Simple, Suburban Joys

The smell of alcohol hung in the air. Kate woke up and looked over at her wife’s body. The same body she used to feel compelled to touch. She thought about the last time she and her wife had made love. Then she thought about the last time she and her wife had fucked. Kate had woken up from one nightmare and fallen into another.

She silently got up, carefully avoiding the boards in the floor that creaked. Oh, how she hated that creaking sound. It was a sharp reminder of everything wrong with her house, and the life she had tried to build for herself and for her family. She ghosted across the bedroom, her robe trailing behind her, floating down towards the kitchen.

Reaching the kitchen, the cold caught up to her, and she wrapped her dressing gown close, welcoming the warm embrace of the fading material. She loved her robe, especially the initials embossed over her left breast, close to her heart: J-N-S. People never believed her when she told them her father’s name: Johannn Nkosi Defour. His mother was a banker’s daughter, the sole descendant of a rich Belgian family; his father was a nigger from the Congo. Suffice it to say, Kate’s grandmother’s family was not pleased. Growing up, she had heard stories of their shame. They forbid the marriage, and forbid the child to ever meet his father. Kate smiled painfully—the “best” people often have the darkest hearts.

She was wrestled from her thoughts by the sound of pattering feet, light and quick on the tiled floors of the parlor. Her frosty heart melted as her youngest son’s face appeared. Nine years old, and smaller than his elder brother had been at that age, he was adorable. Kate, in her heart of hearts, had a favorite child. He smiled at the sight of her, his boyishly smooth skin wrinkling under the force of delight. The love a young boy has for his mother is like an addiction – consuming, hard to kick, and terribly embarrassing to admit. Sensing his joy had been too obvious, Kate’s little prince quickly composed himself in a most regal fashion, smoothing out the wrinkles first in his face, and then in his pajamas. Suddenly serious, he greeted his mother, and asked her what was for breakfast. She told him he’d just have to wait and find out. They both smiled.

This was a routine of theirs. Their back-and-forth was the banter of lovers; caustic but affectionate. She used to speak this way with her wife – to mock and to wheedle, to love and to hold. But the sort of playful love that fuels flirtatious conversation had long since left their marriage. They stayed together for the kids. And for the money. They did so much for the money.

Kate watched her son eat. Hers were simple joys – to know that her family was warm, fed, and asked for nothing. They were the lucky ones. The eldest of her two sons was away at university. Her youngest son, sat before her elegantly spilling milk onto the front of his now creaseless pajamas, was the only reason she got up in the morning.That and the crossword supplement in the paper.

She drifted towards the front door, stepped outside, and locked eyes with David Cameron and Robert Mugabe. She ignored the picture of the two leaders, and ignored the headline they appeared underneath it—their Commonwealth talks had very little to do with what went on here, in her neighbourhood. Why would she care what they were up to? Why should she?

From the safety of her doorstep, she looked around at the world she cared about: a warzone of Priuses and Xbox ONEs. Her head was filled with the sound of jaws clenching, and the echo of slammed doors. She spotted the Moyos. They were the black family that lived in the white house. Their driveway was teeming with life. They were hurrying to their car, late for church. They too had their routines. Kate watched their baby girl scuttle to the car, her mother’s screams clipping at her bright red Mary Janes. The girl jumped into the back of the car, the door held open by her father, his broad shoulders protecting her from every possible terror, domestic and foreign. Kate missed broad shoulders. She turned around as the little girl’s mother came out of the house. She curtly closed the door on her hollered greeting – she didn’t need any new friends.

Kate drifted back into the kitchen. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, deceptively flooding the kitchen with warmth. There was no sign of her baby boy but for a half-eaten bowl of cereal waiting for her in the sink. Her prince had left her a present. She gently placed the newspaper on the marble island that anchored her kitchen, and glided over to the sink. Standing in front of the cast-iron basin, she ran her fingers across its edge lovingly. Sinks were faithful.

Fingering the sink, she stood there and thought about the Moyos They were the only black family in the neighbourhood. More were bound to follow. And why not? The suburb was safe, the schools were excellent, and the neighbours were friendly. Still, she pined for things to stay the same—she longed for things to return to the way they were before the Moyos had ever moved in.

Kate spun around, walked round to the other side of the island, and sat down. She had chosen her son’s still warm seat. The energy of youth so often defies reason. She sat down, exhaled, and opened up the newspaper. The crossword came as a bright red supplement tucked neatly within the folds. She began sliding it out with her left hand, her wedding ring briefly catching the light, momentarily blinding her. Her ring was such a nuisance. She continued with the extraction, and fully removed, placed the crossword in front of her. Kate’s heart sang. Hers were simple, suburban joys. She eagerly opened up the small booklet, and looked at the note lovingly left inside:

Tomorrow at 7PM, same place.

-   WM

She looked at the note, and her soul rose and floated like an enchanted boat, her thoughts in tow.

The sound of movement breached her train of thought. She grabbed the note, folded it, and tucked it in her bra. It was safe under her father’s initials, close to her heart. Another sound ran downstairs and into the kitchen. She winced as she heard the floorboards in her bedroom creak. It was her wife. Surprisingly, she was awake. When Kate had first made her way down to the kitchen, walking through the parlour, she had picked up a predictably empty bottle of gin, and recapped the empty bottle of pills that lay beside it. Katherine shook her head. This is not where she had seen herself all those years ago, when she had first moved back to her family home.

Here she was, Katherine Buhlebenkosi Defour-Smith – housing an addict, and fucking her neighbour.