I creep into the bathroom. My secret will be safe in there

Late last night, when my husband was out, my son told me a secret. My son wants to tell my husband this secret himself tonight, at 9pm, so until then I must keep it to myself.

I creep into the bathroom. My secret will be safe in there

Now it is 8am, and my husband is downstairs in the kitchen, making toast and boiling up coffee but I am afraid to go down; so far I have only kept this secret while asleep last night. Or half asleep this morning. Or pretending to be asleep, as I am doing now, with great conviction, for I practised it regularly when the kids were small and it was my husband’s turn for a lie-in.

“You coming down?” my husband shouts up, “or do you want me to bring your tea upstairs?” He’s coming up the stairs; I pretend to be asleep with all my might.

“Wake up lazy arse,” he says. “Tea?” I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to keep a secret over tea but I am about to find out. He is approaching my side of the bed with cup in hand.

I’m worried about my face. My husband says it’s an open book. “Easy to read,” he says, “everything shows on it.” I am also a bit concerned about my temperament, which, by all accounts, “has to express itself or else it gets all demented”. Given my face and temperament, perhaps the only way to keep a secret is to pretend not to have one. However, apparently, I am “shit at pretending anything at all”.

Between my face, temperament and the pretending, the odds are stacked against me. But needs must. I sit up in bed, pat the bedding down for my phone — there might be an update from my son on his secret. Nothing in my inbox. I lean back, compose my features, reach out for my tea in a “just another day at the office” sort of way.

“Blimey,” my husband says, “you look weird.”

6pm. I return home to find my husband in the kitchen.

“How was your day?” he says.

“Nothing new or strange,” I say, shuffling past him into the sitting room; I need time to get my face in order and feel I might have more success with this if I watch Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two; he will never admit to liking it and wouldn’t be seen dead watching it. I will be safe in the sitting room to do whatever I like with my face.

He follows me in but I do not discover this until I have finished checking my phone for secret updates and look up to find him staring down at me.

I jump out of my skin.

“Blimey,” he says, “someone’s jumpy.”

8pm. We are having dinner. I introduce a variety of topics in quick succession, an impressive miscellany, even if I say so myself. I am quite exhausting myself.

8.30pm. It seems I have also exhausted my husband. He has gone upstairs for a lie down.

8.45pm. I creep past him into the bathroom to run a bath. My secret will be safe in there, especially if I lock the door and sing a song to myself.

8.50pm. My husband turns the handle on the door.

“Why have you locked the bathroom door?” my husband asks. “I left my glasses in there. Can you open up?” I open the door and in doing so catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror: a sorry depiction of emotional constipation if ever there was one.

“You can take my water,” I say, and scuttle past him fast in a bath towel.

“But you’ve only just run it,” he says.

“You have it,” I say, taking the stairs two at a time, “I’ve changed my mind.”

9pm. My son calls.

9.15pm. My husband comes crashing into the sitting room, where I am shivering in a bath towel.

“He’s engaged!” he shouts.

“I know,” I say, coming over all lofty.

“How long have you known for?” he asks.

“Since last night,” I say, “that’s why I’ve been acting so strangely.”

“Strangely?” he says.

“Yes,” I insist, “strangely.”

“No stranger than normal,” he says.

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

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