by Jim Lawrence
Susie let herself into the flat. ‘What's for dinner, Jake? I'm absolutely starving,' she called out as she unbuttoned her coat in the narrow hallway.
Jake was lying stretched out along the sofa, reading The Guardian.
‘Cake,' he said.
Susie stood in the doorway of the living-room.
‘I asked what's for dinner, not dessert, you silly!' She smiled at him with fond indulgence.
‘Yes, and I said cake.'
‘CAKE?' She threw her briefcase at him. Jake tried to fend it off but wasn't quite quick enough. He picked up his crumpled newspaper and smoothed it out.
‘You lazy pig, Jake! I've been slaving in that bloody office since half-past-eight this morning, I come home shattered at seven and you've done nothing all day, not one bloody thing. I just can't believe the way you treat me sometimes, I really can't!' She went into the kitchen and saw a used plate and cutlery in the sink and dirty saucepans left on the cooker.
‘But you've had dinner. You've cooked yourself a meal. Why, Jake?
‘There's a Battenberg in the cake tin. You can have the lot — I don't like it.'
Susie stood in the kitchen doorway and looked hard at Jake. He looked back at her for a moment and resumed reading. He thought that she seemed hurt rather than angry.
‘I work really hard, Jake. It's not just for me, you know, it's for both of us. You said right at the outset you didn't mind looking after the home.'
‘Two years is a long time.'
Susie picked up her briefcase and sat in the armchair opposite him. She opened the briefcase and began sorting through papers.
‘You could always get a job too, if you wanted, you know that. You're highly qualified, you've got ten years' experience. I've never held you back.'
‘Yes, they're just crying out for blokes in their thirties who haven't worked for two years. Anyway, I'm perfectly happy with things the way they are. I'm not threatened by your success.'
Susie sighed. ‘I suppose I'll have to phone for a takeaway,' she said. ‘Thanks, darling.' A few minutes later she said, ‘I could always leave, you know.'
‘That's true,' he said, not looking up from his paper.
‘I wouldn't have to listen to the couple upstairs making love all night most nights.'
‘Yes, well, they're newlyweds. The novelty will soon wear off, believe me.'
He turned to an article on extra-marital affairs and continued reading. Susie looked into folders, examined documents. After a while Jake looked at her. The skirt she had on was short and tight, and her long legs were elegantly crossed. He thought they resembled her sister's legs; he'd noticed it before.
‘We could do it now, if you want,' he said.
She looked up from her work. ‘Do what?'
‘You expect sex after the way you've treated me? Unbelievable!' She shook her head, expressing a wounded incredulity in the tired gesture. ‘Besides, I'd prefer to think of it as making love.'
‘Yes, well, I haven't got time for all that, I've got to go out soon. Joshua is expecting me. It's either a quickie or forget it.'
'Well you can fuck him then!' She hurriedly gathered her papers together and put them back in the briefcase, snapped it shut and grabbed a set of car keys from the coffee table. Jake watched her go out into the hallway. He heard the front door quietly close.
No, he thought, Joshua wouldn't be interested.
All rights reserved.
This is an old story I wrote a very long time ago. I had been reading a lot of Raymond Carver shortly before I wrote this story, and I was trying to emulate his elliptical, subtextual elegance. I have tweaked one or two little details here and there, but this is essentially what I wrote more than 20 years ago.