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The morning’s warm rain finally drizzled to a wind-blown spray before a strong sun blazed in the cloudless sky.  Christine stood motionless at the kitchen sink staring beyond the teardrop stained window to where he stood watching from the summer house.

Pharrell was aware of her even though he could only make out a blurred shadowy shape.  He knew his wife well enough after twenty happily married years and two miserably married months.  Oh yes, and they’d had two obnoxious kids along the way.

Perhaps if they’d had daughters instead of sons none of this would have happened.  Even one daughter and a son might have made a difference.  Girls tended to stick around or stay in touch with at least one parent.  Pharrell knew that much from past work colleagues boring him to death about Tom, Dick or Harriet’s graduation, high flying job or a perfectly formed new grandchild.

Lewis and Lawrence lived at home until old enough to leave without either parent noticing or reporting them missing.  He assumed they’d lived at home until then.  It was hard to remember much about the boys after they reached the ages of eleven and eight.

The lottery win had paid for the family’s ten bedroom house in Alderley Edge.  Afterwards the boys disappeared into an isolated existence of nannies, private schools and laptops.  They’d barely noticed their parents had better things to do than stay at home.

He and Christine were certain when the boys were much older, like now, they would definitely understand why they’d been left alone so often.  Pharrell leered into the muggy air as he sloshed a puddle from the canvas deck chair.  He wouldn’t have minded spending time with a nanny like the gorgeous Steffie.

Chuckling to himself, reminded of his own sleazy nickname for the Ukrainian au pair, he glanced again at the kitchen window.  It was just too bad they’d planned for the summer house to face the main building.  Now from this once happy haven, he was forced to be reminded of HER despite trying to escape his old life.

He squinted into the glaring sun and decided to contact the builder first thing on Monday.  There had to be a way of re-arranging his new home to maintain his privacy and still have plenty of space for Gertie.  She needed to be safe while tantalisingly on show.

If he’d had a daughter, thought Pharrell, he’d have called her Sarah.  He pictured his effeminate youngest wearing a long flowing print dress.  It wasn’t difficult to imagine, but he hoped any daughter of his would never be so spiteful.

What was it Lawrence texted last month when he heard his father was moving out of the house and taking Gertie with him?

“YOU’RE BOTH AS SELFISH AS EACH OTHER.  YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAD KIDS.”

Was he talking about Billy and Gertie, Pharrell wondered?  They hadn’t had kids.

Lewis, or “Loser” as Pharrell preferred to call the eldest hadn’t even bothered to contact him.  That was a blessing.  It was impossible to know if Loser’s mother had fared any better.  Probably not.

Forgiveness wasn’t exactly a redeeming family trait. 

The fifty million pounds had instantly changed their lives for good – or bad!  There was no going back to work for “the love of it” or continuing to live in the same terraced house they’d “always called home”. 

Not likely.

Before the ink on the cheque had dried, Christine was arranging appointments with estate agents, interior decorators and nanny agencies.

They’d been in love back then of course.

That was another time completely and now it felt strange to think about it.  Rather like watching those documentaries about 1970s rock bands on BBC4.  You knew you should remember them but it all looks like a bizarre party where you didn’t really know anyone.

Pharrell bent down to check the cabbage leaves for curled up caterpillars and flung any he found across the lawn towards the house.  He hated having to admit he’d stupidly loved such a fool.  Pulling up a deformed carrot he fed it to the patient Gertie who munched it thoughtfully as though musing over the state of the country.  The goat head-butted Pharrell’s knees as he dodged around her.

Last year when he and Christine renewed their vows on a hot sandy Jamaican beach he’d never considered he’d lived so long with the silliest woman he’d ever met.  For the fifty millionth time he wondered how he could have missed her shallow inability to understand the most important things in life.

Up until then they’d spent the best part of ten years travelling the world and experiencing every thrill and adventure they could find.  It wouldn’t have been fair to drag the boys along with them at a crucial time in their education.  At least Steffie always arranged for them to Skype whenever they wanted.  He and Christine hadn’t missed them very much at all. 

He lifted his scorched bald head higher, his chubby, bullish features tensed with stifled fury.

“Bloody woman,” he seethed through clenched lips.  Gertie chewed on ignoring his outburst.  Pharrell’s wide nostrils involuntarily sniffed the air.

The large kitchen windows were flung wide open and the sound of metal tap-tapping on metal disturbed the lunchtime birdsong.  She was frying onions – again – and sausages!  They’d be the organic ones from the local Farm Shop. 

She could cook lobster and chips for all he cared.

Pharrell couldn’t deny he’d been tempted to join her every mealtime.  So far he’d resisted.  In all their years together he’d never known Christine to cook but now she spent all day in the kitchen preparing meals from breakfast to a mid-evening supper.  And everything smelled delicious.  No matter what he cooked for himself, the aroma of her food was always pungently irresistible.

“Daaad,” his imaginary daughter Sarah would have wailed, “don’t be so stubborn.  You can’t live in the summer house for the rest of your life.”

Gertie nuzzled his arthritic knee and he shared another freshly dug carrot with her.

