When Charlotte made dinner, the kitchen was a bomb site.
A no-man’s land of waste and debris.
Two children flailing their arms, running in and out of rooms.
The smaller one, with the large, round, peachy cheeks, chasing the older one.
Large, fat tears rolled gently down her cheeks, which wobbled with each step she took.
Charlotte wailed, taking her burnt chicken out of the cracked oven. Her blue bows twitched atop her head, sitting on a pile of chestnut curls, all askew.
The older ones watched, shell shocked, from the corners.
Charred vegetables. Broken chair legs. Fire licked the stove ring, the choking sound of gas a gentle, whirring background noise.
‘What’s wrong, Emilia?!’
‘She isn’t giving me my balloon!’
‘You should share with your sister, Emilia.’
Charlotte wiped the sweat from her forehead.
A car drew up outside. The engine rumbled, jittering, vibrating, humming through the floor. Then silence as it switched off.
The screaming indoors worsened.
A sigh, in the car.
Then he emerged, his shirt rumbled and his face drawn.
When he darkened the front door, the screaming stopped. The children froze. Charlotte bit her lip, staring at the charred remains of dinner.
He took a deep breath. The damage could be heard from outside, but it did not prepare him for the abhorrent sight before his eyes.
‘Let us go out for tea,’ he said, calmly.
Charlotte dried her hands on a dishtowel.
‘It appears,’ she began slowly, ‘that a tiger came to tea already.’
Her crimson face, in all its weariness, broke into a gentle, oh so faint, smile.
N.B. I didn’t like this at all. I wrote it, it needed to be written, but it left me with a strange, disgusted feeling in my gut. So I tried to insert a Carlotta-the-fourth feeling around Charlotte, although I’d hate to think of Carlotta-the-fourth feeling like that. Given her era, however, it must have been inevitable. I also wanted to try a ‘Tiger Who Came to Tea’ ending, because making reality a little surreal takes the harsh, uncomfortable edge off it.
My mum says my dad drives her mad. My aunt says her husband drives her nuts, and that he intends to retire in a remote, mountainous area and she doesn’t want to retire there with him. My old neighbour buys her groceries separate from her husband, and they bicker like cats and dogs. They have been married for fifty odd years. I told my mum, ‘I really don’t want to end up like that.’ She replied, ‘well, you will, eventually. Married couples do eventually get sick of each other.’
I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to rely on my kids to make my marriage interesting. My mother in law doesn’t like to travel or be alone with her husband unless her kids are there. They just don’t have a relationship. And, I don’t know if its because I am 23 and ‘inexperienced’, but I strongly feel that that situation can be avoided. I feel like you can make an effort to like each other, and change with each other, and complement each other over the years?
What is your opinion on the matter?