Donald hopped out of the taxi, the long flight still heavy in his ankles. “Keep it,” he mumbled handing over a hundred.
“Merry Christmas,” the driver said before skidding off down the oak-lined road.
In the street lamp’s yellow wash, Donald thought he could see his father-in-law’s frowning face in the the two-story Victorian’s facade – his white eyebrows in the eaves, his brick jaw resting squarely against the trimmed grass – and he was suddenly thankful he’d been delayed.
He extracted the spare key from the plastic dog poo and went inside. The house was dark and smelled of garlic and roasted meat. Only the buzz of the aquarium greeted him as he set down his suitcase. No harm in grabbing a bite before I face the music. Donald knew the only thing as unbroken as his wife’s anger was her sleep.
Pacing around the kitchen, a pork sandwich in hand, Donald practised his lines.
“You were right, Shannon,” he whispered. “I was afraid, that’s all. No… It’s not that I don’t want children… it’s just that the timing wasn’t right. Work is killing me and-” How many times have I used that one? “Our financial situation… yes, that’s better-“
“Sonya,” Donald said through a mouthful of dough. “Did I wake you?”
Sonya shook her curly mane and stretched. Her pyjama top rose to reveal bare skin. “Nah, was reading.” She went to the stove top and began tugging at the leftovers. “Boy, are you in the shit.”
“I’ve never seen my sister so pissed, and that’s saying something. What did you do?”
“I… it’s nothing. I just have to speak to her. A misunderstanding, that’s all.”
“Sure. You should have seen her at dinner – dad was afraid she’d start throwing the crystal around. She drunk a whole bottle then stole two of my temazepans.”
“As if she needs help sleeping.”
“Exactly.” Sonya licked the fat from her fingers and stared at him with her green-flecked eyes. Although he and Shannon had been married for more than seven years, he often had to look twice, even search for the tell-tale mole on his wife’s cheek, in order to tell the twins apart. “Dad set the couch up for you just in case.”
“Hopefully I won’t need it.”
“Make-up sex, eh?”
Donald flushed. Was he that transparent? “Is she upstairs?”
“No, I let her have my old room,” Sonya said and winked. “It was closer to the dining table. See ya, lover boy.”
Donald loosened his tie and ate the rest of sandwich in silence, before heading for the bedroom where his wife lay sleeping.
Blind, he undressed, then shuffled across the carpet, arms outstretched. He felt the warmth of Shannon’s body as he eased under the blankets and almost laughed when he heard her steady breathing. He pressed himself against her.
“Shan?” he said in her ear. A hand between his legs startled him. “Oh, Shan,” he said. “I’m so sorry-“
“Shhh,” came the reply and a set of warm lips met his. Wine and gravy. Then his wife’s head dove down over his neck, and bit greedily at his nipples and ribs. “Shan,” he said again, before a wet heat wrapped itself around his shaft. He was lost. A wave pressed inside him and he reached to grip Shannon’s head, but as his hand brushed against her smooth face, he gasped and pulled away.
“What the…” Donald shouted. Groping around for a light, he knocked something heavy and it crashed to the floor. He hardly noticed the body beside him slither away as the door opened and a squat frame stepped out of the grey light.
“What’s all the noise- Don? What are you doing in here?”
“I… sorry, Mike. I… got in late and tired. Hope you don’t mind. No one was home, so I took Son’s bed.”
Donald’s father-in-law cocked his head. “Of course….,” he said. “Funny… Sonya didn’t mention she was going out. No mind. She’ll be gettin’ the couch then. Get your sleep – you’ll be needin’ it.”
In the darkness, a shadow slipped out from beneath the bed.
“What the fuck was that?” Donald hissed. But the shadow didn’t turn; it glid wordlessly across the room and vanished out the door.