his physical flawlessness made it even worse for Devon.
Because what on earth will I look like, next to him? Like a big, fat, white, sagging whale!
, Dev! That means everything to me!’ Matt was pleading now. ‘I said “for better, for worse” and “till death do us part”, and I meant every word! There’s never been a divorce in my family, and I don’t want us to be the first! I want to work at this. But I need you to help me, Dev. I can’t put this back together on my own.’
He covered his face with his hands for a long moment, and when he took them away, it looked as if he were fighting valiantly to suppress tears.
‘I need you,’ he said hoarsely. ‘I need you really badly, Dev. I’ve been . . . things have sort of . . .’ Matt rubbed his face furiously with one big hand. ‘Things have got really weird for me lately, and I don’t want them to. I want to be with my wife! That’s what I signed up for, and that’s what I want!’
‘Oh God, Matt,’ Devon said wearily, reaching for the bottle of champagne, slowly filling her glass again, moving at a snail’s pace; she was aching, her bones sore, so weary she could have passed out then and there. ‘You’re so nice. Maybe you shouldn’t be so nice with me. Did you ever think that? Maybe the nicer you are to me, the nastier and bitchier I get. Like some awful chain reaction. We’re bouncing back and forth off each other, and making things worse and worse – the nicer you get, the more it drives me crazy. Because I don’t deserve you being good to me! I’m a total fucking bitch to you! You should get angry with me, not keep going on about your marriage vows!’
Matt stood there, his fists clenching by his sides in frustration, his blue eyes flashing with a mixture of emotions too complex and confused for him to easily articulate. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. The truth was, he had said everything there was to say: he’d pleaded with Devon, done his best to show her his desperation, his need for her to reconnect with him, his vulnerability. He’d made a big romantic gesture – he’d been on the net all the previous day finding a florist who could take an order for two hundred red roses and a basket of petals, and spent an arm and a leg just on the delivery charge to get them to Green Street in time for Devon’s return.
And it had all been for nothing. He’d shot his bolt, he had nothing left.
Slowly, head hanging, he turned and left the living room.
Devon didn’t watch him go. Sunk in a swamp of misery and guilt that she knew was entirely of her own making, she curled up in a ball and stared, unseeingly, out of the big bay window beside her. Wishing herself very, very far away from her seemingly perfect life.
rom the moment she stepped off the train, Deeley’s stomach had been doing somersaults.
You can’t turn back now
, she told herself firmly, even as she realized she was looking up longingly at the Departures board in the station to see what time the next train left for London.
That would be completely pathetic
Riseholme Station, half an hour out of Leeds, had had a major makeover: where previously the facing platforms had been bare wastelands of old shuttered offices whose doors were locked and bolted, their paint crumbling, they were now bright and inviting little café outlets called Pumpkin or Dee-Vine, serving coffees and calorie-counted chicken wraps. Deeley bought a cappuccino, even though the chubby, pink-cheeked girl behind the counter admitted to her, embarrassed, that they only had half-fat milk.
‘We don’t get much call for skim,’ she mumbled, taking in Deeley’s appearance with a mixture of admiration and envy. ‘You’re not from round here, are you?’
‘I used to be,’ Deeley said, taking the coffee and dropping a pound in the tip jar; the girl’s eyes opened wide with appreciation.
‘Well, you’re not any more,’ she said bluntly. ‘I can tell you that for nothing.’
I’m definitely not
, Deeley thought, as she left the station, her footsteps automatically turning right, down the parade. A couple of minicab drivers, waiting outside their small office, swivelled to stare at her blatantly. She’d tried to dress down, but as she caught her reflection in the window of a WH Smith and compared herself to the locals bustling past, she had the perfect visual image of how far she’d come since her days here. Deeley’s idea of dressing down was a slim pair of jeans tucked into soft suede boots, a feather-light black merino wool sweater under a belted leather jacket. Hair pulled back into a smooth ponytail, sunglasses propped on her head, diamond studs in her ears her only jewellery. Simple, discreet, what a woman in LA or New York would wear when going out to do errands.