In Tiny Acts of Love, lawyer Cassie ends up working alongside her ex-boyfriend, Malkie, and one night, while working overnight on a case together, they have a sweet, intimate moment and a bit of a cuddle. Cassie confesses to her husband Jonathan as soon as she gets home, and you can read that extract here.
In the book, Jonathan appears to take it all in his stride, but I thought it’d be interesting to re-write that confession scene from his point of view… the results surprised me!
Was Cassie right to tell Jonathan? I'd love to hear what you think!
So here's Jonathan....
Two things to bear in mind about that conversation:
1. Sophie had woken up every hour, on the hour, crying for Cassie. So I’d had no sleep and a full day at work ahead. I wouldn’t have minded had Cassie, say, been in hospital or something. But answering legal questions at a nighttime filming of that absurd TV show, Workplace Phantoms? Please.
2. Cassie hadn’t even mentioned that this clown, Malkie, was working at her firm.
I summoned up every last ounce of willpower to be cheerful when she came in. She looked as rough as I felt, very pale, wobbling about on those kitten heels or whatever she calls them. I kissed her, and said cheerful things: ‘Hello!’ How’s my favourite wife this morning? How was the vigil?’
She followed me into the living room, a thin little shape in in a dark suit, looking like a mourner at a funeral. Strangely fitting, since the filming had been at a funeral home.
So I’m sitting in the armchair, trying to feed Sophie yet again. She’s fussing at the bottle and waving her feet around but Cassie’s droning on about this guy called Malkie and…. hang on! This guy is her ex. She’s tried to tell me about her exes before but I’ve always changed the subject. I mean, what man wants to hear about the other men who’ve had his wife?
Cassie’s crying now. Oh God, she’s crying. I pretend I don’t notice (not brilliant, I know) and focus on Sophie’s mouth. You can see the inside of her lips through the plastic of the bottle, clamped around the teat. Like the mouthparts of some weird ocean-dwelling creature. A large sea-snail maybe. I kiss her head.
‘I was so tired,’ Cassie’s saying. ‘And he… he said I looked stunning.’
I can actually feel my blood pressure rising. Fight chemicals rushing to my muscles, my fist clenching around the bottle. But I raise my eyebrows and arrange my face into an interested but detached expression, something I’m adept at after several years with Cassie. Someone needs to keep their feet on the ground when she goes off on one of her… things.
‘That Verve song, ”Drugs Don’t Work” was playing in the car.’
Oh for fuck’s sake. Nineties angst. She would so go for that sort of thing.
‘He pulled me in towards him and… he held me. He held me, Jonathan. We sort of… swayed around, a little bit, to the music. Nothing happened. He just drove me home. But oh God, Jonathan. I can’t believe I did it. I’m so, so sorry.’
I cannot believe what I’m hearing. My wife. He had his paws on my wife.
I feel sick. I’m in danger of vomiting all over my daughter. I hear Dad’s voice in my head. ‘Come on, lad. Think objectively. Stick to the facts.’ He’s right. I’m a professional. I bluff it with clients all the time.
‘So.’ Another wave of nausea comes. I lift my hand to my mouth. Rub my nose as though I’m thinking. ‘A litigation lawyer and an employment lawyer dancing to “Drugs Don’t Work”, one of the most depressing songs of the last century, in an undertaker’s car park.’
She’s holding her breath. She needs me to take this away for her. To undo it.
I narrow my eyes, shake my head. ‘You know, I just can’t get excited about that.’
‘It’s not the most cheerful song in the world, is it?’ She giggles. And the funeral mourner is gone. The strange girl in black who has feelings for other men is gone. My wife’s back.
‘A dirge, definitely.’
‘I’m sorry, Jonathan. I wasn’t myself. It was just a really odd night.’
She says it in an unfinished sort of way, like she’s about to start analysing it, to add in justifications and explanations and the reasons, the deep down reasons, why she still wants to screw her ex but, heroically, managed not to. I can’t listen to this. I get up out of the chair.
‘Why don’t you go to bed for an hour or two?’ I suggest. ‘Mum can look after Sophie. Do you definitely have to go to the office today? It’s not one of your usual days.’
Please. For the love of God, go back to bed.
I want to wrap her up in the duvet, my sweet girl with her pale face and her shaky voice, and keep her there where this Malkie can never get to her with his nineties music and his wandering hands.
‘Unfortunately, yes. I’m doing a lunchtime seminar which Radcliffe wouldn’t let me out of. And I’ve got to finish a report too, because the client’s going on holiday on Friday.’
But she’s talking to my back. I’ve left the room, holding Sophie tight against my chest.
I love you Cassie. I’d do anything for you. Anything in the world, except listen to one more second of this.