Why shouldn’t he live in the summer house for a year or two?  It was a lovely place fitted with a stunning en-suite bathroom off the double bedroom.  The comfortable lounge and designer kitchen cost three hundred grand to build just so they had somewhere to live while their house was redecorated.  He was happy there with his DAB radio and vegetable patch.

“Did you have you take Gertie?” he could hear Sarah asking the question, snuggled beside him, head on his shoulder, trying to coax him out of his rash decision.  “She was mum’s favourite – and now Billy’s gone …”

Silly bloody Billy – contracting some bug carrying disease that polished him off two weeks before the fatal day of The Big Decision.

A triumphant smirk contorted Pharrell’s face.  Of course Gertie was Christine’s “darling”.  That was the prime reason for walking away with her trailing behind him on the thick twisted rope.  She’d followed meekly with no idea she was being kidnapped and used as a malicious weapon to hurt the woman he’d once adored.

Gertie was undemanding company and easy to care for - not like a cat with fussy likes and dislikes or a dog forcing him to walk around the park and smile at over-friendly neighbours.

Here she comes. 

To emphasise his ownership he stroked Gertie's ugly face, hiding his own from the approaching traitor.  

She usually changed her outfit for each meal, taunting him with less and less fabric clinging to every familiar curve.  For early morning bacon and egg she’d wrap herself in a short, almost see through frilly dressing gown that wafted seductively around her neck as she ate.  He found that hard to cope with first thing in the morning. 

“Look at her”, he softly muttered out loud. 

She wore the silky scarlet T-shirt he’d bought her in Thailand.  It draped in folds around her neckline displaying her tanned breasts to their fullest magnificence.  The briefest of denim shorts tightly hugged her … 

Pharrell looked away and swallowed lustful saliva.

He hurried to check the runner beans again, fumbling amongst the flowers and leaves shrouding the bamboo frames.  There was nothing to do of course, but he needed to appear busy.

With an easy athletic stride the woman he’d once been so proud to call his wife strolled across the wide lawn to the picnic table and set down two plates of steaming … oh no … sausage and mash with onion gravy and crisp Yorkshire pudding.  On the Moroccan brass tray pots of Dijon and English mustard were placed where the labels could be seen next to the near empty bottle of Daddies brown sauce. 

The damned picnic bench and integral seats weighed a ton and was much too heavy for him to remove from his vision.  He’d attempted to drag it away one night but within twenty minutes the next day, Jack the gardener and his mate from the pub lifted it right back into position.

He hadn’t bothered trying again.

Blast his two waste-of-space sons who could have been useful for once and helped him move it.  Then he wouldn’t be taunted by the sight of her sitting there three or four times a day.  She always laid two places with two plates of food and a cold glass of beer or red wine waiting just for him.

She sat upright savouring the food.  A satisfied smile flickered around her glossed lips as she watched the sunlight twinkle on the crystal glassware.

They’d always talked easily over meals, remembering countries they’d visited or planning for their future.  They could spend a whole afternoon lazily arguing over who would play them in a film of their lives.  It would have to be Tom Hanks playing Pharrell; the younger version.  For Christine they hadn’t been able to choose between Gwyneth Paltrow or Nicole Kidman.  The silly fun discussions ended with them laughing like contented lovers.

He missed that.  He missed it a lot.

“Why cut yourself off like this?”

Sarah was back.  His fictitious longed for daughter was his image and he took great pleasure when she gazed at him with his own good looking features.  “It won’t make any difference to what happened.”

The sausage and mash flavoured breeze wafted around him and he twirled another carrot in his fingers, ignoring the head butting Gertie.  He tasted ignorant treachery and spat dry nothing past his grass stained tennis shoes.

She’d soon get fed up with these charades when summer was over. Pharrell was sure of that.  No way would he ever give in to this pathetic ploy to beg his forgiveness by appealing to his stomach.

Betrayal.  He silently screamed at a startled Sarah whose loving, devoted smile dissolved into his wife’s bewildered face.

But the scream wasn’t just in his imagination.  Gertie’s ugly head was flung back, her thick tongue exposed in her open mouth as she screeched “Maaaa  Maaaa” for attention.

Christine’s head whipped around at the perfect imitation of a wailing, distressed baby.  Her startled soft brown eyes met Pharrell’s own and he was sure the one corner of her mouth lifted in a half smile.

Satisfied she’d achieved her goal, Gertie nibbled the ground beneath her. 

With her chest rising and falling in agitation, Christine tried to continue with her lunch.  Pharrell could see her hands shaking as she sawed with her knife at a plump brown sausage. 

But Gertie’s performance had re-ignited Pharrell’s anger.

“How could you have been so stupid?” he screamed across the lawn towards the picnic table. 

A mash laden fork froze in mid-air like a Tate Modern exhibit they’d once puzzled over.

“Remain,” he bellowed at her dignified retreating figure. 

“How hard could it have been?” 

She’d reached the open back door but he knew she wasn’t quite out of earshot.

“That’s all you had to do.  Vote Remain.”

 

END

 

Bio: Julie Harris lives in Tring and is a member of the local Writer’s Circle.  She has self-published a two part novel on Amazon kindle: Yosomono under the name J H Harris.

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