‘I’m so very, incredibly happy to be your wife, Oscar. I thank my lucky stars you walked into my life.’
He looks up at me, silent and impossibly handsome, and his eyes tell me there are things he’d like to say but isn’t going to because today is our wedding day.
He stands and tugs me to my feet. ‘And I thank mine for you.’
He kisses me slowly, deeply, his arm round my waist, his hand on my jawline, and I allow myself to melt into it, into him. I hope and pray that we’ll always be able to find each other like this, like we did in Thailand, like we do in bed at night. My love for him is distinct from everything else in my life, clear and simple and straightforward. I cling to it, to the idea of us on the steps of the beach shack. Oscar’s lips are sealed about where we’re going on honeymoon, but I hope with all of my newly promised heart that it’s Thailand.
We stand in front of the tastefully decorated Christmas tree that has been placed in our suite, and I hook our bauble over one of the empty branches. Oscar is close behind me, his mouth warm on my neck as we watch the bauble spin and catch the light.
‘Jack was right,’ he whispers. ‘I am a lucky bastard.’
* * *
New Year’s Resolutions
1) Sarah. Just writing her name fills me with shame and desolation. I need to find a way to make her believe that I’m sorry. That I was in an impossible situation, that I didn’t just allow myself to fall in love with her boyfriend. That I tried as hard as I possibly could not to. Somehow I need to make her forgive me because I can’t imagine life without her.
2) Oscar. My husband! I just want us to stay as happy as we are now and enjoy our first year as smug marrieds. Not that I think we’re smug. But there is a security to being Mrs Ogilvy-Black, especially when all the other rocks in my life seem to have disappeared. My resolution is that he’ll never again have to ask me whether I’m happy with him.
3) Work. I’m in desperate need of a career change. Since the wedding I feel as if I’ve outgrown answering teen questions on love and heartache; after all, I’m officially no longer the world expert on unrequited love. Now the wedding mania is over I find I’m craving a new challenge; perhaps I will find something more in line with my life now. Good Housekeeping or The Lady, maybe. Ha! If nothing else, seeing my name in her favourite magazines would give Lucille something new to dislike me for.
4) Which brings me to … HRH Lucille. I must try harder to make her like me.
5) Mum & Dad. I must try harder to see more of them. Life here is busier than ever, but that’s no excuse. The wedding made me realize how much I miss them. I’m glad my brother and his family live close by them – Mum is always posting pictures of them all with Tom, the new baby. I love seeing the photos, but a tiny bit of my heart aches too because they’re all together while I’m miles away.
‘What’s all this?’ I struggle awake and sit up because Oscar is standing beside the bed with a tray.
‘Breakfast in bed to celebrate our anniversary.’ He places the tray down on my knees, and I go into silent panic mode in case I’ve forgotten a special date. ‘We’ve been married for three whole months,’ he says, putting me out of my misery. ‘Well, three months and two days, actually, but it’s better to wait for Sunday, isn’t it?’
‘I suppose it is,’ I laugh. ‘Come back to bed?’
I hold the tray steady as he climbs back in and relaxes back, still beach brown against the pillows. His skin tone is naturally pre-disposed towards tanning, so he’s managed to hang on to traces of his honeymoon tan long after mine has faded under the assault of a British winter. It wasn’t Thailand, in the end. We spent three loved-up weeks island hopping in the Maldives, total barefoot paradise. It’s probably as well that we didn’t return to Koh Lipe and try to recreate the magic of our first stay; the memories are too precious to risk. Does it sound ridiculously prima donna of me to say that I would have preferred Thailand to the Maldives? It’s probably not even true, really, it’s just that I’d have loved Oscar to have wanted to take us back there, or perhaps to have guessed that my romantic heart belonged there. I felt like the world’s most ungrateful wife at Heathrow when my heart secretly plummeted as we joined the Maldives check-in queue. The luxurious resorts Oscar had booked for our honeymoon itinerary were a long way from the simplicity of the Thai beach shack – we dined like royals in water bungalows, lazed in double hammocks on our own secluded beach, and a butler – yes, a butler! – took care of our every whim. Now we’re back in Oscar’s – I mean our – flat, and Oscar seems determined to never let the honeymoon end.
‘Please.’ I line the cups up ready and spoon sugar into mine. Oscar doesn’t take sugar. He doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all, really, so I’m trying to curb mine because eating cake or pudding on my own makes me feel a bit of a scoffer, which I’m sure isn’t Oscar’s intention but still. I used to indulge my sweet tooth with coffee and cake binges with Sarah a couple of times a month, but we still haven’t spoken since our fall-out. Whenever I think about it my heart feels too heavy in my chest. While we were on honeymoon I shoved it all to the back of my mind, telling myself I shouldn’t ruin even a little part of Oscar’s amazing trip. And since we’ve been back I’ve maintained the same approach – every day that goes by I bury my head deeper in the sand. The only positive to draw from it, if there is one, is that I’m no longer burdened by the weight of my secret. The worst happened, Sarah knows, and in a strange way I feel purged and more able to love Oscar without ambiguity. I’ve paid a high price for a clean conscience, though.
‘You poach a good egg, Mr O,’ I say, giving my egg a little exploratory poke with the very tip of my knife. ‘I never get it right.’
‘I phoned Mum and she told me how to do it.’
Heroically, I don’t throw him a ‘you did what?’ look, even though I can well imagine Lucille’s face when Oscar told her that I was lazing around in bed while he slaved in the kitchen. It’s barely eight on a weekend morning, but all the same, I know she’ll have filed it in the ‘Laurie is a lazy layabout sponger’ dossier in her head. She might need to start a second one soon, I expect it’s stuffed to busting after the wedding.
‘Well, you made a marvellous job of it.’ I watch with satisfaction as the yolk spills all over the English muffin. ‘I could get used to this.’
‘I like treating you.’
‘Being married to you is one long treat.’
He smiles, pleased at the compliment. ‘Will we always feel like this?’
‘I don’t know. If we want to?’ I say.
‘People keep telling me to give it a few years, that the glow wears off.’
‘Do they?’ People have said similar things to me, of course, that our relationship has been a whirlwind, that when reality bites all the romance will disappear.
He nods. I don’t ask him if by people he means Lucille.
‘Well. What do they know.’ I lower the finished-with tray carefully down to the floor and settle into the crook of Oscar’s arm against the pillows.
‘They don’t know us,’ he says, lowering the strap of my slip to reveal my breast.
I lift my face to his kiss as his fingers close round my nipple. ‘My wife,’ he whispers, as he so often does. I love it, but I sometimes wish he’d say Starfish instead, like he used to.
I wrap myself round him when he rolls me on to my back, and we make love. Afterwards, I haul the quilt up over our shoulders and snooze with my cheek against his chest. I wish it could be just us, that life was always just like this.
Later, over roast lamb (cooked by me, without having to consult my mother), Oscar looks at me as he tops up our wine glasses.
‘I’ve got a bit of news,’ he says, replacing the bottle in our new metal stand that tilts the bottle just so. Don’t ask me why. It was a wedding gift from Gerry and Fliss.
I pause. We’ve been together all weekend, and news generally isn’t something that steals up on you on Sunday evening, is it? If I’ve got news, I can’t help but burst out with it at the first opportunity. What news can Oscar have that he’s chosen this moment to drop it casually into conversation? I smile and try to look pleasantly inquisitive, but I can’t shake the feeling that someone just drew an ice-cold fingernail down my spine.